Wednesday, April 30, 2008

[insert name here]

Two notable things recently:

1. I've been typing enough on a French keyboard that being on an American one screws me up.

2. My sister and I discovered an incredibly cool used book store in Auvers sur Oise.

Once I figure out what it's called (the bookstore, not an inability to type correctly), I'll edit the title of the post. The store is owned by a man from Quebec and spans a previously abandoned/boarded up building on the train tracks and three old train cars. It had an impressive coverage of subjects and vintages. While perusing through the poetry section, I found a book that had an old (unused) postcard saying, roughly translated, while you are reading this words, please suck on a cherry. Perhaps that's some French saying, but it definitely raised my right (and then left, and then both) eyebrow. I got some gems - an old feminist text in French about birth control among others - and we gave the guy who owned it the gears.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Today was a beautiful day in Auvers sur Oise - sunny and warm with a gentle breeze. Speaking of breezes, I'm assuming that that's what was keeping me up last night (the shutters banging against the house) and not, as I suspected in my state of fight-or-flight heightened awareness, some French intruder. After church I came home, opened the floor-to-ceiling windows in my room, and fell asleep watching the leaves move framed between the wooden shutters outdoors. After dinner, I walked around town and took pictures. There are more, of course, but I picked a few of my favorites to post today. What I wished I could have taken a picture of was a wc... what is it with French people and hating public restrooms?

Friday, April 25, 2008


Several days and one horrendous delayed flight after I left my apartment, I stepped foot on mainland European ground. I felt the understandable urge to kiss both the solid earth and my sister - but not necessarily in that order. Aside from thinking I was going to die on the rocky-would-be-an-understatement flight, I was happy to spend time with N & her daughter, perhaps the most gorgeous child to wobble the earth on this side of the pond. Get ready for some extreme baby cuteness. And don't say I didn't warn you.

It should be illegal. Today we went on an adventure to Paris, ostensibly to find some shoes and return some baby food that came with bugs in it. Yikes. And my sister wanted to exchange it - brave woman. In the end, I didn't feel like buying shoes but I did go in this crazy fabric store with my sister - the mannequins are wee little things, and I found one that reminded me a bit of Lucille Ball. I had to engage in operation covert picture taking, so my apologies for the composition.

Maybe not Lucille Ball, but certainly... something. Wow. I can imagine that being in that store in the dark might possibly be one of the most frightening things I could fathom.

One of the things I love about Europe (since we all know that it's just a country anyway) is that the public transportation here is excellent. Sometimes the stops are a little ghetto,

and some of the lines are a little retro,

but some of them are just cool.

Et ca suffit pour moi.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Art is not a crime.

Today I helped (or aided and abetted, as the cops might claim) my friend Ash Mae set up some performance art. I love her ideas - they are centered around community and focus on involving "real," "normal" people and getting them to engage.


This show is called "Grow." It consists of several hundred old catalog cards that rest, cut up, tempting most students to steal stacks of them from the library. Two cards are sewn together with wildflower seeds inside. We taped blank cards to the wall and then stapled these filled cards to them - some even have drawings on them. The instructions are as follows:

I love it. It reminds me a little of the giveaway going on over at Petit Elefant. Anyway - I tore tape for hours as we cracked jokes and interacted 
with the passers-by. People met their neighbors for the first time after
living nearby for 7.5 months. 

They left notes.

Lots of people slowed down, stopped, or raced by. Someone even called the cops, who were nice enough after they had finished accusing us (understandably) of graffitti-ing this building whose wall we were borrowing. My favorite line was when one cop went off to return the phonecall to the concerned citizen that had called us in for supposedly tagging the wall. "Yes... as it turns out, they're just taping seeds to the wall. Yes. wildflower seeds."

