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The Pictures I’m Not Taking

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I didn’t take a camera on Belle’s and my trip to Paris. However, I am — bien sur! —  equipped with the intelligent communications device that is mandatory for all sub-arctic dwelling bipeds. Thus, I managed a few shots…none of which had me in them. This seemed to annoy some people (“You’re not in them – you didn’t take even ONE selfie?!”).

Cruising up the Seine River, I am somehow not in the photo.

Cruising up the Seine River, I am somehow not in the photo – quelle fromage!

A long long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I learned that, for me, photographically documenting key moments of travel – or key moments of anything – often spoils the very thing I’m trying to authenticate.  Another way to put it is that taking pictures gets in the way of my experience of what is in those pictures.  I want to have those so-called Kodak moments to remember. I don’t need to be “in them” if I was truly in them.

*   *   *

What follows is a series of snapshot impressions of our trip.

 Truth in advertising.

flyingisjustabuswithwings

On our return flight from Paris, while looking over the airplane’s safety info sheet, I realized I’d never appreciated the suitability of the name chosen by that European Airplane manufacturing company.  Unless you can afford first class, travel par avion has lost whatever comfort and glamour it once had. These days, flying is like riding a bus with wings.

*   *   *

* “Paging passenger shithorse to gate B…” This was heard, over the Toronto airport’s PA system, by both Belle and I. Granted, we were a bit tired and punchy after an 8 hour flight from Paris, [1] during which a distressed toddler screamed for 7.5 of those hours.  But, really, that’s what we heard. Repeated several times.

I hope Mr/Ms. Shithorse made his/her flight.

*   *   *

* What’s with the pigeons in Paris?  They are plump, shiny, big as ducks…they are…beautiful.  HOW CAN THIS BE?

I’ve had to revise my opinion of pigeons, a breed of bird I heretofore would never have associated with the word beautiful. [2]  Belle and I decided that the regional pigeon pulchritude was related to the Parisian love of picnics.  You will not find a ten foot square plot of grass, or even cobblestone walkway by the Seine, that is not occupied by a Parisian couple or family sitting on a small blanket, reaching into their basket or bag to retrieve baguette sandwiches, cheeses, patés and wine. And where there are picnics, there will be, intentionally or otherwise, scraps left behind. Parisian pigeons are well fed.

A pigeon's destiny fulfilled.

A pigeon’s destiny fulfilled.

*   *   *

* We saw less beggars and/or “street people” in Paris than in Portland, but noticed that, just as in Portland,  a beggar with a pet seems to get more positive responses (read: donations, or even a kind word of acknowledgement) than those soliciting alone.  A Roma-looking woman with an amazingly friendly, one-green-and-one-blue-eye white cat got all of our change, [3] as did an older gent with a bunny-on-a-halter leash.

* Ditto re spotting and encountering mentally ill street people.  We saw almost none, and we did a lot of street walking.  Uh, that is, we walked a lot.  You know. On the streets.

The one behaviorally challenged chap we did see was quite memorable. We encountered Crazy Wheel Man on a street near Place de Bastille, where he was shouting orders, loudly but with a big grin on his wild-eyed face, at select people and objects.  He hollered something at a few cars that whizzed past; he ignored Belle and moiself as we passed him, but hassled the woman walking next to us who was pushing a stroller.  He went after some bicyclists, then stepped out in front of an oncoming bus, raised his hand, and began to shout advice or admonition to the driver.  CWM was so dubbed by us when I realized he was yelling at the stroller, not at the woman pushing the stroller.  What the objects of his hollering had in common was that they were all wheeled contraptions.

Crazy Wheel Man would not have yelled at this.

Crazy Wheel Man would not have yelled at this.

*   *   *

Miscellaneous cultural highlights

* I actually heard a French person exclaim, “Ooh la la!”
* I finally had the occasion to use one of my favorite French Survival Phrases ® , “Il n’ya pas de papier dans les toilettes.” [4]

oohlalapng

*   *   *

* Our base for our trip was an apartment in the Bastille District. The first step in entering our apartment was to input a security code at the outer (street level) door.  The code consisted of five units – two numbers and a letter, followed by two more numbers.  The code was a snap for us to memorize once we realized the code was Belle’s bra and cup size, followed by double her bra size.

