Another Day of Sun: A Tribute to 2016

Well, that’s a wrap on a pretty insane year all told. I want to look back at 2016, warts and all, the good and the bad.

I’m gonna do so in the only way I know how: through a movie reference. My favorite film of 2016 was undoubtedly La La Land (Chazelle, 2016), and my favorite song from the film was the exuberant, remarkably choreographed song “Another Day of Sun,” which serves as the opening number that takes place in gridlocked traffic (an experience LA inhabitants know all too well).

The song is the main supporting element to the title, “La La Land.” It depicts the stories of thousands of people who still come to Los Angeles based on a dream that began with the advent of Hollywood; to chase their dreams of fame and fortune in the Mecca of the entertainment industry. I’m one of these dreamers living in “La La Land.” The dream persists, despite an excess of competition, uncertainty, and adversity. I feel like this translates to what we all just went through in 2016:


Behind these hills, I’m reaching for the heights…

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“2016 is going to be SO much better than 2015!” we all said. Ah, what a simpler time December 31st, 2015 was!

2016 began with its typical new year’s surge of confidence, hope, and resolutions. 2015 in my mind at the time,  was a horrible year. The latter half of it included the death of a grandparent, the death of the family dog, three consecutive illnesses, a sprained ankle, and a smashed pinkie finger JUST as the year wrapped up.

2015 could burn in hell for all I cared. I was ignoring the good things, however: I got to see my favorite actor in person twice. I worked at an amazing production company. I went to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon AND The Late Late Show with James Cordan. I survived 24 Hour Night at Disneyland and attended two red carpets. But it’s so easy to forget the good and focus on the bad, and that’s exactly what I did. 2015 was the worst, and 2016 would be full of new possibilities and new beginnings.

…And chasing all the lights that shine.

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This was the spring that I studied abroad for a semester in New Zealand. Things were going so incredibly well. I made a new group of international friends, learned my way around a new country and culture, and did things that, now looking back, I cannot believe I had the courage to do!

I went to Fiji and Australia entirely by myself! I completed the foremost item on my Bucket List; jumping off the Auckland Sky Tower-on LEAP DAY no less! I directed an original play in a theatre group I was entirely unfamiliar with. I learned the native Maori language. I threw all caution to the wind and chased experiences I never otherwise would have chased!

I even chased a deeply personal change. I told someone I had feelings for them that I had been repressing for years. Even though, unfortunately, nothing came of it or will ever come of it, for the first half of the year, this was just another bout of hope that was putting wind in my sails as I returned to back home and to Los Angeles to finish out the year.

When they let you down…

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Auckland Sky Tower illuminated in solidary with Belgium. Photo by author.

I’d like to say that upon returning, that’s when everything changed for the worse, but that would be a lie. Despite being surrounded by new and exciting experiences while abroad, the entire world was rattled by countless terrorist attacks. Throughout the year and especially within the past week, celebrity deaths seemed to follow one another endlessly.

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Alan Rickman, Anton Yelchin, and most recently Debbie Reynolds hit me particularly hard. There was a beautiful quote from Tiia Ohmen, one of the co-creators of the website Fangirl Quest, a photography and travel advise website that maps movie and television shooting locations. This quote offers a perspective about why celebrity deaths affect us so:

Could it be because they’ve given us something to laugh about? To cry about? Because they’ve inspired us to pursue some career ourselves, in acting or music or in whatever it is they did well? Or because they used their publicity to support those who are suffering, inspired us to do good, or told us fight for our rights? Or maybe because they just told us “it gets better”, or “always keep fighting”, and helped us through a rough patch in our lives?

Could it be that they made us feel, and by making us feel they actually made us feel more alive?

The mourning seemed without end: David Bowie, Prince, Gene Wilder, George Michael, Carrie Fischer… And then I lost another grandparent in the blink of an eye.

Loss led into heartbreak, heartbreak led into frustration, frustration led into fear. This fear was also felt universally. I was in a country under the British crown when the United Kingdom left the EU, and I was in the U.S. when voting in my first election; the election that will forever be known as the most divisive since the days of the Civil War. Fear is rampant right now and will continue to be if we let it get to us. But the responses to the adversity that have emerged gives me so much hope.

