Saturday, December 22, 2012

It's _that_ time of the year...

We can't believe that the winter holidays are upon us.  It seems like just yesterday that we were scooped up and moved half way around the world.

la tour Eiffel

It's been a WILD ride.

In April, Judith and I moved from the USA to Paris, France.

Late in 2011 I had been laid off from a technology job (software engineering manager).  Jude and I counted our pennies and made the decision to leave while the leaving was good.  Besides, I was angry at the bastards who would downsize a $1BILLION a year company to make themselves richer.  The CEO had already made $200MILLION over five years and was looking for more to pad his bank account.  The sad truth is, the company I worked for was being stripped of assets and is now a zombie.  Where it took 4000+ people to generate $1billion, the new zombie employs less than 1000 people now and generates around $750million.  To their sharp pointy penciled boys, that's a GREAT thing.  They've stripped tens of billions of dollars and are laughing all the way to the bank.

Not being rich (by any means) meant we had to carefully plot our exit.  To have an outside chance at being able to afford to live abroad, we had to sell our house and get our financial affairs arranged in a way that we wouldn't have to worry about excessive market fluctuations while planning to live on a shoestring budget.

We needed to have a couple things done to the house (new ceiling in one room and a new sink in the kitchen) which delayed putting the house on the market until early in 2012.  It sold in a week (literally).

A Paris apartment needed to be found, health insurance (ex-pat) needed to be purchased, the automobiles sold, airline tickets paid for, and a storage unit filled with Plan B things we might want if Plan A failed.  We flew to San Fransisco to apply for visitors visas that would allow us to live in Paris for a year.  Our visas arrived in a week (literally).

la tour Eiffel

Our first apartment was incredible (this was our view from the front windows).  We lived there for a quick three months.

Our second apartment is a longer term situation.  It is quiet and looks out into a space that's filled with birds.  The drunks are not too loud.  The children upstairs are in bed by 10pm each night.  The open air market is held three days a week on the major street that is a block from us.  We have three natural food stores and a large supermarket that are all very very close to us.  There are two metro stations within staggering distance.  All of Paris is at our beck and call within 20mins.

We're getting ready to re-apply for our visas.  This is a little trying on the nerves.  But I'll take these kinds of challenges over trying to feed an insatiable corporate monster any day of any life I'd ever chose to live.  French state willing and all that, we'll hopefully be able to live out our days here.

la tour Eiffel

For one of these images, la tour sparkled.  I left the shutter open long enough to capture a few of the flashes of light that twinkle on and off.  It's quite a display.  When we lived in our first Paris apartment, they would shut the twinkle system off at 11pm each night and the main lights inside la tour's girders would extinguish at midnight.  A classmate of ours said that it was twinkling at 5am one early morning recently.

Paris is filled with majick.  Plan A is working (and we're keeping fingers crossed).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Yes. We're open.

I was carefully considering the menu chalked on a board outside a rather empty restaurant.   Jami and Jude were looking around wondering why things weren't any busier than they were.

What's this?  Oh.  The owner of Paperorosso is motioning us inside.  Well.  Ok then.

She's quick as a bunny in the door and already talking with the man who motioned us inside.  Jude has a few rather inconvenient (to her) food allergies.  It's a Sin Against Nature that she'd been dealt this card.  She doesn't deserve to be treated this way by Life.  You see, Jude loves to eat, and she needs to ask if there were things on the menu she could eat. 

Bridges ~ Florence, Italy
... this light here... oh, the light...

We're in Italy.  Which is a long way from our home in Paris.  Which is even a longer way from where we were born and raised in the US.  Language can be a little tricky with an American accent struggling with French trying to utter a couple words of Italian, but Jude dives right in to give it her best shot.

I don't even have the door closed yet and I hear (in the very very best Father Guido Sarducci voice) "Sorry.  We won't serve you here.  Not possible."

Alarmed that we've been found out as being Unworthy, or that something worse requiring Diplomatic Intervention has just taken place, I look up... and into the broadest Italian smile I've seen in, oh, maybe 10 minutes or so since we encountered the last happy Italian.  Dario was simply joking around with my wife.

Everything Is Fine.

Letting my heart rate settle a bit, I was reminded that Italy is a broad expansive open armed kind of country.  What might take the French a few visits to get around warming up to things, the Italians seem to have cast cultural caution and many forms of dignity and decorum aside.

Would you like a quick snort before your meal?  No problem.  Out comes the Campari.  You don't even have to ask.

Duomo di Milano
 Flowers?  Cherib delivered.

Would you like a bit of olive oil with that wonderful bread you were just handed?  No problem.  Out comes the TWO FREAK'N DAY OLD olive oil!  The stuff is so fresh, you can't stand it.  It's un freak'n believable.  So good.  So tasty.  So heavenly that you'd feel the Pope Himself has blessed this incredible liquid.

How about an affordable wine?  No problem.  No, they don't feel anything that comes out of a box "real".  How about a nice deep full bodies Super Tuscan RED?  Now 'er talk'n.  The Italians make GREAT wines to drink, not to sit around talking about which vintage is best and what maker went to which school so that you know you could be guaranteed quality that you will never in Your Lifetime ever be able to taste.  In Italy, your tastebuds are, indeed, WORTHY.  [slurp]

Would you like a little wild boar for lunch?  No problem.  Wild boar is a problem in Europe.  Besides, it's tasty.  As in fresh olive oil tasty.  It's served in a plate the size of the state of Umbria.  Tender?  You bet.  Just the right amount of wild flavor?  Oh baby!  Swimming in a sauce that only Angels of God could Themselves make?  Words escape me.

Duomo di Milano
 Heavenly architecture...

Would you like a little Vin Santo to go along with your gelato?  No problem.  You get a choice.  The tasty stuff?  Or the FABULOUS stuff from Sicily?  You know.  The stuff that God cellar-ed, oh, a few years back, and brings out for only special occasions.  Like right now.  Like you really honestly swearing on a stack of His Own Veda, Upanishad, and Philokalia deserve this.

I should've known that Jude had broken an important cultural barrier and that we would all benefit by being served a meal FAR better than anything you've ever seen in ANY thousand year old fresco of the Last Dinner.  Or was that a fresco of hungry Romans?  I can't remember.  Anyway, it was all over the top wonderful.  The Slow Food Movement started, afterall, right there in Italy.  Organic "artisanal" (gods! I hate that word) everything.  And the restaurant is situated just across the street from our hotel.  How on earth could we go wrong?

Duomo di Milano
 A saint on a stick!

Dario spent a fair bit of time with us, chatting about this and that, and generally having a laugh filled wonderful experience.  Cultural barriers were, how shall we say?, gone.

By the time we left (a couple hours later), the place was filled with happy hungry folks.  We?  It was a Our Last Dinner in Florence.  For now, at least.

We'll be back.  In this you can trust.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

... a short street performance...

Jami, of Jami's Jam, Barefoot Farm Girl, Mud Dawg, and famed Keeper of the Kiki and the Mau, came for a wee-visit.

The Question of where to go and what to do was easily answered with; Let's go to Italy!

Yes, Paris is Paradise.  Paris is Heaven.  Paris is the Best of the Best.  And all that.  But Jami had been here before and we were looking for a good excuse to Get Out Of Dodge and to head for, hopefully, warmer climes.  Things were getting rather cold Around These Parts.

We spent a Lovely four days in Florence.  Indeed, one would expect Florence to be Lovely.  What with all those old paintings, carved stones, and medieval fortresses, it'd better be Lovely.

