43. Kamikaze

It’s no surprise that the same week Eminem dropped an album called Kamikaze—one that rose almost instantly to #1 and earned him his 9th top record in a row—that I’ve been experiencing feelings of panic, desperation, and resolve that there’s nothing left to do but plow forward in my third week of living here. No idea where or if a crash might come, but the jitters, pins and needles, and disorientation are present in full force.


The morning that Kamikaze came out, C was home and I was in the kitchen. I was making fresh corn tortillas with the corn flour I’d found on a tucked away aisle in Globus, and topping them with the best recreation of fresh Mexican chorizo I could muster, save for my own dried pepper spices I might have this time next year. C had heard me listening to an excerpt earlier in the morning, and decided to pipe the album in its entirety through our speaker in the living room. Every other song, if not multiple times a song, I would find myself pacing back into the living room to look at the source of the music in amazement and comment to C on how good I thought it was. Angry, intense—absolutely; but the rhymes were so searing they could melt hardened steel. I thought back to 2000, when The Real Slim Shady came out and I was going back and forth to my Windows Live Player listening to “Hi! My name is...Hi! My name is...” over and over. It made me remember how you can be doing a job for decades and still love getting up and going to work—in his case, the studio—every morning. It flows through you; as easy as breathing. I also thought about the fearlessness it takes to rise above opposing forces, in the sense that Eminem had named his album Kamikaze, knowing full well that other rappers had used that album name in the recent past. It reminded me that if you feel confident enough in whatever you’ve created, you can name it just about whatever you want, and more importantly, forget about whatever else is out there.

This week I decided to try some classes at my gym, as the new schedule for fall had been printed in English, which deceptively gained my trust. A few days later I’m in my workout gear, glassy-eyed and standing in a class called “BodyAttack”, surrounded by Swiss people and pounding techno music. I stood in the middle of the room, eyes fixed on a man in his early 30’s with large muscles and a shaved head speaking in fast, husky French. If there had been a camera on me, a screenshot of my face would’ve shown a confused, lost woman trying to guess what my next move would be. At one point we were to run full-force at the instructor and then back up just in time so that we wouldn’t collide with him. Each time we got closer and closer. Just in case, I rehearsed an apology under my breath as my BodyAttack sweat started getting out of control and the French, fatigue, and lack of free space in the room became more apparent. Somehow, I survived; it was mostly due to crossover words bearing no linguistic allegiance, like “burpee”.
Next in the class schedule was my very first spin class, and having been through my first french-only self-inflicted body assault; and I had lived to tell the tale; my confidence had risen slightly.
I arrived outside the large studio room filled with stationary bikes, surrounded by middle-aged French people in specialized, butt-padded riding pants and dedicated cycling shoes with clips on the soles. I immediately began to feel like I’d made a mistake, but a nice woman held the door open for me and inertia plus curiosity pulled me inside. There were already some, including the trainer, pedaling before the class, warming up their legs for the onslaught to come. I found my seat (34, twice my lucky number 17), which was next to a semi-pro-looking cyclist in a tight spandex outfit; about 6’6” without the cycling shoes. He immediately clicked his bike into his proper height settings, and I noticed then that mine probably needed some adjusting too. The next 10 minutes were me, getting up on the bike—hmm, that’s not right—getting off and clicking up or down, until I was positioned similarly to the instructor on her raised platform at the head of the class. Just as she began the countdown to the first song and I leaned forward hard to bear down, I felt a large shadow loom over me and without a word, the cyclist guy clicks my handlebars into place. Without his watchful eye, I would’ve launched myself across the room by the start of the second chorus.

C and I also met our first couple in Lausanne this week that may just become our good friends, if we’re lucky. I’ll call them “The Italians” for now, because…they’re Italian. C met Mr. Italy at work, and bonded over their mutual recent relocations to Switzerland. Ms. Italy is looking for new employment here in Lausanne, which gave her and me something to chat about. Thankfully they were both fluent in English, so that although we met in a crowded bar on a Thursday night in the heart of town, we were all shouting across the table in the same language. I of course geeked out over Italian wine, and they told me about a wine superstore in Milan called “Signorvino”; a place with shelves of great bottles and an eating area inside. I joked that it sounded like the IKEA of wine; they politely shook their heads: no.
Ms. Italy had actually not even begun to learn French, instead leaning heavily on her native Italian to point her in the right direction in tight spots. She told me with a wide grin that in most cases, if she spoke quickly enough, people didn’t necessarily pick out that she wasn’t speaking their language. But at some points in the past few months, she told me, the situation had been inescapable. “That’s when” she said, “I have to use my kamikaze French.” Ms. Italy, seeing the cards stacked and that she must find a way to communicate, throws everything she’s got at the wall—a proverbial linguistic nosedive. I had to interrupt C in the middle of his conversation to tell him that I had just heard my new favorite phrase. I was inspired, and plan on luring Mr. and Ms. I over to our apartment soon with the promise of tacos and whiskey.

Another week down, and the days here seem to be ticking away faster with each chime of the cathedral bells. I received my studio stuff and am eager to get it all plugged in and fired up today, just as soon as I finish my huge, pre-birthday apartment cleaning. For now, it’s Allie, signing off until next week with news of my first visit to France to see C’s family since my relocation. Here’s hoping for blue skies, a clear flight path, and pure, unadulterated gumption to press on through any clouds that come across my windscreen.