Thursday, December 20, 2007

We have several sets of visitors coming to see us and we are excited! Here is a little Parisian teaser to whet your appetite.

Madam Chemel lived in the apartment below ours when we first moved to Paris. She loves jazz. She lent me several French jazz CD’s to rip and has, since we moved to the Marias, tried to set up a time for us to go “hear some jazz”. Last night we heard some Jazz.

We met Madame Chemel her 20 something son and his girlfriend, Sara, at the Sunset-Sunside Jazz Club near our apartment. Bugge Wesseltoft, a Norwegian, is apparently all the rage in Paris jazz clubs. It was advertised as "Bugge Wesseltoft, his piano and his machines". His machines turned out to be a mixer and his apple computer. I would like to think that I’m up for new things but the truth is “experimental anything” is not on my cup of tea. My thinking is that if you can play the piano, and he can play the piano, then lose all the electronic bullshit and tickle the ivories. But it was an enjoyable evening and Madam Chemel is a sweetheart and the 20 somethings are a cute couple so we had fun.

I noticed that there is, apparently, no “maximum capacity” numbers to clubs in Paris. Everyone had a seat but once you sat down you could not get up- no aisles. The waitress carrying our drink order, looked at us from across the crowded room, smiled, shrugged her shoulders and returned our drinks to the bar. The other thing I noticed was the quiet. When Bugge began playing there was not a peep. No one spoke, there was no chatter, no cell phones ringing, no glasses clinking- people were there to listen to the music only. I was talking to the French guy next to me between sets. He had the complete skinny on Bugge and was happy to share it- I mentioned how respectful it was to the musician as well as the others in the audience for people to remain quiet. He looked confused and said, “How else would it be?”

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I was reminded that I had not updated the readers on the theft perpetrated against your humble blogger by the treacherous, fortified city of Carcassonne. As you may recall, I visited Carcassonne with my brother and his family a while ago. During this trip, a drug crazed Carcassonnian degenerate broke into my brother’s car and stole my IPod- nothing else was stolen and there was no sign of forced entry. Without “polluting” my mind with the “facts” of this case, I wrote a heart felt post about the Carcassonnian menace and how they are corrupting our youth and possibly hiding Weapons of Mass Destructions that they may have stolen from Iraq which would explain a great deal. T-shirts were made up- other hate groups enlisted and I’ve been writing some pretty interesting, not easily substantiated “facts” about Carcassonne in bathrooms all around Paris.

Well people, our perseverance, our singleness of purpose and our rightmindednessity have paid off. I received a call from my brother in Brussels; they found the IPod in the storage well in the back of the car. The thieving Carcassonnian, obviously fearful of my written attacks, and the clout I carry with the fortified city tourist market journeyed to Brussels and return the IPod to the car from which it had been stolen. The mischievous Carcassonnian, undoubtedly high on his “jazz cigarettes,” was unable to resist the temptation of placing it in a puddle of water next to the spare tire.

The IPod, after a few days of drying, is working again. Justice has, once again, prevailed. Yeah Team Misplaced!!! BOOO Carcassonnian Menace!!!!

* There is no such thing as an “over use of quotation marks”

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I forgot to post this picture of us in Barcelona.
A Dance With The Dogs

I’ve been under the weather since Tuesday. I’m thinking it’s the flue- my hair follicles hurt, my body aches and I also have that annoying pain right behind the nose in the throat. I normally don’t get sick so it throws me off when I do. This has been a particularly annoying illness as it wont let me sleep- 3 AM…4 AM…5 AM. The “Dog Hours” my dad calls them- awake, nothing to do but think. And think. And think. He thought about his kids- I think only of myself. Of course, the more you think the more you stay awake and the more you stay awake the more you think.

At one point, while watching the clock goose-step through its military time I was thinking about regret. Life’s to short to regret I reminded myself as I lay there, but the Dog Hours told me that life’s too long and I’m too human to not have some regrets.

There is challenge going around the blog world that basically asks to write a letter to your 13-year-old self. And so I thought about this for a spell. What would I write to myself? What was I doing at 13 years old? Beware of these questions when the clock strikes 3 AM- this is how the dance with the dog begin.

