Pink Trash Travels

Pink Trash Goes to the Movies

Not only do I love a casserole, I’m an entertainment whore as well. Along with my friend Dave, we follow everything from the billboard charts to the box office reports. So considering I haven’t seen a new film release in over two months, I was severely overdue for a popcorn flick. As a result, on Friday I went to the movies.

I rode with Chris to work so I could review my Visa documents with a human resources representative. Instead of taking the train back home (we all know how much I love public transportation), I decided to wait for Chris. So after lunch, Chris dropped me off at the mall. And like an angst-ridden teenager, I roamed the megaplex – weaving in and out of Virgin Megastore, Zara and what resembled an A & F knock-off from Russia. But once I realized I still had 3 hours to kill, I made my way to “Cine-Cité.”

Once I got there, I wasn’t quite sure where to begin. For starters, I needed to make sure they showed movies in “Version Original.” And considering I was in the suburbs, that’s not a given. But after finding a small bulletin board that provided both movie times and picture details, I found a few scattered about the listing. Unfortunately, most were stale, American leftovers from August and September including The Brothers Grimm. One new film, however, opened today – The Legend of Zorro. Even though the first was entertaining, the sequel looked painful. But it was new, started in 10 minutes, and was in VO. So off I went to the ticket counter.

At most Parisian movie theatres, you purchase a “seat” at the movie – including placement within the stadium. It ensures you don’t get trampled by Junior Mint loving “movieholics” like myself. But as I stood to the side and watched other movie patrons purchase their ticket, it became clear this theatre was different. It seemed quite normal. With my nerves settling, I hopped in line and bought my first movie ticket for €9.50.

Afterwards, I headed to the concession stand. Of course, I had scoped it out prior to committing to the movie (because if they didn’t have ice, I was walking). I can’t see a movie without a soda. And I can’t have a soda without ice. But they did, so one problem was averted. And not only that, it was perhaps the most perfect soda ice available: “squirrel shit” ice. Not the large cubes but rather small pellets that perfectly compliment Diet Coke or any other soda product. I selected my large drink, Kit Kat balls (€5.90 special) and headed to the checkout line.

While I waited, I happened to glance at the self-service popcorn wall. I’m not sure how long the various popcorn bags had been sitting, but I was surprised to see not only regular popcorn but “sucré” popcorn as well. I’m assuming it tasted like Kettle Corn. Since I was trying to stick with my healthy eating program (no, not a diet), I thought a few Kit Kat balls would be better. I was wrong. The Kit Kat balls were nothing more than cardboard covered with glue.

Once I settled into my stadium seat, I began appreciating the theatre’s cleanliness. It wasn’t adorned with many accoutrements, but the fact that I didn’t need a Germ Buffy to protect my head from sticking to the seat was a plus. And with only around 10 people joining me for the show, I realized one benefit of seeing an American movie in Paris is the associated short lines and interest level from French speaking citizens.

Two hours and thirty minutes later, I left the theatre numb. The movie wasn’t good. It wasn’t bad. It was average (and when did Antonio Banderas get a double chin?) Rather, I considered it a somewhat entertaining French lesson (when compared to sitting in a classroom watching the time pass by). With sub-titles, I at least feel as though I learned something. Not that I can remember any specific words, but it’s all about repetition. The more I see and hear, the more I learn. And the more I learn, the faster I’ll be able to have conversations with others than myself.

The Fear of Being Boring

When friends visit, you want to ensure everything is perfect. You spritz the hallway to reduce unwanted smells. You enlighten a room with colorful orchids. You place body care products on angled fresh linens. But what do you do about your daily routine that you worry might be considered a bit boring?

Even though we’ve relocated from the States to Paris, we’re still the same low-key couple we were in the Windy City. We don’t drink. We never go out. And we’d rather watch a movie or have game night with friends. So when guests spend over $500 to visit, it’s hard not to feel a bit guilty about being dull and not yet connected to the social scene Paris has to offer.

