Friday, September 28, 2012

Le Picnic

When I woke up this morning and discovered that it was going to be zero chance of rain (that means maybe/maybe not) I decided that it was the day to do what I have been wanting to do for several years: walk the Seine to Port de l'Arsenal, go up to la Bastille and on up rue Richard Lenoir to Canal Saint-Martin and on to Basin de Villette to Place de Bitche (really) – where I would turn on to rue Crimée and go to to Parc des Buttes Chaumont for a Parisian dejeuner – lunch.

All I would need to do would be to find a vacant bench.

I thought that I could do that.
Le picnic they call it.
That is a long walk.

It took me two hours. 

Of course I was stopping every two minutes to take pictures, but it was still a long walk.

And I am almost 70.
But it was really fun.
And it was really exhilarating.
But then that is Paris.  

Or maybe that is just me  

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Query Pitch for A Curious Confluence: The Story of Adrianna

I have tried to find an agent for the two memoirs that I have written. 

Most agents accept – and prefer – email queries (“query” is the industry term for “please help me get published; I am a  silly little person who doesn’t live in New York and who has the audacity to think he/she can write”).

So I found a web site with several hundred agents and various sort-them-down-options.  I chose the “memoir” sort-them-down option and got 60 or so.  For both memoirs I sent out batches of five queries at a time.  I waited until I had heard back from – at least – most of the five before I sent out another five.  For both memoirs I received a fairly timely, and pretty much from all five, set of polite rejections.

I have been rejected 120 or so times. 

But at least it took two books to accomplish this feat. 

I did something and they responded. 

Zero sum.

At my late stage in life rejection is a sort of positive reinforcement of my durability.  Or at least, in the face of advancing transparency – tantamount to an apparently ultimate invisibility (in the line at MacDonald's the clerk takes the order from the person behind you in line) – rejection reinforces what I know, but few others do, that I still exist.

I guess, I am durable.

Adrianna, for some reason, has been another sort of animal.

I would have thought that, if I had ever actually written a novel, that I would have been crowing the fact to the tree tops, roof tops and mountain tops.

But I have been shy about this thing.

I haven’t been unwilling to burden friends and family with the fact that I have written a novel.

I have sent it to and given it to various of them and asked them to read it.

A couple did.

But I have not been willing to go through the query drill with Adrianna.

When I got here to Paris again I decided to change that. 

I decided that that shyness was stupid.

So I concocted a query pitch and, after sorting the agent list for “fantasy” sent off five queries.

That was quite a long time ago according to my query rejection experience.

So far I haven’t even got any rejections.

I am proud, but not that proud.

So in the spirit of a genuine groveler, here is the pitch.

“A young woman is called to Paris to settle the final affairs of her father who had been on a multi-month visit there. He had said to his daughter just prior to his departure that he was going to “perhaps write, certainly gather images, and probably regale myself, and I hope, the world with daily posts to my blog”.

But something went awry.

A few months into the sojourn her father became a missing person.

After a few weeks of being missing he became a “more than 50% certain” corpse found floating in the Seine.

So Morganna went to Paris and took up residence in the apartment that her father had leased. It was on the fourth floor of a building on Isle de Cité with a panoramic view of the Seine. She worked with the French national police and the Paris police attending to the details necessary to close out the case.

She had not read any of her father’s blog posts prior to his disappearance. In fact, only the most loyal of his few friends did read any of his blog posts. Why he kept posting to it had always been a mystery to her.

But in the apartment, with occasionally little to do, Morganna began to read copies of the blog that her father had kept on his computer.

Almost immediately a completely off-center tale began to emerge. From the very first post he was telling a story that sounded like the mild ravings of someone demented. And the more she read the stranger became the story.

And then she discovered the old journal that her father had begun to reference as the blog wended toward its silent termination. Reading that journal, in juxtaposition with the blog, a genuinely bizarre story unfolded.

If one took that story at face value it told of the recommencement of a love story spanning millennia.”

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Croissant Fairy?

Croissants are really good. 

The ones I get here in Paris are frequently still warm from the oven.

And they are always of the flaky crunchy sort.

That crunchy flakiness is almost impossible to find in the United States.