The Florentines must've known Jude and I and Jami all enjoy things outside the norm.  They gave us a Lovely Surprise.  We were Witness to a Lovely Street Performance, staged, no doubt, just for us.

No normal pickpocket would do.  No outsized American shoot-out at the OK corral could fit the bill.  Nope.  The Florentines had something else in mind.

Rounding a corner, we heard a Small Commotion.  A Siena Rapida was facing off with a Delivery Van.

One man was on his mobile phone talking quietly and urgently.  The other man was gesticulating wildly and appeared to be on the verge of Frothing at the Mouth.  It seemed there had been an Altercation of Epic Italian Proportions.  Only, it was odd as we failed to see any Physical Damage to either vehicle.

What could this be?  What could this mean?

Uh Oh, what's this then?  Frothing at the Mouth is now tapping, and we do mean TAPPING, He Who Talks Quietly While Carrying Mobile Phone sternly and forcefully on the shoulder.

We were glad for the distinct lack of Flying Bullets.  We specifically quit the USofA because, amongst all that is wrong with the place, one must add: Every Problem's Solution is a Gun.  We've had quite enough violence around us on TV, in the News, over the Radio, on the Bus, on the Streets, and in Our Lives to last 5 Lifetimes.  Yes, Martha, it's utterly and completely true:  You are 5 times more likely to die of homicidal violence in the US than you are in Europe.

Yet, there they were.  Frothing at the Mouth and He Who Talks Quietly.  Two men.  Italian men, at that.  Having a marvelously weird confrontation.  In the middle of the West Bound Lane of a Major Throughfare.  For All the World to See.

We took a few photos and continued on our way.  We have no idea how things turned out.  We wished them well and moved on.  We had a Date with Destiny, you see (... pork chops... and apple sauce... see?) and nothing could stop our Onward Motion.

We were, after all, on our way to catch a bus that would take us to the Accedemia to see that most famous of Ball Touchers (thank ewe, Jami, the allusion is perfect, and if readers don't believe her, just take a long look), Michelangelo's David.  Our appointment time was Firmly Fixed and we needed to get going.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

... and on the flip side...

After sharing some of the confusing behaviors we sometimes observe in Americans who live in Paris, I started thinking about how a few Parisians we've met view the USA.

In French literature, there is a rich and varied body of work devoted to cowboys and indians.  The books of le petit Nicholas (by Sempe-Goscinny) have several chapters devoted to the wild west.  French radio (FM105.1, in particular) plays a lot of American music.  Department stores and supermarkets pipe in all manner of music that was generated in the US.  American cinema fills the city.  Reading through the weekly l'officiel des spectacles, nearly half the publication is given to listing cinema events throughout the city.  Much of that has also been created in the US.

Moyen Age

Many of the upper middle class working Parisians we have talked with have visited the US.  And of those who have visited, a surprising number of them have children who live and work in America.  All of them (so far) seem surprised that anyone from the US would choose to live in Paris.  They wonder what we see about living here that they don't.

In my worst possible French, I tell them that is appears la pelouse est toujours plus verte la.  Something about the greenness of grass and it being not where you are.

Some Parisians have a very clear, strong impression of America that we, as former residents, could only feel.  And that, from a remote, distant kind of sensation.

For example, someone observed that Americans are continually divided against themselves.  That person could not believe how racial minority Americans constantly "put each other down".  They were shocked they did not support each other, as they do in France.  Instead, they said, these groups seemed to express nothing but anger within the communities they live.

In another example, someone observed that American politics is more circus than reality.  They noted how moronic the whole play of position, power, and governance seems when viewed against the much more serious political backdrop of Europe.  Berlusconi not withstanding (a little inside joke, this).

Vrbain Constant

In general, what the French seem to like about America are the wide open spaces.  More than a few people we've talked with have noted the same liking of American open space.  Some French appear to like working in the US more than in France.  Apparently, working for a corporation in France can be hell.  I don't say much about certain rollup or private equity companies in America.  I figure if they found a great job in the US and if it's better than what they could find here, more power to them.

It's increasingly obvious to me that the world we live in is not simply black and white, good and bad, right or wrong.  As Jean Paul Sartre's author of the forward to his "Being and Nothingness" says, there are as many valid points of view as there are viewers.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Luck and opportunity...

My wife trades emails with a childhood friend who also lives here in Europe.  When  Jude told her she felt lucky to be here, her friend pointed out that being able to live here actually comes as a result of hard work and dedication to following dreams.

Jude and I are working hard to integrate into French life and culture.  We are taking language lessons.  We shop the local open-air market three days a week.  We enjoy using exercising our limited communication skills to find out what's on the minds of people who were born and raised in Paris.  We visit places of interest and see things with wondering eye.  We can't imagine living our lives any other way.

le musee de Cluny

As Jude says, if you don't by your lottery ticket, you stand no chance of being lucky enough to win.  "Luck" is expressed to those who put themselves in a position to take advantage of it.

I naively thought that if you were fortunate enough to live in Paris, that we must be of similar minds.  Boy, have I ever been wrong!

It is from this perspective that we can begin to see why the French roll their eyes when people begin the Standard American Pontification.  With feet set firm, and jaw clenched just so, the American Judgements On How Things Really Are And Need To Be all too often begin.  This does not work as a broad generalization.  Not every American ex-pat we meet Pontificates in the manner, but those who do certainly stand out.

le musee de Cluny

Why would anyone carry arrogant assumptions about how "right" they are while coming from a place where the food system is broken?  Coming from a money milking health care system provides third-world class services?  Coming from a circus-style political system that diverts any reasonable discussion of what might actually benefit We The People?  Coming from a place where a financial system is so clearly slanted to making more money for the already rich?

We watch as the French become uneasy when people start to Explain Just How Wrong the French Way Of Doing Things is.  Could you imagine how these same Americans might feel if someone back home started to explain how much better things are in, say, Thailand, or Germany, or, heaven forefend, Mexico?  I'm sure they would be asked why they didn't just turn around and go back to where they come from.  You can almost read this response in the eyes of the French when confronted with Americans who have all the answers to all the world's, and most certainly, France's problems.

Museum national d'Histoire naturelle

Such behavior leaves us, frankly, scratching our heads.  The certitude of being "right" has to be covering something.  Right?  Perhaps it covers incredible insecurities about the "rightness" of a failing system that people have no idea how to escape from?  Maybe it's that some ex-pats want a proscribed predefined Disney-esque fantasy of what it's like to live here?

The confused contrasts are sometimes startling.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Un anniversaire

This week, we celebrate six months of living in Paris, France.  In two weeks, we will celebrate the first year of my being laid off from work in the USA.

I was hoping to be able to retire gracefully out of my job as a software engineering program manager.  I had contributed in several important areas to the company's ability to generate $3BILLION over ten years.  I had helped build the foundation that enabled another $500MILLION over ten years.  I was good at what I did.

Alas, locking horns with the president of the company (quite inadvertently on my part, I can assure you) put paid to any hope of a graceful retirement.  Instead, I was invited to endure the worst week of my professional career in an all too public manner.  The president's complete mis-use of the Toyota Way made his real intentions clear.

To receive any severance (which itself was severely reduced from a layoff just a few months prior) I was to sign a document that said I would not criticize the company, nor would I ever apply for a job with that company in the future.  The president of the company had a huge axe to grind and used it to reduce head-count that sent a message that no one was to disagree with him ever again.  Such is the nature of working for asset stripping roll-up companies or private equity firms.

