Friday, April 01, 2011

Final Stretch

Sound track of the day:
I want you to love me, like I'm a hot guy
Keep thinkin' of me, doin' what you like

Current Temperature: Yucky wet

Final Day of Cleanse.

Last day, and I think after two days I’m supposed to feel my best. I should be clean, back on the wagon, feeling refreshed. Instead, I feel worse than I have the last two days. I’m completely clogged up. Despite all the time spent in the loo, I have only gone #1…repeatedly. Chronically.

The day went as usual and I woke up fine. No more energetic, no more tired than usual. However, on this final day, with all the office threw at me when I walked it, there was no time to keep to the drinking schedule. I was late with Juice #1 by an hour. Then I drank Juice #2 late by an hour and so on. By 3pm, I was guzzling juice #3 during a training session in a hot and crowded conference room. leaving every 15 minutes to pee and to slap myself back into consciousness. By juice # 4, I was delirious and knew I had to get some air and another dose of green liquid. The meeting mercilessly ended at 5:30 where I rushed to the refrigerator for more nourishment. I found I wasn’t hungry so long as I kept to my schedule, and followed up juices with herbal tea or a giant swig of water from the cooler.

This time, while it helped fill me up, it didn’t eliminate my feeling of nausea and weakness. I need a steak, I thought to myself. But that was the wuss inside me talking. I insisted with myself that what I really needed was to buck up and drink my damn juice. But I did go home. No midnight grind tonight.

At home, I downed juice #5 and followed that up with some herbal tea to help things move along inside. I’m praying for some internal action.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


Chugging through

Sound track of the day:
In touch with the ground
I'm on the hunt I'm after you

Current Temperature: A little of the same

Day Two of Cleanse.

I made it through the first day.

Today I stepped on the scale and found I had lost 3 pounds. I recognize that it’s all water weight, most of which I gained because it’s my special time of month, so I feel a mixture of pleasure at seeing the number on the scale go down and disappointment at the falseness and guileness of it all. I know that in the end, it will still take work and planning and dedication to stay on the path for good health and long life.

I’m taking steps researching and learning. I watched Food Matters tonight, and have devoted at least 51% of my meals to raw foods.

Today, no more or less hungry than yesterday, I made it through again. With very little say. More on day 3.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Smell Food

Sound track of the day:
Well, I don't mind stealin' bread
From the mouths of decadence -
But I can't feed on the powerless
When my cup's already over-filled....

Current Temperature: Too cold for the second week of Spring

Day One of Cleanse.

As an office slave, we find ways to commune with our fellow employees by engaging in such bonding activities as lunchtime manicures, happy hour, even bowling. Recently a handful of us decided it was time to try a new form of bonding.

A juice cleanse.

Three days, six juices a day, 10 women, 3 bathrooms.

Today I feel…hungry. But at work, things are so busy and my office is always abuzz with visitors and meeting attendees that I hardly have time to think about hunger.

Not until lunch when some cruel, cruel person orders ribs with BBQ sauce. At the smell of the sinful meal it takes all I have to resist searching for the location of the culprit and berate him or her. In doing so I would risk asking for a bite. Instead, I march directly to the other side of the building, straight into Constance’s office and complain. That’s all I can do, until I’ve complained myself off the ledge and go back to work. Other than that, the day without food wasn’t so bad.

Juice #1: Green and not gross. But almost. Imagine eating salad but you’ve just undergone jaw surgery. Romaine, celery, cucumber, apple, spinach, kale, parsley and lemon in liquid form. Makes a great salad, not so much a great juice. But I championed on in the name of good health and clean living.

Juice #2: Pineapple, apple and mint. The only thing missing from this gem of the collection is a double shot of Grey Goose. Delish.

Juice #3: Juice #1 was hard enough but repeating it after the delicious treat in juice #2 is just unfair. So in the name of self deprication, and tested souls the makers of this cleanse did just that.

Juice #4: Spicy lemonade. This drink is reminiscent of what you find in the Master Cleanse. Lemonade with a kick. Also very good, still also very liquid.

