Reentry

I’ve been back 2 months today. 

People ask, don’t you miss Paris?  Truth is, not so much.  I am sure I have said before that this return is for a longer time, to see how this consulting partnership plays out.  There are great possibilities ahead but as with all new enterprises, it takes a while to get up to speed.  So this time back in California, my attitude is different.  I am not living out of a suitcase for 3 months, waiting to go home.  Even last year when I stayed longer to work on elections, I still had that return date in my head. 

This time.  Different.  I have filled my time, probably excessively so.  I don’t want to be lollygag about pining for Paris.

Instead, I have taken up Bridge lessons.  Yes, the card game.  My friend for whom I was house sitting was on a 3 month cruise.  I saw his itinerary – 5 days at sea!  I couldn’t think of anything more boring and asked him what he did.  Read. Watch Videos.  Play bridge.  Oh. Intriguing…  And about the same time, I became acquainted with two others who played bridge.  It started looking interesting, so I joined the bridge club and am taking lessons.   Bridge is more difficult than speaking French.  Because Bridge uses English but in ways not defined in the dictionary.  Bridge is all CODE.  Double can mean several things – except not 2 times something.  My head is exploding.  There are moments where I see the light.  Followed immediately by rolling black outs.

And I continue with Tango.  My teacher and a friend have both said my skills have advanced considerably.  Sweet.  I take a private lesson once a week and have joined an intermediate group lesson.  Whoa.  Intermediate!  And you know what?  That’s where I should be.  Dancing with the guys in that class is so much better than in the beginning group I had tried last month. Now on my trips to Macy’s, I look for tops or dresses that say Tango!

I have rejoined the gym and have a personal trainer.  She’s just what I need – she teaches yoga and is a dancer herself.  So, I have asked for things that will enhance my tango.  Wonderful.

I am turning this blog into a book.  I’ve mentioned that before.  But stupid me.  My blog file was simple to keep up – I just typed the latest blog entry at the top of the word document.  Think that through.  I didn’t.  If I want the book in chronological order from the start – duh – then I must cut and paste to reorder the posts.  I finally finished that today.  Next up, formatting for titles etc. and the table of contents. Then eventually printing out the 400+ pages for reading and editing.  I think I shall have to edit with a glass of French wine.  Or two.

Because the consulting gig includes seminars and because I can see giving talks at the service clubs for both the consulting and for the blog book, I have finally joined Toastmasters.  Speaking in front of a group has always been easy for me.  Well, after 4 years of college wherein if I had to give a talk in class, I would drop the class.  Somewhere along the line, speaking clicked.  But I want to be more dramatic.  Shrug.  Why not?

And because I can, I got a job at the local art/indie/foreign film cinema.  Part-time.  Just starting.  Who knows?  At least I get to see the movies for free.

And then there are friends with whom to catch up and plebian things like more insulation in the attic.

Life is not boring.

Oh yeah. I start the French conversation group at Alliance Francaise in a week.

Music, Art, Dogs, Packing

I am a sucker for an accordion player who plays the traditional French songs.  On the metro today.  I gave him money.  He made me happy.

I walked to the art museum today.  Remember?  The buses are screwed up again. Bright and sunny again, but chilly.  I wore my Chamonix jacket and it was not too much!  Where oh where is spring?  Or at least, the spring temperatures?

These private art collections are just amazing.  I have seen so many recently.  Imagine you have enough money just to buy up all these impressionists.  And then hang them in your home.  And eventually, create a foundation and your own museum so you can lend them to other museums around the world after you die.  Thank you to all you wealthy collectors.  Paris is special this way.  I can’t think of another city where there are so many museums and so many expositions like this.  Today I saw Manets and Monets and Renoirs and Van Goghs and Lautrecs and Cezannes that I had never seen before.  Even not seen in books.  It filled my soul.  And there were a few cubist Picassos but I won’t spend any time on them.

By the way, I did cook last night!  Chicken with noodles, and asparagus wrapped with bacon, and gouda cheese on top of it all.  Tasty, if I do say so myself!  And when I get home, I shall try the ham and cheese wrapped in endive that was served to me in the Netherlands.  And a friend said they had made pasta with shrimp for dinner – and I actually found myself drooling a bit.  What is happening to my relationship with food?  Pretty soon you won’t be able to call me a picky eater.  Funny how we transform even when we age.

Rudeness.  I wanted to expound a bit more about the ‘rude’ French.  Most of the time I have a good relationship with the French wait staff.  I try to speak French.  I know not to rush.  I relax at the meal.  And I ask their advice re wine or dessert.  I can often get them smiling.  What I do know is that they are not American.  And that American efficiency, the attentiveness, the service with a smile and bring the check soon – ya, it’s not here.  And that’s ok.  The gal I mentioned in the last blog.  She had an attitude.  And I think I was more irritated because the other wait staff there know me and are nice and smiling and actually chat with me.  She was not.  She was dismissive of the tourist.  Ha.

