Paris: The City of Baguettes, Striped Shirts and Old Sh*t

Striped shirts, baguettes, and smoking cigarettes. A LOT of cigarettes, in fact. The city where every woman looks like they’re walking on a catwalk. Nary a building from this century.

This is what I imagined Paris to be like and it’s exactly what I got. This is what else I’ve gotten so far:

1. Little kids speaking French is ZEE cutest thing ever.

2. I’m concerned about the elevator operator at the Eiffel Tower. On the way to the top (and back down) I couldn’t tell if he was dead or just taking a power nap.

3. People drive like goddamn maniacs here. Stay in your own lane? Nah. Pedestrians crossing? Who cares. Run ’em over. Do you like honking? Paris is for you!

4. When I run into someone speaking English, I force them into being my new best friend. I like to chat and guess what? I don’t speak French.

5. Speaking of being American, it’s kind of embarrassing considering our current state of affairs.

6. Yes, I’ve eaten at McDonald’s twice, once at the Louvre. Hey, I was HANGRY.

7. Why is their coffee so good? In comparison, Starbucks tastes like garbage water that’s been sitting in an aluminum can all day.

8. Not only have I seen the most beautiful women (no make-up, simple ponytails, 100 times the confidence I have), but I’ve also never seen more plastic surgery victims in my life. Slow your roll on those lip injections, girlfriend!

9. I want to be that woman I saw, leisurely leaning out the top window of her castle (okay, it was an apartment, but it LOOKED like a castle), resting her chin on her hand, watching the boats float down the Seine.

10. It is really bizarre to see all of this stuff I’ve seen in books, on TV and in movies my whole life. The glass pyramid at the Louvre, the Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa and, of course, the Eiffel Tower. I suggest that when a cab drives you by it for the first time, you lose your shit about how big it is. The cab driver will get a good laugh at your expense.

In the coming days, I’ll be checking out the catacombs, Napoleon’s tomb and I’m hell bent on finding the tunnel Princess Diana died in.

Wish me luck!

Brightside Booklist + The One Show You Should Be Watching

Home Is Burning by Dan Marshall

Home Is Burning by Dan MarshallYou wouldn’t expect it with a title like this, but this addition to the Brightside Booklist was FUNNY. What’s funny about a mom living with cancer and a father suddenly diagnosed with ALS, you say? Well, lots of things. First off, many of the reviews I read of this book went on and on about how insensitive the author was to his family’s plight. How crude it was. How entitled the author seemed. However, these are the things that actually drew me to the book in the first place. I appreciate honesty, humor and sarcasm and have greater empathy and understanding of people that appear REAL. You feel me?

Anyway, the author and the rest of his family’s lives are upended when their father/husband is diagnosed with ALS. You witness them all pitching in at various levels to help with the exhausting work of caregiving. Along the way, the author loses his girlfriend, his 18-year-old sister gets pregnant by her 36-year-old soccer coach (aptly nicknamed Creepy Todd) and there’s a lot of alcohol used for coping. His mother is treated again for cancer, uses a lot of pills and every description of her eventually includes her eating yogurt with a spoon.

As you can imagine, the story is heartbreaking. The author is able to portray tragedy in a way that is readable and enjoyable. It’s also a good reminder that  while the your life seems endless as the “normal” days go by, it’s important to remember that one day all you’ll have are the memories you’ve made.

Make them count.

Click here for more of the Brightside Booklist!

The One Show You Should Be Watching

Hotel Beau Sejour, NetflixThis week, you get a book to read AND a show to watch because, well, sometimes reading is too hard. However, in this case that doesn’t matter because there are subtitles which require…..reading. Don’t let subtitles scare you away. PLEASE, I BEG YOU. WATCH THIS SHOW, so we can discuss.

It’s called Hotel Beau Sejour and it’s an original Netflix series that is made in Belgium. Like I said, there are subtitles, but you’ll be so engrossed that you won’t even notice that they’re there. The story starts with a girl waking up in a hotel room and finds her dead body in a bathtub. She doesn’t realize it at first, but she soon figures out that she is dead. Her family falls apart and Kato (the dead girl with the SUPER cute hair) discovers that there are a handful of people that can see and communicate with her. She doesn’t remember how she died, but nonetheless, she attempts to help those involved to find her killer.