Take for example this past weekend with our friend Mr. Pickett from Chicago. Separate from our brush with Tom Ford on Friday night at a trendy Thai restaurant near the Eiffel Tower, the weekend was fairly calm and reserved. We ventured out Saturday night for a cocktail only to be suffocated by intense smoke. I, of course, complained while Tom sipped his Jus de Orange cocktail (sans Vodka thanks to my inability to order properly). Fortunately, by Sunday, I had utilized my budding gay network in Paris to find an event that evening. At least it gave him something to write home about (and to add to his guest blog on Pink Trash Travels due within the next few days).

So travelers beware: Dave and Chris are still Dave and Chris. We may live in Paris, but are lifestyles haven’t changed that much. We’ll do our best to evolve over the next few months to better equip ourselves to entertain upcoming guests. But just in case, you may want to travel in numbers. This way, not only will you have a partner in crime, you’ll be less likely to hear my non-stop whining while sitting at a bar on Saturday night. And as they say, “That’s priceless.”

An Evening with Davé

Last week, while our friends from Chicago and NY were in town, we were treated to a night out with Davé. It’s a person. It’s a restaurant. It’s a treat. Not for the food however. Rather, you visit this star of the fashion world more for the ecletic company.

Jamie, a regular visitor to Paris, had been telling us of this exclusive Chinese restaurant up the street. With the likes of Uma Thurman, David Bowie and Tobey McGuire visiting this red velour palace, it’s quite the experience to enjoy an unusual spring roll of fried pork wrapped in lettuce and mint in the corner while you scan for stars. But the real scene stealer of the night was Davé.

Upon entering his restaurant, he greeted us with wet kisses – especially Jamie who he seems quite fond of. It was uphill from there. With no specific menu, you advise Davé of your likes and dislikes. He scribbles a few items on a scratch pad, throws some recommendations your way, and heads back to the kitchen to download our choices to his sister. Afterwards, he returns to share opinions on the current state of fashion as well as Leo DiCaprio’s need to focus less attention on his eyes and more on the contortion of his lower face muscles – all while hand feeding us remnants of four types of steamed potstickers.

Unfortunately, having arrived at 8:00 p.m. and just after fashion week commenced, we shared the room with a Chanel office party and two unknowns sitting by the window. So no star sightings for us (which isn’t a surprise since fame seems to elude me at every turn). But with the absence of Hollywood came the ability for us to spend more quality time with Davé.

So after a full night of decent food and Hollywood stories, including Davé’s assessment that he hasn’t seen a face like Chris’ since Bruce Willis, we said our goodbyes. As customary in France and the gay community, we exchanged kisses. But a few of us received a bit more. Davé gave Jamie a pinch, Chris collected a touch of saliva and I walked away with two Davé dinner plates to remember our evening. I consider them our calling card to return soon. And return we will. I’m ready for my close-up Mr. Deville.

The Itsy Bitsy Spider

I’m growing accustomed to the food in Paris. I’ve learned to find substitutes for what I thought was irreplaceable. I’m even venturing out of my comfort zone to try new things. But when I found a spider in our fresh lettuce leaves I purchased from the open market, I almost lost my 5:00 p.m. snack.

Last nigth, I had prepared a beautiful salad filled with purple and green lettuce, beets to compliment, radishes and tomatoes to add color and a tangy dressing I discovered a few weeks back. But as I dished the salad onto Chris’ plate, a lettuce leaf moved. What crawled from beneath was an eight-legged protein additive I hadn’t anticipated.

Yes, I squealed. It wasn’t a high pitch monkey squeal. It was quite subtle. None-the-less, I no longer felt like eating salad. Chris, however, decided to pull the nuisance from the side dish and continue with his plate’s preparation.

Later, he asked if I washed the salad. “Of course I did,” I replied. Apparently, he found a bit of dirt. “It wasn’t dirt,” I said. “How about some spider eggs with your salad?”

So it may be a bit longer before I once again purchase fresh lettuce from the produce stand. I’ll take my chances with the packaged variety found in the local Monoprix. This way, at least I know it’s gone through some type of processing. Then again, it’s France.

Dennis the Menace

It’s 11:55. Do you know where your cat is? For us, we thought Dennis was safe and sound under the couch or in a closet. After scurrying through the apartment with flashlight in hand illuminating every nook and cranny, we soon realized around 10:45 this evening was he was gone. And the only place to go was out.

