Search results for: "red boots"

It’s over.

I’ve fallen out of love with my first startup. It was a taker. (You know how unhealthy those relationships are.) I gave and gave and gave. And when I asked for something, just a little thing, in return… Nothing.

I lived in denial for a year (2010). I kept plugging along as if nothing had changed. Then I got sick for a year (2011), so it was easy to pretend that that was why the flame was burning low. Then I got healthy again (2012). And, finally, this year, I had to face the fact that I’d lost that lovin’ feeling for good.

Because of that (and some other shit I won’t go into), I’ve been a bit lost for most of this year. Depressed. Feeling like a failure. Feeling too old and tired to start again. Like ya do. I moped around and was a cranky bitch for months. (My poor husband.) When my strength, energy and stamina all came back this fall, I realized I was all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Which made me mad.

I whined to my husband that I needed a new project. I said it over and over. Out loud to him. Silently to myself. To my girlfriends over coffee. To my girlfriends over beer.

Apparently, my brain heard me. (You gotta love the human brain.)

One night in October I was lying in bed wishing I could fall asleep, “thinking” (overheating brain thinking, you know, hundreds of thoughts at once, all tangled up and ricocheting off each other), when suddenly there was a perfect storm in my head.

Bored and disenchanted with the web for a couple years, not blogging much about it, wondering if my tech blogging days were over and what would become of me, but wait, the web is boring me to tears but I’m getting a pretty big kick out of mobile apps these days, and I wish more of my friends used them, they don’t know what they’re missing, but I can’t write about them on any of those big tech blogs I write for, not what they’re looking for.

Just back from three weeks in California, could still smell the wild wild west on me, feel it running through my veins, clinging to it hard, harder than usual. I’ve lost my mojo, need to get my sass back, nothing makes me feel sassier than my red cowboy boots

At which point the quaint and kitschy expression “Cowgirl Up!” came to mind.

And then it all just gelled.

I would put on my sass, get back in the saddle, create a place to write about apps, and call it “Cowgirl App!”.

I thought the domain name could not possibly be available, considering the wide use of the expression in cowgirly parts of the US. I was sure some geekette in Austin had it. So I didn’t check for a day or two, postponing the inevitable disappointment. But when I did, it was there and then it was mine. And so was the Twitter handle. And so was the gmail…

So for a week or two I let the concept coalesce in the background while I went about my business. As soon as it started to crystallize, I knew I needed a co-cowgirl and exactly who it had to be. Sent her an e-mail pitch to which she responded immediately and enthusiastically (“FUCK YES!”).

Nothing like love at first sight.

Ladies and gents, meet Cowgirl App!

December is sucky in general because of the weather and nostalgia and because it seems to come around so much quicker than it used to.

But I had an unsucky week. This week was filled with youth and passion and swifts and lunches and red wine and a pink latex dress and a purple rubber ducky and a snowman and cowboy boots among other things.

Three days of events around and including LeWeb, Europe’s largest tech conference, which I’ve had a press pass to for three years running since I write about the Internet for tech blogs in the US. I look forward to it all year, as much as I ever did to Christmas as a kid. The conference is an orgiastic encounter of curious and creative minds, and basking in the youthful idealism and optimism and energy of startup founders who want to create some kind of beauty is as good as sunbathing, but without the risk of skin cancer. (The Internet is the fountain of youth, folks.) Here’s Olivier Desmoulin of SuperMarmite, a site that hooks people up with home-cooked meals, one of three winners of the startup competition this year.

I came home with my favorite piece of conference swag ever. Did Yahoo! know before coming to Paris that French designer Sonia Rykiel makes a rubber ducky vibrator? If they didn’t, they found out soon enough. The first thing my French friend Myriam asked the Yahoo rep hosting the Official Blogger lounge was if it vibrated… I took one for my step-daughter (14) and one for me. (It only squeaks, by the way.)

