France, Je T’Aime Toujours

Heartbroken. Another word doesn’t suffice. I can’t pretend to comprehend the depths of this tragedy. An attempt to elaborate on the devastation invading the city from my personal vantage point seems callous, unfair, overreaching. I just want to express my sincerest sadness, love and hope for a place woven into the fabric of my dreams for the better part of my life.

For the confidence, hope, solitude, beauty, inspiration and education this country and Paris have provided me; to my friends that will continue to go about their daily lives under the heavy weight of this failure of humanity, this is the only way – insufficient, meager, naive – I have to say, “I’m sorry. I love you.”

For now and forever, I’ve loved and will continue to love France. You know, let’s be real here: historically, not always a popular stance, for a host of reasons. France is a complicated place. There are policies and systems in effect over there that I find objectively wrong and blatantly offensive. Even so, and even more so in this moment, I pray with all of my heart for her ability to heal, soothe her citizens and somehow shepherd forward from this indescribably painful watershed moment.

I’ve spent about a cumulative year living in abroad France, and I have spent more than half my life studying the language and culture with a unwavering, rapt attention. My journals are filled with dreams of studying in France, living in France; how the country manifests as my north star symbol of what it means to be literate and cultured. There was never any other destination for me. Just the home of Moliere, Diderot, croissants, bread at every meal, cheese, the New Wave, the magical accent. It set my imagination on fire many years ago and the flame flickers always.

My infatuation of the idea of France hurtled toward unbounding obsession when I walked into my first French language class. From the childhood days of dance class, from my passing absorption of what I would come to know as classically French imagery in TV and films, I knew I’d wanted to tackle this language that sounded like a song to me. Later I would learn that the sing-songy rhythm I adopted was a bit more of an idealized affect than a representation of the real thing, but the illusion of pitch, tone, elocution and animation swirled together in a way that captured my attention.

French played to my strengths and bolstered my already palpable enthusiasm. I felt wildly, effortlessly enthralled by the never-ending lists of vocabulary to memorize, the new grammatical structures, the glimpses at a culture so similar and yet very different from my own. As an avid reader and writer, I looked at this language as a yet another portal into another world. Just as I paged through the pages of A Wrinkle in Time and marveled at the transformative narrative power of tesseracts, I looked to French as a fenetre ouverte peering onto new, verdant landscapes.

One of the reasons I love to write is that I love language. It’s also why I love to sing, why I took to performing on stage at a young age. That sort of creativity magnifies the very particular beauty of the shape of things, the texture of words on your tongue when you belt out a gaudy show tune, the shape of your vowels when carefully vocalizing an Italian aria, or you when recite a French poem for the first time, legs trembling and fumbling at the phonetics. Wanting to imitate and improve, constantly wanting to sound better and ameliorate the beauty of the words is what it’s all about.

There are few grades I remember as vividly as my first C in French. My error was common and rampant through the assessment. I learned the hard way what I should have learned in my English classes long ago: you can only conjugate one verb in relation to a single object or subject. I forever flailed in my math classes and never once did attempt at getting to the bottom of a mishap in a similar way. I approached my French language learning with an endearing (I like to think) preciousness that endures today. I looked to the daily teachings as a form of gospel and slurped it all up with a spoon. As I’ve moved through high school, college and in the working world, I’ve seen an earnestness emerge that often stands in place for perfection. I might not be most proficient or talented when it comes to my passion, but I am enthusiastic. Noticeably enthusiastic. I bruise like a peach when I feel like I can’t keep up, but I try my best to tread in the tide no matter what.

Mostly, falling in love with French was easy because I didn’t have a reason. It’s easy to dance along with the music inside your head. It’s easy to move with the rhythm of a language that still calms me when I feel chaotic, that led me to a country that provided me with some of the most beautiful moments of my life so far.

I made a vow to myself at 13 that I would become fluent in French. Staring down at the blue and white textbook, adorned with cute fleur de lys, it stirred up a certain determination in me that I’ve come to know well. It surfaced again when I knew I would study abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France. It smacked me upside the head when I knew immediately upon my return from 4 months in sun-soaked Provence that I would return. It charged me forward again when I moved to Grenoble, France.

This determination is a drug. It comes in spurts and charges my batteries, reminds me I have a say and I have a strong will. I lose that in the office. I fear my strong-willed nature at work. I’m a bit indignant by nature and that has hurt me more than propelled me forward in my foray into the corporate world. I love having a job. I love working with others. As in everything, there are drawbacks, and I am a firm believer that living to work scales back the fortitude of my character, for better or for worse.

As everyone I know remembers exactly where they were on September 11th, unfortunately must November 13th exist as a flashbulb memory doused in blood. It is painful for a member of any nation; for a human anywhere, to endure a pain that gripping, immediate. An existential pain that ripples through to the wide reaches of the global community, inspiring reactions of all kinds and of varying levels of taste.

