Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Phase 1



And so, the factory whistle blows again.  Ha!  Except, I need not answer, for you see, I have more vacation time than work days left until my retirement is official.  I go. . . on occasion.  I still have a position and duties, and I am no shirker.  Still, I go, as I say, occasionally and only for as long as I want.  I am easing into retirement.

And it is weird.

Every day becomes like the other.  I get up, drink coffee and read, then exercise and come home to do some sort of work, have lunch, take a nap, get up drowsy and get ready for dinner.  I have not been completely lazy.  I have worked.  I weeded the long driveways.  I had not worked like that for over a year, and I was sore after.  The next day, Ili and I threw twelve yards of mulch.  That was the real challenge.  I am proud to say that I was up to it.  I was "the man" for the job.  It has take me a long time to get to this point.

Yesterday I went to Home Depot and got fifty pound bags of soil for filling in some uneven steps.

In short, I'm giving up a job I like for one that I don't like so much.  Not really.

But today is a factory day, and tomorrow is as well.  Soon the workers will begin to resent me.

I can see how retirement can be dangerous.  Ili says she will get me a t-shirt that says, "I'm not a drunk, I'm a retiree."

That is Ili's picture of me in Paris as I was photographing something.  Very clever, I think.  The Paris Photographer.  I must have been focussed on a monument.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Paris #8



After shopping and eating on the Left Bank, we came home.  But not home, now.  Our minds were preparing for the trip back the next day.  Last evenings all have the same tone, the same meter.

We slept and rose and made our coffee, took our showers, packed the final things, and said goodbye to our Paris apartment.  We each rolled two suitcases down the alley and across the bridge to the cab stand several blocks away.  Surprisingly, you can't call or reserve a cab to come to your doorstep.  You must get a cab at a cabstand.  You may hire a limo, but that is another thing and costs more money.  I worried, of course, about fucking up and not getting to the airport on time, but the entire affair was easy and we arrived at the airport early.

Which turned out to be a good thing.

We stood in line and checked our bags and rolled our carry ons to the line for the gate.  After moving slowly through the barely moving line for what seemed a very long time, we were flagged by a fellow in an official looking jacket and had to go to another line where a man who smelled terribly weighed our things, shook his head as if in grief, and told us we would have to go back to the counter and check one of them. This meant crossing the airport to stand in the long line we had already gone through once again so that we could come back and stand in the line we had just passed through.

I won't recount the emotional ride that took us on since our early arrival left us time to spare.  We made it through, sat at a Japanese counter with conveyor belt sushi and ordered ramen soup and beers.  Then we shopped at the duty free mall that had some of the best high end merchandise we had seen on our trip all in one condensed portion of the airport.

Finally, almost the last to board the plane, we walked down the aisle to Zone 5 and took our tiny seats.  I had bought some travel bottles of booze and we settled in to watch two and a half bad movies, the worst being "Tolkien."

"Did you notice that the movie was in perpetual autumn?" Ili asked.

The other was fairly fascinating in a way.  I think the title was "Big Eyes".  It was about the woman in the early 1960s who became famous for painting those big-eyed children paintings.  Well, she didn't become famous.  Her husband who pretended to have painted them did.  I wasn't familiar with the crazy story.

They fed us something on the plane about 45 minutes before we landed. Weird, we thought, but the flight was bumpy, so perhaps they remained seated for safety reasons.  I am fairly certain we flew over a hurricane, the one that crossed the Atlantic and landed in England as a tropical storm.  I am told commercial planes can do that, but I haven't checked the facts.  Whatever.  It was bumpy.

We landed in Miami, and this is where things went screwy.  I hadn't reserved a rental car.  This is one of my trademark characteristics.  I play much by ear.  And, I thought, it would be easy to rent a car at the airport.

Nope.

We had reserved a hotel room for the night, however, and had intended to spend the night and drive home very early in the morning.  We called to reserve a car while we were standing in customs, and the man on the phone said we could pick it up at 7:30, but when we got to the counter, we were told there were no more cars left on the lot.

I won't describe Ili's response.

So. . . new plan.  I went to stand in the long line at the Avis counter and Ili went to the short line at Budget.  She called me and said she was at the counter, so I abandoned my spot and joined her.  Half an hour later, we had a car.  By now, however, I didn't want to go to the hotel.  I was stinky and beat, and I didn't think I could fall asleep.  I just wanted to drive the 3.5 hours home.  We "talked" this over, and when we got on the road, I took the exit to the highway.  The decision was made.

When we got to the highway, though, all I could see were big balls of light.  Flying now does something to my eyes and they don't focus for a long while after.

"Hand me my glasses," I said to Ili.  These were my reading glasses, the ones for focusing about a foot away.  The road came into view.  These were what I had to wear for the entire drive home.  Perhaps I shouldn't have been driving, you might say, but I was one of the better drivers on the road that night. Cars were speeding up and slowing down and cutting in and out of lanes.  Semi tractor trailers were swerving off the highway.  It was nightmare dangerous out there that night.

But we got home safely, and within minutes had crashed into a deep sleep.

We both were due back to work in the morning.  Showers and coffees and breakfast sandwiches from Wawa were our entry back into American life.  Paris was an artifact, a mental map. . . a memory.  We were back to the daily grind.  The factory whistle was blowing.  We were in Trumpland once again.

After the long trip home, my hips and back haven't been the same.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Paris #7



Our last full day in Paris, we decided to chill, walk the streets, eat, drink, and buy presents.

I couldn’t get out of bed until nine-thirty. We putzed around and had coffee, but I was definitely dragging. Ili loves me and acted as if she were dragging, too. We did little. We went to breakfast on the Ile St. Louis at the St. Regis, one of the best places there. We ate and then went shopping for presents to take home. I bought Ili a stylish hat and my mother a silk scarf.  Ili bought herself a beret and some clothes to make her tres Parisian.

