Today I was the victim of Up In The Air, the Oscar-ambling flick about a rugged, lonely man (aptly played by a rugged, lonely actor) and his empty relationships. I didn't cry--I didn't know I was supposed to--but I left completely silent. Nothing to say. Nothing to think. My thoughts had been read by some screenwriter, probably living in Williamsburg or Seattle, a few years ago, plucked by some ambitious producer in Hollywood, adapted and cast with my friends and thrown on screen for all to see. The emptiness of daily life is something we mentally push aside, like bills on the dining room table, eventually buried with Crate & Barrel catalogs, grocery lists, our extra salt shaker and possibly even a placemat, just to make sure the Offending Article is hidden. That Which We Do Not Speak Of. But eventually my hollandaise needs a pinch of salt and my grinder is missing, or I need to set the table. And there it is. IMPORTANT, written in red. (It's likely Helvetica, and if the Offending Article didn't involve me having less of something it might even be kind of pretty, in it's perfect proportion and red-on-white design.)

Up In The Air is a bill left on the table. Life is tough, love is rare--exceptionally rare. I learned that from both a summer in Paris and the film Before Sunset. And today, walking out of the theater, I was on autopilot. Movements were slow, deliberate. And deliberation does not necessarily mean there is caution involved. Changing lanes becomes an arduous, "I hope there isn't anyone in the left lane going 80" kind of action, but made without thinking.

If love is life, lovelessness is numbness. I wish I had a better word than "numbness"--it's one of those that seems to be a mistaken combination of syllables--but it's the most appropriate.

Today I was also the victim of bank fraud. I checked my account this morning, one day before leaving for Miami, mind you, to find that my entire checking has been drained. The bank says there's a 90% chance I'll have the money back by morning, but it seems like such a slap in the face on December 30th, 2010. I am love(r)less, penniless, and a bit hopeless. Hopefully the superficiality of Miami will remind me why we Americans live--to eat, drink, and ogle on the beach.


The Semester

This Fall has been sobering. And not in the healthy way. Not in the, "I woke up today feeling fresh and sprinted six miles!" kind of way; no, in the "God, reality sucks." kind of way. And by "reality," I am referring to what our parents always referred to as The Real World. And this Real World doesn't contain Anderson Cooper's adorable ex-boyfriend.

Lesson 1: Dicks exist. There are people who make unjust decisions based on prejudice and, most frighteningly, for Fuck's Sake, and these people cannot be trusted and deserve no respect. I am actually referring to a very specific series of Fuck Dustin events that hit me in succession in late November and early December. Actually, revisiting them is a bit too harsh at the moment. Though, from now on I'll guard my asshole a bit better.

Lesson 2: You don't always get what you deserve. Ideas can be thrown away, work unacknowledged, and as someone who has happily received everything he ever wanted in life (plus more), this is like taking a sip of water and finding the sour bite of Vodka waiting for you beyond the rim. (It ain't Titos, either.)

Lesson 3: Love is entirely unpredictable. I worked with someone this Fall who was a genuine Flavor-Of-The-Week connoisseur, rummaging the dating world for whatever melted popsicle-of-a-man he could find. Oh, its Monday? That means ThirtyyearoldguyIworkwith must have a new boy. Oh, he thought he tasted like medicine? Back to the garbage can.

[I'm selling him a bit short. He did date one guy with an actual job, and two of them were mildly cute. But grape-flavored popsicles look good, too, until you look in the mirror and your mouth is dyed like you ate one of Lady Gaga's lavender wigs.]

Lesson 3 (continued): There was one man I wanted this semester. (And "wanted" is past tense because there was never any "getting.") He was much older (like, Daddy range--don't judge), but gorgeous, fluent in four languages, and the owner of a Chateau in the rural Loire Valley of France. I have always been into the...erm, ADULT type of man-- I wrongly fancy myself an old (er) soul--but never have I lusted after anyone this strongly. The fact that he never even REALIZED all of my awkward Hellos and How Are Yous (naturally, in my way-too-tight jeans) were an attempt at flirtation is the most upsetting part of the whole story. I just don't have the personal radar. One second I meet a straight man, three seconds later he tells me I'm "charming" and slips me a note with his number and "lets hook up soon." But give me six months, a toned ass and close proximity and I STILL can't get a man's attention.

But why is love unpredictable? (I use the word "love" loosely here) Because, all my time spent on this French-speaking, tanned and rugged Da Vinci of a man left me with nothing; but the entire time, a slightly younger man, yet with all the power and possibly a bit more in his pockets, wanted to, and I quote, "pin me up against a wall." And he did, in due time. But, like lesson number 2, don't I deserve the man I want? The man who is, by all accounts, LESS good-looking and OLDER than the man who actually wants me?!

And that leaves me here. Back at home, playing videogames and reading a biography of Alexander the Great. (My second-favorite gay of all time.) I feel pretty empty. Pretty unsuccessful. And I hope the next year brings something better. To end a year where I excelled at school, had three life-changing internships, spent six weeks in Paris, and lived out a few romantic fantasies in such cloudiness is the real tragedy of this situation. Like winning a marathon but finding the finish line to be two PVC pipes and fishing wire.


Advice for Women

Ladies. There are some VERY easy ways to take risks this Fall, and we all know being risky shouldn't be easy...

1. Floppy hat. Not just BIG. Floppy, masculine. NOT cheap-looking or vintage.

2. Men's loafer. Make sure it is masculine or it just looks like a modified ballet slipper.

3. When you aren't wearing the loafers, wear chunky heels in flesh tones and blacks.

For me, I just need a new, good pair of dark jeans. (Mine were stolen in Barcelona.)