By 5 o’clock I’m still lightheaded from the juice, lack of solids, intense burst of vitamins, PMS, or a cocktail of the lot. I’m planning my night. I’ve decided that my remaining juices should be consumed at 7 and 9 pm. That gives me two hours before bed without juice, as directed, if I can make myself sleep by 11.

Do I go to yoga, using it as a way to fill my day so I can keep my mind off of food or lack of it until I can fall mercifully into slumber? Do I go shopping?

As is with any weekday in the life of Lynn, things don’t happen as planned. Work and its disasters kept me at the office well past any yoga class I was going to get into, so I made plans with Mel for a manicure. It’s still something to fill my time before bed, and to keep my mind and hands away from SeamlessWeb. Today I did not let my fingers do the walking.

After yoga, I took a walk home hoping to delay the impeding quiet that would fill my brain with thoughts of sushi, pho or banh mi. Thankfully at this time of night very few locations are delivering. However, on this day I made the mistake of taking MacDougal Street home.

MacDougal Street houses dozens of restaurants. Restaurants filled with happy eaters, named things like Macaroni, Macaroni and Mamoun’s Falafel. It was a minor form of involuntary self-torture. I will not be doing that again.

Juice #5: I quickly open juice #5 upon my arrival at home, utterly aware that I was behind my juice schedule. I naively had hoped I would have been starting juice #6 at 9pm. Drinking juice #5 quickly while catching up on an episode of Fringe kept my mind off the taste of yet another salad juice. It was painless.

Juice #6: The highly rated and raved final drink of the day. Boasted as the best tasting liquid rice pudding. I couldn’t wait sink my straw into it. It did not disappoint. After a full day of deprivation it is quite the reward.

Sleep came quickly but it was light. Nightmares of work and the fear of a middle of the night pee kept me just above the blanket of deep sleep.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Our Arabian Night

Sound track of the day:
Sharif don’t like it
Rockin’ the kasbah

Current Temperature: A desperate relief from the French gris

Culture clash: When people are hospitable here, you really have to consider that this is just how they are। No ulterior motives. Not always.

Our arrival into Marrakech was nothing short of magical. We caught a cab from the airport to the medina at a cost of 20 euros, which in hindsight seems like a rip-off but at the time was reasonable. It wasn’t until we arrived at our destination that we realized the price we paid for a 10 minute ride. However, budgets aside, I have no regrets.

Our driver was a gentl- seeming man, Arab, communicated with us only in French, but did his best to understand and be understood. He let us use his phone to call our host at the Dar Soukaina Riad. After I had reached our host he signaled for me to give him the phone. He would handle this.

Shortly after, ten minutes to be exact, we pulled up to Riad Larrouss square where our host was to meet us and walk us to the guest house. Our driver let us out and opened the trunk to retrieve our bags. The square was dark, indicative of businesses shut for the night and an early retiring old city. The corner where we had parked was dark, and shadows existed only by the grace of the yellow glow from a single street lamp.

It was quiet except for the sound of cars in the distance. This was the end point for vehicular transport. No cars allowed in the medina. A gang of small and gnarled cats crossed us staring with curiosity and then moved on. In the distance from beyond the street lamp a dark figure appeared wearing a black cloak, the only discernable feature the ember from a lit cigarette. The figure entered the circle of light cast by the street lamp. I was initially alarmed, but felt safe in the presence of our driver and was compelled to stare as he approached us. He greeted our driver, shook hands and then turned to me.

Bonjour. Welcome to Marrakech.

Our host was a handsome young man in a crisp gray linen suit with a mandarin style collar and sporting brown leather sandals. He was a beautiful sight to behold. His name was Ibrahim and would be taking us to our home for the next four days.

Through narrow alleys inhabited by a large population of stray kittens and late night loiterers we strolled. Colorful awnings and windowless walls lined the streets. Each home was assigned a single decorative doorway. Some had no doors at all. We gaped in amazement at our surroundings. Finally! Something truly foreign, meeting all my fantasies of this other world. A couple of suspicious characters were writing in chalk along the perimeter of a door, in Arabic, something I couldn’t begin to decipher. Was this Moroccan graffiti?

