Friday, December 19, 2008

With the threat of 2 inches of snow the city is abuzz. The grocery stores are crowded; there is a run on milk- we must hunker down for the impending doom. Everyone talks about the “winter warnings” The city is already saying they wont have enough salt for the roads to get through winter- it’s unclear how this is possible due to the fact that it has only snowed once so far and it snows each year.

Frogs might as well be falling from the sky to hear the local news programs. The weatherman finally gets his day- with all the catastrophes in the word he often feels left out. There are dark circles under his eyes because he’s been up all night “tracking the storm” Of course tracking the storm means he’s been looking at a satellite pictures in a comfy chair- I suspect it’s easier than tracking the one armed man but he looks more run down than Richard Kimble. He’s on edge- ready to smack the bubbly, blonde-headed news anchor right in her perversely white teeth but not so frazzled that he will mess with the sports guy.

All we can do is sit and wait for the 2 inches of cold death to appear over-night. We sleep uneasily. The roads are deserted.

When we awake there is no snow- nothing. “The city has been saved!” we cry. The “Great Storm of 2008” shifted north sometime time during the night- the weatherman tracked it. He looks relieved. I'm half expecting him to say, "I'm getting too old for this shit." We all take the day off just in case it sneaks back to get us. When did we become such wimps?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I didn’t really miss Paris until I went to the American Library in Paris- sad I know, but that is one of the few places that tolerate me and I love the people. Several of us went to a Scottish bar in the Marias to play snooker. Snooker is essentially pool with only two colors and the balls are smaller than the pool I’m accustomed to- no reflection on the English, I’m sure.

As you may recall, my New Zealand friend and I were thoroughly trounced upon by the French in petanque- pool was a different story. We played like champions and just before we beat them into submission they all quit.

“Uhhh?” I exclaimed as they lay their cues on the table.
“This is a boring game” they replied and went off to eat some cheese or something.

I’d write a musical about it but the music left me that day.

I’m staying in New Zealand’s girlfriend’s room in the 8th while she is away on vacation. There is one stipulation to staying there- if the owner of the building or the concierge questions me I’m to tell them that I am her cousin- otherwise they will ask me to leave. It’s a Catholic thing I’m told- very strange. She pays rent, has lived there for years but she is not allowed to have a man stay in her room. I could understand it if it were a home for recovering crack-whores but, as far as I know, this is not the case.

HOT TIP- BIG NEWS: David Sedaris is speaking in Paris next Wednesday. It isn’t being advertised and it’s free. (This is what we call a cliffhanger in the biz.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I’ve been pulled out of the security line at the International Kentucky Airport. There is a “situation” with some of the items discovered in my bag. The dentally challenged security lady pulls out two small jars of Jif Peanut butter.

“You can’t bring these on board.” She says, eyeing them with the same lust and greed that I viewed Caligula at the age of 14.

“You’re taking my peanut butter?”
“Sorry” she says, not sorry at all.
“They don’t sell peanut butter in Paris”
I am nervous; beads of sweat begin to glisten on my forehead. The withdrawal has already begun.
“But what about the change of which Obama spoke?”
“Not going to happen,” she says as she rifles through my bag some more.

An American needs peanut butter- it’s what makes us America. I try to see her point, I suppose I could force the pilot to eat a spoonful and overtake the plane while he tries to extricate it from the roof of his mouth. I should probably thank homeland security for battling peanut butter terrorism- but I’m feeling less than gracious.

“This is too big.” she says, taking a silver can out of my bag”
“Not my product!” I cry as she studies the can of hair gel.
“This” I say, pointing to my luxurious head of hair, “doesn’t just happen”
Unimpressed, she tosses it in the bucket with other illicit items that will undoubtedly make lovely Christmas gifts for her rather large Kentucky brood.

The rest of the trip is uneventful- I’m given the exit row by myself, God’s way of trying to make it right and I sleep for the entire trip thanks to raiding the medicine cabinet of my neighbors.

I’m sitting at Le Grand Corona near Pont Alma sipping an espresso and soaking in the atmosphere. But with all this beauty around me, I can’t help but imagine a toothless, Kentucky security guard with perfectly quaffed hair and the stink of peanut butter emanating from her rather large pores.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Well, that was short lived. I'm back to Paris November 10th for a short trip. My petanque skills have diminished but my language skills still rock- Ca va- C'est bon

Friday, September 05, 2008

I wrote up the London trip but after re-reading it, it didn’t ring true or my heart wasn’t in it- I don’t know which.

I haven’t written about this before but my Paris time has come to an end. I’ve packed up my suitcases and the cat (the tri-colored bitch from hell) and flew back to my corner of the Midwest yesterday It’s a bitter sweet time for me; I miss my family and friends in the Midwest but I’ll miss the Paris life I had but I knew it would eventually have come to an end.

That being said, it also seems like a good time to end the blog. It’s been fun but the purpose of it was to write and to tell about this Paris dream, which ultimately became a reality. What I hadn’t expected was how much I enjoyed the comments and the visits. I was surprised to find so many like- minded souls out there that were ready to chuck it all and live a dream. Unfortunately, it’s time for me to wake up.

Thanks.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I go to the boulangerie around the corner to pick up a baguette and a pain aux raisin, a lovely little pastry that will ultimately kill me. I’ve been off ice cream and sweets for 2 months now and once a week I a get a pain aux raisin. Today there are none.

“There are no pain aux raisins” I think she tells me
I have that panicked look that people get when they realize that they didn’t buy enough booze and the stores are closed- ok, maybe this was just me. I motion to the back, maybe, like shoe stores, they keep the main supply back there. They don’t.

"C’est Triste" I say as I pay for my baguette. “It is sad”
She laughs, not because its funny, but because I always say “C’est triste’ if something is not good. If something is good I say “C’est bon". That is the extent to which I can express my feelings in French. With my limited language skills there are no grey areas for me in Paris- if something is not good then it is sad, end of story. There is no lukewarm, there is no comfortable middle ground if it isn’t sad its good.