Ooh la la.

Sadie@13RuedelaRoquette

*   *   *

 Vive l’egalite!

I love it when I espy some men who dress as ridiculously as some women, and Paris people watching afforded several such opportunities.  Sitting at a sidewalk café with Belle, appreciating a really fine lunch on a really hot day and while the really hot Parisians parade past us was a daily activity.  On one such day, within ten minutes I saw three different men, dressed fashionably head-to-toe…but they blew it when it came to the toe part.  These men wore what I call “elf shoes.”  Sort of like flat (“bad word”) pumps for women, these men’s shoes taper to an almost stiletto point; alien anthropologists, finding such footwear in an archeological dig, would assume the wearer had only three toes, with the longest one in the middle.

TOE

What with no actual human foot being able to occupy the toe box, and with no weight occupying it (as the wearer’s real toes are crammed together about three inches back in the toe box) the end of the shoe curls slightly upward.  You know, elf shoes.

ELF SHOES

*   *   *

* About those fashionably dressed Parisians, whose physical appearance Belle and I found both enchanting and intimidating: my enchantment level was increased when I realized I hadn’t seen one pair of saggy baggy clown ass sweats or jeans sliding down the derrières of those gorgeous French men.  Not one.

You will not see this in Paris. Are y'all ready to relocate? 

You will not see this in Paris. Are y’all ready to relocate?

*   *   *

* Belle: “I feel that France is better at natural selection than we are. They pick all the hot ones to breed and let the rest die out.”

 *   *   *

* Belle and I wanted to bring back some truly authentic souvenirs for our friends – none of this made in China, plastic Eiffel Tower key ring jive.  We soon realized that if we wanted to bring back something that truly said, this is the essence of Paris, we’d have to check suitcases full of skinny French men and women wearing skinny jeans who would smoke skinny cigarettes on your porch. [5]

SMOKE

*   *   *

* The native Parisians and other French folk we encountered were, by and large, not large at all. Certainly their level of activity has a lot to do with it.  Paris is a walking city – you’d have to be either suicidal or a fool to drive or bike in the urban areas [6] – and most residents use a combination of walking and riding their public transit to get from points A to B and everywhere in-between.  You can get quite the workout merely navigating the Metro stations themselves. And yes, those fashionably thin Parisians do partake of their incredibly delicious, rich French food, but, judging from what we saw and were ourselves served, the portions are so much more reasonable/realistic than that which we in the over-developed world have come to expect.

Also, les homes and femmes, they all smoke cigarettes.  Copiously.  The waiter brings the plates des jour, and after a few minutes of fashionable lingering and laughing and puffing at the outdoor tables [7] their food might as well be served in an ashtray.  Which may explain why the Parisians we observed never would have qualified for membership in the The Clean Plate Club – yet another reason they stay slender.

SoleMeuniere@LesGrandMarches

 Ash-free Sole Meunière at Les Grande Marches

 *   *   *

Random Louvre thoughts

* Much to Belle’s delight, we saw a surprising amount of paintings featuring cows.

* Much to the delight of moiself, I saw a surprising amount of statues of people with expressions I consider representational and realistic, more than artistic or impressionistic.

 Louvre, schmouvre, I am soooooo over these gawking tourists....

Louvre, schmouvre, I am soooooo over these gawking tourists….

* In the Louvre’s statuary garden Belle demonstrated the knowledge acquired during  her four years of Art and AP art classes, and I truly appreciated her insights and explanations when I asked about certain aspects of the magnificent objects d’art we were viewing.  Then, out of the blue, I heard her exclaim, “Look at him beating up that horse!”

In Belle’s first glimpse of a statue of a Roman soldier restraining a bucking stallion, she failed to notice that the soldier’s clenched fist was not in fact about to cold clock the stallion’s jaw; rather, his hand was clenched around the horse’s reins.  I sooooooooo relished being able to point out that detail [8] to my otherwise well-informed and observant daughter.

