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.