Results tagged WTF from David Lebovitz

Down & Out in Paris

Pain de Sucre Aftermath

Just a note that my internet and cable everything has been down for the past week. And because that’s not enough, my some messages from certain servers are being blocked and/or returned for whatever reason.

But rest assured, there’s no one here taking care of the problem.

After calling several times at 8€, or $11 a pop, and getting disconnected in lieu of speaking to someone, I’ve given up. So I’m now adopting a wait-and-see attitude since I just can’t unshake from my brain the belief says that if I pay for something, I should (feasibly) get something in return. Which ain’t happening.

(Although the recording says if I sign up for their new telephone service, I’ll no longer have to pay to wait on hold. But honestly, I don’t think pitching their services to customers while they’re irate is wise marketing.)

So if you’ve sent me a message and haven’t gotten a response, or it’s been returned—c’est comme ça…which basically means ‘too bad’.

C’est ma vie…

(And if you see a guy in the Places des Vosges bundled up in a winter coat, typing with blue, frozen fingers, that would be me. Please buy me a chocolat chaud….it’s cold out here!)

Can’t…No…Won’t Touch This


What are the absolute last words you want to hear when invited to someone’s home for a meal?

Well, how about…

“We had some fish that was about to go bad, so we’re having it for dinner.”

Welcome to my world. A world you thought was all baguettes and chocolate.

Well it now includes dubious fish too.

The rules for hygiene are a little different here than in America. I was pretty shocked to see on my trip to the US in June, little bottles of hand-sanitizer dangling from people’s belts and fanny packs, as well as available in supermarkets with towelettes to wipe down the handles on shopping carts. But I’m equally shocked that people think it’s okay to leave stock-based preparations on the counter for a day or so, then consume then. (They use stock in science labs to grow bacteria since it’s such an inviting medium. Just so you know.)

Although some think we might need those little bottles of sanitizer around here pretty soon for Vélib’ hands, after riding around town for a few weeks, I’m almost inclined to agree with her after riding around for the past few weeks.

Velib' Hand

Although I’ve been certified in food sanitation, sometimes I just need to suspend logic around here and just go with the flow. The fish, though, I pushed aside. I’m thrilled to be accepted by the locals, but let’s not take this “I’m so French” thing too far…

Continue Reading Can’t…No…Won’t Touch This…

Finally French

I am definitely French.

Today I went to the bank to deposit 134€ to make a payment.

I had 135€.

The bank teller told me, “We don’t have any change.”

And the funny thing was—this didn’t surprise me.

Like, at all.

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Je craque!…pour le Daim

If you want to see a what a human head looks like when it explodes, there’s no reason to waste your money on tickets to the latest Mel Gibson movie.

Just take me to Ikea.

At first, it seems the shopping day is going to be a lot of fun as you prepare for the big trip, flipping through that cheery Ikea catalog featuring handsome Scandinavian families in sun-splashed Ikea homes: making dinner in their BRANJELLËENA kitchen, happily working away at their SKÅRI LARIKINGG desk, and tucking the kids in for the night between their FØRSKYNNE sheets.


And for those of us not fortunate enough to: 1) Be unbelievably handsome with strong Nordic features, 2) Live in a sun-dappled townhouse with kids, perfectly-arranged by size, weight and material, and 3) Have every kitchen utensil, perfectly arranged by size, weight and material—in other words, for those of us who live space-challenged, in petite Parisian apartments, the appeal of folding tables, chairs, silverware, etc..etc… holds a definite hypnotic appeal.

(We who live by the rule that you can’t bring anything into your apartment until you get rid of something else. Just flipping through those shiny-fresh catalog pages is enough to make you start drooling about all the things you’re going to buy to fill up all that newly-free space.)

So you make a list of all the fun items in the catalog you’re going to buy, like sets of nesting storage containers so you can organize all your breakfast cereals and display them by size, weight, and material in your Ikea dream kitchen and you can finally replace the glassware that’s been irreparably-ruined by Parisian calcaire because you’re too lazy to wash yours by hand.