Tunnel vision

The bus stop. Dear god, the bus stop. I was waiting for the 101 from Sherry Matthews, and I see this guy. Just from the back, like a three-quarters angle. "Bulletproof," by La Roux, was playing in my headphones, and something about this man's stance, the way he nodded to nothing in self-awareness, in combination with the dance music, reminded me of a thousand moments at once. Very much like a collage from Babel. A smile before speaking, where the mouth forms the shape of an opening conch shell--with good lips, this is very sexy. A flash of the eyes when walking alongside each other. Even this man's smell. My knees literally went weak and I felt overwhelmingly empty. My day seemed purposeless and my goals more like pathetic attempts at distraction. Which, maybe they were--are we all just trudging ahead in life to forget what we want most? (Not money--THIS is the real distraction. A career. And therefore, education. And therefore, tests, homework, and professors' salaries.) Deep down, isn't love the only thing we're after?

Needless to say, this man changed the course of my day entirely in a nanosecond.

Whoever said ignorance is bliss was clearly the one doing all the ignoring, because being forgotten--being ignored--is just about the most painful experience in life.


Imogen Heap's "Half Life"

Imogen Heap released her new album, Ellipse, last week and it's great. It lacks the spunk and musical hooks of Speak for Yourself (with the exception of "Bad Body Double" and "2-1"), but one track, "Half Life," hit a chord with me. A few listens through, I sold the song short, assuming it was just another pretty, piano-driven track--a type of song Heap is prone to crafting. But it's one of the most beautiful tracks she's ever written or produced, instantly melancholy but never schmaltzy. There is an opening lyric that hit me like a brick wall a few hours ago and altered the course of my emotions today entirely:

The stickler is you've played not one beat wrong
You never promised me anything
Even sat me down, warned me just how they fall
And I knew the odds were I'd never win

Just as my sad self begins to reorient to the US, albeit bitterly, this lyric came in and crushed all superficial progress. I've experience these events more often recently, a perfect day shattered by a lyric, or a thought, a text (or lack of one), an image. And of course all the people I care about suddenly want to know what's wrong; I tell them, "I'm in a bad mood."

But I'm actually just a little heartbroken. I'm heartbroken because, like an animal making their march from barn to slaughter house, I've seen the greener grass--and it's the difference between life and death. That is, a happy life and an expected life.


The Easiest Way to Ruin Your Day: Guaranteed!

Here at Sherry Matthews I've been working on a presentation for a client involving doctors. Here's the gist: I search "doctor," "asian doctor," "hispanic doctor," etc. and pick out the most politically-correct images. This gets boring. A few minutes ago I started searching for more personally-relevant (versus project-relevant) images, and I came upon something profound.

Getty, being a stock photo resource for advertisers and companies looking for the most socially-recognizable types of images, only displays photos it believes advertisers (and ultimately, society) will find "normal." That is, images with the most easily understood message.

Searching for "gay men," images of gay cowboys and threesomes are the top results. Lesbians are even worse; apparently, a "lesbian" is either an old, overweight hag or an oiled up vixen in a makeout session.

Of course, "perfect family" takes the cake. The families are literally all-white, and pictured only in the most WASP-y of settings. The most prevalent motifs seem to be white picket fences, oak trees in fall and the coast of New England. Seriously, America? I'm not a politically-correct person. In fact, I find political correctness to be a poison, a reverse version of racism that's just as sinister as basic sociocultural prejudice. (Like "Ebony" and "Black Businessman Magazine.") But a day after a poll was published showing nearly 28% of the United States is "unsure" whether or not our president was born in the U.S., even the most basic cultural judgments seem like persecution.

This country isn't a horrible place. But even with the best schools of higher learning in the world, even as the center of technological and design innovation on the planet, we are still the least intelligent, most narrow-minded, frightened people to ever hold so much power among nations.


Lessons in construction

These pics, from this Flickr photostream, are pretty damn amazing. Late 50s menswear--or, really, boyswear--is exactly the kind of clothing I want to wear. But it's in the (sigh) style of wearing these pieces, the choice of color combinations and practical fabrics that set them apart from anything currently being produced. I hear Levi's bringing back their old denim construction (a la their European collections) and there are vendors like Billykirk and Gant that maintain a high standard of wearability over time, but will the era of rugged (but, really, flawless) clothing ever be replicated? Nah.

(As a side note, it's interesting to note that during the 50s and early 60s, women's fashion seems to have taken a backseat while menswear flourished: it was the during the evolution of bonafide American style, which is in fact male-centric. Anything "American" in fashion is usually a denim jacket, a paisley scarf, a leather boot...never a pencil skirt or silk blouse. Paris has always been the center for women. Italy is menswear, through and through [even their womenswear is masculine and hard-edged], and the U.S. is no different--albeit without the dark, sexual elements of Italian design.)

Anyone wondering where Ralph Lauren drew his initial fashion inspirations should look no further than pictures 1, 2, and 3.


Holy shit, "style!"

Quick little realization.

The term "style" is outdated and needs to be thrown out. It's connotations are too broad; if there can be good and bad "style," how can anything be "stylish?" Which is the worst phrase of all, because at one point in time Lisa Frank binders were stylish.

And "fashion," which is misused far too often within both the daddy's girls-with-money clique and the gay community, is so much deeper than style. And it is important. Fashion and clothing is important because it brings to the surface everything latent about a person. (That is, if they even care enough to get dressed, period.)

Are you religious? Slap on a Kabbalah bracelet, a cross necklace, the Star of David. Are you gay? It's incredibly easy to show your sexuality through clothing choice--or, as my incredibly dikey (yet entirely straight) friend Lauren puts it, "Let your rainbow flag fly." Are you smart? Are you a stoner? Are you a geek/into movies/into music?