After shopping, we came home and put away the groceries we had bought, and then went out again for another marketing district Ili had read about.  Sauntered through the streets, some more pedestrian than others, past "le sex shops," and onward to a marketing street where we sat with cheese and wine for a bit to soak in the atmosphere.  We had walked a good long way, and when we decided to take the metro back, we discovered that Ili's pass had expired.  We walked a good long way again to a station where we could purchase a day pass.  We headed toward the apartment.



But not home. Ili wanted to shop on the Left Bank, so we crossed the bridge and braved the crowd. We got chocolates for people back home, stopped again for a glass of wine, and sadly said our goodbye's.  Our Paris days were coming to a close.

There is no way to see Paris in a week.  

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Paris #6



So. . . not everyone gets a kick out of my Paris narrative.  Too this, too that.  O.K.  It will be over soon.  And I won't puke in any more of the posts.

Sunday was a rainy day in Paris with a long morning of coffee and pastries and slow conversation.  We knew it was a museum day, and we knew it would be so for everyone, but what can you do.  We took the metro to the Louvre.  We had booked tickets for entry that would let us skip the line, and so we sauntered up to the "special" entrance like a couple of BoBos on vacation.  The line we were in, however, was not the line we were supposed to be in, and the nice man in a uniform told us we had to go to the Pyramid entrance. . . blah, blah, blah.  And then he turned to answer questions from someone else.  Ili was ready to turn back, but my bad old kid training from growing up in a bad old place had me pull her on and into the museum this special way we were not supposed to go.

"He doesn't care," I said.  "He has lots to do and we don't matter."

And we were in.

We walked the corridors of the vast old museum that was one a palace and then an abandoned edifice where gypsies and prostitutes camped under the ornate colonnades and in the courtyards.  What is there to tell about a museum, really.  We saw ancient artifacts that turned out to be replicas or partial artifacts rebuilt.  We saw the early European paintings but mostly enjoyed the works from the Byzantine era.  There was a mile long line to get in to see the famous Mona Lisa, so we decided to cut out for some lunch and a tour of the Gare d'Orsay.  Leaving the Louvre behind, I knew it was not my favorite museum by any stretch.

The Orsay may be one of them.  But it was Sunday and rainy and even the special pass that lets you skip the general line was an hour's wait.

"Look.  I think we can sneak in here."

"No."

"Hurry up.  C'mon."

"No."

We would miss seeing the Gare d'Orsay.  

We went across the street to a cafe and sat under the awning with the heaters blaring.  The wet streets of Paris and the umbrellas and raincoats look wonderful from a dry perch with glasses of wine and baskets of bread and cheese and a big bowl of beef bourguignon.  The bourguignon became a hit with everyone who came to sit after us.

"What's that?"

Yes, they were all Americans.  I don't mind Americans the way others seem to, considering them a plague of locusts on the natural scene.  I know what they mean, but I don't mind so much.  Paris is, in many ways, a giant theme park sustained by tourist dollars.  You don't go to Paris to get away from tourists.  For that, El Salvador is a great bet, or maybe Nicaragua.  But Paris is now thoroughly Americanized.  Everyone seems to speak English now, and they are nice about it, too.  They used to speak it but not to tourists, or if they did, it was with a demeaning snarl, but now, they smile and say, "Of course," and as I've said, I feel myself a dolt for being so mono-lingual.  I would try to cobble together some French but the words never sounded right and were always half in Spanish.

But the tables around us filled with beef bourguignon on a cold and rainy Paris Sunday.

But no, I exaggerate. Not everyone was American, truly.  They just all spoke English.  The couple next to us and the first to order the beef stew after smelling mine were from Italy.  Then there were some Brits, and then a table of four elderly Americans.  And everyone ordered the stew.  The waitress complimented me on my choice.

And then there were some French women two tables down.  One of them seemed to be the focus and the other two primped her, then one of them, a pretty French Asian, took out a camera and began taking pictures of the woman who was posing as if for magazine ads.

"Another instagram-famous 'model'," said Ili, and we watched with great but subdued mirth.

"Funny.  It is going to say 'Pasta and Pizza' behind her."

And sure enough, it did.  The next day, Ili saw her instagram feed on the Paris fashion page.  Remember, it was Fashion Week in Paris, so this was happening all around the town.


So I exaggerate.  It is not all Americans filling the cafes.  It only takes a few to make it seem so.  

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Awful Tower



And then. . . the disaster. We decided to take the metro to the Eiffel Tower that night.  Easy. We crossed the bridge and got onto the M1. The only problem was that it was the wrong M1. There is one on the left and one on the right bank. We stumbled around for an hour looking for the correct station, and the blame began to fly. I took her one way, she took me another. In the end, defeated and beaten, we found a cab and took it. He ripped us off ($25), but at that point, I didn’t care.

He let us off at the base of the tower. It was enormous, and it was lit. A cold wind was blowing, and it was Sunday night.  Still, there were crowds mingling all about. We wandered a bit looking for an entrance, wondering how much money it would cost us to get in.

It was free. 

We passed through a security check to the park inside where we read that the tower was closed for the night at the higher levels due to high winds.  That was O.K. with Ili as she didn’t want to get into an open elevator anyway.  We wandered around a bit looking at the metal structures and the junk shops, and in a very short while, we decided to go. 

We were hungry and it was late, but the restaurant that Ili had wanted to go to was at least 15 minutes away. We hemmed and hawed and went to a cafe across the street to figure things out. We sat at a crummy table and ordered drinks. A sullen waiter brought what was the worst glass of wine I have ever had to the grimy table. It had taken far too long to get here.  We had walked all day and made mistakes all night.  Sullen, perhaps defeated, we decided to look for the metro back to our little home.

