When to leave a party

I could not have timed it any better.

At nine o'clock, I lingered in a hallway and did the inventory of my evening, counting off my achievements on my fingers. Got my hair curled. Drank wine. Savoured nibblies. Socialised with many people, most of whom I had never met before. Spoke decent French. Posed for silly pictures ("Why is my mouth open in every shot?"). Laughed at truly funny but nonetheless crude jokes ("grossier" - another French word I love). Teased The Alter Ego for being drunk on lust. Hmm...

"Can I leave now, Palanca? My feet are hurting and my teeth feel hairy after the stinky cheese and I need to wash the kohl out of my eyes (stinging, ow!)..."

I looked around. I leave most parties either lamenting the fact that I'm going too early (and thus missing the real fun), or deploring the fact that I'm leaving too late (and have too many embarrassing stories to relate). But tonight, like Goldilocks, I found the moment that was juuuust right.

The early departers were long gone, called away by babies or traffic or previous engagements. The diehards were just grinding in their heels, eyeing the waiters for a refill. The cheese platter was whittled down to the rinds and a smear of brie. A few collars were now loosened. Some ladies had already lazily slipped off a shoe, balancing on one foot as they massaged the toes of the other against the floor. And some co-workers could even be seen lazily leaning against one another for extra support.

If I had waited another 15 minutes, the crowd would have lost that drowsy charm as everyone headed en masse towards the door. But at that moment, everything and everyone was golden. So I quickly slipped on my coat and made my goodbyes, glad to leave with the memory of all these people sharing a warm space imbued with the glow of laughter and good food. 

And knowing - of course - that should anything embarrassing happen after I was gone, I left enough colleagues behind to witness every succulent moment and replay it all back for me tomorrow.

NB. Good grief! Why didn't anyone tell me about The Constantines? Although I'm very mad at you all for holding out, I will still give you a prezzie: Download the Ricky Gervais podcasts. I laughed so hard on the metro the other morning, I sprayed the almond I was eating all over the train door.


Some French words I love and why

In alphabetical order...

Bijou - because the abundance of vowels and the saucy 'j' feels as indulgent as what the word describes

Cabotin - I just really like the person who taught me what it means

Ensorceller - Onomatopoeic! It's like being hypnotised by sibilants

Farfelu - makes me think of butterflies and cowlicks and other things that flutter in the wind

Ravi - feels like the word is ravishing you, grrr!

Any other candidates?



Thanks to the generosity of My Cosmic Twin, I was invited to attend the grand opening of the Cuba Art exhibit at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts. Generally, seeing an art exhibit is a meditative experience for me. I like to wander from one canvas to the other, letting each piece sink in, letting myself fall into the piece. The sheer number of people tonight, however, made it quite impossible for me to indulge in my usual pleasure.

And some stuff went right over my head... "Lex, is that canoe propped up on beer bottles?"

The photography however was outstanding. Especially those chronicling Havana as the 'all-night city'. Marlon Brando playing the bongos. Smoky-eyes temptresses dripping in ruffles, the ink of their seductive Spanish words seemingly fresh in the bottom right hand corner. Celia Cruz revealing a plunging neckline, and her wide, flat nose so white above her brilliant red mouth. Fleshy thighs, as succulent as melons, lustily shaking to a now-silenced beat.

Made me want to get as fat as an odalisk and learn how to samba.

Remember all those photos you've seen of Che Guevara? Chances are, they were probably taken by Osvaldo Salas. A few of them - especially "Tres hermanos" - left me breathless.

So go see the show. Or Google "fleshy thighs". In the meantime, I will start figuring out how to post photos.

Viva Che!


The economy of language

English is generally considered to be the most economic of Canada's two official languages. The sentence structure is lighter, paragraphs generally 25% shorter. Although the English writing style has plenty of flourish, it only really gets taken out on special occasions - kind of like your mother's best Sunday hat.

And yet, French words are often so much more succinct, encapsulating entire thoughts into one word that English has no equivalent for. For example, la releve. There is no one English word to adequately express that same thought. The OLF translates it as "crew change-off".

Has the world ever seen three more awkward words clustered into a so-called definition?

