Sunday, October 28, 2007

Le Tektonik... Bouges Tes Fesses!

The things I do for my blog (and my internet addiction)...

The apartment I've been living in since Wednesday doesn't have any internet connection. My landlord (who lives in London but is currently in the middle of nowhere in rural Ethiopia) had implied that there would be several 'open' wireless networks that I would be able to tap into with ease. I did find the open networks, but then the signal in the flat is far too weak to open the simplest of websites (even when I was stood precariously atop a stool on Wednesday night, holding my laptop up to the window in a moment of sheer, pathetic, desperation. Don't ask how I thought I'd be able to use the internet from such a bizarre position).

Today, I decided I just had to get online, and so left my flat at 12.30 (bloody early on a Sunday for me) with my Mac in tow. Within the first 5 minutes of my search, I begun to despair as Sunday is apparently a day of true rest here in Paris. Nothing was open! 45 minutes later though, I am now happily installed in a chic restaurant called 'Le Fumoir', which is next door to the Louvre, eating a delicious (but ridiculously expensive) brunch all on my own, whilst choking on thick clouds of cigarette smoke, just so that I can have the pleasure of complimentary internet for at most an hour.

Am I sad or what? (Teehee!)

I have been eating so much food here in Paris, that even my vocal chords have been affected, according to my mother. The first thing she said when I picked up the phone yesterday, was "You sound fat". How she managed to detect this over the 6,000 miles of crackly telephone wire between us, I will never know. But Maman, who knows me like the back of her hand, has a knack for these things, and there was just no use in denying that in the space of one week I have become a walking tub of lard.

I am however a tub of lard with a newfound appreciation for graphic novels. Here they're called Bandes Dessinees or something like that. In FNAC the other day, I randomly stumbled upon an entire floor of the things. The first one that caught my eye, had the picture of an African girl on its cover, which of course meant that I had to open it. And I'm so glad now, that I did, because it is absolutely hysterical. The Aya de Yopougon series is about an almost incestuous little village in Cote d'Ivoire, where young girls who dream of becoming hairdressers chase after old men, or sexy Parisiens, whilst their mothers storm out of their households when children fathered by their husbands turn up. (Sound familiar?) It is just hilarious!

Oh and it's helped with my French too!

I went to Notre Dame yesterday, which was a teeny bit of a let down. But I insisted on seeing it even though Paolo (more on him later... ) didn't want to because he had been equally let down a couple of years ago. Even though I've been to Paris several times in the past, I've never made it to Notre Dame for some reason, and so it was an absolute must this trip. After 20 minutes in it's dark, depressing interior, we were back out in the Ile de la Cité, on our way to Saint Chappelle. The latter turned out to be gorgeous, and was thankfully worth the metal scanner and impromptu frisk at the hands of two very unfriendly policemen (St Chappelle is in the middle of the Gendarmerie, for some bizarre reason). On to the Conciergerie, to see where Marie Antoinette was beheaded, and then to the Latin Quarter for the most divine crepe I have had in my entire life - chocolate sauce, cocoa liquor, whipped cream and coconuts. (Can't you just hear the lard swishing as I type?)

Paris is absolutely fabulous! We went on the Bateaux Mouches on Friday (another highlight in Paris that I had never before taken advantage of), and even though it got so cold that I wanted to bite my fingers off just to stop the pain, I still felt all swoony and inspired and poetic and cheesy riding along the Seine and looking at all the gorgeous gorgeous architecture. Ever the bimbo, I was forced to act as though I'd always known that Paris was in possession of its own Statue of Liberty. I knew the French gave one to America okay, it just never really occurred to me that they kept one for themselves! Christ, perhaps I shouldn't be admitting this in public?

I also have to report that I received my first "holler" in Paris. Finally! If you're wondering what the hell I'm on about, basically I left New York thinking I was the most gorgeous thing on the planet because everywhere I went, somebody "hollered" at me. They'd walk towards me in the street, and then just when they were within earshot, would go, "Mmm...mmm... God bless ya sister!" "Have a good day now, you pretty thing!" I even got the occasional business card, and a couple of hollers from umm... women. And it wasn't just the unemployed layabouts in Misan's ghetto doing the hollering by the way, it was also chic sophisticated folk. The height of it was when I had a shop assistant in Macy's (a beautiful, beautiful specimen of the male species) follow me around for 3 hours. By the end of the 2nd hour, he was modelling clothes for me (obviously not female ones, these were for my brother), and showing me item after item, just so I wouldn't leave. When I finally checked out at his till, he subtly implied that he would be "clocking out" too in a few minutes, to which I replied, "Uh... Have a nice day.