Get up off the ground…

Kind actions followed every tragedy. Hopeful words lifted everyone’s spirits. Charitable deeds restored hope in humanity.

It is human nature to seek constant improvement and to have hope for the future. I too tried to improve bad situations. Unfortunately, good intentions did not go unpunished, for all attempts to better myself were thwarted by more nonsense: A repeated attempt to join an important group fell short. A career changing competition resulted in disqualification beyond my team’s control. Fitness progress was halted by a contagious disease and then a sprained knee. Before I knew it, 2015 seemed like a blessed memory compared to the things 2016 was dishing out.

Morning rolls around…

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But, once again, we are at the end of another year and the start of another, and already there is much buzz about how much better 2017 will be than 2016:

As I stated before, the need for self-improvement seems wired in humans. That’s the reason why New Years resolutions exist in the first place: It’s a chance to start again and use a finite amount of time to spark a better change for oneself and one’s community.

…And it’s another day of sun.

But the fear remains in my mind: What if 2017 doesn’t deliver upon the promises we wanted 2016 to deliver? What if it’s just as full of grief, disappointment, and uncertainty…or worse?

But a best friend put it well when I voiced these concerns:

I think all we can really do is stay positive and keep sending out good vibes into the universe, and hope that others are doing the same.

And so morning will roll around tomorrow, and it shall be another day of sun in a new year. At the end of the day, 2015 didn’t do anything to us. Neither did 2016. In order to make sense of our situation, we as a people have characterized these years as having their own identities and wills to make our lives better or worse. When it comes down to it, we are the ones who control our fates. Terrible things happen, but so do the good.

2016 was the year I actually committed to increasing the quality and number of posts featured in this blog, which has been in existence since 2013. This was the year I made friends who live in over a dozen countries around the world. 2016 was the year I was brave. 2016 was the year I was one step closer to figuring out who I am.

So here’s to a better 2017 for everyone. I hope that every resolution is met (c’mon, self. The gym is not a punishment) and that problems that arise can be met with level-headedness and an easy resolution.

It’s another day of sun. 

Header image from StockSnap. All photos by author. All gifs from giphy.

Why Betty Haynes from “White Christmas” Will Forever Be #LifeGoals

Five years ago, I decided to pop in the old VHS tape of White Christmas (Curtiz, 1954) my family had always kept, but had never gotten around to watching. I was in the last three minutes of the movie when the tape broke, to my horror! By complete coincidence, the movie was also playing on television, and when I switched back and found it, it was right at the part where the tape broke down.

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I loved it so much, from then on I have made it a tradition to watch White Christmas annually on Christmas Eve. This year, I watched it as I alternated between eggnog and tea while partaking in yet another Christmas Eve tradition; coloring one page  each year of a 26 page Christmas coloring book (almost done!!). As I multitasked, I realized that while I adored the film’s comedy, the music of Irving Berlin, and the fantastic display of singing and dancing talent, I took a particular liking to the elder Haynes sister in the movie, Betty (played by Rosemary Clooney).

Below is a list of points I have compiled regarding why Betty Haynes is #lifegoals for me:

  • She keeps herself (and her heart) guarded.

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Betty is described by her sister Judy as being “slow,” to love. When she first meets her love interest, Bob (Bing Crosby), she instantly bickers with him. Her main focus is on her career and her sister. I love that about her: Even though you can tell that she would like a special someone in her life, he’s not necessary.

It takes her a lot of persuasion (and some pushing from master matchmakers Judy and Phil) to open up her heart to Bob. I relate so much to this personality trait. While in the movie, this characteristic is seen as a hindrance to her finding love, being guarded is just like anything else- if used too much in excess, it becomes cumbersome. Otherwise, it isn’t a terrible thing to want to protect your heart until you truly feel comfortable opening up to someone special.

  • She is the world’s best sister. 
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“Lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister. And Lord help the sister who comes between me and my man.”