Alas, the orgy ended and regular life resumed. Dog walking in winter is no fun, except when it is. Two days after the huge Paris snowstorm that made international news, Wiley spied a snowman. He gave him a wide berth and slowly circled in close enough to sniff his face, which he did for a long time, because, of course, the sniffing provided no insight into the nature of this creature. I just stood there enjoying the show.

Another dog walk, this one at night in the dark. The only shop open in a tiny side street near my house looked so warm and welcoming, but that could have been the not-so-subliminal suggestion of the sign, the fact that it was in my own language, and what was inside. I felt like the little match girl standing out there looking in at the delicious boots. Of course, it wasn’t the first time I’d paused before this shop, but it was the first time I’d seen it open at night. In fact, I just discovered yesterday that Paris is killing my red cowboy boots, the ones I thought would last forever (and would have in California). The leather on the vamp is cracked through from the wetness and probably nasty chemicals in the rainwater. I was obviously not diligent enough about my mink oiling… This is Go West Boots, in the 5th. Let me know if you want the address (you can’t find it on their site).

I arranged to meet an online acquaintance, a blogger whose voice and views I enjoy, who was in Paris for the week, not for LeWeb (though she’s covered it before), but for LeVin, a big wine conference. I don’t often bring people from my online life into my real life, but my instincts were good, as usual. She’s originally from South Africa, lives in Italy, is my age, and (also) has a lust for life. We connected on many levels and talked about things that, in the old days, you wouldn’t get to till some time had passed but, for better or worse, our ways of being have changed because the Internet has broken down so many barriers. We ate lunch, drank wine, watched swifts flying frenetically around outside her window, and went and tried on wild clothes at Phyléa for dessert.

So there I was a year and a half ago with a brand-new (used) dog, a circumstance that came about in part due to my desire to drag my ass away from my computer a few times a day and stave off full-body atrophy. You know.

But after three months of glorious, invigorating walks with my new little buddy on the oh-so-picturesque and lumpy-as-hell cobblestones of Paris, I found myself in the doctor’s office because my right foot didn’t bend anymore and it hurt so much I couldn’t stand the weight of my blanket on it. I got x-rays and a diagnosis:

I’ve limped along in denial on considerably less vigorous dog walks for the last year or so and watched helplessly as my favorite shoes and boots, two by two, gradually wound up in the no fucking way pile… I can’t tell you how much this sucks.

It all really hit me last month when there was this fancy conference (attended mostly by women, mostly in high to very high heels, from half the Fortune 500 and all of the CAC 40, the French equivalent), where I worked as a conference reporter. The dress code was “business/creative casual,” and I had to go buy shoes because all my hot business/dress shoes are in the NFW pile. I ended up with this shoe more or less, but with a leather button instead of the silver thingy. The least frumpy I could find and wear with relatively little pain:

The brand name of these shoes? Dorking. Yeah, I know, salt in the wound. But I kinda like their logo… And I can do the sexy schoolmarm thing.

Have I mentioned I live in Paris where if you wear tennis shoes (other than the decorative kind) eyebrows rise and nostrils flare as you pass? Have I mentioned I really, really don’t like flats? Ballet flats, the Parisian ingénue standard, are fine for the 30-and-under, which I’m obviously not, or I wouldn’t be having this particular conversation with myself.

Dorky shoe shopping was the straw that got me to the podiatrist this week, where I got the final answer: “You’ll never wear high heels again, honey” (only in French). I honestly teared up. Seriously.