We walked in the direction of the metro station that Google gave us. We mapped it and walked by it and decided it was further up and walked some more. Up to an overpass where trains were running, back to a subway hole that had nothing to do with our metro (or so we thought).  Eventually, we decided that we were to take the C train. We boarded, happy, as it had the Notre Dame listed as one of its stops. But at the Gare d’Orsay, we were told that we were at the last stop. Ejected, we had no idea where to go. We quarreled with one another over maps and directions, a classic battle, and then asked an information person for help. She told us that the C was closed and we would need to take two metro trains to get home. We walked up stairs, through tunnels, down stairs and through more tunnels but finally we came to the metro platform with the correct letter and number.  Then a couple stops and we got off to make a connection.   Then another three stops, but when we got up to leave, the door would not open. We ran anxiously to another door, but we were too late.  

We got off at the next stop.  

We tried to laugh it off and did a pretty good job, but we were beat and tired and just wanted to get home. Too tired for a cafe, too tired to cook, we warmed left over pasta, ate cheese and bread and drank wine and whiskey and watched a Netflix comedy special starting Norm McDonald.

It was one when we went to bed.

Later that night, I woke up choking on vomit that I had tried to keep down in my sleep. It had gone into my esophagus and windpipe and it was pure HCl and was burning the heck out of my lungs and throat. I coughed until I puked.

The next morning, Juli said it was probably the blue cheese. She had not eaten any because it tasted funny to her. 

 She was probably right.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Children's Pride Parade



Here is a few of my crowd shots from the Paris Techno 2019 parade.  I went to a party of "woke" people Saturday night, and I tried to kid them that I got caught up in the Children's Pride Parade instead.  What fun, I said.  Of course, they did not think I was funny.  What's wrong with them?  They are all for letting three year olds choose their gender.  You think I got that off a Bill Burr special, but it is not true.  It is kind of true, but the couple having the party ARE letting their children be gender fluid.  I'm not complaining. They can do whatever they want with their children.  They just don't think I should be able to comment upon it.



Whatever.  Seems like tongues and crippled fingers are still "a thing."


The girls, you know, were more demure.


There is nothing like the smell of hormones and youth jacked to the gills on music and drugs.  It is Q's milieu.  I've always eschewed the crowd myself unless I was in front of it.  Oh, yea. . . Q was, too.


I'll be crying about not having any images later, but these are not very good.  They are just the only ones I got to take with a camera while I was in Paris.  Ten minutes of madness, just running and gunning in along the Seine in old Paree.


All they want to do is dance.


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Paris #5




It was what Ili called our "Cafe Day."  We began with breakfast at Cafe Flore, famous as a bohemian haunt. We were lucky to get there early as we were able to walk in and get a table. In just a few minutes, a line formed and it was impossible to get in. We ordered omelets and coffee and orange juice, and all of it was good. We sat next to some poor woman from Chicago who looked worn down. She picked a conversation with Juli and told a sad tale of her Paris hardships. She talked to the people on the other side of her as well, a strange looking trio who answered her questions amiably. She was lonely. On the other side of us sat “a blogger model,” an Italian woman who posed for portraits taken by her Brit friend dressed in a tight fitting fashion suit semi-hipster style. They didn’t know how to work her camera, though, and she kept complaining to him about the pictures. They were both dressed to the nines, but she was rather mousy.  Ili said this is what people do now. They go to “Instagramable” places and make photographs. Later that evening, we would see another one sitting on the bridge on the street with her Channel bag in front of her, an instantly Instagrmable post.

We left the cafe and walked to the Luxembourg Gardens, but we had to stop at another cafe for mimosas so I could poop. It was a worthwhile stop, I assured Ili. My belly was still acting silly.  We got a bit lost on the way, but every street was interesting, so it was not a problem simply to wander and to gaze. We found the entrance to the gardens and strolled along, finding our way to the big fountain in front of the old palace. We stayed only briefly, though, for how long can you look at a cement pond, and continued on to the Cafe de Lillas where Hemingway used to write and meet with F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was pricey and we did not go in. We ambled on to the Catacombs where the line was about half a mile long. We stopped in some museum/exhibition about the Liberation of Paris so that we could use the bathroom, then headed to the Cafe Select for a fabulous goat cheese salad and drinks. We sat on the sidewalk overlooking Le Dome and could see La Coupole as well. 

Old Bohemian Paris.  

From there, we took the M4 back to the Right Bank so that Ili could buy these fabulous little cakes we had a few days earlier. As we strolled, Ili shopped and I took photos. When we arrived at the bakery, however, there was a line just shy of being as long as the one at the Catacombs. Apparently, this place was famous, too. Ili stood in line and I wandered a bit feeling what it would be like to come to Paris alone. When I came back, Ili was inside. She bought many cakes. We had packages to carry.

Heading home, just at the bridge back to the Island, there was a HUGE parade going by. It was a tech music parade, very weird, and I grabbed my camera and Ili let me have ten or so minute to make pictures. The crowd was young and funny. At one point, one of the big floats or trailers or whatever stopped and everyone started and singing and jumping up and down to some song. It all seemed joyful, and when I came back to where Ili stood, I was laughing and singing. She told me I had the words wrong. She knew the song. It was by Katy Perry and had been remixed to a techno beat. 

 Ahh. I grow old, I grow old.

We made our way back to the Ille St. Louis and Ili did some more shopping. She bought a couple sweaters, some pants, and a scarf. Then we did some marketing and bought things for dinner—tortellini, sauce piquant, a baguette, and some chocolates. The difference between a hotel room and an apartment.