When she picks through the basket of baguettes to find the best one I respond with “C’est bon” and give her a knowing smile. If the bread is still warm, I feel it and smell it- “C’est Bon” I say again almost lustfully. She smiles not because she appreciates it but because she thinks I’m an idiot. C’est triste

My brother, who lives in Brussels, stayed with me for a couple of days. We go to the café around the corner, next to the boulangerie.
“He is your brother?,” the waiter says in French while shaking hands. He brings us out a plate of complimentary hors-d’oeuvres. “C’est bon” I exclaim because it does not fill me with sadness. My brother, who speaks flawless French, looks at me and shakes his head.
“It’s a crime that you still can’t speak French.”
“C’est triste” I agree because it is not good.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Check out this blog . Neighbors in my little corner of the midwest have quit their jobs and taken their two daughters on a year long odyssey of the world. The midwest is having a tough time keeping its citizens contained.

Friday, August 15, 2008

There is a crowd of people gathered around a small section of the circular pond in the Tuileries. They are snapping picture after digital picture. Murmurs arise from the crowd- I make my way through to see the celebrity. I will not be denied. Who is it, Britney, Lindsey? It’s no one, just two ducks standing on the edge of the concrete embankment looking for treats. It’s hard to not try to capture every moment of ones vacation, but people, we need to try.

I’ve brought my book with me, which is good because all the bookstores are closed for the Feast of the Assumption. Everything is closed. I went to Catholic school for 6 years and I have no clue what the Feast of the Assumption is but what I do know is that everything is closed and the only diversion in Paris are two ducks

It seems that the Germans are slowly replacing the Italians as tourists here. I don’t know if there is a travel pattern but if I were a hunter I would say that German Season has begun. Dark hair and tan bodies are being replaced with blondes and sunburns, incessant loud banter for low guttural sounds. A beautiful blonde German girl sits in the chair next to mine and when she spoke to her friend it reminded me of the sound our 1968 VW Bus made when we tried to start it in February. The German tourists have that wistful, ‘what might have been’ look. They snap out of it long enough to photograph the ducks.

If you think Paris is slow in August, you would be right, but imagine Paris in August during a 3 day weekend- I’m half expecting tumble weeds to roll down Boulevard de Sebastopol The “assumption” being you can’t do anything except sit by a pond with a book and generalize about entire populations. The trinket shops on Rivoli are open. They know what their clientele want: ashtrays, key chains, scarves, lighters, t-shirts with either the Eiffel Tower or the ubiquitous Chat Noir. I swear, put that black cat on anything and it will sell. I don’t know what the plan is for the new Iran policy but if they put a black cat on the front cover people will buy into it.

Where are all the Parisians in August? They aren’t all on the southern coast or holed up in the family’s country homes. I suspect that those that aren’t out of town are hiding in their attics so no one knows they didn’t go anywhere- their windows are blacked out, food is scarce.

Scene: Small room, dark, window shades drawn. Marie sits at the kitchen table preparing cabbage, again. Jean Claude enters smoking a cigarette.

Marie: Where did you get cigarettes? I thought you were out.
Jean Claude: I snuck out late last night, no one saw me.
Marie: Mon Dieu we will be discovered!


Me, I’m enjoying the sun and reading a bad book about London by Bill Bryson. Someone has been kind enough to write up their opinion of the book on the inside cover- the penciled review is two pages and it isn’t flattering
“A vocabulary and style beneath that of a rapper- his vulgarity is appalling.”
The vulgarity doesn’t bother me just the fact that the book did reasonably well and was probably better suited as a …well a blog.

People are still photographing the ducks, when the ducks stick their head in the water and wiggle their little duck butts you can hear a collective “awwww” and CLICK.

Paris- open some store, we are dying out here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Who knows what you will find when you rip down an old Metro wall.

I was at a French friend's apartment for a party. My New Zealand friend and I began bragging about our petanque prowess. We mentioned having beaten two Frenchmen at their own game- big mistake. The gauntlet was thrown and it was snatched up by several of the French partygoers.

It was Westside Story for the 21st century and there was even a girl named Maria (Marie actually but work with me). It was Sharks Vs Jets but without the queer ballet dancing. New Zealand got his ire up and I had to hold him back singing.

“Play it cool boy, real cool”
“Keep coolly-cool boooooy”

The rumble was to take place after the dance at Place Dauphine on the Ile de la Cite.

Ile de la Cite,
You lovely island…
Island of expats with visas
Always the tourists are going
Always the petanke balls are rolling.

New Zealand and I walked down the middle of the street, snapping our fingers. We would have danced but the petanke balls are heavy and we promised to bring the water so we were pretty weighed down

When you’re a Jet
You’re a Jet all the way
From your first cochanette
To your last petanke play

The rumble didn’t go as planned; we played poorly. As we got further and further behind I began to slowly slip into a New Zealand accent to protect America from this shame. Finally, we were put out of our misery and the French triumped. They beat us fair and square although we did accuse them of cheating because that how we roll.

The sun had set and we and everyone drifted home. I gently wept as I walked slowly across Pont Neuf.

Tonight, tonight,
Our asses were kicked tonight
The French took their revenge, tonight
Tonight, tonight.
New Zealand was disgraced tonight
Team Kiwi played like the All Blacks tonight

Thursday, August 07, 2008

I'm not certain why blogger deleted all the comments on the last post or why it won't let new comments be added. Blogger is a fickle mistress.

Monday, August 04, 2008

I’m on the train from Paris to Amsterdam. Is there anything better in this world than a large comfortable seat on a train in first class? I’m new enough to train travel to delight in it completely. My head is against a pillow, turned toward the window. I’m watching the world go by: Brussels, Antwerp, and Rotterdam. Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde is playing on my iPod: Visions of Johanna, I Want You and Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. Life is good, unless, of course, if you despise Bob Dylan then it would be a personal hell.

I am taken with the differing modes of Amsterdam travel- I tried to capture a few of them. My camera is having trouble focusing, much like its owner, but I’m including them anyway because Karyn and Erin were kind enough to ask.







