A Girl Defends Her City

City Life, Uncategorized

Tupac and Biggie might have taken it a little far with their coast-y love but I get it. It’s important to represent your turf. It’s not easy living in a city. Living in a huge metropolis is not as simple and glamorous as Gossip Girl and Friends make it seem-it’s expensive, it’s cramped, it’s dirty and oftentimes, as one of thousands of people, you feel anonymous and unimportant. Still there’s a reason cities are so appealing and people from Sinatra to Kendrick sing their praises. People work hard to get the chance to move to big places like LA, New York, Paris, London, etc. (and they work even harder to stay). So when you do live in a dreamy city and you can still love it despite all the crap that comes with it, you can’t help but develop a certain sense of pride for your city.

I am so proud to live in New York. I am all about that concrete jungle where dreams are made of (or wet dream tomatoes, gotta work on that enunciation Alicia). I would wear those gaudy “I ❤ New York” t-shirts 24/7 if they didn’t make me look like a lame tourist. In short, New York is BAE (I hate myself for using that phrase, but it’s true). Now that I am living in Paris, and especially post-November 13th attacks, I am also extremely proud to live in this city. I have to hold back from doing the t-shirt equivalent and constantly wear a beret. So when my mom came to visit me in Paris this past week, I was stoked to show her just how cool Paris is.

Of course while I planned a brilliant let-me-get-you-to-fall-in-love-with-Paris itinerary I kind of forgot that my mom isn’t a huge city fanatic like I am. In fact, she’s not a city person at all. She doesn’t like museums, she doesn’t care for architecture, she has no interest in history, she is anti-walking fast, and she most definitely is not down with rats (the nerve!). I planned to cram the 6 days my mom would be here with everything pretty and Parisian and she was having none of it. Notre Dame was meh. The top of the Eiffel Tower was too high for her. And the Louvre, oh the Louvre. She didn’t even want to take a picture with the damn pyramid like a normal tourist. She was more interested by the fact that straight men kiss each other on the cheek here than any of the world-famous pieces at the Louvre. I was frankly offended.

First of all I couldn’t believe how little interest my mom showed in any of the activities and places that are so quintessentially Parisian. As someone who loves to travel and see new cultures it baffled me that she didn’t really care to experience anything that makes Paris and its people unique,The world renowned museums that Paris is home to and the history that is contained in its walls meant absolutely nothing to her. The only thing that captivated her attention was shopping, which we did endlessly. What bothered me the most is how little she valued being in Paris. To a lot of people coming to Paris is a dream and to my mom it seemed more like something she just decided to do because, why not?

This isn’t the first time my mom dissed my city, she showed the same level of disinterest (and disgust) when she went to New York. All she did was complain the entire time she was there. Ay Sammy, why do you like to live in such a small room? Sammy it smells like urine everywhere. Sammy I don’t know why you like to ride the subway-it’s so dirty. Sammy why are you walking so fast? You would think I was living in the middle of a dump, not a large cosmopolitan city, from all the comments she made. I was so angry at how she reduced New York to nothing more than a dirty city. I mean she’s right, it does smell like urine everywhere, but it’s NEW YORK, I’ll take a little pee on the sidewalk over not living there any day.

The truth is, I love the cities that I live in and to me they are amazing so it’s always hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that other people don’t like my cities as much as I do. In fact, I can barely understand the concept of people not wanting to live in a city (where else are you supposed to live? The countryside?) I love big cities because they’re fast paced and exhilarating and there is always something to do. But I forget that those are precisely the reasons why people don’t like them. New York especially is a place that I’ve heard many Texans scoff at and dismiss as “somewhere they would never want to live.” It always takes everything in me because to not make some wise ass remark about how they couldn’t handle it anyway, because how dare they not value NYC as a place to live.