But anyway... in Paris I have been somewhat astounded by the Frenchman's unwillingness to acknowledge my hotness factor. And it has been a rather painful climb back down to Planet Earth. Thankfully though my floundering ego has been salvaged this weekend (Woohoo!) The first of my hollers came, unfortunately though, from a street-side Tektonik maestro! I suppose I should have been flattered, but umm... I just wan't. If you have no clue what Tektonik is (probably because you are lucky enough to reside in another more normal part of the world), have a look at the video below. Le Tektonik has taken Paris by storm. I'm not kidding! French people are usually so chic, that this new stage in their sociocultural development is just bizarre... it's beyond bizarre, it's absurd!

I don't think this gentleman is very good at Le Tektonik, but then this is what the pros look like to normal eyes. Xxx

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

La Cochonne Stupide et les Gâteux Parisiens

It has been so funny reading the comments from my previous post. Now I understand why the French are so touchy about their language. Everyone butchers it!


Tomorrow, I will be leaving my box of a hotel room for (fingers crossed) a much nicer room at an undisclosable (?) location. Et alors, il faudra que je dise "au revoir" à St Germain. Ce quartier de Paris est très beau, mais il y a trop de patisseries. Trop trop de patisseries. Les patisseries sont partout, et elles sont toutes petites, et toutes remplies!

(After poking at other people's french, I hope I haven't just embarassed myself there. Teehee! - Basically, I said I am having trouble with the number of patisseries in this part of Paris - St Germain dés Pres.)

Picture a very cold Bitchy (it's been absolutely freezing everyday thus far) walking briskly on the dewy streets of gaie "Pareee". Wispy white fumes are flying out of her trembling mouth and enlarged nostrils. She moves quickly, desperate to reduce the 15-minute walk to school to a 5-minute one (because it is 8:55am, and she was supposed to have left the hotel at 8:30, but was for some reason unable to do so - perhaps because she has never in her life been able to walk out the door at the correct time?)

Anyway, where was I? ... Bitchy! Trying as hard as possible to walk at her absolute quickest, wanting to pee (because the weather is far too cold, and icy weather for some reason makes her want to pee), but being accosted at the same time. Accosted, I say, by millions of trays on either side of her, trays lining the street, lurching (almost) out of their display cases at her, trays laden with goodies, mountains of goodies, volcanos of goodies, oodles of the good stuff! (In this case, the good stuff is so good that Bitchy thinks the only appropriate way to describe it Naijanized speak would be - "the bonz stuuuuurvs"? Ou peut-être, le bon "sturvins"?)

Palmiers, meringues, macaroons, eclairs, tartes, pies, baguettes, brownies, quiches, biscuits, cookies, the colours, the crusts, the crumbs, they hit our favourite bitch, bang, bang, bang, one after the other. They slap her upside the head, slap, slap, slap, window after window.

And thus the scene continues... Until 15 minutes later, when at 9:10am, Bitchy arrives in the classroom. Late, apologetic, breathless, hungry and desperate for the loo.

The first time this happened, on Monday, I was just gobsmacked. At first I stopped to stare, but then decided that the only way to make it to my destination would be to fend off the vicious images by putting both hands up on either side of my face, and picking up the pace. All I could do was swear at myself for having chosen to arrive at this very phase of my life, in the city of supreme bakers and chefs.

What was I thinking?

You see, not only have I been somewhat lax on the exercise front since I left Lagos, I have also been nursing a bit of a holiday paunch since my New York trip. Why? Uh... Possibly because I spent a large part of my time in New York eating?

In New York, I bought confectionery everywhere I went. I tore at my map until I found the infamous Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street. Dissatisfied, I made Misan abandon a taxi that had been hard come by (we must have waited in the cold for about 20 minutes?), just so that I could go to Butter Cup Bakeshop (Magnolia's sister bakery, on 52nd & 2nd). And dissatisfied still, I went on to Dean & Deluca on Prince Street, thinking that if there was a group of people whose taste I could rely on, it was my sisters from Sex & The City. I went to zillions of other bakeries as well, including The Little Pie Company on 14th & 9th in Meatpacking!

In short, each time I walked past a bakery, I went in.

At the end of my stay in NY (several thousands of calories later, and after a humongus (sp?) wastage of time), I concluded that New York's reputation as the home of brilliant cupcakes, desserts and cheesecakes, was not at all deserved. Ask me how the hell it took so long to arrive at that conclusion, when right from my first encounter with a flaky, floury, flavourless Red Velvet cupcake at Magnolia Bakery, it should have been crystal clear? (The folks at Magnolia could do to learn a thing or two from the Hummingbird in Portobello, or Peyton & Byrne in Soho - two of London's finest!)