I was struggling by this time, my left knee and right hip done for, my lower back just mush. When we got back to the apartment, I poured a scotch and sunk into the couch while Ili made dinner. She boiled the tortollini and heated the sauce and prepared the goat cheese and ham salad from the night before. It was perfect. We ate that and had wine and talked about our day.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Interlude



There is more Paris narrative  coming, but let me break a moment to reflect on other things.  Sunday marked one year since I was run over.  That is what I thought, anyway, but yesterday my mother told me something that has stayed with me since.  A friend of hers is the mother of a fellow I worked out with at the old muscle gym years ago.  My mother said that her son was sitting at a cafe having lunch when I had my accident.  He didn't know it was me, but he saw me go flying through the air, across the street and into the grass on the other side.

"It must have been landing in the grass that kept you from having a head injury," my mother said.

I never knew I went flying.  I don't remember anything but a white light and the words that went through my mind in that millisecond--"Fuck, this is really bad."

I must have been out a very long time, and now I worry about future neurological damage.  But the knowledge that someone I know saw me fly through the air is haunting.

After my first day and night in the hospital, I remember very little.  But I must have been lucid that night.  I remember the trauma center, remember the many doctors and the insertion of the chest tube while I was still awake.  I remember the priest coming and remember telling him, no, I didn't need a priest, and I remember making all my own phone calls on my cell phone.

"Hey Siri, call mom home."

They took me to intensive care that night.  My mother told me tonight at dinner that I was taken back again later because my lung would not quit bleeding.  I didn't remember that, either.

Ili is out of town, and I have been very lackadaisical this weekend.  I have been thinking about the accident, who I was before and who I am now.

Today I looked at Vespas on Craigslist.  I would like another, but I don't know if that is wise.

My friends and colleagues don't really know how bad it is, how much it hurts inside me still.  Many are able to joke about it as if it is a trifle.  I think now of all the people I have known who have been in car and motorcycle accidents who were either killed or crippled.  It turns out to be many.  My father was in a head on collision that crushed his chest, dislocated his hip, and put him in intensive care for a month.  When he came out, he was under regular care equally long.

I never knew how bad he must have felt, but I know he was never the same.

Tonight at dinner, my mother said once again that I was lucky to be alive.  I told her that I wasn't sure that I agreed.  It would have been easy to die then.  Living on at my age, that's the tough part.  But I agreed that I could have been hurt in different ways that would have been much worse.  I saw a quadriplegic in a wheelchair at the airport talking to his companions.  I couldn't look.

"That could have been you," said Ili.

Yes.

I think a lot about death now, and I think about the things that I have done, the things I would like to do.  How much time will I have to do them?  Will I have the energy and ability?

I have not been eating enough lately.  I've grown fat, and walking through Paris for so many hours a day should have made me skinny.  I have barely eaten since coming home, though, and perhaps it has left me weak, both physically and otherwise.  Tonight, however, I made a big spaghetti dinner for my mother.  You have not had my spaghetti.  It is muscle-boy spaghetti.  Tonight I made an avocado and tomato salad and steamed broccoli and cooked up too much meat for the sauce.  I bought stew beef, so lean, and had it double ground.  I put some olive oil into the pan to heat, then dumped in minced garlic just long enough to let it open up.  Then I browned the meat.  Protein spaghetti noodles, the meat, sauce.  Dinner and half a bottle of Cab Saw later, and I'm feeling like my old self again.

Look at that picture of the woman walking across the street with the Eiffel Tower behind her.  It is almost good.  One take.  Boy, if I'd been Frank Horvat or William Klein back in the fifties, I would have been great.  With some Vogue or Harpers models and a little time. . . .

I pulled out my film Leica tonight.  It feels so good in the hand.  Critics applaud the Leica M10 for feeling like the old film cameras.  It does have the same dimensions, but I have them all, and I will tell you that the film camera feels much different.  It is lighter and easier to wield.  The electronics in the digital cameras just weighs them down.  I am going to begin to carry my film Leica again.  "This is real photography," it says to me.  Later, I will remember what a pain in the ass film is, but it is a love affair when you hold the camera in your hand.  It is like dating Audrey Hepburn.

I will get back to the narrative tomorrow, but this other thing has dominated my thoughts this weekend.  It is a good thing I was alone as I was when I got hit.  It is not something you want someone to go through with you.

Oops.  Having said that, I realize that I just dragged you along.  Apologies.  I'll try to be funnier and wittier in the future.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Paris #4



Seriously, unable to photograph people in the streets, I became enamored of my iPhone.  There are apps for photos that you can only get on it.  O.K.  So this one is a bit "overdone," but what the hell.  It kept me entertained.

We got a late start once again which was easy to do in such a nice abode.  We decided to go to Montmartre that day, but I needed to buy a new metro pass.  I had lost mine the day before somehow. No, not somehow.  I lost it because I am disorganized and cavalier and am sure I dropped it when taking something else out of my pocket.  It is typical of me.  I needed to spend 35 Euros more to get another, but, compounding my efforts, the first metro stop we came to was not a station and did not sell tickets.  Onward, first by foot, then by metro.  Almost.  We still did not know how to read the metro maps, so we stood on the wrong platform waiting for a train that would never come.  Half an hour later, we had it figured out.  We headed out on the M4 finally and got off at the Montmartre station.

Emerging into the street was not what I had imagined.  The station was in a shabby area of cheap shops and ugly buildings.