But the thing is, even though I love New York and Paris and all their big city pals, even I sometimes find myself thinking I may not want to be a city girl forever. I see articles about how married couples have to get roommates because their combined income just doesn’t cut it for rent. I watch as moms in the subway struggle to awkwardly get their strollers up the endless steps out onto the street. I work with kindergartners who don’t know the joy of running around in their own back yard and have to walk all the way to a local park to get the feel of some grass under their feet. Even worse, I see old people get bumped and pushed around as busy city dwellers fly off to their next appointment. I see all this and even I think sometimes, why would anyone want to live here? So I guess every once in a while I do have to put aside my tremendous pride of big cities and recognize that they aren’t exactly the warm homey places that some people need to live in and they are definitely not for everyone. I have to think that just like some people could never see themselves living in a big city, there is no way in hell I could ever live in a small town. A place where you actually know your neighbors (and they know everything about you)? Fuggedaboutit.

Who knows, maybe some day I’ll get tired of hopping along from big city to big city. Maybe some day I’ll move to a (slightly) smaller city and be ok with not having great museums and bars all over the place. But that’s not gonna happen for a looooonggg time. In the meantime I’ll keep repping the East side (and Paris) and you can be sure to find me at the Louvre.

Paris, France


Never Again (?)


When I was in third grade my teacher read a book to us called Number The Stars. It was about a Danish girl and her family who helped hide their jewish friends during WWII. I don’t really know what it was about that book,I can’t even recall any details now, but it drew me in to World War II and sparked my interest in the Holocaust specifically. I just couldn’t comprehend with my little 8 year old mind how something like that could happen. So I went through book after book and movie after movie-anything I could get my hands on that concerned the Holocaust in order to answer all my questions. How could someone be filled with so much hate towards another human being? How could something like this happen? How could the world just stand and watch?

Of course these are complex questions and I don’t think I will ever be able to find satisfactory answers. But I have continued my search and learned a lot about the Holocaust in the process. As part of this journey I have always wanted to go to Auschwitz, to see it for myself. This past Saturday November 14th I finally did it, I went to Auschwitz. Of course, my much anticipated journey to this nightmarish place happened to be the day after the Paris attacks and I couldn’t help but think of the terror that my fellow Parisians were experiencing as I stood in this place that not so long ago was terror incarnate for so many.

As I stood shivering in the biting Polish cold-sweater, parka, boots and all- I thought of the unbearable cold the prisoners of this camp must have felt in their barely-there striped jumpsuits. I also thought of the the bitter coldness that Parisians must be feeling in the wake of such a violent assault. As I walked from barrack to barrack and looked around at the vast field that once contained hundreds more, I thought of the thousands of people that had been forced to walk around here and that were held captive by these wooden planks, this grass, this barbed wire. I also thought of of how empty the streets of Paris must be, robbed by Fear of their usual inhabitants walking to and fro, living their lives. As I looked at the ruins of a gas chamber, now little more than piles of concrete teeming with moss. I thought about the thousands of innocent people who had been sacrificed to this concrete in the name of ideology. I also thought about the rubble lying on the Parisian sidewalks; pieces of walls, shards of glass, all lying defeatedly. I thought about the 130 people who had been sacrificed to these streets in the name of ideology.

One of the phrases you always hear when you go to Holocaust museums or exhibits, or in this case, Auschwitz, is some variation of the following: “We show you all of this so that something as horrible as this will never be allowed to happen again.” And yet, despite all this education and awareness and evidence of what can happen when we let hatred go to far, it still happens. There is still genocide, there are still religious wars, there are still acts of terror; there is still unnecessary loss of life.

I’m not trying to compare the Holocaust to the terrorist attacks on Paris-they’re two very different things. But in a way they are very similar at their core, or at least, in why they happened. Quite simply, hatred. Terroristic activity and the Holocaust are and were acts of hatred. Both victimize human beings because they are externally different from their attackers. Hitler killed Jews because they didn’t fit into his idea of perfection. ISIS and other extremist Islamic groups kill westerners because their lifestyle is so contrary to their own ideal lifestyle. In the end all of the rhetoric boils down to people’s hatred of things and people that are different from them.