When I was 13 years old a friend and I said to ourselves, “ya know- we ought to learn to play the guitar- yes indeed, that would be a fine thing”

When we were 23 we said, “You know if we learned to play the guitar when we last discussed this we’d be pretty good right about now- I bet we could play some Neil Young tunes. Women might swoon”

At 33 years old we didn’t talk about it- but we did remind ourselves that McCartney and Lennon were 26 when they came out with the Sgt. Pepper album- We would have been playing guitar longer than George Harrison- we might have mocked his lack of maturity on some of the tracks, but we still would have loved the album.

Now I’m 43. I would have been playing for 30 years. My fingers would be callused, my trusty guitar would be old and beat up but still weeping on demand. Through the years I would have gone through many phases- I would have learned rock and then probably become more interested in bluegrass and, of course, Dylan perhaps even a bit of Woody Guthrie- but by 43 years old I would be singing my own songs. They wouldn’t be clever songs- I would have outgrown the need to impress- but they would be truthful and from the heart. My songs would speak to the exact emotion I was having. “I wrote this in a cheap hotel in Owensboro, Kentucky- the home of mutton” I might say before rolling into a sad song about misdirection and aged meat.

Of course, you are probably saying that if I learned to play guitar beginning today I would still have 30 years to go through all these phases. But these are the Dog Hours, and the Dog Hours aren’t about solutions, the Dog Hours are about regret and fear.

Monday, December 10, 2007

It seemed that everyday my 5 siblings and I had to bring something home from school for my parents to sign. Usually they were questions regarding a church service or a field trip. Before my first communion there was a suddenly flurry of questions being sent by the nun that taught me. “When is the best time for the service? Should the boys wear dark trousers? Will the girls wear veils?” Since there were six kids my mom didn’t have time for this foolishness but answered all the questions until I brought the last request?

“The teacher wants to know what you favorite recipe is?” I said, a mouth full of day-old strawberry Zinger.

In my innocents I wasn’t aware of the maelstrom that would follow. It must have been the straw that broke the camel's back because my mom was putting her foot down. She would not answer. The battle lines were drawn- my mother against a Catholic nun- it would be a battle royale. The nun, having taken a vow to give up most everything, was not about to cede her last pleasure, which was total control. Each day she would demand the recipe and each night my mother would say no. It was a battle of wills and I, the humble messenger- an innocent amongst Carcassonian treachery, would bounce back and forth like a ping-pong ball with the serve of “Recipe tomorrow!” and a return volley of “Not a chance!”

Finally, the nun, in a breach of game etiquette made a proclamation. “Young Misplaced will not be allowed back in school until he brings your favorite recipe forthwith.” My mother weighed the options – Concede the battle or allow her 5th child, who had incredible hair, even then, to live in the darkness of ignorance for the rest of his life. She apparently was still weighing these options the next morning, as she had not given me a recipe*. As my mom filled 6 brown paper bags with lunches, I repeated the terms of surrender to her. It was quiet- the last apple fell much too hard on the sandwich in the bag- I made a mental note to not take that particular lunch. My mother, in a rare display of melt down, stormed into the pantry, pulled down a packet of Lime Jell-O, ripped the back off and said in a dark, ominous voice, “Give this to the Nun”. The incident was eventually forgotten and my little brother got the dented sandwich. My world was once again golden

First communion arrived, as it always does, near Mother’s Day. In appreciation for raising us Catholic and not some heathen, bastard offshoot of Christianity, we gave our mothers cookbooks that had been illustrated by us. These handmade books contained the favorite recipes, with detailed instructions, of all the mothers. Included were such gems as, Mrs. Gunderson’s favorite Lamp-of-God chops, Mrs. O’Connor’s heavenly homemade Irish Soda Bread, Mrs. Bedelias’ Favorite Lemon Merigue Pie.

And under the M’s could be found

Mrs. Misplaced’s Favorite Lime Jell-O
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil
Stir in content of Lime Jell-O Packet
Allow to cool.

It was some time before the prank phone calls stopped. The story would find it’s way back into our lives. A letter from Father Cunningham saying how much they enjoyed this Jell-O treat; the Lime Jell-O box ornament that would mysteriously appear on our Christmas tree each year; the 25th grade school re-union, where a copy of the recipe was next to the first communion photo. As I consider this now it is very obvious that I have deliberately moved to a country that does not sell Jell-O, I just want to get on with my life.