However, I have found at least two instances of a French translation being unequal to its English translation. And terribly awkward to boot.

meneuse de claque
Too many 'e's. Also, this term immediately makes me think, "bringers of rubber overshoes" or "bringers of the STD". As much as you may dislike 'cheerleader' as a notion, at least the English word embodies the perky ponytails and spangly shoelaces of the pom-pom set.

diseuse de bonne aventure
Too many bloody vowels. Yes, the bonne aventure part elicits a far more optimistic feeling than "fortune", but it has none of the mystic, exotic and dark aromas of "fortune". Fortuneteller arouses images of scarves and bejewelled fingers and dark shadows swimming in a crystal ball. Diseuse de bonne aventure makes me think of a really gossipy aunt with an overactive imagination and a propensity to lie.

If I come across any other ones, I'll let you know. Any nominations?


Alas, Canadian television

I have to give them some credit. Suffering from an inexplicable dearth of ideas (inexplicable to me because I know many talented writers and screenwriters who are withering away in anonymity), the CBC has lately turned to French Québec television for inspiration.

Last summer, they introduced Rumours, an English adaptation of the wildly popular Quebec television series, Rumeurs. The original series is remarkable for its sharply-written and crisply-paced humour - quips are delivered with the speed and efficiency of a machine gun. Look into your bowl of jello for a moment and chances are, you've missed three zingers. A little like the Maddie Hayes-Dave Addison repartee we so thoroughly relished on Moonlighting.

Problem is, if you've seen the original series, watching the English remake is a little disappointing. The pace is slower and it's got no teeth - kind of like Little Mosque on the Prairie. That is, there is so much potential for true hilarity, but the writers/producers have chosen to go the *safe* route so as not to bear the brunt of their more conservative viewership.

So this January, the CBC introduced Sophie, the English adaptation of Les hauts et les bas de Sophie Paquin.

I saw an episode of Sophie this week and developed some issues early on that I am not sure I can overcome. Namely:
  • The father of Sophie's baby turns out to be a black man. However, it doesn't look like they used a black baby. It looks like a white baby with a thick - and uneven - layer of brown icing.
  • Sara Botsford has the most unbelievable English accent in the history of acting.
  • Natalie Brown (remember her from that Bailey's commercial?) is not a natural ham. This role requires a truly comedic actress with the ability to pull off physical, as well as verbal humour. NB can catch a drop of Bailey's on her tongue, sure, but she won't be giving Carol Burnett or Mary Tyler Moore a run for their money any time soon.
  • Can the blond bombshell friend be any more two-dimensional and vapid? She could easily be replaced by a paper cut-out. No substance or unique personality to her whatsoever.
  • Stereotypical gay male best friend getting his back waxed and trying to get laid by a 19-yr old. Yawwwn. See objections listed for blond bombshell character.
I haven't seen the French original yet, but I'll report back when I do. In the meantime, if you have any redeeming arguments, please do share them.


Weird things you do... or don't know that you do

I was on the metro today and I was openly staring at the woman sitting right across from me. You would have too in my place. And not because she was wearing the most hideous pair of yellow, red and orange striped corduroy pants.

As soon as she sat down in the train, she began methodically running her hand over individual strands of hair. She would stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke one handful of curls, and then move on the next handful. Stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke. Next, etc. Her eyes darting around every time she changed strands, perhaps worried that she wouldn't be able to finish the required number of strokes before the metro left the station.

When the train did start moving, she turned her attention to the palm of her hand and began picking at a patch of dry skin. Pick, pick, pick, pull, eat. Her sharp white teeth deftly shredding the skin before she swallowed.

Between Berri-UQAM and Saint-Laurent metro stations, she managed to pull off and eat four small strips of skin.

It wasn't her behaviour that disturbed me so much as the thought of my behaviour.

Think about it. Isn't there something that you do that could be construed as weird? Or make you look loco in la cabeza? Not two minutes before she and I crossed paths on the metro, I had been standing on the Berri-UQAM platform repeating the Sanskrit mantra I am trying to learn (two lines down pat already, btw). I certainly wasn't chanting out loud, but I'm sure the women waiting on the opposite platform may have wondered why my lips were moving when there was obviously no music playing and I wasn't wearing earphones.

Wouldn't it be cool if you could follow yourself around for a day and get a sense of just how whimsical you are? What do you think you'd get stared at for? 

NB. The next time you throw yourself a pity party because your girlfriend made you watch a stupid smoochy chick flick or you broke the heel on your favourite pair of stilettos, remember the trapped paramedic who survived 4 days on dirt and rotting beaver.