What I wish now though, is that I could go back in time, wipe all that American fat off my... uh... slate, and begin afresh. Malheuresement, cela ne serait que possible si j'étais un génie ou un scientiste fou! Paris? C'est ridiculeux! I am literally stuffing myself at every opportunity - you would think I had never seen food before, or (if not for the beautiful white coat that protects me from the terrible weather) that I was some poor, starving African child who had only just left her motherland for the first time ever in her life! Que, je suis un cochon! During my coffee and lunch breaks, I have gorged like a freak (or a ravenous lioness if you prefer) on mountains of goodies. Today for example, I tried a cake (the name of which I have now forgotten, urrrgh!) which was so soft and just sweet enough, but with a lovely brown crust and crisp corners. Hmmm... C'était delicieux! Chei! I am ruined. And from tomorrow, I will have my own fridge ("un frigo"). And what does one do with a fridge in Paris except fill it to bursting with cheese and foie gras?

E wo!

What's this little piggy to dooooooo?

*NB - One of the pictures in this post is rather deceiving. I have not yet encountered a single cupcake in Paris. Perhaps it's too simple a confection for the French? Hmmm.... Je vais commencer le cherche pour un 'cupcake' Parisien à demain.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

La Belle Salope Dans Un Hôtel Moche

Just as there are loonies on the loose in New York, it turns out that there are crazy people on the rampage in Paris. I am yet to encounter them, as I only arrived this afternoon, but my friend assured me this evening, that they are everywhere. Unlike their North American cousins however, they don't howl or dance or kick things in the street. They look like boys, young boys, young boys dressed in street gear. Apparently their madness only exhibits itself (think screws loosening rapidly) when poor unsuspecting females respond to their snappy, fiery questions. I have been told not to say "Pardon" or "Excusez-moi" or anything of the sort when (not if) I encounter this rabid species. My instructions are to walk away and blank them completely, or babble back at them in rapid English. The latter, apparently, will be almost as effective as a bout of pepper spray (which by the way I also carry with me - a gift from my very paranoid Maman).

The end of my brief stay in New York was rather eventful, but not in the way I had anticipated.

The Saturday that followed my last blog post brought with it a mission to Ellis Island, which we aborted barely 10 minutes into the voyage due to an unforeseen and completely unexpected battle with a disgruntled, ageing nincompoop at the Post Office, which lasted for close to an hour. At one point things got so heated that I thought he said "Alright Bitch" to me (when in fact he said "Alright Mitch" to the guy next to him) and began to roll up my sleeves whilst plotting the best route via which to launch a hefty slap in his direction through the bullet-proof glass barrier that separated us. (Yeah right! I would probably have injured myself if I'd made any such move. I did get very angry though - at least that part is true!)

Also on Saturday, I managed to catch a showing of Tings Dey Happen, Dan Hoyle's one-man play at the Culture Project, which turned out to be hilarious beyond belief. I hadn't expected to enjoy it, after scanning through the lame signboard erected in the theatre's waiting area. I believe its title was something like 'Pidgin for Beginners', and its contents ranged from ennervating entries like "Dey = To Be", to equally irritating ones like "Na so? = Is that true?" But from the moment Dan (think skinny white guy with a rather odd/ overly-expressive face) walked onto the stage, my two compadrés and I found ourselves howling like a bunch of cheetahs. Aside from a lady behind us (the only other Nigerian in the room), it was pretty much our shrieking and laughter reverberating around the room the entire time. The oyinbo audience just did not get it. I suppose they either hadn't come prepared to find humour in the dark dank subject of the Niger Delta, or were having as much trouble understanding Dan's pidgin as they would a Korean monologue (and it probably didn't help that their hair colour was predominantly grey too - me thinks they were mostly retired university intellectuals/diplomats plus spouses/partners). The range of characters (of all shapes, sizes, tribes, accents) played by Dan was truly impressive! My absolute favourite was Sylvanus, an obsequious, opportunistic Port-Harcourt man with a wonderfully Igbotic (sorry, 'Eastern-Nigerian') accent who served as the humorous stage manager/assistant between scenes. But all the others were so well done, even Asari-Dokubo!

Obviously the sketches weren't just about humour, as all the characters together provided an eagle-eye view of the different interests at play in the ongoing Niger-Delta crisis (even though much-needed portrayals of at least one swindling state governor and one oil-company big dawg were notably amiss). But I'm afraid that's as far as my socio-economico-political analysis is going to go for now, (a) because my specialty is fluff, not serious topics, and (b) because the weird wireless here in Paris has slowed my Macbook down to an excruciating pace! I really hope these people aren't sending me a virus!

After Tings Dey Happen, came dinner and belly-dancing at L'Orange Bleue, a vigorous street-fight with some Latinos who stole our cab (using words though - I would never let anyone violent near my hair), a spot of clubbing (who says that?) and then a very piggy, very lazy Sunday, followed by a near flight-miss.

