Tuesday, February 26, 2008

And Just When You Thought I Was Shallow...

A few months ago I was invited by the local Photo Forum to come do an "Artist Talk" about my work. Thanks to alot of help from FrenchBoy (and the makers of Xanax) I lived to tell about it.

About 50 people showed up to hear me talk and I was able to get all of my ideas across without too much trouble. Grammatical mistakes aside, I can honestly say, I rocked the house! The audience was very engaged and had some really interesting questions. I was worried about how the work would be perceived by a French audience given the obvious cultural and historical differences----which are key to this new body of work, but I think they really enjoyed what I had to say. And I met some really nice folks!

So, I spent weeks writing and organizing this presentation, and I’m trying to get as much mileage out of this baby as I can, so I figured I might as well share it with you here.

So here it is:

(Re) Calling and (Re) Telling.

So to begin I guess I should introduce myself and start off by telling you a bit about my background and how I began working & making art. I have always enjoyed the arts and studied a bit in high-school and then decided to study Art in university. I studied art at the University of Iowa which had a very good art program that offered an impressive array of art courses. One of the requirements was of course to take a photography class. And I admit I was really resistant at first because I was mainly interested in drawing and painting. In fact I had no interest in photography at all, but

Eventually I really enjoyed taking the class, but I also found it really frustrating because I was really only interested in the images. I didn’t care so much about the technique or the science. I like the immediacy that comes with drawing and painting. In retrospect, what I have always been most interested in is storytelling. When I look at an image I immediately want to know what happened just before and what happened just after the image was taken. I want to know who are the people or the objects in the image. I want to know everything about them. Basically the way my mind works is that for whatever image I see I immediately try to form a narrative. And I think that’s a natural thing that to do—it’s a way to relate to a photo, which is actually just a two-dimensional piece of paper, and to somehow incorporate it into our reality and our understanding of the world.

So to better illustrate what I do in photography, I think its necessary to start out by showing you a few of my paintings and explaining how I go about making them and then maybe it will be easier for you to see how I take those same ideas and working methods and make the transition into photography.

This is my Artist Statement:

My work combines painting and photography to explore memory, history, and mythological tales. Each of my works lies at the cross roads of Black American folklore, childlike sentimentality, and magical-spiritual belief. The narrative elements originate from a religious upbringing that combined southern Baptist tradition with both African and Native American belief systems.

This imagery stems from my life-long fascination with folktales, superstition, and storytelling. The protagonists in my work exist in a world constructed of old Negro spirituals, jump-rope chants, rhymes, riddles, and hand-clapping games.

So this first painting is from a series I started in 2006. I generally work in series on several canvases at a time. So as you’ll see as look at the other paintings in this series. Certain images re-appear over and over again and certain methods of mark making are re-used differently within the same series. This painting combined several images of houses. It’s an image that comes up frequently in my work. For me this image not only means literally the place where we live, but it is also a symbol of family, and personal history. The home we live in also is the basis for much of our lives and childhood memories. In many ways it is the foundation of each of our identities.

This is My Father’s house.

Another thing that you will notice is that I like to use patterns and textures. This specific mark-making technique I use because it’s a common stitching pattern used in quiltmaking. And I reference quiltmaking many times in my work for many reasons: one reason being that quiltmaking is traditionally “women’s work”. And the other thing that makes the idea of quiltmaking so important to me is that in the United States there is a history of quiltmaking that is very specific to Black American history. In this tradition, passed down from one generation of women to the next, there is a certain religious/spiritual symbolism that I have always related to.

Bible quilt made by Harriet Powers in 1886.

Quilt made by Martha Jane Pettway from Gee’s Bend in 1945.

The women quilters of Gee's Bend.

Painting's Relationship to Photography.

At this point I’m sure you’re asking “How does all of this relate to photography?” But for me, there is always a clear connection. Painting is never separate from photography. When I work, first I have an idea and then later I choose what materials I can use to best express the idea. For this particular set of ideas, I chose to explore the possibilities of photography.

The true beginning of my most recent photo project that I want to show you came from in fact my grandfather.

When my grandfather was young, was a bit of an amateur photographer. From what I can tell, he seemed to have picked up the hobby during the period from 1950-1955 while he was a soldier during the Korean war. And he never told me about his hobby until I was a student in college and I was taking photography classes. Then, one day, he just gave me all of his old negatives. I had them for many years and never really knew what to do with them. But whenever I looked through them I was always absolutely fascinated by the people and places in his photos and I became curious about the stories behind the images. That is how I came to begin this project.

