Sunday, June 25, 2006

Escape from planet Finet

Well, there is a pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel for me and Ryan, although it necessitates certain misery for a new set of renters. The result of our recent rock-the-boat measures has caused enough fear and/or discomfort to Finet that she is now saying she'll make an "exception" just this once for us and let us have our money back IF she can find someone to take our room. Right now we're being quite individualistic in looking out for our own interests, but we do feel bad for the doomed souls that move in after us. Yet my goal is to make it impossible for her to continue renting this apartment in the future, so hopefully the suffering will be put to an end somewhat soon (although within the French system who knows what "soon" means). In regards to that, Karl and Giuseppe went to speak to a semi-lawyer on Friday, who did indeed confirm that it is illegal for her to sleep in the hallway and all that (wow, big surprise there!). This afternoon Karl and I returned to the neighbors' downstairs, where we were met with a very warm reception indeed. We swapped crazy Finet stories (which of course are never in short supply), and talked legal stuff. They were very happy to receive the photos and statement concerning the apartment, in fact, they even gave us a bottle of wine when we were leaving!! The sweet nectar of alliance. So hopefully at the very least we can help them and the rest of the building out in the long run, as what they've really been in need of is certain evidence that only insiders like us could provide (heh heh heh).

In other signifigant news, I passed my "exam" (which in fact was not a tremendously big, or graded, deal) last week, which was a relief to be done with. I thought the thing that was the most stressful about the whole ordeal was that I was working with someone that was always freaking out and pissed at everyone else. Granted, I felt pressure to get things done and to do them well, but even still I didn't feel inclined to have a heart attack over it. But my partner's attitude put quite a damper on the whole class, and me most of all. In the end I was fairly happy with the quality of my products. Some things weren't perfect, but on a whole I think I did a competent job, and was told as much by the teacher in the critique. It's very strange that we're done with the part of the program where we're all together... there probably won't ever be a week that we're all there at the school. I must say it's sort of sad. Some of my favorite classmates are pursuing cuisine, so we will have few or no classes together now. And I found out my conserves (i.e. pickles, etc) class was cancelled, as I was apparently the only one signed up for it. It's really too bad, as I was especially looking forward to it. But I will replace it (hopefully) with a pretty awesome looking petits fours class in December, for which I saw the presentation last week. And in honesty that is of much more professional use to me than pickles.

We leave on another little road trip tomorrow night with Karl and Beppe to Holland and Belgium. It should be a lot of fun. Not really sure where we're staying or even going precisely, but we'll find out soon enough. Unfortunately, Karl had his bag stolen from Champs de Mars on Saturday... and with it his passport, wallet, drivers license, credit cards, iPod, digital camera... everything important, basically. I feel really bad for him, and I feel stupid because I was sitting right next to it when it happened. We pretty sure we got totally worked over by a crew of scammers. One hit on me to keep me busy, another two chatted up Karl, and then one of them excused himself and must have swiped the bag. Makes me feel quite a bit more mindful for the future. Shit happens, I guess.

Saw the Pride march/ festival at Bastille on Saturday also, which was truly quite underwhelming, not so much in size but in creativity. Very conservative, compared to San Francisco, or even to Minneapolis, I felt like. It was with clinical precision that they cleaned up after such an event! I have never seen such a marvel of efficiency. Huge crews of trucks with pressure hoses, dudes with those green brooms, leaf-blowers, sweeping trucks and more descended upon the area like hyenas, leaving nary a trace of the day's events. All before the sun had even set. I then went directly to see the movie Paris, Je T'aime, which I must say I really liked... or dare I say-- loved? No pun intended. No really, it was very good. The Coen brothers' story was funny. Man, Steve Buscemi is getting old.

Been reading more in French lately, including some comics. Expanding my vocabulary more and more. Going to start working on my command of the subjunctive, which is a weird concept to me but necessary to master if I want to speak properly.

And last but not least, eager to know how everything went at the Beard house for Auriga!!! Been thinking about it all weekend. Sent my thoughts westward across the pond.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Pointless shouting match number 2

