Wednesday, June 21, 2006

DisneyLand for Art Nerds.

This past weekend my handsome French Boy hopped a train and headed to Basel Switzerland. Yes indeed we went for one thing and one thing only---Art Basel of course. Why the hell else would anyone go to Basel?

Art Basel is an International art show that features about 300 leading art galleries from 30 countries. It has long been considered the world's biggest & best modern and contemporary art fairs. Supposedly, works by over 2000 artists were shown this year. Every type of art you can imagine can be seen there from every corner of the earth. Tokyo, Australia, India, North America, East & Western Europe----everyone was there.

Each gallery or Museum brings work for sale from their stable or collection, and somehow manages to set it all up in a tiny cubicle like temporary gallery space. If you can try to imagine the entire collection of the Louvre being displayed in sectioned off, white cubicles in a 3 story Labyrinth you’ll pretty much get an idea of what it was like trying to navigate our way around in there. French Boy was in charge of navigation systems --with map and ink pen in hand. He spent all day saying: “no go right, then turn left. No, not that way!”

My favorite work was a great installation video piece by Barbara Kreuger. It was both funny and insightful. The lady knows her stuff & certainly deserves her “Art Big-Wig” status, which is much more than I can say for most of the video artists that were being shown this year.

For example, I spent about 2 minutes in a dark room watching the video piece (below) before I decided that although it may be art, watching a 20-something Chinese wanna-be-gangster smoke a cigar while shopping for fruit was not a narrative that was in any way relevant to my life.

But video art wasn't the only incomprehensible stuff being shown. In fact there was room after room of some pretty fun & playful installation and sculpture too. I especially liked the floating sculptures, the black-lit room, and the room where you could play & walk on card-board cut-outs! I had a great time. It was like Disney land for Art Nerds.

Davids favorite “What the F*ck” work was this piece by some artist whose name I chose to forget. Suitcases rotated on a turning airport luggage conveyor belt which was surrounded by gold spray painted luggage carts. Wow---so deep.

All complaining aside, we saw some absolutely brilliant paintings, a few fascinating prints, and some mind-boggling retarded sculptures. Like the one below, of a sleeping man with super long legs and arms in a room that had teeny tiny doors in the walls.

This one actually made a 4 year old kid start crying. She saw it and immediately ran crying back to her mother. It was just THAT bad.

We finished off our first day of art viewing with cocktails at the hotel bar while watching the Italy vs. USA world cup match. The bar was filled with French, Spanish, and German tourists all in town for Art Basel. Much to our surprise the entire bar was cheering for the US team. One middle-aged German woman kept leaping up and screaming “Nein, Nein!” every time the Italian team almost scored a goal. Indeed life is stranger than fiction.

Anyway, after 8 hours of non-stop art viewing I’ve just about got this whole “Art tourism” thing out of my system……well....almost.

Next stop: The Venice Biennial!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Art at Arsenal

Yesterday after a leisurely afternoon coffee with my friend Stella, I met up at Arsenal with an artist I met in Metz for a "vernissage", or Art opening.

The exhibition featured work by German sculptor and conceptual artist Ottmar Horl.

The main part of the exhibition featured a series of gold owls, penguins, and garden gnomes set up in groupings like bowling pins. Oh and let us not forget the rotating Andy Warhol heads.
Deadly clever no?

My opinion?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

French babies love to party!

At my mother-in-law's impromptu Birthday Barbeque Tuesday night, even the kids got in on the action as you can see above from 2 year old Florian's party animal antics.

Later Adrian and Alexi got in on the action.

I kid you not, I once saw our 2 year old nephew Matisse grab a champagne glass and yell "Chin!" (French for "Cheers!")
French babies really know how to party.

Me & the birthday girl had a pretty decent time too.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Who the hell is Jean Louis Aubert?

One of the unfortunate things about being unilingual for most of my life is that I have missed out on an absolute wealth of crappy French pop music. Monday night My Favorite French Boy and I got our hands on some free VIP tickets to the Jean Louis Aubert concert in Amneville. I of course had no idea who Jean Louis Aubert was, but jumped at the VIP ticket offer---purely for blog research purposes of course.

The evening began with up front parking right by the VIP entrance, insanely skinny waify model-type ushers showing us to our seats, and then a mad dash for the VIP cocktail lounge where we practically gorged ourselves on cheap champagne and passed hors'deurves.

It was delightful.