Continue Reading Je craque!…pour le Daim…

Paris’ Dirty Little Secret

The water is Paris is rife with calcium. Which perhaps means there’s a low rate of osteoporosis in women around here. But it also means for the rest of us, we have to deal with this:


Oh, the humiliation…But why, I ask? Why me?

Because je suis Parisian (and it’s not just me), so I dump sel in my dishwasher and dutifully pop in one of my beloved Powerballs which releases its magic during each and every spin through the machine. Still, my glasses are covered with calcium. I’ve also soaked them in white vinegar, a must-have around here to combat the calcium buildup that blocks our faucets and water heaters as well.

And for my last desperate attempt to solve the problem once and for all, yesterday I splurged on a fine bottle rinçage (rinse agent) that was priced more than a moderately-good Burgundy, and washed everything again.

Nothing. I eagerly opened the door of the dishwasher the second the final cycle was done in great anticipation. But through the moist, hazy steam, I lifted a glass skyward and with the sun streaming through, my normally-cheery spirits dropped when I saw the stubborn white film had refused to budge from the sides of the glasses.

What can I do?
I’m can’t go out in public, and the weather’s getting too nice to hide myself indoors, shrouded in shame, for much longer…


Rarely do things get marked down in Paris, except twice a year when stores have les soldes during dates specified by the govenment. But they do sometimes reduce the price of something by offering a promotion.

The difference is that during a sale, they mark something down.

A promotion is different: it’s when they reduce the price of something.


Got it?

Commonly, I find, that when something’s on promotion, when you get to the register it never rings up at the sale, um…or I mean, the promotion price.

For you coupon-clippers out there— sorry, there’s no coupons here.
But the supermarkets do send out fliers advertising specials on certain items. But very rarely is the item actually in stock. My beloved Powerball went on sale, or was it on promotion?…this week at Franprix supermarket.

Don’t bother clicking on the link. Their site’s been non-functional depuis 2002. It advises “Patience!!!”

(You think? Anyone who’s willing to wait 5 years for a major business in one of the top cities in the world to put up a web site certainly needs un peu de patience.)

When I went, there my Powerballs sat on the shelf but with no special price was attached. (I’m sure there’s a joke there, but after the last post, I’m not touching it.) The other four items, which were advertised on sale in the flier, which were on my list, weren’t in stock at all. Still, with my odds, it was my lucky day that there was at least one of them.

Continue Reading 15%…

A Date For International Understanding

Although most of the comments and messages I get are friendly and kind, a few do slip through that are less-than-complimentary. A majority of them illuminate the errors of my ways by pointing out the faults in my cross-cultural observations. So I was delighted when I found Socio-Site Scan v1.01, some brand-new software which allows me to simply input all my blog entries, and tells me what percentage of my posts are which are complimentary to one culture, and what percentage isn’t.

So what did I find?

Roughly 67.8% are complimentary to the French, while only 65.3% of what I write was pro-American.
But a whopping 47% were anti-French, followed closely by 45.2% of swipes at my compatriots in the states.


Since this is the beginning of the holiday season, one full of global good cheer (real or imagined), I decided that since our politicians have been messing it up a bit too long, at least 6 years too long (oops…gonna have to give the site a second run-through), I decided that today I’m calling a holiday truce.

Since there’s no time like the present, I’m happy to start right now promoting international understanding by sharing these divinely delicious dates from Iran, which are perhaps the best dates I’ve ever had. (Insert your own joke here.) They certainly rival the Medjool dates from California, which are excellent as well, although they’re far pricier. Hmm, perhaps I might suggest America trade dates for oil? It certainly would be a tasty trade-off that might make everyone a little less combative.

Continue Reading A Date For International Understanding…

I Was Screwed

“I am screwed”, I’m thinking.

Ok, I’ve been living here for a few years now, and I should know better, but I fell for the oldest trick in the book.

A week or so ago, I invited a few friends and acquaintances over for dinner. One of them, who is French, has always been a bit scornful of me, from my lack of complete fluency in The World’s Most Complicated Language to thinking it’s funny to ask me if I’m going to take out ketchup for my dinner. At my house. Which was supposed to be some kind of joke. I guess.

