lundi, octobre 31, 2005

First Moment of Home Sicked

I subscribe to the internet radio service "Live365." After arriving on these foreign shores my internet hours have exploded, and REPOSE has come from this musical smorgasboard. The revelation has been discovering a live feed from KSPC, the renowned broadcaster from the Inland Empire's very own Claremont Colleges. This is one of the very few stations that can claim the distinction of having broadcast Exit House, a lo-fi band of startling obscurity which counted me as a sort of singer.

With Halloween coming, I am especially keen to listen (and record, where possible, via CD Spin Doctor from Toast 7), as many Halloween-themed shows as possible. It is a very juvenile preoccupation, picked up as a kid listening to Dr. Demento. I still listen to tapes I made from the long defunct KMET when I was 12 or 13--over twenty years ago, my friends.

I am recording a KSPC show tonight, awake past bedtime with my hands on the controls, capturing the best bits from Randy Brian's great "Forward into the Past," a show I used to listen to (and record!) in 1987. The show is just what you'd expect, lots of songs from the 30's to early 50's, with a few half-hour old-time radio shows thrown in, too. There aren't really commercials, but every hour or so the DJ takes a minute to announce some community happening or other. This hour's bit was an announcement that next Saturday there was going to be a special W.W.II warplane lecture and demonstation at the Chino Airport (yes, we have one), and for a minute, not remembering where I was, I became flooded with enthusiasm, "Oh, man, we should go! It's not that far, it's just, it's just..18 hours or so, by jet."

Not really homesickness, but smacked by the realization, "I am far, far from what used to be home."

dimanche, octobre 30, 2005

Inexcusable Hubris

I went to Le Louvre today, but it was rotten. Had a serious bout of hubris, seeing three people planted around the "Bound Hessian" doing mediocre studies, and full of cocky-cock fer no justifiable reason, I decide to stand nearby and blast out what I planned to be a dominating study of a radically foreshortened view, done straight ahead in ink, without the aid of a penciled layout, and utilizing a battered brush pen.

(Already I'm blaming the tools...)

What a total dog bone. That taught me a lesson--y'know, the same lesson I've been getting taught with regularity ever since I first picked up a drawing implement (which have quite often been faulty, it must be said).

10 minutes into this mess, (the first one, the worst one, on the left--CLICK IMAGE to see larger, if you dare), I was blazing crimson in embarrassment, sweat pouring over my body and dripping into the most unnatural places. I gave up, just walked away, and found a window sill to lay my pad on, rest for a second, tried to cool off and collect myself, then decided to go back at it and see if I couldn't find some better solutions in a quick second study. It was done from memory, and that execrable first study. I think you'll agree it's much more palatable than the (let's face it) completely indigestible first effort. But still not good.

So why show it here? If anyone is interested enough in this blog to be reading about our life and struggles over here, I owe them some honest insight into the process of artistic growth. What better way than showing the evolution of my sketches, both long and short--and good or bad.

About the drawing: I'm not skilled enough to do tonal studies in black ink. Line should be the girding force for any ink drawing I attempt, not tone. Using line successfully is one of my glaring weaknesses, maybe my weakest, but that's why I'm forcing myself to do these studies. I am way too sculptural in my approach, and I consistently fail to grasp the graphic possibilities. In the second drawing, I think the pectoral/ribcage skin folds that cross the body are a better graphic solution to the problem of inking a dark bronze sculpture with no clear directional light source. But then, the ham-fisted thickness of these way-too-similar lines that cut horizontally through the torso have the effect of cutting the poor sculpture into something like salami slices. Not pretty. And that's on the GOOD one.

Here's the bulk of the day's work, mildly rearranged on the page to facilitate Blogspot layout. I STARTED with the kneeling cupid figure--it was kinda downhill afterwards, tho' I like the little museum-goer studies. It's a good lesson in how these things get away from you, and how hard it can be to regroup.

I don't know what's going on with that girl.

Had a decent cappuccino at one of the cafés inside the Louvre and did a sketch of a funny family where the wife was icily poised (in designer jeans and knee-high, six-inch-heel boots--worn to see the Louvre!), the father cross-armed and sullen in his low-key euro-chic, and their three preteen-to-early-teen boys arranged between them, all three sons with wildly gelled hair, hipster-baggy skater clothing, and bodies already beginning to chub up in a way unrecognizable as being related to their self-consciously attractive parents. But I won't bore you with the uneven sketch I made of this scene.

Oh, such a long way to go....

samedi, octobre 29, 2005

Packing the Trunk

This acronym was meaningless to uneducated me until I became involved with Dear Wife. Back in 1999 when we began to fall in love, Dear Wife was applying to grad schools. By fall of 2000 she had moved four hours North to Santa Barbara, and The Great Trial began. I think it was in the process of finishing her Master's Thesis that I first became aware of "ABD." Now it looms over our lives like the buzzard in "Porgy an' Bess".

It's a grad school designation for "All But Dissertation," referring to the fulcrum moment in a student's life when there are no more courses to be completed for your advanced degree, and no more exams to pass, just the writing and acceptance of your dissertation.

Dear Wife is past this fulcrum moment, and beginning her full immersion into writing her dissertation, a sort of harrowing period where you find out if you've "got what it takes" to sit down and pull together disparate strands of research and then have it all coalesce into a quality volume of 150 pages or so. That's really why we're over here (and you thought it was for my blog). So when Dear Wife spotted this tree, its scuffed trunk looming behind our outdoor table at a café in Place St. Michel, it was viewed as a particularly relevant sign (good? bad? we could only tremble and guess). "Oh, we've got to get a picture!"

Was it carved by a triumphant, would-be scholar, just finished with their qualifying exams and ready to take on "The Big Write"? Or was it a last gesture from some anonymous despondent, a warning carved by the pen-knife of an humiliated wash-out, an epitaph intended for everyone unable to emerge from that most dangerous limbo stage of incipient scholarship, "ABD"?

And then I had a dream about Dear Wife's dissertation myself. That was this morning, not at the café. I’ve never ever had a stress dream on behalf of anyone else before. It appeared during that last stretch of sleep before I had to wake, that self-indulgent plateau where you’re conscious the room is bright now, but you roll over and fall back into sleep. The dream took place in that future moment when Dear Wife will be done with her dissertation, when it has been accepted and approved, and she is expecting graduation, perhaps even that day. But in a shabby conference room Dear Wife’s advisors were standing huddled, discussing something between themselves and then distilling these conversations into quick comments for Dear Wife, who sat at a table looking alarmed. Dear Wife said little in response. Every few moments an advisor would turn and stride out of the room, through a doorway that went into some other, more important room barred to us. I took advantage of my familiarity with the husband and wife who serve as Dear Wife’s primary advisors and began asking questions. I was concerned and wanted to know what was going on—why was Dear Wife seated stone still and sweating? Wasn’t all this dissertation stuff finished business? What’s the problem? They were evasive. The husband left abruptly, departed to the more important room. I wanted answers. The wife left too, but promised she’d be back. I turned to Dear Wife, aware I may have upset the process by inserting myself. “Are you OK?” I asked. She looked shell-shocked. Terror grew on her face as she tried to speak. That’s when I woke up.