 *   *   *

* Paris has 37 bridges (“ponts“) that cross the Seine River. On Sunday June 15 it took 29 verses of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” for Belle and I to walk from the Pont Royal to the Pont Senghor bridge. [9] We’d started our bridge walk on the west side of the city, by the Eiffel Tower, and kept going until we found just the right one (according to Belle) of several of the bridges that are festooned with “love locks.”

LOCELOCKBEIDGEpng

We had each purchased two padlocks to commemorate our loved ones, and added them to the Senghor Bridge. Belle’s locks were for her friend ALX, and also for friend MRG, who has always wanted to travel abroad (but is unlikely to do so, as she is battling a fatal renal disease). My locks were for Belle and I, in honor of our trip, and my favorite hommes, MH and K, and my late great dad.

lockforchetSenghorbridge

 *   *   *

 * Most Parisian shopkeepers, restaurant staff and other businesspersons will admit to speaking English – IF you follow the protocol greeting ritual (which is strict, expected and courteous).  The few we encountered who (claimed that they) did not speak or understand English seemed rather haughty about, or even proud of, that fact.

While Belle and I found most Parisians to be quite helpful, we also learned that they help with what is specifically asked, and no more.  For example, early on in our travel week, as we were discussion what we really wanted to do/see in Paris (as opposed to what everyone says you should do/see), I reminded Belle that

(a) if she desired to see the Versailles Chateau or a certain shopping district, I would leave the planning of that to her, and

(b) she should be sure to plan carefully as some sites/shops are closed on some days.

Yes, I should have followed up, after that.

On our Monday trip to the Versailles Chateau, many, many Parisians along the way, including those at the TOURIST INFORMATION CENTER, HELLO, gave us directions and helped us find the proper metro to the proper train to the Versailles Chateau, without adding just un petite helpful comment, that, BTW, the chateau is closed today.  The Versailles Chateau is always closed on Mondays, the guards outside the chateau’s closed gates told one group of visitors after another.[10]  But then, we didn’t actually ask anyone, “And is the chateau open today?”

 

*   *   *

* It completely slipped my mind that a thick mustard, or any condiment, would be considered a security threat or a possible bomb-making component subject to the carry-on liquid limit. And so the Charles DeGaulle airport’s dour security man searched my bag and removed the 6 oz jar of moutarde de citron I’d intended to bring home to my mustard-loving son. [11]

A simple, “Madame, zees is over ze limit” would have sufficed – it was an honest mistake, the mustard did not pass muster, I get it. Just confiscate it, okay?  But, nooooo.

Dour Security Drone held the jar up to the light, seemingly puzzled by the contents.  “It’s mustard,” I helpfully offered, pointing to the jar’s moutard label.  He made motions as if he intended to unscrew the lid and sniff it, which would have been fine by me.  But he didn’t.  He continued to scrutinize the jar, turning it this way and that.  Then he put it up to his ear and shook it.  It took all of my self control not to feign alarm and gasp, “No – don’t do that, you’ll arm it!”

Finally, he signaled to two of his comrade and passed the mustard jar to them. He told me I could gather my things and go, but that the mustard must stay.  “Fine,” I said. “Enjoy your sandwiches.”

The one that made it through.

The one that made it through.

*   *   *

May your condiments be TSA-friendly and mustard bomb-free, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] And facing two more flights to get us back to the Portland airport.

[2] Aka, airborne rats.

[3] Which, in Euros, adds up.

[4] This was upon emerging from a boulangeries’s WC, and warning the next woman in line about how the room was lacking a vital accessory.

[5] My friends got chocolate, coffee, pasta  and fruit paté instead.

[6] Although there seemed to be no shortage of both.

[7] Smoking is banned indoors, but if you sit at an outdoor table, everyone around you will be smoking.

[8] And bring it up several times later the same day.

[9] After two or three verses I sang the rest under my breath, out of respect for Belle, who was becoming somewhat perturbed by my enthusiasm.