The French are more formal.  You must start with Bonjour.  Even Excusez moi doesn’t cut it.  My other French friend said that was rather new.  She said she will often start with excusez moi.  And if someone does the Bonjour thing on her, she answers right back with – so what, excusez moi is not polite?  And basically, what’s wrong with you.  No, I shall never say that.  I don’t have the accent to get away with that.  So I will just keep working on remembering to say Bonjour.

The French say the Parisians are the problem.  That the French outside of Paris are nice and friendly.  Yes.  But I don’t mind the Parisians.  Just don’t give me attitude.

The dog cemetery was …  a cemetery for animals.  Not very big.  And for a place that has been there since 1899, I didn’t see all that many graves.  I did see many new ones.  I think they stopped using it in the 50s and started again maybe 20 years ago.  The most common name – Kiki.  Yes, there was Rin Tin Tin.  Nothing special.  And a St Bernard that saved 40 peoples lives, the 41st killed him.  Yes. It said that.  Hmmm…  I don’t know if the saving of the 41 was so difficult and treacherous that he died or that the 41st didn’t like the dog and killed him on purpose.  It’s a mystery.  But many new headstones.  That makes me wonder… do they reuse the space?  I know in some of the people cemeteries, you buy the plot for a period of time.  And if the family lets it go, well then.  The space becomes available.  Do they dig you up and toss you into a mass grave?  I don’t know.  Too morbid to investigate.

There was a lady who was raking and watering.  We chatted.  And I held up my end of the conversation.  I know I know I keep saying this. But it’s always tickles me when I speak French spontaneously.  And they understand!

And lastly, my friend with the heart problem texted me after reading about herself in these pages.  I was delighted to hear that after several hospital stays, she is now home.  Perhaps a long recovery… but that’s still good!  Glad you are doing well, my friend.

Now to practice packing.  Literally, taking everything and putting it into the two bags to see if it all fits.  And if not, what stays…  I must do this early enough that I have time to find solutions.

A Chateau Visit

Three years ago, a French friend CJ promised me a road trip to Champs de Bataille, a French chateau with wonderful gardens about 2 hours from Paris.  Her husband would drive.

Never happened.  Now, it was a very generous offer, so I didn’t complain about it never happening.  Fast forward to this year.  I have two day trips planned, one with a French friend, one with an expat; both of whom have cars.  When my other friend, CJ, heard this, she accused me – teasingly – of cheating on her.  Spending time with other friends.  To which I had to remind her that she never took me on the day trip she had promised.

She came through.  Last week the three of us, CJ, hubby AP and moi, headed off for Chateau Breteuil.  http://www.breteuil.fr/  Do check out the website.  It’s a beautiful place, still in the family.  The marquis has moved out of the house to live in one of the two smaller buildings that flank the entrance.  In fact, we saw him coming out the door with his cane, hobbling over to his golf cart.  His name: Henri-François Léon Théophile Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, the tenth marquis de Breteuil, born in 1943.  Yikes.  My brother was born in the same year.  He doesn’t appear as aged as the marquis.  Maybe it’s that noble living?  Or maybe too much wine?  Yet my brother does have an affinity for wine.  He lives on a farm in Sonoma county surrounded by vineyards.  Stopping here.  My bro reads this blog.  No need to start something familial.

Know the fairy tale Cinderella?  Or the story of Puss N Boots?  Both written by Charles Perrault.   From the chateau’s website: “It is no accident that Perrault’s Tales are featured here; beside being an author, Charles Perrault (1628-1703) was in charge of transferring funds to the Royal Treasury, which was managed by Louis de Breteuil (1609-1685), Controller General of Finances under King Louis XIV. The two men’s close collaboration is celebrated in the Château de Breteuil.”  The chateau has done an excellent job of depicting seven of the fairy tales with sound and light shows.  Kids would love this.  The gardens are gorgeous and available for rental for parties or marriage.  That’s the way to keep the chateau in the family.  It’s been in the family for 400 years now, why stop?

And on the tour of the chateau itself, mannequins are used – quality wax dummies.  Not quite Grevin or Tussauds but quite good.  In one room, lying on a beautiful bed, is Marcel Proust, with a notebook in front of him, ostensibly writing À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time).  Proust was a friend of Henri de Breteuil. The Marquis was the inspiration for the writer’s Hannibal de Bréauté (same initials, H.B) in Du côté de chez Swann (Swann’s Way).  Apparently, the inspiration was not appreciated by the Marquis.  And Proust was none too subtle with the initials.  Quite obvious.  And there were many photographs of the Marie-Joséphine-Anatole-Louise-Élisabeth de Riquet, comtesse de Caraman-Chimay, comtesse Greffulhe.  Do you recall a post about an expo at the Galliera de Mode?  The clothing of the Comtesse Greffulhe.  A very accomplished woman who held salons for science, music, theatre, et al.  And had the most exquisite taste in clothing.  Born in 1860 and living until 1952, she was dressed by all the most important clothing designers.  And I swear she had the same impossibly tiny waist until the day she died – maybe wearing her Chanel.  She too was in Proust’s work.  The entire aristocratic set dropped him like a hot potato.  Don’t share secrets!  Don’t blab about your rich friends.

