Tuesday, July 7, 2009

They're Coming...

Today the Tour de France once again opens its Montpellier leg beneath our window.
This is just one of the first of a continuous stream of events.

Vacation has arrived. And they are coming.
We are bracing ourselves.
One by one the barriers to peace and tranquility are crumbling.
First the weather becomes unbearably beautiful.
Then the educational system closes the last of the holding pens.
The work force chafes at the bit, and all pretense of productivity melts away.
Soon the final bell will toll, the last gates will fall,
And the flood will be upon us

In the parks, the girls try desperately to get the attention of boys.

The boys of course could care less... at least for the moment.

And the adults stand around in a daze.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

No FOX is good FOX

Speaking of the news... I will, but, while surfing around earlier I suddenly realized one of my favorite things about France.


Isn't that cool? I realize, you only have to change the channel. But just knowing it was there used to annoy me to no end. I mean, it is bad enough reading comments from morons following articles in semi-respected news sources like the New York Times. Now if only some cool hacker dude would figure out a way to erase any mention or iteration of that news channel from the internet...

The news here, if I haven't already scooped you, is we have traversed the Chicken Pox. Not me, them, fortunately, since adults and Chicken Pox are not a pretty mixture. Not that red, itchy bumps are pretty on anyone. But apparently I must have had them at a wee age, and forgot. (Sigh, not hard at this age.)

So for your viewing pleasure, a few photos at the almost fully recovered stage, with faces still looking a little like early-onset puberty. Fortunately we don't have to stock up on acne medicines yet.

caught in the headlights

ah ha ha just joking around

silly faces are so much fun

"Did we make you laugh?''

''This is for you F*O*X News''

(I swear I did not teach them how to moon.)

Until next time...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I'm fatter today than I was yesterday.

For all its problems, Belgium does at least one thing quite well. Chocolate. And thanks or no thanks, depending on your point of view, to our in-house banker with happy clients (no, that isn't a misnomer) we were treated or tempted with a box last evening.

Fortunately not a large box, but substantial in caloric value nevertheless.

Who could resist that packaging. I'm a sucker for packaging. I guess it is my design education haunting me, but beautifully presented chocolate is like beautifully presented food. It can fool you into thinking it tastes better. We swear otherwise, but it can.

People packaging does the same thing. In lots of different ways. We don't swear otherwise, but we often forget.

I learned from my Mother. Never go out of the house in curlers. And I have kept that promise to this day. It was the least I could do... considering.

But fabulous chocolate packaging. That could be looked upon as a low blow. For those of us with inherent weakened conditions in front of dark chocolaty masses, it couldn't be any less than such.

To set it apart from the crowd, this one even added a literary touch...

Je craque
un peu, beaucoup,
á la folie.
Je craque
pour lui, pour elle,
pour toi, pour moi.
Je craque
le matin, le midi,
le soir,

I find that an extremely low blow in a high brow sort of way. But I'm making a note. This lesson could come in handy,

although a little expensive,

calorically speaking.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Book Plug

I don't plug books often. But there is a book out by Susan Pinkard, A REVOLUTION IN TASTE, and if you like food, and history, and France, and if you can do without riveting plots filled with sex and violence, then this is probably a good bet for you.

OK, it isn't King or Grisham, but it rings all my bells. Well, most of them anyway.

If that didn't nix it for you, it covers the big change in French cooking starting in the middle of the 17th Century. (The British weren't too keen on the ideas coming out of France then, but how many British classics have you drooled over? The sauce starts here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sloppy Keyboard Practices

I didn't intend for that last post to be just one photo and a couple of lines. Although if I would concede to limiting posts to that format, maybe I would actually post more often.

I meant to show a photo of the "tree" being installed. Woooooo, exciting.

And the other day's photo of the "tree" lit up in its blue glory was not even the photo I meant to include. The following is the one I meant to post.

But I have lazy fingers, among other things, that often plop down onto the keyboard at inopportune moments, thus inadvertently sending posts into the airwaves. (I love that wifi sends written words through the air just like speaking sends words through the air. OK, not the same kind of waves, but you know what I mean.)

And then I was going to wax poetically about Montpellier's lefty politics and the city's seasonal decorations which leave my inner child puzzled about how Santa Claus is going to find his way here.

