Friday, June 29, 2012

Euro2012 Demi-Finals

During the waning days of the Occupation of our current appartement, the humidity extractors (automated moisture sensing fans, to most humans) have been running overtime.  Our windows have been open wide in an attempt to capture the few puffs of breeze that might see fit to wander over Paris.

Gods!  It's been hot and humid. 31 degrees Celsius and 70 percent humidity.  Gack!

Euro2012 ~ Italy vs Germany

Somewhat Wilted Zombie-like Creatures roam the Earth...

Working on my French with the natives, I spoke with several people manning their caisses at Monoprix, Inno (same company, only somehow different, right?) and Degrange (purveyors of the Finest Baguettes Known to Man).  "Ooph, la chaleur!  Est-ce qu'est normale, l'humidite?"

"La chaleur?  Oui.  L'humidite?  Non!  Ce n'est pas normal!"  This was the reply as everyone is looking more than a little wilted.

Bad timing, this weather.  Les Summer Soldes have begun.  In earnest.  Sales by businesses are held twice a year here.  The timing is strictly regulated, so I hear, by the police.  This kind of police oversight may have come in response to the fights that usually break out over That Sweet Little YSL Number being offered, for a limited time only, at an Extremely Special Price.  Hence, Les Summer Soldes (my words, not what they're really known as).  I doubt many fights will break out this year.  There are a great number of  Somewhat Wilted Looking Zombie-like Creatures melting the soles of their shoes into the pavements during the "ce n'est pas normal" early summer heat.  Not fun.

Euro2012 ~ Italy vs Germany

On a Mission to find cooler climes

Add to les Soldes the fact there is some Huge Widely Watched sporting event going on right now and you can see why Parisians get no sleep.  La chaleur.  Les Soldes.  Le Foot.  No wonder Parisians are looking more than somewhat wilted.

And, there is no playing in the fountains in front of the Trocadero.  There is one less way for Somewhat Wilted Looking Zombie-like Creatures to cool down.

About a month back, we watched as the water was drained, the sculptures craned up and away on flat bed camiones, and as the fountain suddenly sprouted Astro Turf.  It seems strange to me that Astro Turf sprouts out of the beds of (certain) fountains when subjected to Large Drainage Efforts.  Counter-intuitive, isn't it?

Euro2012 ~ Spain vs Portugal

Will our team win tonight?

To make matters even more interesting, a HUGE flat screen TV appeared and suddenly blocked the view of the bottom 1/3rd of la tour Eiffel.  Huh.  "Strange things are afoot at the Circle K."

Two nights ago, to escape our Appartement Oven, Jude suggested we take an evening walk over to the Trocadero to watch a little Foot.  I had no idea she was interested in le Foot, but, there you have it.  I see that I'm capable of being surprised, even after 20 years of marriage.

Euro2012 ~ Spain vs Portugal

Standing in regulation Hooligan Formation?

Slowly swimming our way through le chaleur and l'humidite, Jude stopped to talk with a few Projection of Strength Gendarmes. She asked them a question and the next thing I know, the small group of Gendarmes who were dressed in Full Armored Battle Gear are chattering away with my wife.  In French.  Everyone is being polite and seem to be engaged in a great conversation.  They talked le Foot, Spain vs Portugal, le chaleur et l'humidite and, I'm quite certain, many other things.

Are all Gendarme or Police Nationale this nice?

Last night we swam a couple more laps through le chaleur et l'humidite to find ourselves wondering where everyone went.  When Spain waddled their way to victory over Portugal, the Trocadero had been filled to near capacity with Cool Temperature Seeking Humans.  Alas, for la lutte entre Germany et Italy, il n'y a personne!  Qu-est ce qui se passe, ici?

Jude decided to ask.

Euro2012 ~ Spain vs Portugal

Huge crowds on the edge of needing control

La Police were, again, very nice.  They explained who was playing and in which colors l'equipe de Foot was being played (we learned that it was Italy in blue).  They talked about standing around in le chaleur et l'humidite perspiring like crazy in their Full Armored Battle Gear.  They talked about the battles that took place the night before entre les hooligans et la police.  From the sounds of things, the confrontation took place two hours after the match had been played, and la lutte went on for some time.  One of the Full Armored Battle Gear wearing gents told how he had spent time in England and how much he looked forward to not having to confront les hooligans on that night.

Later, Jude and I found a nice bench to sit down on.  We watched as Italy scored it's two match winning goals.  They were GREAT shots, those.  The small crowd went wild.  The fewer German flag wearing spectators were looking Somewhat Wilted and Zombie-like.