And that, dear reader, is partly why you are seeing initials in place of names.  I don’t think I will offend any friends by using their names, but that seems a bit intrusive.  So I have adopted Proust’s style.  Only problem, I have several friends with the same initials.  Oh well.  Tant pis.

The cleaning lady as gone.  It is after 1200.  I may venture out for grocery shopping.  And maybe even take a jaunt to the Real McCoy.  It’s one of the oldest “American” shops in Paris, where you can find all those things from home.  Like pumpkin pie mix.  Why go there today?  Because for some strange reason, I suddenly have a craving for red licorice.  I could have bought one of those huge tubs at Costco last December, but no craving then.

But wait!  The most important thing about the outing to the chateau was the fact that CJ’s husband does not speak English.  I had to speak French all day!  Nonstop!  And what made me so happy was that I recounted several humorous stories and he laughed.  And he laughed at the right places!  Not because my French was so bad.  So there to those of you who doubted me.

La Rentree

That’s the return.  The time in September in France when everyone returns from the August vacation.  Seriously.  I’ve written about August before.  If you are in the heart of the tourist areas, you may not notice.  But on the streets of my small shopping area in Neuilly, almost every store was closed for a week, two, three or even four in August.  Ferme.  Desole.  Ferme.

And now I have my own official Rentree – but it’s not til November.  I booked my return.  I’ve been waiting.  Not sure why.  I knew I wanted to leave after the midterm elections on Tuesday, November 6.   Suddenly, three nights ago I realized that this was about 75 days away.  And it was getting into the “book now or lose good prices or any seats” period.  So a quick visit to United and Delta and found that the week after midterms had higher miles fares than I wanted but two weeks later I could score a 37,000 mile trip one way on Delta.  I booked it.  And two days later, I remembered that I usually fly out of SFO on United on my way there and return via Delta and Salt Lake City.  And that I had forgotten that when I do fly SMF SLC CDG, I usually take the earlier flight to SLC and have lunch in the Sky Club for free (finger food but it works).  Instead I had booked the flights with only a one hour connection.  I will be revisiting that with Delta soon.  And that’s what happens when you can’t wait to get back and panic.

I had already scored with my apartment.  This time I decided to live in Paris itself.  The past three years I have been in Neuilly sur Seine, a block and a half (literally) from the Paris city limit.  I have grown weary of that place.  Although now the construction has all been finished and it might be quiet again.  No matter.  The heart of Paris is the goal.

Was the goal until I saw the prices.  My rent had stayed at 1360 euros a month.  The dollar value of that went up and down according to the exchange rate – from a low of $1500 to a high of $1800.  Now all the AirBNBs were over 2200$.  OK there were some tiny studios that were dumps for less.  Non, merci.

Then I recalled a friend who goes over twice a year and has been staying at the same place.  I had visited her there.  Smaller living room.  But new kitchen (with an oven!) and remodeled bath.  Cute.  5th floor WITH an elevator.  So I contacted her to see about staying there if she wasn’t coming over… new grandchild takes precedence over Paris.  And now I am renting her place for just over what I was paying.  I have no idea why the landlady was so generous and gave me such a deal, but I am delighted.

Now I have to discover a whole new area.  Where is the Monoprix?  Where is the pharmacy?  When is the marche (market).  The metro line is not as convenient as Ligne 1.  And where and what buses?  I can’t wait!

The time frame is only 3 months this visit.  No visa – however, I can still change my mind and get a visa up to Oct 15.  I may go make an appointment just in case I change my mind.  No renter for my condo when I am gone.  That makes it quite expense to maintain my mortgage here and pay rent there.

I am content to know there are only 80 some days til I get back.

My normal question before getting on the plane is how quickly will my French come back.  Little worry this time.  In July I stopped at the Alliance Francaise here in Sacramento.  Steeling myself, telling myself to go in a talk French like a big girl, I went to the director’s office.  I asked about classes – and told her of my background of sporadic classes since college and living there, etc.  My story. In French.  And she said you should join one of our conversation classes.  OK.  Show me.  What?  No.  That’s level C.  Languages in Europe are described as beginning A 1 & 2,  Intermediate B 1&2 and advanced C.  I have always been B1… maybe sneaking up to B2.