She said this condition was either the result of a foot trauma (nope) or a number of “micro-traumas.” Since I have it in both feet, I’m thinking every hour (and there were thousands) between the age of 16 and 20 when I stood, walked and danced on five- or six-inch stilettos, micro-traumas were occurring. I asked her if there was a brand of shoes that was even a little sexy that I could still wear. She said she had no particular brand to recommend, sexy or otherwise, though she did have a Mephisto catalog on her desk (frumpalicious). When she recommended thick soles, I suddenly felt myself aging at the rate of hundreds of years per second, like Katherine Deneuve at the end of The Hunger. Then my podiatrist described a surgery (last resort, I’m not there yet) where they fuse that nasty painful joint (at a slight angle, not flat, so you can pretend your foot still bends) when the pain gets unbearable and can’t be treated with painkillers and having some goo injected into the joint. She just looked confused when I asked her if they could fuse my joint at a Barbie-foot angle…

About now the feminist outrage, if you have any, has probably bubbled to the surface and you can’t wait to get to the end of this so you can leave a comment about how we’ve all been screwed over. Trust me, I’m with you. I know all the things you want to say and agree and understand — intellectually. And I am now painfully aware of what heels did to me, and I suppose I should blame society for making me think I look hot in high heels. But I do. Did. I’m the product of my conditioning. So shoot me. I’m fighting other battles, but if this is one of yours, Bad Shoes and the Women Who Love Them looks like a good read. I may get it myself, though I’m beyond salvation. This book is what I found when I googled the keywords sexy shoes bad feet.

If you’re in Paris and a size 8.5 (39), I’ll invite you over to pillage the NFW pile. But I’m having those black suede pumps I got in 1987 (and have kept practically pristine because they are perfection) bronzed. Too many good memories…

At least I can still wear my red cowboy boots.

I’m from southern California, but now I live in Paris, where freedom of expression is real and so is the cheese. I live in the Latin Quarter with my soulmate VincentVincent, Vincent.

I’m a writer, a tech blogger, a translator. I write prose poetry and take pictures. My bliss is all over the map and I keep following it.

My current preoccupations are the novel I’m writing, whether my 26-year-old son on Guam is happy and eating right and avoiding sharks… I worry about the imminent extinction of the orangutan as a result of consumer ignorance and the greed of corporations and governments. I’m doing what I can to help.

I wear red cowboy boots. What I love about gerberas is that they’re exuberant and unpretentious. Marguerite Duras is my favorite author. I need to stick my feet in the ocean from time to time or I’ll wither and die. I take the boots off first, of course.

I hear from various sources that retail companies are toppling like dominoes back in the US. The kinds of companies that you thought were solid: Mervyn’s, Linens ‘n’ Things, KayBee Toys. Macy’s had to close 11 stores after Christmas. These others are wannabes and parvenus compared to the institution that is Macy’s…

Does this mean that grotesque American consumption has slowed? Maybe a little. Does it mean Americans are changing their evil ways? Nope.

I get momentarily encouraged when I hear about SUV sales going down in the US when the gas prices go up. For a moment, I almost believe that Americans might finally be getting a clue. But then the SUV sales go right back up as soon as the gas prices go down again.

The truth is that only a Greater Depression or a Dustier Bowl, an Icier Age or a Blacker Plague will curb the gobbling behemoth’s gluttony.

But it shouldn’t be long now.


I occasionally read Question Everything, the blog of George Mobus, a polymath professor I discovered through my friend David Horton, also a polymath, and author of The Watermelon Blog. (Reading these brainy guys’ blogs makes me feel good about myself because it’s time well spent. They make me think. They sometimes make me feel smart, and sometimes stupid. I highly recommend them both.)

In The biophysical economy – the only model of reality, which I read today, George draws parallels between the systems of the economy and the human body, and argues that if we stay on our current course (trying to restore the status quo rather than changing the paradigm), the economy is headed for certain, literal starvation. The systems will crash, the organs will fail.

