Tales from Paris: Sacre Coeur

A mother seeks out the holy; in a way, so does her son.

In our first "Tales" series, columnist E.R. Pulgar reflects on his mother's first time in Paris.

For Laura Arroyave.

My mother's first day in Paris was spent going to Mass. Her excuse was the rain, but I knew it was her dream to hear one in French, to go to confession. I sat with her at Notre Dame, and then asked her to climb to Montmarte. I remember her eyes glinting, child-like in their wonder, their readiness.

I took her up the hill to the Sacre Coeur. After so many steps, we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the old city below: children riding the carousel at sundown, didgeridoo players on the steps of the basilica, hipsters in berets running through the cobbled streets, shiny round shades glistening in the light rain. We entered the sprawling structure, me worshipping the marble, the Roman columns, the stained glass of the Sacred Heart of Christ my mother worshipped in silence. We lit a candle for my grandmother.

Mass started, and as my mother sat down I quietly saw myself out. I walked out into the monsoon that had developed as night fell, unable to listen to another litany in a language I did not understand.

The air was thick with musk and lamplight. My fingers were shaky with cold, my lips cut from the wind. I remembered watching Paris fester below and, stereotype that I am, craving a cigarette.

A group of strangers with cameras were nearby, shooting footage of the view of Montmartre from on high, laughing and crying in the forbidden language.

E.R. Pulgar

"Pardon, monsieur," I said in broken French. "Could you spare a cigarette?"

The man laughed, and took out a pack: Red Lucky Strikes. As I put the cigarette in my mouth, and he sparked me up, I thanked him. He asked where I was from, and we began to talk about Miami, about New York City, about why I was outside smoking cigarettes during Mass. I lied on the steps of the cathedral that, until him, I had been unsuccessful at bumming from strangers. Him and his friends laughed, and he embraced me. Suddenly, we were all huddled in a circle of laughter and smoke.

"We're at the Sacre Coeur; and charity is a virtue, yes?"

I nodded, and we laughed into the night. Paris continued to glisten. The priest inside droned on, a litany lost amid the incense smoke, amidst the echoes of my devout mother traipsing about the statues of the saints, amidst the candle for my dear grandmother.

She joined me outside an hour after they had left. I saw, in her eyes, something holy, and knew mine reflected the sentiment.

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The Best Museums in NYC

In honor of #NationalMuseumDay, here are the best NYC can offer.

While quarantine may keep museums shuttered for the summer, it will be more important than ever to return to them when they're re-opened.

Under normal circumstances, the sheer number of museums in The Big Apple can be overwhelming. Sure, the MET and MOMA are all well and good, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't take the time to delve deeper into the city's bustling museum culture. In honor of #NationalMuseumDay, here are the best museums the city has to offer.

The Noguchi Museum

Noguchi Museum

A quaint and pristine Long Island City museum built by esteemed American-Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi, The Noguchi Museum is an oasis of abstractionism and eccentricity. Decorated with paper mache lamps across two levels of exhibition space, the museum also offers a secluded overflowing ivy garden. Akin to Noguchi's style, the art is often a collection of minimalist geometric sculptures that transfix the eye with their unique congruity. The works have only gotten more breathtaking as Noguchi's style has evolved over his 70 year career.

The New Museum

For those artsy-fartsy museum goers who require their art to be brash and bold, The New Museum will most definitely scratch that itch. They regularly champion up-and-coming modern artists, with little constraints on what they'll accept. From filmmaker Kahlil Joseph to Australian painter Helen Johnson, The New Museum is great at offering variety. Some exhibits are better than others, but the diverse, creative risks that The New Museum rewards tend to make the viewing experiences unfounded and unforgettable.

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

the smithsonian

Located in a breathtaking 1900's Georgian Mansion, this Upper East Side museum promotes groundbreaking work in technology, architecture and design. From metalwork and sculptures to pottery, furniture, and advanced technology, the sprawling museum usually offers around 200,000 different pieces of captivating design from over the years.

Rubin Museum of Art

Rubin Museum of Art

The Chelsea-based art museum contains an extensive array of art from the Himalayas and India. With over 38,000 pieces from the past 1,500 years, the sculptures and installations provide a fascinating look at Himalayas rich culture. From photos by legendary photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, to sculptures and renditions from Tibet's Lukhang Temple, The Rubin offers an experience unlike any other.

