Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fall is here. The rain has begun and there is a chill in the air. The Parisians are complaining that it should be warmer “We never had a summer!” They cry. In fairness to them we were here in August and it was cool and rainy- but we were the only ones here as everyone else had the month off. My heart isn’t breaking for them. I’d imagine that it difficult to illicit sympathy when you live in a city like this- a cold day in Paris is better than a warm day in Scranton (Sorry Scranton- no ones saying it to your face but we’re all thinking it.)

Personally, I like the fall and the crispness of the air. The leaves are changing and dropping. The smell of autumn is in Paris, including the smell of fires in fireplaces- I wasn’t expecting that and I wasn’t expecting it to make me miss our house in the Midwest. Fire season for us was October through April- we didn’t even care if it was cold. There’s nothing better than a cozy fire.

There is, of course, no reason to miss our house as we still own it. It still has not sold. We had a bite earlier this week but it came to nothing. As I’ve mentioned, this will put a crimp in the plans but we are here for the year no matter what- and if Kelly has her way we will never move back.

Friday, September 28, 2007

There seems to be a lot of Japanese tourists taking pictures of my apartment building. I don’t mean to suggest that they are part of some terrorist plot or organization, but it seems pretty obvious that they are part of some terrorist plot or organization. And then it hit me…brilliant, a stroke of genius.

The key to a successful terrorist is to not be a suspected terrorist (Copywrite has been applied for: Bumperstickers have been order) . The Japanese have laid pretty low, if you don’t count WWII, and it seems they would be the perfect pawns in terrorist activities.

Maybe it’s time we stopped targeting Osama Bin Ladin since we can’t find him anyway and focus on people we can find, like the Japanese. While Osama is hidden deep in an Afghan cave we could probably find 40-60 Japanese in the Louis Vuitton store on Champs Elysees. It’s really win-win for every one… well, except maybe the Japanese and Louis Vuitton.

I can hear you sighing and shaking your head. “More troops, more bombs, no exit strategy.” No!!!! That’s the beauty of my plan. The Eiffel Tower and my coffee can robot named Lilly will join forces to attack Japan. Trust me, as soon as they see the Eiffel Tower trudging across the Pacific with Lilly on it’s top level, shouting out inappropriate comments, there is going to be a lot of pointing, running and unsynchronized yelling. Now that’s a war I can get behind!! And as for an exit plan let’s face it a giant moth almost toppled Japan certainly Eiffel and Lilly can end this quickly.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I was talking to my younger brother a while ago and he asked me what I was doing. “Just taking a break and getting some sun in the park” I responded. He got quiet- furrowed his brow as he is wont to do and said “taking a break from what exactly? My father-in-law sent an email to Kelly saying, “I‘m looking forward to reading this book when it’s published, or a rough draft or even just the title at some point.”

Ok, I get it. The honeymoon is over. When I said that we were quitting our jobs and moving to Paris everyone was screaming “Yea Team Midwest!” Now that two months have gone by it’s all about “So really….what are you doing?” Well, I‘ll tell you what I’m doing, if you must know -I’m making a robot.That’s right a robot out of Illy coffee cans. In fact, I’ve already completed the legs- suckas. You will also notice that there is a remote control next to the legs- Why? Because it’s gonna be programmed to do my bidding*. What, pray tell, will I do with a remote controlled robot bent on destruction? Have you ever heard of a little monument called the Eiffel Tower?**

That’s right, I’m talking about a battle royal between my robot, Lilly, and the Eiffel Tower***. I think its time we sent the Eiffel Tower back to the hell in which it was spawned. Also I think if we add some tourist attractions in Hell we might be able to open up some tables in Purgatory.

So I guess the moral of this little story is that you don’t need to worry about me and my day- I’ve got stuff to do… pretty important stuff.

*This is actually the TV remote but as soon as I learn me some electronics we’ll be up and running

**This is more of a rhetorical question as I assume you have heard of the Eiffel Tower.

***Since the coffee cans are Italian and the Eiffel tower is French the real race may be which one surrenders first. (I did not just say that, I did not just say that, I did not just say that)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I'm obsessed with Sitemeter- which tells me how many times people have accessed my blog. How many times you ask?.... over 6,000. I view my count daily, it is a sickness.

I was reading a woman's blog which I enjoy a great deal. I love what she has to say- if we lived near each other I suspect we would be friends, but I can never be friends with women. I'm far too good looking. My hair is really excellent and they always want more from me than I can give. It's the curse of beauty- I envy ugly people- I really do. I pray- "Please God- mar my perfection" but he doesn't he only makes my hair that much more luxurious.

