Saturday, November 26, 2016


Gird your loins for herein lay a sad tale of mold, mildew, and discarded clothing.

Sometimes living here in Paris has felt like we live in a third world country.  The plumbing can be dodgy.  Plaster falls apart.  Paint peels.  Crotte de chien (dog poop) rests peacefully on the sidewalk and remains untended for days at a time.  People stand in the middle of the sidewalk (adjacent to the crotte) quietly smoking their lungs out and sharing clouds of nicotine when anyone who is brave enough to walk by.  Clothes seem to rot without any encouragement.  Mildew abounds and fungus spreads unchecked.  We've often wondered why we moved here.

During our trip to visit family back in the States we rediscovered the joys and happiness of clear and clean plumbing.  Walls are straight, true, and remain upright.  Paint faithfully does what paint should do.  Dogs are more normally picked up after.  People on the sidewalks don't hinder progress.  Lungs are less often subjected to the hazards of smoking.  Clothes are usually clean and dry.  By these measures America has a lot going for it.

When we were in Lisbon Jude asked if I'd please throw away some knit shirts that had mildewed.  Our clothes drying arrangement is the typical European hang-dry on racks bodge-up.  We have two of them (racks that is, we already have plenty of bodge-ups).  Using this approach we can do two or three loads of laundry in the early morning and have some of the things dry by bedtime.  But this happens only if we turn up the heat in the apartment and put the racks near the heat sources.  By accident clothes sometimes get put away not fully dry.  Hence the mildew problem.  I can't tell you how many articles of otherwise good clothing we've tossed out.

Heaven must have clothes dryers.  Surely.

On a fait un peu de recherche.  C'est a dire, we used Google to see if there might be a suitable alternative to drying clothes en plein aire.

*tappity*tippity*tap*tap*tap* went the keyboard, and... what's this?  Huh.  We can live in Crotte Paradise and Clean Clothing Heaven at the same time?  How is this possible?  No.  Say it isn't so.  We've lived for over four years without one of these and now we learn we needn't have suffered?

Salvation comes in many forms.  In our case it is a condenser dryer.  We don't need to run a big tube through an ancient crumbling plaster wall to have dry clothes.  I know.  It's shocking.  But we're here to tell you that it's true.  It turns out that self-contained dryer units are much more common than I ever thought.  We went down to Darty to confirm what Google suggested.

Et voila!  C'est vrai.  Voici notre nouveau meilleur ami.

All it took was a valid credit card and a day or two wait for the kind garcons (qui ├ętait vraiment costaud) to make the delivery and we are now the proud owners of a condenser clothing dryer.  We simply plugged it into a wall outlet and away we went.

No longer are our days spent managing laundry.  We can now get up in the morning and have our laundry duties done by noon.    We can process as many loads of laundry as we need in a day.  Into the wash machine go the clothes.  Over to the dryer when the spin is finished.  Ding goes the dryer when the clothes are ready to fold and put away.  Repeat until done.  Completely done.

Bonus:  Our afternoons are now free to explore the city in scent-free never again to be donated to the homeless garments.

We feel as if we've just left one of the lower level's of Dante's Hell and have passed through St. Pierre's Pearly Gates to enter Heaven.

It's strange how suddenly little things like smokers and crotte and plumbing feel rather less important.  Afterall, isn't there room for these people and these things in heaven, too?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Old Fashioned Fun

When I was younger I really enjoyed all things motorized.  I've owned two Jaguar 3.8 litre Moss crunch-box E-types, a Fiat 124 Sport Coupe (the pretty one, not the post 1970 style), four Ducati's (one rubber band drive and three bevel-drive), several Moto Guzzi, Moto Morini, three Yamaha RD 400's and a pretty Yamaha 650 Seca (not the ugly turbo-Seca).  It seems there's been more than my fair share of fun sitting the garage.

Moving to Europe included our conscious effort to lead a car-free life.  Spell check wants to correct that to carefree life, but I put it correctly in the first place.  Hopefully we're not naive enough to believe we could have no cares simply by changing location.  No cars?  Yes.  No cares?  No.  We intentionally lead a car-free existence here.  There's enough CO2 in the atmosphere without our contributing to it, too.  Or something like that.  Have I mentioned how crazy the traffic is here?

Returning to the US to help my father clear out a few things and to attend a wedding put us squarely at odds with our car-free ideals.  In America if you don't have an automobile it can be really difficult to get around.  And where we were headed it might even be impossible to get there without one.  Once there, an automobile was essential.

It didn't take me long to remember where my youthful passion for cars and bikes came from.  My father has his own small collection of toys that he roundly loves.  This includes my Great Uncle's 1931 Ford Model A Deluxe Roadster, a 1965 Chevy Corvair 140 Monza (with four carbs), and a newer BMW Z4 decapote.  He wanted me to drive all of them as a way of sharing the fun.  So drive we did.  Oh gods! what fun we had.

The Ford Model A required double clutching when changing gears.  The brakes are weak, but the top speed is most comfortable at 45mph or less.  The steering is a little vague and the seats are rather close to the dashboard.  Those Large of Girth need not apply.  They can't fit.

The Chevrolet Corvair 140 Monza has a nice flat 6 cylinder air cooled engine.  This car has a rather lumpy (semi-race) cam, too.  It sounds great and goes well enough until you want to stop.  At which point you really (and I do mean really) need to stand on the brakes.  It felt like my foot was trying to move a brick.  The speed was difficult to scrub.

The BMW Z4 is a thoroughly modern vehicle.  It brakes well.  It steers perfectly.  It goes like stink.  I learned this one evening on our way to dinner.  Dad told me to drive as he played navigator.  My brother and Jude followed in Conrad's car.  Dad said "punch it."  My brother and wife quickly disappeared from the rearview mirror and we gobbled up the road at a very great rate of knots (thank you Henry Manney III).

OK.  So automobiling can be fun.  It can be a whole lot of fun, in fact.  Sharing the experience with my father was one of the highlights of my trip.  The smile on my face told Jude that after returning home a cute little Citroen 2CV might be somewhere in our future.