...and of course


This picture of my niece and I wandering the streets of Montmartre is one of my favorites. She came to visit this spring and was bitten by the Paris bug. I suspect we have a future expat on our hands.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I walk down a cobbled street when I notice a beautiful woman winking at me. She smiles and beckons me over. Another woman, more beautiful than the last, is also enamored with me, she too winks and smiles. I should probably mention that they are both standing in storefront windows and wearing only their underwear. Being from the Midwest, I give a short, embarrassed wave and look anywhere but at her body because that’s how we roll.

Welcome to a small part of Amsterdam and watch out for the vomit ahead. It looks like banana vomit, which makes sense, across the street, is a bar called The Banana Bar where 45 euros buys you 1 hour of drinks served by naked women. You can, if the fetish is within you, pay extra to have a banana served in any way you’d like.

Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam. Each woman is her own small business. She rents the storefront and is probably a member of the Red Thread Union. She pays taxes and is heavily monitored by the government and health officials. Even with the seemingly legitimate feel of prostitution one still thinks, “Surely, there’s something else these women could be doing.” But the simple truth is that there is money in sex. A good prostitute can earn 500 euros a night, which is about 10 clients. If we assume a 5 day work week, that’s 130,000 euros ($208,000) per year. The down side is…well, you’re a whore. The other downside is the guys shelling money out aren’t Robert Redford in An Indecent Proposal, but shaven-headed drunken English hooligans that probably just vomited up a banana.

Amsterdam is so much more than the Red Light District for which it is so well known. It is probably one of the most beautiful European cities that I have visited. It is quiet cafés along tree lined canals. It is friendly, approachable people and a laid back atmosphere. There are 100,000 Dutch Elm and Lime trees, 1,200 small bridges that cross 100 canals. It is winding streets, bicycles and electric trams.

Late in the evening I stood on a bridge admiring the view and catching the breeze that makes its way down the canal. I commented to Dutchman near me about the marked different between the majority of Amsterdam and the Red Light District. He had to think about it for a moment- the Red Light District seems to be almost an afterthought for him. “The drunk hooligans come for 2 weeks and never stray from a three block radius, they never see the real Amsterdam and that’s fine with us.”

I sit at the cafe enjoying a late night espresso and watch the bikes go by. The caffeine is a bad idea at 10 in the evening but even after many miles of walking aimlessly through the city I have no interest in sleeping, that's the life of the flaneur. Let the drunken tourists have the their three blocks, I'll take this particular corner at this particular time.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I just returned from Amsterdam and was reminded that Catherine Sanderson was reading from her new book, Petite Anglaise, at Shakespeare and Co. Despite the heat, she had a good turn out. I was amazed that I knew 3 people in the crowd- granted I don't know them well but it's nice to recognize people in this rather large city. I also lined up a possible petanque match. I believe the women sitting next to Ms. Sanderson, is Sylvia Beach Whitman the daughter of the George Whitman who opened Shakespeare and Company in the 1950's.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I'm finding it harder and harder to post. Maybe it's the weather or I have finally run out of things to say. So I'm just going to plow forward and try to kick start the postings again.

I'm finishing up Anne Frank's diary- I don't think I had ever read it before; I saw the movie version with Melissa Gilbert but never actually sat down to read the book. It's amazing. He father censored the originally published book. He felt, and it's true, that it was very critical of Anne's mother but I suspect that all early teen girls have battles with their mothers. He was also uncomfortable with her discussion of sex. The latest edition has the entire diary. I highly recommend this book- I was absolutely blown away. It does bother me that this 13-year-old girl is smarter than I am but I'll get over it.

I began reading her journal because I'm off to Amsterdam this weekend. A friend is in Geneva and we are meeting there. Apparently, there is more to do in Amsterdam then smoke dope in cafes- who knew? So I'm reading up on my history and hunting down the bookstores on-line. Any suggestions once I'm there?

Last night I went to a friend’s apartment for dinner and afterwards sat in a cafe until 12:30 with the New Zealander talking. We agreed that it's good to be in Paris on a cool July evening. I just barely caught the last train home and stayed awake until 3:00 AM re-thinking the late night espressos. I made the terrible mistake of buying a pack of cigarettes and smoking- hmm 3 years of abstinence. Oh well- life goes on, just maybe not as long as one would hope.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Parachutes and Petanque


They begin to drop from the sky.




Some land not as softly as they would like. A metal of valor will be issued




The young niece knows that form is eveything.



Someone's gotta school these suckas- might as well be me.




A competitive bunch, each boule was measured and remeasured. Fights ensued, only a dance-off could keep blood from being shed.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Another Day In Paris

I had a horrible beginning to my day. I try not to burden others with my pain but lets just say as an ARTIST- I feeeeeeel more than the average person and yet, as a John Wayne. stoic type, I keep that pain locked away. It will, of course, one day express itself by forcing me to a bell tower with a high-powered rifle but for now it makes me a relatively low maintenance friend.

To lift my spirits, I wander out to get a coffee at my corner cafe where the barman loves me but when I arrive he act as though he doesn’t know me. This is odd. Just a few weeks ago we shook hands and laughed like school girls tormenting the fat girl. Where’s the love? I've been tossed like yesterdays grounds. I keep a stiff upper lip and I try to engage the other waiter in friendly banter just to get a little jealousy going- That always worked in Junior High but doesn't play well in the sophisticated City of Light. Oh hang one…he’s a waiter in a coffee shop- what do I care?

As I step out of the cafe I bumped into Jenna Fischer, who plays Pam in “The Office”. She is with her alleged boyfriend, James Gunn. (see update) I don’t recognize anything he’s been in but in some movie he plays “The Insane Masturbator”- so I think we can agree that Jenna probably footed the bill for the Paris trip. Most of you might feel this was just a chance encounter between Jenna and I but in my journal she is stalking me.

Across the street two models were also caught stalking me- models make lousy stalkers as they tend to get dizzy from lack of food and topple over on their high heels. I managed to get a photo of them just before they fell to the ground like wounded pheasants.


