i am from the heartland of the united states of america
i live in paris but also i go other places, too

i write about all those things when i can and then when i remember i put it on this website so other people can read about it if they want to

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

beginnings and endings // internet couples getting pagan married in iceland

i just graduated from college, and then i took a california-to-cleveland-via-the-southern-united-states / great american send-off road trip, and then i had a dentist appointment and unpacked and repacked, and then i moved to france.

i haven’t really reflected on any of these things (except the road trip: nashville made me understand country music, los angeles still isn’t that tight -- maybe i’ll write a rewind post on it later; and the dentist appointment: no cavities = no stress, ty dr. katzel).  i considered really thinking through the past four years and the decisions that went into my choice to flee to europe and having the first post of this (cleverly titled and culturally relevant but not cliché) blog thoroughly and exhaustively lay out these thoughts, but i doubt i’d be able to do it all justice right now and i anticipate they will come in spurts and blurts and filters and tangents.  instead, i’ll write stories and thoughts and streams of consciousness as they come.

my flight to france was in the mid-afternoon on sunday.  i spent an hour and a half in the check-in line because one kiosk was occupied by a family of which the mother had an expired passport (of eleven years.. come on) and the other kiosk was exploding out bag tags.  also i had to transfer seven pounds from my checked luggage to my carry on, which i sneakily transferred back into the checked bag when i took it through customs in toronto, which came back to bite me in the ass because the suitcase never made it to paris and i am currently wearing borrowed tighty whities and very dirty socks because i don’t have any clothes.  it’s chill though, it’s chill.

on my flight from toronto to rekjavik, i sat next to a couple who had obviously just sprinted to reach the flight on time.  the man was sweating knowshon moreno tears.  their tardiness led to a fantastically interesting series of dialogue that i will attempt to recreate, in spirit, not verbatim:

me: glad that you guys made the flight!

woman : us too, we had to, we’re getting married in two days! (shows me ring)

me: wow!  congratulations!  are you from iceland?

w: no, i’m from latvia and he’s from montreal.

l: oh.  are you heading to latvia then?

w: no, we’re getting married in iceland.

l: oh, awesome.  do you have family in iceland?

w: no, we thought that since iceland is where the north american and european tectonic plates meet, it would be a good place to have our wedding.

l: that’s great, that’s so cute!

w: also, he really likes vikings.  (man grins and nods empathically)

l: ...cool!  so are your families going to meet you out there?

w: nope, it will actually just be us, a photographer, and a priestess.

l: ...wow!

w: a pagan priestess, actually, we’re having an icelandic pagan ceremony.

l: …...wow!

w: yes, we’re very excited.

l: so what brought you out to montreal from latvia?

w: he did!  (man grins and nods emphatically)

l: oh yeah?  how did you guys meet?

man: actually, we met online.

l: oh, cool!

m: yeah, we were both playing the same online game -- second life.

l: (eyebrows raise, nodding)  

m: yeah, a buddy recommended it to me to get my mind off things because i was pretty unhappy in my marriage.

l: (eyebrows continue to raise, still nodding)

m: turns out the exact same things happened to her!  (woman grins and nods emphatically)

l: (eyebrows at max possible height, nervous smile)

w: and now it’s been six years, we each have one child from our first marriages, and we have one girl together, and we’re getting married!

l: (grins and nods emphatically) ..yeah!  yeah!

but they were great.  they were great.  i wish you nothing but the best for your wedding tomorrow, latvian and canadian soon-to-be pagan second-becomes-first-life newlyweds. 

i’m realizing that i’m going to meet a fair amount of people here just out of necessity stemming from ignorance.  i don’t know conventions in this country the way i do in the states, but questions like ‘yo, for real, you don’t have to tip?’ or ‘what is iDZAP?’ or ‘how do i get from charles de gaulle to montparnasse?’ have already led to conversations and email address exchanges and BUDDING FRIENDSHIPS.  the girl i sat next to on the flight to paris had just finished a year of teaching english at yale, and will also be in toulouse for the summer and paris to finish school in the fall.  the guy with whom i ended up watching the france-nigeria game even invited me to dinner, which i unfortunately had to decline to meet up with my host.  some key predictions from this dude, a few of many:

5th minute (0-0):  this is gonna be a tough game, something close, probably 3-3, 3-2. 
80th (1-0 France): i told you, didn’t i, 1-0, nothing more, it’ll be 1-0, said it from the beginning, it will stay right here. 
90th+ (2-0 France): yeah! allez les bleus! i’m going to go smoke a cigarette.
that was a fun game to watch, especially in a little bar in paris.  lots of shots on goal, close calls on both sides, fantastic saves, and a french victory.  on that note, i read the french paper the next day, and their style of sports reporting is distinctly different from the american way. it's much more literary and dramatic. an example, in my translation, but keeping punctuation and meaning:
it is july and the french team is still on course in the world cup, like in days before, like with kopa, platini and zidane, like in our childhoods that these days return. since it is only when he reach the highest heights that vertigo is most intense, our heads spin with the memory that this squad, these men of rio, are on their way to a quarterfinal at maracana against germany, seven months and two weeks after the darkness of kiev (france lost 2-0 against ukraine in november) had appeared to have engulfed them.
you're not gonna see that in the plain dealer..