Thoughts, aspirations, admirations, sexual longings--these are all shown through how we dress, like organs on the outside of your body. Your heart, your brain, even your stomach (those Dr. Pepper tees need to die) is on display when you throw on your unwashed button-up and mussy slacks.

So why would I buy $100 Marc Jacobs track pants? Because what he as a designer values--simplicity, volume, French culture, multiculturalism, innovation, New Americanism--part of me values, and therefore I'm giving away just a bit more of myself when I wear them. Maybe it's subtle, even unknown to the average person (the tags aren't on the outside. Obvious logos make the process of analyzing an outfit way too easy), but for people who care about dressing, who have tapped into that third-realm of perceptive communication--your only target audience--they get it. For the rest of 'em, it's like writing a sign in Japanese and expecting the Chinese to read it.

Viewed in this light, clothing becomes part of the machine, one of the cogs that drive us to our ultimate self.


Listening to Owl City's Ocean Eyes on the way home tonight, (it's actually a decent record, once you get past the sugar coated Ben Gibbard-and-rainbows surface) I reflected on the idea of a self-concept. And self-worth. And, basically, the meaning of life. I'll try and keep the ranting to a mimimum and play hardball here.

Life is all about you. This has been one of the biggest realizations of my entire life, and it had never crossed my mind until my last week living in Paris. What freedom! Life is about you, so you can be hedonistic and selfish and self-loving (and hating) all you want, because as long as it is what you want, as long as it makes you happy, it is within the progressive channel of your life and is bringing you closer to the supreme You.

And it sounds so simple, but it isn't, because every other one-track-life stoner/trust-fund kid/sorority girl/whiny blogger can say the same thing: "It's all about me." But if they aren't progressing, if the selfishness is not validated by some sort of pain (and therefore growth) or revelation or new experience, it isn't really about you, because it doesn't benefit you. It may even hurt you.

So, basically know this: the most well-lived lives of all time were spent in search of the self. Shakespeare, Hemingway, Madonna, Ralph Lauren...(also known as "the first people Dustin could think of") all put themselves first. There are new examples. Lady Gaga, Donatella Versace, Scott Schuman...

When I start referencing Donatella Versace, it's time for Dustin to go to bed. So much for hardball.


Marc Jacobs is a god, duh

Madonna, Joan Miro, and Marc Jacobs. These are the three people I admire most in my creative life. Above are a few selections he's releasing this fall. His concept of structure has no equal, nor does Kylie (the model in the middle image). Kylie's modified kimono must be seen in motion to be truly appreciated.


Preparing for the M-SAT

Amid raving tweets and (restless sleep? twisted sheets? What doesn't rhyme with "eet?")...erm, an inability to fall asleep, my thoughts last night concluded in nothing. Seriously. I thought and thought and thought and tried to funnel whatever it was I was thinking into a singlular stream of conciousness, or even a few rivulets, but I ended up falling to sleep and dreaming my thoughts all over again, but of course with the darkly humorous tilt all dreams seem to have. I had sausage stolen and took the "M-SAT" (I took a picture of a cayote howling at the moon and "got an A?" What are the criteria for the "M-SAT," dreamworld?), neither of which helped answer my questions, which in turn weren't fully formed before I fell asleep.

Thoughts about hedonism, ultimate happiness, and faith--serious questions from the perspective of a new "adult." And not entirely unrelated. Since Paris, a period of my life still lingering heavily on a day to day basis, I have tried my best to adopt more hedonistic principles, which is fairly--no, very--easy, but allowing others to fit within the same standards is difficult. Honestly, just thinking is difficult. A life spent without deep thought is really a much happier life.

And that's what it's all about. Happiness. You can work, and play, and date, and love, and travel and do whatever but unless it makes you happy there is no reason behind it. Groundbreaking stuff, I know. But it's so much harder to implement into daily life than it seems. Sometimes I just want to normalize. I want to sit in my chair/on my bed/in my yard and take a deep breath, the kind of deep breath the sickly take in Advil commercials that says, "I am free of all pain and just so satisfied with my life/husband/white wraparound porch/the boat I'm painting in the garage here on the coast of Maine." Sometimes, though, you wake up feeling shitty, you can't find a single thing to wear, you forget to grab any food, you take two wrong turns on the way to work, and then you wait idly for hours because it's a "slow day." Give me a fucking slow day when I am stressed out, not when my mind is so clogged nothing relieves the itching of my thoughts pounding their little fists against my skull but disctraction. Warm, numbing distraction.

So what to do? My first thoughts: "I need a day off." "I need more money." "I need a partner." "I need to get drunk."


I hate these kinds of blog posts. Useless and indulgent. I wouldn't post it, but I feel like my "loyal followers" would "want" to read a "new update" because they "care about [me], man."


A new perspective

I'm back in the United States, and I'm not happy about it.

It's been about three days now, and I keep indulging myself with "life is unfair"-type musings and wallowing around eating canned soup and Ridged Barbecue chips (ew). I'm not at equilibrium. The air seems stale and the colors are muted everywhere. Basically, I'm a whiny little bitch!

I stopped writing in my blog a few weeks back because, somewhere near the end of my stay, Paris become more than a trip. It became personal, a part of my identity. Being distant from the vibrancy of this city, away from the romance and the people and the sunsets—I don’t think I can stomach it.

And of course there’s Fabien. Why he was placed in my life, besides as a slow, cruel torture, I do not know, but I know I am a new person because of him. I should see beyond the positive in people; I should speak what I feel; I shouldn’t idealize others. Things aren’t permanent but that’s okay. And that’s the hardest part. I may like new things and adventure but I don’t like change. I want to stay here in Paris and continue to evolve.