I grabbed my jacket and keys and headed outside to start the hunt. If he did indeed escape through the open window on the 3rd floor, I knew he had to be on a nearby terrace. As I crossed the street sounding my special catcall, I looked up to see Dennis stranded next door. His little white head appeared from behind a ceramic planter. I could hear his whining meow through the traffic noise and flowing fountain across the street. He was scared and so was I. “How will we get him down?”

I ran back upstairs. Chris and I began devising ways to bring him home. Fortunately, the terrace was only a few feet away. The problem was Dennis wouldn't jump over and across. He needed a bridge. So I tried a pile of sticks from IKEA. We haven't found a use for them over the past four years. They just sit in the corner waiting for an display urn. Maybe tonight would be different. Dennis thought otherwise. So with all our resources exhausted, I thought, “There’s only one place to go – and that’s out.”

After a quick costume change, I was ready for my balcony debut. With Chris fretting from behind, I climbed out on the ledge. Trying not to look down, I slowly stepped to the left side. With my hands firmly grasping the porcelain drainpipe, I placed my right foot on the neighboring terrace railing. Knowing one foot was secure; I crouched on the ledge followed by a quick shuffle over to join Dennis. With a slight hop, I was safe for the moment.

Dennis darted to my side. He was ready to go home. The weather and charcoal grey coat he now sported apparently didn’t agree with him. So I nervously picked him up and handed him to Chris. I was concerned at any moment he would squirm and squiggle and find himself on the street below. But Chris held tight as Dennis found himself back indoors where he belonged. Now it was my turn.

I asked Chris to find a bed sheet to wrap around my waste. This way, in case I started to fall, he could hoist me up or at least dangle me like Michael Jackson’s baby until someone came to my rescue. But as he searched for the perfect wrap, I decided to move forward with my own rescue.

With back to the railing, I hoisted myself up and over onto the ledge. I placed one hand again on the drainpipe as I wrapped the other around the iron window decoration in front of our guest bedroom. “This way,” I thought, “If one gives, the other should hold.” When Chris returned, I decided there was no time like the present. Up and over I went landing safely in the bedroom. But our adventure wasn’t over. It was time to give Dennis a bath.

“Consider it punishment,” I said to Dennis as the water soaked his fur. As I held firmly his neck, Chris applied a bit of soap to combat the pigeon poop Dennis had acquired on his outdoor excursion. I was surprised Dennis wasn’t more aggressive. Maybe he knew I was on the verge of throwing him back out the window. That, or he was beyond traumatized. Either way, bath time was short.

With a quick fluff and dry, Dennis was left to his own devices to complete the grooming process. As I watched him lick his paws, I could only hope he vividly recalls his chilly evening on the Lido deck. Because if it happens again, I’ll think twice about risking my life to save his. After all, he has nine. I only have one.

Pink Trash Goes to the D'Orsay

Paris is a vibrant and exciting city filled with celebrated museums. From the Louvre to the Pompidou, these notorious monuments are sightseer magnets. For me, however, they parallel my attitude towards three-hour long Parisian dinners: they aren’t necessary. I want to leave before my ass goes numb. So knowing we’ll have houseguests over the next few years, I postpone my rendezvous with these cultural icons. But with the arrival this past week of our first official visitors I no longer could delay the inevitable. On a bright and sunny afteroon, Pink Trash went to The Museé D’Orsay.

I was reluctant to go. It was Sunday and I preferred to see a movie. After all, it had been over two months since I sat inside a cinema with Diet Coke in one hand and imitation movie candy in the other. But one can’t expect guests arriving from Chicago to spend the afternoon watching The 40 Year Old Virgin.

Our day began around 1:00 p.m. With strong hunger pains and a craving for a Café Olé, Joel, Mike, Chris and I headed around the corner to a hopping French café serving brunch. Having just been to the gym, I was hoping to eat a relatively healthy and small meal. Instead, we all felt the need to justify the €25/person charge for the buffet filled with both French and American breakfast treats. We didn’t realize the price until after we loaded our plates with pancakes, eggs, curry chicken and some type of basamati rice. So after a few more trips inside to carb load on dessert tarts and chocolate mousse, we were ready for our walk to the museum.