The scarier thing is, Nazis and ISIS are extreme examples but there is so much more hatred in the world, in smaller forms but equally capable of reaching these immense levels. There are people like Donald Trump who  victimize immigrants and would do a lot of drastic things to make them disappear. There are so many instances of racism and hate crimes on college campuses and abuse of people of color amongst police forces. There are people who given the circumstances in France are already hating on Syrian refugees and using them as scapegoats (in the same way that Hitler blamed the woes of Germany on Jews), ignoring the fact that these people are themselves escaping terror at home. The only thing that differentiates these hateful ideologies from those of Nazis and ISIS is that they haven’t been acted upon on a wide scale. But what’s to say they won’t be?

As I looked around Auschwitz, at this immense piece of land, developed for the sole purpose of acting out the hatred of one man by working its slaves to their deaths, I couldn’t help but cry. I cried as I thought of all the human life that has been lost to hatred and ignorance. I cried for all the children who wont get to grow mentally and physically, for all the young people who won’t have the chance to create countless memories, for the mothers and fathers who probably worried about their loved ones until the last second, and for the elderly who didn’t get to live out their las years relishing in peace in all they had accomplished with their lives. I cried for French people, and Americans, and Syrians, and Nigerians, and Vietnamese people, and Mexicans and Haitians and for everyone because we are all humans and we all want to live-but some of us won’t get to because of the hatred of others.

I said a little prayer for humanity because we haven’t learned our lesson. Because we’re still killing each other senselessly.

After I said my prayer I wondered, what will our future be like? I wondered if we’ll ever learn to stop hating others. I wondered in what way hatred will manifest itself next and who will have to suffer for it. Will we let it happen? Will we just stand by and watch?


 Paris, France/Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland


The Town Best Organized For A Writer to Write In

City Life, Culture, Uncategorized

Paris is iconic. As an icon it has many smaller icons, petites images that the mind automatically gravitates towards when you think of the famous city. Many people hear Paris and bring to mind the Eiffel tower, berets, croissants and macarons and the Mona Lisa (which I find ironic given that the lady hails from Italy). But for more literary minds, Paris may just conjure up chic little cafés filled with posh wine-drinking-cigarette-smoking people.

To the people who were lucky enough to be exposed to the equally iconic characters of The Lost Generation, Paris is a symbolic space for creation and one of the most important places where this creation takes place is in cafés. No author makes the case for cafés as beacons of creativity as much as Hemingway. His books are packed with vivid scenes of cafés; his memoirs make clear that these are the places where some his most memorable works took their first breath.

It should come as no surprise then that as a lover of words, I expected Paris to become for me that creative space that was so coveted by Hemingway and company. I expected to be driven almost as if by some otherworldly force to the perfect café that would let the pen from my ink flow and deliver line after line of pure, brilliant writing. This of course, is asking too much of a city and its rather mundane cafés but I did at least expect to find a café that would provide an adequate space to work and so far no café has provided what I need. Hemingway set the bar high for cafés and Paris has not backed up his claims. Maybe Paris has stopped catering to creativity and begun catering to tourists instead (seems reasonable given the overpriced menu that no Parisian in their right mind would dare to waste money on). Regardless, cafés and creativity are two things that do not seem to exist in harmony in this city.

If cafés were ever the places for the free flow of ideas, that is no longer the case. Cafés are much too social here. Even if you sit inside to stay away from the temptation of people watching that is so natural on a sidewalk table, you cannot work. Cafés have become meeting points where people get together, have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine accompanied by some mediocre food (which is really the same in just about any café you walk into) and exchange a few words to catch each other up on every day topics. Of course, Hemingway never described his cafés, as being devoid of food and conversation but this all seemed to be more an afterthought in his cafés, secondary to work and drinks. I don’t have a problem with food in cafés-even starving artists have to eat- but it is so hard to actually get any work done when everyone around you is having such an effortless time. Which brings me to my next point, doing work in cafés is the perfect way to ostracize yourself.