*Had she known I would be educated and unemployed in Paris she might have chosen differently- hindsight is always 20/20.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

We have finally had a sunny day- it’s amazing how quickly the streets fill up. I was among them the masses during my Sunday morning walk. A few scenes of Christmas.

This is in front of the Hotel DeVille.

They have a skating area for kids where they’ve placed an obstacle course- when the children fail, which of course they will, we all point and laugh. It's a win-win for everyone...well, except maybe the kids but I sure had fun. The look on their tiny faces when they've been publicly humiliated for trying is priceless.

The Christmas Tree is set up in front of Notre Dame. As people admire the tree and the church their pockets are picked. Don’t the tourists, with their fat wallets, look like little presents under the Christmas tree? God, I love Christmas.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I transferred trains at the Ecole Militaire and was brought back in time. They are renovating the metro stop and removed partitions that covered the original tile work. On these walls are the advertisements and notices of 1962. So, in keeping with The History of Walls, which we began last week, here is the latest installment. This was our entertainment back in the early 1960's.

I have strange obsessions. I wrote about an Asian woman that made her boyfriend take picture after picture of her in Notre Dame. I'm not certain what it is with churches and girls wanting the perfect Facebook photo but here's another one in front of Sacrada Familia in Barcelona. The hapless, balding boyfriend attempts to capture the beauty of his gal as defined by his gal. He continued to take pictures for about 15 minutes. She is working it and giving photographic direction.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

I took this video in Barcelona. I don't know what it all represents as it does not concern "my people" and therefore I paid little to no attention. What the video doesn't show is me, hopped up on local cider, wrestling the flag away from the girl and doing a midwestern dance which involves miming a game of cornhole, mowing the lawn while whistling and something that looks like a drunken "lord of the dance. I was then beat like a cagatio to the delight of all. Oh...what a time we had.
What a great city Barcelona is. There is a much more relaxed atmosphere there as opposed to Paris.

It dates back to the 1st century and you find the usual suspects Visigoths, Moors, Franks rolling through leaving their own particular marks. Wilford the Hairy is acclaimed to be the founder of the House of Counts of Barcelona. This means absolutely nothing to me but his name was "Wilford the Hairy". If his name were “Wilford the Balding” he wouldn’t have rated a mention. That’s the unfairness when it comes to guys with hair.

We stayed with friends of ours Kevin and Laura. Kevin is an expat from my little corner of the Midwest. Laura is a Catalan whose roots are in Barcelona. We stayed in their apartment in the Barri Gotic area around the corner from Santa Maria del Mar church. Barri Gotic is Catalan for “incredibly cool” and it lives up to its name. They live in an apartment building that was built and owned by her great grandfather in the mid 1800s and remains in the family. Down the street from the apartment is a large open-air structure. This was originally going to be a large market but after digging for a little bit they discovered the remains of a Roman town. Barcelona is lousy with Roman ruins- it occurred to me that their apartment buildings is probably, in fact, most definitely built on top of such ruins. Who know what treasures lay beneath? My obsession regarding this might have alarmed Kevin and Laura and the idea of swapping apartment for a weekend probably seems less desirable because I will show up with shovels and pick axes. I want me some Roman ruins- bad.

I’m certain there were several times in during the weekend that Laura said to herself, “…and why am I surrounded my Americans?” But she was a good sport about it and our unnatural enthusiasm. One of those times would have been when we were asked to ‘quiet down’ by the ushers at the Palau de la Musica Catalana- a beautiful Modernista concert hall. It’s beauty caused us to give it the highest compliment that can be given- “It looks like something out of the Lord of the Rings Movie!!!” After we were told to “shhhhh” (in a very cute Spanish accent). We left the building and sang “The Lollypop Guild” from the Wizard of Oz . There was a connection between the building and the breaking out in song and dance but I don’t recall what it was- it may have been the ticket office. Kevin likes a good musical and we all know how I enjoy a song or two so it just seemed right.