Anyhow. So I get asked a question, and I should have seen this coming. But really, it just seemed so innocent at the time, he asks“What do you think of France?”

The moment I opened my mouth, to give my opinion, I said to myself, “Merde!…there is no way out of this.” I should have shut my mouth right there and not even bothered. What was I thinking? When I moved to France, I purposely avoided political or cultural confrontations. Not only was my French not up-to-snuff, but there never seems to be any way to win an argument. But I’ve lived here long enough, talked to a lot of people, and have opinions just like any normal-ish person.

So if someone asks,

“What do you think of the Marais?”

If you say…

“It’s beautiful and historic. The buildings are lovely and it’s a wonderful testament to the magnificent history of France.”

…they’ll respond,

“Ugh! It is a horrible place. It is full of tourists and very trendy now.”

But on the other hand, if you say…

“Oh, I used to like the Marais but it’s become so trendy.”

…they’ll say,

“What?! The Marais is the most beautiful part of Paris. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

You basically can’t win.
As I attempted to answer his question, remarking what I loved about Paris, touching on subjects like the fabulous food, French history and culture, the beauty of Paris, and the expressiveness of the French, I also started alluding to the problems here; unemployment, the ailing social state, immigration woes, and the fear of globalization that are plaguing the country (and before any folks start in on the US, I certainly have a few things to say about that as well, but you’ll have to visit my top-secret other blog to read that.)
Well, so all of the sudden I’m defending both sides at once in my argument, kicking myself for being such a stupid boy for falling for one of the oldest tricks in the book around here.

In France, the worse thing you can do is not have an opinion, which was something I learned early on, and that it’s okay to be critical (except in my Comments, so don’t get any ideas…) Unless you’re Tucker Carlson, most Americans think it’s really bad to get into a heated discussion (which was certainly true in poor Tucker’s case, which got his bow-tied ass fired.) But in France, there’s nothing worse than being phony, and saying what you want or expressing yourself is far more acceptable than walking around with a big, dopey grin on your face regardless of how you actually feel.

Well, I guess I should backtrack and say that it’s only acceptable it seems to express yourself as long as you’re in agreement with them.

But the lack of unprovoked smiling is why a lot of people think French people aren’t very friendly, when in fact, that’s not true in most of my experiences. In Polly Platt’s book, French or Foe, she explains that French people wear a mine d’enterrement or funeral expression, and reserve smiling for times when they are truly, actually happy, rather than just slapping a silly grin on their face (…remember the old picture I had on my site here? See how French I am now?) It’s not that French people aren’t happy, it’s just they’re not happy all the time, just like David. In fact, I now refuse to smile anymore unless I absolutely, positively have to. It’s made my life so much easier not having to act happy all the time.
Try it.

So I’ve come up with a solution to this dilemma: Only get into arguments that I can win.

Which leaves 2 things that are absolutely inarguable (well, 3 if you count the political state of America): Dog doo on the streets and retirement at age 50.

I’ve heard some rather ridiculous arguments things around here, such as this choice nugget against the proposed anti-smoking laws…“You have to respect the rights of others,” said Valerie, 29, a smoker since the age of 20.

I think I’ll let Valerie’s comments speak for itself (and maybe cut the poor dear a little slack, since she’s only 29), but no one can seem to defend leaving dog doo on the street, and no one seems to be in the “Pro-dog doo” camp. Are people going on strike to preserve the ‘rights’ of dog owners not to clean up after their dogs?
Likewise with the generous retirement age. I can’t imagine retiring in 2 1/2 years…and with full benefits (well, I don’t get any benefits, so I can’t imagine that anyways.) But letting people retire at 50 seems awfully young to me. I mean, what does one do for the next 40-50 years? (Unless, you’re a smoker. Then you can probably shave a few years off that.)
So I’ve come up with a solution for both problems; instead of those people retiring, voila!: why not hire them to clean up after the dogs in Paris?

Or better yet, teach some of the young people a few lessons in logic.

Who can argue with that?