"Glad we didn't stay in Montmartre," I said as our original hotel choice was in this arrondissement.  We were at the bottom of the hill and right away were required to climb.  After a few minutes, we found some stairs and walked ever up past hotels and apartments, none of which looked appealing, up and up, my legs and lungs and sweat glands pumping, until we finally came to some buildings of "repute," ornate rather than mundane, decorated rather than functional, up and on up still until finally we were standing behind the Sacre Couer.  My clothing was soaked, but I was glad to be at last standing on the top.  We made our way around to the front of the cathedral.

That is when Ili pointed to a gas powered open train bringing passengers up from the bottom of the hill.  Somewhere else, I remembered, there was a funicular.  Oh, well, we were there now and in better shape for it.

We had nothing but time, so we got into the line to enter the church which Ili claimed was 2,000 years old.

"No it isn't," I said.

"Yes it is.  I just read a plaque."

"Yes," I said, "this has been a sacred spot since Roman times, but this cathedral was not here."

Inside we read that it had been built in 1914.  It wasn't even old.

Ili is a good sport and we had great fun with that.

Signs are posted everywhere upon your entrance declaring, "No Photography," so, of course, everyone was snapping away with their iPhones.  Not I, however.  I paid a tithing and lit a candle, as did Ili.  Heathens of a Sacred Type, I guess.

After the cathedral, we made our way into town and found the Montmartre Museum, a building where Renoir most notably had a studio and painted.  The museum itself is rather kitsch, but it was nice strolling the four floors and reading about the history of Montmartre.  In the garden, we had a cup of hot chocolate before making our way into town.

We walked by the house where Satie had lived, past the Lapin where Picasso ate lunch paying each time with a drawing, a place where both Satie and Debussy played piano. We walked past Picasso’s studio. We strolled through the winding streets of cafes and shops, the Montmartre of the Bobos, we read. Juli said it was very lovely.

We stopped in a cafe for lunch and drinks and watched the crowd stroll by, then walked the winding cobbled streets stopping in shops Toby some things including the best jellied fruit candy I've ever had.  Montmartre turned out to be truly lovely after all.  

Now old metro hands, we decided to head back to our part of town, but we boarded the right metro going the wrong direction.  We got off at the first stop which was truly an awful place, then got back on track.  Back at the Ile de la Cite, however, we took a bunch of wrong turns getting back to the apartment which was only a few blocks away and did a big loop in the sudden rain that soaked us through and through.  Well, old buildings and flower stalls can fool you.  But wine and cheese and bread and dry clothes put us right, and after awhile we decided to stroll the Latin Quarter for a bit.  

First stop was Shakespeare and Co. of course, but it was crowded in a crazy, hectic way unlike my previous visits there so long ago, and though the rooms are filled with books, I felt as if I'd read them all before, or at least the ones that count, but maybe I was simply tired.  I walked through the crowded rooms then came outside to sit in the tiny courtyard for a minute.  It was just too much.
We headed back away from the river through the winding, narrow pedestrian streets that were jammed with people and businesses. It reminded me of a circus or a fair. It was the sort of place that  intrigued me in my twenties and thirties but which held little interest for me now. Ili wanted to eat at one of the restaurants, but I was wary of places that had street hawkers barking you in. She wanted to get a cocktail, she said, and so we wandered on. We were both getting weary and a bit cranky and ended up in a shitty little hole of a place where we ordered two very bad drinks that we left sitting on the bar.

When we finally crossed back over the bridge to the tranquil island, we went to a quiet restaurant and sat at an  outside table, but you know how it is when things start to go south.  It is hard to turn that cart around. Dinner wasn't as fun as it might have been.  We were weary and I was old, I think.  I hadn't been up to partying in the Latin Quarter, or so it seemed, and it hung heavy on me.  I was doing my best, but the days were long and physical, and I was a man still trying to recover from the other thing.  A city can be tough on you, even Paris.

We made our way back to our apartment in the dark.  


Saturday, October 5, 2019

Paris #3



We woke to garbage trucks and the pounding of workers. The sky was grey. We stayed in the apartment until noon-ish, then headed out for the Pompidou Center, across the bridge onto the Right Bank. Our first stop was at the Hotel de Ville where we spent about $100 on museum tickets for the week. It felt like a mistake, but that is what all the guidebooks say to do.

Armed with tickets, we pushed on. We found the Pompidou which was under heavy renovation and was confusing to navigate, but after some clumsy minutes, we made our way to the 5th floor where the paintings of Francis Bacon were exhibited. I was excited, but after standing in a long line and were nearing the entrance, we were told that we would need to purchase another ticket to see the show. Our passes were only for the museum, the woman explained, and not for the gallery. We would have needed to spend another $22, and Ili was not enthused, so we went down to the 4th floor to see the modern painters. Nice. The third floor was contemporary art and was dull, minimalist, and pedantic. The usual fiber and lights hung from the ceilings, the usual tube worms projected from the floor. Video displays that made little sense were showing. Neither of us were excited by what we saw there.

We exited and stopped for lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant. Chicken soup, or their version of it. It was just what we needed, Ili said. Keep us healthy.

From there, we wandered the crooked streets to the Picasso Museum. Along the way, we stopped for cappuccinos at an Arab cafe and sat street side. Ili said it was the best coffee she ever had.

Ili liked the Picasso Museum, she said.  She liked the old building and grounds that held it.  We walked the four floors of the museum looking at some Picassos I’d never imagined.  Always a surprise, that Picasso.

When we left, it was late afternoon moving toward early evening. We stopped and shopped along the way, first buying a baguette and some flan, then stopping for a wonderful cake that we would eat later. We crossed the bridge at the Ille St. Louis and went first to the wine shop, then to the cheese shop. I decided to buy a bottle of scotch which was practically the same price as I pay at home. We ambled across the bridge to the Ille de la Cite and to our little home. A glass of organic wine, some bread and cheese, and talk of the day.