140 character diatribes from scholars and the misinformed, thinkpieces full of wisdom; missives of hatred; tomes of solidarity. Everyone has a say. I don’t know what to say other than, there’s not really anything to say. I pray for my friends. I pray for France. I pray for humanitarianism. I pray that the lights continue to shine in the dark to lead the way and something will happen in my lifetime, or in a lifetime in the near future that corrodes this hate. I will pray. I am not religious, but I believe in hope. I believe in people. I believe in the good that exists.

I am a grandchild of Holocaust survivors. A large number of my father’s family resides in Israel, where terror attacks are not the exception but the rule. In visiting Israel, in making connections with Israelis my age, in learning more about my past and where I come from, the only tools I’ve found useful in trying to process these situations are empathy and education. I am careful to check my privilege. I may kvetch, I may whine (a lot), I may find frustrations. But recognizing the luck and love I’ve experienced in my life thus far…it’s overwhelming. It’s something I try to do every day, but often daily gripes get in the way. But how can I deepen my empathy? What is the path to a better education, a way to help others more than myself?

Empathy and education. Learn from others. Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone enters every day with a different struggle, no matter how large or small.

Within me, France ignites a joie de vivre that will leave me forever endeared to the soil, to the way of life it promotes. At the same time, I’ve seen first hand the grave injustices suffered by minorities in their deeply nationalistic environment. Just as I remember reading poetry with my classmates and feeling lost in a charged moment, a moment unlike I would experience on my home turf; I equally as easily recall a hushed conversation with my Chabad host organizer in Grenoble about the rampant discrimination as a Jew in France. There are so many shades of gray and I have such a small window of experience. But it’s those personal experiences that inform my empathy, and I will continue to show my support for France, show my support for Israel, pray for those in need. It’s the very least I can do.

Monday Music: August Favorites

What a month it’s been! The whole city lights up with wild and happy energy during the dog days of summer, and happy music is in order. I’ve been to a few shows (including a massive one in Grant Park, you know the one), so here are a few picks that I’ve been digging this month.

The Tallest Man on Earth, “The Darkness of the Dream”

He was a sheer delight to behold at the ‘Palooza (ugh, whatever, that’s what I’m calling it. Feel about it as you will). Layered, lovely, catchy country melodies played at lightning speed. Country for those who often find themselves in the category of “liking everything but”.

Sylvan Esso, “Uncatena”

I fell head over heels for this duo after seeing them live. Amelia Meath is a small wonder on stage, dancing it out with silly glee. DJ Nicholas Sanborn is a magnetic presence with limbs seemingly constructed of silly putty. Great grooves, a blissfully cool presentation…there’s a lot to adore with these two. “Uncatena” is a track buried deep in their self-titled release, but it’s sweet unfurling of a would be long-distance love affair makes the heart twinge in precisely the right way.

Skylar Spence, “Can’t You See”

Saint Pepsi is no more. Well, sort of. My DJ crush forcibly switched monikers earlier this year (natch, corporate America) and re-emerged as the ever-suave Prom King, Skylar Spence. This cheeky ode to a little self-adoration is pure delight. Get on board. He’s a fun one.

Throwback: Oasis, “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory”

Say what you will about these British rockers, this 1995 record is rollicking, smart, arena rock complete with perfect soaring choruses, riffs for days, and the classic single that justifies the bravado of the Gallagher brothers, “Wonderwall”. The re-mastered edition has 40 tracks. It’s a tall order, but a thoroughly gratifying one.

That’s what I’ve been loving lately. How about you? Lemme know (comment away).

Monday Music – The Electric Beach/French-Language EDM Remix Magic

It’s been a long time. Yeah, it really has. But, there are forever a million tunes to develop grade school-level intense crushes on, so let’s get to it.

I’ve been on a shameless EDM kick lately. It started with the Electric Beach Event at theWit downtown a few weeks ago, and I’ve been scouring the web for beat-heavy tracks to keep the momentum going. A few happy highlights are below.

I met LoveTaps and had a cool conversation with them at Electric Beach (more to come). Their sound is thoughtful, cool and fast enough to keep an EDM crowd on their toes.

On to the Frenchie stuff. I have a few mixes, old and new, from Yelle and Stromae below. Yelle is a badass French rapper I’m sure I’ve gushed over before. Her songs are wildly funny, aggressively catchy and unabashedly strange, in the very best way. Madeon’s mix of “Que Veux Tu” is sparkly, pretty dance music taken to the hilt. I adore it.

Stromae. Where to begin? This 30 year old Belgian singer/composer/rapper has taken my music-loving heart hostage. I first heard of him in France – his breakout hit, “Alors en Dance” was everywhere when I lived in Grenoble a few ears back. He’s a mega star in Europe and elsewhere, for very good reason. Listening to these re-imaginings of his already innovative tunes is beyond delightful. Get to it!