Update:
There was a sudden, angry surge of readership (ok...9 people) from the Watercooler , a discussion board about "The Office". regarding my running into Jenna Fischer. From the message board I learned several things.
FACT: James Gunn is rich and can afford to take a trip to Paris if he wants.
FACT: James Gunn is Jenna's ex husband not her alleged boyfriend so chances are it wasn't him. (I still think it was)
FACT: Misplaced in the Midwest is weird, doesn't know what he is talking about and might have been smoking crack during the encounter.

Note: They did not dispute my claim that Jenna is stalking me...now where's my crackpipe?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

I took a long stroll through the streets of Paris. I ended up buying a small Cuban cigar. I quit cigarettes a few years ago but I’ve felt this constant pull to smoke again. I kid myself that if I don't inhale I wont be lead back to a pack a day habit. I end up along the Seine next to the Petit Pont- near Notre Dame. This is where it all began for me- this fascination with Paris. I was taken aback by this encounter with the city- I felt the endless possibilities and I associated that freedom with Paris. Sitting in this spot years ago, eating an apple, watching the Seine and thinking to myself that I want to live here. I’m back where I began but not at all the same. I sit there quietly, watching the boats go by, smoking my cigar and kidding myself.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Today is a little cooler than it has been. I stroll down to the American Library to continue my masterpiece- ready to remove the bodies that have littered the front porch. My backpack contains my lunch and my computer. My intention is to walk right into the library and begin editing; instead I pass the entrance and make my way to the Champs de Mars. Near the base of the Eiffel Tower, in the very slim shadow of a sickly tree I eat my lunch. An impromptu picnic with a cast of hundreds providing the entertainment.

A young American couple are taking pictures of each other in front of the Eiffel Tower- being from the midwest, I offer to help.

Misplaced: Do you want a picture together?
Couple: Thank you! We are on our honeymoon.
Misplaced: Congratulations.
(I take the camera and the guy explains the basics)
Misplaced: One Two Three. (snap)
Couple: You speak English very well.
Misplaced (confused)....Thank you.

All and all not a bad way to spend a Thursday.
A friend of mine just had two very successful art shows in New York. Check out his work "Marais Reflection" was inspired by the view from our apartment in the 4th on Rue Des Francs Bourgeois. Demetrius is a perfect example of a guy pursuing his dream.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

If you’ve wandered through the square in front of the Hotel de Ville you may feel as though you’ve taken a wrong turn. Suddenly you will find yourself in a beautiful garden complete with a mini-lake, grass, trees and plants. Welcome to the “Ephemeral Garden” another green space brought to us by Paris mayor, Bertrand Delanoe.

Over 6,000 plants and trees have been installed in a 31,000 square foot area. The purpose is to offer a little nature in the middle of the big city but also to show how urban gardening can change the feel of a city. It is meant to encourage people to take an interesting urban gardening. The exhibit is temporary; it will be dismantled in early July and replaced, interestingly enough, with a mini-golf course for the remainder of Paris Plage. Maybe next year they can replace it with a mini-housing development.

Monday, June 30, 2008

I have been remiss in posting lately, sorry about that. My plate is full and I haven’t been very motivated to blog about the goings on. It occurs to me that I haven’t taken a long Paris stroll in sometime -maybe that will help. Anyway, I sent out an article about my Moroccan trip to a slew of newspapers and magazines. My New Zealand friend edited it down from 4,000 words to 900 and with a few other tune-ups it is out. I’ll let you know how it does.

I’m at a stand still with the book. I have it down to three acts but I feel as though I’m forcing some of the newer characters and story lines that are introduced. I like them but they don’t seem to belong and I hate to get rid of things I like. This, of course, explains why I was edited down from 4000 to 900 words. I had it explained to me like this; “You put all the babies on the porch (ideas, sentences, words) the next morning you keep the ones that are still alive and get rid of the dead ones.”

Don’t let the lilt in their voices fool you; New Zealanders are a dark people.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

There were over 50 of us that gathered at the American Library to hear Edmund White read from his new book “Hotel De Dream”. It was an excellent time. I’ve never gone to one of these free gatherings- the wine was flowing much like wine, which doesn’t mean anything to me but the bottled water was cold and I appreciate that.

The audience was probably one of the friendliest groups of people I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Obviously, the word “gay” comes from just how friendly gay guys are. Edmund White attracts a gay audience because his books are high in the gay factor. Unfortunately, I think that some people don’t read him because of this- big mistake. I’m reading Hotel de Dream and, so far, it is fascinating and tough to put down.

Hotel de Dream is about Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage, and his wife Cora. Historically, there has always been a rumor that Stephen Crane began writing a story about a boy prostitute named Elliot that he happened to meet in New York City. Crane, supposedly, had never met a homosexual before although it is rumored that he was fond of hookers and the seedy underbelly of New York life, He spent a great deal of time following Elliot around and interviewing him. Crane wrote about 40 pages and showed them to his friend Hamlin Garland. Garland read them and said, “These are the best pages you have written and if you don’t tear them up, every last word, you’ll never have a career.” He convinced Stephen Crane to throw the pages on the fire. It is from here that Edmund White begins his fictional story. Stephen Crane is dieing and decides he needs to write the story of Elliot's life.

I’m surprised that Edmund White doesn’t do more readings- he is a very entertaining man and added a great deal of flair to the event. As he read aloud from his book he would break off to tell a little 19th century gossip- he was especially humorous about Henry James (someone in the audience actually took offense- which wasn’t very gay at all). Other than the loud mouth that felt he needed to “set the record straight about Henry James” it was a wonderful evening. I got my book signed and he asked about my writing. "It's crap" I said. "Well, maybe it isn't as bad as you think." He asked about my corner of the Midwest which is where he was born, we shook hands and said goodbye. All and all it was a very nice evening. Keep you eye out for his new book about French poet Arthur Rimbaud.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I’ve been a bit out of the loop lately- I don’t watch the news so I get behind on what’s going on. I just heard that George Carlin died of a heart attack, very sad. I was immediately transported back to my young adulthood. In our basement was an old record player- the needle was worn and it seemed there were more crackles heard than music but that is where my brothers and sister listened to our records and played pool. The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Who, Frank Zappa and George Carlin are the performers that come to mind.