We were escorted through a low doorway made of carved wood, and lowered ourselves into the hearth of the house. The entire interior of the house was painted white with lavender adornments, shutters, curtains, and vases.

Our room is on the second floor of the riad and fit with its own balcony overlooking the centralized courtyard. The ledge of the balcony is of the same stone material as the rest of the house, with arched lookouts and thinly-veiled with lavender curtains. There is a table and three cushioned chairs. This is where I’m writing now. Clay pots sit on the ledge.

Our room has a double bed where Jen and I will be sleeping, and a twin bed for Jonathan. There are small, thoughtful pieces of art decorating the room like metal lamps, vases and picture frames. Everything is made of stone: the walls, floor, sink and shower.

I couldn’t ask for a better introduction.

On tonight’s menu:
14 (we counted) Moroccan salads: pumpkin, spinach, peppers, sweet onion, cucumber, eggplant, sweet tomato, carrot puree, and so much more
Lamb tajine
Crème Brulee

Moroccan red wine

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pomme Frites are not enough

Sound track of the day:
A golden bird that flies away
A candle’s fickle flame
To think I held you yesterday
Your love was just a game

Current Temperature: Sad, rainy, cold, empty

Culture clash: The people in Brussels are very nice, and much more forgiving and patient about my French।


There are two circumstances under which a non-EU Commission employee should visit Brussels.

1. If you have never visited a European city before and have no expectations and standards by which to judge
2. If you have visited every European city and have nowhere else to go, a free ticket, and love Morrissey

We had our agenda: fries and beer. Other than that we had very little ambitions for Brussels and felt like we should just keep an open mind and wing it. There had been very little literature about traveling to the capital of the EU.

Upon arrival at nearly noon yesterday, after riding a very cool and very smooth high speed train from Paris, Moonkey and I embarked on our first journey together. We looked for an information booth. There were a couple, which is more than you’d find in any terminal in Paris. However, being that it was noon, they were all closed. Working in shifts is a concept either foreign or rejected by the Europeans. Lunch is lunch and no one is going to fuck with it. Especially not some simple tourists on the hunt for fries.

So we went to Relay and I bought a street map, which turned out to be very helpful in the end. Jen had the name of a recommended place for fries so she browsed through some guide books for the address. Based on a metro stop and a street name we headed for Schuman Place. When we emerged from the train station, from which we rode the ghetto-ist and roughest trains I’ve experienced so far in Europe, into a giant (yes, another one) roundabout adorned with brightly colored tulips and many cars speeding through it during lunch hour.

Because I desperately had to pee and was also feeling nauseous and because we were unable to find the Place Jourdain Plein, we headed in an arbitrarily chosen direction toward a large park in hopes of finding a decent restaurant and a bathroom. We ended up at a café called Brasserie Merode near the tip of Parque Cinquantenaire. There we witnessed the consumption of a lot of boeuf tartare. Dude, call me a philistine but I just don’t get it. Yeah yeah, I have no problem with tuna tartare, or ceviche, or any kind of raw fish for that matter, but something about raw cow meat doesn’t suite me and watching is a study in human behavior. Take high quality (I hope) ground beef and mix it with mustard, olive oil, vinegar, and some other herbs and put it in a large mound. Then garnish it with salad and accompany with a side of fries. There you have it. A culinary delight. For me it’s a little bit like “gross me out the door.” To each his own, but I had a hard time not staring at each woofing down his own. Gag.

We headed back through to park in the direction from which we came and continued to observe that there were hardly any people on the street. It was ominously quiet. Add that to the gray skies, threatening rain, cold air seeping into your bones and an overwhelming sense of sadness and you’ve found yourself in a scene from the invasion of the body snatchers. The park was gorgeous but there was hardly any one there to enjoy it. Maybe the Belgians have more sense than the French and don’t like to hang out in the dank grayness. Maybe more Belgians work than French and therefore don’t have time to loiter around parks in the day. Or maybe there aren’t that many people living in Brussels and the city has begun its decline.