A colleague had talked for years about stockpiling "go to hell" money.  We preferred to think of it as prudent savings against the day I would no longer work.  Either way, Jude and I did our best to save what we could.

To make the move to France we needed to sell the house.  So coming up with enough "go to hell" money was not an easy task.  Or so it seemed.  It was then that our home sold in a week.   In the middle of a severely "down" market.  In the middle of winter.  To close in 30 days.  We needed to rent-back our former home to ensure our French visas arrived in time for our departure.

So many pieces of our move fell effortlessly into place that we began to think our leaving was somehow pre-ordained.

When we look back at our last years in the US, we can see how our lifestyle had evolved.  We lived "close to the earth" and voted continually to express what was valuable to us in the way we spent our money, in the topics we researched and shared with others, and in the way we "walked our talk".

We drove a Prius.  Jude volunteered at the local organic food coop.  I rode public transportation to-from work.  During spring/summer/fall, I would ride my bike downtown to catch the train out to work, and then reverse this coming home.  We frequented local restaurants (not fast food, nor any food-chain type of places).  We put our money in a credit union.  We lived simply (by US standards).

Coming to Paris, I see our values have changed only slightly.

We no longer own an automobile.  We walk all over town and use public transportation to get around when we don't want to alk.  We use the rail system to visit the countryside and the high-speed TGV to visit other countries.  We buy our food from local markets.  We research which bistros, brasseries, and restaurants still run a real kitchen (as opposed to places that nuke prepackaged meals from Rungis).  We enjoy visiting with merchants in our open-air marche.   We enjoy taking language lessons at a local small privately run school.  We drink organic wines and beer.  We buy our art from local artists (and not that stuff that is cranked out in China, but sold in Paris as if it were painted here).  We live in a very small (by US standards) apartment.  Our alarm clock is sometimes a loud singing black bird instead of an alarm clock.  We watch as doves raise their young just outside our back window.

We don't take up much space.  We continue to live simply.  We are incredibly happy.

It's time for a bit of champagne.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Les journees...

Friends from England suggested we meet outside Paris one day as they visited family and took their leisure by wandering about the French countryside.  We met in Chartres at the cathedral.

Chartres Cathedral
 A view of the famous face of Chartres...

Jude and I had never been to Chartres.  A little research by using The Force (ie: Google) revealed some interesting properties about the cathedral there and we looked forward to seeing the village and visiting with our Recently Engaged to be Married friends.  I owed him a beer, in the least, for the kind gift of a steampunk book he felt I need to read.  "Dancers at the Edge of Time" awaits my attentions.  I need to finish Antonia Fraser's "Marie Antoinette" first.

Blue Madonna
 The blue color recipe was, until recently, lost...

Jami, of Jami's Jam Fame, will be coming to see us in November.  In preparation, Jude and I visited the Gare du Nord to buy rail tickets to Italy.  After a few days kicking around Paris, we'll be taking the TGV and visiting the Cradle of the Renaissance.  The exercise of buying tickets showed us how we could best acquire les billets for Chartres.  This time we visited the Gare du Montparnasse.

Rail travel here is Right Reasonable to my way of thinking.  One way first class tickets direct to Milan can be had for much less than 75Euros each if you plan ahead.  One way tickets to Chartres were less than 18Euros each.  It's not like you're traveling small distances, either.  No longer owning une voiture and no longer paying for l'assurance and maintenance and l'essance and visits to the tire dealer has freed us up to trade those costs for nearly absolute freedom to travel about the countryside for next to nothing.

Malkesadeck ~ Chartres Alchemist
 Well carved stone...

Chartres, as you have have already visited certainly can attest to, is an incredible place.  The cathedral sits on top of an ancient dolmen.  The stained glass is world renowned, and for good reason.  The stone carvings are not to be missed.  The history that speculates the Knights Templar financed the construction of the cathedral is quite interesting to consider.  Bien entendu, our Friends from England were a joy to visit with.

After a nice lunch, we wandered over to the ticket counter to buy our way into the crypt.  We learned that guided tours (the only way you can gain access, I guess) on this day were gratuite.  Free is a very good price.  So down we went to listen to a Great Lecture in French as we wandered the east end of the crypt that is located under the nave.  I casually leaned against the old Roman Wall as our Lecturer Extraordinaire described the Carolingian wall that was situated behind him.  He shared with us some history behind the ancient Celtic/Druidic well that is found there.  I nodded sagely as he lectured, leading our friends to comment that we must know more French than we were letting on.  We had a Good Laugh.

Chartres ~ Nave under restoration
 Under restoration, but still incredibly beautiful...

Jude said the price of the crypt entry (as in free) had to do with the fact that weekend was les journees du Patrimoine.  I'm not sure what I was thinking, but I didn't really believe her until we were back at our apartment that evening.  Using The Force confirmed what my wife said earlier that day.  I knew we were late to plan any serious visits around Paris for le demache, tomorrow Sunday.  So I looked for "interesting" sites that might not have the hords of Knowledge Seekers that the major attractions usually draw.  Several years ago we regarded the huge lines of Knowledge Seekers as they waited to gain entry to Usually Closed to Public Places all over the city.

This year we would do the best we could.

What we came up with was a Two Part plan.  First, we would visit l'hopital Saint Louis and their Musée des Moulages Dermatologiques.  Second, we would make our way over the Serbian Ambassador's residence that was located literally around the corner from our Parisian Point of Entry Residence over in the 16th.

Musée des Moulages Dermatologiques
 Saint Louis helping cure the sick...

The Musee was, how shall we say?, "interesting" indeed.  The skin disease adoring public is disallowed from taking photos.  It's a shame, actually, as there were some pretty incredible skin conditions on display.  Plaster casts were carefully made of various diseases starting over 400 years ago.  These casts were then used as the basis of the medical displays.  I guess one should be strong of heart and spirit to actually say they enjoy seeing such things, but I found it amazing.

The Serbian Ambassador's residence was something else entirely.  Shortly after we first arrived, Jude and I had looked from a distance at the incredible gold guilt, rich art, and fabulous tapestries and wondered what it might be like inside, up close, and personal.  This was our opportunity and it was well taken.  Words escape me to describe the opulence of the decor and vastness of the spaces.  The view of la tour Eiffel from the courtyard was stunning.

This ranked as One Stellar Weekend!  We would need several day to recover from such a great adventurous weekend.
Hopital Saint Louis

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Un mystère...

Summer this year has been short and only moderately hot.  We experienced three days of chaleur that kept us indoors.  The rest of the time was spent battling mosquitoes trying to gain entry to our apartment to steal some blood.

For the rest of the month of August, we wandered through the ghost town that Paris became.  Le congé annuel was in full force.  It seems that most people left la ville for points south and west to enjoy three or four weeks of well deserved vacation.  France has the 5th largest economy in the world.  People work very hard here.  So the time off is something they relish.  There were times when we wished we'd joined them.  The quiet our our emptied ville was nearly oppressive.

House of the Sleepy Lion
 Silent watchers over empty Parisian streets...

On a shopping expedition into the 5th, Jude found a wonderful needlepoint shop.  Their hand painted mesh and beautiful wool yarns were very attractive.  A kit might have to ordered soon.  With winter coming on it might be nice for Jude to have an activity that helps keep us indoors and out of the cold and wet.  On leaving the boutique, Jude picked up a guide to living in Paris.