[10] We were far from the only out of town visitors who didn’t get the schedule right.

[11] A smaller jar made it through, vive la liberation!

The Greatest Hits I’m Not Compiling

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One day back from de merveilleuses vacances à Paris with Belle, and I’m in no shape to blog.

I thought about running a greatest hits–type compilation from blogs past…as if the masses are clamoring for such a thing…and as if such a thing exists.

What an ego that would require – you’d think I was French or something.

Cette femme n'est pas Français!

Cette femme n’est pas Français!

Yes, we had a fantastic time, and yes, so much (but not all) of what is said about Paris is true. [1] Unbelievably wonderful bread and wine…

BREAD

 …served in charming cafes by debonair French waiters

 NOTfrench men

Who, remercier les dieux, looked nothing like these gentlemen.

So, je ne post pas.  Until I can muster the energy, and circadian readjustment to Oregon time, stunning visual images and a few jokes will have to do.

Here is the favorite of the many pictures we took:

I so did not take this picture.  Neither did Belle.

I so did not take this picture.  Neither did Belle.

Q: Which ghost was president of France?
A: Charles de Ghoul

Q: Why don’t they have fireworks at Euro Disney?
A: Because every time they shoot them off, the French try to surrender.

Q: What is a native of Paris called?
A: A parisite.

Time for equal time. The French do love their jokes about the Yanks.

Q: What do you call a beautiful woman in America?
A: A tourist.

Q: What is the difference between an American and a pot of yoghurt?
A: After a period of time, the yoghurt [2] begins to develop cultures.

This next one is from the Parisites to the Brits.

Q: What’s long, dark, hard, gloomy, and ends with millions of assholes?
A: The Channel Tunnel.

*   *   *

May you and yours always have Paris, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] The French use very few footnotes.

[2] Using the French spelling, but of course.

The Trip I’m Not Bragging About

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Pomp and Circumcision

Belle graduated from high school. And as the closing strains of “that song” – arguably and most famous/recognizable processional in the world – wafted through the auditorium’s sound system, there was a momentary catch in my throat.

Closing strains. Oh and yes, I and Belle’s family and friends, all twelve of us, caught only the closing strains of P & C because we were seated in an “overflow” area, not in the gym where the ceremony was held.  We had to (or got to, depending on your POV) watch the ceremony via closed circuit transmission to a screen in the school’s auditorium, “we” being we who had arrived before the ceremony started but could not find a parking place and had to circle the school and park a bazillion miles away and then be bussed back to the school….. There were over one hundred of us we’s in that situation.  So, who gave out more tickets than the place could hold?

Oy vey.  Our peanut gallery seating did have its charms, as we got to make snarky comments about it the ceremony because there was no one to object and no one to embarrass (what with Belle being on stage with the other valedictorians in the gym).  While the audio transmission was (unfortunately) adequate, the video took colorful license, and we were treated to the sight of the various speakers, musicians and vocalists turning from green (“Martians!”) to blue (“Breathe!  Inhale!”) to yellow (“Jaundice!”) to red (“OMG, the diplomas are being handed about by munchkins!”).

"Class of 2014, turn your tassles!"

“Class of 2014, turn your tassles!”

Re my comment as to the unfortunate audio clarity:  no one really needs to clearly hear yet another painfully botched rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.  Why it is played on such occasions (why it is played at all, anywhere) is beyond me.  When I am anointed Grand Bahoobie of the Planet, the only person allowed to sing the SSB will be Aretha Franklin.

And the speeches.  There should be no speeches, by the adults, unless they are under one minute and include fart and/or elephant jokes.  Okay, let one of the Vals do a brief speech for/to/about their class – I suppose you have to have that.  But keep it short; get ’em graduated and out of there.  Just ask those around you, as I did: who ever talks about – who ever can remember anything about – the speeches given at their graduation ceremonies?