Betty will do anything for her sister Judy. They complement each other incredibly well in their sister act (“Sisters,” is better than it has any right to be), and Betty actually makes significant sacrifices for the sake of Judy. Judy herself comments on these sacrifices, saying that Betty is like a “mother hen,” who wants to see her safe, cared for, and happy before she even considers any of those things for herself.

This characteristic is in line with the aforementioned point; if in excess, it becomes problematic. Here, Betty is a bit too concerned for Judy, not allowing herself even the slightest bit of joy. However, even though I’m an only child, I am so lucky to have friends close enough that I consider them family. I take Betty as an example of how to be an amazing, selfless friend.

  • She stands up for what she believes, and will not adjust her morals no matter what.
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Byeeeeee.

When Betty gets news that Bob and Phil are going to take a charitable performance and broadcast it on television, she mistakenly assumes that they are only doing the show for profit. She is then told by Judy that she is engaged to Phil, and no longer things that their sister act is necessary. This is the tipping point for Betty. Certain that her sister will be taken care of, she has no problem abandoning her budding relationship with Bob for the sake of adhering to her moral code.

In sum, she rocks.

  • I mean, those dresses. Good lord. 
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FAB.

This gif does not do her dresses justice. I want her entire wardrobe from this shoot and then some. The costumes for White Christmas were designed by Edith Head, who was nominated for 35 Oscars and won eight. This is the epitome of awesome.

  • When the going gets tough, she goes solo and kicks ass. 
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Who needs one man when I’ve got four right here?

After she leaves the inn in Vermont, Betty goes solo and quickly starts getting her own gigs. She performs a song called, “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me,” which I used in an audition that scored me a dream role in my senior musical in high school (moral of the story: When in doubt, Irving Berlin).

This move is so cool. This goes to show just how powerful she is: Now that Judy and Bob are no longer concerning her, Betty has complete autonomy over her own life, choices, and career. And she’s excellent!

 

Ultimately, Betty discovers that she was mistaken in assuming that Bob and Phil were using the show for their own gain and returns to Vermont to join her sister, performs in the show, and rekindles her relationship with Bob. Despite the fact that she ends up not only in an ensemble act, but also with a man, her brief solo stint is so indicative of her independent spirit.

And this is just one of the many things I love about White Christmas. I could go on and on about the film’s spectacle, or its beautiful message about giving back, or its commentary on the fate of veterans who return home from war and their struggle to assimilate back into civilian life, but I will leave it at this: Betty is an awesome female character who was written in the 1950’s, a time commonly considered a regressive time for feminism.

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So I will continue watching and enjoying White Christmas this Christmas Eve, and here’s hoping that you all have a very happy holiday season! And may all your Christmases be white!

Photo by author. All gifs from giphy.com.

30 Strange Things I’ve Learned About Myself from Studying Abroad

Well that’s it, folks! My semester abroad in New Zealand has come to an end, and as I reflect on my past few months and all of the amazing things I had the crazy opportunities to accomplish, I realized that I’ve learned quite a few things about myself and about New Zealand. Let’s discuss:

1. I can live in any space and make it home no matter how big or small.

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This was it! I’m gonna miss this place!

 

2. It doesn’t matter how bushed I am after a long day, if I come home and find a spider in my room, I will wage full on war against it.

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#Nope.

 

3. Airplanes hate me. 

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Cancelled, delayed, or always seated next to either the guy that has to pee every two seconds or the screaming infant.

 

4. Tim Tams and L&P are some of the best culinary delights to grace the world with their presence and the United States is SEVERELY missing out! 

 

5. I love to bake, but I hate to cook. 

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This caprese chicken is as fancy as I got. I’m too impatient (and hangry, most of the time) to cook!

 

6. Farmers markets give me a thrill that I can’t quite describe!

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7. I’m not a fish person.  I can’t handle it.

This video primarily features me snorkelling at Goat Island. It wasn’t until I was out of the water that I realized I had been hyperventilating the entire time. …I really don’t like swimming with fish.

 

8. I cannot keep a plant alive.

 

9. Getting movies a day ahead or a month behind the United States sucks. If you see it early (Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse), you can’t discuss anything with friends back home, and if you see it late (Zootopia), no one cares anymore!