Monday Music: What I’m Loving Lately Edition

Chicago’s been brighter and sunnier this past week or so, a very welcome reprieve. Sunnier weather calls for a change in song selection, so here’s what I’ve been enjoying of late. Hope you’re enjoying winter! And as always, let me know what you’re listening to.

“Cheap Sunglasses” by RAC ft. Matthew Kona

I’m a huge fan of RAC remixes, especially Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zero’s “Home” and Phoenix’s “Armistice”. This bright, poppy tune is synth pop gem.

“Instant Crush” by Daft Punk ft. Julian Casablancas

I’m not entirely sold on Random Access Memories, I’ve fallen for this track very recently. The fuzzy, auto-tuned vocals mixed with a criminally catchy chorus makes for a perfect “yearning for spring” single.

“By the Throat” by CHVRCHES

Ah, CHVRCHES. This is serious pop with a winning hook (“All that’s golden is never real…”). It’s moody, perfect break-up music, lifted up by some Casio-esque synth piano magic.



New Year, New Monday Music

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written here. Many exciting things occurred in the interim between this post and the last. I’ve drafted a few posts, but nothing seemed quite right. The drama, the drama. I’ve pledged to myself to write more in 2015, and blogging falls squarely in the “writing” category. So, I’ll infuse this little home of mine on the web with love when I can. And it will be wonderful!

To get started, I’m including some links and things of what I’m enjoying lately, and as always, if there are any of you out there, let me know what you’re listening to of late!

Hypem Zeitgeist 2014

I’ve been listening to Hype Machine’s year-end wrap up since 2008. It’s one of the few year end lists that aligns closely to my musical tastes. The concept of the site itself is fantastic – a collection of songs trending on music blogs around the world.

New (to me) Music Blog – The Wild Honey Pie

This Brooklyn-based company/blog is an indie-pop paradise. They’ve got a cache of Daytrotter-esque live sessions, mix tapes and more. Their list of Top 100 songs of 2014 is pretty solid…and streaming on Spotify to boot.

Current Jam: “This Year” by The Mountain Goats

There’s something about that John Darnielle. That’s about all there is to it. That, and “twin high-maintenance machines”.

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The Art of Arrival: Rebecca Solnit on Travel and Friendship


This is majestic.

Originally posted on Longreads Blog:

Rebecca Solnit | Orion | Summer 2014 | 20 minutes (4,780 words)

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[ 1. ]

The word “journey” used to mean a single day’s travels, and the French word for day, jour, is packed neatly inside it, like a single pair of shoes in a very small case. Maybe all journeys should be imagined as a single day, short as a trip to the corner or long as a life in its ninth decade. This way of thinking about it is a;rmed by the t-shirts made for African-American funerals in New Orleans and other places that describe the birth date and death date of the person being commemorated as sunrise and sunset. One…

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New Band Crush: Wannabe Jalva

CMJ Music Marathon is just around the corner. While not in New York to enjoy the jam-packed craziness of new bands and shows, I’m happy to keep up from afar through the magic of social media, press releases and music blog coverage. Sifting through the sea of STUFF constitutes as a hobby in and of itself. Discovering a new great band to listen to is more than a little exciting.


Wannabe Jalva is a Brazilian band set to make their US debut at CMJ. Their sound is straight-up, happy, appealing rock. They remind me of the Arctic Monkeys.  Take a listen.

Going to CMJ Music Marathon shows? Excited about any new bands? Lemme know in the comments.

Reason to Love My City: CHIRP Radio

Over the past couple of years, one booth at the myriad craft shows/street fests of Chicago stood out to me time and time again. Searching for the latest homemade wares or perhaps a glass of sangria, a little red bird would catch my eye. At many a local event I wondered, what is CHIRP radio? And how can I get involved. It turns out…pretty darn easy. What’s better? It’s pretty darn cool as well.

I made my way to the Conrad Sulzer Library this past June for my CHIRP volunteer orientation. I was met by a room of enthusiastic people who run the ship who genuinely cared to learn why each and every prospective volunteer showed up. I have minimal radio experience (what’s up, 93.9 college internship!) but I remember loving the radio community and having boatloads of fun. Boatloads, I say! Anyway, I left feeling more excited about CHIRP radio than I’ve been about an organization in quite some time. It’s entirely run by people who REALLY care about the station, it’s future, music, local Chicago bands and are, from my brief interaction, kind and caring individuals intent on sharing their passion with newbies like me.

So here’s my plug.

If anyone in the blogosphere tumbles upon this fair article, CHIRP is in the midst of it’s 12-day Fall Campaign Drive. Just a few bucks makes a HUGE difference in the day-to-day and big picture of this really deserving organization. Put my name in the “How did you hear about CHIRP” and I’ll love you forever. Questions, comments, want to get involved? Just leave me a note in the comments. Y’all are the best. Donate now!