At 9PM the skinny waif model girls informed us that the concert was about to begin and then ushered us to our front and center VIP balcony seats, from which we could clearly see the cheap floor seat ticket holders glaring at us in envy. Then the show began! Jean Louis Aubert actually came out into the VIP section playing a guitar, proceeded through the crowd, and then finally up to the stage. He was about 5 meters from my chair. If he had been Lenny Kravitz I’m sure I would have completely lost control of my bladder.... But it wasn’t Lenny Kravitz. It was just some French singer, who to the best of my ability, I can only describe as a kind of slightly effeminate French Mick Jagger.

Evenso, Aubert gave an energetic, more than respectable, 2 hour non-stop performance. (Which is more than I can say for Snoop-Dogg, who we saw at the same venue earlier this year.) The music was really good. Aubert is a great songwriter. And don’t tell anybody, but I think I even saw my intensely shy and reserved Favorite French Boy tap his foot to the music for a couple of songs.

All in all it was a great night out. Our first night out as French VIPs was a grand success.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Why I heart France: Reason # 3

I adore nothing more than a lazy Sunday afternoon drive with My Favorite French Boy.
On the occassions that we are lucky enough to have them, I realize that giving up my free-wheelin' party-girl life in New York City was one of the smartest moves I've made to date. Sure, New Yorkers know how to do a mean Sunday Brunch, but Europeans have perfected the art of making all day Sunday into Sunday brunch, as if they forget completely that Monday morning will arrive in less than 24 hours.
Although Summer has yet to arrive in Northern France, last Sunday we were lucky enough to enjoy one exceptionally beautiful day of sunshine. Fortunately it arrived on a sleepy Sunday- the French national day of rest, relaxation, and leisure.
French boy and I took advantage of the sunlight and jumped in the car and headed to Casino Luxembourg in Luxembourg City to check out an exhibition of work by Lux-Chinese artist Su-Mei Tse, who was awarded the Golden Lion for the best national pavilion at the Venice art biennial in 2003.

Later we met David's friend Manu and some friends for drinks and ice-cream on the perpetually crowded terraces at Place d'Armes. Cafe culture is a very distinct and important part of French culture of course. Twenty-million people, one third of the country's population, enter cafes every day in France.

But I digress, this is not a post about cafes or French culture. It's just a quick musing on why I adore nothing more than a lazy Sunday afternoon drive with my favorite French boy... and why I heart France.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

French....or something like it.

The romance writer Faith Baldwin once wrote that "Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations." I don't actually own any dresses, but I couldn't agree more. My first 3 years living in France have made me a believer. I sometimes feel myself shifting and changing into something else; leaving behind parts of the old American me, and little by little picking up bits & pieces of the new French me.

That said, there are more than a few things that I've come to realize that I'm just content to keep. I may never truly be "French" even when my passport says I am.

List of things that make me un-frenchlike:

1. I like ice in my beverages. I get pissed off when a restaurant serves me a lukewarm drink.

2. I use the word "putain", which means whore or fuck, too frequently in casual conversation. (for an example, see #9)

3. I plan to smack my kids around when they get out of line or act like little jackasses. The French don't do that. Ever. And not because they think it's wrong, but because it's just too "uncivilized" for their sensibilities.

4. Although I don't own a bible, I'm still pretty religious by French standards....French people are mostly athiests and failed catholics.

5. I refuse to use a table cloth unless I'm hosting a formal dinner party.

6. I refuse to get ridiculously chunky blonde hilights on the top of my head, and then add jet black low-lights to the back. I also refuse to dye my hair Ronald McDonald red. Thats just retarded.

7. I believe you should have to know what customer service means if you work in a retail store. The customer isn't always right, but they ain't always wrong either.

8. Unlike French ladies , I doubt I will wear stilettos and continue to dress like a 20 year old when I'm 65 years old.

9. I will make my kids do chores! (Hello! Why the fuck don't French kids have to help with the housework? Lazy fucking Frogs!)

10. I've learned to turn down my speaking volume, but I still have a really loud laugh.
And frankly I just don't give a damn.

Monday, June 05, 2006

French Country Bastard!

No, it's not an insult, it's a bread.

As much as I love food, I promise this will not become a food blog, but I couldn't help but share my latest grocery store find.

"Batard de Campagne" is the traditional crusty farm bread that was traditionally made in the French countryside. Literal translation: "Bastard from the Country". A "Batard" can be made from any type of dough. It's similiar to a wide baguette, but it's not as long, and the loaf is shaped slightly like an American football.


