The fat little man ambushed us, limbs and appendages flailing as he stumbled toward us, his breathing labored from the effort, or perhaps nerves. In his hand was a 10-franc note, the pretty one with the cartoon drawing of the Little Prince on it. He waved it in our faces. “Regardez! Regardez comme il est beau,” he huffed, gesturing at his shriveled penis. His clothing lay in the bushes a few yards away. We saw the thing unrolling in slow motion—his progress out of the brush and onto the path in a wooded area of the Bois de Boulogne where we had taken a shortcut on a perfect summer afternoon; his brandishing of the bill in our faces; his chubby hand reaching out to grab my small, still-developing breast. We walked at a clip, our pace having increased as soon as we’d seen him out of the corner of our eyes, but it didn’t occur to us to run; in his nakedness, he somehow seemed less of a threat.
As we left the woods and re-entered the open expanse of the park, we giggled nervously and incredulously over what had just happened. We thought of the clever, biting things we would have said or done, if only we’d been quicker-witted: stealing his clothes; telling him “C’est beaucoup trop petit pour moi.” We didn’t feel scared or upset particularly, even though something far worse could have taken place. We were in that bubble of teenage-hood where invincibility trumps reality, and in the end, secretly savored the thrill of a brush with danger and a crazy story to tell our disbelieving friends when we got home.
As long as I can remember, I’ve known that I wanted to own my own business. I didn’t know exactly what kind of business for a long time, but I knew that I could never be chained to a desk, and that the many hats worn by entrepreneurs appealed to my easily distractable nature. The entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in my family, especially on my dad’s side; my grandfather was a farmer, and several of my dad’s 14 siblings are self-employed. As a kid, it was rough sometimes when we had to forgo extras like class field trips or senior pictures due to liquidity issues (I particularly recall my parents cleaning out my bank account once in high school because one of the cars was getting repo’d) but I always respected my dad for sticking with it, and he now has a highly successful business… spend 10 minutes in the car anywhere in the metro area and you’re bound to see at least one of his billboards.
One thing I didn’t quite reckon on, though, was the pressure that comes with representing a brand and being a semi-public (in the tiny scene that is Detroit, at least) figure. I’m struggling right now to strike a balance between living a life that feels genuine to me, and presenting a certain edited persona to those who know me as the owner of my business (which I’m purposely not naming here because of Google). Typically, I have no problem being presented as “N, the owner of such and such,” and am flattered when friends talk up my products as they make introductions. But sometimes, the weight of that is oppressive, and I crave anonymity. I’m envious of people like my friend T, who owned a couple of restaurants and now sells vintage clothing out of her car. This is a woman with an outsized personality who gives no fucks about what anyone thinks or says about her, and somehow pulls it off. I guess my bourgeois side cares too much about public opinion to go that route, or I just don’t have the confidence or cojones to get away with it.
This is something I consider often when writing: finding a comfort zone somewhere between “I’m 41 years old for chrissakes and this is who I am, so screw it,” and thinking about what if my mom is reading, or some other relative, or business acquaintance, etc. I’ve been pretty low key about promoting the blog, but you never know who’s on the other side of the computer screen. At least I don’t have the problem my friend K has; she’s constantly concerned that her blog will be discovered by employers or clients.
This quandary of maintaining multiple identities really hit home when I was out with P last week. We’d been sipping wine since 2 or 3pm and it was around 6 when we went to meet our friend E at a wine bar in the neighborhood. As soon as we got there, P saw a group of acquaintances- a wine salesman and his wife and two of their friends, one of whom was a heart surgeon- and installed me and E at their table. After making hasty introductions, he left us there to fend for ourselves while he wandered off in search of… what, I don’t know exactly.
Last night over a fantastic Thai meal in Los Angeles with an old college friend, I had the brilliant light-bulb realization that what I most needed in life was to start a blog. Rather, I should say- another blog; I had a food blog from about 2008-2013 but I became disillusioned with the competitiveness of the food blogging “scene” and no longer had the interest or energy to keep up with bloggers who clearly had more time and resources than I did to spend on props, styling, and creating magazine-worthy photographs. No disparagement intended; I just found my interest waning with the increasing pressure to up the ante. Plus, as we know, repetition can breed boredom. I noticed a couple friends’ food- and drink-related blogs fall off around the same time mine did, so I can’t have been alone in these sentiments.
Anyway. That blog was all well and good, but it was written more for others; this blog is for me. If people read and enjoy, that’s just a cherry on top. A fog that hung over my life for the last few years is finally beginning to dissipate, and I’m experiencing an intense creative energy for the first time in ages. It’s amazing what can happen when weights that you didn’t necessarily even realize were holding you back are suddenly lifted. I feel like a hot air balloon whose tethers have been cut; heady with possibility.
I’ve been a traveler since I was old enough to go off on my own (age 16, an eye-opening three-week trip to France with my best friend Hilary). Even before that, I’ve always loved reading books set in faraway places or times, and couldn’t wait until I was old enough to study foreign languages in school. “Scènes et Séjours” was the name of my high school French textbook, and I couldn’t think of a more perfect name for this blog. Whereas my old blog was food-centric, I envision this one being about time/place/experience; the scenes and sojourns of my life, if you will. This past year, I had the chance to take two trips with a very good friend, and it reaffirmed that I want to experience this world as much as I possibly can while on this particular plane of existence. I want my writing to creatively capture moments and essences of travels not only through the world but at home in Detroit, a vibrant and wondrous city brimming with the best people I have ever known. I hope you’ll enjoy my adventures.