National Museum of the American Indian New York

National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of American Indian was erected in the middle of a bustling Manhattan intersection to share the stories of over 1,200 indigenous cultures. From authentic ceremonial objects to gorgeous wood carvings and detailed pottery, the groundbreaking museum is one of the most important in the city to helping preserve the legacy of indigenous culture.

The Tenement Museum

The Tenement Museum

Located on the Lower East Side, the Tenement Museum is located in a historical tenement house, and offers authentic tours of the working-class apartments that helped house immigrants. The tour, which recreates each tenement with stirking detail, encompasses the housing evolution of LES, and how its budding immigrant residents shaped it into one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the city.

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10 Endangered Animals to Weep Over

Celebrate Endangered Species Day.

An endangered species is not a tragedy, because if a species is endangered, then they aren't yet extinct.

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Do Non-Melatonin Sleep Aids Really Work?

Objective makes a chocolate square.

I Can't Sleep.

I truly cannot remember the last time I had a good night's rest. Even before the stay-at-home orders, I was just a little ball of nerves.

But lately, it's been awful. I toss and turn, it's always too hot or even too cold, sometimes I make myself tea and read for a bit, but when I'm still up at 1 a.m., I reach for my phone and then I'm up until 3. My sister and I have a weekly call, and our small talk about our exhaustion turned into an hour long conversation about sleep.

I Thought I'd Tried Everything. Even Melatonin.

My sister asked why I hadn't gone for the old staple, melatonin and I reminded her about the time we traveled abroad, and it gave me the weirdest nightmares (the horrible kind where you wake up in your dream and you're still in a dream). Chamomile tea didn't work, nothing worked.

She said she had a friend who swore by something I definitely hadn't heard of.

They Were NOT Pills, Teas or Anything I'd Seen Before.

A company called Objective makes Fast Asleep, a sleep solution delivered as chocolatey treats. They're created with saffron and GABA. If going to sleep was as easy as eating a piece of these chocolatey, minty delights every night, I'd be sold.

What Exactly Was In It?

Cocoa contains caffeine, so I didn't know how this would help me sleep. After talking with my sister, I went online and saw that the calming, sleep-supporting ingredients cancel out any of the very little caffeine content.

Saffron, the spice, is apparently known to help with staying asleep, and their GABA is a fermented version of the neurotransmitter that's known to help you relax and fall asleep faster. In a study, 100% of customers saw improvement in their sleep quality thanks to saffron. One hundred percent!

Do I Try It?

A bag of 30 pieces was only $40, and they had a money-back guarantee.

They're keto-friendly and only 30 calories a piece, so not too decadent before bedtime.

They were chocolatey-minty, which is my favorite flavor, so I was sold. I ordered a bag to try.

The First Night, I Wasn't Impressed.

I took one piece (super yummy!) - 30-60 minutes before bedtime is recommended - but when I climbed in, I didn't notice a difference. I was worried I'd wasted my money.

However, once I fell asleep, I stayed asleep until my alarm went off, which hasn't always been the case for me.

I checked the site again, and noticed that many people didn't notice a real difference until the third or fourth night - it builds up in your system over time, so I decided to keep an open mind the rest of the week.

The Second Night Was Completely Different

Without doing anything differently from the first night, my second night was amazing. I felt calm and sleepy as I was getting ready for bed, and once I hit the pillow, I was out the whole night.

It had to be these sweet treats. The next day, I even felt more balanced and relaxed - Fast Asleep helps boost serotonin levels and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), and I definitely noticed a difference in my overall mood and alertness.

I Already Ordered More.

Just In Case! There's nothing habit-forming about this product, so it's completely safe to take every night, and I honestly always want to keep it in the house. I'd also love to offer it to anyone staying over in the guest room, whenever we have guests again.

Now that I'm getting a healthy 8 hours of sleep every night, I feel more equipped during the day to tackle the things I need to do and deal with some of my daytime stressors. I finally had the energy to clean the kitchen, which had been bothering me so much for the past few weeks.

With Objective's Fast Asleep, I get real sleep and balance my levels, so I don't have to feel tired during my waking hours. Sleep in the form of chocolate squares sounds so weird, but oh my goodness, do they work.

Our partners at Objective Wellness are currently offering a 25% discount if you use the coupon code STAYHOME. Check them out here!