But maybe leaving is my evolution. Maybe going back to the states and living in my old environment is the only way I can truly grow, seeing the stark contrast between who I am and who I want to be—or in a more tangible phrase, where I am and where I want to be.

Fabien sees “with the good eyes,” as he put it, the world and how to protect oneself. I have never had that need, to be protected. I am open and honest, but not in the way he is, not in the way the French are. To be honest is to live openly but to embrace the good and bad, because they both lead to who we are eventually going to be. Announcing one’s opinion does not make you honest, it only makes you loud. (At present, I am definitely in the "loud" category of people.)

Paris has left me feeling liberated. Liberated in the sense that I have been enlightened to how life is meant to be lived. It sounds selfish to say the pursuit of self is the supreme goal of life, but we all believe it, even if we say it differently. The Holy wish to be sanctified in order to feel safe and secure in their rightness; those that offer their lives in service are really just seeking forgiveness and validation for being a human. I am neither of these things, however, so luckily for me this shouldn’t be too difficult.

I need to carve my superficiality into a small, complex nugget of who I am, instead of letting my image guide my actions. I need to become my truest self, and this is where I am both most excited and most afraid. I want to just coast. I want to “end up” in Paris, just “be” with Fabien or some other charming foreigner, and somehow “make” money out of nothing. I have to learn French and graduate and mature and gain life perspective. I need to be fucked up, get knocked around a little. I need a bruised lip and a broken ego. I got a taste of that with Fabien in the cafĂ© my last night, the rain literally cascading off the awnings around the Marais as he metaphorically rained on my chirpy little existence. He let into me and told me who I was, the kind of bruising essential for the forming of new flesh.

What is it about a physical place that makes it so important? Why is Paris different than Austin and different than New York and Tokyo and Barcelona and Stockholm? A physical environment is just a construct within which the spirit of the city is held; so is it purely what’s “beneath” or is it also the aesthetic? In the case of Paris, of course it involves the aesthetic. It’s the most beautiful city on earth. But the people are also the most beautiful people on earth. So which influences which? Perhaps they live in synchronicity, each invigorating the other with joie de vivre. But I think it begins with the people. People like Fabien do not exist in other places on the earth. He would like me to think so, but who is he to talk? He has not dated anyone non-French, as far as I know. He is gay, he is a man, he is a dentist, but he is French first—whether he realizes it or not.

And now I'm lying here in the room I grew up in, with it's oddly human air and the constant business talk of my father in the rooms across the house. I have emerged from Paris not wiser but more aware of my lack of wisdom. I’m no longer going to live my life with my eyes innocent and open only to the good; without the bad I cannot grow. But above all, I cannot lose sight of what I want. (Which would actually be a contradiction in the eyes of the French: I cannot “plan” what I want to be serendipity.)

I am pretentious, annoying, superficial, and melodramatic, but at least I am sure of myself.


Barcelona...favorite city once again?

I am in Barcelona, Spain. (Wish I could upload pictures, but I can't til I hit up another McDonalds in Paris. That's kind of deflating, actually.)

The weather is perfect. Hot, with a nice breeze off the coast, and just enough sun to give a bloom effect to each and every eccentric facade in the city. Where Paris glows, however, Barcelona sings; the city has a musical pace and rhythmic way of speaking. Everyone is exceptionally kind, refreshing after the cold (albeit mysterious and intriguing) Parisians.

The beach, something I didn't really get to experience last time, is almost too good to be true. The sand is scalding hot and the water is colder than ice, but when combined the two sensations are a uniquely appropriate accompaniment to beers and sun in Barcelona.

I woke up this morning with the windows wide open and the sky more blue than I've ever seen. The city had woken up; the sing-song tune of Spaniards walking to grab tortilla and cortados, the sound of children laughing in the nearby park, and (of course) the very noisy cars four stories below.

I want to continue writing but more than that I want to go back out into the city. Tonight Matthew and our new friend Anya (whom he met at his hostel) are going out for tapas in the Barri Gotic and then meeting up with Rachel and Alex for a little pre-going out wine and snacks. Yo estoy en Barcelona!!!


I can't leave

After last night and this afternoon, there is no way I can ever leave this city and be satisfied with my life!

Last night was a blast. Wine and a light dinner at Allison's apartment--with about eight other houseguests, a perfectly awkward mix of fratboys, UT band members, and gorgeous blond Dallas girls--and on to a few bars and nightclubs to cap off the evening. There was an issue getting home after the final club, which I will not recount, but because I never got drunk the night ended fine.

Today was spent entirely in the Marais. "Soldes," the title Parisians give their twice-a-year "sale days," began today, and a few friends and I definitely took advantage of the fantastic deals. I bought a beautiful teal cardigan at Muji, and I wanted to buy more there, but I only paid 22 euro for the cardigan--it was marked down considerably. And it's my size. And a perfect deal is a perfect deal. Andandandandand.

After a lunch at the best falafel place in Paris (we've tried many), we continued our wandering through the Marais, which is without a doubt the best people watching in the city. I've now been at least seven or eight times, but never has it been filled with such electricity. Obviously the Parisians love clothes and love to shop; imagine a massive, expensive, elegant outdoor shopping mall. But minus the zoo and with a dash of a "scene and be seen" atmosphere.

Andrea, Allison and I stumbled (as in, literally stumbled over the threshold) into the Musee Caravalet, which is one of the lesser-visited museums here. I did not see a single English speaker inside. Centered around Paris-specific history, from celebre chanteuses (famous singers) to le garre (war), the small museum is built within the existing walls of an elaborate turn of the century townhouse where writers and painters lived. Albeit wealthy artists; the rooms are decadent and cake-like, just as much a spectacle as any of the art pieces within them.