Saturday, June 03, 2006

No place like home Part #2

In all honestly, I feel like the true title of this second post should be:
"Stuff is bigger in America."

Like mayonnaise:

And Soda:

And Cheeseballs.

And if for some reason your local Super Wal-mart is out of Gi-normous mayonnaise, soda, and cheeseballs...

you can always slap 8-10 obnoxiously large "support our troops" stickers on your big-ass SUV and drive 2 minutes to the next 24-hour super Walmart.

Friday, June 02, 2006

No place like home Part#1

It's official.

As of 2 weeks ago I am a legal, permanent resident of France. I went downtown to pick up my residency card on May 18th. And how did I celebrate? By leaving the country of course!

The day after I received my residency card, we packed up and jumped aboard a plane for Virginia Beach. My Brother Marcus and his son Tyson live there and my mother and youngest brother Antonio flew in for a visit as well.

My nephew Tyson is an adorable little guy, although he’s not so little anymore. I hadn’t seen him in years and somehow I had forgotten just how fast kids grow up. He’s tall and lanky and of course he looks so much like his father now that every time I looked at him it makes me giggle a little bit.

The first weekend we were in town, Tyson and his step-brother & sister Juwan & Aleisha drove up to the beach to stay with us. I’ll be the first to admit that normally I do not like other people’s children, but they were just a delightful bunch and we had a great time. Even when 3 year old Juwan was puking up his mac & cheese at the Golden Corral dinner buffet he managed to be adorable.

The first day we took them to the North beach near our condo. The water was ice cold, but they wanted to go in anyway. In spite of the fact that they had carefully rolled up their pant legs, all three were soaking wet not more than 4 minutes after these photos were taken.

After the water disaster we decided to walk further down the boardwalk to a carnival where we promptly bought them over-priced ride tickets so they could go spin themselves dry on all the little kiddy rides. Much fun was had by all.

Later in the week we picked Tyson up from school and took him out for a fun-filled afternoon. My mother, the coolest grandmother in the world, spoils Tyson rotten as most grandmothers do. Since we had an hour to kill before the movie started, we stopped at the Super-duper Wal-Mart for a bite to eat and toy shopping.

Tyson picked out this weird transformer thing that was mind-bogglingly difficult to assemble. French boy to the rescue! David was able to somehow make all the insane pieces snap into place and saved the day. Both boys were exceedingly amused at their accomplishment.

On the drive back to Virginia Beach I made David stop and pull over so I could take a photo of this little gas station & general store. In the absolute middle of nowhere there it was. Like something right out of a movie set.

After a bit of deliberation we decided that for sure this must be the location that Quentin Tarantino used for the opening scene of “From Dusk ‘till Dawn”.

I dare you to prove otherwise.

Later in the week the whole family (minus the kids) headed out for some grown-up style entertainment: GIANT Cocktails!

My mom’s friend Christopher who lives in D.C. drove down to get in on the fun. Vacation at the beach is always enjoyable, but many Margaritas and Pinacoladas make it even more-so.

The absolute best-est part of the trip for David and me, besides getting to see my family, was the ocean Kayaking trip I booked. On the 2nd to last day of our trip I convinced David to go ocean kayaking with me, which is something totally out of character for both of us. Neither one of us are "water" or "beach people", but the tour sounded really cool and it was fairly reasonably priced.

We arrived at the surf-shop at at 9AM where we met our ultra-cool and hip surfer guide. David and I did a tandem kayak. I was in front and he was in back. (I did a crappy job of paddling for the first few minutes until I got the hang of it.) Within 5 minutes of getting into the ocean I was the first one to spot the first group of dolphins. They were HUGE.....especially when they were flopping around and mating within a few feet of our tiny little kayak! In the two hour period we probably saw about 30 dolphins. It was too cool for words.

David kept trying to paddle closer to them and I kept trying to back paddle. I'll admit I was totally freaked by how close they were to us. They kept coming up to check us out & believe me, dolphins are much cuter and cuddlier looking on the discovery channel! The whole experience was for lack of a better term “totally awesome”. And NO I did not take this photo. I "borrowed" it. I don't actually have any photos because I was simply too busy trying not to roll out of the damn kayak & drown to death.

So there you have it. But as wonderful and as much needed as the trip was, we are more than happy to be back "home" in France.