This set of work uses photography in a way that is much closer to ideas used in collage. I am re-combining images and photographs to make new photographs with new narratives. Technically they are extremely simple. They are shapes and forms cut from photographs and then repositioned and re-photographed to make a new narrative. I literally use one hand to shoot the photos and the other to move the paper or the light-- Forming the light with a stencil. It’s a bit of a cross between playing with paper dolls and building a theatrical maquette.


This first image here is called Begotten. And I got the idea for this image from an old archive photo of slave children on a plantation. And for some reason this photo made me think of the bible. Specifically, it made me think of the first chapter of the book of Mathew which traces the genealogy of Christ. The chapter begins: “Abraham begot Isaac, and Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers…” and continues on for 16 more verses in this same manner until we reach Jesus Christ. I took the words from that text and used it as a foreground to reframe the original image.

It may or may not be rather obvious at this point that I have a very strong religious background and much of my religious education and belief makes its way into my work. They just do. Whether I want them to or not. Spirituality is not the subject of my work, but it definitely remains a part of my work.

Nobody Knows Her People.

This image is based off of something I once heard someone say about my great-grandmother. I never heard the full version of the story, but apparently she was orphaned as a child and so she was raised by another family and took their name. The other image that I’ve incorporated is an old abolitionist propaganda drawing that was widely circulated in many different versions and printed in many different publications. One man who has been enslaved is kneeling, and behind him a group of slaves are chained together. I was always struck by the power of this image and it immediately came to mind once I’d decided I wanted to make some sort of narrative about her story.

I’ll Fly Away.

The title of this photo comes from an old gospel song. And flight is actually used in the song to talk about death. That when you die in fact you fly away like a bird. This is a very common idea and image in religious songs, but perhaps even more so in the Black American religious tradition because the image of the bird is used to refer to freedom and transcendence. I personally have always enjoyed the myth of “The Flying Africans,” which is based on a Yoruba folktale that originated among African storytellers. In short, the story is about a witch doctor who gives enslaved Africans the power to escape slavery by flying back to Africa. It was a popular folktale told by slaves, and was most likely started by slaves who were kept on the isolated islands off the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia.

We Have But Faith.

My grandfather took this photo of a group of 5-6 women sitting outside the church. I was drawn to how close they were physically and how they huddled together almost as if they were in an embrace. And so I made the image thinking about how their faith and their religion bound them together, and the strength that comes from believing in something.

Ok, so that it for the sneak preview. You’ll have to fly to see the show in New York in May to see the other 17 photos! Those of you in the NYC area and aren't psycho stalkers or "playa hatas" are welcome to come to the opening. The gallery keeps switching the date, but I’ll give you details as they become available.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Barbie Dream House Update #14: Art for Your Ass.

One of the coolest things about moving into our new flat is of course decorating. Last week we made a huge amount of progress in that department. We finally have closets! For the past 3 months we have been living out of our old IKEA armoires which are stored in the 2 guestrooms. That’s fine and all, but getting dressed in the morning entailed going to one room to find my underwear and then crossing the hall to get some pants.


About 2 month ago we ordered custom closets and had the rooms measured. Last Thursday the nice man came and installed them. Nevermind my bad photos, they are fabulous!



The downstairs entrance has a coat closet with fancy white glass doors. The upstairs guest bathroom has simple beige doors that match the tiling seamlessly, and our bedroom has a gorgeous wood panels that actually warm up the entire bedroom. We got good Feng shui goin’ on.


Then, Friday morning, BoConcept came and delivered our entertainment system furniture. In 14 ginormous boxes. FrenchBoy and French Father-in-law spent most of the day Saturday arguing and assembling the unit. It’s installed and it looks freaking fabulous. It’s the next best thing to being able to live in the actual Bo Concept showroom….which they don’t let you do. Believe me I tried.



You will notice however that something is missing from the above photo. Uhm, yeah. Alas we still have no sofa or chairs. We spent months before the move looking at furniture and had almost settled on a fancy little leather ensemble from Roch BoBois, but I was very lukewarm about the whole leather sofa idea. I know it’s the norm here in France, but I just can’t get into it. Plus that’s a whole lot of money to spend on a sofa that you have NO love for. (For the record, I also hate carrelage! Tile flooring should be used only in kitchens and bathrooms for Christ’s sake!)