Of course, the food that nourishes the economy is fossil fuels (which you may have heard we’re running out of). And George says we’re all on drugs if we think that investing in green technology is going to be some kind of panacea for the ills of the economy and planet (only he says it fancier and with a lot more words). His arguments are compelling and downright terrifying:

Now lest you maintain that hope for technology to come to the rescue, bear a couple of things in mind. First, the amount of energy coming from renewable sources today is exactly zero. That’s right, zero. Secondly, alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar, account for little more than 1% of the total energy consumed by American society. That means a massive build up of these sources would have to happen almost over night. And the reason I claim we get no energy from renewables is that the equipment used to capture sunlight and wind is built using oil, coal and natural gas (with a minor input from hydroelectric). And unless those capital goods can be built using strictly their own energy capture then they are not truly renewable, or sustainable for the long term. That is the problem. We use way too much energy, both collectively and per capita, compared with what we could get in a truly sustainable way, in a time frame necessary to prevent a real crash. There is no way to get there from here.

In other words, if we keep using energy the way we do, we won’t have enough fossil fuels left to build the giant pinwheels and whatever else we need to get us to a point where we’re using only renewable energy. It may already be too late. (So buy your solar panels while there are still enough fossil fuels to manufacture them…) He goes on to describe our only option:

I know that this is hard to swallow because of the implications — that the American/Western way of life is coming to an end. But it is time to face reality and start planning for the most likely scenarios. Rather than trying to jump-start the old consumer, wasteful economy, Obama should be leading the charge to get Americans off the energy splurge we have been on and start dieting ASAP. We have to shed the fat and conserve the raw energy as much as possible. This is the only way we will be able to have enough fossil fuels to bootstrap a new economy based on true renewable resources. It will mean abandonment of current lifestyles and beliefs about human destiny to be rich. It will require humans to recognize the ways of nature and forego hubris. It will require sapience!

(Ahh, sapience. If other creatures evolve or arrive and take over the planet millions of years from now and dig up our old stuff and learn that we called ourselves homo sapiens, they will laugh their asses off. If they have asses.)

Unfortunately, you know as well as I do that it ain’t gonna happen that way. Americans will keep consuming everything in sight, sucking the life out of the planet till it becomes physically and financially—and permanently—impossible for them to do so.

Because most don’t care. Most are utterly unaware of just how extravagant the American lifestyle is. Most don’t even realize they’re in jeopardy. (Shouldn’t somebody tell them?)

The only way Americans would ever radically reduce consumption right now would be if the government suddenly started rationing everything, punishing waste, ordering blackouts, limiting travel, outlawing big cars, making recycling mandatory, forcing them to buy local food…

All of which will happen. Just not in time.

So enjoy it while it lasts. Or, better yet, try cutting your consumption of anything and everything in half for a while. Just for practice.


Ten years ago, I came to Paris just before New Year’s for a friend’s wedding. Another friend of mine flew to Paris to pal around with me for a week. I got in touch with a French guy, an acquaintance I’d met through a friend a few years before in L.A., and he invited me and my friend to a fête des rois. I had no idea what it was, but I was game. My first genuine Parisian party with genuine Parisians!

(I discovered later that it’s a celebration of the Catholic holiday of Epiphany, which I’d never heard of, being an atheist of Protestant-ish origins. In case you’re like me, it’s 12 days after Christmas, on January 6th—the twelfth day of Christmas (so that’s what that means!)—which is supposedly when The Three Kings (and the little drummer boy), guided by what the latest theory says was a conjunction of Venus and Jupiter (in June), got to The Manger.)

So I asked an American francophile friend who was there for the wedding what the fête des rois was. Turns out it is primarily about this galette made of buttery puff pastry with a layer of marzipan in the middle. (Very tasty.)

galette.jpg(I’d been wondering why all the bakeries in Paris were overflowing with these rather plain-Jane pastries with the Burger King crowns on top…)

My friend told me that the galette has a ceramic figurine baked into it (called a fêve). He said whoever gets the piece with the fêve gets to be king or queen for the rest of the night and that there were games or something. That gave me pause, because what if I got the fêve and the games required that one be brilliant and biting like the French aristocrats used to be in their salon games (à la Ridicule)? What if it was like Truth or Dare? I was apprehensive.