Anyway noticed that that this woman had 13,000 hits. I thought to myself, "What a bitch" Sitemeter is my cross to bear...well that and my incredible beauty.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Our Week

Watched Ronald McDonald get tied up with celephane and hit with pies. Don't let this little "demonstration" fool you. Parisians love Mcdonalds and Starbucks- both businesses are packed!

Strolled around Sacre Cour- did not get in a fight with any street venders this time.

Mimicked Rodin’s statue of Balzac- and then LAUGHED at how stupid Balzac and Rodin both were.

Walked past some interesting views, checked my shoes for dog poop- everything was cool.

Watched actors rehearse their scenes.

Watched a statue get the bum's rush by security- "Write when you get work" I yelled- I was immediately reminded that I'm unemployed and that wrapping myself in a white sheet for Euros may not be such a bad idea.
On Friday the Irish invaded Paris for some sporting event. Here they are “resting” on the astroturf that was placed in front of the Hotel de Ville- they can’t all be Yeats.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Kelly is under the weather but managed to brave a trip out to Rodin’s house in Meudon. We were the first ones in which, my sister-in-law felt, entitled us to eat the figs from Rodin’s fig tree- I immediately called the guards and she was subdued and order restored. The house is very nice- the largest room on the first floor next to the dining room and living room is his studio. If you are wondering why there is a bed frame in the studio you aren’t alone. He used it to keep his dogs from knocking over the sculptures he was working on.

He is buried in front of his famous statue, “The Thinker”. Strangely, there is an old photograph showing that a pond was once there. It would appear that he was placed in the pond and covered over. They should have put a bed frame around the grave to keep the dogs from digging him up.

The museum is a large open room with plasters casts of his famous works. I hadn’t seen this one before it was from his little-known “trying to make the rent” period.

It was definitely a worthwhile trip, Meudon is outside Paris so it had very few people other than hard-core Rodin fans- there were no “Da Vinci Code” people there.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Everything I needed to know I learned in the Pasteur metro station.

Don’t spit in the street

Bathe once a week

Once you have these two rules down the rest of life is easy.

Oh yea…and don’t feed the pigeons, it isn’t cute, it isn't sanitary and they do not love you.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I was sitting on a bench in the park talking to my brother on Skype. Skype is great, it allows you to see people while you talk to them on the computer and, get this, it’s free. Anyway I’m talking to my brother who lives in the 16th arrondisement of Paris. If you were French you would know this because that’s all he can say in French “Bonjour- J’ habite a le seizieme” (Hello, I live in the 16th) I keep telling him to spread out it a little- don’t say it all in one blurt but does he listen? So I’m talking to my brother and this old French guy walks by and stares at me while I’m talking to my computer- obviously I look like a lunatic. He slowly walks over and stands behind me and looks at Sean as I talk.

“Mon Frere” I say, pointing to my brother. I often bust out some French because that’s how I roll.

“He resembles you” the old French guy responds. He really could have said anything but that’s what I think he said.

“Oui oui” I said, smacking him upside the head with some more French because it’s what I do- it’s who I am.

There is an uncomfortable silence as the French man stares at the moniter waiting for something to happen.

From the computer, in stilted French, we hear.

“Bonjour- J’ habite a le seizieme”

The man looks a little confused so my brother, the floating head on my laptop, repeats himself.

“Bonjour- J’ habite a le seizieme”

The French man, perhaps his name is Pierre, furrows his brow and says what I presume to be, “Your brother is a ‘tard, no?”

“Oui oui” I responded shaking my head sadly, glad to finally have some adult conversation.

“Your poor mother” he says.

“Oui Oui, my poor mother.”

As you can see this man was full of compassion regarding the strain my brother has put on our family. When you hear someone badmouthing the French by calling them “uncaring” or “unfeeling” pass along this little story. Don’t forget to say a little prayer for my brother. If God asks “which brother?” tell him “the one in the 16th.”

(Update: my sister-in-law informed me that they actually live in the's worse than I thought)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Having come from a culture and a city of cars it has been unnerving to not own one anymore. We are completely public transportation/ walking people now. As you may recall I did a small stint in the bus service when I lived in the Midwest- it did not, as you may recall, go well. After two day I was recruited into a street gang given the gang name of “Cricket McGrath” We broke into peoples homes and re-arranged their furniture so there was more of a ‘flow’.