The show has a True Detective feel to it (only the first season, not the crapper second season) and they use a Dutch version of a Hank Williams song in the intro. The characters are nuanced and believeable and after every episode I get more confused as to what is going on with these people. Not in the “Credits roll and I look at Danny and say, huh? I don’t get it” kind of way (true story, several times over). I get confused in the typical murder mystery way, obsessing over it all like, “Who did it? The dad? No, it can’t be him. He’s too drunk to successfully wield a hammer. The sister? She’s all over Kato’s ex-boyfriend, that jerk. The cute guy fresh out of the mental institution? WHOOOOO?”

Go on, now. Go turn that TV on.

Cemetery burials, New Orleans styles

When I hopped off that plane, I wanted to squeal right over to the nearest cemetery. New Orleans=mandatory cemetery tour, right? Well, there are A LOT of them and we only had time for one. My family tolerates my cemetery obsession, but aren’t as interested in poring over every.single.tomb.detail like I am. Can you even imagine a 5-year-old NOT wanting to discuss the significance of tomb art or how the ethnicities of the early neighborhoods impacted the creation of the cemetery?? Pffffft.

As you probably know, New Orleans is a little swampy and the dead are buried above ground in tombs. These cemeteries have been called “Cities of the Dead” and they are impressive to see in person. St. Louis Cemetery #1 is probably the most famous one and this is where the “voodoo queen” Marie Laveau is buried, along with Homer Plessy (of Plessy vs. Ferguson fame). The word on the street is that this is where Nicolas Cage also bought his own plot for when he kicks the bucket.

We ended up going to Lafayette Cemetery #1 which is in the Garden District. The Garden District contains beautiful antebellum mansions with lush gardens and wrap around porches. Wealthy people of American descent built their homes with wealth made from sugar, shipping and politics. Anne Rice and Trent Reznor used to live here and Sandra Bullock does now (yes, we drove by her house and, yes, it’s beautiful).

Lafayette Tomb
Broken granite exposing the tomb’s brick wall.

The cemetery is surrounded by a wall that contains internment chambers for remains of people that could not afford a large tomb, individual family members or as temporary places for those contaminated with yellow fever back in the day.  I could not believe how many of the tombs were broken and obviously neglected, which is not something I have seen in other cemeteries. Frankly, it was a little sad. When you buy a tomb in New Orleans, your family is forever responsible for it’s upkeep. People die or move away and VOILA! Crummy, broken tombs overgrown with weeds.

This brings me to the next part of my story. We’re walking along and I come to a tomb similar to the picture on the right, minus the bricks. Because I’m nosy, I crawl right in that thing and start checking it out. Dirt floor, broken wooden slats, weeds. No body parts or locks of hair, much to my disappointment. I didn’t know what the wooden shelves were for and I didn’t understand why it was empty or what had went on in there,  but there I was.

Later on in the evening we had dinner with our new friend/amazing tour guide, Amy.  Over oysters and a caprese salad the size of my head, she explained burial practices in New Orleans.

At death, the body is placed in the tomb (in a coffin or a casket) and the body is left inside for the time of mourning (a year and a day).  After that, they pull the coffin out, dispose of it and place the body back in the tomb. They just throw that thing back in there, you ask? Yes. Yes, they do.

As you can imagine, the swampy heat and humidity works it’s magic to cremate the body, which eventually ends up on the tomb floor. What if Aunt Patty dies and there’s someone already occupying tomb space? Well, she gets put in the same tomb on with the other body/bodies. They just keep piling them in. Having numerous names on a tomb is normal, but I walked by one that had twenty-seven names listed. TWENTY-SEVEN.  Talk about a crowded, dusty house.

After hearing the details and imagining the bottom of my shoe covered in “people” I was a little grossed out. But not grossed out enough to NOT lurk around another tomb again. Who’s with me and when are we going?

Also, to read more about my trip to New Orleans, check it out here!