Now that is evidence of stress as contagion. And this thing isn’t due for years.

I'd like to promise you that this will be the last time I write about a dream.

But I'm just not ready to do that.

vendredi, octobre 28, 2005

Way Too Tasty

Today we met with our real estate agent, our "agente d'apartament," to sign the papers for the new apartment. They were very nice, very upfront, and the apartment remains six flights up. The price begins to make more sense...but nevertheless, relief begins to enfold us.

Best slice of chocolate molleaux yet, purchased on the walk home from coffee, and eaten after dinner. Wherefrom? A little boulangerie unnoticed before now, discovered on a new route home from Le Luxembourg, "Le Pain du Prince."

They even had Halloween decorations up.

mercredi, octobre 26, 2005

I need to work on hands...

...and everything else.

Went to the Musee D'Orsay today. Went to see the current special exhibit on 19th Century Russian Art, but drew mainly from the bronzes over in the Rodin corner. I tried to be quick on each little sketch, and the quickest, loosest ones are the best. But no one will mistake it for Frazetta. I'm trying to come to grips with this new brush pen from Muji, an interesting little store that sells dour, urban clothing for men and women, bright socks made of recycled thread, and Japanese office supplies. It's just down the street from us. Bought my pad there, too, and I like it a lot--it doesn't have a lot of pages, which keeps it light, and the rear cover is stiff enough to support working hand held. More info I cannot give, for the small descriptive tag on the cover speaks only Japanese, except for the dimensions, which are 332mmx242mm, (my favorite size--thank God it's not a 293x114).

The Russian exhibit was interesting, but as I went from canvas to canvas I couldn't stop thinking of my former associates at the Atelier in Encinitas (that's San Diego country, partner), especially one Ronzelevich Lemenov. How he would love this! This man was (is?) an ardent devotée of "L'École Russe", in particular I. E. Repin, a leading light of late 19th Century painting in Russia. Repin is well represented in the show, and I kept wishing Ronzelevich were present to see Rep's work in person. What amazed me was how similar Repin's paint looked to my friend Lemenov's work--an affinity much deeper than the sort shared by Pontormo and Bronzino, for instance, or Tintoretto and Veronese. It was uncanny, and I really couldn't be sure that R. Lemenov hadn't done these--Repin even looked to be a lefty from the tilt of his script and direction of his brush strokes! The color choices, the narrow range of variation in that tightly-loose, or loosely-tight style of rendering, rigidly observed across even the most epic of scenes. A way of indicating faces, too; of moving between values on a face through toned color and surprisingly consistent texture...the complete drawing of mouths with small strokes of paint applied in accurate wedges, less conjured than in a tonalist, something almost like Rockwell but with paint twice as thick, and the same kind of magenta shift in the wet reds of a face (lips again, inner and outer canthus, nostrils) that belies the dry yellow in so much of the routine flesh. Uncanny! Also a similar size to all the short strokes of the brush, which are not at all the sort of watery dabs you get with so many painters that came after the Impressionists; nor is it like the celebrated "petite tache" of Manet, et al., (whom R. Lemenov despises)--no, they populate their work (R. Lemenov anf I. E. Repin) with small shingles of paint of almost uniform size, creating a effect completely unlike Seurat, or the linty tapestries of stabbing dabs in later Renoirs. The surface of the Lemenov/Repin canvas reads like the a floor covered in sawdust, with all sorts of arid sheafes interlocking and overlaying one another, implying uniformity and flatness, which plays off of the strongly designed shapes of the rendered imagery they create. Uncanny.

The wild-eyed portrait of Mussourgsky, familiar to me through R. Lemenov's copy, hung next to a very nice portrait of Tolstoy. Tolstoy....

My War and Peace. The first moment of pleasure at recognizing the author of this work that has so thoroughly involved me dissolved quickly. I was feeling a little uncomfortable looking at this guy. First off, I had certain ideas of what he represented as "writer", that is to say, a man who has chosen to write. These notions may or may not be apparent in a portrait, or even a photograph, and they certainly could be completely wrong-headed on my part. But I remember (perhaps an imagining) a photograph of V. Nabokov's father on a street corner engaged in a smiling and animated conversation with this little man Tolstoi; and he seemed warm and genuine, a real person. But here was something different--in the paintings, (there were two big ones, and some drawings and photos), he seemed so determinedly messianic, so "branded" as "simple visionary, peasant/priest with a pen." It all felt a bit self-conscious, a bit manufactured. I just read an article on James Patterson that interviewed him on how he invests his money. It talked about his astonishing commercial success as a writer (both he and his success were completely new to me), and much of this success he and the article attributed to his successful "branding." Was this what Tolstoy was up to? Put this against a riveting photo of a really young looking Chekov sitting at a table next to Gorky--it feels honest, unselfconscious, and at the same time worth recording. You look at these guys and it strikes you immediately, before you even know who they are: you say, "There is something going on in those minds." Their thoughtful and observant lives are there to see plainly. Tolstoy seemed a little contrived, repeating poses in photos and portrait paintings, standing with his hand in his belt, wearing a peasant's tunic, self-consciously standing on the land, in nature, book in pocket, posed.

The Yellow Eye of Chino

We needed to fax some paperwork back to the states. How dumb does that sound--how dumb, and self-important, too? But alas, it describes exactly what we had to do. We are trying to get out of our U.S. cell phone contract with Verizon (we loved that James Earl Jones voiced all the system announcements and admonishments: "Verizon Wireless is connecting you to 411 Connect..."--if a corporate gig can give so much pleasure to so many, is it really so risible?). But we've learned those cell phone contracts are hard to get out of!

After lots of back-and-forth, (kindly handled by Dear Wife), Verizon had demanded a letter from our rental company on letterhead showing the terms of our rental agreement, and most importantly, our residency outside of the U.S. (or Verizon's service area, whichever is larger). After a few weeks of trying, we'd gotten the required paperwork from the small vacation rental service we've been using (they are incorporated in the Seychelles?), and now we needed to fax it to Verizon. Why bother? With the contract structure, we'd be on the hook for hundreds of dollars--but if we could get out of the contract, we'd have $300 or so refunded to us.

Baby, let's fax.

But how?

I called up our excellent real estate agent, Jules, ostensibly to discuss some matter with our pending rental of their rue Bonaparte apartment--aka, our "Bonapartment"--and then I dropped a little hint about our dilema. "Jules," I ask, "do you kow where we can go to fax something?"

Oh, sure, he says, come over and you can use our fax.