last night i stayed in an apartment on l’esplanade des invalides that was 3 floors above the finnish embassy and can only be described as “fat.”  it even had a harpsicord.  the apartment and harpisicord belong to german family friends who were fantastic hosts and made me gazpacho, a food that i’ve been craving for about a month.  not exactly exceedingly french, but EXCEEDINGLY DELICIOUS.

i digress.

i’m definitely going to fall in love here. it's gonna happen.

note: my train is passing through bordeaux and it’s beautiful.  Like Napa, but rustic, and flatter, with cathedrals and sporadic rugby pitches.

note #2: chance the rapper is a good soundtrack for looking through TGV train windows.

note #3: i have no idea how i’m going to make money after my summer job is finished.

while i’m not stressed about it, today i realized that i’m going to have to really work on my french over the next two months, which will hopefully happen naturally, before i’d feel comfortable entering the french workforce.  it’s not as bad as it was when i visited after having spent a summer in germany and strangers would respond to my french with english, but it’s still bad enough that people are asking where i’m from far too early in a conversation.  which is frustrating, and pretty terrifying considering that i will begin working for my grandfather’s town’s department of tourism in six short days, and am expected to be giving tours of a cathedral in french in exactly one month.  baptism by the fire of seasonal employment.

the french system of labeling and signifiying is unfamiliar and slightly disorienting, but disorienting here meaning a lack of orientation rather than actively confusing.  probably as a result of heavily researched advertising and marketing strategies to which i have become accustomed while growing up in the united states, french methods of roping me in or indicating value for a consumer have not yet really affected me.  it’s remarkable how many places are labeled on awnings as just ‘JAPANESE RESTAURANT’ or ‘BAKERY’ or ‘LEBANESE FOOD.’  fonts and colors don’t jump out at me when i try to read an advertisement -- i actually have to read it, which, you know, i won’t, because i don’t want to take the time to read something that should be fed to me since it’s encouraging me to spend money.  mostly i’m just upset that i want to spend money efficiently and i don’t feel like i’m able to yet.  i’ll get there.

note #4: so is frank ocean.

i think i’m going to try to keep a running list of significant things i’ve read, watched, and listened to since the last post, and quickly write about some of them.  maybe it will be dumb, maybe it will be cool.

reading list:
  • ottessa moshfegh, ‘the weirdos’ and ‘the chaperone’ -- shout out to my homey ottessa.  i’ve been steadily trying to discover and catch up with her old work after having read a few of her more recent stories in ‘the paris review.’  her stories are told from within the hidden grotesque and depravity of normality, which makes me question my perception of it as grotesque or depraved, and choose to instead try to recharacterized my understanding of normality.  in ‘the chaperone,’ a young teenager who collects dead birds has affairs with older men; in ‘the weirdos,’ a woman self-loathingly dates a bizarre man who buys a shotgun to kill crows that populate the trees outside their home.  two stories about dead birds -- what’s the deal, ottessa?
  • oyl miller, tweet, mcsweeney's -- real shit.  probably will write about this later.  wish i didn't find myself guilty of as much of what this poem rails against as i actually do.
  • lizzy goodman, kendrick lamar profile, nyt -- cool introspection from kendrick
  • roddy doyle, bullfighting -- a friend told me a story i wrote sounded similar in tone and color to this guy in november, and i just got around to reading it now. in this sense, i am exceedingly happy to be done with college.
  • mike winegardner, crooked river burning -- been grinding through this 600 pager since about february; these long reads are tough to bust out during school, but i knocked out a couple hundred pages over the course of the trip, an opus about my hometown spanning many years and character webs
  • UPDATE: wanted to include one of the most poignant moments in this uniquely written part that i haven't been able to stop thinking of since: David loved, loved, loved his wife and kids. Loved them! That's what he was thinking. What his family saw was a big, silent man with no particular look on his face, squinting into the sun, piloting the family sedan over a bridge to the West Side, turning up the radio to hear highlights from a football game. Browns 41, Eagles 20.
  • raymond carver, paris review art of fiction interview

that's that for this post. the weekend brings a trip to toulouse to stay with my uncle, and work starting on monday. yeah. peace fam. hit me on the gmail -- lawrencejrneil@gmail.com

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