They played a classic in my movie theatre, so I responded accordingly. Judge me not, haters. 🐜🚶🏻

A post shared by Jessica Johnson (@jjj_jess_i_can) on

 

10. Internet spoilers are the worst. Looking at you, Oscars, The Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time, Bates Motel, and Game of Thrones!

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Me every time I would forgetfully log on Facebook on a Monday afternoon (which would be Sunday night in the States)

 

11. Books are beautiful creations that I have largely ignored in favor of their younger cousin, Netflix. 

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I got Me Before You, The Martian, and The Girl on the Train while I was here!

 

12. I am a faux-coffee drinker, meaning I like sugary nonsense that barely qualifies as coffee.

 

13. I am Murray from Flight of the Conchords. 

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It’s true. I’ve discovered that I am incredibly optimistic with little regard for logic. Oh, and I got to see Rhys Darby perform live standup, and I laughed so hard that I stopped breathing for a little bit!

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14. I will jump from any height without issue…

 

15. …unless my legs are bound together. 

That plastered on smile? The sunken shoulders? The awkward squat? Prime “I Don’t Like What’s Happening to Me” behavior!

 

16. Grace the Horse has an attitude problem and must be stopped.

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This is Grace. I rode atop her on a majestic beach. She hated me and was unafraid to show it.

 

17. Desert dwellers cannot expect to immediately be good surfers. …like I did.

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…pretty accurate, actually.

 

18. Hot air balloons are pretty much my favorite things, and I wil always find a way to locate them! 

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My last minute pilgrimage to the Hamilton Balloon Festival proved to be a success!

 

19. Rugby is SO much better than American football. 

 

20. I belong in a lake town!

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I mean look how beautiful this place is! That’s Queenstown, and I utterly fell in love with it.

 

21. KIWI BIRDS ARE MAGICAL CREATURES. 

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LOOK AT IT. IT’S AWKWARD AND FLUFFY AND MY SPIRIT ANIMAL. LOVE IT WITH ME!!

 

22. If I was being chased by a tiger in the wilderness…I’d just stop running and accept my fate. 

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I tried to play it as cool as I could, but this was an absolutely TERRIFYING moment for me at the Auckland Zoo!

 

23. I am claustrophobic in caves…

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That’s a lava cave on Rangitoto, and you could not pay me to go in there. Narp.

 

24. …unless they happen to contain magical glow worms! 

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Yarp! Look at how amazing these glow worms are! Being in the Waitomo Caves was one of the best experiences of my life.

 

And on a more serious note…

 

25. New Zealand has some of the most beautiful places I have ever witnessed. 

26. I have met some of the most amazing people on my travels that I am genuinely honored to have encountered. 

 

27. The Maori people have a beautiful culture that deserves respect and protection.

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28. This planet is full of wonders that need to be conserved. 

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29. Film and theatre has the ability to be a shared, international experience and should always be treated as such.

 

30. My life has been genuinely enriched by having lived for half a year in a foreign country! 

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All photos by author. Gifs from giphy.com

Look What Popped Up at the Pop-up Globe Theatre

This past summer, the city of Auckland, New Zealand celebrated the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare in a very unique way – by building an exact replica of the second Globe Theatre and putting on a series of tours, workshops, and Shakespeare-penned productions.

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This was an effort conceived by Professor Tim Fitzpatrick and Mr. Russel Emerson of the University of Sydney, who performed extensive research on the construction design and dimensions of the second Globe. The first Globe was burned to the ground at the hands of a stage fire, soon to be replaced by the second in 1614. However, in 1644, all theatres in England were torn down by the Crown’s Puritan administration.

Plans to rebuild the Globe in London (modeled after the original design of the first theater) began in 1949, but weren’t completed until 1997 when it was opened by Queen Elizabeth II. Several Globe replicas have been constructed in Argentina, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States, but all of them still retain plans based off of the first Globe.

Auckland’s temporary summer theatre playhouse, known as “Pop-up Globe,” was the first to replicate the second Globe’s designs, constructed in a parking lot entirely out of recyclable material. 