Dear Wife and I get dolled up to go and see him: we haven't got the apartment yet, afterall; we have yet to sign any papers and the deal still seems sketchy, so we are worried that we are going to lose the place if we don't appear solvent and smiling.

We show up at the office. But despite my best effort to clean up, I realize Jules is staring at my left eye. He seems hesitant to ask why I have a black eye--well, a yellow eye, really, as you can see; and I am hopeful that the discoloration is subtle enough to make him doubt what is probably obvious: namely, that I've been involved in some sort of dust up. So I just try to act implacably genial; and the more he stares at my eye, the more intensely I affect an air of unflappable graciousness and good-humor. I try to be just the sort of fellow to whom you'd entrust a fancily-appointed Parisian apartment; not the sort who wanders in off the street with a black eye (well, yellow) and says bugger the for sale ads, you got any rentals--cheap?

In situations like this, I must say Dear Wife's presence by my side is a far stronger proof of character than any act I could muster. She is a marvel of goodness, and people respond instinctively to her quality. So any questions about the eye remained unasked.

The fax was sent, and without any sign of scuttling the rental deal. And with the $300 bucks of Verizon refund coming our way, we may just get a printer that includes a fax machine. $300 bucks may only translate to 234EURO's, but it's a start!

mardi, octobre 25, 2005

Writers In Paris

Six weeks and a day have we been in Paris (Dear Wife and I), and I've yet to see as many museums as we tackled during a one-week stay, circa 2002. But do not take this as a complaint. Our time is spent living in the warm space between tourism and proper residence. This extended stay (almost two months and counting) allows us to get to know our neighborhood and many of its routines as a local might knows them (granted, a local with only the haziest understanding of the customs and language of the place): which dry cleaner is cheapest (forget it, they’re all expensive), which market is open Monday mornings, which is open Sunday evenings; what restaurant serves the best omelettes, which one has the best pasta, the best bresaola, the best sushi, etc. We can take this local knowledge, and then dine like tourists, which is to say at our leisure, with each meal a memorable novelty. But I am led to believe, from evidence both anecdotal and observed, that in Paris, it is the locals whose lunches are two or three hours, and the tourist who are most often anxious to pay up and be on their way.

Oh, that’s probably unfair.

Lunch today was brisk for two courses, taken in at Indiana, the Tex-Mex café just across the Blvd. St. Germy. The waitress was from Sweden, (she looked very far from the stereotype) and when I asked if she knew of the Swedish rock group Bob Hünd, (which Dear Pal Peter loves so much, and which is my stock question to any Swede I chance to meet), she said she did, and she didn’t like them. But she was tickled I asked.

I will tell you what we have seen in Paris, and that is writers. It is fitting, because so many people around here are to be seen reading: out in the parks, in the cafés, on the Metro, (mais bien sur!), people of all ages reading. Two twenty-something chicks sitting next to each other on the iron chairs in the Luxemburg Gardens; a sulky supermodel and her boyfriend under the shade of a tree in Place St. Sulpice, a husband and wife in their twilight years—all reading, and usually reading books. And there are bookstores everywhere—in the same way Rome has churches—so many bookstores that I am boggled by their solvency. Don’t they all run each other out of business? Is there some special State dispensation to keep these bookstores going? And they are all specialty bookstores, mind you: ancient and rare books, photo books, art books, etc. How high could the margins be in such sleepy shops? Are they all surviving by selling to each other via the Internet? But our neighborhood remains dense with ‘em, and while clothing stores go in and out of business, dissolving behind windows suddenly painted opaque, only to be replaced by the incredibly quick installation of a colorful kids clothier, these “libraries” (which is what they call bookstores—and libraries are called “bibliotheques,” funnily enough) just keep going.

So you would expect to meet writers in such a bookish capital, and we have. But it is surprising the ones we’ve met, and how we’ve run into them. And I’m not talking about famous writers, writers I would recognize by sight (and who would that be? Shakespeare? Truman Capote? I guess Norman Mailer would be recognizable, Maya Angelou, too—but would you or I really be sure if it was indeed Naomi Wolf we passed stepping out of Balenciaga? Or John Grisham coming out Casa Bini? Scott Turow? Anne Rice? DAN BROWN? Pundits we’d recognize, studied up close during The News Hour {how fun to see Tom Oliphant, or Michael Beschloss up close—a little sad if it was David Brooks}{imagine Brooks as a Frenchman, applying his exburbs/urburbs/bobo formulas to the Parisian Arrondissement-scape “You CANNOT find a ‘plat’ for more than 16 Euros in the 5th, no matter how hard you look!”}, but enough on the lack of recognizable writers).

Today we were in the line at Le Champion, our local grocery store, waiting to check out. In front of us was an old, old man, stooped over a shopping cart, no taller than 5’ 1”, shambling forward with the line in a musty suit and overcoat. And when he heard Dear Wife and I speaking English (in low tones, I’d like to add—well, those who know me probably doubt that—but I do try to be discreet with both my English, and my abhorrent French), he began to talk to us. He spoke in a heavily accented English, accented not by a French background, but an Eastern European one. When he turned around to face us, I could see one of his eyes was pointed askew and a milky white. He hadn’t shaved for a couple of days, and his hair was just as untended. The picture was of extreme age and unhealth. But he chatted amiably, wanting to know where we were from, etc., so we answered happily, though I found myself trying to avoid the direction of his exhaled breath—whether it would be foul or not, I was afraid of his germs. I’ve been sick in this city too long!

But trouble was brewing. In front of this man at the check out was a young lady, and she was attempting to pay for five bags of groceries (a lot by urban European standards). But there was a problem. She was very chic, short but chic, she looked a sort of Rachel Ray-type with a prettier face maybe, but hard to tell behind her large black sunglasses, worn indoors. And there was a problem with her credit card. The checker told her dispassionately that the card didn’t work (this in French—checkers as a rule do not speak English to customers, and I do not criticize them for this, nor do I assume one way or the other whether they know English, I just report what I’ve seen—their silence may be the result of some government regulation or workplace code for all I know). The chic girl didn’t understand the checker, and the checker kept repeating “Ne marche pas…” which sounds like “Neh mosh paw” to me.

Dear Wife and I didn’t want to speak up: we’re the souls of discretion, and understood that the only thing more humiliating than credit card denial in a grocery store is having it explained to you in translation by two perky marrieds. Certainly credit card denial in Paris while you’re wearing your super-chic indoor shades would be a tough spot for any of us. And with a platinum card, no less.

No one is immune.

