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.