Euro2012 ~ Spain vs Portugal

 ... and here is the Crowd Control

Thinking about the past two nights, I wonder if Jude, being a kindly chatty older foreign lady,  has some kind of calming sweetening effect on la Police?  They were incredibly nice both nights.  Thereby, we had the wonderful opportunity to continue our Practice of the French Language.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Paris Alarm Clock?

I could feel it was a wet and cool morning by the way I was burrowed under the covers slumbering soundly and contentedly.

[AWAKE!]  What's that noise?  Damn!

Someone is laying on their car horn.  No.  Not polite taps to let someone know they need something.  No.  Not a couple blasts that express concern.  No.  Not a few honks followed by extended silence.  No.  Not any of these somewhat polite approaches to get other people to do things they might not usually want to do.

Someone is righteously angry, pissed off, and want to share their State of Being with the early morning voisins of Passy.

Egg Pelted Mini [1]
 Oh!  Look!!  Angry Birds attacked a Mini Cooper!!!

Thinking that "Je dois lui donner le bras d'honneur!" I swung my legs out of bed, padded over to the window and cracked the curtain to see what was the matter.

Huh.  One quick look makes me think someone must be stuck behind the delivery truck that's parked nearly in the middle of the street.  Oh well.  They're fools, and now they have succeeded in awakening the dead residents of Passy Cemetery who live up the hill and around the corner too.  Phfffttt!  We get the point, already!!

Eying the time, I see it's huit heures du matin.  Time to relever in any event.  So I head back to bed.

There is a fancy restaurant down the street.  They charge over 210Euros a plate for dinner.  I can't imagine spending that kind of dosh on tiny morsels of the Gods Only Know What that came from Goddess Only Knows Where.  Perhaps they were taking a delivery of caviar and fois gras shipped in from a far flung place like, well, France?  Perhaps a free range calf or a well fed pig were ready to migrate from some high Alpine Pasture into someone's freezer?  Or perhaps the restaurant needed to stock up on Cheap Plonk that sported Expensive Labels?

Egg Pelted Mini [2]
 Playing Angry Birds or dialing la police?  Which to do??

Another five minutes go by and my wife, Jude, has got to go take a look for herself.

"Oh my gosh!  Chris!!  Come take a look at this."

Jude continued to watch as eggs were thrown with Sandy Koufax velocity and accuracy at a formerly pristine BMW-era black on black Mini Cooper.

Egg shells shattered everywhere.  Egg whites oozed down the windows.  Egg yokes left long ugly yellow globs all over the roof.

The well-heeled occupant of the Mini had silenced the horn.  The delivery camione had moved.  Yet the black on black, now yellow eggish colored Mini remained curb-side.

I laughed.  We now had another rather interesting thing to watch unfold from the relative safety of our own balcony.  It's hard to hurl eggs into windows six etages up.  Even with Sandy Koufax holding the egg carton.  Besides, we weren't the ones creating a racket.

Five other balcony positions were likewise occupied with their relatively safe from flying eggs residents.  Everyone watched as the scene had momentum to unfold.

As Jude would say, "It's the curiosities in life that make it so interesting."

What's all this then?  Someone is gesticulating wildly and throwing insults toward the black on black yellow eggish colored Mini.  The well-heeled occupant of said voiture has a no doubt expensive Apple iPhone out and appears to be either playing Angry Birds or is dialing a somewhat important number.

More people appear and are standing around discussing the matter in a Well Choreographed Gallic Manner.

A Pacific Northwest-like rain continues to gently dampen all and everything.

Not too many minutes later la police arrive.

Egg Pelted Mini [3]
 ... from a scene of Angry Birds Attacking a Mini Crime...

Interviews are made.  Gesticulations and hand waving renew.  Strong French Words bounce angrily off the late 1800's era stone-faced apartment buildings.

Yet more words.  Yet more listening by la police... and... suddenly the well-heeled Mini-driver gets in her black on black yellow eggish colored caisse and drives around la voiture de police and moves off around the corner.  Contributors to the Sandy Koufax Speed and Accuracy Egg Hurling Story begin new stages in their early morning lives.  La police regain entry to la voiture and proceed to leave the Scene of the Angry Birds Crime.

This was just too good!

I'm fully awake now.  OK?  Got it, everyone??

A rather proper Gallic Alarm Clock, me thinks.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The flight of the...

It's difficult to know a priori which things will be with us for a long time and which things will decide on their own to make a hasty departure.  More truthfully, perhaps, I should say it's impossible to know.

Our short stay apartment overlooks a dead end street.  The rue dives into an underground car park a few hundred feet north of us.  "Stair Master From Hell" connects young spritely pedestrians with the road above our's.  An English speaking international school provides the first of several protections from the onslaught of tourists from the Trocadero to the east.  To the south is the Raceway of the Rich and Super Rich that stretches along the Seine.