The chic young lady spoke, and betrayed herself as an American. She’d guessed that her card wasn’t going through, but was frozen with indecision. I know this moment, when I am trying to think how I can communicate with this foreign person before me who doesn’t understand me, and who I don’t understand. I usually go for body language and facial expressions—she went for looking in her purse. We stood mutely behind the old man, watching all this, sympathetic and a little shamed at not intervening, but what could we do? Offer to pay for her groceries? It may seem plausible while writing the scene out here, but it was impossible without embarrassing the be-jeezus out of everyone involved. We weren’t alarmed, though; we knew the situation would resolve itself (how many times had we come across Americans struggling with some aspect of the grocery checkout process in just the month-plus we’d been here—and very often the one with the problem is us). But then the old man spoke up, explained that the card had been denied, which the girl had already figured out. The card was run again, and miraculously went through, (as often happens at Le Champion), so the girl was free to now begin bagging her groceries, which slowed the line down even more. You bag your own groceries over here, and it can still catch me out. Oh, we pampered Americans!

In the meantime, the old man told us he was a writer. Really? What do you write? And with that, he reached into a big travel bag riding in his grocery cart.

“Do you like zee mystery tales?”


“Do you like zee… ghost storeez?”

He had produced a fair-sized soft cover volume, looking new, if a little abraded by the journey in his bag, and handed it to me.

“The Moaning Mansion & Other Tales,” by Leo Gaton.

“They’re not too scary, right Leo? I mean, I don’t want you to scare the be-jeezus out of us…”

No, no, he said. He said they were good, not like Stephen King. Then he said he would sell us a copy, and chattered that it was popular on Amazon, people like it, we would like it, and he could sell it to us for only 25 Euro.

Well, what was I to do? I began to think, maybe it IS worth reading. I looked at the book—clearly it was self-published. But then, wasn’t that the route we’d be going with on the anatomy book? And would I want anyone to discriminate against us for that reason? Maybe this little man, who could have believably come from the dark hills of Transylvania, had written this to exorcise some personal terror, or supernatural recollection. Perhaps within these pages lived authentic horror, experienced first-hand. Damn, it could be great! Real contact with the spirit world? He looks half bat just standing here!

He would sign it for us, he said as he paid for his groceries. He would dedicate it to us if we told him our names. As he laid his hard sell on me for the book, he would switch to an even more unnerving French for the check out lady.

I gave him the 25 Euro.

Dear Wife is much too polite to even roll her eyes in such a situation, but I could feel her interior groan viscerally.

“Yes, and I shall dedicate it to you both—vat are your namez?”

And that’s how I came to own this book, “The Moaning Mansion, etc.” by writer and part-time Paris resident (every year with his wife for a month or two, then back to San Francisco), Leo Gaton. I have been greatly disappointed with the stories themselves, as they are nowhere near as portentous and offbeat as our meeting with Leo. But we can console ourselves with the personalized dedication from the author himself:

“To Mardí and Claire,
Best Wishes,

lundi, octobre 24, 2005

Desolé means "Sorry."

Dear Wife acheived something very difficult today. She and the owner of our current apartment had been talking for a little while this morning, and mainly in French. Now that's difficult enough in my book, by Dear Wife did a lot better than mere conversation. She made a joke.


And the landlady laughed hysterically.

They were discussing the Wi-Fi ("wee-fee" remember, as it is pronounced here), and we mentioned the compelling network name that had been set up for her service, "txavier." This is the name we see in our Airport (wee-fee) status bar as the network we are logged onto. This network works just as any wireless network at home, as far as we can tell, emanating from a little box plugged into the modified cable outlet. We assumed this name, "txavier," came from the efficient and nice guy who came to install the wireless router for the Noos company: we figured maybe his name is Thomas Xavier, or something. But when we brought this up to our landlady, she laughed and said, "Oh no, it was the name of my ex-husband."

Oh, we said (I was sorta in on the conversation), and there was a pause.

Then Dear Wife said, "Désolé pour la souvenir." ("Sorry for the souvenir"--get it??)

And the landlady squealed with laughter, literally doubling over.

Dear Wife would hardly fashion herself a big joker, even in her native language. But here she was, cracking this lady up. Brava!

Here is the scene of yesterday's early morning contretemps. The Moose is on the right, the blue mystery nightclub is on the left. They have just removed the tarps from the scaffolding next door, allowing a better view of the place than was to be had Sunday morning.

I really should have been in church.

Am I ever sore. My neck is especially unhappy. A modest shiner seems to be coming on, though our landlady tactfully avoided asking any questions. Perhaps people guess it's a domestic problem.

dimanche, octobre 23, 2005

For Whom The Bell Tolls

I've told you about living across the street from "The Moose," aka "The Moosehead,” aka the bar that revels 'til dawn (and when the sun comes up at 7:30, that's saying something). Last night/this morning was particularly obnoxious. I was wide-awake until three something, and Dear Wife's intermittent sleep was ended around 5AM, to the sounds of singing and shouting and screaming. I've told you that the bar doesn't sound four stories down, it sounds right outside the window. Dear Wife finally gave in and rose at eight with some bitter words. I woke to this. And it seemed something had to be done.

I sit here writing this in bed, lappy on lap, a Ziploc bag of frozen peas applied to my neck (they've done all they can for the left orbit, thank you), the bells of Saint Sulpice ringing out densely from two blocks away, the sun bright, revealing a glorious day after yesterday's rains.

What happened?

Some guy let out a long yell, clearly enjoying himself. I jumped out of bed, looked down and saw four guys standing in the doorway of The Moose. Something had to be done. I went straight to the dresser (our dresser), put on jeans, a light sweater and my heaviest boots, the ones with the grippy soles, and told Dear Wife I'd be back. I didn't think. Instead of feeling rage I recalled being enraged about the noise, the endless American yelling and whooping, and now something had to be done.

Fortunately, the exit/entrance to our building is on a different street than The Moose. We come in and out on Rue St. Sulpice, which runs parallel to Rue ..., location of The Moose. Our apartment, in the back of our building (which, as you see, spans the girth of the block), looks out over this other street, the street of The Moose.

It was still dark out, but the first glow of dawn was coming. I rounded the corner onto Rue ..., and was alarmed to see a group of three big guys, one really big and with a military looking haircut, walking energetically toward The Moose. But they stopped one door before The Moose and went into a nightclub, an unmarked place with no windows that is only open on Friday and Saturday nights. More guys were standing out front, more in military haircuts. I saw no girls. They were all speaking French as I walked past, glowering. I wanted to find the guys at The Moose, the Americans (weren't they?), and tell 'em to shut up. But these guys had me a little unsettled. Are these the guys I've got a beef with?

At The Moose, one swarthy dude that looked like he had been out a long time stood near a girl in a fancy black party dress, who steadied herself against a wall with her head drooping, oblivious. From time to time the guy spoke quietly to her in French. I stood in front of them, looking into the bar. It appeared closed, all the chairs up on the tables, doors shut, Satellite TVs off, no personnel visible.

"Must be the guys at the club next door."

I went back. Two guys were standing out front: one youngish but tall, a friendly face. The other taller, an ugly, gaunt, hawk-like face and a military haircut, everything shaved except the platter of fuzz on top. A jarhead cut, here in the heart of Paris, the same style as his even bigger friend inside, whom I'd seen earlier. Were they in the military, the French military? It didn't look good, but I wasn't about to stop now.