Not now.  Not according to la directrice.   And after 6 classes, now confirmed by the prof who guides our conversations about news of the day.   We had a chat after the last class and she said I was the second best in the class – and if I would only read in French more, I could challenge him.  She said that when the subject was one that interested me, she saw me speaking fluently, not pausing, just spewing forth French.  OK she didn’t’ say exactly that but she did say courament which is fluent.  WOW.  So there are many subjects in which I fully know my level of competency.  But speaking French is not one.  One focuses on the words you don’t know or can’t recall.  The conjugation of a verb you forgot.  And the mispronunciation.

So this was cool.  I do think she overestimated a bit – I still don’t grasp a movie or documentary without relying on the subtitles – they just speak too quickly.

But still.  It will be a good rentree.

The Bonjour Effect

That’s a book written by a couple – he’s Quebecois and she perhaps English but they wrote this book looking at the differences between France and North America.

The Bonjour Effect is what I have told you before.  You simply MUST say Bonjour before interacting with a French person.  I know yet I still forget sometimes by starting with Excusez-moi.  Nope.  And I even heard a French person say Excusez-moi and once she had the attention of the other person, she then said Bonjour.

I thought it would be interesting to see what the French people think of the book so I lent my copy to one of my friends.  At our next meeting he said he now understands me!

I guess he hasn’t always approved of my interaction with waiters.  Hey.  I am NOT rude.  I smile.  I say please and thank you.  But apparently I am not deferential enough.  Say what?  And he said that – you think it is their job and they should wait on you and take your order and check back etc.   Ah? Duh?

I still don’t get quite what the French think about this – it’s almost like they have to convince the waiters that you are worthy of their attention.

Speaking of waiters – my friend and I were having a wonderful Italian meal at Fuix by the Luxembourg gardens.  We sat in the enclosed patio with the heaters because inside was suffocatingly hot.  The waitress was not attentive.  Pas du tout.  I think we asked for the water three times.  Oh well.  It’s Paris.  Then a group of students (the university is close by) came in – maybe 10?  They were loud and obnoxious and there, I thought, went our nice lunch experience.  They started to move tables together to be able to sit as one.  Loudly.

And then the mean waitress came out.  Oh my did she give them what for.   Who were they to come in and rearrange the tables?  They were disturbing her clients (us!  She was defending US!).  And they could just leave, thank you very much.  The students argued.  She held her ground.  And they left.  She rearranged the tables back to normal,  shrugged her shoulders, smiled at us and went inside to continue to ignore us.

My friend suggested that in fact the students would only have ordered a café and would have taken a lot of her time and energy for not much return.  So get out

Je suis a Paris !

Feeling right at home! I moved on Tuesday – not without its own drama.   My regular shuttle service was hired for 8:45.  I have used these folks since 2012.  At 850 still not here.  Very odd.  I called.  The driver had just had an accident and was waiting for the police.  I don’t think he was injured – he wasn’t waiting for the ambulance…  And all the other drivers were an hour away in northern Paris.  Plan B.   Uber.  And it was actually cheaper.  I didn’t plan on them in the beginning because I needed someone to carry the bags and I didn’t get the impression that Uber drivers did.  But I made it clear he must and promised a pourboire.  That’s literally For Drink and means tip.

We got here.  Bags made it up the stairs, He went down the stairs with 40 Euros.  My landlady thought that excessive – maybe 20, 25.  But I was American, after all (she said that!).  Well, for me, it was value.  I would have paid 100 Euros to get those bags up here!  He must have liked it; he was waiting downstairs and asked my landlady to text me his phone number in case I needed a driver.  He’d be disappointed.  I tip more like a French person in daily life.

Changes in the ‘hood.  The construction continues across the street.  I expected them to be working on the facing.  But they haven’t even finished taking some of the old roofs and bricks down.  And the interior is still out in the open.  At least they are past the demolition which was really dusty and dirty.  Big changes at Porte Maillot – the roundabout.  Two of my bus stops seem to be moved.  I am not sure where yet.  They are putting in a new RER station.  On one hand that’s cool.  But it’s a 2022 completion.  Yikes.  The Marché is still discombobulated.  Continuing the work on putting in escape hatches and air ducts for the new line.  I think that may go on til 2022 also.

I was unpacked and organized in the apartment in less than 2 hours.  A very nice change to the apartment building is a new paint job, old carpet out, stairs sanded and waiting for stain… and new carpet eventually.  It does spruce up the building well.  The former interior decoration was very unappealing.  I feel I have moved up to a new classy neighborhood.

Yesterday evening I went down to say hello to the Eiffel Tower.  It’s still there.  Still magnificent.  Still my favorite icon of Paris.

