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.