Ah yes, the grad speech thing. If you’re the poor schmuck lucky student chosen to give it, say a few kind and funny things about your fellow students, but not at the expense of the elders in the audience. As we were leaving the school – after the ceremony, after the graduates and their families and friends shared congratulations and took  pictures before the grads were whisked off to the all-night grad party – I ran into BTY, the girl who’d given her class’s commencement speech.  BTY was one of Belle’s fellow valedictorians, and I knew her and her parents from when she and Belle had been on the freshman volleyball team.  I congratulated them all, said BTY must be proud of her accomplishments, and complimented BTY on her speech…which, I added, I can’t resist picking one nit with it.  That part where BTY commented on how their class’s parents and grandparents misunderstood and mislabeled their generation, and about how “our parents and grandparents don’t understand our technology”?  Ahem.  Your parents INVENTED THAT TECHNOLOGY.

I got a laugh and a wink from her father and a high five from her mother.

GRAD

Q: How does every French joke start?
A: By looking over your shoulder.

*   *   *

 We are Americans in Paris, and that’s no joke.

By we I mean Belle and I.  There is, of course, a story behind this.

Most college bound high school students take two years of a foreign language, to meet the minimum college entrance requirement. Five years ago, the summer before she was to enter high school, I made a deal with Belle.  If she stuck with one language for all four years, after her graduation she and I would travel to a major city in a country that spoke that language.

She’d been thinking of taking Japanese, which Liberty High School offered at that time. But budget cuts be praised,[1] the school no longer offered Japanese.  She decided to take French.

Despite a slew of AP classes and other responsibilities Belle stayed with French up through her Junior Year, and signed up for French 4 her senior year, even after finding out her favorite French teacher, the one she’d had for French 2 and 3, was to be transferred to another school (that damn budget thing again) and thus French 4 would be taught by the teacher she had for French 1 – the same teacher who taught both French and German, the same teacher who, three years earlier, had announced to her French 1 class’s parents on Back to School Night that she really didn’t enjoy teaching French, and that her first love was her German classes. [2]

NAZI

Mais oui, I digress.

Day 1 of Belle’s senior year: the students pick up their class schedules, and Belle finds out that there will be no French 4.  The look on her face when she returned home that afternoon with the news….

I assured her that she had fulfilled her end of the bargain, and, quelle fromage! she and I were going to Paris in June 2014.

And so, we are here, having more fun than you can possibly imagine [3], or possibly lying in some Parisian alley, sleeping off a baguette and brie hangover.

This très peu message was written in advance, assuming I would not have time to post, what with being busy with all things French, including appreciating ces romantiques français hommes.

Bon voyage, mesdames et messieurs, and may the hijinks ensue.

  Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Something I never thought I’d find myself thinking…but I had no desire to travel to Japan.

[2] As you might imagine, MH and I were less than impressed.  I think I may have muttered some “____ nazi” comments under my minty breath.

[3] Go ahead, cyber-slap me.

The Hair I’m Not Flinging

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The Day of all Days

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the largest seaborne invasion in history, WWII’s Normandy Invasion, aka D-Day.  My uncle, Sgt. Bill O’Malley, was one of the hundreds of US 82nd and 101st Division Airborne paratroopers dropped behind the German lines.  How he ended up not being one of the 12,000 Allied casualties that day was a mystery to him, he would later tell his curious 4th grad niece — that would be me — who asked him about what he did in the war (a question, I later found out, adults almost never posed as Bill had made it plain, after being released from a hospital after the war ended for treatment for “Battle Fatigue” — also aka shell shock, what we now know to be PTSD — that he didn’t want to talk about it).

The enormity and audacity of such an operation…well, there are a many books about it. One of them, Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers, which follows the exploits of a paratrooper division “Easy Company” from D-Day through the Battle of the Bulge to the German surrender, was made into arguably the best mini-series ever.  You need to see it, if you haven’t already. I’m going to watch part of it tonight, and I’ll be thinking of my late uncle, my father, and the other paratroopers, whose courage and tenacity (a part of which was prompted by sheer circumstance and naivete — they so did not know what they were getting into)  needs to be regularly retold, and honored.

