Friday, March 16, 2012

Publishing old posts: Installment One

Have I mentioned that I have a bad habit of abandoning projects?

As evidence of that fact as well as an effort to rectify my wrongs, I am going to start publishing old, forgotten posts, some of them in fledging form.

The first of these dates back to late 2010.  Here goes:

crise /kRiz/ (n. fem. French)
1. crisis
2. attack, e.g. heart attack (une crise cardiaque) /yn kRiz kaRdjak'/
3. fit, e.g. epileptic fit/seizure (une crise d'épilepsie) /yn kRiz depilɛpsi'/

I once read or heard somewhere that the English language contains thousands (maybe even tens of thousands? -- I don't want to exaggerate) more words than than its Germanic and Latin-based counterparts.  This makes sense, etymologically speaking, since English began as a Germanic language, but then -- due to the success of the Norman invasion and the development of an Anglo-Norman tongue -- was heavily influenced by and came to include much of the French language.  I never did take that A. P. European History Exam, but I remember a thing or two from the class. 

My initial attraction to the French language had to do with an accident of pubescent loyalty.  It was 1998, I was 13, and my junior high school was piloting three first-year language courses: French, Spanish, and German.  The latter, with its hackingly harsh consonants and emotional range of expression spanning stern to outraged, never even crossed my radar.

My best friend, Casey, was all about French: wasn't it a beautiful language? The guttural R resonating pleasantly in the throat, the ã and õ vowels exiting through the nose, creating an altogether unfamiliar n sound? 

I, on the other hand, was utterly convinced by the practicality of Spanish.  Why would I study a language as useless as French?  Didn't she know that within fifty years, half the country would speak Spanish as a first language?  Didn't she want a job after college?  It was a no brainer.

We spent the end of 7th grade debating the subject (as was our wont), but when it came time to choose my fall classes, Casey's bff status outweighed the long-term benefits of studying a language that would ultimately give me a leg-up in the 'real world.'  Besides, France seemed like a nice place to visit one day.

The matter was settled, and we spent the summer debating more frivolous things, like whether or not Rocky I through V merited our repeated viewing (I the nay-sayer, in this case).  She introduced me to Alfred Hitchcock, instilling in me a lifelong fear of low-flying birds.  We sneaked romance novels off her step-mom's shelf and read them by flashlight under the covers at sleepovers, prepared at any moment for the approaching footsteps of her father, ready to burst out of the covers and make a convincing show of staring at the wall.  French class just never came up.

Day one of 8th grade arrived, and I found myself in Ms. A's third-period French class, alone.  Not alone, alone -- there were a good 27 or so other students, many of whom I knew -- but distinctively lacking my best friend.  There had been some mistake, I was sure; she had gone to the wrong classroom.  It wasn't until later that day, when I saw her her in Advanced English, that the matter could be cleared up: she hadn't been in French because she had gone to Spanish class.

As it turned out, my powers of persuasion had been as strong as hers: we had convinced each other to take the classes that we were respectively promoting, without ever realizing our success. 

And thus began my love affair with French.  I suppose I could have switched to Spanish after that first class, or Casey could have moved over to French, but we were both too stubborn to change our minds.  Besides, I was sold -- completely taken in by the elementary aspects of this new and exciting language.

It's now 2010, the year that brought me my 25th birthday, and though that enthusiastically smart, but insecure, 13-year old seems like some

the duality of words

And that's where it ends!  An unfinished sentence followed by an undeveloped thought.

I imagine that the former would have ended with something like, "... distant memory, she is still a part of me, if only in that she brought me to where I am today [and am today, in 2012]: living in Europe, ever seeking to improve my comprehension of the French language."

As for the undeveloped idea, I think I would have made a clever and seamless connection back to the beginning of the post.

One of my favourite things about French words is their multiple meanings, due largely to their relatively small numbers.  Because French has so many fewer words than English, many of them necessarily have several definitions.

Vague /vag/ (n. fem.) means both "vague" (as one might expect), and "wave".  I love that.

I think I probably would have gone on to describe whatever my personal crise of the day would have been.  Late 2010?  Let's see, in 2010, I moved from Ireland (where I had essentially been freeloading -- unemployed and work-permit-less -- with my boyfriend at the time) to New York, where I moved in with my incredibly generous friends Neimah and Audrey.  What was meant to be a couple of weeks in their spare room/office turned into four months as I worked as a dancer/promoter in Times Square, saved money, and awaited my visa to live and work in the U.K.  I then moved from New York to Scotland, where I did find full-time work in a fabric store and settle into a new routine with the same bf.  Full-time work in a new country, however, after months of working my ass off to save enough money in the States to (as it turned out) last me about six weeks in the U.K. meant that all creative ventures were put on hold.  I wonder what my crisis might have been.

I might also have mentioned how I first learned the that crise had more than one meaning.  In my first couple of months in France, I was living with a host family.  One day, ma petite soeur came running to my room to say that Papa had had a crise.  He was okay now, and Maman was looking after him.  I couldn't figure out what kind of crisis required aftercare.  I figured it must be existential.  It turned out he was epileptic. 

So there you have it!  One post uncovered, unfurled, and perhaps undone.  Here's to finishing what I start.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

One down!

A winter-weight, autumn-coloured scarf, just in time for spring!


Knit on 10mm needles.  Easy peasy.  So much more yarn to go.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The hostess with the mostess (income)

Jobs!  I have many.  Hostessing is one of them.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I once showed up to a hostessing job only to find out on arrival that I would be serving light snacks and champagne to a group of European businessmen.  Oh whoops, I forgot to mention the fact of four-inch heels on the second story of a moving, vintage double-decker bus (thankfully not open-topped).

A little bit like this, I think.

That was exciting!  The thing about walking -- and let's just forget about the shoes and the service for a minute -- on a moving double-decker bus is that you cannot do it and NOT fall over UNLESS you are holding onto a pole or railing at all times.  Now, for fun, let's add those other factors back in!  Shoes just tall enough to make standing up straight contingent on a sideways bend of the neck; one hand holding a rail for stability: that leaves one hand free to hold a tray of snacks, a bottle of champagne, empty glasses, or anything else that an amused European businessman might try to hand you as you stumble past.  And stumble we did.  Luckily there were only two of us, but passing in the aisle was no easy feat.  London traffic meant that the bus jerked to a halt approximately every seven seconds, causing heroic and undoubtedly amusing lunges, grabs, and near-businessmen-lap-tumbles for stability. Miraculously, neither a drop of drink nor a single nut hit the ground on our account.

This was certainly my most ridiculous hostessing shift to date, but it was exemplary of the general experience in one way: I didn't have to do much, and I got paid stupidly well.  In that particular instance, we were booked for four hours, but only actually worked for about 40 minutes.  We got paid for four hours (standard minimum for agency work).

This is what does my head in about the hospitality industry.  The people who work the hardest get paid the least.  When I am bartending, wine-waiting, or serving food, I am generally running my ass off and taking way more crap from customers than I do as a hostess.  I have to think on my feet, problem-solve, lift heavy things, not spill red wine on fancy customers, and smile through it all.  For all of this work, I get paid a fraction of what I do to tease up my hair, wear some flattering makeup and maybe a dress, and smile at customers.  Same smile!  Same face!  Less pay.  The kitchen porters who are elbow-deep in greasy water get paid even less than my waitress self does.

Of course, the perversion of it all is that I enjoy the grunt work more.  I would so much rather run my ass off than stand around in heels, I just want to be paid the same.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mad Crushin'

Jay Smooth, Internet Boyfriend.

Social consciousness is so sexy.