Today I went back to work.  Yes, I do work!  This Paris thing is not a walk in the parc.  I met two of my conversation exchange friends.  Fabulous to catch up with them both.  I met the first guy across from the Louvre in our usual spot.  I thought I was doing quite well.  He would only say that I had to jump right into French again.  I looked up taskmaster: tyranOui.  He’s a tyran for sure.  Afterwards I renewed my membership at the Louvre.  So it’s a Wednesday in the middle of May.  The place felt empty.  No, it wasn’t really empty!  But compared to the normal size crowds – felt empty.  One of my usual reference points is the number of tours that walk by us at the café by the Louvre, but today we sat away the window.  I feel badly for France, but am happy for me.

Then I had lunch with my other friend in great café by Palais Royal.  He has taken me to the best small restaurants.  And I felt so back in Paris!  The menu had more pages of wine selections than food.  I had Le Hamburgoise.  And a dessert.  Miam Miam.  The tart frais strawberry was beyond delicious.  And he said I did very well, spoke quickly, spontaneously.  Hah!

I also know I am back in Paris because I walked 6.5 miles yesterday and will have over 4 by the end of today.

Tom Cruise was filming a movie near where we ate.  People would assemble with their smart phone out to take a picture.  And all that happened – and no more than every 45 minutes – was a car driven very fast down the street.  It reversed.  Then sat there til the shot was ready again… I don’t think Tom was driving.  The driver had a hat.  Usual trick of the stunt driver.  And heck, I don’t even like Tom Cruise that much and he lives on the street of a friend of mine in Beverly Hills.  I am not going out of my way to find him here.

Macron.  That’s a different story.  My friend sent me a photo that his friend took of Macron last night at La Rotonde restaurant in Montparnasse.  That means I have 2 degrees of separation from Emmanuel.  Woot.

Surprise – the cold is MUCH better.  Just needed to be home.

Reentry

Ohhh.  That makes it sound very NASA-ish.  Coming back to the States is not quite an alien experience but I do miss Paris.

It’s only been two weeks plus one day.  It feels longer… and not….  Just crazy.  Got back on Wednesday afternoon.  Several disruptions I would have been happy to avoid but that’s life:  Garage door opener – broken springs (2) fixed on Thursday for $600+, slow leak in rear tires – two tires later at $300, dishwasher broken $700+, back slider is really hard to move – handyman next Saturday for a lot of money plus time to get new sinks as the porcelain is wearing out – handyman and more money.  He’s happy I am back!

This after the extra bag charges for Delta.  The allowance is one free, next one $100 and third more like $200.  But that’s cheaper than shipping.  The final number at the airport was 22.9 kg, 22.0 kg and 22.3 kg.  Whew.  Max is 23 kg.  And btw, always ask them to weigh in kg because that gives you a little bit more than the 50 lb limit.  And my Delta AMEX card which gives me free bags domestically doesn’t help for international.  The United Visa gives me the second bag on international flights free.  About the best thing I can say about United…

Most amazing: NO JET LAG.  None.  Nada.  Zip.  Sure – I might have woken up about 2 or 3am, but that’s normal on a normal night.  And what is normal for jet lag is to wake up at 3am and be WIDE awake since that is noon in Paris.  So jet lag means you can’t go back to sleep.  Your body is ready for action!  Time for lunch or a walk or something other than sleeping.

But not this time.  Went right back to sleep every night immediately.  Why?  If I really knew the secret, I’d patent it.  But I think it was because I had so much to do – arrange for all those repairs, and doc appointments and routine car maintenance.  AND travel down to Visalia to see my sister who is recovering from a stroke.  So one day here and the next on the train south.  Stayed there 4 nights and back here and then back down there 3 days later.  I think that is going to be the routine for a few weeks.  (She is doing VERY well – speech great and progressing from a wheelchair to walker to using a cane!)

What’s best about the return?  The clothes dryer!  And a washer that is easy on the clothes versus the one in Paris.  And of course the dryer is nonexistent in Paris.  I was very disappointed about the dishwasher – I was so looking forward to not having to wash and dry dishes by hand.  But no.  On the other hand, I have been patiently waiting for that dishwasher to break – it was here when I bought my house in 2003.  And it wasn’t new at that time.  The new one is not a high end fancy bells and whistles machine but it is so quiet that I only knew it was working at first because the timer on the front was changing minutes…

Total Wine is a great store for wine.  I went to stock up on my French wines.  I don’t really drink a lot and usually not alone and usually with meals.  I got a Chinon, a Brouilly, and a rose from Provence.  And after watching the news, I opened the Chinon.  It was necessary.