Friday, November 30, 2007

I took a little history walk today around my neighborhood in Paris. I wanted this walk to focus on walls and their history. It’s a strangely fascinating subject. I, of course, thought of you all in your little cubicles mumbling nasty things about your tyrannical bosses and thought I would share this walk through a little something I like to call “digital photography”. I don’t want to get too technical about how this works and I certain don’t want to fill you with fear—it is not magic or the “work of Satan”. It is simply a device I use to show “images” of some of the things I’ve seen. Don’t reach out and try to touch the walls that appear on your screen-no, no, no, they aren’t really there. They are only “images”.

I began the tour at the St. Paul Metro stop- this is one of the metros near our apartment- I actually prefer the Hotel Deville stop because I know, for a fact, it’s closer to our apartment- Kelly prefers the metro at St. Paul stop assuming, incorrectly, that it saves time. I have learned to pick my battles and remain silent- but to you, the reader,I must insist that the Hotel Deville Metro stop is closer to our apartment than the St. Paul Metro stop. lets continue.

As you can see from the start of our tour there are young punks protesting…oh wait who cares- privileged kids bitching about something to do with school. The loud, bossy girl you see in the picture ran the protest. It is not a great way to start an historic walk about walls. But it does remind us how lucky we are to be out of high school.

We begin our walk close enough to the protesters that I can still hear their leader explaining which restaurant they should all meet in case they get separated. we are at the neighborhoods oldest surviving street, the rue du Prevot it’s original name was la rue de la Percee. Percee means to pierce Prevot was not in my dictionary- anyone? I'm guessing it's a proper name. Notice the "4" under Prevot- that lets us know that we are in the 4th Arrondisment- as you can see the old engraved street sign has a "12" underneath it- it had once been called the 12 quarter- this classification is no longer used. "Fascinating" you say? Yes, I know.

Rue du Figuier was named for a fig tree that stood in front of the Hotel de Sens this tree was cut down by Queen Margot, the exwife of Henry IV, because it got in the way of her carriages. It was built in the late 1400's and become home to Margot after she was booted from the royal court. Queen Margot led what was concsidered a very scadolous sex life although by today's standards it was probably just another Saturday night. She did, however, collect locks of hair from her many lovers and had wigs made from them. the hotel de Sens now houses the fine arts library- considerably less exciting. Notice in the center of the picture immediately above the window- there is a canon ball stuck in the wall (it just looks like a black dot- I'll try to get a better picture of it). There is an engraving in the wall giving the date of the canon ball as July 28 1830- during an uprising against Charles X-during a second revolution.

On the wall of a school across the street is more recent wall history. I don't know who Sean Hart is but he is sick of being put in your little boxes made of ticky tack.

Walking back there is a large open space for the local school to play soccer- the back drop of this site is a large wall with two turrets- this is part of the Philippe Auguste wall which enclosed the entire ancient city of Paris in 1190. To put it in perspective, Notre Dame was begun in 1100 and New Kids on the Block broke up in 1994.

Beyond the wall is a small street named rue Eginhard as you can see old engraved street sign that it had once been called Neuve St. Anastaze (new street St. Anastze?)-at the dead end of this street is a fountain dating from the time between Louis XIII and Louis XIV- around the mid 1600s.

A very small street that I’ve been down before dead ends into the St Paul- St Louis Church- I never noticed that you could enter the church this way. This is a gorgeous church. Facing the altar, on the right-hand side there is a column with graffiti on it- that faintly spells out ‘La Republique Francaise ou Mort’ this was written around 1793. During the Revolution the church as all churches in France were sacked and pillaged. Most became used for purposes other than their original design- for instance, Notre Dame became the Temple of Reason and the church in Carcassonne had iron rings installed on the pillars for horses- it had become a stable.

My tour was to continue but I became hungry and needed me a little nourishment so home I went with my mind on a sandwich. I loves me a good sammich.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A representative of Ryan Airlines did walk through the aisle trying to sell their calender of sexy crew members in different states of undress- I declined. I don't believe any of the flight attendents on my flight were part of this particular calendar- ours had more of the 'eastern block- I will beat you like a Gagatio if you attempt to stand before the plane comes to a complete stop' type of look. But they were kind enough- Ryan air seems to sell a lot of stuff on their flights- I guess that's why the tickets are so cheap. Rolling a "Crack Cart" down the aisle seems a bit tacky- especially since you can't smoke on their flights.