We finally found Place jourdain Plein which was just a couple of blocks from Parque Napoleon. After walking around the square and finding nothing resembling the pomme frites establishment we were seeking, we asked a nice woman sitting outside a bar who pointed across the street. Before our eyes was a food stand that, by the looks of it, could only serve fried foods. Maison Antoine.

Jen ordered frites with Bicky Ketchup sauce in tribute partially to Vicki and partially to her mother who has used this name for Vicki for years. I got the fries with tartare maison. Both were delicious and even better when mixed together. The fries were perfectly crispy, fried twice as required, and served in a paper cone. Then downed with a glass of Leffe beer. They were lovely, but very filling. And we needed to walk it off.

We headed alongside Parque Napolean toward a main center and found where all the people were. The Grand Place is a square scattered by cafés alongside grand buildings which looked like they were once of regal employ. I was elated. Finally, now here is the reason to visit Brussels. After about 20 minutes of staring in awe, attempting to capture that awe in photos, window shopping and people watching, that reason had met its end and I was again bored. According to our map, if we walked down a wide alley extending from the center of the square we would reach Manneken Pis, a sculpture of a naked boy taking a piss as part of a fountain. This fountain is found in an unassuming corner just beyond Violet Straat and is always surrounded by people.

I believe this is one of the biggest tourism public relations scams ever done.

The fountain is literally of a boy, very cherubic in design, peeing out of his little wee-wee into a small bowl, propped up on the corner of a building. No joke. This is what the fuss is about? You see this kind of thing in any city abundant in fountains. A boy peeing into a fountain? You could even see the water tube that ran into his back. How fucking original is this? Not.

I felt robbed.

This is when I knew I was done with Brussels. It was over.

We did some quick chocolate shopping at Pierre Marcolini and then sat at a café across the street to kill time until our train out. Three more hours.

We ordered a beer. I had a Hoegaarden. Didn’t feel like doing anything new at this point. I was saddened. Jen ordered a raspberry beer. We sat and talked and marveled at the city’s insignificance, the country’s inability to choose one language by which to conduct its official business, the death and catastrophe cause by this lack of conviction, and the weirdness of our experience.

The train ride back was quick although littered with loud conversations by a Portuguese group of friends, a woman on a phone who had a hard time sitting on the train without talking on the phone, and the woman behind me whose salad eating was so loud it was like sticking your ear up to a horse while feeding him a carrot. No joke. SO I turned on my iPod and tuned out.

I won’t be going to Brussels again. Not even for the fries.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The waiting game

Sound track of the day:
All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go
I'm standin' here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye

Current Temperature: Just perfectly in my range, high seventies

Culture clash: I still attest, as an outsider, that the Portuguese and Spanish languages are very similar languages with similar structures only varying in some pronunciations and minor vocabulary discrepancies.

The light in Portugal is golden and generous. The sky is pure sky blue providing a gentle but solid backdrop for actual white fluffy clouds overlooking a field of homes decorated in bright paints, vivid tiles and colorful clothes hanging on lines outside windows. Even when you don’t have a view of the sea you know it’s there.

But before I got to see any of this I had to wait.

In the morning, we had to get up earlier than I am accustomed to, even as the 9-5er I was just a couple of months ago. Our bags were packed and we simply had to get to the airport aware that our flight could be delayed or, worse, cancelled.

When we arrived in Orly, we entered a small and primitive-seeming airport terminal with low ceilings, lots of gray, and scattered airline counters with little information posted as to which airlines they serve. The first thing we spotted upon entering the regional airport was a long line. From our vantage point the line looked like it extended a good 150 people, or 300 feet, or 100 meters. Fortunately for us, another thing we saw upon entering the airport was the information counter. Now that’s where you put an information counter.

We were relieved to discover, after speaking to the kind bestower of information, that the long line was not ours. However, she told us we did belong to another line – the shorter one to the left overshadowed by those on the right going to Barcelona. Thankful for that little break, we patiently stood in the shorter line populated by several agitated people. After a few minutes we noticed that some people in front of us were leaving the line. At first I assumed they had simply lost their patience, had gone to complain and, as a result, had provided us with a better place in the queue. More for me, I say. But as more and more people left the line we realized something was up. While I held the fort, Melanie set off to find out the scoop, putting her Portuguese speaking skills to serious good use.