Shakespeare’s works were certainly well represented: The Pop-up Globe Theatre Company put on two shows, Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet, Young Auckland Shakespeare Company put on Much Adoe About Nothing (1623 spelling), SHAKEITUP!/Sharu Loves Hats produced Henry V, the Auckland University Student’s Association Outdoor Summer Shakespeare Trust put on The Tempest, Fractious Tash presented Titus, Byrnes Productions/Unitec put on Antony and Cleopatra, and The Lord Lackbeard’s Touring Company produced Hamlet.  There were over 80,000 tickets sold throughout the season, which ran from February to May, and a petition was signed by over 600 people advocating that the Pop-up Globe becomes a permanent Auckland attraction.

So here’s some quick reviews of the three productions I had the opportunity to see, all of which were viewed from a Groundlings perspective…like the broke college student I am!

The Tempest

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This production was very intriguing! I had never seen The Tempest Before, but it was very cleverly staged. The play opens on a shipwreck, which was suggested by the players creating a spiderweb-like formation with large ropes, pulling one another chaotically across the “deck” of the stage. Gender neutral casting was used, with most notably a female Prospero, who was played with such finesse that the change was barely noticeable. The character of Ariel was split amongst three actors, which was effective in increasing the sprite’s aura of mystery and unpredictability.

The color scheme was mostly neutrals, but with a pop of color of either orange or purple, and all music was created live with three onstage musicians and the vocals of the actors. The one confusion I had was particularly around the use of modern songs that were inserted into the narrative, primarily the inclusion of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” during the wedding scene, which created a bout of laughter from the audience which I wasn’t sure was the intended effect. Overall however, the show was visually very intriguing and generally well presented.

 

Antony and Cleopatra

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Antony and Cleopatra was once again another Shakespeare show that I had yet to see performed live, and was by far my favorite of the Pop-up Globe shows that I saw! This production was directed by Vanessa Byrnes, and in her director’s notes, she makes it clear that she took liberties with the plot, particularly making Dollabella and Alexas into mystical beings that represent Rome and Egypt separately. Rome and Egypt were each represented by stark contrast in costuming: the Egyptians can be seen in loose-fitting white and gold garments with either dark or red hair, while the Romans are in form-fitting, martial black and silver costumes with bleached blonde hair.

The show began with Dollabella and Alexas wandering the stage, murmuring incantations, burning incense, and giving palm readings to some of the groundlings. The show began as they each turned over a sand timer, one for Egypt and one for Rome. These timers represent the time Antony and Cleopatra have left to live from the start of the show until they each meet their tragic ends. Somehow, the timers’ sand ran out exactly on time, the precision of which is something I still can’t fully comprehend!

While overall the acting was quite admirable (particularly in regards to the chemistry between the titular characters), the second act felt rather heightened and over-emotional, which made it hard to connect to the actions playing out onstage. However, the production elements were impressive enough to render that a nonissue.

 

Romeo and Juliet

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Spoiler alert: They die.

Honestly, I’m not certain that there’s anyone out there who hasn’t heard the story of Romeo and Juliet in some form or other. I personally have seen three productions, two films, and have had to read it several times, so I was skeptical about how this production would hold up as compared to other incarnations of it I had seen.

It was generally quite good. The first act was very funny, as it is written, but sadly the shifts between comedy and tragedy were very sudden and jarring. The double casting of characters such as Mercutio/Prince Escalus and the Nurse/Lady Montague, while economical, took my attention off the narrative and was just a little too distracting for my taste. However, the fight choreography was easily the strongest part of the show, featuring rapid, energetic movements, hard falls, and blood.

Lots of blood.

So much blood in fact, that most of Tybalt’s “DNA” ended up accidentally drenching most of the stage left groundlings. I had stage blood in my hair, all down my arm, and somehow inside my shoe. I fared better than the poor girl in the white hoodie standing in front of me, however!

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You couldn’t have died a little less dramatically there, Tybalt? Pssh. Typical.

