Saturday, October 10, 2015


I have to admit that Fall is my favorite time of the year.  It has been since I was in high school, lo those many years ago.

Textures ~ Passy

After a long summer with little access to a decent library (Dana Point was small then and some of the social infrastructure was weak) I looked forward to going back to school.  My academic and social life became rich, then.  The school library was a well stocked.  My friends and I could play chess for hours.  Music classes meant I needed to practice one thing or another.  September meant all these things could start anew.

The American tradition of Friday night high school football meant I'd be out with the band on a cool (by southern California standards) night.  The air seemed crisp and clean (even as it was humid and polluted).  The lights over the stadium had an interesting quality that made seeing the action on the field difficult.  Sometimes I could see my breath as I played an alto sax.  Fall was magic and I was happy.

As a young man I worked a contract out on Long Island in New York.  My first Fall spent there helped me realize that California really didn't have seasons as the rest of the country might know them.  Fall on Long Island meant the sugars in the leaves of the trees could turn into amazing brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds.

Textures ~ Passy

On a NY style crisp and cold autumn day a colleague and I stumbled upon Bridgehampton Raceway.  It was Ferrari Day and we found ourselves track-side watching the prancing horses run.  The sound of a V12 carries rather well on cold days.  We knew when a fast runner was on his way well before he actually came into view.  The magic of the experience was capped by the setting.  The fall colored trees at the raceway were nearly impossible to look at, so sharp and bright were their colors.

As a married man with children I always looked forward to our children heading out on All Hallows Eve.  Everyone was usually excited to be dressed up in their favorite costumes.  The Hunt for Candy would begin and some hours later the Spoils of the Hunt were richly displayed on the livingroom floor.  When we lived in Hillsboro this meant the livingroom was heated by a nice fire gently burning in the fireplace.

Now that we live in Paris, my wife and I experience autumn in rather different ways.  The traditions of Fall would clearly not be the same and we set out to experience it.

Textures ~ Passy

Yesterday we headed out to BHV.  Our expedition was to find and capture a much needed "Defense de Fumer" sign.  We require one for the entry to our buildings underground parking garage.  The children (children! I tell you) from the school just next door congregate in the space just in front of the garage door.  There they smoke like only the French (children!!!) can smoke.  The problem for us is that their smoke comes up into the building air system and collects just outside our apartment door.  So a "Defense de Fumer" is required.  After four years of living here, the time seemed right to do something about the problem.

Jude did a little shopping and scored a very nice coat.  We then descended into the basement/cave where I asked where the signs were.  Once directed we scored our "Defense de Fumer" and made our way to la caisse.

An elderly lady seemed a little confused as to where the end of the queue was.  She'd walked up the side the cordon that led to the cash registers and she needed to be on the other side of the ribbon where Jude and I stood.

Textures ~ Passy

The French must be competition people with a spirit of "You Snooze, You Loose."  The elderly lady was completely taken aback by our offer to let her in front of us (which is where she would've been had she not taken a confused detour).  She didn't expect kindness as simple as letting her have a place in front of someone who was already standing in a queue.

Let it Never Be Said that the French don't like to talk with strangers.  Foreign strangers at that.  This was by no means our first encounter with talkative French and this one only added to our growing list of delightful conversations.  Our Little Kindness launched the elderly lady into a long conversation about this and that.  She showed us her intended purchase and rambled on about what she was going to do with them (little tacks from the looks of things).

Seeing la caisse was a bit understaffed, Jude mentioned it must be lunchtime.  At this the elderly lady launched into une petite histoire of her eating habits.  To begin, she did not eat lunch.  She ate only breakfast.  Breakfast for her consisted of a baguette with honey poured on it.  Skipping lunch meant that she needed a 16h00 goute.  16h00 is indeed Standardized French Goute Hour.  We've seen school children work their way into pain au chocolate right on schedule at 16h00.  Goute was required to keep one's strength ahead of le diner, which begins at 20h00 in these parts.

Textures ~ Passy

I must have had a questioning look on my face because she started to explain that this way of eating was her habit.  That's just the way things are.  And, she added, it's worked out very well indeed.  She asked if we could deviner her age.  86! she told us.  "Just look at me" as she pulled back her overcoat to reveal a very svelte and shapely (fully clothed, I must add) 86 year old body.  She looked great!  In her younger years she must've been the Talk of the Town.  "See?  It's because of how I eat.  Isn't it great?"  Before a "vous etes vraiment joli, madame" could cross my lips the queue to la caisse moved and we found ourselves in front of yet another kind lady, this one who was ready to take our money in exchange for a new "Defense de Fumer".

Yes, it was time for lunch and we were hungry.  There was no way I was going to start down the path of the elderly lady and try and follow her life long diet.  So I suggested to Jude that pay Le Petit SP a wee visit for une ou deux coupes and steak frites.  One metro stop down from BHV we found ourselves trinquer deux coupes, and all remained right with our world.  The early afternoon light was golden and the sky was a deep, nearly Montana blue

It's not for this missive for me to explain my  transition from medium-well cooked steak to saignant (which means bloody - and I'm not using the English swear word here).  Suffice it to say, the steak frites were wonderful.  Jude had ordered one as well and loved it.  Accompanied with 25cl of St. Somethingorother from Bordeaux we soon found our plates empty and our tastes anticipating un peu de dessert.  We were part of what we call the Clean Plates Club.

Textures ~ Passy

This time it was Jude's turn to suggest something to do next.  Who could possibly say "no" to a gorgeous Fall day?  A beautiful passage, l'hotel de Sens, across les deux Ponts, a lovely stroll across l'isle Saint Louis, over another quai and through the Old City to la rue Saint Germain des Pres we went.  All taken at a slow strolling pace.

Half way across the second pont we paused a looked back toward Notre Dame de Paris.  There is something special about the light of Fall.  I think I like it here as much, if not more, than when we lived in the US.

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