It turned out that our line was for people booked on previously cancelled flights, who were stranded due to continued ash expulsion from Iceland and looking for another way out of Paris, and any way back to Portugal. No wonder they seemed so impatient. And who could blame them? Being stranded in Paris with no place to stay, no compensation for lodging, with Portugal as my final destination? Not a chance.

We, however, did not belong in this line. We were members of an exclusive group of people who were scheduled to board planes that day. So we politely moved aside to a bank of empty ticket counters allowing those poor stranded souls some sense of priority in this ongoing saga of delayed flights, bus transports and unpaid hotel rooms. With three hours until our next flight we didn’t feel rushed.

In the meantime, Melanie had managed to engage in conversation with a group of travelers, all Portuguese, who were either on our flight or had been stranded. One woman had been stranded since the day after the eruption, bussed from some city out east to Paris to catch her connecting flight, all on her own dime, and had been in the outskirts of Paris for 5 days waiting for a flight out. I sympathized with her but thought, “couldn’t you have rented a car for less than the cost of the hotels and time waiting?”

The first group, a flock of Brazil and Angola seekers from previous flights, was finally escorted to a bus that was waiting for them outside. Then a group of Lisbonites, including the poor woman mentioned above, were given their pass to leave. Those people would be flying to Porto and given a bus transport from there. Finally they began calling the flights for that day.

The flight to Lisbon scheduled to leave an hour before us was called first. A couple of American girls scheduled to board that plane were originally told they could not board because Lisbon was not their final destination (in other words, they were not Portuguese). Fuck that. Internally, I willed them not to back down. They deserved to get on that flight just as much as anyone. And they did.

That flight took a while to check in. And so, by the time our flight to Porto was called and our fellow passengers pushed toward the ticket counters like hungry penguins for a fish, we were 40 minutes from our departure time. The LED board still listed it as on time, but we knew that was just a mistake. There would be no way for all passengers to be checked in, passed through security and on to their gate in 40 minutes. Not in this mayhem. And so we waited.

We finally checked in and were at the security gate about 30 minutes past our departure time. Needless to say, security was empty, given that there were hardly any flights taking off. We could hardly believe it ourselves, having already resigned to being cancelled and returning to Versailles. We were actually going to take off.

Not so fast though. Before taking off there would be a lot of waiting. Waiting for the flight before us to take off, and that didn’t happen until around noon, two hours after their original scheduled departure. Waiting while two flights scheduled to depart after us had taken off. Waiting and waiting.

But we finally took off. Six hours late, but it was worth it. More to come on that.

One more thing:
There was one person who, despite the stress and chaos permeating the terminal corridors that day, kept his cool, remained kind, and as I observed his demeanor taught me to remain calm as well. He was the one Portuguese counter employee of TAP airlines working at the Orly airport. He, knowing that passengers had already endured so much uncertainty and grief, listened to all of their issues and complains…in full. Even when he didn’t have a solution for them, and even when he was busy, he stopped to listen to each one of them and then tell them all he knew and assure them he would try to find out more. And he did.

Thank you Mister Nice Guy. We do appreciate you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spring time in Paris? Finally?

Sound track of the day:
I remember the letter wrinkled in my hand
"I'll love you always" filled my eyes
I remember a night we walked along the Seine
riding on the Metro

Current Temperature: Spring paid a visit, sorta

Culture clash: I still don’t know when to tip and not to tip. Is there some kind of expectancy by the French service workers of Americans to tip that they don’t have of their fellow countrymen?

Melanie’s time in France has been a whirlwind. On top of her brief visit to Paris she arrived late due to the eruption of the volcano in Iceland and the spreading of its ashes across Northern Europe, which shouldn’t have affected Melanie’s travels but did anyway – in the name of safety.