I guess we make up for that American lack by having fantastic bagels.

Of course fantastic bagels in the United States aren’t real easy to find either, but at least if you know where to go, like New York City or Boca Raton you can find them.

But while I am in Paris I revel in my daily croissant.

One of the other things that is fun about that daily croissant is the way the sales person wraps it as she (never had a male clerk in a boulangerie) hands it to you.
Taking a sheet from a pile of square pieces of special glassine paper decorated with line drawings of rustic scenes of rural France on them she puts the croissant on the sheet and with a couple of magical twists and folds hands you your croissant in a neat little package.

They don’t use bags.

The folded and twisted wrapper is a tradition.  All the boulangeries use them.

This morning was Saturday and that meant that I could replenish my fromage blanc and olive supply.  I had run out of both on Thursday.

Getting to the market is a walk down the Seine with a final leg – I have a couple of favorite final legs – back to Boulevard St-Germain. 

I live on rue Guénégaud which runs from Quai de Conti on the Seine to rue Mazarine, where it changes to rue Jacques Callot and runs to rue de Seine where it terminates, across from La Palette.

That is a traverse we would describe in America as two blocks.

They are long blocks.

As I got to the intersection of rue Guénégaud and Quai de Conti this morning I passed a disheveled, bearded, sunburned and really dirty human being of indeterminate age.  As such he was a typical Paris street person.  He was lying in the sun on his left side in a modified fetal pose sound asleep.  The little corner of what passes as sidewalk in Paris that is created by the intersection of Guénégaud and Conti was his bed.

I thought of taking his picture.

As has happened every time so far when I have had the urge to take a picture of the increasing number of genuinely down and outers that I see that inhabit Paris’ streets, something stayed my shutter finger.

Somehow - I think the phenomenon of my unwillingness, or inability, to take those pictures is -  taking his picture would have further reduced what little dignity he might still possess.

I also I think that I believe that not taking that picture isn’t a zero sum transaction.
At some cosmic level, not taking that picture added some tiny increment back to that man’s dignity.

Or at least that is the best I can do about figuring out why I don’t just snap away when I see this type of scene.

I have enough opportunities.

Anyway, I walked on down the quai.

The market, as usual, was hopping.

I went really long on olives.  And the person who served me at the fromagerie gave me  more like a kilo than the demi that I asked for.

But I just try to get along and be accepted. 

“Bon; OK.”

I also bought une tranche de saumon at le poissonnerie.

The only good thing – for me – that came out of our recent massive transfer of taxpayer money to the financial viper community’s bonuses was that I learned that “tranche’ is a very useful French word.

Then I headed back on my favorite route to the intersection of rue Guénégaud and Quai de Conti where I could turn down la rue and be on the last leg of my return to my home.

The guy was still there.

The sun was higher but that was the only difference that I could discern.  But since I now felt some sort of vested interest in the guy, I stopped for a moment and looked at him.  The fleeting thought that passed through me was “how can he not have moved?  How can he not react to the heat of the sun?  How much alcohol must he have in him?”

I doubted that the huge can of Amsterdam next to him was the only one that  he had had.

Then I noticed something.

It hadn’t been there when I passed him on my outbound trip; It was a croissant. 
It lay on the pavement just a little way from his nose.

It was wrapped – of course – in the twisted and magically folded glassine croissant wrapper.

*********************************************************************************************************************************It It was only as I wrote these last few words that I realized that this story has an antecedent.

In my long memoir Screen Saver (I have written a short memoir also) I documented a parallel experience.
But that will be another post.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Les Olives et le Mini Four

The first three sentences, starting with ”The reason…”,  are from my response to an email from Mysti. 

It inspired the rest of this post.


The reason I am asking for the ones at the house is that I bought a set of four “100% Coton” dish towels at Bazaar de Hôtel de Ville.  They may be 100% cotton but the weave of them makes them almost impervious to the absorption of water.

I have already had enough “quests”.

For instance: I have bought a toaster oven – un mini four – and put the microwave – le micro onde – in the cellar locker. 

I bought the mini four in French with the front end caveat of “je ne pas parle Francaise” to the nice young woman who had the misfortune of being my sales person.  As I was saying that a look  that seemed to say “why me lord?” passed across her pretty face. 