I told them to shut up. I said it in English and I glowered. They looked at me. Neither seemed drunk, neither was being outrageously loud at that particular moment, but there was a general garrulousness in the air, though most of the revelers were inside right now. The two out front queried me in French. I repeated, "Shut up," said in a general way to let them know I disapproved of all the noise, and not just from the two of them, standing on the street.

The military haircut guy started getting angry.

The guy with the friendly face tried to look friendly and profess ignorance. He was to my left. I was concentrating on the hawkish jarhead, who stood maybe three inches taller than me. They were both speaking at me in French, laconically at first, then more insistently as I kept repeating my senseless complaint. I don't know what I wanted but I wanted to make it known I was pissed. I was trying to forget the unknown number of their compatriots inside (there were at least four more). I wanted to concentrate on the angry guy, the guy in front of me with his big water bottle, his totally alert features, his menacing tone. They didn't seem drunk, and this was bad, I knew—the crew cut in front of me was wild-eyed and agitated now. Now he was getting aggressive. What was my problem, they wanted to know in French. I wanted to tell them.

But I didn't know how to say this in French.

They got angrier, and I elevated my tone, still in English, but I was beginning to realize how ridiculous this was. I was standing there, glowering silently, not backing away, but my belief in my moral superiority was crumbling. "Dammit, this IS their country--and I can't even convey a simple message like, 'Shut up.' What the hell am I doing?"

Then he slapped me.

A girl suddenly appeared, she got between me and the jarhead (no disrespect to any military personnel, anywhere), and she was trying to speak some English to me. I don't remember what I said to her. She was between the military guy and me and maybe I tried to explain myself, maybe I didn't, but she was moved aside, and once these things start they have a way of running their course....

Dear Wife was upstairs still, oblivious of my intent, and heard a fracas. Then, from four stories above, she heard me loudly saying "Shut the fuck up!"

And then there was a fight.

When I came back upstairs she asked me excitedly, "Did you see the fight down there?!"

"Oh yeah."

The girl who spoke some English and tried to intervene was drunk, but she had stepped aside and I really didn't know how to respond to the slap—call my second and order some pistols? The guys inside the club had taken notice, but the guy next to me, with the friendly face, seemed neutral. I figured the friendly face wouldn’t sucker punch me as I argued with the jarhead, so I focused my attention on this guy who had slapped me. Some more words were said—maybe I said 'em. I know the crewcut threw an overhand right that I think skidded over my head as I moved in with a right forearm to his ribs, catching him fully, but not as hard as I hoped. I tried to plant my feet and turn my hips, to let my body do the work, but he was back at me so quickly I didn’t know if the shot had been worth a damn. I did feel the satisfying flexing of his ribs as my arm sunk into his torso, going for that exposed shelf beneath the pec. It landed perfectly. But he wasn’t down.

The rest is hazy.

The main danger, which I sensed from the core of my lizard brain to the tippy-top of whatever reasoning was still working, was the friends factor: namely, this guy had six guys on his side, and I had none. That math didn’t look good. So I fought the main fight with the jarhead sort of half-assed, constantly holding back, constantly watching for the intrusion of his buddies and worried about how to fend them off. Twice, when I had the advantage, his friends leapt in to jarhead’s aid, kicking and punching me from behind—but both times I managed to squirrel away and reset. So I was always trying to protect my flank.

Things that remain crystal clear, if inexplicable: I somehow had a hold of jarhead, and was driving him into a parked car, this after the first few blows, punches traded that I can’t remember at all, except my first. I remember running with him toward the car because I wondered, as we fell toward it, whether I should try to put his head through the passenger door window. It seemed very doable, but no, I shouldn’t—if I did something wildly violent like that, all of his friends would not hesitate to kick my ass with equal violence. And what about the car’s owner? He wouldn’t like a broken window. As I was deciding this, during what seemed the very slow action of moving toward the car, I remember seeing very clearly the looming car window, rolled down just a little, set in the chipped, black doorframe of a beater Toyota Tercel; "It looks like a Hyundai that was spray painted black," I think. Do they have Hyundai’s in France?

I settled for pinning the guy to the car, (which seemed miraculous, I have no idea how I’d gained the advantage through all this, it didn’t seem that even one of my punches after the first had landed, yet we were punching, not wrestling, and then I had grabbed hold and run him at this car), but as soon as I did, punches and kicks began to rain down on me from behind: his friends. They kicked hard, and they punched hard. One guy landed a good one right below the lower edge of my ribcage.

What would Tom Moon do?

As they were whaling on me I told myself don’t get knocked out, get away from their blows. The next thing I remember was seeing with penetrating clarity a metal post before me, one of the metal posts that line the edge of the sidewalks on these small streets, tall as a man's crotch and meant to protect pedestrians from cars—"Don't fall over that," I thought, spinning away; "Don't let 'em skewer you on that."

Then I remember my neck felt funny.

I got away from the guys pelting me from behind, and out into the narrow street. Luckily, the tall jarhead’s crew didn't want to end it, they wanted to see their buddy take me.

Maybe they’ll just intervene when I get a little too far ahead, I thought, but this thought suddenly sobered me, and I realized I could be in real danger here. “I’m on an empty, dark Paris street, surrounded by half a dozen French military guys wanting me to get my ass kicked….Keep it close," I thought, "But don’t give ‘em a reason to kill you."

This makes it sound like I knew what I was doing. In fact I was completely unsure what to do, and my actions were all reactive: he threw a punch, I tried to punch back—he rushed me, I tried to repel him and throw him somewhere else. Never does a strategy crystallize, except for, “Protect yr flank—don’t let his friends get involved—y're f'ed if they do."

I remember jarhead coming at me in a rage, leading with a fast right kick that pushed me back a bit, and opened me up for an overhand right. This sequence was repeated two more times, each time the kick is so fast it distracts me, and twice the punches connect, once on my orbit (zygomatic process), and once under my cheek, against the side of my jaw. After the first connects I think, "That didn't hurt so much;" after the second lands (again, a solid connection, but not too painful), I realize I’ve got to counter—but he’s so damn tall, his chin seems so far away, and I’m afraid of hitting his beaky nose by accident and breaking it and then really bringing everyone down on my ass.

The third time he tried this kick/punch combo, I countered (another right, I guess—it’s unclear—where was that left hook? Where was that defense?), and he seems surprised.

Then more punches between us, and I somehow get gain the upper hand again, getting him spun completely around me and driving him down, away from my punches and onto the front grille of another car that’s on the opposite side of the street from where we started. I remember holding back a little, not going all-out for fear of his pals—still, I connect with a few good, quick shots that get him laid out on the car’s hood, trying to defend himself. I remember feeling the pain in my neck and now on my jaw and wanting to repay him, but once I got him on the car and threw something decent (more rights, I'm sure), there were again blows from behind.