There is very little an illiterate man can do on the metro, other than think long and hard about some pretty important stuff. At the Ecole Militaire metro stop a gaggle of students got on- it must have been some high school trip as they were all teenage German girls. I’m of the opinion that Germans shouldn’t look so happy when they’re Paris- perhaps turning it down a notch wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Maybe looking a little less satisfied with themselves. That “what if…?” plaintive look has got to go. Anyway this group of German girls got on the train. Whatever their teachers are paid it isn’t enough. The loud talk, incessant chatter, the bursts of maniacal giggling would drive me up the wall. It reminded me of a special I saw about rhesus monkeys but without the feces throwing- thank goodness. All of this made me think about Islamic suicide bombers- bare with me on this one.

One of the apparent perks of martyrdom and suicide bombing is you are given “72 wide eyed virgins” in the afterlife (it isn’t mentioned how the 72 virgins feel about this). As I watched 6 of the “wide eyed” German girls try to share a single iPod headset and chatter like monkeys I wonder if the fundamentalists have really thought this one all the way through. 10 minutes with 6 of them was enough to make me want to perform a jihad on my eardrums; I can’t imagine 72 for all eternity. Perhaps instead of troops and guns we need to make potential martyrs sit in a high school class for a day- I suspect a lot of these shenanigans would cease. You might ask, “Who are you to propose such a solution?” Why I’m Cricket McGrath, solver of problems, re-decorator of homes.

*(This car, having taken one for the team, now enjoys all the benefits of 72, dark eyed virgins)

Monday, September 17, 2007

In 1912 a visionary named Franz Reisfeldt had an idea. Reisfeildt, a tailor with nothing but an understanding of fabric, a dream and perhaps too much time on his hands, constructed a suit that would allow him to fly. All he needed was a point high enough for him to jump- Enter the Eiffel Tower.

As you can imagine, the city was abuzz with excitement. This was, after all, before cable television and the internet so the people were understandable hungry for quality entertainment. As with most innovation, it was a plan so simple that no one had thought of it before and, if they had, were probably put off by the whole “jumping off the Eiffel Tower” portion of the plan. Franz Reisfeldt was not dissuaded, he was, after all, a tailor. He theorized that if you that if you fashion a suit of clothes with enough folds the resistance will keep you afloat- much in the same way the mighty ostrich will float for hours in lazy circles above.

On a warm day in 1912 John Reisfeldt stood at the parapet of the Eiffel Tower. He gave a triumphant wave to the crowd below, put his seat in the upright position, turned off his electronic equipment and he jumped.

The flight time was a little quicker than he imagined and the landing a little more sudden but for a brief moment Franz Reisfeldt flew. Unfortunately, this was followed by an immediate and very quick descent.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Alexandre, from somewhere in Southern France, has solved the mystery of the photograph. As you will recall I photographed a guy simply because everyone else was photographing him. I assumed he was a soccer player because his head was shaved and he was wearing a jersey- I assumed the black guy was his body guard because... well I must be a stereotyping racist jerk- anyway it turns out that they are Omar and Fred of French television fame. I, of course, wouldn't know this because Britney, Paris, and Lindsay have all of my celebrity love and there is no more room in my heart for the likes of Omar and Fred.

Thank you Alexandre. You win a week long visit from Kelly and I in your beautiful apartment in Southern France. You will, unfortunately, have to vacate the apartment for the week as I am unable to use the bathroom around strangers- thanks for playing and we'll see you about 3 o'clock some morning when you least expect it.

(Doesn't Fred seem to be looking at me as though I'm violating the restraining order?- I am clearly 50' away from him- big baby!)
Last night I watched the kids. While Q learned how to play backgammon on the computer M- and I danced around the large living room to Feist. Not a bad way to spend an evening.

The writing has been going relatively well- Wednesday was a low productivity day but Thursday I bounced back and wrote 2,000 words. I received an email from a friend, Balloon Bill, which is how I identify him when Kelly asks, “Bill who?” Otherwise there would be confusion as to whether I was talking about Wild Bill Hickock or the lonely little scrap of paper on Capital Hill that wants to be a law. Actually “Blimp Bill” would be a better moniker as he is a pilot (eer?) of blimps and not a maker of balloon animals – I digress.

The subject of the last email was attempting to find your voice when writing. It was a timely email- I was uncomfortable with the writing I was doing- it seemed pretentious and took itself far too seriously. As I wrote yesterday I lightened it up a great deal and while it may not be any better, it was considerably more fun to write. Thanks Balloon Bill, I truly believe that you will one day be a law -at least I hope and pray that you will.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I was deleted some posts today and came across one that made me laugh so I'm posting it again.

I have discussed those little moments of serendipity that are gifts. There are also moments that ask you do some serious self-appraisal.

I ran into a woman I met in that secret club I talk about from time to time. She's a crackwhore. I don't mean that in a glib way, I just mean she trades sex for crack. (I'm assuming she no longer does this)

The exchange went like this.