Some might say that Montpellier carries the strong French Republic's separation of state and religion too seriously. But I applaud it. I can find enough X-mas references to keep my inner child from curling up in a ball and whimpering. And to tell the truth, the most sincere thoughts I ever had about the baby Jesus, was wondering if he had any influence on Santa's decision making process.

Our own wee crew here still sorta believes in Santa Claus or rather Pere Noël. The two concepts are pretty similar, although in France they are begrudgingly falling in line with reindeer and sleighs as a mode of transportation. I think he used to travel by donkey around here, but you gotta admit, in today's world with the population as it is, a flying sleigh is just more efficient. Although, drinking and reindeer flying does worry me a little with respect to the tradition of leaving a glass of wine instead of a glass of milk. That's a lot of glasses of wine. But hey, a marketing opportunity is a marketing opportunity, and hopefully he has a high tolerance for alcohol.

We still have a little breathing time before the full holiday craze sets in and all thoughts focus on what Pere Noël is likely to bring. For the moment the guy is still concentrated on checking out the younger chicks in the neighborhood.

Either that or he is all caught up in his job as super hero. As a super hero, he tries to keep a low public profile and avoids publicity, but here I caught him relaxing in a free moment.

That reminds me. New super-hero atomizing blast weapon needs to go onto the list for the hefty reindeer guy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Lights Are On

Well, the holidays have arrived in Montpellier. In a very politically correct way. Appropriate. (I think Montpellier is the Berkeley of France.)

As evidence, the lights of the holiday season as seen from our window. He hey... pretty good seats, huh.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An Enological Disappointment

Tonight's wine was a disappointment. That is a sad statement for any food and wine lover, particularly in France.

We were so excited. We had been looking for odds and ends to finish the two year old armoire project in the office. After making sure nothing of use was left under the beds, we began scrounging around in our cave (actually a cubby-hole in the wall off the main circular stairway of the building) , and we, or rather he (cubby-hole cave = 1 person at a time), stumbled upon a couple of old bottles of Pic Saint-Loup hiding under a pile of junk. They weren't even stained by the occasional dripping from the plumbing waste pipes that run through the space.

- Ben, viens, vite, vite, il y a une bouteille au-dessous ce merde! Il y en a deux! Apportes-moi une torche!

- What! What's wrong? A what?

- Une torche! Une lampe de poche! - pause - A flashlight! You idiot!

Ok, he didn't say the idiot part. But when you are not completely fluent in a language you always feel like some sort of demeaning qualifier is lurking underneath the conversation.

- Whaaa? Did you cut off your foot?

That was not a ridiculous question. This guy is not very handy, or mechanical, or adept at anything outside of the financial world.

- No, no, j'ai trouvé deux vielles bouteilles du vin.

And so he had. Two bottles of 1999 Pic Staint-Loup had slipped underneath a bunch of trash during the move and had lain there quietly, valiantly enduring the indignity of dust, dirt, pigeon feathers and worse.

What luck! Here in the middle of the start of maybe one of the possibly biggest economic crises of maybe, possibly, who knows, thousands of years, a couple of good bottles of wine which we, in our sincere respect and humble acknowledgment of the precarious future that we face would never have had the nerve to go out and buy... these bottles just fall in our lap.

Granted. Chateau Pétrus they never were or could be. But as a rule we don't pop open 10 year old bottles, even from modest houses. On a daily basis, we are thrilled to find a $5 bottle of simple table wine that doesn't burn as it goes down. The part of my family that hails from the region should be thrilled to know that we drink gallons of a simple, but charming little Beaujolais, not even a Beaujolais Village, that we horde by the truck load when we can find it, because it has a decent balance and a handful of bright and generous fruit and will last a good two days in the bottle. Not that an open bottle has ever really lasted two days in this place.

So this was going to be a fête. This might even merit springing for some decent cheese. And so I did.

But alas, the bottle did not hold up to our expectations. The color was excellent, body for days, it swirled in the glass like a first class winner. Ooops, the nose was a little off, not way off like something "corked", but a little dirty and nothing to make you anticipate the deep rich fruit that we remembered when it was younger. Sure nuf, most of it was gone, and nothing very elegant left in its place. It was ok. It was drinkable. But the magic was gone.

