Pink Trash Travels

Back in Paris

It's Sunday, and Pink Trash has returned to Paris with a new perspective of America and a renewed appreciation for Paris. In short, though I constantly refer to Chicago as home, I no longer hang my hat in the windy city. It took a 10-day trip back to Illinois to truly expose what has changed not only in my location but my personal growth as well. It looks like the unthinkable is happening. Pink Trash is evolving.

At first, I thought maybe my cold was altering my state of mind. But as my sickness subsided, I realized things were different. Of course, I wasn't in my home with my set routine. But there was something more bubbling beneath the daily activities I used to consider essential.

Taco Bell was somewhat bland. Costco and Target were uneventful. My workouts as Lincoln Park Athletic Club were uninspired. I never once watched Ellen or Oprah - or much TV for that matter. What I believe was missing were the daily challenges I face in Paris - the exact hurdles that began deteriorating my mental state before departing for the Thanksgiving holiday.

In Chicago, things were easy. In Paris, it's quite the contrary. Learning the language is complicated. Meeting people is difficult. Staying focused is easier said than done. But these are the very elements that seem to be moving me forward in more ways than I ever could have imagined. And that's exactly why we embarked on this overseas adventure. Who know it would make an impact so quickly?

So the Thanksgiving holiday did more than expand my belly. It opened my eyes to what I have and all that I have to look forward to while in Paris. And that's priceless.

Pink Trash Returns to America

On Wednesday, November 16th, I returned to America. Unfortunately, besides the Christmas gifts I had in tow for my family, I also brought back a terrible cold that refuses to leave. My first return visit has been plagued by a sore throat, nasal congestion and the impending loose cough to expel unwanted body fluids. As a result, my trip is somewhat depressing.

On Wednesday night, I ate chicken soup. On Thursday night, I ate tomato soup with grilled cheese. Finally, by Friday night, I ventured out of the soup zone to have McDonald's Chicken Selects before heading to Walk the Line - a wonderful movie detailing the life of Johnny Cash and June Carter.

Many have asked if Chicago seems different - if my views of the city, people and places have changed. My reply is non-existent. I can't honestly access the situation because I've focused my energy inward, to get better, and move on with my holiday. After all, I have Fat Girl Sunday to take advantage of including my trip to Taco Bell, Costco and Target to buy the new Madonna CD.

So hopefully by tomorrow, I'll be better. Though, looming on the horizon is a game night followed by the possibility of painting the town red. Can I opt for beige and being home by 11:00?

Pink Trash Becomes a Landlord

Upstairs there exists a small 4’ x 10’ room with one sink, one window and a few closets. It has electricity and running water, but no heat and bathroom. A few days ago, it was just a storage room and the basis for my new kids’ book. Beginning next week, it will be our cleaning lady’s new home.

While having dinner last Sunday with Mina (our French teacher) and her family, Chris and I mentioned the extra space. At the time it was housing two lamps, a dog kennel and a wobbly coat rack we purchased from IKEA. We had no specific plans for the area other than packing it with unwanted vendor gifts and outdated American fashions. So when Mina mentioned she was looking for a place to live for her cleaning lady, we thought, “why not?” So later that night, I came home and vacuumed the space, dusted the counters and polished the sink and preparation for its’ showing the following night. As I completed my tasks, a sense of sadness and appreciation filled my head.

“How could anyone live here,” I thought. “There’s barely room for a twin bed.” But, as witnessed a few minutes later, people do. I heard someone leaving from another room down the hall. Which made me stop and truly assess my situation. Suddenly the hallway odors I try to extinguish on a daily basis seemed so trivial.

Alissa and Mina arrived around 6 p.m. the next day. Out from Mina’s car stepped a small Thai girl no taller than five feet tall. She was younger than I expected – actually much younger. “Is she old enough to work?” I wondered. She was dressed in a puffy pink jacket with matching cell phone in hand. Apparently, communicating with friends is more important than having an apartment with heat.