Overall, I was so thrilled to have been a participant in the experience that was the Pop-up Globe theatre, and although I am not a permanent resident of Auckland and therefore shouldn’t get a say in what the city does with its land, personally I can’t help but wish that the Pop-up Globe loses its “Pop-up” status and becomes a permanent attraction within the CBD. It would just be one more thing to love about an already incredible city!

And with that, I must bid thee farewell! Parting is such sweet sorrow!

JESSICA exits, pursued by bear. 

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I got my five minutes of fame on a tour of the Pop-up Globe!

 

All photos by author.

Paris, tu es de ma famille.

It’s been a few days, and I know that everyone is aware of the situation that unfolded in Paris on Friday, November 13 in Paris. Not as widely publicized but equally as important are the tragedies that also befell Beirut, Baghdad, Japan, Mexico, and Kenya, overall resulting in a total of thousands of deaths around the world all around relatively the same time. I want to say straight away that my thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims and survivors in these areas. Unfortunately, of all of these amazingly beautiful and diverse nations, I have only been fortunate enough to have ever visited the city of Paris, and the time that I had there was limited but unforgettable. This is the reason why the subject of my blog today will revolve around Paris. I could talk about the details of the attacks. I could talk about the politics, my views on the mater, about ISIS, or gun control, or about what action should be taken next in retaliation. I could talk about any of these things, but I want to focus on what Paris means to me.

I’m a young, American girl, and as such, you can safely bet that I have a vast collection of stereotypically “girlie” items that have the Eiffel Tower plastered all over them, including necklaces, earrings, posters, and sweaters. I, like a good portion of Americans, studied the French language in high school and in college. Also, like a good portion of the American population, have been to Paris. So nothing about my connection to the French culture seems out of the ordinary up to this point, I’m certain.

But still, there exists a certain allure about Paris, even to me as a young girl growing up in a small city in the middle of Nevada (on the converse, I can’t imagine a young Parisian girl dreaming about living in Reno, Nevada…so it’s all relative, really!). Maybe it was growing up with French oriented films, like Beauty and the Beast, or Ratatouille, or The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but I was dead set on learning French (much to my 12 year old dismay once I realized that my middle school mandated learning Spanish) and visiting France when I got older. Before I graduated high school, both of these dreams had come true.

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I spent a total of 36 hours in France, and the vast majority of it was spent in Paris. The summer of my senior year, my mother and I took the quick excursion before meeting up with the rest of our party, my high school drama department, in London for the intended portion of our trip. Paris was undoubtedly the top locale on my bucket list, and quite honestly, now that I’ve “been there, done that,” I feel a little lost as to which site is my next “must see!” In 36 hours (which I believe was only 3 hours of sleep and 33 hours of racing around like mad trying to see as much as we could), I got to climb the Notre Dame, see the outside of the L’oeuvre, walk through L’arc du triomphe, see Le Moulin Rouge, tour L’opera du Paris, watch the final minutes of the men’s championship finals of the French Open in Roland Garros, walk beneath the Eiffel Tower, take a dinner boat along the Seine in the rain, and, one of my fondest memories, reenact Midnight in Paris. 

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This brings me into the next level of why Paris is so important to me: it appears to be chance, but all of my favorite things revolve around Paris. The first movie that I ever went to the movies by myself to was Woody Allen’s 2011 film Midnight in Paris. This may seem like an unimportant detail to you readers, but for a cinephile, we remember such things, especially when the film is particularly fantastic. I knew nothing about the film going into it, and truly went to see it only because I was bored and I saw that it was getting good reviews. I was just about to begin attending high school and was gradually gaining more independence. This was a big move for me, and the movie certainly did not disappoint. In the film, written and directed by Woody Allen, the protagonist (which seems to be an autobiographical portrayal of Allen himself), played by Owen Wilson, on vacation with his shrew of a fiancee and her family in Paris, accidentally stumbles into Paris in the 1920’s when the clock strikes midnight and he is alone in a particular part of the city. Every night, he is able to visit with some of his literary and artistic heroes, like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and many more, all of which are played magnificently by actors like Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Corey Stoll, and Tom Hiddleston, in one of his first cinematic roles.