The free guide is filled with interesting tidbits of information.  Including, but certainly not limited to, how to protect your apartment from being burgled.  As an outsider and not knowing the "lay of the land" here, it's easy to become paranoid about such things.  The guide opened a wide array of new opportunities to add to our paranoia.  It lead me to wondering how often thieves were successful, how they operated, and how paranoid should I be?

We noticed how a great number of apartments had their metal window protectors pulled shut.  Those apartments must have been empty.  French insurance companies require residents secure their domicile when their homes are not occupied, such as when everyone is away for the month of August working on the perfect tan.

 Chalk marks on the sidewalk...

The Paris guide included several pages that described a signal system thieves use, complete with illustrations.  Apparently, robbing unoccupied residences is a well organized activity in these parts.  The system includes chalk marks made on the sidewalk near building entries.  Symbols indicate which dwellings may have "friendly" women (why this is important, I have no idea), policemen who might live there, a building that has already been "hit", and symbols marking a residence that is ready for robbery.

Seeings as to how there was little else to do and seeings as to how we were more than a little bored, Jude and I started looking at the sidewalks in our quartier to see what might be seen.  It was fascinating.  One side of the street had chalk marks indicating the same number, like the number "5".  Another street around the corner might have "6" marked next to apartment building doors.  Where there was a business, no marks were found the entryways.

We talked over this new information and compared it against the marks indicated in the Paris guide.  They were not the same.  So we cogitated on this a bit and came to the conclusion that whoever made the chalk marks in our area either had changed the symbol system or used the symbols for some other purpose than to rob unoccupied places.

One day, two men were seen making marks all around our area.  They worked quickly and moved fast.  When they thought they were seen, they ducked into doorways or started conversations with people on the street.  It seemed like strange behavior, regardless of how we interpreted their activity.

What does these symbols mean?

A building one of the men entered had a very different chalk symbol than any of the other building entries.  What did it mean?  What were they guys up to?  Were they setting places up for robbery by indicating which buildings were most easily "hit"?  Or were they just two of the many delivery folk who put flyers and ads into resident's boite au lettre?

It was all a mystery.

What we observe is this:  Since les vacances have ended and the quartier is once again filled with life, living, and uniquely Parisian activities, the chalk marks have disappeared.

Friday, August 24, 2012

La chasse commence

Wild game?  Yum!

But what's this?  Has la chasse de septembre begun already?  La rentre hasn't even taken place yet.  Tout Paris is still away on vacances and they won't return until this coming Sunday.

We have been settling comfortably into our new apartment.  Things have been cleaned.  Things have been acquired.  Things have been slept in.  Things have been watched.  Things now reflect our sensibilities, or the foreign born lack thereof.  Things have been heard.

 Quietly avoiding la chasse...

Each place we have lived has presented us with a unique collection of sounds that sometimes take getting used to.

One of the great things about our apartment is it's proximity with nature.  Our shared courtyard is filled with trees, plants, insects, birds, and bats.  We watched as a pair of doves built a nest in a tree very close by.  Jude one morning spied a raptor of some kind as it swooped through her field of vision out the back windows. 

We were happy to see a pair of raptors on la chasse when we lived for a short time up in the 16th.  It was quite the sight to watch them work over the smaller birds.  One looked like it had captured a pigeon.

One morning, around 09h00, we heard a crack!  It was slightly muffled, but it was at the same time distinctly clear.  A few moments later we heard another crack!

We thought it strange.  So I opened an investigation into the source and nature of the crack! sounds.  I looked at the landing in front of our apartment door.  There is a small shared air duct that helps keep air circulating between les etages.  I thought perhaps we were hearing metal louvers with some small amount of force crack! shut.  Our air vent had no such louvers so it was unlikely the source of the curious sound.

The next morning, around 08h30, we heard another crack!  Then another.  And again another.

 Baby dove feeding time...

Puzzled, I went back out our front door to inspect the electrical system.  There are three power meters in a closet just outside our apartment.  The more I inspected and the more I thought about it, any arcing of the power system would likely leave the distinct smell of ozone or electronics in the process of failing.  It would be dangerous and rather unlikely.

The crack! sounds were heard from time to time.  We were no closer to an answer than the first day we heard that crack!  The investigation continued.

In the mean time, we noted that the local pigeons, which usually lined the top of a school facade two doors west of us, had quite suddenly disappeared.  On le trottoit in front of the school lay remnants of a pigeon or two.  It seems that the raptor Jude caught a glimpse of had une chasse success.

I could easily imagine the raptor sweeping into our courtyard area by squeezing unseen between tall buildings to the north.  By coming in at a great rate of kilometer par heure lower than the roofline, I could further imagine the hunter bird calculating the exact moment to pop up to roof level as it caught the pigeons completely off guard.  Lunch would be, by then, only a split second away.

Our nesting doves had suddenly become very quiet.  The mother dove would fly stealthily to a branch after being away and sit for twenty minutes.  She then moved slowly down the branch to sit and look at her young.  Slowly and very quiet.  Only then would she move onto the nest.  Her three young had been told to keep quiet.  She feeds them without a sound.

Jude was preparing breakfast recently when things became even more interesting.  Her pancakes are simply not to be missed.  All gluten and egg free.  When cooked with her new 7 inch inexpensive blue steel very French crepe surface they rival anything ever made with eggs and wheat.

It was then we heard CRACK!  Jude whipped around just in time to catch the sight of un voisin upstairs retreating from his own kitchen widow.  He'd been hunting pigeon!

Well, not exactly.  We think what he was up to was trying to scare away the pigeons that roosted in our air-well that is open to the sky.  The air-well is used to share cooking smells between the residents.  Steak frites, bad fried fish, and our very own pan-caker are commonly smelled. 

We're not sure what contraption our voisin was using to make the crack!  Maybe he was practicing for when hunting season opens?

What I feel like saying to him is come September (in a week), all bets will be off!  Get your license!!  It'll be time for la vraiment chasse!!!

Mystery solved.  Case closed.

Pigeon under glass, anyone?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

La lutte entre des mots continue

We see that the French can be a people of many finely crafted words.

Reims Graff

Climbing into the l’ascenseur recently, my wife and I were confronted with a Stern Warning regarding the use and operation of household cleaning machines after 22h00.  The Stern Warning was beautifully crafted with it's selection and order des mots.

Performing a quick mental check, I wasn't sure if the note was aimed at us, or some other building resident.  I vaguely remembered running l'aspirateur perhaps as late into the evening as 20h00 or 21h00-ish a few weeks back.

My mind then turned it's attention to the present state of French speaking abilities and I realized I am light-years away from being able to create such elegant phrases.  I can barely grunt "je vous en prie" whenever someone says "Merci" for some kindness or other that I am perceived to have performed.

Une short but entertaining lutte ensued.  Whoever posted the message was quite adamant that the Finely Crafted Message remain in the elevator taped to the glass facing the door for all the residents to read.  I had moved the warning to the side panel next to the buttons so people would be free to check their makeup and inspect how their clothing might be arranged in the mirror before venturing out into the Competitive Fashion Jungle that is Paris.  The following day as I took the recycling into the cave where les poubelles live I quickly noted that the Finely Crafted Message was squarely centered back onto the mirror where it was first placed.

Not wishing to begin another war, I let matters be taped as they were.  

Graff in the 19th

I felt we'd had enough to worry over when we lived over in the 16th for a short time.  It was there that a war over who could form the more perfect letter "X" on one of two doors played out.  Those two doors happened to be our neighbor and his neighbor two doors down from us.  Close conflict.  Too close for comfort or sound sleep.  The next thing we knew, a whole war of the alphabet could break out, and who knew where that might lead next?  Whole sentences?  Gods!  What would the world have come to??