The day of the thing, I went into a bakery and asked the boulangère what one would traditionally bring to the hostess of such a party. She said “cider” and sold me a galette too.

So we got there, and we were a few minutes early, but we went up anyway because it was freezing outside and there was nowhere to go. (Note: Don’t ever show up at a Parisian party early. Or even on time.) The hostess was clearly annoyed because we were early, but also probably because her boyfriend, the one who’d invited me, had had to come up with some explanation for who this American was and why he’d invited her. I have no idea what he told her, but it clearly it wasn’t convincing enough to make her even remotely happy to meet me. She sneered when I gave her the cider and the galette. (Had the boulangère intentionally tried to make me look like a dork? I never did find out.)

Not long afterwards, people started arriving. They walked over to us, shook our hands, said bonsoir and their first names and sat down. (The appropriate response is to say bonsoir and your first name.) Every person who came in did the same. When there were 15 people there, the new ones came in and shook 15 hands and said their name 15 times. It looked pretty silly to my American friend and me; so formal and stilted for such young people (20s and early 30s). At our parties, you walk in and your host(ess) says “Everybody this is so and so,” or you introduce yourself to the room, or you just wander in and mingle (or not), grab a beer and a chip…

There was no munchie table to hover over, to anchor the thing, to get people to move around, to serve as a conversation starter. (“I must have the recipe for this dip!”)

We were served champagne. (No wonder she had snubbed my cider. That must be what you take to a fête des rois for six-year-olds…) Everybody was sitting around in a couch-and-chairs semi-circle. Nobody was standing or moving. Not much talking. They were pale skinned and dark haired, all thin, wearing mostly black, their movements languid, voices low. I felt like I had walked into Interview with the Vampire. I felt very pink. And I was wearing kelly green velvet pants, the loudest outfit in the room, despite the black turtleneck and boots on either end of the pants.

Then the moment of truth: the cutting of the galette. It was giant. (The one I’d brought was smaller and it sat there on the table, untouched.) (Note: Bring flowers and/or champagne to Parisian parties.)

There are rules to the fête des rois. The youngest person at the party is supposed to get under the table the galette is sitting on. With every piece the hostess cuts, that person tells her who should get the piece. (They did not make the youngest person get under the table, since she was a chic and sleek Parisian law student in her 20s wearing a short, tight black dress. Although she did have to call the pieces.)

Turns out there were two fêves in this galette, and it came with two crowns because it was so big. Oddly, I got the first fêve, and the friend I’d come with got the other one. I suspected that they’d rigged it, but I couldn’t figure out how… They made us each put on one of the Burger King crowns. Then I really did feel like a dork, surrounded by all these vampires, wearing a gold paper crown.

I expected them to start feeding on me and my friend at any moment.

So I said, “Now what do we do?” and one of the girl vampires laughed and said “La pauvre, elle pense qu’il y a une suite!” (Poor thing, she thinks there’s more to it!) And I’m thinking, “Don’t poor thing me, you vampire bitch, I’ll kick your scrawny ass.”

But I just laughed, and explained that a friend had told me there were supposed to be games, etc. It was a relief, on a certain level, but at that point, I was thinking that, as Queen, I’d really like to give the vampires some dares. Like hold your nose and sing Frère Jacques while hopping on one foot… I pictured them all playing Twister, the way you’re supposed to picture your audience naked when you’re nervous about public speaking…

When the first couple got up to leave, they went around and shook everybody’s hand again on their way out. My friend and I leaped up, waved to everyone, said bonsoir/merci and left. I’m sure they were scandalized.

(A few months later, I asked a woman who gave classes in intercultural etiquette to business people why the hostess didn’t introduce anyone. She explained that the French don’t like to be the center of attention. The whole experience was utterly fascinating and educational.)