I'm guessing, no sex tonight.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Encore Belle

Just a couple of items before I'm put back into my cage.

The girl has been complaining that the boy has been getting better press, especially since the earlier group photos, concerning which she has put out a formal disclaimer that she was unprepared for the photo shoot. And I have to admit, she is right and deserves a formal apology and correction. Therewith please find below, the photo of simply the most beautiful little girl in the world... not that I'm biased or anything.

Montpellier like everything else seems even more beautiful after the American election. The world simply looks brighter even if nothing has physically changed yet. The ice is still melting, chunks of Africa are still starving, and there are still millions and millions of jerks running around trying to stuff everything and everyone into their warped sense of morality. But the proverbial glass is now half full instead of half empty. And so it is beautiful.

Everything I read indicates that most other Americans living abroad are enjoying the same experience after the Presidential elections as I am. Something like what I imagine it would feel to be suddenly cured of leprosy. Phenomenally liberating. Now, if the dollar...

Friday, November 7, 2008

I am so not a morning person, and neither is George or anyone else around here today.

George was particularly vocal this morning. He let me know as soon as I walked into the apartment.

"Where were you last night? I am not pleased. Unscheduled absences are not part of the program."

As evidence, he performed his favorite acting out behavior. This entails a high-pitched, unearthly howl accompanied by a particularly manic run from the bedroom, down the hall, through the office and circling into the living room with a flying tackle to the back of the Louis XVI arm chair. Said chair, which is very heavy, crashes backwards, hardwood frame to the hardwood floor and the building shakes, all four 17Th century floors of it.

George has grown into a very large, scary, cat.

He spent the night alone because I stayed overnight at ground zero (the Moms' house) to make an easier time of getting the twins to school after being deserted by the last available Mom. Had we known ahead of time that these things come in pairs, and what that entails, we should have recruited more parents. Four for two is no better odds than two for one, and as long as we are being very 21st century in our model of family, we might as well have made it less demanding.

Mornings are very demanding. In fact, we don't seem to be a morning family. Grumpiness abounds, no one is happy with their outfit for the day, there is never enough time to finish drawing super sonic rocket ships, the crust on the bread is always too dark, the milk is always too hot and god forbid the box of straws is empty. The lid on the Banania is never properly fixed, and fingers cannot resist frenetic spirals in the resulting layer of chocolate powder covering the table surface. No need to go into the hygiene and bodily function issues, but did I mention no one is happy with their outfit for the day? It is worth repeating. Simply picking up your clothes which have been carefully culled, and examined for a maximum of clean square footage, and dressing yourself without histrionic commentary, is a completely alien concept.

"But I have to wear the blouse with flowers." No. Dad is firm. Tears flow. Dad is still firm. Many more tears flow. Dad feels like jerk, but no blouse with flowers. Four year-olds do not always get to make their own wardrobe choices. And tears continue to flow.

The decibel level of this process is not appropriate for mornings. And it is confirmed once again...

am not
a morning person.

PS: George would like to publicly extend his most heartfelt wishes for a peaceful transition to his spiritual brother in the land of Franco-American households, Leon, who has been going through that most difficult period of ending this life and preparing for whatever else eventually awaits us all. He would also like to apologize to Leon's human for his his own human who seams to have a mental block about blog mime sorts of things. Those are links if anyone else with a soft spot for cats in failing health would like to send a word of support. Bon Courage Leon.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A New World?

Wow, post election 2008 really does feel different.

Trying to avoid exaggerating or being overly optimistic, but the potential is just enormous. We will have to wait and see what happens when all the hoopla has calmed down. But for now, I'm just so pleased I didn't throw away that Polo sweat shirt with the little USA flag on it. I can pull it out from the back of the closet and wear it! Now, that, is a real tangible example of change.

Being an American in France really, really, feels different.

We better watch out or they are gonna start callin' us lefties.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

Illustration: BugMonster
Note: I suppose I should try say this was taken in front of a fabulous modern painting, but obviously I just blurred the wine bottle out of the background because I was afraid people would think he was drunk. Honest, he's sort of like his father, he just looks drunk early in the morning.

I'm afraid to breathe.