Given my accent I think she thought that I was Bulgarian, and she was damn sure that she couldn’t understand Bulgarian.

But she didn’t say anything. 

So I just kept talking. 

And, having warned her, I talked in my version of French.

I told her that I wanted to buy one of the mini fours on display.

She said something warmly – in French -  supportive of the idea.

Then she asked me –again  in French – had I measured the space where I wanted to put le four and, correspondingly, had I measured le four to assure congruity with that space? 

For some reason having nothing to do with my ability at understanding French I knew what she was saying and responded “mais oui” and showed her my little quarter fold yellow sheet of paper with all the critical dimensions. 

It also had my grocery list. 

I don’t think she was impressed by my choice of groceries.

Then I took the tape measure that I had bought  a few days before at le Bazaar and showed her that. 

She was highly approving.

When we were finished with the transaction, she said to me in English “your French is fine.” 

It was a fun transaction.

But, I believe, I can report an even more monumental achievement.

The first day I was here I went down to Laurent Dubois Fromagerie on Boulevard St-Germain for fromage blanc etc. 

I also really wanted a couple of empty fromage blanc containers to buy olives with.  My olive man was there because it was samedi and the samedi marché was in full swing. 

And my olive man always shows up for le samedi marché. 

So after asking for and receiving le demi kilo de fromage blanc lisse, du rocamadour et une petite tranche du Roquefort I said something to the nice lady who was serving me. 

She looked at me and said something back. 

I said something else back. 

We went back and forth this way for several iterations. 

I think she was having fun. 

I don’t think she had ever had that long a conversation with someone speaking, or trying to speak, a cobbled up version of her native tongue without one side either understanding the other side, or giving up and walking off in opposite directions muttering curses.

Bur I persisted.  I have no idea why.

The transition came when, finally, by using pantomime and the words “des olives”,  and a grand gesture in the general direction of the olive concession, a light went on in her eyes. 

Those were the eyes of a human being doing her absolute best to figure out what it was that I seemed to want.

Voila, in that instant the light of revelation had gone on.  She had figured it out.

She laughed gaily and said something that I didn’t understand, but that I knew what it was, and she handed me two empty plastic containers and lids.

Then she gave me a little French lesson in how to ask for the fromage blanc in a more expeditious manner than I had employed. 

I was able to repeat to her satisfaction what it was that she was telling me to say.

I even understood what it meant at that moment.

Of course I immediately forgot it as I went out to speak French with a Bulgarian accent at the olive concession.

The nice lady didn’t charge me for the containers.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Guess I’ve Got a Chip on My Shoulder

In 2006 I was trying to buy two round trip train tickets from Paris to Brussels.

Since only a crazy man would think standing in a dimly lit ticket purchase line in one of les Gares de Paris makes any sense, I did the obvious.  The French train ticket purchasing process had by then been enhanced by huge numbers of automated ticket kiosks.  I went up to one of the bright yellow machines and commenced my purchase.  I can’t remember whether I tried to do it in French or chose the British flag (English) option.

What I do remember is that I couldn’t get beyond a certain point no matter how persistently I tried.  When it came to paying, the transaction always went into the ditch.

There was a young Frenchman in my immediate vicinity who saw the trouble I was having.  He spoke English and offered to help me to buy our tickets.  He said these machines were very good and he thought maybe I was just having a lost in translation moment.

After several attempts he said some things in French and then in English said “this machine is just screwed up”, apologized for not being able to help me, and went on his way.

In a fit of rage I considered bagging Belgium, but my travelling companion, who had been immensely entertained by the whole thing, said that we were now going to do what we should have done in the first place.  We got in the dimly lit ticket line and bought our tickets to Belgium.

I had similar experiences in 2007 and 2008 trying to buy Metro tickets. 

What was personally alarming about my inability to navigate an obvious and seemingly simple purchase process was that - unlike the rail system, which seemed to have the same number of ticket agents as previously, which was never enough, due to the massive tourist popularity of France, but which was at least “there” if you were willing to stand in the dimly lit line – the Metro had changed most humans in their glass windowed cubicles from sellers of tickets to purveyors of information.  The only way to buy a Metro ticket other than from a machine was to find a station – and there are not many – that had humans who could sell tickets.