We decided to eat at the little restaurant around the corner claiming to be the oldest restaurant in Paris having opened in 1589 or some similar date. It was small, almost cramped. Another couple entered just before us, and we were all instructed to go upstairs. The dining room was empty and dark and the other couple complained in Italian and used their iPhone to light the way.  The waiter encouraged us on vociferously until he could reach the light. There were just the four of us, but Juli thought it fine. She ordered wine and snails and duck in orange sauce. I had the rabbit in mustard sauce. The waiter, Freddie, was a singer who spoke five or six languages, seven if he had been drinking, he said. He was a funny fellow. He invited us down into the courtyard to see a new gallery that had opened. It was not so much a gallery as a spiritualist place that taught yoga and had massage and hypnosis. The artist whose paintings hung upon the walls had an accident and a near death experience, the woman in charge told us, and he had a vision and began painting. The woman was an ex-aerospace engineer, "If you can believe that," she said. She showed us pamphlets of castles that her group owned where they conducted seminars with spiritual leaders from around the world. The art was awful.

Back upstairs, I said that if I had that vision after my accident, I would just go ahead and die. Juli was enamored of the place and I said it was Amway.

When we left, Freddie poured us two glasses of wine for the road.  He knew our apartment and the Americans who own it. She is famous, he said. She organizes dinners for Trump and Macron when they meet. Intriguing.

We finished off the night with some whiskey and exhausted, we went to bed. 

 I woke at two when I began to puke in my sleep.  I almost died the rock star death, asphyxiating in my own vomit.  I began to cough and puke, the acid from my stomach burning my trachea and larynx.  

Ili said she thought it was the cheese from the cheese monger with the dirty fingernails since we shared the dinner and she didn't get sick.  Maybe.  

I wondered why they never showed this sort of thing on any of Anthony Bourdain's shows.  No matter.  If you don't want to take chances, you should just stay home.  

Friday, October 4, 2019

Paris #2



We woke to rain and were grateful that we had an apartment with coffee and croissants and lovely places to lounge.  It would have been a terrible day to be cloistered in a hotel room, we said as we watched the parade of umbrellas walking along the Seine.  So we lingered for a couple hours until the rain cleared away, then we wandered out across the bridge to the Left Bank and walked toward the Eiffel Tower.  For those of you who know Paris, you will realize how distorted my very old mind-map of Paris was, but it led us on a lovely walk through winding, narrow streets, down cobbled alleyways, past specialty shops, through all that invokes old Paris.  Iliana was, as I had hoped, enamored.

Soon, we were hungry and stopped in a small restaurant and had some wine and a French Burger.  I don't remember burgers on the menus from my previous trips, but now it seemed they had taken over the city as have American tourists.  Almost everywhere we went, people spoke English.  As I remember, they always were able but wouldn't.  Now, it seems, they speak everything.  I can read French much better than I can speak it, but I know words and phrases and can even make complete sentences sometimes, but every time I opened my mouth, Spanish came out.  "Lo siento," I would say, or "Con su permisso."

"Why do you keep doing that?" Ili would ask me.

"I don't know.  I can't help it.  That's just what comes out."

I felt myself a dolt compared to the cosmopolitan speakers we encountered, but everyone was very nice, a contrast to the old stereotypes which from my experience held some truths.  It didn't hurt to have Ili with me, of course, as people tend to smile at her anyway, and the contrast between the two of us couldn't be greater.  Yes, I'm sure people were nicer to us because of it.

After lunch, we wandered back across the bridge through the courtyard of the Louvre where people posed ceaselessly for pictures in front of the Pyramid.  Instagram.  The Asians were the best posers, we decided, and the best dressers, relentless and unafraid.  We admired them.

We made our way to the Champs Elysees which Ili cared little for after the beautiful winding streets of the Left Bank, then to the Arc de Triomphe.  Down the tunnel under the street emerging at the base, Ili wanted to see the view.  O.K.  We entered through security and then. . . horrors!  I hadn't thought about being crippled until faced with a winding spiral staircase.  Oh, shit, I said.  Well, we'd see.  Ili looked concerned.  Nope, I said, I'm fine, and off we went.  I don't know if there is some permanent damage in my left lung as I haven't been to a pulmonologist, but breathing when exerting myself becomes very problematic.  In the old days. . . yada, yada, yada.  But this isn't the old days, and you take what you can get.  I'll admit that Ili took my pack, but I don't think she needed to.  I stopped once or twice just to see how I was doing, but we made it to the top without slowing people down.  It was fine.

And stretched as far as the eyes could see was Paris.  The view was as fine as we had read, arguably the best in the city.

We made our way back to the apartment in the fading light making our first sojourn to the metro.  Back at the apartment, having walked from noon 'til dark, we collapsed.  A bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, some cheese, and an order of frog legs that Ili picked up at a cafe near our place.  We were in for the night, exhausted and happy.

I couldn't have walked another block.  Showers and fresh linens and sleep.


Thursday, October 3, 2019

Paris



Let me begin by quoting from an article in yesterday's N.Y. Times:

Researchers asked the young single people to allocate points to eight attributes in a potential partner: physical attractiveness, good financial prospects, creativity, kindness, humor, religiosity, chastity, and a desire for children.
The top trait that was universally desired was kindness. After that, men favored physical attractiveness while women favored good financial prospects.
The bottom three? Creativity, chastity, and religiosity.