Misplaced: "Hey Crackwhore* how have you been?"
Crackwhore: "Misplaced! What's shakin'? Man it's been a long time- you got your haircut I hardly recognized you."
Misplaced: "Yea it has been awhile, good to see you."
Crackwhore: "...and you gained a lot of weight"
Misplaced: "huh?"
Crackwhore: "Weight... you gained a lot of weight"

I think its safe to say that when a crackwhore suggests that you've let yourself go, you've probably let yourself go.

*This is, in fact, her real name.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Today was Kelly's first full day of school which goes from 9:00 am until 8:30 pm. I pondered this as the sun warmed my face at Deux Magots for several hours- a copy of Celines "Castle to Castle" on my lap.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I began attending a writer’s atelier a few weeks ago. I thought it might be nice to meet other writers and perhaps get motivated by their work (read: steal their ideas). They don’t talk about writing so much as they talk about reading, which is even better. The only thing duller than writing is talking about writing- but hearing people discuss the authors they love is invigorating and educational. Add with that a new cool café chosen each Sunday and you’ve got yourself a party.

Yesterday we met at a café in the 4th, near our new apartment. The talk somehow (not steered by me) drifted to Marcel Proust and his “Remembrance of Things Past.” The story, as I recall, is about a man that bites into a Madeleine cake and the taste reminds him of his past. He wraps up this stroll down memory lane some 14 years and 16 volumes later –it should be noted that the only reason the book didn’t extend past 16 volumes is that he died. Death is, after all, the final editor. My feeling is that if you can’t say what you want to say in 16 volumes you need to hang it up- but my new friends of the writer’s meeting probably would not agree. The conversation was regarding whether it was better to read Remembrance of Things Past in the original French or do you loose it's essence when reading an English or Russian translation. This, in turn, sparked debate regarding which translation was better. In English it was decided that the the second edition translation was superior. While they bantered this about I thought to myself “mmmmm Madeleines be all tastin’ good n' shit…yea, real good. I needs to get me some madelaines baaaaaad.”

It was coincidental that they were talking about Proust. The day before Kelly and I had visited his gravesite at Pere Lachaise to see for ourselves if he was still dead. (Not to ruin the ending for you but he is.) I had an idea to bring you a new dead person each week in a set of posts called “I See Dead People”. We got a map to the (dead) stars at the front gate of the cemetery and commenced to find us some dead, famous people. Let me just say, thank god they are dead because it’s hard enough to find them while they remained stationary much less if they had been wandering about aimlessly.

Marcel Proust was born 1871-1922, he has remained dead ever since. May I present to you Marcel Proust. (Applause)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

It was a busy day yesterday. My brother and sister-in-law changed apartments so we moved their belongings over. It's a great place -3 bedrooms, lively street, close to the kids school. It was quite a find. They worry a lot but everything always works out the way it shoud. Their kids are huge fans of Tin Tin and the apartment deal was sealed when there turned out to be a Tin Tin poster in the kids room.

But wait a minute. Who is this young, naive fella that Tin Tin appears to have picked up? Why does Tin Tin have a movie camera? Is Tin Tin cruising dudes in the Congo? It’s all very suspicious and seemingly sordid.

Friday, September 07, 2007

“Excuse me, do you speak English?”

The 4 different gypsies women asked me this question. Strangely, they all had English accents and I suspect that was the only English they spoke.

“Excuse me, do you speak English”

If you say “non”, they walk to the next person, If you say “yes” they give you a postcard to read which, presumably, has some hard luck story with a request for money. I took a break from writing to go to Notre Dame. I’ve already seen the church but I wanted to look for pickpockets I thought it might be fun to film them in the act and put it on the blog. My days are pretty much mine and that’s how I chose to spend them, sad I know but a good pickpocket can be more interesting that another cathedral I did not see any pickpockets but I was mesmerized by the gypsy women.
First of all, in my opinion, they are beautiful and not in that white bread, Princess Diana way. Secondly, they are seemingly immune to the fear of rejection. Everyone fears rejection- that’s why successful salespeople are so few. It’s hard to not take “no” personally. I watched these women for a couple of hours while keeping an eye out for suspected pickpockets and loud Americans. They are rejected constantly and it doesn’t affect them one way or the other they go right to the next person. They are constantly moving through and working the crowd and from what I could gather rarely take a break. It’s really very impressive- some telemarketing firm needs to hire the lot of them.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

So many readers, so few comments.

We are fast approaching 6,000 visits and I feel like I'm doing all the talking. Say hello. Plug your own writing. If you're shy leave an anonymous comment.

Come on -this will be fun (or it may just be a cheap way to get out of writing a post today).