Well, as I like to keep things lively here (seeing as my exams this week aren't stressful enough), I took it upon myself to have another highly fruitful argument with madame this afternoon. The highlight was HER telling ME that I am "psycho" and/or "nuts," and also that she was a lawyer for 15 years so she knows her rental laws (as Beppe said, "oh yeah right, she was actually a lawyer for 2000 years".
In the heat of the moment, I utterly could not resist telling her that I have an appointment with a lawyer this Friday (true, although I am in fact not going, my roommates are) to talk all about our situation here, and that I have been talking with the neighbor downstairs about helping him with the court case against her. As might be imagined by those who have been following recent events, neither of these phased her much (i.e. she almost completely ignored it, and refuted it with riduculously fabricated stories to the contrary), although she did relent a bit later by saying that *maybe* (MAYBE!) Ryan and I could have money back and move out early IF she could find someone else to take our room... which in my opinion is a very thinly veiled attempt to wash her hands of us so as to avoid legal problems.
I cannot even stress enough how much bullshit ("connerie") she is full of. Edith, the Taiwanese girl, came back today to get something, and madame tried to force her to hand over her key to the padlock she had installed on the door... I was so proud of Edith!! I pulled her away and said she absolutely must NOT give madame the key, so she slipped it to me instead. And then upon Finet's insistence that she give her the key, she refused without even blinking. It was great, in a shitty, miserable, futile kind of way. She then proceeded to tell Finet that she is exploiting us foreigners, to which Finet disagreed with/ didn't give a shit.
After the stress of the whole confrontation (which I don't -and won't- even begin to detail further here), I drank a moderate amount of wine to take the edge off. This resulted in a comensurate amount of kissing ass and flat out lying when she explained maybe she could make an exception just this once and give us our money back if she finds someone else. I bit my tongue so hard it's a wonder I didn't sever it. I played friendly to everything, even though it was all sickeningly ridiculous.

We'll see what the lawyer says. I hope to god it's on our side.

Friday, June 16, 2006

On a brighter note

Recent photos. Added a couple hundred to Flickr today, check them out.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The talking chair that lives in our hall

Well, the merde hit the fan tonight, so to speak.

We finally found a lock that fits on our door, and so needless to say we put it on immediately once madame left the house. Later, it was Ryan who bore the initial brunt of her reaction, which was suitably unreasonable (see previous posts for backround). As soon as I heard from the other room that the can of worms was already open, I joined the scene and, both Ryan and my guns blazing, proceeded to inflict not even one dent in the solidly outlandish worldview that exists in the mind of Madame Finet. We tried to retreat to the Italians' room and slam the door on her which, having no lock (!!!), proved to be utterly ineffective. This instead drew the "conversation" out maddeningly. The other guys did pipe in their support which was nice but, again, to no avail whatsoever.
What was said was of so little importance given the futility of it all, but I will try to briefly recap for education's sake.
1. She UTTERLY believes that we are meant to live here like a family, and that all the rooms are open to everyone, and that she's here to help us and to be our "French teacher" and our protector. To put locks on doors goes against this principle. (?!!?)
2. She wants everyone to be happy, and when it was very blatantly stated that we would be happier without her, she simply denies it and goes on again about #1 (above).
3. We said over and over and over that it's not Ok for her to sleep in the hallway and that it ceases to be her "home" if she rents out all the rooms and has none of her own. She says it would be terrible to deprive a "poor student in need" of a room when she's fine sleeping in the hallway, and besides, it doesn't bother anyone that she does that. Again, when explicitly stated that YES we do mind, she either returns to point #1, or ignores the statement, or returns to the argument that this HER home and we knew all along that it would be like this. Everyone disagreed with that, and she disagreed with us, AND what's more she then pretended that we all agreed!! We also said it's not ok that she sleeps naked in the hall (which she denies, yet we have seen ourselves), takes showers with the door open, puts water all over the floor (she calls this "cleaning"), eats everyone's food, doesn't do dishes.... on and on. She denies these things. We even told her we have VIDEO of her going in peoples rooms repeatedly, which she basically ignored completely.

In summary, she steamrolls over anything you try to say and tries to dismiss it and pretend like there's no problem, there's at most just a slight misunderstanding. And we kept saying NO, we do NOT agree, there IS a problem, YOU are the problem, YOU are wrong etc. And she kept trying to say she wants the house to be like this or like that, and we flat out said WE DON'T CARE WHAT YOU WANT, WE PAY TO LIVE HERE, which she obviously is incapable of comprehending. And she above all kept stressing that she's super cool, she lets us do whatever we want, we're free here, she wants us all to be happy, she protects us, we're lucky to live here.... and Beppe finally said "you know, you act like it's a gift to us that we live here, but it's not, we PAY rent, we PAY you" and then she returned to..... you guessed it, point #1!