We offered to let him take a packet, but he wasn't interested in taking anything but Ash Mae's personal details. Too bad for him.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Secretaries: Office espionage in action

When people ask me about the three jobs I have, they tend to sound a little disappointed to find out that I spend most of my time as a secretary. "Oh," they say, "that's... nice." Actually, it is nice. I am in school and working as a TA and an RA to exercise my mind. Being a secretary
is for making money, meeting people I wouldn't otherwise, and enjoying myself.

The office that I work in is no exception. There are professors with diverse backgrounds and opinions and a wide range of very interesting students that come in. One of my trained-monkey tasks as a secretary is handing back papers from a large, swinging cabinet that locks at night.
This allows me a great number of interactions with students. Many have distinct and inventive form for requesting a paper. Some examples are included below.

  • "Paper. P*** 110. TA: Ashley. Codename: Vladimir Putin." No greeting. No pause for breath.
  • "Uh... (looks around)... I uh ... need to like, pick up a paper? Or something? Where do I... do that?"
One of my favorites was yesterday - a delightful student with an interesting (but very American) lilt to his speech. "Good afternoon! I have been informed that it appears you have one of my papers! I would like to request it back." As if I had accidentally or even perhaps maliciously confiscated it from his professor. Sadly, his paper was not there and I had to console him with the tact of a doctor giving bad news. "I know... I'm sorry. You need it for your final draft, I understand.  I'm afraid... it's DOA. I mean MIA." "That's quite alright, no worries at all. Have a wonderful day!" Would that all students were as cheerful as he.

To most people, secretaries are an invisible part of the landscape. This means that we are party to all sorts of information we oughtn't know. For instance, CB has a full-tuition scholarship to BYU's law school. She said this loudly and directly in front of me to PS, and was shocked when I repeated it to her later. She was maybe a foot away from where I sit. A lot of it is stuff I really shouldn't know, and hence refuse to post on a website. It's interesting. I feel like an anthropologist who's gone native studying the military - I'm involved. i keep my ear to the wire.

Another highlight of the job is finding random artifacts of academic life. At times it's an orphaned paper. At times a cell phone, book, or charger of sorts. Today is was a green folder with slightly faded edges - used, but cared for. I cracked it open and found a business card tucked in some professional-looking slits in the pocket. The name read L*** ******, the college advisor. Realizing after a slow moment (I work at 8am... it takes a while to rev up the ol' braingine) that it didn't belong to her, I started rifling. It feels so natural but obviously voyeuristic to do... but I love it. I think you learn a lot about people by the things they keep around, especially in such a consumeristic society. Most of his things were fairly predictable - transcript, MAP, a list of things one needs for 
whatever government military force he's involved in. But there was one gem. 
A dungeons and dragons scorecard. I felt a little guilty after Elder Wirthlin's 
talk in conference on people feeling welcome and accepted. 

But I loved it. Here was this tough guy in the military who plays dungeons &
dragons in his free time. I love finding quirky things out about people - things 
they love but don't share with others. I tried to share my discovery with my
boss, but she instead said that she used to play (what?! awesome! two in one
morning!) and that it was personal - I shouldn't be looking at it because I
already found his name. She was right, of course.

I wanted to put something in the email about it - we found your folder and, by the way, why did you choose unarmed attack instead of invisibility?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The First

My sister told me once about a coworker she had. Good story, you're thinking. Well, just wait. Apparently, his parents hated him. What I mean by that is that he was one of those unfortunate people who had a ridiculous suffix on the end of his name. Having read of people (in the newspaper) named things like Lemonjello and Orangejello (said orangelo and lemonjelo), I would have thought that people could never run out of things to name children. Not so. As a result, sadly for him, he was never known by any Christian (Buddist, Muslim, Jewish, or other) name in the office. In a Michael Scott-esque maneuver, he remained The Third.

This began a long tradition for my sister and I of adding suffixes (and middle initials) to peoples' names who had none. My friends can attest. Andy became Andrew P. L*****, esq., III. The tradition continues. I'd say to be careful of that, but I give a mean nickname as well. And, to be honest, I think that muffin is far worse than The Third.