There’s one thing you should know. There are pretty distinct class lines in French society. I’m still trying to figure it all out. Thank gawd I have Vincent (and Claire) to guide me now. I’ve now been to a number of Parisian parties and they are not all as vampirish as this one was. It depends on the crowd. But they are all more sedate than American parties.

I can pretty much guarantee you will never see anyone at a Parisian party playing Twister.


There is one thing I love about America and hate about France. Yes, I really said that.

If I am trying to get something done that isn’t exactly on the menu, in America the answer I get is 9 times out of 10 gonna be something along the lines of “Sure, we can do that for you” or “Let’s see if we can figure out a way for you to do that.”

Can do. That’s what I love about America.

In France, the equivalent is “pas possible.” No way. Forget it. Ain’t happenin’.

I got the pas possible when I tried to return the boots I hadn’t worn. When I tried to return the pillowcases, unopened, with the receipt, after the 30-day limit. Two different times when I wanted to buy something fragile and have it shipped to the States because I was afraid it wouldn’t survive in my luggage… “Pas possible ! That would mean I’d have to go to the post office.” One of them really said that.

I got the pas possible when I tried to exchange a defective book. I’d peeled off the sticker and thrown away the receipt. How could I have known at the time I bought it that it was missing 100 pages after page 163? But, with Vincent’ s help, I was able to badger and cajole the guy into making an exception. Badgering sometimes works. Then the person dealing out the pas possible gets to feel like he’s really bent over backwards for you.

When you are not asking for anything out of the ordinary, you generally don’t get the pas possible. You’re more likely to get a frown, or a shrug, or some such signal of hesitation or reluctance. It does seem like whenever people have something, or can do something you want here, they like to make absolutely sure that you appreciate that they are in a position of power and they’re doing you a favor. So even if there is no reason why they shouldn’t grant your wish, even if they have every intention of doing so from the start, they like to make you squirm a little before finally, grudgingly, giving in.

It’s getting easier to deal with now that I’ve been here a while. I’ve lowered my expectations to nil, so any time something is relatively easy, I’m pleasantly surprised.

I’m a very can-do American. Most of us are that way, I think. We get an idea and decide we’re going to make it happen. We figure we’ll worry about the details when we get there and that, somehow, we’ll overcome any obstacles. (If I weren’t like that, I might never have ended up here in Paris…) This cultural characteristic probably explains why there are so many entrepreneurs in the US and so few in France. On numerous occasions, I’ve said to Vincent “It must be done, therefore it can be done.” That’s how I operate.

Of course, that classic American “we’ll worry about the details later” approach is what got the US into such a mess in Iraq, as Vincent likes to point out.

I would really like to understand the origins of what I can only interpret, through my cultural lens, as the French national power trip. It seems like the difference is that we Americans get our sense of power from making things happen, while the French get their sense of power from preventing things from happening. By the same token, what makes us feel good about ourselves is being helpful and efficient and making things easier for others, while what seems to make the French feel good about themselves is that feeling of magnanimity they get after they’ve surmounted, on your behalf, the obstacle they created artificially in the first place. Your thoughts?

Nicolas Sarkozy, who’s been president of France for 10 months now, ran with the campaign slogan “Together, everything becomes possible.”

No wonder they call him “Sarko the American.” He’s a can-do guy, no question. I was depressed when he was elected, but I was secretly hoping his election was a sign that the French might be moving away from the pas possible mindset.

But no. These days, Sarko can’t do anything right. Everything he does causes outrage and indignation. (For that the French say “C’est pas possible,” which is not at all the same as plain ol’ “pas possible.”)

I agree with them when it comes to Sarko’s shenanigans, don’t get me wrong. So far, he’s doing much more harm than good. And despite his slogan, I doubt he’ll end up having much of an effect on the pas possible phenomenon.

For now, I can still only dream of the day when I might hear a French person say, right off the bat, no begging or badgering required, no fraught body language, “Aucun problème.”

“No problem.”