People don’t work in Parisian cafés, they just don’t. The person sitting off in a corner scribbling away on a little notebook is the focal point of everyone’s stares. They are not friendly stares either; people watch you contemptuously, they whisper about you, they purse their lips at you, probably in an attempt to hold back some bitter comments. And don’t even think about whipping out a laptop, you might as well just walk yourself to a guillotine because computers in café s are the ultimate act of heresy. Not only that but wifi in a Parisian café is a luxury, not a given. If you need to type anything or research anything, you might as well just stay home. Computers and wifi of course were not concerns for Hemingway but given the way our world works, to writers they are almost on the same level of importance as a pen and paper and barred access to these necessities is really stifling.

At first I thought I was just not finding the right cafés. I thought by some sad tourist intuition I kept wandering into cafés aimed to please passerby whose loftiest goal is to have a croque monsieur to get the full “Parisian experience.” But I have searched far and wide. I’ve toured the 5th and the 6th and the 9th and the 13th and even the 17th and every café has been the same, its only distinguishing feature being the color of its awning. I’ve even wandered into Hemingway’s old haunts but of course they’re nothing but commodities now. The Closerie des Lilas is a bourgeois bore and Les Deux Magots is nothing more than an overpriced restaurant where the cheapest dish is 14 €. Now a day you can’t even count on Hemingway’s personal recommendations.

Ironically the only café’s that I’ve found which are conducive to producing actual work have been cafés that seem ripped straight out of a SoHo or Williamsburg street. These cafés are so American that they generally come equipped with a full English speaking staff and even serve such New York delicacies as bagels and gluten free/vegan snacks. Of course, I’ll take whatever I can get as far as a good workspace where I don’t look like a freak with my laptop out. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel cheated. I figured that café culture would exist here just as much as it does in New York but in a more romantic Parisian fashion. I imagined myself sitting on a sidewalk table, the warm sun on my face, beautiful Parisian people passing by with baguettes in their bags, the sound of clinking cups in the background-but the reality does not include sun and baguettes and clinking cups. My reality does include writing, but in a place far less reminiscent of the romantic Parisian café Hemingway created for me.

*Title taken from A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Paris, France

An Introduction


So this is my blog. Typical.

Like every other young person of my generation I felt the need to start a blog and of course I finally get the balls to start it when I go abroad (très original).

But seriously, I’ve always wanted to start a blog, if not to become internet famous, then at least to save my antics for posterity. Or simply to exercise my writing skills and some day have some product to show to a future employer. The problem is, I never felt I was passionate enough about anything to dedicate a whole blog to it. I lacked direction, I still do. Most blogs have a central theme. There are fashion blogs, lifestyle blogs, Bronie blogs, etc. What did I have an expertise on that I could write about for other people? Nothing. However, after moving to paris for a few months I finally decided, I don’t need a theme. I am a conflicted girl trying to make it day by day in multiple amazing cities-that should give me more than enough content.

In short, this is a blog about my life (yes, more originality). I decided if everyone and their internet famous cat has a their own blog I might as well throw mine into the mix.

Two things I know:

1.Very à la John Green, I will tell you right now, this won’t be frills and rainbows. I’m not one of those people who romanticizes everything and tries to see positivity through every awful situation. I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work out. Life sucks sometimes, and I’ll be sure to write copiously about that. But of course, I’ll also write positive things because we can’t all be eternal pessimists right? In the end some cool things are bound to happen so I’ll make sure to take note.

2. This blog will change. Sometimes it will read like a diary, sometimes I might review a restaurant, maybe I’ll get really philosophical and start a revolution. Who knows? I have no clue what I’m doing (with this blog or anything else in my life) so bear with me.

I will try, and fail, to find myself, how to balance my life, the best way to fit into my current city and how to not strangle all the people around me. Basically, I will go about my day and report back on what I find worthy of introspection. I hope my daily struggles and success will be an interesting read for you.