Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Why I live where I live

After reading The Bold Soul's post inspired from Sunday Scribblings, I decided this might be a good way to ease back into blogging after being bone-achingly ill last week. Of course, it's no longer Sunday, I hope that doesn't make a difference.

I grew up in Southern California in the (once) quiet little beachside town of Santa Monica, two blocks from the border of the city proper of Los Angeles. At the age of nineteen, after my first experience abroad, which was a year in Germany after high school, I spent a weekend visiting family friends in the Bay Area and fell in love with Northern California. As only the carefree mobility of youth can allow for, I packed my 1974 Volkswagen Bug to the brim with everything I owned: Nirvana CDs, candles, a CD player, hair barrettes, my collection of vintage 1940s housewife dresses, stacks of poetry books, etc, and headed up Highway 1 to Santa Cruz, California, unable to see out my back window. It was 1993.

I stayed in the Bay Area for the better part of the mid-nineties and then moved back down to Los Angeles when I decided to go back to school to get my degree at the ripe old age of 23. No longer a spring chicken, the thought of living in a dormitory and becoming the designated alcohol purchaser for a whole floor of freshmen was less than appealing. Plus, I had acquired a dog from my séjour in Northern California. So instead I found a charming studio apartment off of Melrose avenue, built in 1921 (ancient for Southern California) in a row of red clay roofed bungalows. The studio had built-in arched shelve enclaves and a built-in dresser, as well as a built-in ironing board that folded out of the wall. Big windows opened up into a shared courtyard. It also had cockroaches the size of mice (these particular ones were actually waterbugs). Despite the fact that it was far from the UCLA campus, it was a great place to be a student. A public MTA bus stopped practically in front of my house and dropped me off in front of my first class, so every morning I would join the masses of Central American housekeepers on their way to their jobs in Malibu in the long trek along Sunset Boulevard. I'd interrupt my studies in the middle of the night to join the beautiful people in the line at Pink's Famous Hot Dogs, occasionally ordering my chili cheese dog behind some famous person or another. There was a coffeehouse down the street that offered bottomless cups of coffee, the lifeblood of university students.

I returned briefly to San Francisco at the end of my studies, where I sublet one bedroom apartment on top of a rather large hill from a friend who was going to India for a year. The apartment was in Noe Valley, at the top of Castro Street. It had a beautiful view of the bay, and I would drink my coffee on the plant filled terrace every morning, but I cursed my aching calves every time I realized I had forgotton to buy milk at the grocery store.

By this time, I decided the time had come to fulfill my dream of moving to Paris for a while to study French. And so I arrived on a windy, rainy gray day in March, intending to stay for two months. That was in 2002.

I'm still here. It happens.

Before crossing paths with my wonderful Eddie, I lived in the teeniest chambre de bonne in the sixteenth arrondissement, which was owned by a wealthy French family whose children I tutored in English in exchange for the room. Imagine, these kids had their own nanny AND their own private English tutor. The room was incredibly tiny, a six floor walk up with a sink, shower, hotplate, tiny fridge, small closet space, and a fold out couch. The toilet was out in the hallway. I ended up staying in this room for a couple of years, even taking in a few incredulous houseguests along the way. While visitors from the US were often horrified at how small the place was, it never really bothered me. It had the basics of what I felt I needed at the time: a water boiler to make coffee, linens, a few dishes, a wine bottle opener, a fridge to store my cheese, a very good heater, and a place to rest my weary head at the end of the day. Otherwise, Paris was my living room. I would explore different neighborhoods during the day, check my email on my laptop whenever I could find a cafe with a wireless connection, explore the numerous museums, sit in the upstairs room at Shakespeare and Co and read, eat baguette sandwiches by the river during the summer, take the train out to various little villages in the Ile-de-France and so on.

Then I met Eddie, and that was the end of that.

We now live in a one bedroom apartment in the northeastern corner of the seventeenth arrondissement, about two blocks from the border of the eighteenth. Our neighborhood is quintessentially Parisian. We have four bakeries in a three block radius, a newsstand, several cafes, a sushi restaurant, a Lebanese restaurant, a park, a swimming pool, and a weekly street market that takes place twice a week. We are a twenty minute walk to Sacre-Coeur and to the weekly organic market at Batignolles that Clotilde from Chocolate and Zucchini writes about from time to time. Our neighborhood is far enough from the center of town to be quiet and less crowded, but we are still able to reach the Latin Quarter in 20 minutes by metro.

We also have an espresso machine and wireless internet throughout the apartment, so nowadays I sometimes have to remind myself to get out and enjoy the cafes of Paris…


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