Thursday, December 4, 2008

This post took me nearly two hours to write

glamrocksupergrl (1:03:34 AM): what should i blog about?
ibi137 (1:03:58 AM): temporary tattoos
glamrocksupergrl (1:04:18 AM): hmmm
glamrocksupergrl (1:04:24 AM): what can i say about temporary tattoos?
ibi137 (1:06:05 AM): the fact that your friend is considering getting a "mister sofftee" tramp stamp

I forgot I had this blog. I guess I must be registered at every blog site on the internet, by now, so it shouldn't really surprise me. I must start one at least twice a year, before always returning faithfully to my much-ignored livejournal. which is still not updated too often because of the stigma of having a livejournal. As I said in a post last month: "I only seem to write here when I want to talk about writing." Which is true, and a little meta, but whatever. Nobody wants to listen to me talking about writing as often as I want to.

I am, apparently, one of those people who opens a new blog by pointing out it is a new blog. Though, in fact, I suppose this is an "old" blog, just an empty one. Oh well, that is what we do. Stretching out to measure our little inch of the internet, like in Kindergarten when they make you flap your arms and spin around before you do anything in P.E. Everybody ends up with enough space except for the kid against the wall, who keeps hitting his elbow.

There are only three weeks until Christmas. This will be the second year in a row that I am not in Chicago, or even in Oak Park (to be more specific) or Illinois (to be more broad), for the build-up, which is a little... I don't know. It won't be as weird as the Christmas season in Japan. Japanese people have been convinced by American ad execs that Colonel Sanders is the same person as Santa Claus (That said with absolutely no exaggeration. They are literally lead to believe that the jovial, bearded man in the red suit likes to wear a vaguely confederate white suit and sell mass-produced fried chicken for the rest of the year.) and that everyone in American goes to KFC and lines up for their Christmas bucket on the eve. Also, Japan has invented this thing called a "Christmas cake", which they order weeks in advance. Christmas in Japan is a little like Chinese food in America. That is, all the parts the consumers like about it were completely invented somewhere in transit.

The Christmas season in New York should be a little more normal. My chances of visiting a Buddhist temple or nearly getting run over by a very fast-moving tractor in the middle of a fish market on Christmas eve morning are greatly lowered, but my chances of eating gingerbread cookies go up quite a bit. I'm not going to miss putting up the tree this year, at least, though I may miss lunch at the Walnut Room in Marshall Field's, lights at Brookfield Zoo, seeing the silly lamp-post decorations on Lake street, ice skating in Millenium Park, the Christkindlmarket on Daley Plaza, etc. Good Christmas-y Chicago stuff, and my own traditions, too, like making molded chocolates. I didn't get to do that last year, either. I feel my chocolate molds are probably getting dusty.

My haul used to grow larger every year. I think when I was a senior in high school I made over 400 pieces. Little chocolate stockings and santas and candy canes. It was relaxing, and it felt good to walk around with enough that I could see any random person in the hallway and shout "Hey! You want a Christmas present?" Of course, these days I wouldn't see enough people to give out so many, but it was still fun experimenting with different mix-ins. My favorite was white chocolate with broken up candy canes in it. It was a little like the peppermint ice at Fannie Mae, which makes me wonder why Fannie Mae charges so much, as the recipe is apparently so simple

When I was fourteen we spent Christmas in Paris, where my mom's best friend was living at the time, in this great apartment right near the Eiffel tower. This was also the Christmas that I spent in tears on the bathroom floor while my mom tried to bribe me away from mental breakdown with a shiny new iPod. That was memorable. I think I may have eaten turtle stew for dinner. But I would remember something like that if it had happened, right? I hope so. I think it was salty.

In short: I am no good at being away from home for Christmas.

This story was about Paris, though, and also about chocolate. This is what tied it all together. Christmas, Paris, Chocolate and Le Bon Marche's cake lady.

She was amazing and pervasive. This skinny, pale woman with shiny, red strawberry lips and a short, dark bob coiffed so perfectly that it looked almost like a wig made of chocolate fondant. She had wide-set, sadly French eyes and good cheekbones, but most of all she was extraordinary in two ways:

1) She was holding a chocolate cake the approximate size and shape of a Nintendo Gamecube, imprinted over and over again with the French word for cake: "gateau gateau gateau" ("What's a gate-ow?" I asked my dad), on a white plate beside her face. And

2) she had freckles.

As a pale, skinny kid with, admittedly, less fabulous hair but many, many more freckles, spotting a model so glamorous holding something so obviously delicious in a metro ad was one thing in the first, but I am not sure that before then I had ever noticed someone else's freckles so keenly, or been so proud of my own. And the woman was everywhere. I could count on spotting her stony face at least three times in any given metro stop, and she was plastered on walls, too, and billboards. My family played a game of pointing her out whenever we saw her, and I played even after my brother and parents had grown bored of it. My dad had given me his old camcorder to record the trip, I having just recently declared my new dream of being the First Woman to Win An Oscar for Best Director and so obviously needing to start practicing on a Sony Handycam ASAP. I don't think he or I realized I was doing it, but when he got home and looked at the footage it contained three things: one shot of the outside of the Louvre, one shot from the Arc de Triomphe, and shot after shot of Le Bon Marche's cake lady each time I had spotted her: larger than life, gorgeous, and freckled.

My mom eventually went to Le Bon Marche and brought back a palm-sized version of the cake for me. It wasn't as delicious as its advertisement made it look, but that's always the case. I hadn't really wanted to eat it, anyway. It was enough to be holding what I could view as a little piece of that photograph.

Anyway, I went home and forgot about Le Bon Marche's cake lady. That is, until I was nineteen and I cut off all my hair, inspired by my love of Audrey Tautou's Amelie and a stated desire to "cut off the dead ends of my life." (As an aside, it apparently takes more than a haircut to completely cut off one "dead ends". Mine keep coming back, but I do sort of love them, now, so I guess it's good I didn't cut them out too completely.) A few days after the cut, when I was used to it but no one else was, I was getting out of the shower, with my hair and bangs slicked down with water. I passed my mom in the hall and she stopped. "You know," she said, "You kind of look like that...cake lady. You know, that woman in the ads in Paris." I had to think back further than usual to remember, but then I did, and I couldn't stop smiling for the rest of the day. Possibly the rest of the week. I briefly entertained the idea that I had subconsciously chosen the bob cut because of my young fascination with that ad, but if I believed that I would have to doubt my own sanity. Suffice to say, perhaps the cut was a long time coming.

My mom is, of course, insane for thinking I look anything like Le Bon Marche's cake lady, but it was nice, anyway. It's a weird feeling when someone tells you you've accomplished exactly what you meant to, even more so when you'd forgotten that you meant it at all.

Now that I think about it, that might not have been the Christmas trip at all. It was probably the 2001 summer trip. Ah, well, it doesn't matter. I'll always have a soft spot for that twiggy woman and her disproportionately large cake.


(I promise I will never write an entry this long again. Jesus Christ.)

1 comment:

rachel may said...

audrey tautou is the epitome of french beauty :3

i get what you mean with the starting-off-but-not-finishing-off blogs :P i'm pretty sure i have at least 4 under my various accounts *hehe

mmm... you're so lucky to have travelled so much :)

hope you have a fantastic christmas in japan~

p.s. if you're anywhere near tokyo... try to get to the disneyland christmas celebrations; i heard it's amazing!