I figure that’s it, his friends have seen enough and now I’m going to get that almighty ass-kicking I’ve been avoiding all my life.

But no.

First a few smacks from behind, which become suddenly less vicious, all the steam going out of ‘em—then somebody grabbed me; it was the friendly faced guy, who just an instant before had been punching me half-heartedly (and kicking); I am pulled off of jarhead. And now a businessman is next to me, a sort of French Tom Bosley, Mr. Cunningham, carrying a briefcase, looking concerned, saying something and coming forward to break things up. All of jarhead’s friends are intermingling with us now, but not violently, and even as I try to see them, I can’t—it’s like my eyes will only identify jarhead, and anything totally unexpected, like the Tom Bosley figure—the friends won’t come into focus. They are just a dark mass crowding around jarhead.

As I was pulled away, I was already lamenting my woeful performance: "Did I even hit him?" I wondered. Wasn't I supposed to knock him out with a single, killing blow? But I couldn't say for certain if anything I'd done had worked. I remembered the blows HE landed, or at least felt ‘em. I didn't feel like I'd hit him at all--dammit, I blew it, I'm thinking to myself, watching jarhead struggle free from his buddies restraining him. I yell at the friendly faced guy holding me, who’s given me a quick clench as jarhead struggles free, “Don’t stop me, stop HIM, fer chrissakes!” Jarhead wanted to keep going.

But he never makes it to me. The old man is speaking to him, to all the French youths, and other people seem to be around now. The spell had been broken. I looked past the calm-voiced Tom Boeslée to the lights of the Gérard Mulot Patisserie on the corner, open now, a girl behind the counter staring back at me with a shocked expression.

Jarhead is too close to me, angry still. I squirm out from the grasp of the friendly-faced guy. Everyone’s talking in French, but it seems far away. They don’t sound too excited, except for crewcut, who’s shouting. He seems pissed. The sky is starting to get light. Is someone gonna call the cops? I turn away slowly, and without a look back walk down the street and around the corner, back to our place.

When Dear Wife, who was unsighted from our apartment and couldn’t see the fracas, learns I’ve been in a fight, she is completely shocked. This after she tells me she couldn’t see the fight from our bedroom window, but that the guy across the street came to his fifth floor window naked, holding his balls, and watched the whole thing. Being a public spectacle does have it gratifications, I guess. Dear Wife says she saw fighting, but it was a guy pushing down someone who worked at the mystery club and was carrying a box of empties out to the curb, that it was a tall guy who did the pushing, that he was raging at everyone, and seemed very pissed off until he was dragged inside by his friends.

That part was gratifying.

samedi, octobre 22, 2005

Our Apartment Building

We're on what is called the 3rd floor in France, but corresponds to the fourth floor in the U.S. The ground floors are level zero, and I'm sure that makes some computer programer somewhere very happy.

In this photo, our apartment is the topmost full-sized unit, just below the attic storey, (every now and again we hear a heavy tread above our heads, but with such tall ceilings--12 feet, man--the noise is much less intrusive than I've experienced in apartments at home). All three windows on our floor open into our apartment, which I believe is 50 or 60 square meters, (maybe 500 or so square feet? I knew this dimension at one point, but I've forgotten it).

These are the two shops occupying the "level zero" of our building. They are on the back side of the building, over which our windows open. I've never seen the cremerie open, but then I rarely walk down this street because the entrance to our building is on the opposite side of the building, on the parallel street rue St. Sulpice.

Today I had the worst esophagal seizure yet. It was on a minor bit of duck from a really tasty and cheap little place not three medieval blocks from home. Dear Wife and I were eating lunch, and three bites into our delicious main course I experienced suddden lock up. Total misery. I could breathe, as always, but I couldn't clear it. I tried to in the tiny bathroom the restaurant supplied its patrons with, just off of the kitchen, but after15 minutes locked in there, I had to go. I went back to the table, sat down in the vain hope it was going to pass, and just as quickly stood back up and said to patient, understanding, sympathetic and long-suffering Dear Wife, "I'm gonna run back to the apartment--I should be able to get it free there," and left.

My barely unmolested dish was still on the table when I returned, Dear Wife looking lovely in her relief. It had been forty-five minutes, at least. A titanic struggle, ugly. Normally, release is followed by a relief so great, and so total, that I am able to resume eating almost right away. But this time was different. I was so stricken I just sat with Dear Wife for a long time, sipping a little water and testing myself with tentative nibbles of mashed potatoes. After a while I worked myself back up to regular consumption. So I ate a bit. Through all this the staff batted not an eyelash, never pestering Dear Wife about my whereabouts, or whether I was done or not (so she reported to me), and they did not even clear her plate until I had returned and finished with mine. Now that is discretion, Parisian style.

In the evening I visited one of the shops on the street below our windows, Pierre Samary, a purveyor of fine woolens and cashmere duds for dudes. I bought myself a handsome pair of wool socks, and more importantly, I learned that they carry linen boxer shorts every spring. "They come in around February," the friendly fellow with the scotch accent who runs the place told me.

I had a pair of linen boxers a few years ago, and didn't realize how difficult it would be to replace 'em. It has turned out to be impossible. I even charged Dear Wife with a mission to locate some for me on her ten day trip to Ireland last year--no dice. She found everything else imaginable done up in linen, but not men's boxers. And let me tell you, linen boxers are great--at least the pair I had. So I know what shop I'll be visiting come springtime, 2006.

And hopefully I'll be free of this nasty choking habit by then.

vendredi, octobre 21, 2005

Feast or Fnac

I like the sound of that.

Yes, we're on our way to return the euro-keyboard (my head hurts just thinking of trying to type on that thing). But where will our 59 EURO refund go? Probably to buy the 500 EURO worth of software now needed to allow the dblDVD burner to serve a purpose besides taking up valuable floor space. Valuable, hairballed, dust-bunnied, unlevel, creaky "parquet" floor space, with half-inch gaps between every board and no vaccuum cleaner to suck the filth out (we thought the cleaning lady would bring one).

Before Fnac (pronounced "fnac"), we are going to look at another apartment, as urged by our realtor. We are still praying for the little slice of heaven with closets on Rue Bonaparte. But the contract remains elusive, the owner enigmatic. We are patient, but less so ever day.

And now we've got to move all this computer stuff....

jeudi, octobre 20, 2005


Our Internet Service Provider (NOOS!) has finally recoverd, and we are back online. It only took two days, which is a hell of a lot quicker recovery than either Dear Wife or I have been able to effect for ourselves (yes, we still malinger). Yesterday was sad, both of us wandering around the apartment, not knowing what to do without our online world. "What the hell are these things for?" we wondered, looking at our offline orphans. My computer suddenly seems such a useless device without the internet, and doesn't that show you how much things have changed...I remember when everyone was being hooked up for "The Web" at my old employer BlueSky Software, and I resisted. A waste of time, I said. I have work to do, I said. How prescient.