So after leaving Roche Bobois a bit unimpressed, we stumbled into Ligne Rosett which I always considered a bit snooty and over priced. Exhausted, we sank into one of the display living rooms to pout for a bit. It was so comfortable we didn’t want to get up to leave. So we bought it.



French Father-in-law rolls his eyes and calls it the “Coquilles St Jacques furniture”, but it reminds me more of origami. And we LOVE it! It’s weird looking and modern and….just weird. And for some reason when I look at it I get a craving for sushi. Does that make sense?


The only draw back is that since everything from the fabric to the color of the seams is made to order, it literally takes 4 months for it to arrive. Thus, no furniture for us until at least the middle of April. But who can complain when we will have furniture that’s this cool? Dude--it’s art you can sit on!


Anyway, being the total google stalkers that we are. We did a bit of research on the designers. Turns out it was designed by this freaky little design team of two brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec.


In 2000, Issey Miyake hired them to design his A-Poc boutique in Paris, and recently they designed a pavilion in the new MUDAM (Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean) in Luxembourg that opened in July 2006 in a building designed by Architect I.M Pei. And I think they’re only like 34 years old! That’s totally rockstar!

So being that we are total Art & Design nerds, I am convinced this is the furniture we were meant to have.


Oh great. Now I’m hungry for sushi!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game.

Now, this is the first, last, and only time we’re gonna talk about this. Got it?

I don’t know what’s up lately, but over the last few weeks I’ve been getting flooded with comments by “Anonymous” people. As a policy, I delete all comments unless they have an author. I figure the rest of us are gutsy enough to put our opinions on the line for all to see, so why should some people get to snark and run? Commenting anonymously on someone’s blog is like throwing an egg at someone from a moving car window. You do it because you’re a big sissy weiner-head and you know damn well if they could catch up with you they would probably kick your cowardly, weak, sissy weiner-head ass. Verbally speaking of course.

So, if you’re writing me comments or questions anonymously, please know that I automatically delete them. Also please note that if you are writing me really nice comments anonymously, I delete those too. I do not support any form of "drive-by commenting". Fair is fair.

Also, if you must write me hate-mail please make it halfway interesting. My time is quite valuable. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me to “get a life”, I could retire from this damn blog already. Dude---don’t be mad at me because my life is so much more rockstar than yours. Get your own damn life and blog about it.

For as a wise man once said: “Don't hate, cause my game's much tighter than yours. Don't hate the player, hate the game.”

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sarko Cleans My Toilets.

FrenchBoy and I don’t argue much about anything of importance. We think scarily alike when it comes to most things, in spite of our vastly different upbringings and all of the obvious cultural differences. The one thing that really makes us want to throw rocks at eachother is the division of labor in the house--or in our case, the apartment.

When FrenchBoy was single and lived alone he had a “femme de ménage” who came once a week and cleaned the entire apartment from top to bottom. Also, French Mother-in-law was responsible for taking care of his nutritional needs. In addition to the Sunday dinners from which he would bring home 2-3 days worth of leftovers, French Mother-in-law was known to come into his apartment while he was at work, do his laundry, and then put all kinds of home-made reheatable goodies in his freezer before leaving. For many years we would laugh and call it the “magic freezer”. Stuff would just show up there—complete with labels on how it should be reheated.

Fast forward 2 years. The magic is gone. Literally. At some point, that oddly coincided with me moving to France, the cleaning lady disappeared. And the “Magic Freezer” became less magical. All of this was totally cool with me because after-all, who wants their mother-in-law going through their laundry or telling them what to eat for dinner every night? On the other hand, about 6 months into the deal I realized that I was getting’ the shaft. Why? Because apparently French mothers don’t actually teach their French sons how to do stuff. Only Italian mothers have French moms beat when it comes to creating complete Mamma’s boys.

I can go on and on about how lovely my French Boy is because frankly he is absolutely delicious in every way, but I’d be a damn liar if I told you he was good at keeping house. He can do insanely complex mathematical calculations in his head, but he cannot cook, or clean, or do laundry. This of course leaves me to handle all these tasks unless we want to live in complete filth and squalor.

And so, we argued, and bickered, and moped, and threw things at eachother, (Ok, I did most of the throwing of things) and yet still the division of labor in our household never reached a parity that would make me happy. After-all, I work 10 hour days too! I don’t have clients banging down my door to buy my artwork, I have to chase them down and tackle them. So why is it that after a hard day of making art and chasing down clients for said art, I’m still required to do 75% of the cooking and cleaning chores?