There are times of day and circumstances of Paris’ geography that can make that a dicey situation.

“What am I doing wrong?” I kept thinking.

No answer was forthcoming.

Then came Vélib.

Vélib is a system consisting of a huge number of clusters, scattered throughout Paris, of brand new, well maintained bicycles.  They are restrained in electronic bike rack kiosks that accept credit cards.  To release one, one just goes and picks a bike with a green light on in its kiosk, inserts one’s credit card and –voila – one is on one’s way.  The bike can be returned at any of the clusters with the process in reverse: bike in rack, card in slot, the bike is logged back in and the rider’s card is billed.

Pretty neat.

The thought that I would ever ride a bike on the streets of Paris – which seems to me, to be, for other than a native Parisian, a form of swift and certain suicide – had not crossed my mind.  But the technology and logistics of the thing charmed me.

So I read everything I could find to read about it and paid as close attention as I could to the people I saw using the system.

It was in 2010 that I saw two men having a conversation at the Vélib cluster next to my apartment.  The upshot of that conversation was that one of them had a card that would work and one of them had a card that wouldn’t work.

All of a sudden all of those aborted kiosk encounters had a banner under which to march: “You have a credit card that won’t work”.

“What does that mean” I thought I heard someone say.

And then I noticed that it had been me who had said it.

Armed with the suspicion that I had a card that wouldn’t work, I was able to Google and read enough to find out that the European banking system had some time previously adopted a “chip and pin” technology.  Their plastic has a chip in it.  The chip has a lot of information about the holder of the plastic and is enabled to do a variety of sorts of transactions.  Those transactions are each consummated by the use of the cardholder's pin. 

No signature is required.

Pretty neat.  Also, pretty obvious.  Why would any banking system do it otherwise?

Mitt Romney, given his views on American exceptionalism, can probably give some sort of answer to that question.  I can’t.

But Romney - le con, aside - the plot thickens.

All of us Americans have been oblivious to what is creeping up on us if we find any pleasure in spending time in Europe.  Our credit cards, when we use them in European stores and bistros, and even the ticket machines in le Louvre, work.  Those sorts of places have credit card processing machines that accept a mag striped card that requires a signature.

In fact, the Louvre machines accept the stripe and don’t even ask for a signature.

How advanced.

But an ominously advancing number of purchases can be transacted only at chip and pin kiosks or at the amazing shrinking number of human operated caisses. 

Gas stations are a good example.  God help you if you are out of gas in Bretagne at nine at night and there is no one there but the kiosk/pump.

This post has a sequel.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Things Not Seen Before

I wrote this a week ago and then set it aside.  I wanted to think about it.  I wasn’t sure that I wanted to post it.  I have thought about it and I’m still not sure that I want to post it but I am going to post it.

In the years that I have been coming to live part of my life in Paris I have, of course, seen change.

I don’t like change when it involves Paris.

But I have learned to live with it.

The fact is, if I were honest with myself, many of the changes I have seen are at worst neutral, and and best good.  In the latter category the rue de Bucci Paul comes to mind.  It replaced a sort of ramblingly charming grocery store, and its bread isn’t anywhere near as good as three bakeries within minutes walk.  But its products are really good. Just not as good. And it has added a nice little venue for American tourists to go and see and be seen and not have to figure much out. 

It’s a lot like a grand Starbucks with a lot of bakery products and Americans feel at home there. 

And in a pinch I have bought a quiche or a canelé or a sandwich poulet and been damn glad that Paul was there. 

The canelés are really really good.

But Paul moving in and a grocery ceasing to exist, or a wine and cheese shop with a really nice lady who ran it going out of business, or the takeover of the Bucci produce mart by Carrefour are examples of business changes.  And business, we are told, is a Darwinian beast and change is always for the better.  Adaptive response or some such term seems to come to mind.


I’m not equipped to argue the contrary.

But I have seen other types of changes in the time that I have been living here.  And they can all be gathered under the umbrella term social change.

