I can’t remember the last time I stayed up all night of my own volition. There might have been one night in summer 2008, but before that all I can think of is New Year’s in Phoenix, and I did always end up going to bed eventually.
But this morning at 5 AM, I was walking on a nearly deserted street in Montreuil with four friends. On the train to Nation, we all decided to go to Breakfast in America for brunch/dinner sometime later today. At 5:30, Del and I were waiting for the RER B with scores of other people, red-eyed and staring, and at 6, I finally made it back to my own room, where I peeled off my party dress, put on my pajamas and conked out until 12:30. I guess it’s only fitting that New Year’s Eve 2011 should have been different from all other New Year’s Eves I’ve had (and not because we dip twice and eat horseradish!).
Anyway, I had a marvelous time at Hallie and Lizzy’s New Year’s party. Lizzy and her boyfriend Sam are cat-sitting for friends who are in Poland for the holidays, and who encouraged them to host a party at their apartment, which, while still petite, is quite a bit larger and more generous on seating than Hallie and Lizzy’s place. Which is probably mostly because said friends live outside of Paris proper, and Hallie and Lizzy live in the very desirable twelfth arrondissement. So all fourteen of us had somewhere to sit, which was definitely a novelty (as Del said, “When was the last time you saw a couch, Anne?”). We were a mixed bunch as far as citizenship goes, including a couple of French people, two Germans, a New Zealander (“What did the Kiwi say to the Jew?” “What?” “He brew!”), and a Brit, though of course Americans made up the bulk of the party. To count down to midnight, Hallie came up with the idea of Clocktails, where each person had a minute written on their champagne flute and during that minute, they had to do something crazy. I sang, duh, and Hallie tapdanced, and there were breakdancing and headstands and dramatic monologues (sort of).
And at midnight everybody kissed everybody. I mean, of course those who were coupled up kissed at midnight, but this is France. EVERYBODY kissed. This is something I’m still getting used to, as I come from a country that was founded by the Puritans and am also not a particularly touchy-feely creature myself. And there’s an etiquette to it. The first time you meet someone, it’s acceptable to shake hands–though some people do bisous on the first meeting. You never quite know what will happen until they’re going in for the kill and you’re like, oh, right. And what’s amazing is, once they’ve met you, the next time kissing is called for–say, when the party is over and everybody is leaving–they will kiss you. Or rather, you will kiss each other. In my experience it’s a little rude (or at least a little gauche) to offer your hand instead of a kiss if you’ve already met somebody. I actually had not officially met my friend Claudette’s husband, but when they came to see me sing a couple of weeks ago and I offered my hand to him, he pointed out that he had been at the theater class production and had in fact videotaped it, so we knew each other…even though we hadn’t met? Whatever. I find it hard to wrap my mind around this, but at the same time, it really does make you feel like you’ve got tons of friends when everybody wants to kiss you before they leave a party. The process of leaving a party, by the way, can take ages, because it feels kind of impolite not to kiss everybody you interacted with (at Hallie and Lizzy’s Thanksgiving, I kissed what I thought was everyone, and then on my way out realized that I had skipped somebody. I felt terrible, but she later Facebook friended me, so I guess we’re okay). This morning at 5 AM, we were getting off the train, exhausted and possibly slightly drunk (not me, my friends), and we STILL took the time for bisous.
It’s all part and parcel of the conundrum that I’m noticing with regard to the French population. Every time I read blogs about France or the French, or travel stories about Paris, the authors constantly harp about how mean and difficult the French are. And yes, okay, supermarket cashiers in Paris are singularly unpleasant, and people who work for the métro can also be very surly, and yeah, I do enjoy a good whine about the inefficiency of certain facets of life in France. But just yesterday, the falafel guy at the Port-Royal farmer’s market let me taste half of a cheese pastry thing because I was pretty–
–and as I was turning to head to the bus, a woman collided with me head on and said, “Pardon, ma chérie!” (It is a truth universally acknowledged that the French do not apologize when they jostle or push you, so this was very refreshing.) And then there is all of the kissing, and all of the people who have been so kind and helpful to me in the last few months–special shout-outs to my theater class friends, Madame, the folks at the Bibliothèque National de France, Isabelle Aboulker, the audience at the concert Nicky and I gave, the guy at the fruiterie on Rue de la Glacière who helped me pick out onions when I was making onion soup, the guy at the front desk of my building who had the misfortune to be on duty when my key card broke in half…I could keep going, but I’d like to get to my New Year’s Resolutions in this entry. Anyway, the point is, despite emotional roller coasters, complaining, occasional malaise, and a lack of interest in actually putting down roots here, I have come into contact with so much kindness and generosity (and kissing!) since I arrived in Paris four months ago that I can’t help but be really happy to be spending this year here.
And now, for my New Year’s Resolutions. They are quite simple variations on what I usually resolve to do.
1. No more vending machine junk food. First of all, it’s expensive, second of all, it’s not even particularly good junk food. I decided when I made this resolution that there was no point in resolving “no junk food” period, because after all, miss, this is France. Who are we kidding? Besides, pastries/bread/macarons/chocolaterie chocolates. are WORTH IT, and stuff from the vending machine is not. End of story.
2. More walking. Notice I am not resolving to “exercise more” or “work out” or even “go to the yoga class I’m signed up for.” But I live in what may be the greatest walking city in the world and most of the time I take the train–and I frequently change trains to get as close as possible to my destination. No longer! I have decided that any time it is convenient to walk, I am going to walk. If I have the option of changing trains (because Paris is a big place and sometimes you just can’t get there by foot–or don’t want to) or getting off the métro and walking, I’ll choose the latter.
3. Floss. And I’m not just saying that because a dentist reads my blog.
4. Keep my room clean. Oh man, I think I resolve this one every year, and it never works. But I find that my morale is so much higher when my room is tidy. As Chuckie Finster put it on Rugrats, “A clean room is a happy room.” I think I may have just dated myself, as far as that’s even possible.
5. Travel! This is the fun resolution. I’ve made a list of cities I would love to visit, and I’m going to make an effort to get to as many as I can. Some are in France–Bordeaux (a re-visit, but I just loved it there), Aix-en-Provence (or St. Rémy, since that’s where Bourdain went when he went to Provence!), Nice, Cannes, Lyon, Toulouse, the Loire Valley–and others are in the UK and the rest of Europe–London, Bath, Oxford, Edinburgh, Vienna (in less than two weeks, yikes!), Geneva (a friend of mine will be moving to Montreux in February, so that trip seems doable), Berlin, Barcelona, Bruges, Copenhagen, Prague. I’d love to check out Eastern Europe and more of Scandinavia as well, but I’m not sure I’m up to planning those trips!
6. Go with the flow. Chill out. Feel groovy (da da da da…).
Happy New Year, everyone! Bonne Année! And, from the cast of Rent (including a guy I once held a practice room for at Northwestern):