Nov 26, 2009

32 things

It's my birthday soon. I'm turning 32. And yes, that is my real age.

In order to help you feel included in this magical celebration of my birth, here are 32 things you may not have known about me (unless you are my mother). In no specific order.

1. When I was 5, I played violin for the King of Belgium. These days, I wouldn't play violin for a deaf person.

2. For the first two years of my life, I lived in Waterloo. Yes, I also think that's funny sometimes.

3. Until the age of 17, I never wanted to study law. I only went to law school to spite my parents, which sounds odder than it is. Five minutes into my first class, I was really glad I did.

4. When we moved to France, I was so upset my father had to promise me a horse so I would agree to talk to him. I never got the horse. I talk to my dad anyway.

5. I've had three jobs. I have quit four times. Each time, I didn't have another one lined up. There's a reason some people think I'm completely irresponsible.

6. When I was 4, I ran away from home with my best friend to go on an adventure after magically putting my mother to sleep with a strawberry toothpaste potion. We turned around when we got to the witch's house.

7. Four out of my five cats have had names starting with M. For some reason, I believe names starting with M are lucky. Although I can think of at least 3 ex-boyfriends whose names started with M so maybe I'm wrong. My real name doesn't start with M.

8. I like to make lists. Obviously. It is only one of the many ways in which I am slowly turning into my mother.

9. If I had been a boy, my parents would have named me Nicolas. Initially, my mother wanted to name me Sophie Charlotte. My grandmother vetoed and for that I will forever be grateful to her.

10. I am the tallest female (tied) on my mother's side of the family. I you knew me, you would realize how funny that is.

11. When I was 9, I was a published poet in the US. It is possible that will turn out to be the pinnacle of my writing career.

12. When I was 4, I made up a story about a little girl who falls in love with a boy who lives in a violin case. I didn't write it down but somehow I still remember it. I don't remember a thing about a trip to Athens my parents took me on a year later.

13. I have had the same diary since I was 10. It has Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph in it, next to Mickey Mouse's.

14. I had seen Patrick Bruel, Michael Jackson and U2 in concert by the time I was 14. I try not to be embarrassed by that first one. I can't remember the last concert I went to, which is sad.

15. I can't think of a single really close friend of mine who hasn't lived in at least two countries. I have lived in four and I feel that's not enough. (If you consider yourself a friend of mine and have only lived in one country, please forgive me, you're probably the wonderful exception that confirms the rule.)

16. I have no idea which language I dream in. I think only people who speak one language ever ask that question.

17. Like the true little fake American that I am, I secretly love malls. My absolute favourite one is in Stamford, CT, just because that's where I went as a kid. I haven't been back since so in my mind it's a mystical palace of pre-teen 1980s consumerism. (PS: I have recently discovered that someone in or near Stamford reads my blog. Whoever you are, hi!)

18. Sometimes I purposefully make life hard for myself, like deciding that every single chapter in my book will have a rather complex structure requiring me to write two stories at once. Or deciding that I will find 32 amusing anecdotes about my life to share with you.

19. I do not have an accent when I speak French. I do not have an accent when I speak English (although the Brits will disagree with me on that one). I do have an accent when I speak German. Which infuriates me.

20. The books I have read the most often are probably Lolita by Nabokov and La Nuit des Temps by Barjavel. If you haven't read one or either of those, go do it now. Go on. I'll wait.

21. My mother's name and my real name start with the same letter. I like that about us. I've decided that if I ever have a daughter, her name will also start with that letter. It's a tricky letter, though, so she might end up with a weird name and require years of therapy to stop hating me.

22. I am obsessed with Tiffany's. Obsessed. As in, I would turn down Cartier. Audrey has a lot to answer for.

23. In a movie of my life, I would want Natalie Portman to play me. Or maybe Sophie Marceau but she'd have to brush up on her English.

24. You know how all little girls go through that phase where they think boys are yucky? I never went through that phase. And we can see how well that's turned out.

25. I get cabin fever if I live in the same place for more than a couple years at a time. Even the old US/UK/France rotation is getting boring. My dream is to find someone equally insane so we can move around constantly and raise lots of unbalanced children together.

26. I once became completely infatuated with a cello player because of Dvorak's Cello Concerto. The second movement, to be precise.

27. When I was growing up in the US, I was that kid that always got picked last for sports teams in gym class. Always. It has a lot to do with me having absolutely no hand-eye coordination. Which is why I now run. The psychological scars from childhood remain, though.

28. When I was born, my mother thought I looked like King Kong. Because I was hairy and had really long fingers and toes. Not because I was freakishly tall with a penchant for blondes and skyscrapers.