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Kelly has often bragged that she can return anything. It doesn’t matter when or where you bought it she will get your money back. When we had our garage sale our neighbor, Don, brought over a juicer still in its box. It was a gift he received a few years ago. He used it a few times and then it gathered dust in the basement.

"Where’d ya get it” she interrupted. Her eyes narrowed, she licked her lips, somewhere, far off, a dog barked.

"I think they got it at Target” He replied, backing up refusing to make eye contact.

Sure you can sell it here and maybe get 25 bucks for it but it’s probably worth 5 times that new. I’ll return it for you."

Don, a nervous math professor stammered, “no that’s ok- $25 is ok. - I used it and it’s been a few years”

“Ha!” Kelly barked.

“Let the man sell his juicer.” I interjected never realizing that I would ever have to utter such a sentence.

We knew those days were done when we moved to Paris. You simply don’t return things here. It isn’t done.

Kelly bought a pair of boots at a vintage store in the Marias 3 days ago. They are good looking brown boots, fashionable and, since “vintage” really means “used” they were a reasonably priced for two unemployed people.
“Do they seem too big to you?” She asked the next day
“Oh merde”
“Really- feel my toe, it’s all the way back here.”
“No, no they look fine”
“Hmmmm” she eyed me suspiciously.
Kelly went to the cobbler down the street.
“Do these seem too big to you?” She asked him.
“How should I know they’re your feet not mine” (Honestly that’s what the cobbler said)
3 days went by.
Where’s that bag that the boots came in?” she queried.
“Mon Dieu”- I’m learning French but not the kind I had hoped for.
“I’m going back to return these boots, they are too big”
“Good luck with all that.” I laughed
Two hours later she came back with the boots exchanged. I was amazed.
She explained what happened.
“The guy told me that he has never taken back a sale and I told him ‘but that’s what’s going to make this so much fun.”

By the way- Don did not sell his juicer at our garage sale. -He walked home with his head hung low, and the juicer under his arm. Under Kelly’s judgmental eye, he took that long walk of shame back to his house.

Monday, September 03, 2007

This is the apartment across the street from our place. The windows are full sized, from floor to ceiling. It is not my intention to be a Peeping Tom but each of those windows are like television screens- odd, boring dramas being played out. It is the original multi-channeled cable television. The metal screens are pulled down when they have completed another broadcast day.

We particularly like the show about the French guy that sticks his head out of the TV screen and smokes. He is always in a tank top and black boxers. I wonder if he goes to work, but he probably wonders the same thing about me. I star in a show about a guy who writes at his kitchen table. During sweeps week Kelly walks across the apartment scantily clad. Our ratings are ok.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The first sunday of the month the Louvre is free- since Kelly is stuck in orientation all day I've decided to check out some of the sculptures on the lower level. I make it as far as the gardens, find a spot in the grass and read my boof. It's beautiful out again. Kids are running around with their arms ourtstretched like they are airplanes- they are chasing the pigeons. I'm struck by how retarded they look.

Hey! This wasn’t in the guide book!

The asphalt covers the tree roots like skin stretched over veins.

Three different eras of street signs- note: the original name was changed. George Orwell lived around the corner on Pot de Fler. His experience would later be captured in “Down and Out in London and Paris”

This Roman Arena (Arenes de Lutece) dates from the 2nd Century and sacked in the 3rd Century. It was forgotten as it gradually filled in. The Arena was rediscovered in 1869 during the construction of rue Monge. Victor Hugo was one of the folks who campaigned to preserve it. While I sat here it was used for a kids pick-up soccer game and a loud game of bocciball instead of the once gruesome gladiator fights- which is a shame because without TV I feel I’m being deprived of gratuitous violence.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Kelly bought some new Chuck Tayler tennis shoes. She accidently stepped in vomit on the metro. Immediately after that is not the time to call them Up-Chuck Taylors.
As you probably know I have a penchant for manbags. My 9 year old nephew has a penchant for calling them purses.
"Oh, Uncle Matt, where's your purse?" He'll ask, innocently.
"It's not a purse, it's a man-bag" I explain patiently.
"Hmmmm, no... it's definately a purse" He says scratching his chin.
I then hold him out the 3rd floor window by his feet and scream "IT'S A MAN-BAG, DAMN YOU!!!!

Last night he and his family came over for dinner and he confessed that, being in Paris, he is now interested in getting a man-bag although I guess it should be called a boy-bag.

"Really" I said, "You want a purse? Hmmm isn't that interesting"

I should probably be embarrassed to gloat in winning this ongoing battle after all he's 9 and I'm 43 but a victory is a victory.