No doubt, I'll be up until 3AM waiting to see what they say about the east coast results, so I've already taken a nap. (Are we feeling old yet?) I was bleary-eyed anyway because the boy spent the night here, and was awake coughing from 4am to 5am. “More cough syrup, Papa.” I'm pretty sure that was what was in the bottle. He didn't turn purple, and the coughing eventually stopped.

Tuesday is normally just a “remember to pick twins up at kindergarten” day, spend a couple of hours trying to wrangle a few English words out of them, and then bail when one of the mom's get home from work. But last week and this week until Thursday is fall school vacation. Me, just back from the trip to the east coast, the Frenchman on a business week in Marseille, and one mom also out of town. Even with the four of us ... Anyway, remaining mom was at wit's end yesterday morning and suggested that I "come get (my) son." So I picked him up and we spent some guy time together riding bikes and killing bugs.

They are definitely easier to handle by onesies rather than twosies, kids that is, although the word bug correlates in certain behavioral aspects. When in monster bug mode, they seem to feed off of one another, and the green glob of annoying behavior expands exponentially.

In that 4 year old, I don't like you anymore, you big bad meanie sort of way, the boy will sometimes say he wants to switch caretakers. Likewise, you sometimes oblige him - in that 55 year old, I can't deal with you anymore today sort of way. After which you can try and reassure yourself that you are not a bad parent because you are thanking all the available gods that you are not the one and only individual responsible for this particular monster spawned from a weak moment in your normally rational thought patterns.

And hopefully after this fateful election you can one day say to him that the big bad meanie voted for one of the most famous (in a good way) presidents ever.

But for now, you just tell him no, you can't vote for a new parent.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Home again home again Jiggety-Jig...

I thought that title might be at least a little original for a blog entry. Not according to Google. Silly me, I should remember that there is very little, new and original in the world. Just a lot of re-worked, re-interpreted, re-runs.

Here in Montpellier, home to me, I am re-cuperating from 9 days of the to-and-fro required by a work project in the southeastern heartland of the USA.

I am not exactly sure when the transition from thinking of the USA as home to thinking of France as home occurred. Maybe after the twins were born. But in any case, for the last couple of years, there is no question. I begrudge every minute I must spend there, and bask in the relief of my return.

Of course it doesn't help that the trip did not include seeing old friends or family, but it has become glaringly clear that I now feel more comfortable here than there. Even if you discount any curmudgeon factor resulting from jet lag and airline food.

Every time I fly I tell myself I'm not going to eat the food. Sigh. Next time, for sure, I am not going to eat the food. Next time, I'm going to take a sleeping pill, and if the plane has to make an emergency landing in Iceland, they can just carry me off the plane. (That happened to a friend of mine... really. Confirmed, I don't have any original thoughts.)

So it always takes me a couple of days to pull myself together after one of these trips. And since I can't clear the fog away enough to do something billable, then I should really stop by the blog and give a belated shout out.

( Insert gif image of stick figure jumping up and down, waving arms, with a text blurb "Hey Everybody" )

Note to self: Don't forget to creat the gif.

Note to everyone: DON'T FORGET TO VOTE.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Nothin' Much To Speak Of

Two weeks and I can't really say what I've been doing. It isn't a secret; I just don't remember. Does that say more about me, or more about my life? I have to really sit down with the calendar and try to retrace the days to figure out what happened. My main excuse is that I have been transfixed by the theatrical display of politics and economics back at the Mother Ship. Even from here in the back row of the balcony it is quite something to watch.
(It is certainly USA-centric in perspective, but being an American living in Europe does feel a bit like sitting in the back row of the balcony while all the real stuff happens on stage. You can see and hear the plot unfold, smell the perfume of the lady next to you, and feel the chewing gum under your seat, but the action seems way far off. At least until you look at your bank account.)
These are supposedly the leaders of the free world. Sigh. I think my sister said it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I know that is a rather over-used metaphor, but it is an apt way to describe vacillating between boredom and horror.

So we need a diversion... The only photos I took during the last couple of weeks was the weekend of Journées du Patrimoine (sort of Architectural Heritage Days). And when the kids got pony rides.

That is, or rather was, one of the entrances to the Palais du Rois d'Aragon around the corner from us. I know, not very intersting unless you are a 14th century history freak. It wasn't even one of the buildings that you get to explore once a year during the Heritage Days. And actually the red doors themselves are probably not much more than a 100 years old. But the stone archway is the real deal. I promise.