While waiting for the plane in Barcelona I spotted this wanted poster. They are suspected members of the Basque Separatist group ETA and the 6 most wanted terrorists in Spain. Obviously, violence is no solution. That being said I would totally buy an ETA terrorist calendar if it featured Saio Sanchez- Iturregui (second row right). Terrorism just got a little bit hotter. I need to work on the movie rights. My plate is pretty full with the mail order Gaganer business, knitting a sweater out of belly-button lint and now producing this new vehicle for Jennifer Connelly. I’m kicking around a few tag lines that will be used in the movie advertisement- I could use your suggestions.

1. When she isn't breaking hearts she's breaking the law
2. Whether it’s mixing a martini in a black Chanel or a Molotov cocktail in army fatigues -Saio always gets her man!
3. Terrorism has a new name- Caliente!
4. Saio is putting the sexy back in Extremist

Feel free to add to the list- but I can't give you co-producer credit- I sold those rights to Ryan Air for a small bag of pretzels and a coke.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

We are back from Barcelona- I didn’t write anything while I was there and I realizing now the importance of putting pen to paper while the experience is still fresh. There is one thing I want to write about immediately- I realize that its almost the end of November and might be too late to start discussing Christmas but I feel its my duty to warn anyone visiting Barcelona this holiday about their Nativity scenes. Feces seem to play a large part in a Catalan Christmas.

Nativity scenes around the world have the same basic elements, a Christ child in swaddling clothes lying in a manger, a calm Mary- looking as dapper as a woman that just gave birth can and a very confused Joseph still trying to sort it all out. “Wait…what?” So your saying …what?” You will usually find an assortment of farm animals and of course 3 kings bearing gifts that no child would want and, depending on how much your family watched TV, perhaps a little drummer boy serenading the child- because nothing will help a newborn lull off to bed quicker than a drum solo.

If you visit a Catalan around the holidays look closely in their nativity scene, among the sheep and trumpeting angels you will find a man smoking a pipe, his pants will be down around his ankles and he will be defecating. He is called “El Caganer”- which translates to “the one who shits.” The instructions, and yes it comes with instructions, tells us that

“The Caganer should be placed away from the Nativity scene… usually tucked away under a bridge or in a remote area”

Apparently in Barcelona the Nativity scenes include a bridge and are large enough to have what might be classified as “a remote area.” The Caganer has been a part of the Catalan tradition since the 17 Century. Laura, our hot Catalan hostess, explained that it symbolizes that even as Jesus was being born life still went on and people were still defecating. This sounds like a woman being asked to explain why there is a man shitting in her Nativity scene and she realizes she isn’t really sure why and she had better come up with something quick.

In keeping with the defecating spirit there is also a delightful character named El Cagatio, which translates to “The Shit Log”, it’s a small log with a face painted one end and again a pipe. Children place food in front of the Shit Log before they go to bed. It’s important to load Shit Log up with food, as you will see. Each night the parents replace the log with a larger log and remove the food- this gives the impression that the log is getting larger. (Oh lord why did I begin this story?) On Christmas Eve the Shit Log is covered with a towel and beat unmercifully with sticks by the children. After beating the log the children run through the house chanting

“Shit Log, Shit Log, Shit out candy for us!”

The towel is removed and they find that the log has expelled a large pile of candy and toys from its bowels. Whoever said violence never achieved anything clearly has never beaten a log to within an inch of its miserable life.

This Christmas Kelly and I will be visiting family in Brussels, but my heart will be in Barcelona, beating the shit out of a log and searching for the shitting man under the bridge in a remote area of the Nativity scene.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

We are off to Barcelona for a long weekend. The trip was a little ill conceived. We saw round trip airfare from Paris to Barcelona for 50 euros each from a discount airline. In our excitement we booked them immediately. As it turns out “Paris to Barcelona” are kind of loose terms- the flight is actually from Beauvais to Girona, each 1 ½ hours from either advertised city. Still at that price it’s hard to complain. Unfortunately the metro strike hit and there is a possibility of an air traffic controller strike. So it’s a little unclear if we will actually make it to Barcelona- we also planned our departure to be the earliest of the day which makes it next to impossible to actually get there in time so we have to rent a hotel room. Again, that’s ok- we are learning the hard way but it will be a lesson learned.