The museum was free, too, which was an added bonus. But to successfully shop in the heat of a glowing Parisian afternoon and retreat into a quiet museum just a block off the beaten path is something uniquely Parisian.

A few and friends and I are actually headed off to the Place des Vosges (my new favorite park here) for some wine and hopefully a little more sunlight. It's about five thirty here, but we want to soak up every moment we can. We leave for Barcelona in the morning. Can't wait for that, either.

Pictures as soon as I get internet. Which is, likely never.


The End

Today will always be remembered as the day I truly fell in love with this city.

Nothing in particular has happened to spur this, either; in fact, this weekend was the quietest I've ever spent in Europe. Afternoons at the park, the Louvre on Friday (which sucks), resting on Saturday and Sunday night under Le Tour Eiffel. Surreal.

What's even more surreal is when you bypass the "tourist" threshold. You walk around and feel like you know where you're going. The nooks and tucks of the streets are actually kind of inviting, rather than ominous and empty.

What's most inspiring is the way Time is "spent" here. In the U.S., Time is a border we place around our daily activities as a restraint on "wasting" it. We will eat breakfast for thirty minutes, run for an hour, and make it to work by 9:00 and enjoy a one hour lunch before 1:00 p.m. We may finish many activities in a scheduled manner, but in Paris, Time is supposed to be wasted. It is rude not to. If you get up from a table at a restaurant in less than two hours it is rude. Have another bottle of wine. Enjoy your dessert. Don't be bothered by the taught roundness of your belly telling you to get up and hop in the car. Let the fullness radiate through you.

A life "spent" any other way than in Western Europe is a mistake. Just as a life spent in leisure may be wasted time, if you don't waste time you've waisted your life. What's food if not for enjoying? Why cook a meal and not sit back and drink and talk for hours? What is the sun but if not for laying out in? It's nothing! If you don't give moments in your life the proper time to bloom they are wasted! Only a day not fully appreciated is truly a "waste." How many times have I come home from school-work-internship days at 11 p.m. and had no time for enjoying it? I feel like my most "filled" days are really my most empty. I will not make this mistake again. I will not be rushed.

When I get back to the states, (and this is to your benefit as well as mine, Nanu) I'm planting a garden and refurbishing the backyard eating area. I'm redesigning the layout of my room and I'm not going to flinch at buying wine I like or food I want. I'm going to become a student of the good life; I'm going to read books on wine preparation and how to cook.

I hate people who talk about what they're "going to do" just as much as anyone else; if you can't live up to what you claim you should not claim it in the first place. But I'm dedicated to this. Considering my time here is not even half "over," just imagine how impossible it will be for me to ever return to U.S. normalcy!



Oscar Wilde's grave in Pere Lachaise.
Taking Absinthe shots...not as potent as you'd think.
Sarah and I at the L'Oreal corporate headquarters. Here's the entire trip in a nutshell: L'Oreal is one of the most efficient (i.e. boring) and vast (i.e. industrial) companies in the world!
Sunset near the Marais, the gay and Jewish district of Paris. Kind of odd, the gay/Jew juxtaposition, but think about it: Greenwich Village, in New York, is also a gay and Jewish district. Gays and Jews just love each other!
View of the entire city at night from the Sacre Coeur. (sp?)



Wine mouth!

Saturday night Allison, Gina, Sarah and I made our way out to Montmartre for dinner at Chez Toinnette, a highly recommended restaurant on some kind of Paris site (Fodor's, maybe), and it was without a doubt one of the best, if not the best, meal of my life. It began with a bottle of wine around ten, a great bottle, and an entree of Foie Gras and pickle. The second course was around 11:00, and consisted of four proteins: lamb, veal, duck, and pork loin, all in different sauces and served with a sweet potato puree and baby asparagus with some kind of wine reduction. The restaurant itself was irrestistable. Small, with only six or seven tables, and owned by two brothers--one, the chef, the other, the waiter--played Edith Piaf and Feist in the background and was decorated in dark red sheaths of velvet. After dinner a family next to us (old money from Boston; extremely kind) gave us a 60 euro bottle of wine. Sadly, as they walked out, the owner told us he hadn't charged the family for the wine because he was confused about who was actually buying it. The moment was one of the most awkward of my life. We were so elated, thinking we had been given this amazing Bordeaux by this beautiful, Penn-educated Bostonian family, and the wine was taken back in front of them. The father jumped at the owner with his credit card but we just wished him a good flight home and to not worry about it.

It all worked out in the end, though. The owner came over before our dessert course (around 12:30) and poured each of us a full glass of wine from the bottle "on the house." It was touching.

The dessert, though...oh, the dessert. It is no secret I adore food. I live for food. I love to cook it, eat it, and read about it. I like just looking at it. We ordered a creme brulee, among two other desserts, that was so purely delicious, so flawless in both design and execution, that I understood why so many critics compare food to sex. It was a sexual experience. Every bite was a seduction, a tease of what heaven must truly be like. Complimented by the slighly bitter wine, that single creme brulee was the single best dish to ever pass my lips.


Best Night...well, ever

I know it's blurry, but this shot perfectly captures what makes Paris at night such a magical place.
In the Parc Buddhiques, about ten minutes from my apartment.

A vinyard on one city block in Montmartre.
The Jardin du Luxembourg.
A few of my friends. From left: Tanya, Matthew, Sarah, Shannon, Lauren, Sarah R., and Mariah.
A few other friends. From left: Allison, me, Gina.
Sunsets in Paris are one of a kind.
Me (with a bit of wind in my hair, apparently) and Allison.
A man playing ball in Montmatre, the most beautiful place I've ever been to in Paris.