The French language is very telling:

Femme = Woman
Femme = Wife
Femme de ménage = Cleaning Lady

(Hence my favorite exclamation during arguments: “I’m your Femme, not your Femme de Ménage!” )

Oh, and what if the person that cleans your house is a dude? I’ve asked around and apparently there is no word for that in the French language--- probably because it has never happened!

Now I’m sure there are hundreds of reasons and explanations for why these things are the way they are, but rather than ponder all of that…

Friday I hired a maid.

After talking about it for almost 2 years we finally just did it. FrenchBoy called to make an appointment, and I went in and signed the contract. Two days later they sent a very nice woman over for an interview. I was very nervous about this, but it turned out great. (There really should be a page on maid interviewing in the “Welcome to Yuppyville” handbook.) She is a very nice lady and I hired her on the spot. She is upstairs doing my windows as I am typing this.

Wanna hear the weirdest part about hiring a maid? The agency asked me if I had any preference as to what kind of maid I wanted (male/female/ age, etc.) ---all kinds of stuff that would be blatantly illegal in the U.S. I’m sure. I told her I didn’t care, but I am now kicking myself for not requesting a big muscle-bound blonde dude. What was I thinking?

Ok wanna hear the absolute coolest part of hiring a maid? As thanks for hiring a legal worker from an agency rather than paying someone “au noir” (off the books), at the end of the year the French government gives us back 50% of the money we’ve paid during the year as a tax refund.

Thanks Sarko! C’est belle la vie en France!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sugar Art.

For Valentine's day the FrenchBoy and I met up with Mademoiselle R and Monsieur C for Indo-Pakistani dinner. The food and conversation was good and even at inflated Valentin'es day prices our entire meal plus cocktails came in at under 100 euros. Miraculous!

Just as a side note--I gotta say that I think it's hilarious that the French take Valentine's day so seriously. It's like a real-live lovers' holiday, where as for most of my adult life in the US I kinda considered Valentine's day a sort of weak joke. Or maybe it's just because I'm not the gushy romantic type?

Anyway, after our meal nobody wanted coffee except me, but then as soon as I ordered everyone else jumped on the bandwagon and ordered coffee too. And it's a good thing they did because if they hadn't, we might have missed these little drawings:



These are the sugar wrappers from our....sugars. At first I was a bit confused, but then I decided that it must be some kind of Art. (My response to most things I don't understand is---"Maybe it's Art!") And as it turns out I was right. Apparently the little drawings are from a series called "Etre une Femme" (To be a Woman.) by artist Astrid Chapuis. So then of course I cyber stalked her on Google and found a PDF of the entire series here.

Ok, so, it doesn't inspire deep thoughs , but..... C'est amusant! Especially after a few glasses of wine.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

B*tch Betta Have My Money.

Please excuse the title---that's all I could come up with on such short notice.

Look: we have already clearly established that French customer service = oxymoron, so I want to preface this post by saying that this is not going to turn into a rant about how much the French suck when it comes to customer service. Instead I just want to share with all of you some funny interactions I had today while running errands.

So today I had 3 errands to run. 1-Go to Castorama (the French Home Depot) and buy plastic protective sheeting for my studio, 2- go to the office supply store and buy an overpriced calculater, and 3- go to BoConcept and pay for the furniture that we ordered so I wouldn’t have to pay the creepy delivery guy on Friday morning.

Stop #1

I walk into Castorama and begin looking for my roll of plastic. Of course I can’t find it. I immediately notice that whenever I look to find a sales person they see my eyes trying to meet theirs and then they immediately scurry off like frightened rats. I think I actually heard them make squeaking noises as they kicked up dust to get away. This of course is not uncommon in Castorama culture. I think part of their training manual includes a hefty chapter on how to escape actually having contact with the customers. So everytime I’m in Castorama I like to wander around just looking at the other shoppers. It’s like Night of the Living Dead in there! A hundred dazed and lost people walking around, stone-faced, mouths agape like zombies, hopelessly trying to find…..staple guns and what-not. Meanwhile the sales staff runs and screams in horror. Next time I will bring a video camera. P.S. I never found my damn plastic sheeting either.