The first few times I lived here I almost never saw a beggar or a drunk.  The beggars that I did see seemed to be a sort of theatrical addition to the Paris scene, the little vaguely eastern European looking women huddled down on the steps of the various cathedrals that all the tourists frequent with little children clutched to their breasts.  I always suspected there was a central casting for the little children.  And it all seemed to be in good fun.  The same little women were always on the same steps outside the same churches so I assumed that they had a sort of franchise and were in business.  That left them, out, in my mind, of anything resembling social change.  They were just part of the entertainment.

But then I began to see what had to be real poverty in real and terminal dire need of help.

It was at first only here and there and only once in awhile.  As years have passed it has become almost everywhere and all the time.

And a similar sort of description would cover the increase in the number of abject drunks that now inhabit the streets.

But today I saw something I have never seen before.

On the Metro that I was riding to go to the aquarium at Port Dorée an older man, dressed in dessert camouflage fatigue pants and some sort of hoody got on with a giant can of Amsterdam Ale.  He was badgering – verbally – a rather prosperous looking 50 or so year old woman.  He wouldn’t let her alone. I don’t speak French so I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but I knew what he was saying, and she kept moving away from him and he kept moving into her sphere of personal space and badgering her.  Several of us fellow passengers looked at one another as if hoping someone could come up with an idea of how to make him quit.  But none of us had an idea.  Or maybe the old not wanting to get involved apathy was too strong.

The woman got off after two stops and the drunk stayed stayed on.

What happened next is probably worth a little bitty future post.  But the story today stops with the woman getting off the train.

I have never seen any one obviously drunk, let alone still working on the process. I have never seen a drunk drinking  a gigantic can of fortified beer on the Metro.  In fact I have never seen anyone drink anything on the Metro.

And I have ridden the Metro a lot.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sister Justitia and Mrs. Miller

I had all the conversations I ever felt I needed with my mother or my father , including on their death beds.

I was there for both of those occasions.

Those occasions , in both cases, for me, closed all accounts.

Except for dreams, I guess.

My dreams are replete with my parents and me in all sorts of surreal adventures. It is interesting that in those dreams I am always a full grown – perhaps senior, not to them, but old – adult, but they always are in charge,

But they never find fault and we always laugh a lot.

But they are in charge in laughably benign ways

Maybe that is why we laugh so much.

But that is not unique or special to me; that is just what we all must deal with in some form or other as we slide down the back hill of our lives.

What I regret, though, is that I can’t – somehow time-machine (that’s a verb) to Sister Justitia (and/or Mrs. Miller, my first year English Comp teacher at Portland State) and sit down and talk to them, and show them what I have written and tell them what I have seen, and tell them what I have thought.

After all once they were charged with teaching me to think in the first place.

And they did. Teach me to think.

If what I do is thinking, they can take responsibility.

And if it is what I do is thinking, they have had a great deal to do with what it is that it is.

Having done some thinking – therefore - I wish I could talk to them about it.

But life doesn’t seem to work that way.

Those people that you may have been astute enough, even when you were young and callow, to have known to have been having life changing influence on you seem to fade like old soldiers.

Mr. Holland, it seems, is a myth.

When you most would like to talk to those teachers that had the profound influence to contribute to that which you are they are gone. Or they are removed in some irretrievable manner.

At least they can’t be found.

I did know when I was under their spell, being pounded upon by them, that both of these women were anchors in the turbulent seas of whatever I might ever become, and that they were making possible – through their pounding on me to be better - that which I might ever become.

I even then knew that I had some responsibility in the outcome. But lucky for me they were there pounding.

I tried to find Mrs. Miller, if she could possibly be alive, when I self published Screen Saver.

PSU knew not of her.

But I did.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

From the Spooky to the Sublime

This is the spooky part of this post.

The first time my wife and I lived in Paris – that is, we weren’t with a tour, and we had an apartment, not a hotel room – I got adventuresome one day.  We were renting on rue Visconti.  The day we had arrived, after the adventure of entry to the building that I described in Screen Saver, when we got to the room, one of the first things we did was to throw open the casements that looked down on rue Visconti.  We wanted to look down on rue Visconti.  And we did.  We looked down on that ancient street and marveled at the lack of traffic. 