At least I'm making an effort.

I would have used a photo of the girl since she is the one crazy about horses, and usually more photogenic, but she was pouting because her pony wasn't the biggest

Friday, September 19, 2008


I'm still banging my head about Damien Hirst making obscene millions at the Sotheby sale of his latest art pieces.

A piece by Richard Woods at the site TimesOnLine (UK) provided a quote by one of Hirst's early professors.

Richard Wentworth, the sculptor who taught Hirst in the early 1990s at Goldsmith’s College, south London, said: “The art world’s a marketplace, the world is a dosh pit and we’re all in it. We’re coming to the end of a stage in western civilisation of vulgar, vulgar, vulgar. With this sale, Damien has just added one more thing, PS, vulgar!”

As for Hirst’s wealth, Wentworth said: “It’s sweet. It’s like a little boy stamping down the street, yelling, ‘I’m worth a billion dollars’.”

I had to go to urbandictionary.com to get a meaning for dosh. Sigh. Is it just age? I am sooo out of it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rumblings in the Art World

I haven't really mentioned in this blog that I do art... sometimes ... like when someone guarantees they will pay me for it, as in "on commission". I don't do it very often, mostly for design clients or odd word-of-mouth deals. So I don't really think of myself as a professional artist even though I have been paid for the work. It has always been just a part-time gig, and most of my living has been from design work.

Still, I pay some attention to the happenings in the art world, and so the news of British artist, Damien Hirst's auction at Sotheby's in London sort of caught my eye. Like a frozen mackerel slapping me in the face.

I was sort of stunned by it on a number of levels. But I guess it just points out the obvious, that everything changes. Maybe it is connected with the whole digital, internet revolution from EBAY to Blogs.

Anyway I just was thinking about what bothered me about the sale.

1. I don't love his work, but that is certainly beside the point. If someone wants to put a pickled zebra in their family room, who am I to judge.

2. The raging lefty in me is stunned to see that kind of money spent (ok, invested - I was going to say wasted but that was again a value judgement on the art itself) that way and so publicly. I realize I shouldn't be suprised, after all, I work often for really rich people. And I know I'm picking on one instance, one example, and there are thousands of other ways that exhorbitant amounts of money are concentrated in the hands of just a very few people. But what does that say about our civilization when there is so much misery in the world that goes untreated? I understand that it is difficult to draw a line and say this is enough or that is too much, but is there no end to this black hole of social conscience?

3. Maybe he has issues with his gallery representation, but it still seems pretty smarmy. Galleries are useful (at least they spread the manure around a little bit). Granted if you have ever had your work turned down by a gallery (and I have) you can feel a little "well f*!#@^() y@!*^", and it is true that it seems that they take a large chunk, but try to get Sothby to auction off your work before you are famous. He didn't whip up a reputation just by the virtue of his incredible talent... cough...no sour grapes here. Some galleries took a chance to use the space that they rent and paid their employees to try and sell his work so he could eventually become well known enough to dump on them.

4. And the final line in a New York Times article was, "Mr. Dunphy said that while Mr. Hirst wasn’t at Sotheby’s, he was following the results via phone — while playing snooker."

Something tells me I just plain wouldn't like the guy.

End of the World

I just found one of the funniest links I've seen lately.

In case you have been fretting about the Hadron Collider creating a black hole that will destroy earth...

There is a website you can go to and check to see if the earth has been destroyed yet.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Art vs. Economics and Politics

The text concerning this picture starts below at paragraph five. Alas, most of my friends won't bother looking at a post without a picture. I fear we are a group with MSS, magazine scanner syndrome. You get it from spending too much time in line at the grocery store. Then it invades your entire life. Hopefully this print is so tiny that they won't be able to read it, even if they suddenly had the inclination.

So I was thinking about posting on the subject of loans and bailouts. Actually I was going to release a copy of my letter to the US government requesting a meeting to start setting up my own government-backed, bailout loan.

