The British Greek French Dispatch.
“As I walked up the stairs to my Parisian apartement, I thought to myself, is this the moment where everything changes?” Me, as Carrie Bradshaw circa 2002.
There have been a few times in my life, three, where I’ve had to check myself in a “is this really happening” sort of way.
The first was, cruising down Fountain in my 300D after having just published my first piece in Bon Appetit. I was now being paid to write for a publication I actually read. The second was after spending years hiding out in the back, being able to ride front row in spin class. I was able to physically do it, but more importantly also afford it. And the most recent was, jogging down the Champs-Élysées, brainstorming film ideas, like I’d done on every other trip to Paris, but this time to cohesively tell them to my agent. They maybe weren’t such a far off fantasy anymore.
It’s not imposter syndrome. I don’t think I’m some Holmesian fraud, but it’s being blindsided by the success I’ve worked hard to achieve. Maybe it’s here? I didn’t realize how destabilizing it would feel, but I’m not here to dwell. Talent is nice and all, but I believe in hard work, unrelentingly so. If Gary Beechey instilled one thing in me, it’s that. But maybe one day, just maybe, in the distant future, you might see a film by me in some art house cinema somewhere.
Oh I’m currently in Paris. So I’m behind on my New York culture beat. This one’s mostly about travel and food. Hope you like it, but I’ll be back at Angelika soon.
Traveling makes me neglect pretty much all my cultural pursuits aside from TV and galleries. I’m also not going to be spending sunny foreign hours trapped inside a French cinema playing Le Batman. If it’s some Varda, Godard, Marker retrospective sure, but it seems that’s happening at home and not here.
Anyone not seen great TV in a long time? Is the Golden Age of TV waining and becoming the bloated age? Why is everything 8-10 parts when it could be 3? If you know, let me know because I’m bored.
The Dropout was watchable, until it lagged on and on. It’s fun watching that Kanye sized megalomaniac woman fall. The casting is spot on, Alan Ruck, William H. Macy, Michaela Watkins and even Laurie Metcalf! Amanda Seyfried is a convincing Holmes, down to the messy hair and requisite black turtlenecks. In other watchable-ish things, Winning Time is a perfectly production designed showcase of Adam McKay’s obsession with basketball. Too much sports chat though. I don’t care about the intricacies of owning a team. I want more splash, more Playboy mansion parties and Gabby Hoffman.
I’ll always have a soft spot for Better Things. This season is better than the last two, special love to episodes 3 & 4. As a woman who was raised by an actor mom and has a sister, it has specific appeal. I was very much a little teenage jerk, like Frankie, with the never-ending questions and challenges. Maisel, I always forget that I’ve seen every episode. I never watched Gilmore Girls and am far from an Amy Sherman Palladino superfan, but as annoying as it is, I can’t stop watching. The Palladino’s are masterful with dialog and pacing.
And Atlanta, I’ll wait a few more, but meh. Nothing will ever be it’s first season. It’s okay, but as other Kyle mentioned its weirdness is getting a bit schtick-y. I do think Hiro Murai is the best director of anything serialized.
Whenever I am not into something that everyone is into, I question, but yup, Copenhagen Trilogy, it’s in my “Academy of the Overrated”. It’s just too monotonous. I had to quit it, 200 pages in. Even with the intergenerational mental illness and Scandi setting and that’s saying a lot for anyone who knows me well.
I picked up Farrante’s The Lost Daughter at McNally on my way out of town. I loved Gyllenhaal’s adaptation and as someone who has been working on an adaptation for 6 years, I’m always curious. I’m also in preproduction on a short that asks a lot of questions around motherhood. Loving every page, wish it was longer. It’s frank, it’s dark and complicated. The only other work where I’ve seen it considered as deeply was in Heti’s Motherhood, but you know I love that. Can you tell I’m thinking very hard about the choice to become one? Will I have real babies or just movie babies?