View from Montmartre.

If there's one easily comprehended French characteristic, it must be drinking. It is non-stop for Parisians; it begins at lunch, continues after work, levels off through dinner, and begins again apres-midi the following day. To say my friends and I have been partaking in this tradition is only half true--the alcohol is so cheap it's sick, but we are here to learn, not to be drunk Americans all the time.

That last paragraph was my disclaimer to preface this next story.

Last night was one of the most out of control, amazing evenings I can remember. A massive group of us, all well dressed in our least touristy outfits, headed down to Le Quartier Latin for un petit fete. As in, we wanted to go out. Out, out. Beginning at a small dive named Le Rive Gauche--and a larger game of "Never Have I Ever"--moving to a club off the Champs D'Elysees, and ending in an actual Parisian house party at 4:30 a.m., we achieved a great feat: we were no longer tourists.

The club and the bars were fine, but a bar is a bar. The house party is where the magic happened. My friend Thy, always one for spontaneity, pointed out a very loud apartment party along Rue de Rueilly as we were walking home around 2. (the Metro had stopped running.) As luck would have it, a group of about five youth were making their way into the apartment building, allowing us to sneak up. After being turned away at the door--in perfect English, too--the owner of the apartment, shirtless and all, appeared at the entrance and slurred a "let themmm comm eeennnn," saving us the embarassing walk down the stairs. The party was dark, filled with college students and young adults (late twenties, mostly). Lots of free drinks, amazing conversation in both French and English, and one HUGE component of the story I'll have to tell in person. Let's just say it ended with an invitation to party in the South of France next weekend. (Not going, don't worry Mom.)

SIDE NOTE: First of all, no drugs are being consumed by either I nor any of my friends or acquantances, and the safety level in Paris is very high. Not once have I felt unsure about any single situation. This city is safe, I'm being responsible, and everyone is keeping their priorities in check. We don't party every night. Well, except for Thursday, where my roommate and I hosted a mini dorm party for about 25 of our closest friends in the program. (As in, all of the students in the program.)

Before the evening, I spent a few hours in the Jardin du Luxembourg, which is by far my favorite park in Paris. Massive statues, white marble staircases, and pristine lines of square-trimmed trees all give perspective to the fountain in the center of the park, where children race toy boats and dogs take short swims. I had read that Hemingway, both my favorite author and definitely a personal hero, lived in the Luxembourg as a homeless man when he was first an expatriate. The book I'm currently reading, The Sun Also Rises, is Hemingway's love note to Paris, written about he and other American authors (like F. Scott Fitzgerald) living here in the 1920s. I had a very spiritual moment, carrying Hemingway's greatest novel to the very park he starved in, eating pidgeons for dinner, and knowing I was returning his work to the place that inspired him. I had a corny moment, as well, rubbing the book in the dirt, but I had to make the experience tangible.

My sinuses are out of control here. Something about the fickle weather.


An hour in the metro is ne bien pas

One of these days I'll begin these posts on a positive note. At the moment, that's quite difficult. Having a great evening, just as me and some of my besties here were heading off for crepes and a barhop in the Latin Quarter, I was left sitting in the metro for an hour and a half while they sped away to enjoy their evenings. I was waiting for a friend who never showed up, and to top it all off I didn't have my dorm key with me--I left it with my roommate. After all, we were all going to get back at the same time, right? Essentially, my night was spent with the homeless men on the Rue de Reuilly. The highlight was when both of the gentlemen pulled out their, ahem, and decided to take a leak on the tree that stretches over the courtyard. Nice.

Well no matter. Now I have internet and can at least know I'm within the dorm complex, if not my dorm. First bad night in Paris, and hopefully the only bad night in Paris.

For the past few days I've just been acclimating to the city. The gorgeous lights, great (if limited) shopping, the new friends. That's one thing I've gotten right so far, making friends. I get along with about ten different students here, and they all bring something unique to my friend circle. I do miss the sense of style and wine knowledge of my Austin friends, but I now have new Austin friends to teach all about what I'm into! Apparently I'm "fabulous" and "crazy," but really I just want to eat a crepe in the Latin Quarter.

Last night, after a bit of shopping and a "bit" of wine, we all headed off to a CIBER-sponsored riverboat and saw the sights along the Seine. It was beautiful. Freezing, yes, and my whole "style over comfort" maxim didn't save me from the chills, but as the sun set the clouds parted, the Tour Eiffel lit up and sparkled, and the entire city just woke up. Afterwards we took a trek through a few bars near the Latin Quarter with our professor and his wife, who happen to be some of the coolest people I've ever met. The night ended with a double-tall glass of Foster's in a bar called "The Long Hop," which is owned and operated by a UT graduate. Apparently, one of my friends mentioned that she was American and the bartender laughed and threw her a bag of potato chips. We're not sure what this metaphor means but we're hoping it was a gesture of endearment.

Earlier this evening we took another tour, this time of the city, and we all decided a visit to the fourth arrondissement is in order for the weekend. Glowing bars and restaurants with names like "Le Roux" have that timelessness so characteristic of Parisian culture. Replace the Peugots with carriages and you have the 1880s.

After the tour...well, you know what happened already. A night was wasted, I'm extremely upset, and I feel like a loser. 

It's still raining, but I think it's clearing up this weekend. I want to travel around France starting next Friday but the friend who I was supposed to meet tonight (and who consequently ruined it) is my travel buddy. I love her, but a night in Paris should never be spent next to urinating homeless men.