On the fourth day, la lutte contre les machine de ménage Finely Crafted Message was removed.  Peace returned to the apartment building.

Two weeks later, as we were leaving the building, we saw someone had turned the entry carpet into a litter box for kittens.  The problem was, they hadn't done a complete job of things.  Kitty litter was spilled in a rather awkward arc just in front of the inner glass door.  It was messy and we did our best not to disturb the Latest Crime Scene.  We hoped cats would have the Good Sense to clean up after themselves.  We hate the sight of Kitty Rocca.

An hour later, upon our return, what were we faced with but Stern Warning II (the Sequel).  This time it was stated in no uncertain Finely Crafted Phrases that it was incroyable!, simply incroyable!!, that someone would make a spill, only to leave it to others to clean up.  The kitty little box had returned to being our entry way carpet, clean and pristine.

Paris Window Art

The Finely Crafted Stern Warning II (the Sequel) font style was the same as l’ascenseur notice had been.  The size of the font was identical.  The elegant use of Finely Crafted Phrases was unmistakable too.

The rapidity of the appearance of the Stern Notice II (the Sequel) helped me realize that the first warning could not have been directed toward us.  I hadn't run l'aspirateur in the evening before Stern Notice I appeared, and l'aspirateur was certainly not operated after 22h00!, fercripesake!!

I wonder if we will figure out who the author is?  If we do, I'm sorely tempted to ask for French lessons.  Me-thinks a person could go a long ways in this culture using such beautifully honed phrases.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tool Time ~ Paris Style

The more we relax into living here, the more I realize that I LOVE this place.  Every experience is unique, and some seemed etched in brilliant diamond clarity.

Reason in an Age of Decline

I am sitting on The Throne, considering the Nature of the Universe, the Present State of Curiosity on Mars, and wondering if I should call Henry Kissinger (inside joke, real inside...) when the apartment buzzer rings.

Merde!  D'accord.  Let's see what's up.  I am not expecting another package.  I have everything I ordered.  Maybe it's someone other than la poste?  "Hello?"

Uh, well, it is someone saying things for which I have no clue what is being said. "Je descende."  Quickly throwing on a pair of real pants in place of the pajamas I had been in, and pulling on a sports coat over a freshly washed white t-shirt I head down stairs to see what was being asked of me.

After a few rapidly spoken words and a bit of hand-waving, I figure out the man is the Ventilation System Technician from synd-corpo, the group that operates and maintains our apartment complex.  He wants to come up to our apartment and take a few photographs of our exhaust ports.  Might this be a new art project, I wonder?  Before I can chase that Rabbit down the Hole of Silly Thoughts, I pull up short.  Something wasn't quite right.


Yes. Oh, that's it.  These are the very same exhaust vents that Jude and I viennent de nettoyer a week or two ago.  This man is here to give synd-corpo an estimate for cleaning the air system for the entire apartment.  After our rag and solvent administrations they look like new again, and probably don't represent reality beyond our small hovel.  So we try to explain that we just de-crudded the vents but had done nothing about cleaning the pipes behind the vent covers.  We wonder if he knows there was no Chance in Hell the rest of the Ventilation System looks as good as our vent covers.  No way.

I am asked if I could escort the Ventilation System Technician to la cave.  Oui!  Bien sur.

The Ventilation System Technician was carrying a portable collapsible rather interesting device.  While waiting for l'ascenseur to collect us to take us to la cave, I receive an introduction to the Wonders of French Ladders.  Oh yes.  It is that good. 

Each section snaps up in a telescoping manner.  There are no forward foot pair.  Before using the French ladder, you simply telescope each section, one after the other, to the desired height and lean it against the thing you were trying to climb.  Et voila!  Up you walk on the newly telescoped bars.  Quite well padded bars these are, too.  Firm, yet pliable.  No sense in loosing one's grip on things when Up High Fixing Sh*t.

"Nous n'avons pas de choses comme ca dans mon pays!"  With that we were off to the races et un petit conversation, il commence.

What's this?  Oh yes.  It's l'ascenseur.  It has arrived and is waiting patiently on us with it's door agape.  We proceed downstairs to inspect more vents.  Pour la pollution, n'est-ce pas?

I learn about ventilation systems, French regulations for garbage collection, French building codes, and was witness a True Professional at his metier.  To confirm he was who he said he was, he matched the name of the company he represents with the Important French State License and Approval for Operation document that was hung in a conspicuous place on a wall in la cave.  Right.  We're in good hands.

Bentley ~ Double Parked for Dinner

The conversation continues in l'ascenseur as I am delivered back to my floor.  He is on his way up to the roof to inspect the system from the motor down through the shafts back into the building.  I learned that the Ventilation System Technician tried two other apartments before ringing ours.  Tout le monde sont en vacances, oui?  So few people are at home in August and he's happy I am able to help him.

We are still Talking Shop as I stand in the hallway.  His heel keeps the door of the l'ascenseur overt.  After more words and then a hearty "bonne journee!" from both parties, I slip the key into the apartment door and go inside.

There is something wonderful about being a man.  Really, there is.  Think Tim Allen's "Tool Time" and you might catch a glimpse of Manly Wonderfulness.  I enjoy being able to talk Mano a Mano about Oversized Socially Beneficial Technical Engineering Complex Things.

It was time to see if Henry Kissinger was still on the horn.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sleepless in Paris...

Why so grumpy?

Contemplation [4]
 You would be grumpy too, if you didn't get any sleep...

We have Wildlife.  In all manner of form and style.  You might think that Paris would be a Wildlife waste land.  It is not.  Paris is, after all, a rather large diverse city, but I can assure you it's filled with Wildlife.

First, there are birds.  Lots and lots of birds.  Black birds (which are not the same variety we used to have in the States), Blue Martins (who continually clean the skies of small nasty winged biting critters), a large collection of extremely amorous Doves (there's another story here waiting to be told), the usual Pigeons (airborne pests typically found in large cities like this), and a wonderfully large selection of small colorful birds that feed on insects.  Oh, and to keep things interesting, we have bats too.  They seem to work the night shift.

Then there are the dogs.  Some time I will have to write a blog entry devoted to Paris' dogs.  Suffice it to say here, dogs represent a very large portion of Paris' Wildlife population.  My favorite breed is the goofy way-too tail waggy happy to be True Parisian long wire haired Dachshunds.  If I ever needed a dog, it would be this one.

Then there is the Human Wildlife.  Young people who have no place to "hang out" and grow up roam the streets in packs.  Older Adult Drunken Wildlife seems to enjoy stumbling around the city after the tourists are safely stored in their hotels and rented apartments.  Like dogs, the Older Adult Drunken Wildlife prefer to mark their territory by pissing on key landmarks.

Your mouth is full of insects, so now you're quiet???

We have learned to keep Paris Time.  We get to bed later than we used to when living back in the States.  Dinner is now after 19h00, sometimes closer to 20h00.  Bedtime is typically 23h00 or later.

When I was a Working Stiff, my wife and I were up at the crack of dawn.  05h00 for her and 05h30 pour moi.  I was out the door and at the local bus stop or on the bike by 07h00 with me arriving into work at 07h50-ish.  Dinner was at 18h00 and bedtime came at 21h30.  It was a well ordered life and the calls of  Wildlife were generally soft and sweet sounding to the ear.  Except for when a Murder of Crows would descend on us.