I happened upon a very cool group show in Athens at Radio Athenes. Some Tauba Auerbach, a German artist Peter Roehr (reminded me of a fave Bruce Conner) and a mix of contemporary and modern Greek art. It was video, sculpture and painting. It all came together, in a way it normally doesn’t at home. And in Paris, lots of decent shows but the favorite was, Paul Sietsema at Marian Goodman. How did I not know this LA guy? I loved how unabashedly American it was in such a French setting. The bookshop down the street is a new favorite. I picked up a few Penguin Moderns to stash in a pocket to read over lunch.
Kyle and I landed in London over a month ago. It had been two years and it felt good to be somewhere across the Atlantic. It was my fifth time there and its always had a familiar comfort to it. It’s like America Canada, but grayer and more with austerity. It can feel like I’m walking around New York with less skyscrapers, but then everyone is a bit more prudish and polite, like Toronto.
I’m always there to see friends who now have babies, houses and very British lives. I never would’ve imagined standing beside Marlee as a chubby bucket hat wearing 10-year old at Camp Kitchikewana that I now be visiting her at her very British house, with a very British husband and a British baby on the way. Or that I’d be holding Tara’s precious Lola, when as 19 year-olds we crowded around my tiny glass dining table at some of my first dinner parties.
If anyone still thinks that British food is bad, you’re wrong. There’s a reverence for ingredients and a seasonality reminiscent of California. Less spice, avocado and no Mexican or Asian influence. The Brits understand the place of perfectly steamed in Asparagus and good quality olive oil. It’s sophisticated, but unpretentious and I like it.
It was mostly old favorites, like P. Franco, Leila’s Shop and Rochelle Canteen, but we tried some new stuff too. Cafe Cecilia is all it’s cracked up to be and Toklas, buried in some weird corner by Covent Garden, is making some very, very good food. E5 is one of the best bakeries on the continent and somehow I had never been. The bread, the pastry and the little vegan babkas!
Next stop, Athens. A city I’d wanted to go to since I was a teen, not sure why. I wasn’t a 16-year-old who was into Classics or anything. Weather wise, it was maybe the worst week that Athens has ever seen. It snowed, but it didn’t stop us. We walked, walked and walked. Did the Acropolis and I’m normally one to shun anything touristy, but this one is good. You don’t just look at a thing and take a photo, you walk amongst it and because it was a weekday in winter, we had the space too.
The city is a mix of architectural styles, giving it this ugly beauty. It reminded me of a Mexico City or Berlin, a similar youthful energy creeping out of the grit. The country has gone through it economically and that can be felt, but no one seems to be dwelling. Athenians are a friendly, welcoming people. Its graffiti and abandoned buildings are balanced by the romance of orange tree lined streets and views of mountains in the distance. Nature and rugged parks are integrated into the city. We did an urban hike, a Runyon of sorts, one afternoon.
We ate well thanks to our internet cunning and tips from Mina Stone. Wherever we went there was the largest plate of Horta to accompany whatever else was on the table. Never have I ever eaten so well and never have I ever had to do less research. Greek food, is vegan friendly food. It’s fresh, it’s veg heavy and it come in ample, loving portions.
Favorite meals, Seychelles, it’s classics, but modernized and with a Turkish flare. Barbounaki, the best greens in the city. I was weary of the over designed Linou Soumpasis k sia, but the food was good. We over ordered, comically so. Did Kyle need the dessert of a large plate of langoustine pasta to end our three course lunch that the server recommended? Nope, certainly not.
And then there’s Paris. A home away from home. Every time I come back it gets a little more local and I now have a few friends here.
It’s my preferred city to be alone in. I love observing. The pace and way of life are familiar, similar to New York. The walking, the daily grocery shopping and small apartments, all feel like home. I can speak enough to get by. My French, reading, writing and comprehension are, much better than my “Oral and Visual Communication” or whatever it was called on our middle school report cards.