I spent most of yesterday figuring out transportation to and from the airports, hotel reservations etc. I was struck by a notice on the airlines webpage.

“Ryanair, Europe’s largest low fares airline, today (15th Nov) unveiled 2008’s hottest calendar, as Ryanair’s cabin crew strip down to their bare essentials…
Ryanair’s gorgeous cabin crew are raising the cabin temperature with 2008’s hottest calendar.”

Our crew are strippers???? I better wear shorts ‘cause it’s gonna get hot in that cabin.

Please God, let us live.

I wont have access to the internet so I will be taking a small break from blogging.

Monday, November 19, 2007

She's been threatening to get one since I've known her and apparently the rain of London coupled with the literary history of the city convinced her once and for all that it was time to get a tattoo on the back of her neck. It's a Tibeten symbol which means "you better still want this in 50 years because it aint going anywhere" It's actually pretty cool looking and it conveys something important to her. She asked if I'd ever get one and the answer would have to be no. There is a cut off age for getting tattoos and it's well before 40. Tattoos, when you are younger, are a celebration of youth and a symbol of freedom and rebellion- after a certain age its a pathetic attempt to cling to what once was. It's OK to roll into middle age with a certain amount of dignity, respect for your age and a sense of comfort in your own skin. Back in the early 80's I had an earring- the hole is still there but I don't believe I'd ever wear an earring again. Some things are meant to stay at a certain age and to carry them beyond that point lessens the importants of what they once conveyed.

I'm reminded of a lyric by Pete Townsend who, by the way, I've met.

Jeannie doesn't wear no slit skirts
and I don't ever wear no ripped shirts
Can't pretend that growing older never hurts.

Actually looking at the lyric it's pretty stupid but it conveys my point to an extent and also allows me to remind you that I have met Pete Townsend and you have not.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

There’s no central theme to today’s post- just random thoughts I had as I ran a few errands. I mentioned yesterday that these next four days are all about writing. It has not gone as swimmingly as I had hoped. Yesterday I wrote 3,000 words and so far today 1,000. I realize that a word count doesn’t really mean anything- they could have been 3,000 of the exact wrong words to write- but I have to measure it somehow and I’d rather measure it by quantity as opposed to quality because…well I think you know why.

1. Went to the market and bought 8 Clementine oranges and 4 apples which was odd as I like apples more than Clementine (which should be your first clue that I have nothing of interest to write about)- but Kelly likes Clementine more so maybe it was one of those annoyingly cute things couples sometimes do for each other since she isn’t here the only why I can get kudos for being incredibly unselfish and cute is to write about it in a pathetic attempt to get you to like me.

2. I thought about the time I brought my niece to the Les Halles stores so she could buy jeans- a very rough crowd hangs out there at night. I dropped her off at the girl’s store and I went in search of ping-pong balls. (Note : As it turns out having ping-pong balls does not make you the “cool uncle”) For some reason I was holding a bunch of 1 euro coins in my hands and as I jumped off the escalator I accidentally dropped all of them (about 12 euros worth of coins) on the ground. There were 5 gang looking type guys at the bottom of the stairs and my coins scattered around their feet. I realized that I would have to preserve my fragile male-ego and battle for the money or do the smart thing and step away it if it got hairy- What I hadn’t counted on was the gang members helping me gather all the coins and wish me well as I went to buy ping pong balls- Perhaps they saw me as a man to be reckoned with- nothing says “danger” like a man intent on buying ping-pong balls.

3. While I was running errands I listened to Bob Dylan’s “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” (very loudly) it then rolled into Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song”. Leonard Cohen is one of the most amazing songwriters ever and Bob Dylan isn’t too shabby either.

4. I have had a throbbing headache off and on for 2 weeks. Haven’t mentioned it because try not to burden others with my pain…that’s how I roll.