Her flight from Barcelona to Zurich was delayed by several hours. Throughout the day we were all concerned about the status of the Zurich flight to Paris given that she would be arriving too late to catch it and the news that Zurich airport would be closing as of midnight on the 17th. When she did arrive in Zurich the airport was closed and Swiss Air had to scramble to figure out what to do with their passengers. I think this airline did the best I’d seen any other airline do in this situation: they chartered busses to transfer passengers to their final destinations. Melanie arrived the next morning, after hanging out in Zurich for several hours and nearly not getting on the bus due to a strange lottery system based solely on seat availability. We were glad she finally with us and even gladder that she was safe.

Jen was knee deep in writing cases, submitting case studies, and taking her final seminars for her MBA program.
So it was up to Melanie and I to make the most of the little time she had here in Paris and tour. It was also an excuse for me to finally be a tourist in Paris. The weather has been pleasant, sunny and brisk.

We started out with the Arc de Triomph and strolled from there along the Champs Elysees. The Boulevard was crowded which easily gave me the willies so I picked up my pace from my usual stroll to “get the hell outta here” speed until we were clear of the shopping and dining area. Once we were clear of the mayhem we were able enjoy the tree-lined boulevard and to stop and smell the flowers, literally. There were impromptu gardens at every roundabout or intersection (as we like to call them in the US). We stumbled across a large, very communist looking statue of Charles de Gaulle, and found the royal palace surrounded by museums and other academic or literary buildings. Then finally we rested over dinner at Buisson d’Argent (burning bush) a restaurant I had wanted to try after having read an interesting review of it in one of my many guidebooks. A successful first day.

We spent the next day in Montmartre taking an Amelie walking tour that Jen provided us. It was a nice stroll. Featured sites included a windmill-turned-restaurant on Rue Lepic, Normandy style houses in a long cul-de-sac, lots of wisteria, several playgrounds, a statue of St. Denis holding his own head, Amelie’s grocery store, Place des Abesses, a merry-go-round, Amelie’s café, the Sacre Coeur Cathedral, a view of all Paris. We found a cute boutique a couple of blocks from Amelie’s grocery and bought a couple of things. Melanie got earrings. We also decided to look for the Moulin Rouge even though it wasn’t on the tour or even the original Moulin Rouge. One nice thing we discovered was a vineyard right in the middle of Montmartre. Very cool.

On another day we traveled to Butte aux Cailles in the 13th arondissement. It was listed as a bohemian neighborhood so we thought we’d give it a whirl. My final verdict: eh. There were some cute cafés that had a Williamsburg feel to them and some cool stencil graffiti but I wasn’t too moved. It being our last day, we had to move quickly to the items we still had not yet visited. We took a stroll through the Jardin des Plantes (botanical garden), and get this Brooklyn, it’s free. OK, not as awesome but come on. The one in Madrid is pretty rad and is only 2 Euros. After a sufficient amount of picture taking we proceeded to the Louvre to photograph the promenade surrounding the famous, and overrated, museum. We wanted to check out the Musee d’Orsay but did not have the time, so we hopped back on the metro and headed toward the Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower is among the most stunning man-made structures ever created. I know it’s cliché to marvel at the Parisian landmark that has been splattered across countless postcard racks, photography books, photo albums, and a multitude of other pop culture pieces but it can’t be helped. Dimunitive in size in comparison to other architectural accomplishhments, the Eiffel Tower does not share that same description in terms of its power to move through its beauty. If you are someone who is drawn to the beauty of geometric tapestries and mathematical poetry, you must make an effort to visit in person before your life ends. I don’t have the lyrical talent to put it into words, and can only encourage you to see for yourself how the beams weave through each other like soul mates linking arms, and how curved iron provides logical flourishes along the titan pillars reaching for the sky. Or set your eyes on the glimmer of light from the sun as it winks off the rivets dotting the tower’s surface. And no matter how many people have tried, I don’t think anyone has succeeded in capturing its awesomeness in photography. At least I haven’t seen it done.

Whew! Long day. Time for Portugal.

Things to do before leaving France:
Visit the Chateau Versailles completely (for real, I still haven’t gone inside)
Visit the Musee d’Orsay
Go up the Eiffel Tower
One week left (approximately) so I better get moving