I showed Alissa the dark and intimate space. It was a bit challenging since I removed the chandelier from the ceiling (I thought it would look better in our third bedroom). But a flashlight was all she needed to accept. “I’ll take it,” she said. So as we made our way back down the spiraling staircase, we discussed the arrangement – she would iron and clean four hours a week, on Tuesdays, with a “refresher” on Fridays. Once agreed, we said our goodbyes.

I returned to our flat to share the news of our new tenant with Chris. He was still somewhat appalled by the living conditions and the situation at hand. But as I had done just a few hours before, he soon realized we were helping someone. The room may be small. It may be chilly. But it was hers. And in Paris, that’s pretty special.

Pink Trash Goes to an Auction

All auctions aren’t the same. In Kansas, they’re glorified garage sales. Neighbors snoop through your belongings, eye their prize, and wait through heat and dust to bid on something worthless. In Paris, they’re quite the contrary.

Last Friday, I visited my first auction house. What I saw were rooms filled with an eclectic presentation of jewelry, paintings, tapestries and furniture – some dating back to the 17th century. It wasn’t the typical midwestern display of Malibu Barbies with their left arm missing that I’m accustomed to seeing at public sales.

Accompanied by Mina (our French teacher and adoptive parent), I walked through rooms on display – every now and then catching one particular item worth exploration. Though, after reviewing the price lists to determine the anticipated selling amount at auction the following day, I quickly surmised the gloried garage sales were more down my alley.

It was entertaining, however, to behold the auctioning process in the other rooms not on display. They were stuffed with an array of shoppers – from the experienced tradesmen to the bargain hunters. And unlike the auctioneers back home, the ringleaders were brilliantly dressed along with back-up support armed with computers and telephones ready to toss in a bid from those unable to attend.

Knowing Chris would want to return, as well as friends from the States, I closely observed the bidding process and payment method (God help if I had an unwanted itch and accidentally bid €1,500 for a historic tea set). It seemed relatively simple. You listen. You bid. You pay with check. But with everything in French, if you’re communication skills are a bit rusty, the risk is not knowing HOW MUCH you will pay.

So let the neighbors fend for themselves up and down the country roads on Saturday mornings. I realized I prefer the more civilized approach - one with a roof overhead, smartly dressed administrators and one that’s dustbowl free.

Pinky Travel Tip #1

Nobody eats dinner before 8 p.m. in Paris. So if you want to avoid smoke-filled restaurants, venture out early. Not only will you digest your food before bedtime, you'll save money on dry-cleaning and doctor bills.

A Misguided Daytrip

Halloween in Paris is uneventful. There are no decorations. There are no tick-or-treaters. There is no spooky fun. So Chris and I, along with Maddie, decided to explore the French countryside in hopes of finding a small and intimate village adorned with quant architecture and picturesque views. What we found was an industrial city bustling with all the annoyances we were trying to avoid.

On the recommendation of a friend, we traveled just over an hour a half to Rouen – the home of Joan of Arc. The drive was picturesqe. The destination was quite the contrary. Roune was filled with with smog, traffic, a carnival and barely any signs of the cozy village we wanted to explore on this warm Halloween.

We quickly escaped the city’s centre making our way to the top of the valley where I hoped to capture a photo for prosperity sakes. Chris weaved through the streets in his new BMW trying to find the perfect scenic vantage point. Unfortunately, we never found it. But what we did stumble across was an old cemetery that satisfied a burning itch to enjoy something, anything spooky on October 31.

The burial grounds were quite mystical. Large crosses, elevated tombs and petit temples were stacked on top of one another. The smell of wet leaves was in the air. It may not have been our original destination, but it was quite the unexpected discovery.

So, in the end, our trip didn’t unravel as planned. But that’s okay. I saw a remarkable cemetery on the most perfect day to visit the dead. We sang French pop songs along the way. And no road trip would be complete without a stop at McDonald’s for a Coca-Cola light and snack. Now that’s living.