I feel as though I grew up with George Carlin. My older brothers bought the albums FM & AM, Toledo Window Box, On the Road and my favorite, Class Clown with “The Seven Dirty Words You Can Never Say on Television.” I would listen to these albums constantly- having them memorized. My parents let us listen to him, I suspect because, while he may have been talking about the seven dity words, it was genuinely funny.

I saw him in concert in 2001. He was funny but it seemed a bit tired. Some of it seemed to be crude for the sake of being crude- or maybe I had gotten older and wasn’t titillated (which is not one of the seven words) by that kind of humor anymore. I didn’t follow him too much after that although from the review it seems his HBO specials were pretty cutting edge and he had gotten back to what he did best, which was make people laugh.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

On the first day of summer Paris throws a party to beat all parties. Le Fete de la Musique encourages musicians to play for free throughout Paris and beyond. It seems that every corner and every public park has the volume turned up to 11. I believe that all of life is a lesson and if la Fete de la Musique has taught me anything it is that techno music really, really sucks.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

In Brief

Edmund White will be speaking at the American Library Wednesday June 25th at 7:30. He wrote “The Flaneur” and “Our Paris”. I’m always surprised to find Paris lovers that haven’t heard of him. He is a must read. Word on the street (Nerd Street that is) is that you should get there early as they are expecting to fill up quickly.

The American Library hired a new guy and he is…wait for it…an incredibly nice person. His name is Ed; say hello and he will respond. He also will kill anyone that talks on the cell phone in the library. That is the one time capital punishment seems fair and reasonable.

I have become a bit of a handshake whore. A friend and I go to at café everyday at 3:00 to take a break from writing. I won’t leave until everyone one that works there shakes my hand. (They are very good sports about it.)

A while ago we discussed butt crack being the new cleavage. Amazingly there is something even more annoying than that- pants hanging low showing the back of the thong. I’ve heard this referred to as a “Whale Tail”.

Once a week I go to a writers group we don’t often talk about writing- actually I’d be hard pressed to explain what we do talk about. I heard about the ‘Whale Tail” there if that gives you an idea. Email me and I can fill you in on when we meet. It’s really fun and a nice way to meet people- I think we are meeting for a picnic this week.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

When I first moved to Paris I met a man that told me that this was a city of lessons. I immediately tuned him out, these ambiguous statements are too convenient and they are often accompanied by an exaggerated, world-weary look. Despite my obvious disinterest in his observation, he continued. “People that come to Paris are looking for an answer to a question they weren’t aware they asked.”

I don’t know if that is true or not but I thought of it yesterday as I was crossing the Pont de l’Alma. I watched as a man removed a ring from his finger, considered it for a time and let it drop into the Seine.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Well I turn another year today. I’m too jet lagged for reflection. Actually I’m getting tired of reflection- maybe a year should just go by without soul searching- maybe it should just be enough that it’s another year done. I’m 4 years older than John Lennon was when he died. How is that possible?

My trip home was wonderful. Sometimes you need to step away from a place to be reminded of its qualities. It was hot. Not a little hot, but HOT, 95 degrees and humid as hell. My parents sit on the balcony of their downtown apartment and read. I try to sit with them but end up complaining and watching mold grow on the pages of my book. Sitting in a puddle of my own sweat, I ask them how they can stand the heat. They respond, “Well it’s a little warm but with the breeze it’s not so bad.” Depression babies are like that- we must be patient with them. They also claim there is no such thing as free lunch of course by now they must have noticed that I stole all their peanut butter so I guess that little chestnut has been debunked.

I went to my secret superhero meetings, which are always entertaining and sometimes informative. Best show in town for a dollar. It gave me a chance to see some of my superhero friends. I had the opportunity to sit down with a couple of writers and compare notes with them. I have much to learn about the craft of writing but I also need to learn about the business of writing. I have no clue how this works but if I can shut up for a few moments or two there is a lot of good information out there and kind people willing to educate.

In my 44 years I guess I have learned that I am a wimp, a thief and not as clever as many of the people around me. That’s probably why I’ve never been a big fan of self-reflection.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I’ve been reading expat blogs for several years. In my experience I have found that there are two things that will kill a Paris blog.

The first, and this is instant death to a blog, is having a baby*. The simple truth is that other than very close friends and family no one cares about your newborn. Just as no one cared when my cat vomited on me while I slept because she was angry that I moved her food. I’m not saying I don’t understand- I will be the #1 offender when K- squeezes out a little bean. After that you might as well stop coming around because this blog will be loaded with pictures of the adorable little tyke and a detailed description of each crap and vomit. The entire blog will be done in baby talk. “Ohh little baby-wabby pukey- wukeyed on the kitty-widdy.” I will, of course, be incensed when you loose interest in baby-wabby and my bloggy-woggy.

The second thing that will temporarily kill a Paris blog is the inevitable hometown visit. I'm going to my little corner of the Midwest for two weeks. I’m guessing that I won’t be blogging. But I can give you a quick run down of what I’ll be doing.

1. I will be delighting my friends with an affected French accent and pretending to struggle for English words even though I've only spoken 6 words in French since I've been here.
2. I will enthrall my friends with constant comparisons of the Midwest and Paris. When I complain to the waiter about the bread, I will let out a sardonic laugh and sadly shake my head. "This would never be tolerated in Paris."
3. I will talk about "my cafe" and how much better the coffee is in Paris than it is in the Midwest. (Strangely, this is not true.)
4. I will be certain to use words like “provincial” and phrases like, “that is sooo American” whenever anyone tells me their opinion.
5. I will be certain to explain how Americans live to work while the French work to live-because that expression never gets old.
6. Anytime the word "French" is used to describe something, I’ll say, “That’s not French." i.e. “That’s not French coffee.” “That’s not French bread.” “Those aren’t French fries.” "That's not French kissing."
7. And when everyone refuses to give me a lift to the airport because I’ve been such a pretentious jerk I’ll mock his or her big American car.