Were you ever pinned under an ATV and forced to bundle a beaver carcass by your groin to help keep your body warm? No? Then you're fine. Really.


Overheard in an elevator

It was 5pm on Friday. Two colleagues and I were in the elevator when it stopped on the third floor to pick up some Polished Pretties*.

PP1 reaches into her purse of brushed orange and black fur and extracts an impossibly small silver phone. Her pearly pink mouth pouts as she stares inconsolable at the phone, obviously wondering why it isn't ringing. Or telling her how very pretty she is, at the very least.

PP1: "I was supposed to go to Buddha Bar tonight but I'm just not feeling it, you know."

PP2 (staring at her equally tiny pink phone, equally heartbroken): Yeah, I totally know."

Silence. Much staring at cell phones. The elevator reaches the ground floor.

PP1: Don't forget - we still have to go check out that gym.

PP2: Yeah. Maybe Monday.

The doors slide open.

PP1: Cool.

PP2: Cool.

So why did I label this "why the world is coming to an end"? It frustrates me that so many of today's women are nothing but walking clouds of perfume unable to do little more than stare blankly at their cell phones while they ignore the friends standing in front of them.

Am I the only one who would rather interact with real people than punch buttons on a shiny piece of plastic?

I get the irony - complaining about how cold human relationships have become in a blog - but this is just a small slice of my day. If someone is standing right in front of me, I want to talk, to laugh with that person.

I know. I'm just a dinosaur.

*What I call the overly-coiffed, sticky make-upped dolls that work on the third floor. Apparently, cuteness counts when they hire on the third floor.


Let me be your musical ambassador...

Okay anglos, stop listening to Nickelback already. They've pulled the wool over your eyes - they've been recording the same song over and over again, and it wasn't such a great tune to begin with. Choose liberty over suffering! Listen to something with substance.

I've had a few people ask me recently about francophone music. As you know, I consider it a great tragedy that the anglos rarely - if ever - pay attention to what their French siblings are creating, whether it be music, theatre or television series. You may think it's cool that you recognise the Malajube track from the Zellers commercial, but trust me people, there is more out there than Jean Leloup.

Although I cannot claim to be well-versed in all things artistic and francophone, as my gift to you this week, I offer you two franco musical suggestions. If you want to add your own suggestions, please do leave a comment.

Also, when listening to francophone music, pay attention to the lyrics (or paroles). The wordplay is extremely well-crafted, and chances are you're missing all the good stuff if you listening in that half-distracted way you sometimes listen to music.

Tricot Machine, self-titled album
May not be the most complex music you'll ever hear, but the tracks are so resplendent with the personalities of the duo (Catherine Leduc and Matthieu Beaumont, a real-life couple) that they are immediately likeable. Genuine lyrics sprinkled with hijacked English words. A piano that trips merrily along. Music that feels good when it's snowing outside and you want to bliss out.

The lyrics are sometimes so achingly tender - so suffused with the pregnant silences that define and electrify a loving relationship - that if you're suffering from a peine d'amour, you have to immediately turn away from the intensity and listen to something loud and precocious by the White Stripes instead. If you're crazy in love, then listen to your wee heart's content. Pure ear candy.

Les Breastfeeders, Dejeuner sur l'herbe
A garage rock band with a dash of 60s frolic. Don't be alarmed if suddenly you're gripped by the urge to pin your hair into a beehive, put on some vintage Pucci and do the Hitch-Hike. The lyrics are a little rough-and-tumble, and it may all sound like a blur to you, but the energy of the music and bouncy almost-punk feeling it exudes will keep you listening.

And any band that can make an ostrogoth sound pop-funky gets my vote.

Excellent choice if your afternoon is stretching interminably before you and an impromptu dance party seems the only suitable remedy for the situation. Also, check out their video for "Viens avec moi". Something vaguely Monkees about it...


Cryptic enough for you?

There is no one person in this world that you can't live without.
However, it is also true that you can't live without anybody.


A Finnish dip

So I was talked into going to the Spa Le Finlandais last night. My resistances were as follows:
  • The group was mostly composed of hard bodies and skinny girls.
  • It involves cold.
  • It's in Laval.
The experience was mostly positive, but I spent a lot of time smirking and musing (all the hot steam in the world could not wash me of my sarcasm, what did you expect?) I made four observations worth noting.