To end on a positive note, money spending has been minimal. Food is cheap* (if you don't mind eating croissants and cooking spice-less omelettes) and shopping is cheap, but I am dying to eat out and see the city like the people of Paris do.

*I bought a bottle of wine today for 1 euro. (That's about $1.27.)


"That Iranian man needs to stop grabbing my feet."

In Paris. But that doesn't mean I'm "in" Paris. I'm passed the point of exhaustion into delirium, my stomach no longer feels hunger, and I can't find a wine opener. In fact, I had to trek down to this MACDO for effin' wifi. Ce n'est pas chic.

However, while today may not be perfect (as in, pre-Paris it was horrid), it is symbolic of a fantastic six weeks to come.

The plane to New York, on the oh-so-"happy-jetting" jetBlue, was one of the scariest of my life, but the ads are true--there is a lot of legroom! My flight to Paris, however, was no laughing matter. The airline itself, Swiss (which, like the country, is an offshoot of Air France) was very nice. The food was well prepared and the wine was great. I had a great neighbor, as well. A Bulgarian woman who said only two things to me the entire flight. "I like this international wine" and "hold this tray." After we both watched Milk on the back of our Iranian fore-neighbors' seats, I turned to her and asked her a probing question about the gay movement in Bulgaria. She nodded, and went back to munching on her roll.

(Milk was, by the way, one of the greatest films I've seen in years, and definitely left me proud. Not only is Sean Penn the reincarnated Harvey Milk, but Emile Hirsch was excellent as his slutty little activist. The only off-note was Diego Luna. Both the character and the acting was a fail. But aside from him, I think everyone must see this film at one point in their lives. Preferably before another Prop 8, thx.)

So, as I tried my best to stretch my 6'2'' body in the chair space apparently built for Swiss midgets, some awful man in front of me proceded to drop a endless amount of something on my feet and fish for them under his seat, invitably grabbing my big toe and attempting to extract it for his use. Later, once all of the window shades had been forced closed for everyone to sleep, he kept his open. So, throughout the "night," the bright headlights of the Swiss sun shone in my eyes, rendering even the notion of sleep impossible. But it's okay, I couldn't have slept in that seat anyway. The entire time I was just shifting positions, and by the time we landed I think I had completed an entire yoga session. Downward dog, tree position...at one point, I had a modified crane stand while crunching a water botttle in my groin to prevent my legs from sweating in my (admittedly tight) blue jeans.

But I am now here. At a MACDO, using their wifi while a burly manager walks around wondering why my friend Sarah and I haven't bought anything.

Because it's MACDO, you idiot.


Suitcase for Paris

I'm only bringing American designers to Paris. Adam Lippes, Ralph Lauren, Arrow Sport, Polo by Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Levis, Sevens, Ray-Bans, and shoes from California. Obviously, my bag is BillyKirk, and Chris Bray (head of BillyKirk design) told me personally to have a wonderful time--and spread the word about American menswear.

All my authors are American, too.

One small step for this American, one (likely also small) step for American menswear!


The Girlfriend Experience

Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience was released in theaters and in stores simultaneously, allowing those of us not at Cannes the opportunity to watch this stark, surprisingly relevant drama as soon as release. Soderbergh's genius spawns from his wide-eyed curiosity of the unexplained and the mystified; he is also obsessed with the idea of a herione. His female leads (Julia Roberts as Erin Brokovich, Cate Blanchett in The Good German) are flawed but desirable and mysterious. Soderbergh's choice of porn star Sasha Grey as the lead character, Chelsea, in Girlfriend is bold but not shocking in any way. Who else could play a sexually numb call girl than a sexually numb porn star? (Meg Ryan's stint in the horrid In The Cut does not count.)

However, calling Grey "numb" really isn't fair. Her performance in Girlfriend is well studied and enlightening; she struggles with vocal inflection and her emotions seem fairly shallow, but her timing and body language is spot-on for this kind of film. She stretches across the bed for every man she meets, but she never dehumanizes Chelsea with triteness or overly sexual behavior; this is an accomplishment for any actress playing a call girl, but even more so for a non-actress.

There are really no co-stars, and aside from an annoying side story about a bunch of men on a plane to Vegas, Grey carries the entire film. Shot without any camera effects to increase the "art" factor (a la Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Soderbergh portray's Chelsea's life as one of both grandeur and heartbreak. She meets high-end clients, is invited on trips, and then returns home to her long-term boyfriend at the end of the day. Early in the film, her boyfriend, who works as a personal trainer, declines a client's invitation to Vegas mentioned earlier, only to find out Chelsea is leaving for the weekend with a new client despite her boyfriend's compromise. "It's my fucking life!" she tells him. And really, it is her own fucking life. It's separate, but in love the lines are hard to draw--and even harder to maintain.

Girlfriend is subtle and entertaining, but is clean enough to be a PG documentary. With the exception of the fight scene detailed above, foul language is never used, and the act of sex is not once portrayed. In fact, we see Grey naked only when leaving the bed of her live-in boyfriend (the "real" relationship). This is where the brilliance of this film is apparent. Chelsea is after self-fulfilment and in search of real love. Her clients have sex with her--often mutually enjoyable--and never appear jealous; even her long-term clients understand the business aspect of what she does, and suggest ways for her to wade through the economic crisis without losing clientele. Her actual boyfriend is whiny and attached, ultimately left cold by her line of work.

Is a relationship like Chelsea keeps with her clients just as loving as that with her boyfriend? Both include "the girlfriend experience," (which simply means deep kisses are part of the deal) but which is better for Chelsea? This question has no answer, and that is the point Soderbergh makes with Girlfriend.