Now that je suis a la retraite, one might think that keeping later hours would lead, quite naturally, to waking up later.  In theory, that might have been the case and we would be well rested and enjoying our retraite. Yet, when we spent three months on rue Beethoven, we were sleepless in Paris.

Many nights we would keep the windows open, trying our best to capture the cool night breezes.  Alas, the Wildlife loved to capture the night breezes by sitting on the stairs just below our windows.  100 stairs, in fact.  In prior postings I have referred to the stairs as the "Stair Master from Hell!"  It was a good place for Wildlife to sit as a breeze would usually move up the street from the Seine.  It would then climb the stairs and head up over the hill in Passy to make it's way toward la place d'Etoile and through the tall arch of the Arc de Triomphe.

The French flag needed waving and the rue Beethoven Night Breezes were happy to comply.  The local Wildlife was well ventilated.

The Human Wildlife would eventually find it's way to sleep somewhere else in the city by 02h00.  We would be deep into REM sleep, enjoying the peace, quiet, and upper-class calm of Passy.

Merde!  What is THAT?

Why, it's only our 05h30 alarm clock, my wife would tell me.

 05h00 alarm clock ~ Black Bird Singing Competition

Ugh.  Me thinks I need a proper French weapon to bag myself a few Black Birds.  I'd love to say that we'll be having Black Bird Pie for dinner.  But with my luck, I'd aim at the wrong thing and something would break over at the International School for Children with Rich Parents.   I'd hate to have to explain to la police that the Black Birds were driving me crazy.   Maybe la police would understand my plight?  Nah.  It's better to take no chances.  I'm already on their books for taking photographs of la tour Eiffel.

Now that we are into our new place, down in the 15th, life has become more peaceful.  During les conges annuels (les vacances en aout), the Wildlife here is limited to a pair of nesting doves in a tree just outside our window.

Mercifully, they keep to themselves and don't stir things up the way Wildlife did up in the 16th.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Good things...

Summer has arrived in the city and the day's temperatures are supposed to clear 29 degrees Centigrade.

I lamented on my Facebook wall this very morning that I just might give my life for a Great Baguette.

After having a taste of what's possible when we lived in the 16th arrondissement, I have been munching my way along rue de la Convention down in the 15th.  Nothing.  Nope.  Nothing but air-filled Wonder-bread style baguettes.

I couldn't believe it.  This was not why I moved to France.  I thought Good Bread was more widely available than this.

By contrast, I wish there was some way to rid the city of pick pockets.  They are a nuisance and are more readily found than Great Baguette.  Fortunately, they have become somewhat easy for me to spot.  From the way they hold their satchels (where they store their booty), to the way the rove about in sometimes boisterous gangs, to the way they find and work their prey.  I don't like being prey, but that's what happens when a person grows older and slower.  I try to keep the important stuff inaccessible to Thieving Hoards of Rom Youth.

Over the Champs-Elysees

Summer has arrived, and with it the heat...

Over breakfast and just after I shared my Great Baguette lament with the world on Facebook, Jude suggested that "using the Force", that is, to make a quick Google search, was in order.

Two articles instantly stood out.  The first was a blog entry from 2011 that talked about the best baguettes to be found in Paris.  The second was a blog entry on David Libovitz' site that recently dates from May, 2012.

Both sites talk at some length about how decent bread is not a "given" here in Paris, and the two sites talk about what to look for in a good baguette.  Further, Paris Notebook had a link to a Google Map that marked boulangerie locations throughout the city.  I saw there are potentially three good places to buy bread near our apartment.

My wife and I headed out to buy some books.  Jude was lacking something decent to read and found WHSmith by "using the Force" (Google).

Our Metro line is conveniently located and we were able to reach Place de la Concorde in 15 minutes.  We found the well stocked and air conditioned English bookshop at 248 rue de Rivoli just a few moments after crawling out of the Metro.

Two good things [1]
Cheap Plonk and the most evil thing on Planet Earth...

I must be pretty clueless about a lot of things here in Paris.  I was clueless about Cheap Plonk (less than 8Euro) wine and Bubbly Stuff (also less than 8Euro).  I was clueless about how to turn off automobile horns (it turns out, eggs are most useful and very effective at turning off noisy klaxons de voiture).  I was clueless about Rom Curses.  I was clueless about Good Baguette.  I was clueless about Evil Bookstores.

Evil?  Why, yes.  Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.  Evil.  Evil in the sense that bookstores are categorically NOT supposed to sell the most evil thing on Planet Earth; Devon Clotted Cream.

I have an old friend to thank for this.  He turned me on to Devon Clotted Cream one day while we sat for a cup of tea located in a brick hut somewhere out in the vasty sheep filled fields of Hertfordshire.  It's so Evil, this Devon Stuff, that the only way to get through the experience is to pile, slather, scoop, cup, or gingerly finger it up on top of scone or, it turns out, when in France, a decent Petit Pain (containing nuts, raisins, and figs).

Avoiding yet another Thieving Hoard of Rom Youth as we boarded the Metro at Place de la Concorde (they jumped on right beside us, ready, no doubt, to work us over if they could), Jude and I made our way to the first purveyor of Great Baguette on my list.  We instantly know this was The Place by the way it smelled.  If you had a good sniffer, you could follow the incredible smell straight into the shop from at least a city block away.  It smells SOOoooooo much better than those Baguette Dives that line rue de la Convention.

Two good things [2]
Je voudrais deux baguettes de tradition, s'il vous plait...

Today's midday meal included Great Baguette.  Yes, we have found Great Baguette!  For only 1Euro10 per Truly Great Baguette.  Spread with Grand Fermage aux cristaux de Sel de Mer de Noirmoutier (butter laced with a very special sea salt - it is better than you could possibly know unless you've tried it yourself). Chased by Cremant de Loire Monmousseau, for only 6Euro99 per, making it a Truly Great Cheap Plonk (in a rose to help chase the heat of a summer day away).  Followed with Petit Pain piled, slathered, scooped, cupped, and gingerly fingered up on top of each tiny morsel, that most evil thing on Planet Earth; Devon Clotted Cream.

See how good life suddenly becomes when you find Truly Great Baguette?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cleaning up...

After the Rom curse had been placed on me, nothing seemed to go right.  Such is supposedly the Nature of Curses.

First, after a very quick delivery of our new Orange TV/Livebox/Telephone system by la poste, it took a week to sort out the fact we had a dead on arrival Orange TV box.  Everything else worked, but not the Orange TV box.

After sorting out the Orange TV situation, first in an all french on-line chat with, then with a mostly English speaking India call center, I took the dead box to a local boutique where we were able to exchange the dead for the living.  All was suddenly good until we discovered that the old tube-type TV that came with our apartment was in it's final stages of crossing over to the other side.  It was dying.  Quickly.

Passy Distortions
Time to transform our TV situation from Alien Green wavering imaged skin tones for something a little less Alien Green.  So, it was off to the local Darty to spend a little money.  After an hour of working through the purchase process, again, all in french, we exited the store with a new Samsung HD (only 720p, but, beggars can't be choosers and, besides, it was only 66cm across) and a receipt for a new micro-onde.

Have your ever seen an old man hauling a new 66cm Samsung HDTV box through the metro system in Paris before?  Neither had we.  Until now.  That old man was moi-meme.

Along the way, Jude spied a musician.  He was playing a very nice classical accompaniment on a French Horn (bien sur!).  My wife said "Give me some coin.  I'm going to counter that Rom Curse right now!!"

By giving to the Forces of Good, it was hoped my Rom Curse would be cleared out of our lives.