I have been feeling a certain degree of morbid solace as it comes to light that an increasing number of companies managed by some of the finest financial minds in the country are faltering. Until last year I was harboring a certain degree of shame. Perhaps not shame, but certainly kicking myself in the derrière at least once a day for placing too much confidence in the almighty American dollar and real-estate. What do you expect from someone with degrees in art and design? Still, Bush was elected in 2000. It is not as if I had no forewarning whatsoever. (For the French fluent you can picture the cartoon of the guy slapping his own forehead and saying, "quel con, quel con." English translation, "What a naive, stupid, schmuck I was.")

But there is no need to go on with vaguely humorous analogies or even glaring examples of how Americans need to choose between government meddling, Democratic style, or government laissez-faire, Republican style... all of which is boringly familiar to my wacky-left-leaning-friends and just irritates my evil-right-leaning-friends.

Instead I decided to follow Ms. Plumb's lead and post about my artistic kid. Yes, that is singular, as in only one of the mismatched pair. The guy. The girl is not too interested in painting unless it glitters and goes on her fingernails and toenails. (As a barely related side note, I should point out that as a family we feel it is politically OK to accept donations of sparkly jewelry in sizes appropriate for a 4 year old.) But the guy is a dedicated young artist, who speaks eloquently with images on paper.

The example above was an early 2008 piece, Ikea marker on Ikea heavy newsprint. You may note the predominance of green with the occasional, seemingly random placement of red. According to the artist, those marks were actually part of a failed attempt by a jealous little flirt to sabotage his masterpiece. But the substance and force of the subjects with their careful and deliberate rendition remain unfailingly front and center to the viewer's eye.

The narrative which accompanies the piece explains that the larger and predominant figure is non other than myself, his Dad. The second figure slightly smaller, but floating in a semi-exalted position is my partner, boy-friend, whatever, known to the guy as his Alan. If you don't have an Alan, you might think about going out and finding one. They can be quite useful, especially when your Dad is being like the aforementioned schmuck and working on a weekend when he should be out riding bicycles. This may be the reason that his Alan, as the artist points out, has bigger muscles which if you refer back to the artwork are those aspects which the less erudite might perceive as fat legs and little bumps on the shoulders. I have the same little bumps, but on my neck, and I am either one of the less erudite or simply too embarrassed to figure out what those mean.

Last but not least, there is George. Yes, the infamous (a) George mentioned here on earlier posts. Although this representation of George is fairly recent, apparently the artist felt that it was important to show him in his younger incarnation virtually hairless and with a stub of a tail. There is no need to be alarmed. If you look back at pictures of George, you will see that he has a normal and quite substantial pelt with a full-size tail.

I guess that was what you call, artistic license. Come to think of it, that seems to be the way the current US government takes certain economic principles... with artistic license.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Oh No, Not Politics

I have to stop reading about the US election on the Internet.

After pieces like op-eds in the New York Times I can't just quit at the end of the article. I am pulled irrepressibly into the comment section and then horrified by the sheer breadth of ignorance and stupidity in the American population. At least I hope it is ignorance and stupidity, because otherwise it translates into such a level of self-centered malfeasance... I don't even know how to describe it. And that is among people that read the NYTimes.

I have to get rid of my AOL account.

After following similar comment threads on pieces filtered through AOL you feel like slitting your wrists. No hope. We should have known better than to say something like “well, whatever happens, it can't be worse than the last 8 years.” I say “we”, I know I am not the only person who has said that.

I have been having this recurring nightmare where I see a man and some sort of horned and reptilian looking adviser discussing options. The one is asking the other what is it he will have to do to assure getting the extreme, religious right to the poles. And the other says “you know what you have to do.” And the one asks, “but exactly how do I get down and kiss the ass of several million people.” And the other points to a picture of a gun toting woman standing over a bloody carcass and says, “choose her to run for vice president.” And in my nightmare, she didn't even have her young daughter standing next to her. It gets worse and worse, but fortunately I always wake up before the whole disastrous future is revealed. Nevertheless, after waking, I'm then completely depressed for the rest of the day.

The only restorative therapy I have found is to read something here and there from people who have a reasonable, rational mind, with a better and more polite way of discussing the subject than I can muster myself. And I am happy to see a number of people who (for good reason) often steer clear of politics stand up and be counted.

I'll start listing a few I really liked, since I know that thousands of people wait on pins and needles to receive my recommendations and opinions...