Noogie Noogie Noogie...

Noogie Noogie Noogie..

Wind can whip the six stories of our apartment nee human parking structure.  We can hear the birds of the neighborhood and the caged roller singer creatures of our voisins en haut.  We can see clearly the top 2/3rd's of la tour Eiffel.  Clouds can race the Playboy Toys at sky level.

Our kitchen windows over sees the fun.

Recently we had the windows open as we were preparing another fine repast.  Organic lettuce (... and now, lettuce pray...), radishes (...radish so red, radish so red...), and a small can of tuna in Italian olive oil (... you didn't swim fast enough to escape our nets, you fool!) make for a proper lunch.  Oh, these and a few slices of bread with a very special butter are the foundations of heaven on earth.

We put the scraps into plastic bags we collect from veggie shopping at Monoprix and Biocoop.

Well, on this day, one of the bags must have had dreams of a bigger better life in a better place.  It took flight.  Whoop!  Out the window it went, just as a gust of wind came up to share the cigarette smoke of the voisin en bas.

My wife and I laughed and giggled as the bag took to the air and drifted gracefully up and over our dead end rue, up and over "Stair Master From Hell", and whirled over the English speaking international school.

Air Bag!!!

Mr Air Bag proving he is actually lighter than air

The air bag must've like the idea of going to school.  I'm not sure what it felt it needed to learn nor which courses it intended on taking.  But it was interesting to note that Mr Air Bag landed gently just outside the door to the art room on the top level of the English speaking international school for the spawn of diplomats and other overly wealthy Anglo-Saxon types.

We've seen such interesting things living here.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sharing Paradise [3]

The Museum national d'Histoire naturelle is a vast place.  It sits at the top of the Jardin des Plantes, down in the 5th arrondisement.

Greeted by a whale

 Greeted by a whale...

Our neighbor from the States had spent two weeks in the Alps trying to avoid eating the marmots the scientists were studying.  Well, that was the joke, anyways.

She'd had a great time counting marmots, or whatever they did.

After arriving in Paris for a short stay, we learned she was interested in the paleontology museum at the jardin.  As we talked about it riding the bus over to the left bank, we talked a bit about the history of evolution exhibit we'd heard about in the near-by building.

We couldn't make up our minds.  So we wandered the jardin a bit and talked things over.  We knew we couldn't take in both buildings in the afternoon.

Greeted by an Elephant

Keeping watch over the gallery...
Practically flipping a coin, it was decided we should see the history of evolution.

It's worth a visit because the exhibits are extensive and detailed.

We learned the building was constructed after the owner (the king, if memory serves) had run out of space to hold and display all the stuffed animals he'd acquired.  I'm not talking about those small plushy cushy child's toys you see in the toy store, either.  I'm talking about the real deal.  Large animals.  Small.  Birds.  Mammals.  Serpants.  Fish.  Sharks.  Anything that wriggled, squiggled, or giggled.  If it could be collected (ie: shot, trapped, or captured), it will be found here.

Perhaps the most amazing part of the exhibit was the Hall of Extinct Species.

Yes.  That's right.  Dead and never coming back to life animal species were on display.  Sadly, there are a rather large number of species never to wander the earth again.

Hall of Extinct Species

From the Hall of Extinct Species
Back in the day, I used to watch a TV show called "Dinosaurs."  It was a great show, filled with subtle and not so subtle plots lines and actor's lines.  It was subversive, as only Jim Henson could make it.

In one episode, a tasty animal was found to be down to the last breeding pair to be found anywhere.  One dinosaur rhetorically asks "aren't there any more?  After all, that's what more means, right?"

No.  Gone is gone.  Dead is dead.  Never to return is to never return.

Hall of Extinct Species
Dodo.  Extinct.  Gone.  Oh, so tasty.  Once upon a time. But no longer.
There were artifacts and models of the long gone and apparently well eaten Dodo.  The supporting evidences of man's destructive abilities were spread out around the edges and down the center of the adjoining room.

I was incredibly sad to see and read of what is no longer with us.

It underscored, for me, why we moved to France, sold our automobiles back in the States, and put our lives into 5 suitcases.  We are making a conscious decision to walk as lightly on the earth as possible, while living as full lives as possible.

What was it someone told me?  Ah, yes.  A scientist I know noted that if America lived as Europeans do, life on earth would be sustainable.  Indeed.  That's it.  Sustainability.  That's what we're after by living here.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sharing Paradise [2]

When in Paris...

Our neighbor wanted to see the Vermeers at the Louvre.