*The one exception to this rule is Michelle's new baby because that is one cute kid but her blog is blocked so I guess you’ll never know.

Monday, May 26, 2008

My younger brother, who I admire a great deal, once told me that one of his New Year's resolutions was to get a rejection from The New Yorker. The purpose of the resolution was to just get something written and submitted. I vowed then and there to beat him in getting a rejection. Today, after waiting 6 months, I can say that The New Yorker has rejected me flatly. I don't want to gloat but.....I win!!!!! Yeah me!!!! In your face Brendan. The New Yorker hates me and not you. Weeeeeeeeeee!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Most of you know that the gypsies have been courting me to join their band of merry mischief-makers. I’ve been holding out for a proper dental plan and matching 401K but they want me to settle for some gold ring they keep picking up off the ground.

Walking home yesterday I saw the police harass some of my potential colleagues. I wonder why the police chose to pick on these three young ladies out of the hundreds of people milling about suspiciously in front of Notre Dame? I get the sense that “racial profiling” is not frowned upon here. It’s a shame, the Doyouspeakenglish girls probably work harder than anyone out there, except me*, of course.

*If you consider "thinkin' about stuff" as working.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Between the library and my secret super-hero meetings my world has become very small. I’ve tried to be more disciplined about writing and so I’ve committed 6 hours a day to working on the never-ending novel. It’s easier than you would imagine, especially when your novel has no discernable continuity or plot. A character that died of an overdose of heroin in chapter 3 suddenly reappears in chapter 7 with an opinion on the proper way to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I was reading a book, I think by Roddy Doyle, where he tells the true story of a soap opera character that goes upstairs to get his tennis racket and never is heard from again. He just disappears with no explanation. Poof! I have a few characters like that. They say their piece; make a not so clever observation and then Poof! They are gone. I should probably send a search party out looking for them or maybe get their pictures on a milk carton. Have you Seen Me? Perhaps, an age progression mass mailer could go out.

Missing- Lisa, a Life Coach trainer.
Last Seen: Battling an amphetamine problem in chapter 5.
Description: The author never bothered to describe her
Missing for 7 chapters.

I heard an expression that if a gun is sitting on the fireplace mantel in scene two it sure as hell needs to go off in scene 3. Well I have an arsenal that hasn’t been discharged.

Maybe there could be a mass-murderer that is slowly killing off all my characters. The book ends with everyone dead, except for Lisa, covered in blood and a terrible case of speed breath.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My great aunt became too frail to care for herself so she was moved from the south side of Saint Louis to our little corner of the Midwest, about six hours away.

“You can move in with us.” My mother told her, trying to put a happy spin on an unpleasant situation.

“Oh, you two could never afford me.”

She seemed to ignore the fact that my father had been supporting her since he started working. She went into an expensive retirement home near us. I’ve seen the bad ones, the smell of urine is overpowering. Pity the old with no funds.

Her looks seemed to change overnight. She could no longer have her hair dyed the bright red of her youth so she began wearing hats, which she would fumble with to keep her head covered. I hadn’t realized how dark she kept her house until I saw her under the blaring lights of the old folks home.

I went to visit her after a prolonged absents. The nurse told me she was in the community room. I looked around there were about 20 residents watching TV in various stages of decay. I couldn’t see her anywhere. One older woman was staring at me. We looked at each other for a good long while. I walked up to her, still not sure and I had to ask, “Aunt Nora?”

Monday, May 19, 2008

I took a stroll through the neighborhood this afternoon and was astounded by the number of pirates out and about. In the Marais you always expect a few pirates in search of booty but this was an absolute infestation. Passing the Blancs Manteaux I noticed that this seemed to be the pirate hive and it was abuzz with activity.

Back in the states we have groups that participate in Civil War battle re-enactments. They dress in period costumes and pretend to kill each other. It unclear why they do this, scientists are looking for a cure. I’ve always wanted to re-enact the medical surgeries performed during the civil War, such as drilling a hole in their skulls to let the demons escape and sawing off their limbs without anesthetic but I’ve yet to be invited. (It seems to me that if you aren’t going to really commit to the re-enactment you ought to hang it up.)

Anyway it turns out that these swashbucklers aren’t pirates at all but 17th century musketeers or something (I'm so bored with this post I can't even look it up) and they were sword fighting. There were also children dressed up in costume, with fake mustaches drawn on their faces. At what point can this be considered child abuse?

As you can see the name of the event is Lames Du Marais which loosely translates to (apologies to my French teacher, Samantha) "The Lamers of the Marais" I quickly dashed home to get my drill- it’s demon-freeing time.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

There is an excitement to living in Paris. At every corner there seems to be something to get the imagination flowing. Whether it’s crossing Pont Alma, as I do daily to get to the library, and being reminded that James Joyce would stop in the middle of the bridge with his publisher, and discuss writing as they watched the Seine. And while we've established that I'm not a fan, how can you not think of Henry Miller when wandering the base of Montmartre. He was 40 years old he quit his job and came to Paris to write- sound familiar?

But it isn’t only the people in the past that can propel us forward. Today, I spoke with a friend who spent the last week in London with literary agents that love the project she is working on. An English guy I’ve admired and chummed around with for a bit works for Reuter’s News Service and was discussing journalism with an American that worked on the wires during Watergate, Billy Jean King beating Bobby Riggs and the Vietnam War. He painted an exciting picture of tearing the news stories off the wire and running it to the editors- just like in the movies. He gave up journalism to pursue jazz guitar, which spun off into a whole new discussion about Dave Brubeck's “Take Five", which I do know something about. A woman I met recently gave me her web address so I could check out her graphic design and it turns out that it has incredible recordings of her singing songs she wrote. Beautiful songs.