WCS (I wish I too could sound like someone sincere,stable, and sensible without throwing in all the spurious hyperbole that I am prone to include.)
Dooce (her September 4 post – spurious hyperbole with panache - note: I did not read or contribute to the 2,443 and counting comments – I was way too afraid)
Gail Collins tries to calm us down in the OP-ED column of the NYTimes – well, you expect something sensible from a professional - (skip the comments and resulting depression)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ordinary People

How quickly the blossom fades and falls.
Edges tinged in brown,
trodden by the masses who pass without a glance.

How does the saying go? Better to have been famed and lost, than to never fame at all. No? Whatever, in short, back to the hum-drum life of the nobodies.

It was short, but it was sweet. That extra table suddenly appearing at the impossibly full restaurant. Magically being whisked to the front of the line at the Prefecture. Having the plumber call just to see if he could stop by and make sure everything was in good working order. The salesperson cheerfully and diligently searching the remaining stock of shorts to find your size.

But wouldn't it be nice to be truly famous in France? They love celebrities in France. I remember a French comic making a comment about how the French love equality and privilege. The line brought down the house, but being a newbie at the time, it flew right by me. Young(er), naïve, and virtually French-language-less.

Now it is so obvious, and humorous. Especially when ultra-rich Americans come to France and become indignant that they don't get special treatment. And you have to explain to them that no, it has nothing to do with you being gay, it has nothing to do with you being Jewish, it has nothing to do with you being black, (or oddly enough, all three at the same time). But... you aren't famous. Otherwise they don't care what you are, and especially, they don't care how much money you have. The restaurant closes at 2:30 for everyone... ah, unless, perhaps, if you are a celebrity. With celebrity comes privilege.

But even there, there can be a catch. Not just any celebrity. Discreet, humble, tasteful celebrities have the best chance at that impossible table popping up in the restaurant. A little too flashy, a little too arrogant, and back to the back of the line. (No snide comments about arrogance, we all have our weak points.)

It certainly doesn't hurt to be a Madonna or a George Cloony, but the ultimate spot of privilege in France is reserved for those rare few who are cultured, (tastefully dressed and well read) and famous, but poor. The magic combination. You can still claim to be one of the people.

We've got the poor part down pat. Now we just have to figure out how to get real celebrity status, scrounge up some cool clothes and memorize the names of a bunch of French authors.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Soooo Out

As a family, we are a little less discreet these days. Along with Mylène Farmer, her gay public, Cindi Lauper, her gay public, Christophe Ciccone, his méchante soeur (Madonna), their gay public, at least one scantily clad guy*, and numerous other examples of what is fashionable and hip, our little family is having it's five seconds of fame.

The most striking aspect is just how normal and fuddy-duddy we look sandwiched among all the glitter. (And yes, how old, some of us look.)

Even coming of age in the turbulent and psychedelic place that was San Francisco in the 70's, never in my wildest youthful fantasies did I ever picture myself spread out in such a fashion on the pages of a magazine.

The world moves on, people change, and irrespective of any méchant ravings by those* who would still like to deny us our place, we exist. We be gay, we be proud, and we be family.

*I carefully perused each and every page (strictly for statistical reasons!), and I can say there is not a single image displaying full frontal nudity, male or female, in this issue of the magazine. If I missed something, and you found it, then I need to change my glasses, and you need to get a life. So the prudish corner of my being, however small, is quite safe, and even the strictest American censors would have nothing to hold onto. Not that the French give a rat's a' about American censors. :))
*Admittedly and fortunately there are not many of "those" types around our little corner of the world, this area being a hot-bed of left-leaning politics. And we have to thank a very large and very supportive family, from grandparents, to sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, and cousins galore.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Vacation Frenzy and the Missing Olympic Event

August. The height of the craziness that is vacation in France, particularly in the south.

Appropriately in the French language, the word vacation is only available for use in the plural form LES vacanceS. The Larouss Chambers French-English dictionary uses the example "to take two months off" or "to have a two-month holiday". Anything less is hardly considered "vacation"; so for short periods you are more likely to hear the word congé, as in congé maladie (sick leave), or un jour de congé (a day off). Vacation in France is sacred. Beat me, whip me, god-forbid-pay-me-less, but don't even think of touching my vacation.*

I've never researched when this rabid attachment to vacation started, (sometime after WWII maybe?) or how it came to be that such a large portion of the rest of Europe and the world should gleefully participate.** But, rarely in France can you escape the glaring evidence, and in the south, anywhere near the Mediterranean, it is an inundation of gargantuan proportion.