So I celebrated our return to webdom with a shopping trip. I walked down the Blvd. St. Germy to the FNAC, which is a sort of electronics boutique, a nice one, without that Circuit City/Good Guys wholesale mayhem. Three floors of computers, printers, games (lots of games--I think my next pronouncement after, "Why the hell would people want to spend time on a 'web'?" was: "And who the hell's gonna wanna keep playing all our dumb video games?"

French people?

Funny to see games that friends have worked on lining the shelves over here--I think this was more exciting than seeing my own games oh-so-many years ago loading the walls at "Electronic Boutique" (or was it "ElectronicS Boutique"?). We hope they are earning lots of Euro royalties.

[I miss the ITALIC function on this Blogger text interface--my kingdom for a well placed slanting comment! (imagine that word "slanting" was italicized--see? It's much funnier that way!)]

I spent more than an hour investigating printers. For some reason I thought Dear Wife wanted a wireless setup, one where we could place the printer somewhere out of our way (say, the balcony--or the landing outside the door) and then without any worry over cord connections we could just press a button and voilá! Out pops my receipt for another online purchase! But WiFi [remember, pronounced "wee-fee" over here (oh does that cry out for italics!)] is so much more expensive, and the printer/scanner/faxes that are thusly enabled looked so ungainly. I dithered. [Which is what I spent a lot of time doing back in 1994--Oh! the tales I could tell of the vertical dither(italics)! What an axiom-smasher THAT was for the video game world!]

Instead I bought a dual layer DVD burner, an external hard drive (advertised as 200GB, but you spin that thing up and first thing it does is meekly announce "189GB real capacity"--what happened to the other 11?? The damn thing's blank! Does 11 GB now qualify as slough, as chaf? There are still lotsa folks who don't even have 11 gig hard drives in their computer!); also bought some dual layer DVDs to go with the burner (of course! Never mind that five of these babies cost 59 EURO's, which is like $13 or $14 bucks each(italics-a-go-go!)--clearly the first effective step ever taken toward combating piracy), and the coup de grace (remember it is pronounced "coo dA grawS," grace like "loss"--not "coo duh graw", which means "blow of fat" or "fat blow" versus "finishing blow"--though "fat blow" is kinda catchy...I offer this up not as the fruit of any expertise in FRENCH (esp. not any newly gained expertise--perrish the thought!), but because I was so effectively and punctiliouslly corrected on the pronounciation years ago by a student of mine that I can't resist playing the pedagogue on this one little phrase! I enjoy emulating her authority); the coup de grace was a wireless keyboard for my lappy. An Apple product. And the last thing I install, at around 10:30 PM.

The keyboard software goes in fine, I put the batteries into the keyboard and switch it on, the computer finds the keyboard's BlueTooth (where did they come up with that one?) and begins pulling on it. I see that we're in business, so I start writing an email to my mother (dear old Mom) (this is true!). I type what I believe to be, "Dear Mom," (I'm sort of formal as a correspondent), but onscreen what I've typed appears as, "Deqr :o;.".


Now those of you that are scolding me because you know Euro keyboards are laid out differently than US keyboards, well, I realized that too when I pulled this baby out of the box, (it all came rushing back to me, our first days here, visiting the Cyber Cafe on Rue des Boulangers, keyboard confusion...). And I typed accordingly, looking at the keys (I always have to do that!), finding the "D", the "e" the "a", etc. But they came out wrong! I keep trying to type, keep getting letters coming up that do not correspond with the buttons I am pushing...hey, this is f'ed up!

It's after 11PM now, a no hoper for tech support back home, but wait! With our Vonage phone number (760 area code), I can call Apple Support in the States and it's only 5PM Eastern time.

A three minute wait: (reasonable in my book, esp. for the level of service they provide--lordy has that $300 bucks for Apple Care been worth it) a kindly technician: (not overseas--you can just tell--tho' I get lots of Canadians on Apple Support--does that count as outsourcing?) some fuddling around, and then, violá (second time used in this post). Turns out the computer was pretending the keyboard was really American, and just ignored all the little foreign signals it was trying to send. If I hit the top left hand letter key, which is labeled "A" on my euro-scheme key, my manly American Mac mainframe believed it should be "Q", dammit, just as Mom (dear Mom), God and George Washington intended. Doesn't matter if some snivelling French keyboard wants to "Wee-Fee" it some other way!

It all came down to clicking some other button. Somewhere. International preferences? Now I have a choice about what colors I fly: the little Stars and Stripes flying on my desktop masthead can be swapped pour Le Tricolour in an instant, and then my WeeFee can run rampant and free, with all its attendant accents aigu, EURO symbols and circumflexes.

I will be returning the keyboard tomorrow.
And my WiFi aspirations will have to wait until I can get a friend to bring me an American keyboard.
I'm too old to learn to type again...esp. never having learned in the first place.

mercredi, octobre 19, 2005


Lemme say, one of the coolest things I've yet found in Paris, France, is this Man-Sized Kleenex Box. When Dear Wife and I first wandered into the corner apothecary's shop in search of cold remedies, I caught a glimpse of these babies hiding on a low shelf, and I did a double take. Being stupid with sickness, pseudofed, etc., I couldn't quite wrap my mind around what I was seeing, and therefore didn't summon the necessary strength to reach down and grab this mysterious carton.

But I didn't forget.

And when I returned to the place, and saw that, indeed, here was a goliath version of the Kleenex boxes I'd spent the first half of my life emptying with sickly gusto, I knew that I had to buy one, price be damned (5 Euros, a not inconsiderable sum).

Look how big they are!

They are bigger than my laptop!

Look at the size of this mighty container compared to Dear Wife's bookish spectacles. She couldn't believe these things. But we both agree they are the best Kleenexes we've used yet, on any continent. Their coming is especially appreciated after days of struggle with the prevalent nose tissue product over here, the dinky folded rags in the pocket-sized cellophane wrapper. God those suck. Over here they are incredibly abrasive, and I have rubbed my nostrils bloody raw with them. Regular Kleenex are also available over here, but thay are harder to find.

And now that we know Kleenex FOR MEN, we will never go back.

I think you will appreciate the manly bravado these snot rags evince.

I guess some marketers must have been worried that the Kleenex brand was losing out on that all-important 18-34 male demographic, and devised this product to reverse the trend. I haven't been watching any football matches over here (uh, soccer), but I am sure half-time sees a heavy rotation of commercials touting this product.

What we need are those Arch-Snots of Europe, MAN-chester United, to switch their kit over to Kleenex sponsorship. How intimidating would Wayne Rooney look with this on his jersey?

Clearly, a match made in heaven. And it would have the Queen's approval, a point the underside of the box is quick to trumpet:

How come we don't have any Presidential Endorsement for an All-American nose tissue?

mardi, octobre 18, 2005


Alright, I am tired of this now. So is Dear Wife. It's been over three weeks. We're halfway into a weeklong antibiotic treatment, and we sleep intermittently and wake feeling just as crappy as the previous morning.