Our new appartement is looking wonderfully fit, clean, and healthy.  Our new micro-onde is working well.  Our new tele gives us drop-dead gorgeous images every night.  Our Orange TV box provides hundreds of HiDef channels of very wonderfully French programs (including live broadcasts of the 2012 Tour de France!).  Doves are building a nest just outside our livingroom window in a tree that is no more than 15 feet away.

Passy Distortions
Sunday, last, dawned clear and bright.  As the cross-walk graffiti says, "Regarde le ciel."  Squinting ciel-ward, we could confirm that yes, le ciel was crystaline blue.  It was going to be a good day.

Around 15h00, Jude and I headed out for the Champs-Elysees.  We had to see what the party of the final etage of le tour was all about.

Wiggins still wore the Yellow Jersey.  Mark Cavendish, the non-kilt wearing Scotsman Best Sprinter Of ALL Time was in the mix.  The peloton looked, well, somewhat smaller than is usually does.  Maybe too many people crashed and burned during the previous weeks of le tour?  Or maybe they went by so fast it only looked like a smaller than usual peloton.  The fans were waving and cheering each lap as the peloton worked it's way around the 16th Arrondisement.

After meeting a group from Sussex, England, we learned just how nice everyone around us was.  We learned how well behaved bicycle spectators can be.  We were seriously enjoying a warm summer day on the Champs-Elysees.

Gods! this must be paradise!!

Walking along a rue near our apartment, a woman stopped us and asked if we had been to see le tour.  All in French, we did our best to share a few videos we took just a half hour earlier.  Smiles and well wishes all around and a few coins to a French Horn player a few days earlier appears to have put paid to that Dastardly Rom Curse.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tools in Living Skills

Les fous américain have landed

We are now successfully installed, if not yet fully functional, in the 15th arrondissement.  Walking around the quartier a little today revealed all we were looking for.  Les parcs.  Les boulangeries.  Les boucheries.  Les magasins of all kinds.

I think we're going to love living here.  Though I don't know how we could love this any more than we already do.  I'm sure we'll figure something out.

Reflecting a little on how we arrived in this place at this time, I realized there are a few tools that have facilitated the transition nicely.

Life skills tools
... so many problems to solve, such little time...

Tools.  Well, we're les fous américain, right?  We tend to do many things ourselves.  We like to avoid spending money when the job at hand can be done ourselves.  We will spend money on tools.

I can't tell you why.  All I know is that some silly little things in life bring great pleasure.

Take, for instance, the Grand Opening of Jami's Jam.  Abricot and quite tasty, or so it was reported.  There was a problem.  To get at the abricot jam, we needed to pry the lid off.  Alas, what to use?  Hmmm... nothing seems to be working.  I don't want to cut myself or make a mess of things that might lead to a hospital visit.  My French is not up to explaining strange wounds to Gallic Doctors.

Ah!  I have it.  We have a Leatherman.  Yes, it's the self same Leatherman that used to live in our Emergency Prepardness Kit back in the States.  We brought it with us after reading of another fou americain's experiences of how good a tool it was to have here in France.

With a satisfying rrrrrip of Velcro(tm - no doubt), I pulled the Leatherman out of it's case and proceeded to lever the lid off of Jami's Jam.  Two seconds.  The deed is done.  Five seconds later, the abricot jam is spreading into the creases and crevices of one of Paris' many fine baguettes on it's way to bringing a healthy smile to my face.

Life skills tools
 ... um, how wide is that bed sheet?  Exactly?...

Then there are things which need measuring.  Like les matelas.  Is it "full" or "queen" sized matelas, Dear?, or some odd size we've never heard of?  Well, let's head down to Castorama to see what kind of trouble we can get into, shall we?

Castorama is one of France's Great Stores pour faire le Bricolage.  For us Yanks, think in terms of Home Depot and you'll come close to understanding what Castorama is.

Wandering the aisles I find Just the Tool I've been looking for.  It measures things.  It's yellow (not that color matters much).  It's laid out in millimeters and centimeters with marks at every meter up to 3 meters.  It's cheap at 3Euro50.

Hmmm... yes... um... hold on.  What's this?  Oooooh!  A much cooler tape measure.  It's orange and black (and here I thought color did not matter).  It has a magnet on the end of the tape.  It is 5 meters in length.  It has a WONDERFUL locking mechanism.  Quel est le prix?  Wow!  Would you catch a gander at this?  4Euro95!  Still cheap.  Even more fun!  We'll take it.

Now we know exactly what sized sheets to get for our new bed.

Life skills tools
... tools of food preparation must be tended to periodically...

The last tool we've found incredibly useful is a grinding stone, a whetstone, and a few drops of special oil.  Again?  A grinding stone, a whetstone, and a few drops of special oil.  It's part of a two step system.  All of which we brought with us.

First you use the grinding stone.  Then the whetstone.  A bit of oil on each.  You work these until a very fine sharp edge has been achieved.  Jude is an incredible chef, after all.  Dull knives will NOT do.  Nope.  Simply will not do.

So there you have it.  Our top three favorite tools for living in France.  A Leatherman.  A metric-ized tape measure.  A knife sharpener (grinding stone, whetstone, oil).

Very useful, all of it.

Of course, the most useful tool of all still escapes us; speaking intelligible French.  It seems the impossible will take just a bit longer.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Curse

We are in the middle of a grand demenager to our new appartement.

The skys have been dark and filled with low hanging clouds.  We've been dodging rain drops with each trip we've made.  The metro is sometimes full of commuters and many times not.

It's a haul of some luggage or other.  Filled to the brim with our worldly belongings.  Five large valises moving from the 16th arrondisement, one at a time.

Taking the number 6 metro to Pasteur and connecting through the tunnels, up and down stairs, to the number 12 metro line.  Boarding another train and exiting up into the light deep into that most Parisian place, the 15th arrondisement.  Past the locals and around the dog sh*t.  Onwards, hauling and dragging our valises filled with what's left of the stuff of our lives.

Each return trip, we see the group of Rom musicians gathered at  Sevres-Lecourbe.  They await a train to take them to richness and fame.

Time Keeper's Goddess

Enter the Goddess of the Age of Rationalism

Today we had a middle aged accordionist join our car as we rattled up the line, returning to our appartement in the 16th.

The man played two songs.  He played them sufficiently well to be called a traveling Rom musician.  Not great stuff.  Just sufficient.  Two songs.  That was it.

Next thing we know, he's calling out "Bonne journee.  Bon jour.  Merci.  Merci.  Thank you."  He started walking the car.  Tip cup rattling like the train we rode.  Soliciting for a bit of dosh to feed the clan.

As he reached our end of the car, I was staring off into space.  No.  Actually, I was watching the hydraulic pressure gauge.  I was wondering how much pressure was being indicated on the dial.   I was wondering what happened to the gauge as it measured the opening of the metro rail car doors.  I wondered what the hell that damned tip cup was doing under my nose.

Such persistance, this!

After more than a few seconds passing with the tip cup firmly planted under my nose, I slowly, disdainfully, moved my eyes over the top rim of my glasses and looked the Rom accordionist straight in the eyes.  I did not let my gaze wander.  I just look deeply eye to eye at him.  Then, very slowly, I oh so very very slightly wagged my chin "No!" from sided to side.  I held his eyes firmly with mine.

We reached the next metro platform just in time for him to break our stare and continue his chant of "Bonne journee.  Bon jour.  Merci.  Merci.  Thank you."