5. Kelly refuses to play ping-pong with me so I’m stuck rolling the balls at the cat. The cat is now getting tired of the game and wont play. So it’s, essentially, a grown man, on the floor rolling ping-pong balls from the living room to the kitchen. And that is what I’m doing instead of writing the great American novel.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Taking my walk along rue de Rivoli as it becomes rue Saint Antoine I saw a sad sight. Le Jean Bart with extensive fire damage. The very distinct smell of a building on fire always reminds me of the day our house caught fire- actually my chidhood home caught on fire two seperate occassions, same room (mine) and both times on my birthday...and that is how I turned the sad story about Le Jean Bart into a story about me. YEA ME!

Kelly is on her way to London today and will be there through-out the weekend. There is a transit strike which,...well quite frankly doesn't effect me one way or the other but I am prepared to turn those lemons into lemonade. This weekend I write! Write, write, write. The story I'm working on is slow going and I have been second guessing myself- i think it might be a bit too serious and serious may not be my forte. It's a fiction piece- as much as a first novel can be fiction. The main character decides his life is without meaning he drinks, and engages in other activeties which numb him to reality. He loses everything as a result of his self destructive behavior and, as a result, has a spiritual awakening which leads to him quitting his life/ job and moving to someplace...say...oh I don't know...maybe Paris. So really when I call it a work of fiction I really mean I changed a few names and monkeyed with the dates. My focus these next few days is to get back on track with the story. Although, as I read what I just wrote, I may have just completed my first novel- strange...I thought it would be longer. YEA ME!!!!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I’ve always liked walking through cemeteries. It’s quiet, people are respectful, and there lots of reading material- what more could you ask for? Cemeteries have a way of putting everything in perspective. The truth is, and most people don’t like to think about it, but it’s a very short stay. It’s interesting to see the graves in disrepair- it only takes a couple generations before people begin to let the grave go. What was once the most important thing, our individual lives, mean little- life has moved on. This may seem depressing but it shouldn’t be- it’s a reminder that we are here for a very short time and there isn’t time for nonsense like hate and doing what you aren’t passionate about or waiting in line at starbucks. Kelly and I took a long walk through Pere Lachaise to put it all in perspective- here are a few of the people we met that are remembered because they lived passionate lives.

Oscar Wildes

Eugene Delacroix

Edith Piaf


Francois Raspail

Monday, November 12, 2007

Am I the last person to hear about these guys? Flight of the Conchords from New Zealand doing "Business Time".
It’s interesting to be in a new country for many reasons but one that I wasn’t expecting has to do with race and prejudice. As white man in American I am responsible for the slaughter of the Native Americans, slavery, the subjugation of women and the cancellation of “Arrested Development”. (For the record my great grand parents were growing rocks in a tiny field in rural Ireland and I religiously watched Arrested Development). The beauty of being in France is that the problems of racism, sexism, genocide of indigenous populations are not my doing, I’m just a war mongering, condescending, loud, ugly American- a title I can live with.

Move to France and it all changes- I am no longer responsible for all the ills of the country. I didn’t mistreat the Algerians or refuse a job to someone because they are African*. Hell, if anything I’m the victim- they made me sign a piece of paper saying I wouldn’t work and oooh how I long to work. I am, as are my black American brothers in Europe, just “the idiots that voted for Bush…(wait for it)… twice”.

This whole sordid thought came about a few weeks ago as stood outside the American Church in Paris. An African American told a “black joke” to 4 white Americans. Everyone was uncomfortable when he said “What do you call two black…?”, everyone, that is except him, which I suspect was the point of telling the joke.

What do you call two black homosexuals in a bar? Answer: Gay

OK- it’s kind of funny – I enjoy a good twist to a joke but I couldn’t help but think, “leave that shit in America.”

The more I thought about it, (anything worth thinking about is worth over thinking) it occurred to me that maybe I ought to leave that shit at home. Maybe he was just telling a joke. Maybe the joke immediately put me on the defensive and caused me to look at the differences between us instead of the similarities. Maybe I need to lighten up and not him. Maybe if we bomb Iran I wouldn’t have to think about these things.

*Suggestions for Africans looking for work in Europe: Tell the interviewer that you are an African not an AfriCAN'T- just watch those job offers roll in.