I think we are allergic to the apartment.

Haven't heard anything from the real estate agency that showed us that unbelievable fifth floor oasis they so casually called "an apartment," (to us, "heaven with closets" wouldn't be too strong). We don't want to think about it, don't want to jinx it....

(...and for HALF what we pay now!!)

lundi, octobre 17, 2005

I have been told this face looks like Homer, or Plato. I've been told it looks like a Civil War general. Or a great Russian author....

I think it looks like my new Blogger self-portrait.

samedi, octobre 15, 2005

Louvre in Pencil, pt. II

Here is one from today. I like this one. Pencil is almost like cheating. And I'll take it--I need all the help I can get. It's the belly button area that's giving me grief. This could have been the most poetic, skillfull passage. Instead it's just...pffft! (Please note: both big toes were broken off of this marble statue)
CLICK ON THE PIC, y'know, for a larger view.

jeudi, octobre 13, 2005

Louvre in Pencil

Here are two pages from today's Louvre visit. They are in pencil, which is so much easier than pen. Done from sculptures. HOPE YOU LIKE 'EM!
(As always, CLICK on 'em for a larger view, which is damn near essential with work this refined.)

OK, OK, they're a little "piece-y," as we say: too many unintegrated spots, places where darks are jumping out, a mood of over-developed parts and underdeveloped whole.That's piece-y. But I'm working on it.

Renting Movies?

I haven't yet.

But I was sitting, thinking about Dr. Zhivago, (or "Dr. Chicago" as I've called him for years, or Zhiv, MD as I'm thinking of titling my ruminations on the film over HERE at the "Evenings In/Evenings Out" blog, my journal of film meditation), and I would have liked to rent a copy, but I'm here in France now, and it's not as easy as driving to the local Blockbuster.


mardi, octobre 11, 2005

The Sunny Side

A reasonable request was made by Dear Wife to go out for lunch today. Following our usual pattern, we worked through the morning, looking forward to a lunchtime break. We were both anxious to continue working, and didn't want lunch to become a bloated middle passage for the day, just a crisp invigorating walking in the warm sun to some tasty morsels, and then back home.

But the Pomme de Pain, or the Snack Time on the Boulevard, while quick, sounded bland. The adventure of yesterday made a routine meal unappetizing. "What about Dana's Mexican food suggestion? We could find that and eat there for lunch," I said. Dear Wife was hungry, and knew it would take a bit of travel to reach her old room mate's reccomendation, but thought this sounded OK. She looked up "Le Texan" online, gave me the address (3 Rue St. Philipe du Roule), and then I looked it up on the map. It was far away, up above the Arc d'Triomphe and near the end of the Rue de Faubourg, a street I'd never visited, but knew as a shopping mecca. "Be fun window shopping. We'll have to take the Metro," I said.

From our apartment it was further to the Metro than it looked on the map. I rarely consult the map anymore, and now that I've become accustomed to walking everywhere, I didn't realize how much hoofing I'd gotten us into, despite using the Metro for the bulk of the journey--well, so I thought. (It should be said that we rarely take the Metro--we just walk).

The Metro (the 12) was fine, but we had to take it from the Rue Tabac station since the Sévres station is closed, and on our way over there, we stumbled on the very chic rue Grennelle? and a Tod's store (Dear Wife's footware brand of choice). There were lots of interesting stores, in fact, and we lollygagged long enough in the sun that I was beginning to roast. I kept moving us to the shady side of the street. My back and brow were sweating, and after the ride on the Metro (uneventful, though our pride in this illusory competency was about to be, y'know, shattered). But Dear Wife's happy melody was becoming overwhelmed by some sour notes from her stomach, which, though inaudible, bagan to give her a pressured expression and fatigued posture. She didn't complain, but I could tell she was starving--by now I was, too. We came out of the Metro at La Madeleine, skirted this famous church (the church, not the children's book franchise, or cookie, both of which are spelled differently, I THINK)("franchise"? How insidious is this box-office, bottom-line, psuedo-business talk!). We found and passed the Ralph Lauren Polo store (in the windows Beryl Markham/Amelia Earhart stuff for les dames, the guys looking like high-end grape OtterPops in a pinstripe suits), and began trudging up the famous shopping street. Last night Fashion Week, Fall 2005 had ended, and on this following afternoon here we were walking through the front lines (Rue Montaigne must be CENTCOM), feeling anything but presentable (Dear Wife looked lovely, she just felt crappy) (whereas I looked AND felt like crappy). Lots of government ministries along this street, lounging their bulk between the fashion houses, and patroled by guards who shoo'ed us away from their shady stretches of sidewalk and back into the sun on the opposite side of the street for blocks on end.

The walk was much further than I expected. Dear Wife was wilting. Very few Bistros to be seen as we walked, and the ones we did pass seemed unwelcoming, filled to overflow with locals and fashionistas. We walked on.

At last we found the simple, one block long Rue de St. Phil.... But number three was no longer home to "Le Texan." "Le Texan" was gone, booted out for political or culinary reasons, who knows. The other restaurants on the street, which we inspected one by one (even sat down once, only to get up and walk on) were either too full, too smokey, or too questionable--and they were all too nice for the way we were feeling, which was very sweaty rabbit, very American, very Yankee Pot Roast to their bouiallbaise and foie gras.

"Let's just go to the McDonald's on the Champs Elysees," Dear Wife finally says.

No one's happy.

We see an inviting facade advertising Indian on the next street as we are walking toward the Champs--we walk over, but as we come closer we realise it is too fancy for us right now--but lo! A few doors down is "Le Chalet" a mock ski-lodge done in mid-budget style (which is just low budget style properly cleaned) . We walk in and a friendly "Maitre'd" greets us. They have non-smoking in the ubiquitous basement, which we see as we walk down STEEP STAIRS to be very much like a set from the original "Pink Panther." (Read the EVENINGS IN/EVENINGS OUT entry on the Pink Panther at

Meglio stasera, baby.

A few drinks later, a tartine and a few crepes later, all is well. The staff is exceptionally kind, even by Paris standards (which I still say, despite all the other testimony, is a pleasantly high standard, better than San Diego, certainly better than LA and New York--esp. given my very insulting level of non-proficiency in francaise) (I didn't even have enough wits about me to drag the "t" sound from "et" onto the frontporch of the following "une"--which should have been "un" anyway, for my "café"). After lunch, I devised a route home that was far more reliant on rail, deciding to take the 9 to the 1 to the 4 to Odeon, virtually at our doorstep. Our return ride is swift, and we are even feeling strong enough to visit Le Champion and pick up two six-packs of water (1 litre per bottle) and carry them home.

Four hours have elapsed since we walked out the door.

"Baby, I'm sorry--lunch got bloated."