Thirty sweaty minutes later, we arrived at the Museé D’Orsay. For some odd reason, the weather in Paris has been unusually warm. The average high temperature for October is 59 degrees. Instead, it’s been an uncoformatable 76 degrees – fine if you’re wearing shorts and a t-shirt but not so much when you’re outfitted in the latest fashion trends designed for brisk autumn days. Fortunately, the space was air-conditioned so I immediately found my happy place at the beginning of our tour through the museum.

Opened almost twenty years ago in 1986, the Museé D’Orsay is a converted railway station originally built in 1898-1900. Inside is one of the world’s largest art collections devoted to the late 19th century. I, of course, had no expectations. I knew it was a museum. I knew it had art. I knew I would be bored. However, I was pleasantly surprised by my eagerly acceptance of this cultural and grown-up affair.

With the likes of Monet, Degas, Renoir, Gauguin and Cézanne (not the drag queen from Chicago), the walls were decorated with names and images I’ve seen in books or heard discussed by intellectuals at cocktail parties (it was, however, hard to believe the art was original and not imitations sold at Linen n’ Things for $19.99). Better yet, our tour through Impressionism gave Chris and I the opportunity to better our French. We’d try to translate the descriptive card by reviewing the painting. A game makes everything more fun.

So for the low price of €5,50 a ticket, I enjoyed marveling at what some would consider wonders of the world. It wasn’t too painful. It wasn’t too tedious. And more importantly, it wasn’t too long. I escaped with my sanity in check and with an ass that wasn’t numb.

Photos Courtesy of Robert Zizzo Photography © Robert Zizzo Photography

Pink Trash in Italy - Part One

When traveling, I always say it’s best to be prepared. Pack the night before. Make peanut butter sandwiches for long journeys. And most importantly, ensure your travel documents are handy. This past week, upon leaving for Italy, I assumed I had everything in order. The problem was, once I began gathering my things on the morning we were to depart, I realized my wallet wasn’t where I thought it to be. It was gone.

I panicked. “Where could it be,” I wondered. For twenty minutes, I searched high and low for a personal belonging that seems to disappear quite often. I ransacked the closet. I rummaged my gym bag. I scoured the bedroom. No luck. “Maybe I left it at the Monoprix?” I thought. So realizing we had missed our window to take the train to the airport, I ran to the grocery store in the rain with slim hopes they’d be open at 7:30 in the morning. Five minutes later, I returned with no wallet and little chance finding my elusive travel companion. With only another 15 minutes remaining until we’d be officially tardy for our departure, I once again searched the flat. Soon I realized it was hopeless. My wallet was gone. Fortunately, I had my passport so off we went to the airport.

As a result, for the next seven days, I fretted over losing my wallet. Chris, of course, thought I had once again misplaced it somewhere at home. You see, I’ve cried wolf before – many times. I think I lose my wallet only to find it in the hamper, under a chair or slipped behind a dresser. But this time was different. I knew it was MIA.

So because of my blunder, I began implementing ways to replace the wallet’s content value. No cash was involved. Credit cards and drivers license could be replaced. It was the tanning point card I had purchased the night before for €140 as well as the €40 cab ride we took to the airport. I considered it my punishment. Problem is, it began to be Chris’ punishment as well. But isn’t that what relationships are all about?

My first savings came from taking the land bus vs. a water taxi once we arrived in Venice. For €70 less, we traveled the Italian countryside. Alongside senior citizens and two lesbians, we saw what appeared to be Pensacola, Florida. The rooftops were flat with red brick shingles, gold and tan houses lined the streets, dogs ran loose and trash blew in the humid wind. But I had saved over half of what I needed. I was on my way to financial security.

Once we arrived in Venice, I was pleasantly surprised by a small oasis filled with winding canals. Based on our bus ride to town, I wasn’t sure what to expect. And it’s not like I had researched Venice to better acquaint myself with our travel destination. I was along for the ride. So when we began walking the cobble stone streets filled with people instead of cars, the fresh air and serene surroundings put a smile on my face. And once I realized Madonna slinked her way through the canals to Like a Virgin, I was even happier. But I still had over €110 to recover.

