Friday, May 19, 2006

French Hair Porn.

Believe it or not, I've managed to find a really great hairstylist here in the armpit of France. And I love that his name is Didier. That's him going to town on the right handside with the "lisseur" (ceramic flat-iron) Didier is not in the least bit intimidated by my "special" hair type. In fact he's taken training classes in Paris on how to do relaxers & straighteners!

I had doubts on my first visit, but I left the salon a total believer. Even so, my hair is more than any ONE man can handle , so Didier's brother Laurent usually handles the blow-drying part of the operation. Proof that I really am a two-man job. (Now if I could only convince my husband...)

The best part of being in this French Bread sandwich? A wash+ deep conditioner+blow-dry+ flatironing+ cut = $18.

Ha! Try to get THAT in Paris.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Like falling in Love.

As much as I complain about France and all of it’s dysfunction, there are those rare moments when living here is just an absolute joy. In the spring there are perfect weekends with just the right amount of sun and calm to make suffering through the bad stuff worth it….well almost.

This weekend was one such occasion. The weather was heavenly, and we found ourselves in Metz of course. Ever since buying the new apartment we just can’t seem to stay away from that darn city. I feel like we already live there. This time we came into town for the annual Artist open studios. Several artists in the city get together and organize a weekend of all day opportunities to meet local artists in their working spaces and to see their new work. We spent all day Saturday wandering through the old winding streets of the oldest part of the city in search of some decent art and interesting artists. And although about 50% of the stuff we saw was quite….uhm…how do I say this nicely…….shitty, we so enjoyed ourselves that it almost didn’t matter.
The best part was meeting this very cool French-American artist who gave me info on where to buy cheap art supplies in France. So not only did I score good info, I made my first French art friend!

Sunday morning we finished off the weekend by stumbling upon a flea market. Apparently it happens every Sunday in Centreville in Thionville, but this is the first time since living here that we managed to get up and leave the house in order to happen upon it. So after making it to the bakery (which was PACKED with Sunday morning baguette buyers) we made our way through the rows of junk vendors and delighted at all of their crazy little treasures.

Ah! Indeed, life in France is one crazy little treasure.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

May 10th--Why not celebrate with a "Tete de Negre" and some Banania?

Starting this year, the memory of slavery will be honored in France every May 10.

President Jacques Chirac’s announcement of the new national holiday comes in the wake of a bitter national debate over France’s colonial history.

After a year of painful confrontations with its past, France — in the voice of the President of the Republic — admitted its responsibility in the "tragedy" that was the slave trade (read & watch the speech. It's in French. duh.) In January 2006 Chirac named May 10 as a national "Day for the Memory of Slavery."

( Above: President Jacques Chirac salutes MP from Guyana Christiane Taubira at a reception in honor of the Committee for the Memory of Slavery, January 30, 2006 at the Elysée Palace in Paris.)

Recently, the President called for the modification of a new law dealing with French history: he called for the removal of a paragraph proposing that school history books recognize the positive role played by France in its colonies. In the same speech, Chirac announced plans for the creation of a research center devoted to the history of slavery, which will be directed by the writer from Martinique Edouard Glissant.

Why this date? On May 10 2001, the French Senate unanimously adopted a law recognizing slavery as a crime against humanity — the first such law in the world.

So why not celebrate with a "Tete de Negre"?

A Tete-de-negre is the French name for a type of pastry covered with dark chocolate. "Tete" means "head"; and "negre" is a pejorative usage for the word "Negro".

"Yum! Nigger heads!"

Just as it has become, since the late 1960s, no longer acceptable to use the term 'nigger' or 'negro' in the U.S., tete-de-negre, the once common dessert on menus in restaurants and cafes in Switzerland and in France is no longer served under that name... except that it is.

And after you've gobbled down your tete de negre you can wash it down with some Banania. (My husband's favorite breakfast cereal/drink by the way.)

Banania man is a Senegalese “tirailleur,” an honorable rifleman who fought for France during the first and second World War. His image has been traditionally used to sell a delicious drink made from banana flour, ground cereal, cacao and sugar.

As a stereotype, he is always happy and speaks incorrect French; this is represented by the ever present phrase underneath his picture:
"Y' a bon!" Which I think means" "Damn massa, dis be some good cereal!"

(Oh how it all reminds me of the French expression: “parler petit nègre" -"to speak a little nigger", which means not speaking proper French.)

Anywhoo, for awhile, Banania man disappeared from modern advertising and he was replaced by an equally offensive cartoon character. Then a few years ago, a French company named Nutrimaine decided to bring back this beloved French Black icon. He reappeared a bit younger, and with big red lips and strikingly white teefs!

The Atillean community became outraged and one group, Collectif DOM immediately tried to put an end to the advertisements. Eventually the group reached an agreement with the company in which the company would refrain from using the “Y a bon” phrase in its advertisements. Now this is a rather idiotic agreement since the company never used “y'a bon” in its advertisements in the first place!

Personally I prefer the original Banania man from 1915. He's so handsome! He should call Aunt Jemima up for a date....I mean... if she's not too busy makin' dem pancakes.

Ah! The French!

Friday, May 05, 2006

"Sorry, I'm from New York."

"I live in France."

"Yes, I live in France."

"I live in France."

I swear, no matter how many times I say it, it's still just plain weird. One would think that after 3 years the novelty would wear off, but in reality it just seems to become more surreal everyday.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and turn on the TV and for a split second I think: "Why are the people on TV speaking French?". Or even better yet, I'm 5 minutes into watching the Dukes of Hazzard when I realize that its been dubbed into French---and I can still understand it. Of course a nanosecond later I remember that 1.) I live in France, and 2.) I speak French. Sometimes these little realizations make me think: "Oh God, what am I doing here?". But then there are times when I get a good chuckle.

Living in France for 3 years doesn't undo all the "American-ness". (feel free to add this word to your vocab) And God knows it certainly doesn't undo all the "Brooklyn" in me either. I'm jumpy & nervous, and suspicious as ever. When I enter our parking garage I always enter slowly and listen for strange noises, look for moving shadows, or the hint of someone lurking, and I lock my car door as soon as I get in. And eventhough guns are hard to come by in France, whenever I hear a loud pop or bang I instinctively look for something large and heavy to dive behind. Paranoia? In BedStuy it's just called common sense.

My old neighborhood in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn.

At any rate, my "common sense" led me to a funny little situation this morning. As I came home from running errands, a rather creepy looking fellow knocked on the door and asked me to let him into the building. I gave him a very suspicious once-over without opening the door. Seeing that I wasn't about to let him in, he yelled through the glass door that he was from France Telecom and had work to do in the building. I gave him a second weird look. He seemed surprised that I didnt believe him. But gimme a break here: Could he really be from France telecom? He was like.....all.......dirty and stuff.

I was just about to walk away and leave his dirty ass standing out there when I realised that in fact he was wearing a uniform, kinda, and behind him he had a whole box of tools and crap and some phone shaped machine thingy. So I finally let him in.

A few minutes later I heard him in the hallway doing his work. Turns out he wasn't a robber, rapist, scam artist, or serial killer. He was just a dirty guy who works for France Telecom. I felt sorry for the guy for an instant. He must have to beg people to let him into buildings all damn day.

But sorry dirty guy, I'm not French. I'm from New York.