Stop #2

I walk into Bureau Vallee, grab my stuff, and head up to the cash register. The 98 year old guy who works as the cashier eventually walks over and starts ringing up my stuff as though working there were his punishment for some unthinkable crime. I of course immediately greet him with a hearty “Bonjour Monsieur.” After all, just because he's a Grouchy Old Bastard doesn’t mean my Momma didn’t raise me right. I have manners.

Finally he tells me the total and since I’m numerically illiterate in French I look to the cash register sign and read the total and then hand him my cash. (Seriously, if you want to see me go into convulsions, ask me how to say 94 in French. What’s up with all the math? 80 + 14...whatever man!) Anyway, he gives me change, and although I ain’t a math whiz I know something isn’t right. I snatch the receipt off the counter and glare at it like it just called me a a naughty name. Wait! Grouchy Old Bastard shorted me 1 cent! WTF? Just as I was about to point out his error, Grouchy Old Bastard opens the cash register again and hands me the centime then says: “Oh, good thing you looked at your receipt!”

Correction: That Grouchy Old Bastard tried to steal 1 centime from me! Good thing I looked at my receipt? No. Good thing I don't jump over this counter and break your f*cking hip!

Moving on.

Stop #3

I walk into BoConcept which is dead as a doornail seeing as how it’s 11AM and most normal people uhm…have jobs. Evenso, I am greeted by two chipper sales girls who actually recognize me from when I was in 3 weeks ago. I tell them I’ve come in to pay the balance on my furniture account and they trip over themselves bringing up my info on the computer. I hand the first salesgirl my money. (I can call her girl cuz she’s at least 5 years younger than me.) She then prints, staples and folds my 2 page receipt so it will fit perfectly in my handbag. The second sales girl then says: “It’s so nice of you to come in to pay. You really didn’t have to. If all our customers were like you it would make our jobs much easier!” At this point I am sure someone hiding behind the Volani bookcase has shot me with a poison dart and this is the hallucinogenic effect that one feels right before the poison quickly works it’s way into the nervous system and stops first the brain, then the heart. Clearly this…niceness can’t be happening.


Anyway, today’s lesson is buy 14 euro calculator from Grouchy Old Bastard-- get crappy service. Hand two girls a fist full of 500 euro notes---get customer service.

Live and learn.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Those Crazy Frogs #2:
"French means never having to say
you're sorry."

The thing about the French is---nothing is ever really their fault. Where Americans are constantly apologizing for things that aren’t necessarily their fault, the French see no reason to apologize for things that are clearly their fault.

It’s one cultural difference I have yet to get used to, but it’s a very important pretext to understanding the story that follows:

So a few months ago my favorite everyday purse broke. (Yes. I have an “everyday” purse and a “fancy” purse.) A seam on one side just opened up and the lining was kinda hanging out. Now, I’d only had it for a few months so I decided to take it to the cordonnier to see if it could be fixed. (For you non-Francophiles the cordonnier is traditionally a shoe maker. But since all shoes are made in Chinese sweatshops these days, now cordonniers mostly repair shoes and leather goods and sometimes make keys. Go figure.)

The munchkin–like lady at the counter said she wasn’t sure if it could be fixed at all, and certainly it wouldn’t be done before the holidays. I told her no problem I wasn’t in a hurry. I call two weeks later. It’s still not done. I go into the shop a week after that. It’s still not done. I call a week after the shop visit and still the leather they need hasn’t arrived. I call a week later. The leather finally arrived but it’s still not done. Finally I go into the shop, ask to see what progress has been done on my bag. He brings my bag up to the counter and it looks like THE F*CKING PURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN! Complete mutilation Jeffrey Dahmer style.

I promptly demanded a refund and he gave it to me without a fight. I guess he could tell by the look on my face that it was a fight he would certainly lose and it might entail bloodshed. But then, instead of apologizing for the two month delay he says: “If you had brought it in right away I could have fixed it.” Uhm, What? I promptly corrected him and let him know that I wasn’t in the habit of carrying around busted ass handbags and that I brought it to him immediately. He was in the middle of making yet another excuse for why he couldn’t do his job when I loudly “Oui, Oui,Oui’d” him and gave him a wave of the hand and a“Bonne Soiree” that clearly meant “Go f*ck yourself”.

I then walked 2 minutes up the street and bought a new everyday handbag for less than what I was going to pay the cordonnier to fix my old one!

So, children. What have we learned thus far?

First, sometimes crappy situations can turn into good ones.