Then, very quietly, under his breath, quite sotto voce, he cursed me.  He cursed me with his best Rom curse.

Saint Rationalism

Enter the Seer of Hermetic Sciences

Interesting times, these.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Goddess of the Sky and of the Moon

School has been let out and all hell has broken loose.  Gods and Goddesses are at each others gate in all out open confrontation.  Some simple human fool has let loose a terrible God.

Paris Thunderstorm

Goddess of the Sky and the Moon's pixies...

The destruction of Paris continues apace.  The English speaking international school for the spawn of diplomats and other overly wealthy Anglo-Saxon types is now well into a major wall removal street ditching noise producing deconstruction job.  Workman might not realize the digging would have unintended consequences.  The work proceeded at a reckless pace.

In Paris, just to name a few, there is the Goddess of the Sky and of the Moon, Gods of the River, Goddesses of the Statuary in Public Places, and Gods of the Cavernous Underworld.  All you have to do is visit the museums and look carefully around public monuments.  These Gods and Goddesses are celebrated throughout the city.

What I find amusing is that most people think these images are fabrications of fiction arising from the overly (wine) lubricated minds of France's well known artists.

One day, to the destruction noises from the school was added an oh so very special Parisian scent.  It was the kind of scent that makes one realize there are a great many humans living in close proximity here and that dead things are not always pleasant.  It was the kind of scent that told one there is a reason the Romans invented pipes to plumb shit away from human establishments.

Like a Jen from a Lamp, the God of the Cavernous Underworld had escaped the Deep Dark Realms to freely roam the streets of Passy.

Paris Thunderstorm

As the Goddess passed...

We now understood what the school was having destroyed.  It was the boys and girls bathroom.

Nature is, we are often told, supposed to be about "balance."  I'm not entirely sure who's story this is or actually how accurate the idea of "balance" is.  I suspect a ruse and a lie and someone somewhere is benefiting from this timeless lie.

More properly considered from the perspectives of Gods and Goddesses, the God of the Cavernous Underworld had to be put back in his place.  Otherwise the place would, quite literally, stink.  Screw "balance."

There was a hint of electric anticipation in the air.  The Goddess of the Sky and of the Moon was casting aside Her Deep Slumber.

Last evening, around 17h00, give or take a minute or two, our Goddess had a thing or two to say about the free roaming stink god.  Once loosed on the world, He would not go quietly nor would He be easily controlled.

For twenty or thirty minutes we witnessed the power of Our Goddess.  Impressive are Her abilities to light up the sky.  Fabulous is Her strength to hurl great sonic walls of sound off the rooftops of Paris' ancient architecture.  Rather serious forces were put to work.

Lightning danced between clouds.  Thunder rolled almost continuously.  Rain drenched the city.  Gutters were rendered useless.  Lakes formed along the rues and avenues of the city.  The Goddess sent humans scampering, slithering, and sloshing into places of hiding.  Hail nailed streets and buildings hard to terra firma and strong-armed the God of the Cavernous Underworld back into his place.

Chasing the God of the Cavernous Underworld back into dark places...

Jude thought tornadoes might be developing. Looking at the photos I took as the storm was ending, I can't say she was wrong, though I wondered at the time why she was hiding the salle de bain.  I failed to understand she would know of the Goddesses strength.

It took twenty or thirty minutes for the Goddess of the Sky and of the Moon to complete her work.  The task was done and the God Chasing thunder and lightning moved east of the city.

The sewer smell is gone.  For now, at least.

It makes me wonder what the Gods are up to in the UK and Russia.  Surely, workmen there haven't loosed their own Stink Gods on the world, have they?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Scientific reasoning applied

We may be on the cusp of making a huge new scientific discovery.  If the current evidence holds, we should be able to make an announcement soon.

Ahead of that, it might be worth considering the Scientific Method.  First, we observe a phenomenon that might not fit existing frameworks of reality.  Then we create a hypothesis, test that hypothesis using evidence and information, and then refine the hypothesis as new data emerges.

This early morning, at 1:57am, I observed something which may well deserve further investigation.

As with many recent adventures in Paris, I was awakened out of a deep sleep by an annoying sound.  In what has become an unpleasant emerging pattern, I swung my legs out of bed, made my way to the window, and opened the curtains to find the source of the noise.

Something must happen to Paris after the sun goes down or after a big football match (it had been Spain vs Italy earlier in the evening).  The city transforms itself and majick must be more easily manifest.

I am reminded of Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" where strange unexplained things happen.  Only, it was 1:57-freak'n AM in the gawd-forsaken morning, and not midnight.  Woody obviously does not live here.  Either that or a movie titled "1:57am in Paris" would have been a little awkward.

Passy at Dusk

Paris, near the Transformation Hour

The noise source was readily apparent.  A large ant-like creature was sitting in the middle of the intersection of rue Chardin (named after Teilhard de, no doubt) and rue Beethoven.  It had extended it's huge claw and strange sling structure extended and seemed to be seeking food.  It's too early to tell if the structure was a well-adapted antenna or some other not yet described biologic appendage.  Further inspection will be required for proper classification.

Like many creatures who inhabit Earth, this ant-like being was attended in some form of symbiotic relationship by fat squishy looking mites (parasites?).  They were tan in color, large of belly, and were marked with bright yellow stripes down their backs.  No doubt, these stripes are used to warn potential eaters that these mites (parasites?) are lethal.  Which really means they'll like taste really good after roasting over an open pit fire.

While the large ant-like being stretched it's claw to find a white over black Mini-Cooper (BMW manufactured vintage) to it's liking, the mites (parasites?) seemed to run around attending to other ant-like beings and expressing concern over who might be observing them.  No doubt, the mites (parasites?) were concerned about being found tasty.  They were quite animated in their gestures and motions.

The large ant-like being had placed the white over black Mini-Cooper on it's back in a motion reminiscent of the much smaller leaf cutter ants found in the forests of Brazil.  The mites (parasites?) sensed the ant-like being was ready to move on, so they scrambled back onto their hosts.

At this point I could observe several things of interest.  This was actually a group of three food seeking ant-like beings.  The first being had already gathered it's food and was moving up rue Chardin.  The second had just finished collecting it's food.  A third being, as of yet unsated, followed the first two around the corner and up the street.

Study in Platinum

Is this the Paris Transformation Portal?

Here are my rough observations -

Large ant-like creatures come out at night (1:57am, to be exact) to collect Mini-Coopers.  They do not seem to eat them in place.  Rather, they were seen hauling these Mini-Coopers away for consumption elsewhere.

These large and previously undescribed by science ant like beings are attended by large bellied squishy looking mites.  While somewhat agile, their size and girth appear to render them easy prey for mite eaters.

Here are my questions - 
Why Mini-Coopers?   Might the answer lay in a prior observation that involved the playing of Angry Birds, expensive restaurants, la police, and the quiche pre-cursors called eggs?

Here is my initial hypothesis -
At some yet to be understood point in time, Paris allows weird and strange creatures to be seen by mere mortal humans.  These creatures appear to include large ant-like beings that carry BMW manufactured Mini-Coopers away from cross-walk marked street corners.  It is quite likely, therefore, that a nest of as of yet undetermined size contains a queen who eats Mini-Coopers.  If I were a betting man, I'd put money on the fact this nest will be found somewhere in the vicinity of Paris, France.

Bentley ~ Double Parked for Dinner

  Are Bentley's smart enough to avoid consumption?

There you have it.  The development of a scientific proof based on a hypothesis.

Stay tuned for further developments, information, and discoveries.