Reasonable people, with the means to do so, escape well before the hordes arrive.

Sadly we are neither. So we are left with little alternative but to slather on the sun-screen, pinch our nostrils and jump into the maelstrom, hoping against hope that it doesn't suck us down to the lowest level of humanity so well on display in the streets and on the beaches.

We limit ourselves to rather short outings, and venture onto the roads during periods the least likely to get stuck behind a 20 kilometer line of camping cars. And surprisingly, delightful moments can be found, even near the sea.

As evidence, I present photos of an outing to the small but commercially viable port of Sète, a few kilometers down the coast from Montpellier.

This day was I believe, the French Championship of Joute Nautique. The biggest jousting tournament on the water is the tournament de la Saint Louis, held also in Sète on the 25th of August. (Every year since 17something or other.)

As you can see from the first photo, we arrived on time.

No one in the south of France arrives on time, so naturally, nothing starts on time.
But eventually, the crowds and the participants arrive and prepare for the first joust.

In our neck of the woods, it is always the red versus the blue, and everyone is dressed to the nines in white. No tacky shorts, no flexible (sissy) jousting poles. These guys are serious.
Line up.Prepare for the attack.
Go for it. (PS: Aww, I think it is just too cute the way the guys throw their arms around each other to protect their seating partner from accidental blows. "Honey, watch your head!")

Winner still standing... loser in the drink.

All in all, not a bad way to suffer through a day of the dreaded Les Vacances.

*... I know, neither self-employed people like myself, or farmers, or some minimum of civil service personnel, and all sorts of normal schmucks are stuck working and rarely if ever have the opportunity or take the opportunity to go on vacation. Martyrdom is our lot.
**... neither the time nor place to get into an analysis of vacations-school vacations - childcare -government support or lack thereof - family values - US vs France - etc etc etc.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Testing 1 - 2 - 3, Testing

After an eight day stint of full time child-care, i.e. no mom except by telephone, I'm still recuperating. Oh, it was fine, but it did put me a little behind schedule.

I mentioned that there was much excitement that the boy was paddling solo. (With the aid of inflatable arm bands, but no human assistance.) So I thought I would post the proof.

Et voila... he sings to boot!

Next time I will change the subject, lest we approach the "cute fatigue" zone.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Nothing at all about the 4th of July

Color me excited. I just found a two-day-old croissant in the micro-wave. I know that sounds pretty pathetic, but it is like finding money in the pocket of pants you haven't worn in years. (Assuming we're not talking about almost worthless dollars.) Plus, there is no one here to catch me eat it. Gagné.

Does anyone remember me being a big breakfast person? Coffee, yes. Eggs, bacon, etc, no-thank-you. However, there is this weakness for croissants, and I am quite capable of scarfing down a couple or more even before being fully awake. Which points out that I can partially clothe myself, go down three flights of stairs, cross the street, buy some undisclosed number of croissants, and make my way back without fully waking. I think that is pretty impressive.

But those croissants are one, relatively expensive when you add up a month's worth, and two, absolutely fat enabling long before the end of the month. So how can I in good conscience look at sweet cherubic faces, however deceptive, and deny them weekend pony rides after I have squandered the money on waistline busting bakery products.

Tough call, but I've been trying to limit my croissant intake. Ok, we didn't really have to trade pony rides for my pastry addiction. And admittedly, the best incentive is that I really hate shopping for pants. Outside of the undesirable silhouette created by a large gut, I have no butt. Which makes shopping for pants even less fun than normal since nothing fits. My legs attach directly to my back. Do not pass BUTT, do not collect $200. End of game. And therefore I am still wearing pants that looked well forward to the coming Second Millineum. Hence, I need to fit into my pants.

This is deteriorating from pointless to less than pointless.

At least I posted.

I am posting, therefore... I exist. Take that, Descartes.

The photo of René Descartes
was removed because
it never existed.

He never posted, therefore, he didn't exist.

So we may pose the question:

If René Descartes existed today,
would he have a blog?