Because of my travel schedule, I wasn’t eating well during my first week back.  Finally had time to buy food and prepare a meal.  So I have changed after two 9 month stints in Paris.  I was quite surprised.  I made a chicken breast with wine sauce and champignons…. Oh.  Mushrooms.  And as I looked at the plate, I thought to myself, It looks tasty.  And I could slice it up nicely and arrange it on my plate and put the sauce just so…  OMG!   I never thought anything like that for a meal I made for myself.  It was scary!  I shared the story with a friend who said I was a foodie.  Oh God Forbid!  Me? A Foodie?  I won’t go that far, but I will say, oui, I have a different attitude to food.

Coming back also includes medical appointments.  Spent the day at Kaiser for a variety of things, including getting a hearing aid fixed.  Yes.  I have a hearing aid.  I got it when I worked for a company that was totally paranoid.  The senior team of which I was a member would have meetings where everyone whispered.  I would be saying, What? What?  So I had my hearing tested – they said, you’re border line.  I said I need to hear the whispers.  But I didn’t wear it often in Paris.  Sometimes crowd noise would be too loud – so I’d take it out and then I just didn’t seem to need it.  Come back here and it’s like I am at the bottom of a well.  What’s up with that?  But it had stopped working – a Kaiser gal fixed a broken wire and I am now good to go.  But why do I need it in the US more than in France?  I think Americans mumble.

A French friend facetimed me my first week back.  I thought it was someone else and just answered without thinking.  Then I realized it was Francois.  Yikes.  Early morning here and I am not sure I had even combed my hair.  FT can be dangerous!  So I held the phone as far away as I could so my early morning hair and face would be as small as possible.  And then he started speaking FRENCH.  QUOI?  My brain stalled.  It was the feeling you got when the teacher announced a pop quiz.  Huh?  I hadn’t prepped for that!  Yikes.  Fortunately, it came back.  But we did speak more in English.

However, this evening, I went to an open house for a new law firm a dear friend is starting.   And there I met a French woman.  And yes, I just started speaking French with her and it was wonderful!  Maybe soon I will stand up and believe I speak French!  (I also added TV5 to my Xfinity lineup so I can watch the French shows.)

And for the three of you who said you have read every blog, please email me your physical address so I can send you your prize!  I hadn’t forgotten!  Cheaper to mail from here than Paris.

Notice I have stayed away from politics… except for the need for wine?  I’ll just say I am so proud of those National Park Service employees who have started altNPS Facebook and Twitter accounts and refuse to be silenced on climate change and science in general.  This is nuts.

I have been called a global resident.  I love that.  And an English friend posted on FB that she wants me back to being an American Abroad soon!  I agree with her.  We will see how the health of everyone progresses.

Miscellaneous

The title is in honor of the French woman next to me on the bus who saw me reading English and asked if I was British or American and could I help her with a definition – the word was miscellaneous…

I walk down the sidewalk thinking and suddenly I have to push Andy Rooney back into a box in a recess of my mind.  My blog makes me think in Andy Rooney speak sometimes… did ya ever….

It’s a tense time right now.  Nope, not terrorists.  My last days in France.  I find I am consciously trying to avoid any catastrophes….  I have slipped and fallen twice and am being so careful to not a third time.  But other catastrophes rear up in my mind.  As I was leaving the apartment today and holding my keys in my hand, I had this image of the keys slipping out of my hand as I was pulling the door shut, falling inside the apartment while the momentum closed the door and thereby locking myself out of my apartment.  I must have a special little man in my brain (see previous blogs for explanations re the little men… and the French and American/English librarians…) whose only job is to be fearful.  With an active imagination!  Fortunately, he is usually back in a nice room with ice cream and he rarely comes out to worry me.

I am also discovering a relaxation of a tension that I wasn’t very aware of.  It’s the “get out of speaking French free card!”  And I thought I loved this experience.  I DO love this experience.  But my brain is apparently looking forward to a few months of just one language.  HA!  Little does it realize – I still have TV 5 – the French channel on Xfinity and I have 3 French novels I want to finish.  There will still be French spoken!  And I might join Alliance Francaise again too.

I have a birthday upon me.  The reality is that I am actually older than the day would suggest – meaning that when you reach your first birthday, you are actually starting your second year of life.  It’s funny because centuries are done the same way – we are now in the 21st century.  I don’t like this.  Makes me feel old.

It has been cold here still.  Yesterday in the Metro, I saw my breath.  Yikes.  That just isn’t right.  Well, not on the platform itself, but down the corridor to get there.  Brrrr

I was sick with a bad cold over NYE so my plans to spend it with a friend evaporated.  Instead I sat on the couch hacking and coughing but I did stay up for midnight.  This year Paris had a light show projected on the Arc de Triomphe followed by fireworks.  It was televised so I enjoyed.  Then I suddenly remembered how the airplanes flew over my apartment on the 14th of July for the Parade down the Champs Elysees.  And I rushed to my window and yup!  I could see the fireworks!  It was sooooo cool.