We thought there would be a line to get in.  We didn't realize how long it would be.  It wrapped around the square back toward the original, pre-pyramid, entrance.

We stood around and talked about the issue for ten or fifteen minutes.  We considered going to see if the d'Orsay was open.  But, this being Monday, I thought the d'Orsay would be closed.

Since we were out and about, we HAD to see something, right?

We looked at the line into the Louvre and agreed we'd give it a try.

Pyramid in the rain
 View from the Middle of the Line

Surprisingly, it moved well.  We also struck up a conversation with an Australian couple who were just in front of us in line.  The time moved quickly.

20 minutes later we were through security and ready to stand in the 20 minute long ticket line.

It was worth the wait.

On our way to getting lost finding the Vermeers, we stumbled upon the [Bob] Marley marbles.  They are incredible!  The light comes from a glass ceiling, which really accentuates the marvelous sculptures.

We were further lost (or was that distracted?) by the rooms filled with 500+ year old religious sculpture.  Ghastly wonderful fabulous stuff, this.

Monstre du Louvre

 Monsters lurk around the Louvre

After realizing we had mis-interpreted the museum map, we were on our way to see the world famous Vermeers.

Now, I have to say something about art and it's "value".

I heard there are perhaps 37 Vermeer paintings in existance.  There are two Vermeers in the Louvre. The more "famous" painting is stuck in the corner.  The not so famous Vermeer is entirely unseen.  No one looks at it.  Yet, the Astrologer (the less famous Vermeer) is incredibly well rendered and worth a close look.

The "famous" Vermeer?  It's simple and feels "incomplete" to me.

Which reminds me of a story:  When you want a wine for dinner, what do many Americans do?  They go ask the "expert" in the wine shop.  They'll ask what you're making for dinner, they'll hem and haw a bit, then they'll likely suggest that they have just the wine for you.

At that point, other than price, people have no idea what they're dealing with. That's how reliant on the "experts" Americans seem to have become.

The Vermeers

 Hey!  An "expert" said this is a GREAT painting!!  Let's take a look...

In short, people are told what it good and what is not.  They are told what is "valuable" and what the price must be.

If you took a close look at how something tastes, sounds, or feels, you might have a completely different conclusion to what the "experts" might suggest.  I find it valuable to develop my own sense of what's good and what's not.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sharing Paradise

We've had our first visitor and we've not been here seven weeks.  How wonderful was it?  Very!

With luck, we'll actually have visitors while living here.  We had very few visitors to our home when we lived in the States.  So this could be a very nice change.

A neighbor was in France on an EcoTour helping scientists monitor the marmot populations somewhere in the Alps.  She had booked the tour just as I lost my job and Jude and I started down this very quick, intense, life changing experience of leaving the country.  In fact, we remember remarking to each other that "wouldn't it be nice to be able to meet in Paris?"

Kiki la mew by Carol Opie

 Jude's new coffee cup

Our neighbor is excellent with animals and is an outstanding artist.  She worked in zoos until a Lemur took hold of one of her fingers and caused a bit of Madness and Mayhem in our neighbor's life.  We got to know her because she has the World's Greatest Dog.  I used to own a pug and her's is simply the finest living example of pug-ness known to man.

Our friend spent two weeks in the Alps and had three days to see Paris.

Fortunately, her list of things to see and do was as eccentric and fun as ours typically is.

I tried to find an artists open air market somewhere in Paris that included ceramics.  But, the mojo was missing and I couldn't find what I was looking for.

vrbain on canvas

 Fun art, this.

So imagine my surprise when she walked in and said she wanted to go to an open air art fair at Montparnasse Edgar Quinet!  I had no idea such a thing existed.  Yes, I'd read Vallois and even read her passage on the 14th.  Could I remember a thing Vallois wrote?  Apparently not.  Could I use "the Force" and Google to the thing we wanted?  I'm embarrassed to say no.

Wandering the market was fun, cold, and windy.  The art was all original work.  Some of it was quite attractive.  There were two haberdashers with fun hats for women.  Nothing for men.  Unfortunately, since I like hats and am currently looking for a properly adorned top hat.

Our neighbor found a stall where the artist, a retired German graphic artist of some renown, plied his trade.  Among several different styles, the artist put art to used Metro tickets.  His work was a wonderment to behold.  Both our friend and my wife bought things from him.

vrbain avec une nouvelle amie

Yes!  It's an open air art market!!

Down the aisle a little ways was vrbain with his fun, funky, awesome, graffiti-eque art.  Between his broken English and our broken French we learned a lot and enjoyed a fairly long conversation.  His art was right up our alley.  Our neighbor found several pieces she liked and purchased them.

I may have found an interesting person to photograph.