“It always surprises me with this task that creativity takes a back seat to most other traits, and this pattern was repeated in our large cross-cultural comparison,” researcher Andrew G. Thomas tells . “Highly successful creative individuals, such as musicians and artists, are often highly desirable mates, but maybe what’s actually being valued here is not creativity as such but the social status that accompanies it.”
We made our trip across the Atlantic like champs, driving four hours to the distant airport, then eating a flatbread and two orders of spicy wings and drinking two rums and two beers.  We were ready.  Of course we flew "Zone Five,"  and you know what that means.  It's how you get cheap tickets.  Zone Five.  But it's o.k..  We were allowed to board the plane after everyone was seated and sipping their champagne.  We bumped our way to the back of the plane and squeezed/fell into our 29.5 inches of seating.  Nine and a half hours of air time.  We watched the Air France safety video (link) which put me in a very good mood.  I felt like I was flying in the good old days when aesthetics were different, a thing.  Later, when we were under way, as they say, they brought us our champagne, too.  It wasn't a bad champagne and they were kind and brought us some more.  Then there was a light supper that wasn't objectionable, then the pills that keep you calm.  I woke from time to time in a panic/rage at not being able to move, knees tight against the seat in front, metal arm rest separating ribs eight and nine, but I was out for the most part until we landed in Paris.

It was a rainy day.

Our apartment was not ready.

We went to lunch on the Ile St. Louis.

And then. . . we were home, or what would be home for the next week.


Home was a lovely pied a terre directly behind the Cathedral de Notre Dame.  We had a kitchen, a living room, a bedroom, and a bath.  Our windows overlooked the Seine River and the Hotel de Ville directly across from us on the other side.  The building was 17th century with hand carved ceiling beams.  It was out of a good film, owned, we were told later by Freddie the Singing Waiter (more on him another time) by Americans who were famous for arranging dinners between Macron and Trump.  In the streets surrounding us were all the cafes and restaurants and brasseries we would need.  

Ili is wonderful at organizing things and she soon made the apartment our own.  We had decided, of course, not to nap but to head straight out into the streets.  We would sleep that night.  And so. . . we descended the one flight of stairs, opened the giant wooden door that people were often posing by for pictures, and turned the corner bordering the cathedral.  I, of course, had camera in hand, and from the hip, I shot my first picture, a street sweeper.  It was innocuous, nothing.  

But he went mad.  I told you this would happen, that I would likely end up in jail.  I tried to ignore his calls, but he followed us down the street.  I would never have paid attention to him, but Ili turned around and told him I hadn't taken his picture which I am sure she believed was true.  He was a big, young African Arab and he would not leave us alone.  As he wouldn't relent, however, my blood, or what I have left of it, began to boil, and I turned angry and stepped toward him.  I said some very true things that put him on his heals which thrilled me as it seemed I would escape a beating at his hands, but Ili was not as thrilled as I.  I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was ready to move on, so the angry man said his final words and left us alone.  But the awful slime of the event stayed with us.  

I had already spoiled Ili's trip and we hadn't been on the street for five minutes.  

Refer back to the N.Y. Times quote.  

That, my friends, was the end of my Paris street photography adventure.  I couldn't chance another encounter with Ili there.  It is o.k. for me, but it is too hard on her.  And not fair.  We came to Paris together for love and happiness, not street photography strife.  I put my cameras away, or at least never took another street portrait.  What you will see from my Paris trip will be buildings and monuments.  What tales you will hear will be sweet and funny, however, for we had a truly fabulous time.  

But they were right.  Creativity is far down on the list of desired qualities in a relationship.  Lower, I think, than I ever imagined.  

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Au Revoir



This will probably be my last post for awhile.  When I get back, though, I should have some new pictures.  Not as many as I should, probably, for I will be on a romantic trip and should not think about making photographs all the time.  Ili would not like that so much.  Handholding and window shopping and flea marketing and cafe sitting. . . you know.

Still, it is important to make other people jealous in that Instagram/Facebook way.

Deplorable.

I am really not so good at that kind of picture making, anyway.

I have much to do today, from packing to arranging a rental car to hosting a plumber to seeing my tax guy.  Pre-travel nerves abound.

If you don't here from me for awhile, it doesn't mean I don't care.  It only means I am otherwise engaged.

Au revoir.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Preparations and Potential Delays



The electrician is still at the house.  Couldn't finish it all in one day.  I guess that is why it is expensive.  I think everything is expensive, though, and I don't know how other people afford to live. They have boats and new cars and giant tvs and vacations.  Every year for the past many, I have had to forego my vacations because the house needed painting or roofing or plumbing or. . . .   I am one of those Americans that has left vacation days on the table.  Lost.  Kaput.

I travelled more when I worked less and had much less money.  I'm not sure how that works.  I guess one learns how to deal.  I bought used cars, used tires, used batteries, used clothes.  True.

But I know that is not how other people do it.  No, I don't know that.  I don't know what they do.  I'm finding out a lot about stretching money.  Bogo (twofers) is fun.  I'm learning which days of the week to buy certain things at certain stores.  I'm learning about outlet stores, too.

"That's a nice jacket.  D'ya pay retail?"

Panic about the trip sets in.  There is a hurricane that will be off the coast the day we are to fly out.  We could be in for it.  I can't control it and should just relax, but it is not my nature.  I must stress.

The electrician should be done today.  Plumber tomorrow.  These guys make me nervous.  How do you know if they know what they are doing?  You don't.  You just never do.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Anxious



The electrician is here.  The power will go off soon, so I rush to make a post.  They are charging out my electric boxes on the outside walls of the house.  It looks like rain.  Not a good day to be working with electricity outside, I'd say.  My luck.  He said it will take the entire day to complete the job.  I no longer need to go to work, but without electricity, I do not wish to stay here, so off to work I go.

These last days before the trip have become too busy, too much.  It is always so.  I got my car fixed yesterday.  After today. . . the plumber.