My cold is almost gone.  I am meeting all my friends for the final conversations for this visit.  And in the midst of that, I am trying to get to sites I have not seen and pack.

I hate packing.

The Election

Can’t eat…

After the results of the US presidential election, I find I am too nauseous to eat.  Clearly, I was and am not a Trump supporter.

I continued to be nervous throughout the election – but a friend kept telling me it was fine.  Not to worry.  Then I discovered a secret FB page of women supporting Hillary.  And the positive messages there and the stories – of women who would be voting for Hillary in the booth without their husbands’ knowledge and of people having problems getting absentee ballots and making the trek across country just to vote for her – all that gave me hope.  But when I woke up at 4, my concern came back and by 430 it was at full throttle.  I gave up and went back to bed.  Looked at the results at 8 on my iPhone and planned to stay in bed all day with the covers pulled over my head.

I received texts and emails of condolence from French friends.  One even sent me this email: Dear Marcie  Leave America and ask your French nationality. You are completely Parisian.

By 11am I was getting angry and, with a spurt of energy, called to make an appointment with a new coiffure to get my hair cut – I had been postponing this for several weeks, afraid to try someone new and hesitant to return to the other.  So it was a fit of recklessness.  If the world is falling apart, what’s a haircut??

Got an appointment for that afternoon so I had to get up.  And decided to go to the Expats meetup after for what I anticipated to be a wake.

The haircut was fabulous.  And even more, he’s closer to me, costs less, and his father (who has had that shop for 42 years and took my call in the morning) told him that he had an appointment with an American who spoke very good French!  Ha!  Thomas told me that his grandfather cut hair, his father followed him in the business and that his 5 year old son said to him last week that he wanted to do what his father did when he grew up.  Ah, consistency!

The expat group was indeed a wake.  Everyone shared stories – how they were nauseous, lost appetite, couldn’t sleep, wanted to cry, wanted to scream and rage…  We watched Hillary give her speech to our rousing applause.  I had to leave the TV room when Giuliani was on the screen.  Evil.  I think the man is pure evil.

A friend wrote me – what do the French think?   I find they are as surprised as I am.  The question is mostly how could this happen?  And of course when the popular vote shows her ahead, how can you possibly explain the antiquated Electoral College?  And someone please tell me why this didn’t get fixed after the 2000 fiasco?  Really?  Well, 240 years ago before phones and internet and TV, it was easier to send representatives to cast the votes…  We can put a man on the moon but we can’t fix this?  I suppose it would require a constitutional amendment.  Good luck with that.  What republican would want to fix something that has helped them twice?  (Just did a quick google – apparently the states could all individually decide to allocate the votes based on percentages… But I sure wouldn’t want California to make that change without a guarantee that everyone was going to do it!)

Two French friends have tried to console me – and I have to tell them to wait.  This is a time of mourning.  I just don’t want to hear that it really won’t make that much difference.  Really, I want to scream.  A new ultra conservative Supreme Court justice?  Really?  Helping make decisions that will affect American for years?  And then you realize how different our cultures are and how the understanding of these things are just embedded in me.  And when I don’t want to scream, I want to curl up and cry.  Yup, I know the signs of depression…

I saw an article from Europe – can’t recall if French or German.  He said that now the leader of the Free World is Angela Merkel.  Wow.  That one observation summed up how the Europeans used to look at the US.  And particularly Obama.  Even Hollande said he called to congratulate Trump because that was what custom called for – and I read somewhere that he added (but I am NOT quoting) something to effect that he had to call, even if some of the things he (Trump) does makes you want to retch.

You know the Scottish don’t want him back in Scotland – the hell with his golf courses.

But maybe I am wrong?  Once a doctor ran for the public board of a hospital I worked at.  He was quite nasty in the election process, making several false claims and innuendo.  Nothing as bad as Trump….  But I watched him take the oath of office.  And I did see him change after that.  As though he finally realized the great responsibility he had.

We can only hope.

I have been having many texting messaging conversations with friends – the question after mourning is how do we fix this?  Who will emerge as a leader?  It needs a charismatic leader, sure.  But the organizational part is daunting.  And to me an exciting opportunity to reinvent.  What new party will replace the Democrats?  Or just become a new party and gather members from thither and yon?  Most of Bernie’s supporters didn’t seem to understand that the political parties are private.  So they make their own rules.  Going back to the smoke-filled rooms…  Don’t whine about those rules.  Make a new party and make new rules.  And have a candidate poised to win in 2020.  And fill the House and Senate in 2018.  Lots of work to do.

I think we should call it the Party of Nice People.

 

 

Laptop 1, Blog 0

 

I have been fighting:  the urge to read against the need to blog.  And the couch was winning – see last blog.  But today I was determined.  I even had a sentence that was so clever and witty that it simply drove me to the laptop.