I often toy with the idea that you can have a “Paris state of mind” anywhere in the world and therefore I shouldn’t be too upset if I have to leave but I’m just kidding myself. It isn’t just Paris that stirs the imagination it’s also the people that have chosen to come here and make Paris their home despite the uncertain finances and distance from their families. These are the people that inspire others to work toward their dreams.

Monday, May 12, 2008

My mom and dad have been renting an apartment around the corner from the Louvre for the past 2 months. They go back home at the end of the week and we will miss them terribly.

My mom called my brother before a shopping trip. “What’s French for bleach I need some bleach?" My brother, who knows even less French than I, said, “I don’t know, try babel fish.” Two hours later, in Monoprix, my mother was asking a befuddled employee “Ou est le babel fish”

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Everyday for the past 8 months I have gone to the L'Etoile Manquante to get a café and read at the zinc bar. I am always polite with my “bonjour monsieur”, “au revoir Monsieur”, “S’il vous plait” and “Merci”. Yesterday, after saying my usual hello, the bartender looked at me and after a moment of thoughtful consideration he walked over, said “bonjour” and…. shook my hand.

In my mind the café became dead quiet -you could hear a pin drop. Suddenly everyone in the café stood and began applauding. A spotlight hit me. I blushed and fanned myself with my hands but that couldn’t keep the tears from welling up. I accepted his handshake as though I were accepting the Miss Teen U.S.A crown.

I shook his hand as I left, trying not to appear too pleased with myself.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I need to finish up my Moroccan tales, readership is at a dangerously low level. Dissatisfaction is high, moral low. "We want Paris not Morocco!" I hear you, your silence is deafening. Well, this final tale of Morocco begins in Paris, and really that last post was all in Paris and yet no one cared. I few anonymous comments from the New Zealander mafia- the dreaded "Kiwi Boys" threatening to rearrange my furniture. Other than that I couldn’t get a rise out of you.

As we were waiting on the runway for our plane turn to take off, I noticed much movement in the center median. And there I saw thousands of bunny rabbits frolicking. Frolicking- I tell you. I immediately looked to the side of the runway to find the bunny carnage splattered, but there were none. Of course, if a plane hits a bunny taking off or landing I doubt there would be much left. You’d think the loud noise might damage those big ears. Maybe Bridget Bardot could fund supplying the big yellow earmuffs for the bunnies.

So the take off to Morocco was magical- everything involving bunnies is good. The landing back in Paris was a different story as I had been vomiting in my seat for ¾ of the flight. I used 4 barf bags. I'm not bragging or anything, but it was 4. I admired the gay flying waiter’s commitment to being friendly, every time I handed him a “used bag” he accepted it with a smile. If I had been flying Delta the bitch would have probably pistol-whipped me and planted an explosive device in my carry-on. I looked out for the bunnies but my eyes were blurry and couldn't see anything but my own frightening reflection.

As I’ve mentioned about 6 times, Hassan met us at the Marrakech airport. It is important to me to immediately say the wrong thing. This lets me know that I’m alive.
“So, you're Arab?” I say as we shake hands.
Hassan bristled at the mere mention of the word. “No, I am not Arab. He said with a look that would be repeated from the lady that was sitting in front of me on the flight back.
“I am Berber”
As I write this I am picturing Yul Brenner in the King and I with his fists on his hips and his legs planted firmly. “I am Berber”

The conversation continues in the 4x4. Moroccan culture is new to me, so I wasn’t certain if I had really put my foot in it as I like too.

“So you’re saying Berbers aren’t Arabs?”

Hassan clutched the steering wheel and breathed deeply, undoubtedly a Celine Dion song was playing in his mind to calm his soul.

“No a Berber is a Berber – they are not Arabs. Berbers are the original people of this land.”

I started to interrupt.

“You will see!” he snapped. “You will see as we drive through Marrakech what the Arabs are about. And then you will see what the Berbers are about.”

He was right about seeing what the Berbers were about. We only stayed in Berber hotels, ate in Berber restaurants and traveled through Berber towns. There was one town that he felt he needed to clarify. “These people here, all these people” He said motion to the 3 women on the street. “They used to be Jews, now they are Berber.” It was unclear what that meant and he wasn’t providing any more information. “This is my band.” He said as he put a CD on. “The singer he is crazy.” We listen to the hour-long improv drum solo as he beat upon the steering wheel to the sound of him beating on drums. I put my iPod on and looked out the window and thought about the Berbers that had one time been Jewish.

“There are no scorpions in the desert he has to tell me for the 10th time.”
“I find that very hard to believe” I persist. “In all the Sahara desert there are no scorpions?”
Other tourists at the cafe listen in, this, after all, affects us all.
“There is no water in the desert. Therefore there are no scorpions or snakes.”
“I watch Discovery channel and I’m certain they’ve discussed snakes and scorpions in the Sahara. I was told that I should shake my shoes out because scorpions will climb in to escape the sun.”
Who told you that?” demanded Hassan. “An Arab? Arabs know nothing of the desert. We are the original desert people. There are no scorpions.”
The crowd seemed to be siding with me on this one.
“You know, scorpions.” I did a little hand gesture to show a scorpion striking.
Hassan considered for a moment. “Ah yes, we do have those.”

Monday, May 05, 2008

I loaded up my Rick Steve’s backpack (a sure sign you are traveller and not a tourist) and walked from my apartment in the center of Paris to the metro at Hotel de Ville. As I trudged down Veille du Temple with my walking stick, safari hat and snakebite kit dangling from my belt, I ponder my next adventure. I’m off to Africa. I feel like an adventurer, but a stylish adventurer as I was also carrying my man-bag loaded down with treats. I take a small break after a block, it’s important to not overdo it on your first day. Swigging from my water bottle, I swallow a salt tablet and I look out over the terrain. As I mop my brow with my new bandana, I hear my wife Kelly yell from the window. “Did you take all the toilet paper?" I quickly gather my things and stagger down the street. Kelly is fleet of foot and I won’t be stopped, not this early in my journey.