Coming for 2-6 weeks allows for life to happen and to not feel overburdened by “must-dos”. There were multiple Marais gallery walks, wine bar visits, the Louvre, Jeu de Palme and three visits to City Pharma. It’s my favorite Parisian activity. I love getting lost, among all the foreign beauty products, supplements and female hair loss remedies. Seeing the culture clash between the Korean tourists with lists of “must buys” and ornery older French women with no time for them.
No surprise, I hate the food here. I’ll elaborate below. Yup, vegan me hates French food. I did have good meals at Miznon and Double Dragon, but after eating too many plates of incorrectly cooked, seasoned and sauced veg, I quit. I’d rather just hit the local Biocoop. It’s blood oranges and leafy greens are almost as good as the Santa Monica Farmers market, not really, but like pretty good for a grocery store.
Drinking wine here though is paradise. It’s all good and 5, 6, 7 euros a glass. Wine bars turn into block parties with babies, dogs and spill out onto the streets. It’s this joyous mayhem that silly rules wouldn’t allow for at home. Aux Deux Amis is my favorite, but had a very fun Saturday afternoon with the almost 100% American crowd at Septime La Cave. Sometimes a spot gets blown up because good is good.
I’m leaning into being a Canadian American this time. Fuck trying to fit in. I’m wearing my crazy colorful gear that includes both sweatpants and leggings outside the house. I’m never blow drying my hair so live with it. Les chics femmes francaises stare, whatever, I don’t need your validation. Deal with my eclecticism!
I measured my success with the French language by being able to joke with old men and make chat in the grocery store line. Success! I do always know when it’s time to go home. The French assholery wears me down. My cheery North Americanness is dying to break through and I’m sick of scrutinizing labels looking for weird hidden dairy and meat. So much cream in everything! The only cream in Thai curry is coconut, okay?
I didn’t feel too much like cooking until Paris and it was intermittent at best. I’ve been working a lot, like a lot a lot, so the thought of having any shred of inspiration left for anything, but writing was limited. I did have a little dinner party in Paris. Felt very cosmopolitan about it. Just doing my best pretending to be Truman Capote.
We went New American-ish to cater to an expat’s longing for some good American vegetables. FYI they don’t excel at them here. It’s pretty much une p’tit salade verte and over steamed, wilty, buttered green beans. Paris has a rep as a great food city and I’m going down on record saying “non”. There’s no love at all, it’s all ego. The diner is always wrong and don’t ask for anything because hospitality isn’t a concept the French care for, in my experience. The food in London is pleasantly sophisticatedly simple, in Greece it’s made with so much warmth and in France it’s either just bad, sorry classic Brasseries and Bistros with your adherence to “tradition” and low qual ingredients, or it’s overly cerebral and tweezery. Vibe though is on point. Like I will eat the shitty boring over dressed salad to sit a room with the world’s best maître d' and all those mirrors, but only so many times.
For dinner we did a whole roasted Romanesco, Miznon style, with bulgur, hummus and roasted tomatoes. Smokey brussels with crispy shiitakes, sweet potatoes with “creme” fraiche and a big chicory caesar. We don’t skimp on the portions chez Les Kyles okay? We kill you with food because that’s love. Oh and I made a dope ass mousse with aquafaba. That’ll be in dinner party rotation.
Never has a garment served me so well and never have I received so many compliments. All the love in the world to Sandy. I can’t wait to see what summer looks like in the shop. Oh and I’m mildly obsessed with the too fancy for the gym gym socks too. I might need another fleece, a little more low key than the cheetah.
I am in France after all so Le Touch is on repeat. I’m not normally one for electronic music, but I can get down with the masters. I will forever have a special place in my heart for Falke and Alan Braxe and just about every tune on this playlist.
That’s it for now. Back to New York to make a short with my mom in a few weeks. We’re playing mother and daughter. I’m directing and I wrote it. The learning curve is steep, but it feels right. And I’m starting to write a new feature, this time with feedback from a guy in Century City office, not just someone doing me a “favor”. Wish me luck, I think 8 years of training camp is long enough.