And after a very busy week in London, I am now in Paris, where it is almost 10pm and an alluring (albeit stingy and disappointingly flat) pillow is calling (nay, crooning) to me.

Bon Nuit Xxx

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Big Footie in The Big Loonie Apple

So that myth about America being the place to go if you're one of those women who finds herself shunned by Britain's fashion industry because she wears a Size 9 (UK) and above, is bull. I have searched high and low, from Gucci and Louboutin all the way down to frigging Payless, and so far, have only one pair of shoes (beautiful, beeoootifoool boots) to show for all my effort.

If I'm being honest, I have allowed myself to get side-tracked along the way. If ever there was a shopping Mecca, New York City is it. In the last 2 years, friends have told me again and again that if anyone was born to inhabit Manhattan, it was me. I thought they were joking, even exaggerating, and so never made the numerous plans to visit with the true intent to see them through. In the last 2 years, I have planned to come to New York five times, and I never managed to make it until last week.

Now, I see that my friends were preaching the honest truth all that time, and that the only thing my Doubting Thomas/Pharisee methodology achieved was to deny me of what some might even say was my birthright. I LOVE it here! I get more bang for my buck, nightclubs I stroll into have Mark Ronson DJ-ing casually on their decks, hair stylists are so skilled they make me dazzle like Hollywood royalty in under 40 minutes, and there are shops and restaurants on every corner!
I have been having a blast!

I couldn't live here though. The first reason being that the city would bleed me dry and I would find myself homeless in under a month. The second reason (... almost forgot this one) being that I love London (even though I am a little peeved having now discovered first-hand that all us Londoners are victims of daylight robbery, day in day out!) And the third reason being that there are too many crazy people running all over the bloody place!

On Friday afternoon, whilst on a jolly meander around Madison Avenue, the latter realisation was a little too much for me to handle. I had just spent 8 hours on a gruesome Virgin Atlantic flight, during which my insomnia kicked in, and during which I was deprived of a bottle of water for the first TWO hours we spent in the air. Why? Because the airline had lost a passenger. I kid you not - they made everyone sit in their seats for 2 hours, ran around counting us as though we were sheep in a barn, before eventually accepting defeat and making an announcement to the tune of:

"It appears we are missing a Ms. Maggie Gyllenhaal. Dear Passengers, if there is a woman sitting next to you, whose name you do not yet know, could you kindly tap her lightly on the shoulder and say "Hey, Are you Maggie?" Even if she is asleep? We would really appreciate that. Again, thank you for flying Virgin Atlantic. The crew will now be passing through with some refreshments for you."

I also got to witness two very dramatic scenarios in which oxygen had to be pumped up the nostrils of some passengers, and as you can imagine, was more than exhausted when I finally touched down in Newark, which I then discovered was a whole hour away from bloody New York City. E-Weezy who was with me all the while, but who had snoozed like a baby through drama after drama on the entire flight, became the voice of reason at that point, as I was more than just a little "tetchy".

Back to the mad people walking around New York. There are hundreds of them. In my time here I have seen more creeds and colours of loonies than I thought possible. They are everywhere - uptown, midtown, downtown. And they are not just mad, they are barking mad!

To illustrate, on Tuesday afternoon, I was sitting in a cab at a red light, en route to the Meatpacking District. I was watching a lady struggle with her blonde toddler and a pushchair on the sidewalk, when I noticed a tall black man in a blue beanie strolling in their direction. He had a Samuel L. Jackson (on a crazy day) bounce to his walk, and he had huge beady eyes, and little tufts of grey hair all over his neck and chin.

Dude in the blue beanie bounces over to two big blue bins. He lifts the lid off the first one, looks to his left and then to his right, and spits into the bin. In my head I'm thinking, "What the hell is this man doing?" He then goes to the next blue bin, lifts the lid, and does the exact same thing. Then he walks to the crossing, where my cab is still sitting, kicks a trash can (they don't say dust bin here) until it falls over, and stomps across the road.

The lights change, my cab begins to crawl, and as we inch closer to the blue bins I see the white stickers on their lids with the words 'United States Postal Service'.

Even though I think it would be uncharacteristic for the tramps in London to do that kind of thing, I doubt they would have much luck propelling their saliva through the tiny slits in the red Royal Mail boxes. Why? Because we have a postal service that plans for such eventualities! New Yorkers I am afraid to say, do not. So in a few days' time when I get back to London and begin the tedious sift through my mail, I am pretty confident that it will be saliva-free. And even if it isn't, I will be so wonderfully stuffed from my gynormous bites of crazy (but deliciously juicy) apple, that I doubt I will care. Xxx

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Land Is Green

This is such a positive message, on a personal and a national level.

I know you heard it yonks ago, but we need constant reminders never to give up hope.

Happy Belated Independence Day!

(You know I'm always late)