“Africa!” I say out-loud to know one in particular. The local tribesmen of the 4th arrondisement stare at me as if to ask “Where is that dapper fellow with the practical backpack, excellent man-bag and perfectly coiffed hair off to? “ They seem to snicker with respect. “I’m off to AFRICA suckas!” I respond with my slight wobble from an over-packed bag and a lower back that’s already beginning to ache. Rue de Rivoli is just another block away and then to the metro station. Discouragement begins to descend upon me, as it must have for Dr Livingston. “I will keep my spirits up.” I say aloud to some German tourists who have that ‘what might have been’ look that they always get when they visit Paris.

”A new continent!” I say to bolster my sagging spirit. “ The dark continent. Dark because…well…because there are a lot of dark people there or because it is shady or something.” My thoughts are interrupted by the pang of hunger, the candy bar I ate a few minutes ago isn’t going to cut it. There is a fruit stand at the next block where I can replenish my supplies and perhaps throw out some of these candy wrappers. Finally, after 10 minutes, I have made it to the metro station. My back is drench in the sweat of a good, honest trek. A well-deserved rest can be had on the train, unless one of those old ladies try to steal my seat.

I take a breather before I descend into the Hotel de Ville metro station- the next leg of my journey. I sip some water slowly and wipe my mouth with the back of my sleeve. I swallow another a salt tablet even though my wedding band seems unusually tight and the laces of my sneakers are straining. The sun is beating down on me- it must be at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit but it easily feels like 60 . I eat some jerky; the salt will do me good. Wiping the grit and chocolate that has accumulated on my face and neck from the hike, I reflect on the 10 minute journey thus far, the changes I have seen in myself and the people that I have met. I smile at the thought of that nomadic tribe of people that sit on the corners with “J’ai Faim.” written on cardboard. It seems to me that if they were really “famous” they wouldn’t need money from me but I try not to judge. I note all of this in my Moleskin notebook. It occurs to me that other than the “famous” people I haven’t really been paying attention to anyone else, but I did catch my own reflection in the Melchior window so I wrote a quick Haiku to myself, which I wont share here. Let’s just say it was good, real good.

I descend down the Metro steps. Longing for the comfort of the two old women that are always sitting there with their belongings, piles of day old bread and their “I am famous” signs. "Aren't we all" I say to myself, shaking my head and smiling as though my observation actually meant something.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


I keep referring to our trip as a trip to Marrakech, but in fact, we only were in Marrakech because of the airport the remainder our time was spent making our way to the desert and back. We were picked up by a 25 year old Berber named Hassan in a Toyota 4x4and we drove and drove and drove. 18 hours in 2 days to the Sahara desert. It was incredible. We went through the high Atlas Mountains, Tizi-n-Tichka, through Ouartzazate, El Kelaa M’Gouna, Gorges of the Dades Tinerhir, Gorges du Tondra, Erfound, Rissani and finally off-road to the edge of the Sahara. We got out of the 4x4 and on to the 8x8. It’s a Berber joke that was repeated by every Berber we met. The 8x8 is a camel. One would think that if you were about to get on a 1,500 lbs of exotic pot-roast you would be given a little instruction- not so. The information our guide gave was less than helpful for instance, I don’t know how to tell a camel to ‘stop’ but I do know that Celine Dion is a musical genius. Is it ok to shrill like an African woman or will that cause the camels to stampede? Do camels stampede? I don’t know- what I do know is that Celine Dion is a musical genius- that’s what I have learned in the Sahara.

The desert and the dunes are breathtaking and yet when the camel in front of you craps you are drawn to it like a magnet. The camel is a large beast, six feet high, ten feet long and yet their poop are the size of marbles and the marbles roll down the dunes gathering at the valleys where they are met by thousands of other little marbles. Beautiful dunes, covered in countless shadows cast by the small ripples in the golden sand surround me. Bright blue skies, light wind, a lone Berber walks into the desert miles away and yet I’m drawn to the marbles. I blame MTV for my fascination with watching crap go downhill.

Everywhere I go I am met by New Zealanders. They are everywhere- like a pandemic. In the Sahara Desert, under a Berber tent I shared a meal with, yes, you guessed it, a New Zealand couple. They introduce themselves but I immediately forget their names as I am thinking only of myself and suspiciously eyeing the butter that sits on the table. Who eats butter in the desert? Is dairy safe in 100-degree temperatures? I would ask our guide but I’m not interested in knowing that Celine Dion was nicknamed “Vampire Queen” in highschool. The Kiwis are an older couple- hardy. They don’t sleep in the Berber tent they’ve reserved but under the stars, I like them immediately. I name drop my New Zealand writer friend and the title of his award-winning book. They’ve never heard of him or the book. It occurs to me I’ve never actually seen this book he claims to have written. New Zealanders are like butter in the desert- refreshing? Sure. Delightful? You bet. Suspect? Definitely.

The 14 tents set up in a figure 8 define the living area. The entrances to the tents are on the inside of the courtyard. The courtyard itself is covered in rugs, a low table is in front of each side along with a mattress to sit on or sleep under the stars. We reserved one of the larger tents for the 5 of us. A young Greek couple wandered into the compound and asked the Berbers if they could send the night. For a little cash they were given one of the outdoor mattresses. At one point the Greek guy walked into our tent to have a look around. “Something we can help you with?” We query. While we might all be pretending to be communal nomads for the night we will kill you if you try to steal our sleeping space. “You have a lot of room in that tent.” The Greek says and waits for us to respond to his non-question question. “Very observant, Zorba- there are five of us- now back the fig away.” They guys girlfriend made some disparaging remark about Americans and she smirks at us through supper. Later that evening she kept the compound awake with her vomiting- beware of butter in the desert and my evil-eye, I’m not kidding.
Good morning and welcome to Morocco.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I have been really bad at posting these last few weeks and I am sorry about that. The combination of family in town, trying to write and my daily required nap has left me with no time. I'm off to the desert to think about my life and try to convince to Berbers to accept me as one of their own so I won't be able to post until next week. I bought a large floppy desert hat, #50 sun-block, a suitcase full of snacks and a copy of "Camel Riding for Dummies"- I'm ready. Have a lovely week.