And there at the computer I was undone.

The laptop sits on my table every day. And night.  (Unless the house elves are moving it about).  And recently I have had several projects – find an AirBNB in Montpelier (and the entire Montpelier trip), figure out whether it’s going to be Prague or Budapest or both, all the Bloom Where You’re Planted stuff, and the usual – mail and Facebook.  And apparently those maybe indeed 60 open web pages make the laptop very slow.  So I closed them all down and was going to just reboot and sit and write a clever piece for the blog.

Nope.

The computer told me there were updates.  So I decided to go out for a bit of shopping before blogging.  When I come back an hour later, it is STILL updating.  OMG.  I think it took another 45 minutes.  It reminded me of the “old” days when updates would have those little boxes and would say 39 hours to upload….

Maybe there’s a reason it’s recommended to turn your computer off from time to time…  not every 3 months…

And of course, the clever and witty sentence has evaporated.

So on to random thoughts.

I crossed a bridge on a bus last week.  Looking up the Seine, I could see the towers of Notre Dame, the spire of Sainte Chapelle, the dome of Sacre Coeur, the water shimmering with sunlight and the Eiffel Tower to my back.  It was a moment of pure joy and a reminder of why I love it here.  And a moment of disbelief – am I really here?  Earlier that morning when I set out and found a new route, I had thought – I own Paris now!  The view of the Seine just made me happy.

And then of course, later in the day the reality of France made itself known.  I had a package not delivered – the note was.  Pick it up on 30/9/2016 after 1100.   Really.  In French but that was pretty simple.  So I go off to the Poste about 1130.  You got it – no package available yet.  I surprised myself by actually arguing a bit – in French – and pointing out it did say the package would be available that day after 1100 and it was after 1100.  To no avail.  No package.  Try Monday.  However, the nice lady did say at least 3 times, Je suis desolee.  Which means, I am sorry.  OK.  That was nice.  I’ll go back Monday.

I did finally receive my Hillary cap and buttons.  Got here on Tuesday – just in time for missing the debate.  Oh well, they are here.  I did watch the debate live.  You probably did too.  But I had to get up at 3 am to watch on Bloomberg TV (thanks to my landlady for having that on the cable channels).  At 5 I went back to sleep for several hours.

Why watch live?  I don’t think any other friend in Paris did.  I know myself, I would have read the newspapers immediately to see how it went.  And then I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to watch the whole thing.  So two more early morning events for me.

We are planning an election….party?  Gathering… on Wednesday Nov 9 here in Paris.  Early.  The polls close in California at 8 on Tuesday.  That’s 5 am Wednesday here.  I have the advantage – we can follow the progress in the daylight.  We are trying to find out what bar will open at 5…

For anyone coming over, do realize it’s not the ARCH of Triumph.  It’s ARC.  Two tourists on my bus -73 – that goes up the Champs Elysees – were bugging the bus driver.  I explained that the Arc was several stops done – oh no we want to walk – and then they stayed on the bus, kept asking the driver and finally got out at the Arc stop but pushed their way out the front of the bus which is a no-no.   Entrance at the front, exit at the rear.   I haven’t seen bad tourists for… well, ages.  Maybe 2 years.  Resetting my counter.

It never hurts to ask.  It often helps.  Bad back this week – too much reading on the couch and sitting tensely at 3 am…  Saw the chiro on Tuesday and had to go back on Thursday.  If you recall, she’s French but trained and licensed in Texas.  I asked, any chance there’s a discount for the second visit in the same week?  She said 50 euros (usually 72) and that it never hurts to ask.  I amaze my American and French friends for asking and that people will respond or negotiate with me.  Again, never hurts to ask but always respectfully.

DOGGY BAGS IN PARIS!

A new law effective in January of this year requires restaurants to provide doggy bags if requested.  Thursday I had lunch at a very traditional French restaurant and had brochette of beef.  Too big a portion.  It was a nice place – I heard that Jacques Chirac eats there often – or did.  Traditional French dishes (although I did not see Tete de Veau (calf’s head) which I saw at another restaurant and was told that Chirac ordered that once a week while he was mayor of Paris – it was just a block from Hotel de Ville).  But apparently this restaurant was mentioned on some website so now it is also full of tourists.  The waiters spoke English well.  There I am.  Lots of beef on my plate.  Wanting a doggy bag but not sure of the response.  Will he get French Uppity?  My tactic – “Monsieur, I have a very American question…” pause.   He replies – “you want to take away?”  “Yes please!”  That simple.  Whew.  We say Take out in the States, in England and France it is called Take Away (Emporter en francais).

Because it was so simple, I asked for Emporter at the Pizza restaurant, PizzaWaWa.  Pas de problem!

Laptop 1, Blog 1