Quietly acted, bizarrely sex-free, and gently directed by Soderbergh, The Girlfriend Experience is a never smutty and always smart look at 21st century love and how the game has changed.


Black Eyed Peas' "Alive"

Why do the Black Eyed Peas even pretend Fergie is not their star? She carried the hooks for "Don't Phunk With My Heart," "Don't Lie," "Shut Up," "Where Is The Love?", and "My Humps." Seriously. will.i.am's production may be top-notch, but this group is nothing without Fergie's signature rasp. Or, signature growl. Or signature vocal personality.

Fergie's a vocalist-of-all-trades. And Fergie's importance is evident in both of the BEP's new singles. "Imma Be" is a blast--leagues better than the atrocious "Boom Boom Pow"--with excellent base and drum work. (Shockingly subtle for a will.i.am production.) But Fergie's opening rap, complete with the quintessential Fergie Ferg and "hips" references, saves the track from sinking into a safe pocket musically.

"Alive," assumedly the third(-ish) single off the yet-to-be-released The E.N.D., surpasses any previous BEP efforts since "My Humps." The chorus is derivative lyrically--no surprise for the Peas--but the production here is superb. "Alive" opens with a piano-driven melody, and as the track builds, the piano chords are replaced with vibrant synths and increased vocoder use. It's incredibly underplayed; when any BEP song peaks during an electronic organ solo, you know there is a good deal of innovation at work.


The Sad Truth About Brooke Hogan

This pic tells you all you need to know.


Michael Thad Carter

...is amazing. Not only is his body of work fantastic, and his resume that of a soon-to-be-legend, but he's an awesome guy, as well. I'm lucky enough to be a friend, or at least a "Party Together at Eeyore's" friend or "Get Drunk At Elysium" friend or even just a "Mutual Friend of Kelley's" friend. Hell, I'm a Facebook friend! But no matter. My future BEST friend-slash-photog took this stunner a few nights ago. It's one for the history books.

He should add it to his website, no?


Paris Hilton...continues to surprise

I hate posts about Paris Hilton. She's one of those humans with a very singular purpose--to entertain--but even that "purpose" is kind of muddled most of the time. I mean, what does she do? Five years ago, I understood; wannabe-famous billionaire heiress, interesting enough, SURE! But now, she's lost what made her interesting: The delicate balance between naivete and a splash of naughty. Now, she's just naughty and predictable. The wonder is gone.

Her outfits, though, are increasingly impressive. Girl's got an iconic image, if anything.

Paris Hilton, above, at Cannes 2009.


Music Update: It's shiny

Annie. Oh, Annie. What is going on in your world? One day you're signed to Universal, releasing weak-ass singles and dying your hair an increasingly lighter shade of blond, and the next time I look you're releasing weak-ass singles without Universal. Oh, well. The Old Annie may be gone, but New Annie still has something to offer.

"Anthonio," off Annie's delayed and likely inferior sophomore album Don't Stop--it's gotta be real, it's even got cover art!--is a blitzy, synth-filled track high on lyrical drama and low on originality. It's a step up over "I Know Ur Girlfriend Hates Me," a song I covered last summer, but that's like saying Lindsay Lohan is a step up over Hilary Duff; one is just a bit more exciting.

Now, as the Megan Fox to the Duffs and Lohans of this post, a friend of mine recently turned me onto the best DJ I've heard in 2009, a Brit named George. George Lenton, that is! Apparently new to the international scene, Lenton has one thing most "famous" (a.k.a. sell-out) DJs like Seamus Haji and even the Justice duo have not: a fresh perspective. Remixed tracks like Bob Marley's "Island in the Sun"--transformed by Lenton from stoner jam into dizzying dance track at just the right tempo--and MGMT's "Weekend Wars," you'll gladly sacrifice your car speakers for Lenton's amorphic beats.

He's got some nice original work, too, like "Refresh," the track Paul Oakenfold wished his Brittany Murphy disaster "Faster Kill Pussycat" had been. "Your Love," another throbbing club track, is his most traditional but also his dirtiest; the bass is sketchy and rough, but the piano bars throughout the track keep it accessible. He's remixed Yelle and a few more obscure artists, but "Island in the Sun" is his most surprising and most danceable selection off his recent EP. You can check him out here, and as a gift to my readers, a link to "Island in the Sun."

...and "Refresh"...and "Your Love"...and "Weekend Wars"...


Armani Exchange Campaign: Um, yes.

Suffice it to say A|X is not my kind of brand. My style is more, oh, Madonna ex-husband meets "cool dad with tech job" combined with a touch of 2020 pop star. A|X is, quite simply, for tools.

However, their new ad campaign is great. I mean, the images are shot beautifully--the female lead is particularly striking--but the final shot, located just above, is the most memorable. (For obvious reasons.) So I applaud the art direction here. Racy advertising isn't limited to Gossip Girl, DSquared and Calvin Klein. A high-end douchey brand offshoot like A|X can be trashy, too!


Black Eyed Peas' "The E.N.D."

The album cover for the BEP's new album is really neat conceptually. Individual images of all four members were digitally transposed over each other and formed this one, all-encompassing face. Great concept.

You can see the hints of femininity (Fergie) and masculinity. Hopefully the album is as cutting-edge as their cover, and hopefully nothing like "Boom Boom Pow."


Ciara's "Love Sex Magic"

We've all heard it. Justin Timber--er, I mean Ciara's "Love Sex Magic," a sequel of sorts to JT's "SexyBack." (But in the musical vein of "Sexy Ladies.") The song is just above mediocre, not to say I haven't been obsesses with it for a month, but the video is truly stellar. It's a Gaga-Beyonce hybrid, but damn...Ciara is literally sizzling in it.