Monday, April 30, 2012

je voudrais un verre de vin.

There's a lot going on with me right now.  Actually, there's only one thing going on, which is I'm getting ready to leave for France on May 17 for a 5 week residency.  Plus, 5 days in Paris. There are many tangential activities associated with my trip that makes it count as four or five things.  Today, I'm going to make a list of all the things I need to do before I leave. Lists soothe me. If I were a cat and you wanted to soothe me, you should pet me. If you want to soothe my human being self, hand me a clean sheet of paper and a nice pen, so I can make a list.

One of the things I am trying to accomplish before I leave is getting back all the French I learned in high school, which has since been displaced by Spanish.  I've been doing the Pimsleur program and now, there's just a big bowl of all kinds of words in different languages sloshing around my brainpan, though I do know how to fluently order wine and beer.

As a teenager, I was fascinated with France. I took French through most of high school and tried to convince my mother that we probably were of French extraction, somewhere in our background, though we are clearly anglo-saxon in every way.  I felt a natural affinity for the French culture, even though I understood only the most superficial things about it, like the French really love cheese, dress better than Americans, are snooty and disdainful, make weird movies with no endings, and take long lunches.

Now that I'm finally going there I've been doing an immersion in French cultural studies and beginning to slightly understand what makes the French tick.  For reasons due to my own extreme ignorance, I always assumed the French were like us, just more a more sophisticated, better-dressed, disdainful cheese-eating version.  But their culture is not Anglo-Saxon, it has a completely different underpinning, and once I understood that, it was like someone handed me a tiny key.  Oooooohhh, they are actually not like us, and the way  go about in my own culture does not translate the same way in theirs.  

For example, my assumption that maximum efficiency is valuable in and of itself, and is naturally the goal of any transaction or undertaking.  That's a cultural value, not something that is just a natural goal of every human being, though it feels like it should be.  The French are not naturally interested in efficiency as a goal, they are interested in other things, which I will report back about once I have done some observation.  And it will have to be observation, because I've learned that the French are much more private and reticent with strangers than Americans.  Even asking someone's name can be an affront, so it's not likely that I will be able to interrogate anybody about how they move about in their culture, which is my anglo-saxon way of getting information.

Meanwhile, I've been working away in the studio, repairing my relationship with Cake Stand. Yes, we are back together, and it's better than ever.  Cake Stand has really changed, and I just want to be with Cake Stand all the time. I think the only thing I've made for about a month now is cake stands, it's the only thing I'm interested in at the moment. So if you want to order something before I leave, make sure it's a cake stand so I can get rid of these things!