Over the next three days, we visited Murano, Burano and walked through the sites in Venice. With our friends Rob and Scott from Houston, we had a guided tour through a glass making plant in Murano as well as the showroom. Basically, they provide free of charge a ride to the island then demonstrate glass blowing techniques all with the hopes you’ll spend €1,200 for a set of four “overblown” champagne glasses most drinkers would assume you bought a Target for $9.99.

From there, we hopped aboard a water shuttle to the island of Burano – a village known for the dieing art of lace making and it’s quant surroundings of brightly colored houses that look as though they were made of Legos. After a delicious pasta lunch and a Northern Italian treat I truly loved (meringue, cream and vanilla cake dessert), we walked to find some lace made by famed little old ladies with time on their hands.

We passed many imposters on our way to a shop that appeared legit. But then again, who really knows. Chris was intrigued by a salesperson’s telling of how the lace is made so he purchased a small square for €70. And on our way to the shuttle, we stumbled across the shop where it was stitched by hand. Sitting in a chair, we saw a surprisingly vivacious woman knitting the lace. More surprising, we spotted the lace salesperson in the back. We’re still to this day unsure how she managed to beat us to the shop. We didn’t doddle. In fact, we walked rather swiftly. But there she was, smiling, proud of the lace making demonstration. As we left scratching our heads, we surmised that as soon as Chris made his purchase and she told us of the manufacturing facility, she twitched her noise, appeared up the street and pushed her mom in the chair with needle and thread in hand. I, of course, left empty handed. I don’t do lace and I still had money to find.

Though we met our entourage for island excursions and evening dinners, Chris and I spent most of our time alone - wandering through the guidebook recommended tourist destinations and motor free pathways around the city. We visited the Piazza San Marco where we saw four gilded bronze horses that were plundered from the Crusaders’ sack of Byzantium during the Fourth Crusade. The Basilica di San Marco, a church that houses the horses, itself was amazing with 12th century mosaics on the walls and marble floors. (Though, this is where I began having some issues with the church spending ungodly amounts on idolizing themselves while the poor suffered outside their doors).

We toured the “Ghetto” where the name first appeared in reference to segregating the Jews in the 16th century. As we walked through the urban island, I of course called my friend Val to let her know we where thinking of her. Whenever any Jewish reference is made, I always give a shout out to the Greenberg family. But it wasn’t until we stumbled across a puppet maker that I saved another €70 on my way to financial freedom (yes, I had to spend money to deduct, but that’s a minor detail).

Chris and I believe the most impressive finds are hidden gems tucked away on streets most tourists never find. This is where I found Sier Pantalone. Made by hand, he represents a character in Commedia dell’Arte who’s rich, greedy and naive. After spending over an hour inside the shop deciding between “Mr. Pantalones” and another that resembled a Joker, I made my purchase. Because the puppet maker enjoyed our company, he deducted $20 from the original price. Better yet, as we headed back to our hotel, we realized we had saved even more money since we made our purchase from the manufacturing facility. We spotted other works by the craftsman in a few shops along the way for more than $50 the original asking price. So with the discount in hand and the new collectible in tow, we were able to deduct another €70 from our total – leaving us with just €40 remaining until I could close the book on my wallet mishap. But this wouldn’t come for another five days – until we passed through Florence and arrived in Rome.

Coming Soon

When traveling, I've realized updating the blog is quite difficult. Between manipulating our schedule to include workouts to combat the binge eating as well as the expected sightseeing adventures, there's very little time left for detailing daily events. From this, look for updates beginning Thursday, October 6th.

Better yet, our excursions through Italy have helped me to define how Pink Trash Travels will come together - mainly as a book of short stories. The first, Money Changes Everything, describes events associated with me losing my wallet. From the initial stages of panic through the recovery phone call from the Monoprix grocery store, the short story will be a comedic review of how I tried to maniuplate our trip to justify the loss of £180.

But until then, be sure to check out the blog this Thursday and the following days for more on our trip to Italy.