Friday, November 09, 2007

I started smoking when I was 16 years old, probably earlier but I didn’t really excel at the sport until then. I believe Dodging Lions convinced me smoking would be a good idea- he, himself, did not take-up the habit. He went on to be voted “Best Looking” of our high school class and I was voted “Most Likely To Vomit After Walking Up Two Flights Of Steps.” Anyway, 3 years ago, after many years, I quit smoking. I hear you- “You don’t drink, you don’t do drugs and you don’t smoke? What will you do next, walk on water?” Yes, that’s exactly what I’m planning on doing and while walking on water I intend to look a porn.” Kelly and I both quite smoking at the same time, and we stayed together. It has not been easy to NOT smoke in Paris and, unfortunately, Kelly fell off the wagon.

I recall when we first quit, Kelly’s little sister Kate said to her.
“Misplaced is the weak link in your quest to quit smoking-when he fails miserably stay strong don’t smoke.”
I look back on that now and think, “WRONG! In your face, Kate! Ha!”

It isn’t about proving Kate wrong – but she was obviously very, very wrong- it is about Kelly. Yesterday, Kelly quite smoking after 2 months. Let’s just say that withdrawal is an ugly thing and I am apparently the dumbest, fattest, most insensitive, worst cook, laziest non-writing writer she has ever met. We are hoping for a better day today.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I live on street called rue des Francs-Bourgeois- it was originally known as rue de Pouleies after the pulleys that were used on the looms of the local weavers. The name changed in 1334 when a poor house was built for 48 middle class Parisians who had fallen on hard times. The plus side to their poverty was they did not have to pay taxes. Francs Bourgeois means “middle class men that don’t pay taxes”- which, of course, describes me to a tee. I am on the corner of rue Vieille-du-Temple and Franc Bourgeois. The rue Vieille-du-Temple means the street to the old temple- the temple in this case being for the Knights of the Templar. As you remember this organization begged me to join them but unfortunately their gang colors are red and I’m an “autumn” so it could never be. On this corner there are three relatively new apartments, one of which is mine, and a building from the 1500 ‘s called Hotel Herouet. The day after liberation, in August 1944, the Germans lobbed shells into Paris as a final “f* you” to the city- one of these shells hit the intersection of rue Vieille-du-Temple and Francs Bourgeois destroying three buildings but leaving the Hotel Herouet damaged but fixable. This brings me to the entire point of this post, Brigitte Bardot lived in the Hotel Herouet during the 60’s -so I missed running into her at the drug store by 40 years. She could have had a restraining order against me long before it became fashionable.

* Update: It was brought to my attention that I misspelled Brigitte's name on the google map- I'd make a terrible stalker but a pretty good stauker.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

This is the view from my writing table- this is also why I can’t get any work done. Autumn is great

I bought a grocery cart from the BHV. A maroon, two wheeled beauty with a slight squeak as it rolls down the street. (squeak, squeak, squeak). I’ve wanted one since I got here but I didn’t want to be one of those people that jump on the grocery cart bandwagon. I wheeled it back home. It isn’t as easy as one would image, especially in the crowded streets of the Marais (squeak, squeak, thump thump) “oops pardon Madame.” I’m apologetic and embarrassed when I run over someone’s shoes but after about the 3rd time I start to get pissed off at them- “Get yer shoes out from under my grocery cart beotch- yer gonna mess up the wheel alignment”. You can say "beotch" because no one knows what it means except the English speakers and they know they are being beotches so it’s cool.

Kelly and her friends come home and they make fun of my cart. They say it isn’t cool but I ignore them. What do 20-somethings know from cool- they think 80’s music was hip- they wore Uggs.

As I wheel my cart to the Monoprix (squeak squeak squeak) I can’t help but notice that only old French ladies have grocery carts. I feel as though I’m getting looks of distain from the French guys- as though my grocery cart is effeminate. If a French guy thinks it’s effeminate then it must be pretty goddamned gay but I don’t care- I like my cart. I don’t really need anything from the Monoprix but I want to fill 'er up, take 'er on the road and see what she can do.

I walk off into the sunset- just a guy with a dream and a grocery cart. (squeak squeak squeak)

Photo: Ponette warily checking out the competition for my affection

Monday, November 05, 2007