I hope to be this girl with a camera in Paris soon.  There is a tropical storm brewing that could change my flight.  Everything stresses me out.

I can't wait to be a flaneur.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Kerflumpt Again



I'm no good at being off.  It is a hard fact to face.  I treat days off like weekends (which are not really fully relaxed days if you work), getting up, reading, going to the gym, showering, eating, taking care of whatever business needs taking care of, until it is time to go marketing, make dinner, sit down with Ili and perhaps turn on the television.

This is not the way I plan to spend my time away from the factory.  Mid-afternoon today, I had to get out of the house.  I had done the early things, and the irrigation repairman had just left.  It was two, then two-thirty.  I answered work email.  Then, in a fit of frustration, I bolted.  I went to the local hipster coffee shop.  And when I walked into the very crowded room, I saw one of my factory workers sitting at a table with her laptop.  I felt like a boss when I walked over to say hello, but of course nobody is treating me like a boss any longer.  I am the soon to be gone boss.

I soon will be boss-no-longer.  Then what am I?  I will need to be "one becoming."  Weird this late in my career, as the song almost goes.  I will have to learn a new way of being.  It hit me suddenly that I wasn't as groovy as once I was.  I remember the days of yore when I was a freedom whore, lying about sunning on docks, sitting in cafes, walking the boulevard.  It has been so long, I had forgotten the feeling.

It came back to me in a rush.  So did the fact that I wasn't that guy any longer.

I am going to have to learn.  Re-learn.

I wish kerflumpt were a word.  That is how I'm feeling now.  Verklempt, maybe.  I don't know.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Rhythm


Preparations are already frantic.  Each day, we remember something else we need to buy or do.  I am nervous, of course, as always before a big trip.  Excessively so.  Today we went to the airport to get our TSA pre-check boarding permits.  Why I haven't done this before, I don't know.  But now, we may have done it too late to effect the Paris flight.

C'est la vie.  

We will pack light.  Ili plans to buy Parisian.  I struggle with which cameras I will take along.  Surely a Leica, maybe a Sony, too.  Suddenly, though, the camera bag gets bigger.  Is it worthwhile?

Probably not.

Both Ili and I are struggling with some malady.  We are tired, listless, slow.

Today we booked the mandatory river cruise on the Seine.  We've yet to buy any museum tickets as all guidebooks recommend.  Why are things so difficult in the contemporary world?  Too many people, too much access, I guess.  In the old days, I never even pre-booked flights.  Just hopped on a plane and got a room when I arrived.

And the streets were paved with gold.

I've booked an irrigation repairman, an electrician, and a mechanic this week.  I still need a plumber.  And I will go to the factory on Wednesday.

Being off work is not all it is cracked up to be so far.  I don't have my rhythm yet, I guess.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Once Romantic



Apparently, I used to be a romantic.  I got out some old Paris guidebooks I used back in the 1990s.  Looking through, there was much underlining and many notations.  Mostly, it was of or about cafes with ** or *** and $ or $$ dollar signs.  Mostly two stars, one dollar sign.  And, of course, there was all the art and literary stuff, old Lost Generation hangouts or Henry Miller's apartment or places where the post impressionists lived and worked.  I'm going to take these books with me anyway as they have all the historical locations that the new guidebooks do.  I think I already know my way around Paris, but I will surely be surprised.

There was a time when I used to comment on this (link).  I also liked the old, romantic catalogs.

All of that is gone.

I went to Shakespeare and Co. back then and met the owner, George Whitman.  His baby girl was running around the store.  As I've said before, he invited me to stay in one of the upstair rooms, but I had other plans.


Now Sylvia, his daughter, runs the shop.  I will go and hope to see her there.

I had also noted all the mountain shops in Paris.  I remember visiting them.  I'm pretty sure I won't bother this time around.

I'm making lists of galleries and museums and the best flea markets.  I want to buy things and bring them home.



I delivered a paper there at a famous conference once.  That was back when I used to be somebody.



Sunday, September 15, 2019

Perception and Reality



I feel mute in the contemporary milieu.  Marginalized.  Condemned.  It is Trump's fault.  Or not.  Everything is a reaction to him, I feel, every righteous movement.  If you are at all irreverent or disagree with the new ideology, you are like Trump.  It is Bizzarro World.  Old liberals are not left enough.  They are considered Republicans.  I can't even bring myself to write what I think on my own blog anymore.  It is a viscous, punishing world.

Besides, I got my hair done on Friday the 13th, and it looks like shit.  I look like an old banker or something.  Jesus, why did I go on the 13th?  It will be months before I look anything like myself again.  Or what was myself.

Today, though, I got educated backup for what I've always said.  The economy is based on perception, not reality.  Well, perception is reality.  But Schiller the economist will get the credit.  This from today's N.Y. Times online:


The probability that a recession will come soon — or be severe when it does — depends in part on the state of ever-changing popular narratives about the economy. These are stories that provide a framework for piecing together the seemingly random bits of information that one picks up from friends, the news or social media.

For consumers these narratives affect decisions on whether to spend or save, whether to take a demanding or an easy job, whether to take a risk or stick with something safer. For businesspeople the prevailing narratives affect deliberations on whether to hire more help or lay off employees, whether to expand or retrench or even start a new enterprise.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Strange



The Friday 13th full moon fucked me up, I think.  It was either that or my trying to quit drinking whiskey.  Harvest Moon, one of my favorites.  But things got screwed up here and I am feeling sick.  Today I read a story in the N.Y. Times that I will be eating and breathing lead while staying in my pied de terre in Paris.  The roof of Notre Dame was made of it.  I don't need anything more to retard me.

Things are strange here in cafe.  I'll try to weather the storm.