29. I have never seen any of the Godfather movies. After 15 minutes of the first one, I got bored, turned off the television, and went and did something more exciting like wash dishes or proofread a legal brief. I have no regrets.

30. I don't like oysters. Which is a shame because I'm oddly attracted to the concept of the oyster bar.

31. Sometimes, when I can't sleep at night, I wonder if maybe I shouldn't be out there employing my remaining neurons doing something useful like saving the world or at least a couple polar bears, instead of amusing myself writing a silly love story. But I like amusing myself. And silly love stories.

32. This is probably the most outrageously self-focused, ridiculously unwarranted act of exhibitionism I have ever performed in my life. Except for the very fact of having a blog in the first place, of course.

Nov 22, 2009

Les jours qui passent

There are days I can't stop smiling, I walk through the streets humming to my ipod as passer-bys give me strange looks, I feel like I could conquer the world. I make important pronouncements, set ambitious targets, run like the wind and fill page after electronic page with words that sound to me like delectable, melt-in-you-mouth candies. There are days when Christmas is in the air, where I lift my head and welcome the rain and feel surrounded by love even if I'm walking alone.

And then there are the other days. Days when the hours pass and barely one paragraph has bled onto my screen. When the phone stays quiet and the inbox empty. When I wander from the kitchen to the bedroom to the sofa and back again and can't remember what I was looking for. There are days when the sun can't reach me and the loneliness is dark and oppressing and the future too uncertain to feel real.

Night after night, when I go to bed, I have no idea what kind of day tomorrow will be. But every morning, as soon as my eyes open, I know. The way you know when you first set eyes on a boy you will love even if it breaks you.

And usually, in either case, there's nothing you can do to change it.

Nov 19, 2009

Forever a J

The good thing about exponentially increasing the number of hours one stays awake, is one has lots of time to make lots of plans. Especially if one is a planner, like yours truly.

Some of the plans, concocted in the dead of night while lying in bed, staring at the ceiling and feeling rather sorry for myself, are best not acted upon, or shared in these pages.

But some of the plans are totally fabulous.

First, there are lots of plans for the coming chapters of my book. Many of which will be stealing unashamedly from real life (my own and whoever else's I feel like borrowing from). So this means the writing is going well and I feel confident today. Doubt be damned, my book is going to kick some serious New York Times Bestseller List ass.

And then there's the slightly more fool-hardy plan of running the Paris half marathon in March. Almost a year to the day since I was hospitalized for... well... not breathing. Poetic, isn't it. In honour of that anniversary I'm also raising funds for a respiratory disease charity, but you will be spared the link here since it has my real name on it!

Anyways, I started the training today in the absolutely stunning Bois de Vincennes. How is it possible that I had never been there before? I feel truly embarrassed. It was beautiful, sunny, full of pretty horses and there's a rather nice-looking castle there too. Although to be fair, by the end of the 11 or 12-odd kilometers I couldn't care less about the park or the horses or the castle or anything else really other than my rather painful thighs. Ah well, almost four months to go. It will be fine. I think...

Nov 16, 2009

Desperately seeking Morpheus

Oh God. I need to sleep. I can't remember the last time I had a restful night. Has it been days? Weeks? Too long. My nerves are shot, the bitchiness factor is at an all-time high and it's all I can do to keep myself from painting the world in a thick layer of black acrylic.

And why am I unable to drop into a peaceful slumber? Well, the book isn't helping. Every night I write and rewrite chapters which I will have forgotten or discarded by sunrise. Words words words. It's enough to drive anyone insane, even if you're not the prince of a small rotten country. And then there's that tumultuous heart of mine, which cries in pain and confusion and demands attention every time I try to close my eyes and forget it's there.

So I stay awake. Night after night. Slowly losing my sanity.

Will someone please take me out of my misery and come bash me over the head with something heavy? (I've always been partial to the cartoonish charm of the frying pan, myself.)


Nov 14, 2009

Black cats and running hats

Friday the 13th is usually a good day for me. In an ironic, backwards sort of way (much like my life), those days tend to bring me luck, good news, and happiness.

Yesterday's version was a bit of a mixed bag. Actually, to be completely honest and quit the sugar-coating, it was completely f***ing awful. One of those days you want to erase straight off the calendar, going at it until the paper rips and your fingers are sore. But the day did end with good friends and a cocktail, so it wasn't a complete loss.