So, I would say Beppe finally hit the nail on the head when he said it's just like talking to a chair. A crazy, crazy chair.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

La Grande Famille

So Ryan got an earful of madame's "philosophy" today, which, as one might guess, was highly enlightening and reasonable. So, in her universe, this is her home, and we are all a big happy family with no boundaries or personal space. It is wrong to keep doors closed (and god forbid we put locks on them like "the Chinese [Taiwanese] girl"), and anyone is free to enter each others' rooms as they wish, because, you know, someone might want "air from the window" of someone else's room. To this Ryan replied that it's both a matter of privacy AND the little fact that we have paid rent and therefore are free to do anything we want with our rooms. And she said "no no, is like French family... is a concept, is a concept." So it's good we got that cleared up. And then apparently she said to Beppe today that I am a problem in the house, that I give her awful looks and yet she's done nothing to warrant it. I find that beyond hilarious. The looks part is definitely true.
Karl and I went to see the downstairs neighbor last night, which went quite well. He suggested that we write a statement listing all the abnormal aspects of living here, and take some digital photos of everything in disrepair. He has been assembling a dossier on madame for his court case against her, so this will become part of that and should hopefully help all of us. He was very, very cordial, which made things easy. Apparently he works at Roissy airport and knows lots of cops and lawyers, so he seems fairly well-versed in the system. So that's looking hopeful!
Switching gears...
In the rest of life, things have been pretty good. Jeremy came, and then left early, which was too bad but the right decision for him. We went out a bit of course, which was fun. Finally went to The Crocodile, a super awesome bar in the Marais, which I will definitely return to. Last week there was a great BBQ at Mario's lovely house in the burbs, pictures soon to come. Saturday saw a FANTASTIC circus-y theatric gitane music show at a park in Nanterre which was part of an art fair weekend. And we finally got a spell of warm weather, to a fault in fact.
This week of class is really good, as the teacher is fantastic-- passionate about food, knowledgeable, easy to understand (which matters a lot these days!), funny, practical, on task. And the stuff we're making is for the most part excellent, like a truly killer bordelaise (albeit marrow-less), sauce amoricaine (or as I say, Lobster Madness), lamb shoulder sous vide Robuchon style, etc etc. Tomorrow we're roasting Bresse roosters, making bearnaise, and regenerating sauteed cod as well as scallops with langoustines. We learned a pretty sweet trick to make langoustines (or anything) super rosy-red: take raw lobster coral and whisk it up (this can be defrosted frozen coral that gets saved here and there over time) and brush it on the raw product before sauteeing-- it's so bright it's almost unbelievable, but looks nice.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


The atmosphere in the house is grim. As far as I'm concerned, we're living under siege. Between the heat and my early mornings I've been totally exhausted, and this afternoon as I was taking a much-needed nap I was rudely awakened by madame opening our bedroom door without knocking. I woke up and said "what are you DOING?" to which she replied she wanted fresh air from our open windows. I was about to find a blunt object suitable for inflicting moderate head trauma, and then like an afterthought she said, "oh, are you sleeping?" To which I responded in the affirmative in a tone I would normally reserve for a murderer of small children.
We're going to talk to the neighbors downstairs who apparently are in a court case against her to see if maybe we can help each other in some way. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, as they say. And we want to talk to the renters' advocate organization and the police, so we'll see where that goes.

This is too fucking ridiculous.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Just as the weather in Paris was getting nicer, today a black cloud settled over our house. The reign of terror is once more upon us, and its name is Finet... aka Madame Froot Loops.

The toilet paper is already missing.

Beppe already saw bosoms within half an hour of being home.

Manic laughter is raging on the other side of our (tightly shut) door.

We have opened the double door between our room and that of Ro, creating a fort-like environment. We have moved in the toaster, and there is a good supply of bread and Nutella for the troops.

A lock is going on our door ASAP.

Jeremy arrives tomorrow to join the struggle, unaware of what is in store.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Dix semaines

We saw X Men today, which was fantastic. I saw Marie Antoinette yesterday which was lukewarm at best, yet about a hundred times better than Da Vinci Code which was almost insufferably terrible (although the albino dude really cracked me up). I realized yesterday that of the two films I had seen in Paris, both of them were American-made yet set in France/ Paris. I must say I really enjoy watching english movies and DVDs with the French subtitles. It's quite helpful.
Time is FLYING by! We just finished our 8th week of class, which is impossible to believe. I met up with some of the other girls in my class yesterday for the movie, after which Ryan joined us and we had an insane feast of delicious Korean food at one of the girls' apartments on the southeast peripherique. Her studio's kitchen was scarcely more than a shoebox, but somehow she managed to make a mind-boggling array of dishes-- by far the best asian food I've had since New York. As usual, pictures to come. And we visited a cool Korean grocery near Opera, whose area I noticed is quite peppered with Japanese and Korean markets.
Of course, there is yet another jour de ferie tomorrow, for some Jesus-related cause that I know and care nothing about. It's just as well. I've been feeling a bit run down lately, so I'm happy to have another long weekend. We also went out with Sophie and Julien the other night for dinner and tarot readings, which was interesting and seemingly accurate, though not something I will probably ever spend another 20 euros on.
The last of the road trip pictures are up on Flickr now. This final (and obviously nicest) batch of photos was taken by Beppe.