Band of Brothers

The Flinging Blonde

That's the flinging blonde, not the singing nun.

That’s flinging blonde, not singing nun.

Dateline: June 1, out for my morning Nordic Walk on a sunny Sunday morning. I approach the grounds of the neighborhood junior high school and see two high school age girls walking on the sidewalk ahead of me.  One girl has long (almost waist-length), shiny, thick, straight blonde hair.  Long Blondie does two cartwheels in the grass beside the sidewalk.   She springs to her feet after each flip and snaps her head forward and back, which causes her hair to cascade over her face and then down her back.  She ceases her cartwheels but continues to fling her head, now from side to side, flipping her golden mane, which shimmers in the sunlight.

 Look at this hair!  Look what I can do with it! Look at me!

 And yes, she had really, really, really beautiful hair.

Stop me before I fling again.

Stop me before I fling again.

*   *   *

Speaking of things to fling…

How Much More Clear Does it Have to Get? 

There are people, in media and social media outlets, who continue to twist themselves with mental gymnastics worthy of a Cirque de Soleil contortionist in order to assert that misogyny was not a prime motivating factor in the Isla Vista Shootings.

Uh huh.

Head_up_ass

 The killer left a detailed, logically composed narrative – a 140 page manifesto – spelling it out.  The killer was a regular participant in chat room forums promoting misogyny, andwas active in the men’s rights (MRA) forums promoting misogyny, and made YouTube videos in which he professed his misogyny, and….

In every facet of his life, he professed and documented his hatred of women.  But hatred of women, according to some denialists, could not have been the prime motivation of his killing spree. These denialists also assert that if we talk about misogyny, and about the parts of our culture that treat misogyny as normal, even acceptable or even entertaining, we are sensationalizing or “politicizing” a tragic event.

Sic ’em, Greta Christina:

 “When men in Islamist theocracies assault, rape, and kill women, we have no problem calling it misogynist hatred. When they explicitly state that their motivation is to enforce God’s gender roles and put women in their place, we have no problem calling it misogynist hatred. And we have no problem laying the blame, in large part, on the culture that teaches this hatred, and on the thousands of ways both large and small that Islamist theocratic culture teaches this despicable concept of women.

 “So why is it so hard to see the Isla Vista shootings as motivated by misogyny?”

In her righteously WTF? blog post Elliot Rodgers and Misogyny Denialism, [1] author and activist Christina calls out the b.s. in her usual, incisive, rational and pissed off prose…even as she she recognizes the motivations behind our desire to recognize the reality of our culture’s underlying misogyny: because it is just to damn painful, and frustrating, and humiliating.

Read it and weep.  Better yet, read it and act.

ROSIE

*   *   *

 Is the Paint Dry Yet?

Tuesday evening, the last High School Senior Class Awards ceremony I will ever have to snore through have the opportunity to attend.  Belle received four academic awards; local merchants and community organizations gave out community scholarships…and oh, how a certain someone in the audience wanted to sandpaper her eyeballs in frustration when she heard yet another well-meaning, slow-talking older gent preface his bestowal of an award with, “Let me say a few words about the history of….”

Bored2

*   *   *

The Snark Watch, Day Seven

MH and I made a bet as to who would make the first snarky comment re Belle’s tattoo: family friend JWW, or MH’s mother. [2]  I will not reveal who bet on whom. Thankfully, neither of us has (so far) won the bet.

 Cicadatatt

*  *  *

Coming Attractions [3]

* In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.
(Mark Twain)

* When good Americans die, they go to Paris.
(Oscar Wilde)

* Paris is always a good idea.
(Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina Fairchild in Sabrina)

Parisrivewr

* The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older—intelligence and good manners.
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)

 To err is human. To loaf is Parisian
(Victor Hugo)

*   *   *

May the erring and loafing begin, and surely the hijinks shall ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] I know, in last week’s post, I refused to mention his name.  There it is.

[2] MH’s parents flew out from Florida last week, visiting for Belle’s high school graduation.

[3] Why are there only three footnotes in this post?