Hanging out at the Spa - on a Friday night at least -  is no different than hanging out at Bar Fuzzy (I would have said Thursdays, but we were in Laval after all). It's obviously more damp, but the people are hardly any more dressed and by closing time, every tongue in the place is probing someone else's throat. Except the obese teenage boy with the curious stares and the man-boobs, but I'm thinking he had a pretty sound sleep last night anyway.

On a side note, the staff were instructed to walk around the hot baths and ask people to respect the silence. Luckily, most people were too busy sucking face to cause any disruptions.

There are a lot of really ugly tattoos in the world. And most of them are located in the small of a woman's back, around a man's upper arm, or behind a woman's shoulder. Horrors spotted last night: an iguana, three dragons, two barbed wire motifs, and one 'PEACE' in a gothic script. Yikes. One of the dragon girls was even wearing a gold chain around her waist. Classy!

While in the steam bath (wow, did I love the steam bath), I was staring at my thigh and actually saw a bubble of steam percolate twice from one of my pores. My own tiny volcano.

While in the steam bath - and shortly after a very large woman (who obviously does not understand the concept of letting your eyes adjust to the steam before sitting) nearly sat on me - I managed to meditate for the first time in weeks. My mind was actually able to stop racing for the first time in ages. Whoo-hoo me!

Don't wear contact lenses at a scandinavian spa. Your eyes dry up and the lenses *pop* off your eyeballs and then you can't blink and have to be driven home. Good times.

And for the record, I walked under the cold waterfalls twice. It was very cold, but my skin feels fabbo.


My name is a noun, a noun, and a noun.

Have you ever tried Googling your last name? This is what I found:

1) The Palanca is the Philippines' most prestigious literary award and is dubbed the "Pulitzer Prize" of the Philippines. Most important or major Philippine authors have won one or more Palancas.

Meta side note: I write. How cool would it be for Adriana Palanca to win a Palanca?

2) In Spanish, a 'palanca' is a lever, as in, a rigid bar resting on a pivot, used to help move a heavy load with one end when pressure is applied to the other, or a means of exerting pressure on someone to act in a particular way. From the Old French levier, leveor, from lever ‘to lift.’

Ironic side note: "I don't have a saviour complex, what are you talking about? I mean, would you like to talk about it? Can I give you a hug? A slice of cake?"

3) In the Cursillo Movement, a 'palanca' is a prayer or sacrifice done individually or in a community with the aim of obtaining spiritual grace. In the same way that a lever helps you lift something, the palancas help others overcome obstacles to grace.

Sarcastic side note: Everyone who has been lifted to spiritual grace because of me, raise your hand. [pause] No, getting your drunken carcass up three flights of stairs doesn't count. [pause] Yep, I didn't think so. Next. Suivant.

Palanca is also a commune in Romania, but there's no flash in that.


I dream of Tina

I love that I look like Tina Fey.

I never get tired of hearing it. It's high flattery in my world. Who wouldn't want to be compared to one of the funniest, most talented women on television? My dream is to be discovered and have TF ask me to be on an episode of 30 Rock written as a comedic spin-off of "Single White Female". Maybe I would take her Princess Leia action figure hostage. I wonder if they would make me a veggie dog on set? Would I be able to make out with Jason Sudeikis?

So when I watched season one on DVD, I was shocked/thrilled to discover that not only did Liz Lemon and I dress in ways similar - and sport similar glasses - but we also spoke in words similar.

Things that TF 's character have said that could have come out of my mouth OR
things said to TF's character that could have been said about me:
  • "I hate the word 'lovers'. Unless it's between the words 'meat' and 'pizza'."
  • Cerie "'Cause sometimes you have, like, food stains on your shirt and stuff. I just assumed that it was kids."
  • "I'm gonna go talk to some food about this."
  • Gray "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! Look, I meant what I said earlier. You are a Hair, Liz Lemon. It's in our blood. Accept it. Embrace it."
  • "Ah, well, it must be true if it's on the "Interweb."
I rest my case.


The association game

Indulge me my moment of nostalgia tonight.

You know how it is. There are some moments - some people - that you will forever associate with one song.