Secondly, Sad to say it, but products these days aren’t made to be fixable. When they break you’re supposed to just toss’em! We live in a disposable world. The same thing happened with my Epson printer awhile back. To repair it would have costed 85USD….which is more than the price I paid for it! (Epson if you’re reading this: your print heads suck.)

And last but not least, we learned that no matter how black and white the situation may be, the average French person will never, and I mean NEVER admit to having made a mistake. And they would sooner gouge out their eyes with a spoon than apologize. Consider yourself forewarned.

Aaaah, those crazy frogs. Can't live with'em, can't strangle them with piano wire.

Friday, February 08, 2008

You Can’t Make This Stuff up!

One thing I like about living in France is that every outing can turn into a little adventure.


Wednesday I met up with Mademoiselle R. This week's adventure involved us checking out the Chagal windows at the Cathedral, discovering that Rosport Blue tastes like poo, Mademoiselle R getting trapped in the toilet at the tea salon, and then subtely getting accused of shop-lifting in one of the crappiest stores in the world - Maisons du Monde.

tea salon

What can I say? Never a dull moment.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Me Talk Pretty One Day.

Oh, so while we’re on the subject of languages, I have a real conundrum for you.

How can I learn to speak French in just 3 weeks? Well see, most of you thought I actually already spoke French. Hell. So did I! But according to the free on-line proficiency test at Transparent.com….. I suck. Don’t believe me? Check out my test scores. Now, normally my academically inclined over-achieving personality would be shamed by such low scores, but honestly, they’re so awful that it borders on funny so I just had to post them here:

french language score

So as you can see I rocked the house on reading comprehension and vocabulary, which is why I’m so good at day to day chit-chat with the local Frogs, but right away you’ll notice that on the sections relating directly to grammer…I got kicked in the nuts.

And this brings us back to my problem. Me need to learn to talk pretty by Friday, February 22nd. This is the day I’ve been invited to be a guest speaker and give a 1.5 hour long lecture/presentation about my photographic artwork to the local Photography Association. *insert gulping sound here* As if speaking in front of 100 snarky photographers wasn’t terrifying enough, I have agreed to do my whole presentation in French no less. I would panic, but clearly I don’t have time. I HAVE TO LEARN FRENCH IN 3 WEEKS!

So my question is: is there a way that I could learn to not only speak French at an advanced level, but also appear witty and brilliantly funny while not actually having to crack open one of the French grammer workbooks collecting dust in my armoire? And if I must crack open the books, where do I even start? What do you recommend? Also---websites that may help, free tutorials etc? And where do I even start?

Goddammit! De-lurk and help me already! Yeah, you. I’m talkin’ to you.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

I Speaka Zee English.

Everytime FrenchBoy and I go out on the weekend to do shopping or running errands we have a moment where mid-discussion we realize people are staring at us. Why? Because we’re speaking English. This weekend in particular, we were enjoying our very mediocre Tex-Mex lunch at a local restaurant and the family at the next table was not so subtly listening in on our chit-chat. Finally when they got up to leave, their young son said to the mother something to the effect of “They aren’t speaking French.” And she replied, “No, They’re speaking English.” At which point I promptly spoke up to clarify that I was not English, but American. Ya know, Just for the record. I mean....I don't even drink tea.

It amazes me that while we live in a very international corner of France that people will actually stop and stare and try to listen to our conversations. When I first moved to France I would intentionally speak quieter in public because I was so uncomfortable about all the attention that speaking English brought. Now, I just clearly don't give a rat's ass, but I do always wonder about these people. Are they listening to see if they can actually understand? I mean, what’s the big deal? Seriously. I'm asking.

The funniest part of this phenomenon is how surprised people are when they realise that FrenchBoy is in fact....French. That's right folks. He's French and he speaks English! You can literally see the flash of confusion rush over people's faces as we randomly switch back and forth between languages mid sentence. (Our future children will no doubt be fluent in neither language if we keep this nonsense up.) Sometimes I do it on purpose just to see if I can make the cashier's head explode. No luck thus far.

Maybe I’m a bit New York jaded and think I’ve seen and heard everything, but it doesn’t phase me one bit when I hear people speaking Mandarin or Japanese while I’m in France….or anywhere else for that matter. And I of course wouldn’t think to actually try to listen in on their conversation. Dude---I don’t speak Mandarin or Japanese (Although wish I did) so what do I care?

So you tell me: what gives? Why are the folks in my corner of France so damn surprised or curious when they hear French Boy and I speaking English in the grocery store?

Friday, February 01, 2008