Today was a quiet, studious day, a large part of which was devoted to recovering from the night before (I said Friday ended with a cocktail, I never said there weren't several others that preceded it). And writing. Lots of writing. I am now ready to move on to Chapter 4 and, the abominable first chapter aside, I'm pretty happy with what I have so far. Which means there are two chapters I like. So yes, I'm not dancing the happy dance yet, but things could be worse (it could be yesterday again).

In other news, tomorrow is the day of the big run for Houston Hottie and I (you knew she had to be around somewhere; where there is any kind of silver lining in a crisis, there is Houston Hottie.) Anyways, tomorrow is the day when the two of us brave the wind and the rain and the brimstone of Hyde Park and run our little socks off for 10 whole kilometers. Watching the ever-receding backsides of 950 runners ahead of us...

But as they say, it's not whether you win or lose, it's whether you look good in your sweatpants that counts.

Nov 6, 2009

Lost in the field


It's an ugly word. In English as well as in French. Say it out loud. Go ahead. "Doubt." It's a word without any redeeming qualities. It's thick. It falls flat. It doesn't even have a kick to it to make up for the ugliness.

I've been writing for several weeks now, and I haven't even made it to the 5,000 word mark. Worse, the first couple thousand of those sound hollow.

Wentworth says I need to find my "left field". But what if I walk around in circles for months and never find the left field? What if I only have talent enough to write a very-much-middle-of-the-field book? What if I don't even have enough talent to do that? Could this decision that felt like the most liberating, truest decision of my life actually be a colossal mistake? Should I have stuffed my lofty ambitions, stuck to playing around with this blog as a hobby and found myself a nice legal job? "I want to write for a living." What kind of 30-something post-graduate idiot says that? And then follows up with it?

Hopefully this will all feel better again in the morning. Because when it does feel good, it feels amazing. Like being Superman. Only without the unattractive underwear. Maybe all I need is a good night's sleep and I will find my faith (a.k.a. delusion) again. I know I left it around here somewhere.

To Sleep

I'm drained. Driving across Europe in a Twingo will do that to you. All I want to do is sleep. And yet.

Crisis of confidence, meet Res. You two will be spending quite some time together, as she tosses and turns under the covers.

It turns out that when you finally catch a glimpse of "Everything You Never Knew You Always Wanted", it doesn't look quite as sturdy as you imagined. In fact, on closer inspection you begin to wonder whether the whole thing isn't actually made of out of paper-thin glass. Glass that is very likely to shatter into a million sharp pieces as soon as you get your clutz' hands on it. Especially if you have my hand-eye coordination.

So what do you do? Do you leave it there, eternally just out of reach but at least intact and still beautiful? Do you keep edging forward, very, very carefully, droplets of sweat appearing on your brow and quivering above your upper lip as you hold your breath? Or do you just smash the damn thing on purpose, just to relieve the tension and stop the agony once and for all?

Aye, there's the rub.

Now someone pass me a valium.

Nov 3, 2009

Of Love and Literature

I'm sorry boys and girls. I've been out frolicking in the countryside, enjoying my new life of love and freedom and literary treats, and I've just been leaving you by the wayside, haven't I. How very selfish of me.

But you have to understand. This is it! The life I've always wanted! It's finally mine! (Please refrain from calling forth unsavoury images of Gollum, or those seagulls in Finding Nemo.)

And so Newly Minted Res has been busy. Seeing her friends. Even in the middle of the day. Whenever they need her, really. And travelling on the weekends to nurture a young but promising love affair. And writing, re-writing, erasing, tweaking, and generally tearing her hair and heart out over the pages of that young but promising novel of hers. Basically there's lots of nurturing. So much so that one day I may be able to graduate onto a pet. Possibly a goldfish.

But I digress. This was supposed to be an apology. I'm not terribly good at written apologies. I find the teary-eyed hug technique to be so much more effective. (I'm irresistible when I go in for the teary-eyed hug, no matter how unforgivable I've been).

So instead of an apology, let me offer a gift. Of the latest two books I've read which were absolutely incredible, and the one I'm reading now which promises to be just as good (there's another thing I've been catching up on besides love, liberty and happiness: reading. It is possible I've died and gone to Res heaven. And I don't even miss the Blackberry one little bit.)

1. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows: don't be put off by the title, or the epistolary form, this book is a treat, like a toffee that keeps getting better as it melts in your mouth. Irresistible.

2. The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett: imagine if the Queen did nothing all day but devour novels. Are you smiling yet? You've only just started.

3. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak: it's not just the premise that's left-field, but the style as well. And the result is bewitching.

Notice that all three books are about... books. There's a sign there, I think.