I related to Wilson’s character, Gil, on so many levels. He’s a screenwriter who has hit a rut in his life. While a 14 year old isn’t necessarily in a “rut” at that point in her life, there did exist a lot of uncertainty for me at the time. My preferred time period to live in would undoubtedly by the 1920’s, much like Gil. Also like Gil, a discovery I wouldn’t make until actually visiting Paris myself, I fell in love with the city. As Gil says in the film;

“You know, I sometimes think, how is anyone ever gonna come up with a book, or a painting, or a symphony, or a sculpture that can compete with a great city. You can’t. Because you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form and when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe that Paris exists, these lights, I mean come on, there’s nothing happening on Jupiter or Neptune, but from way out in space you can see these lights, the cafés, people drinking and singing. For all we know, Paris is the hottest spot in the universe.”

I took it upon myself to visit the same stairs that were used for filming whenever Gil would travel back in time. I was there right at midnight, and while no car came for me to take me back to the 1920’s, it was no less magical than the film. Additionally, the next morning I went to Shakespeare & Co., a famous bookshop on the Seine and I bought Ernest Hemingway’s novel A Moveable Feast, penned during Hemingway’s time in France and also referenced in Midnight in Paris. I have since read the book, and it is one of my all-time favorites.

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Since visiting Paris, I have played a French girl in the United States premiere of a British farce entitled Building on Sand. I’m still fairly certain that the only reason why I got the role is because  I was the only 17 year old in Reno who could speak French and was willing to get cozy with a man playing her boyfriend who was exactly twice her age (actors, am I right?). Still, it was my first production outside of my high school, I was the youngest member of our small cast of five by about seven years, and the experience gave me a theatre family. I loved learning to speak English with a French accent, was completely at home every night of the show, and was subsequently heartbroken when its run came to an end. Much like leaving Paris, the show had an expiration date, and life had to go on. But also, much like Paris, I have been chasing an experience like Building on Sand in my theatrical career ever since and still haven’t found it.

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So through visiting the city and falling in love with music, movies, plays, and books surrounding it, Paris became a surrogate home to me, despite my spending only a little over a day there. Perhaps that’s why hearing about the attack that has as of now resulted in 129 deaths and 352 injuries on Friday night affected me so deeply.

I was five when the attack on 9/11 happened. In my memory will forever be the image of the smoking towers on the television in my parents’ room, but beyond that, I can’t recall much. Additionally, there are things that a child that age just can’t process. I hope that I never have to live through a similar attack on my home country in my lifetime, but feeling the wounds open up in a place I hold so dear hurt in a very profound way. When I woke up in the morning, I found out about the tragedies in Lebanon, Japan, Baghdad, Mexico, and Kenya, and I do not wish for this post to minimize those horrors in any way. I pray for Paris, I pray for the world.

I think the worst feeling for me is the helplessness I feel on my end. A blue, white and red French flag filter on one’s Facebook profile picture can only do so much. I want to make a difference, I want to help. Not just for Paris, but for anyone whose lives were forever changed this weekend. And I’m in a spot where I truly don’t know what I can do with the resources I have. Maybe that’s why I am writing this post…maybe I’m trying to make a difference with words. I don’t know how, but I will devise a means by which I can help those in need, and I will not rest until I am certain that I have done my part.

Finally, I wish to send out one final thought to everyone hurting out there. One of my favorite songs is entitled, “Tu es de ma famille,” and it is sung by a variety of contemporary French pop singers as a part of a tribute album celebrating songwriter Jean-Jacques Goldman. Much in the style of BandAid or “We Are The World,” all of the artists come together in the song, becoming a single unit. The lyrics of the refrain, translated into English, state a simple, yet powerful message:

“You’re from my family
From my order, from my rank
The one I’ve chosen
The one I feel
In this army of ordinary people”

So to everyone, “pauvre, riche ou batard, blanc, tout noir ou bizarre,” I hope that you hear these lyrics and find hope in knowing that you are not alone. Help is out there, help is coming, and look to the sky, for tomorrow will be brighter.

Harmony