Cannonball by Damien Rice will always be JSH, whose presence is felt in my hips still, whom I will miss every day of my life.
Skinny boy by Amy Millan will always be AL, the perpetually sleepy, porcelain-skinned all-night DJ.
Mr Tough by Yo La Tengo will always be DN, captured in my memory as sounds and words and an infectious laugh.
It's a crime I never told you about the diamonds in your eyes by Black Heart Procession will always be SM, who offered my weary head the most sublime bed of stars to lie upon.

I don't mind saying these things so publicly. I know that most of you won't remember the details of my memories laid so bare on your computer screen. I fully expect that three or four words in, you'll start to have your own moment of nostalgia and forget to read the rest.

That is the gift I want to give to you all tonight. The pleasure felt in remembering old loves, old songs. If you do indulge yourselves - let me know. Leave a comment with a song title - some initials maybe.

It won't hurt, I promise.



Anyone else notice that the word denoting an unmarried maiden is also a verb?

For example, Miss Adriana Palanca

It's more a directive than a statement. Are you people missing me out there? Don't make me come over there and whup you!

It's not as much fun with "Mister". There is the element of 'someone who mists'.

For example, Mister Clive Owen

But most people aren't going to assume that Clive's occupation is to keep vegetables in the grocery store dewy.

There's the whole rhyme with "Mister" and "missed her", but it doesn't work so well when you say it before a name.

Although I would like to think that Clive Owen misses me terribly and all the time.


Book club. Stop laughing at me.

The first rule of Book Club is you never talk about Book Club...
Okay, so I belong to a book club. Let's get a few things out of the way...

First, book clubs are not for aged aunts, soccer moms and eccentric spinsters with more cats than sense.

Second, as much as you'd like to get on Oprah for starting a book club to make herself look more evolved than the fluffy-haired Oprah of yesteryear best remembered for wheeling out a wagon full of fat, remember that (a) she did get the unwashed masses to start reading again, and (b) she singlehandedly lifted the publishing industry out of obscurity.

Our book club is comprised of four bright, educated women and one equally bright and educated male (and no, he's not gay). I like book club because it allows me to feel as if my education has not gone to waste. My fellows members have politely endured my mini-lecture on the typical mindset of the post-colonial (anti)hero, and they've been warned to beat me mercilessly should I introduce postmodernism into the discussion.

So the whole point of this ramble is that this month we are reading *The Swallows of Kabul* by Yasmina Khadra. And I came across a line so stunning, I just wanted to share it with you.

"He's worried about his irresistible impulse to spoil with two words what he's spent a hundred begging for."

Wow - haven't you dated that guy, ladies?


The editorial depth of Maxim Magazine

While researching subjects for a newsletter targeting business travellers, I clicked over to Maxim Magazine's website to see what pressing issues today's professional males were grappling with.

Other than an obvious desire to press themselves against the bodies of the dewy young misses draped over improbable backgrounds, it seems as if today's professional male is frantic to know more about these following hot-button topics:
  • Why don't heroes give their sidekicks some spotlight?
  • 16 people who look like they absolutely reek
  • Pregnancy just makes these nine ladies hotter
And my personal favourite:
  • Why do so many movie aliens look like genitals?
I do not wish to deprive men of their tools for unwinding. Do not think so poorly of me. We are all entitled to our guilty pleasures. Let me stand at the magazine rack reading about Beyonce's new hair colour sans ironie, and I will leave you to your sexpots, gadgets and nerdgasms (their word, not mine).

And honestly, I liked the article about the stinky people - they even described exactly what each personality smelled like with a great deal of accuracy.

But for the love of Buddha, couldn't they throw in just one semi-serious article about goaltending or cufflinks? Even US magazine throws in a recipe or two - Debra Messing's to-die-for lime margaritas! - to make it seem less frivolous. Are we even trying, people? And while I'm at it, why don't men dress anymore?


The demise of "pervert"

Is anyone else relieved that the dark lords of political correctness have yet to pounce upon the word "pervert"? I heard it used on the radio not too long ago during a newscast and I instinctively flinched in sympathy - thinking that the newscaster was probably going to get the tonguelashing of his life for using such a word.

But no.

He continued to use "pervert" in every newscast thereafter. "Is the news director on vacation," I asked out loud to my toothbrush. Surely, the use of the word "pervert" surely was degrading and demoralizing to the thousands of sexual predators prowling school yards every day in search of their salvation.

I am eager to see what the talking heads will come up with as an argument for getting rid of "pervert". I am equally interested to see what they'll propose as alternatives. Any guesses?