Those windows also looked over at the building across from us.  Staring at us, from that building, at the level of our apartment – about our eye level - was a small bronze plaque.  It said “Here died Racine 21 April 1699”. 

Of course it said it in French.

So these things –these  things being 6th arrondissement buildings - are pretty old.

I use the word “these” because I am now living within earshot of that Visconti apartment in a building of similar age – in one of “these” buildings.

For some reason one day while living on rue Visconti I decided to go into the cellar.  I seem to remember my wanting to do such a vacuous thing  had something to do with cars, although we didn’t have a car, and I was glad we didn’t have a car; but the cellar, I had heard was a garage and for some reason I wanted to go down there and look around and see what kind of a garage it might be.

Or at least that is what I remember about my reasons at this later date.

It was really dark and it had the feel of going on forever – as in forever sideways in a labyrinth of spider web-like tunnels.

That feel was all I needed.  I came out and never went back.

But today when my landlord grabbed a skeleton key out of the kitchenware drawer and said, “let me show you the cellar” I had to follow.  I had always wondered if that skeleton key had any application – I have been looking at it for several years there in the plastic compartment thing that has the knives and forks and such.

So I followed him down the stairs to the door that I have always wondered went where and watched him turn the key.

The door opened exposing a typical; retrofitted spiral staircase down into the darkness.

He pushed on the wall and light appeared.  Actually he pushed on a small switch on the wall and light appeared.

The switch was not glowing like all of its kindred of which I am aware, so I was immediately distrustful of the thing: If like its kindred – with whom I have had many interesting experiences – it shut down after a timed interval, how was I going to find its un-glowing self and push it to bring the light back?

But I trust my landlord and we descended.

And again it was spooky.  Under all of the relatively modern stuff that has been retrofitted and shoehorned into all these beautiful old buildings there still lies a mudsill of the old days – the Sixteen Hundreds and the Seventeen Hundreds. 

Rather than even attempt to describe it, I am including a few pictures.


Later I went on an image gathering walk. This is the sublime part of this post.  I walked along the Seine which is always – for me – sublime, but my destination was to be Le Jardin des plantes.  That is a place that is better seen than described.  So here are some images from the garden.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Une Abeille a Nagé Dans Mon Vin

I said to my Facebook friends while I was eating boeuf tartare at Le Départ St-Michel that I was going to go trolling for pigeon droppers when I had finished my food and drink.  If pigeon dropper is not a term readily recalled from near term memory, read A Curious Confluence: The Story of Adrianna.  I tell the tale of the pigeon drop tribe fairly completely in that book.

So I left Le Départ with high expectations.  I planned to go as far as Pont d’Alma and cross the Seine there and cross to the left bank and loop back to La Frégatte at rue du Bac and Pont Royal.  La Frégatte has a big glass of wine – un bacchus.

But those expectations were not to be.

I went across Pont St-Michele to the right bank with the intention of heading toward, and probably going to, Pont d’Alma.  I knew the row of book and oddment sellers along the Seine would be clustered with lookers and customers.  And I knew that that cluster would preclude any pigeon drop activity.  Pigeon droppers like to have a stretch of the quai that is vacant except for their intended mark. 

But I was sure that beyond the sellers the crowds would thin, and, the weather being good, the droppers would be cruising for marks.

I was right about the clearing of the route.

I was wrong about dropper activity.

Maybe they take time on the Mediterranean just like everybody else. 

Whatever, they weren’t anywhere to be seen.

I was really disappointed.

Also, as frequently happens here, the weather was rapidly changing to looking to be bad from being beautiful.

I modified my plans.  I would go to Pont Alexandre III and come back to La Frégatte two bridges early.

As I was within eyeshot of Pont Solerfino – one bridge from Pont Alexandre I saw that a huge kluge of tourists had begun to cluster just on my side of that bridge.

I just didn’t want to plow my way through a huge bunch of tourists.  The bunch at the book and oddment sellers had pretty much taken my tourist tolerance quotient to a low level.

Also the weather was looking ever more like a Paris downpour was imminent.  And my umbrella was at the apartment.

So I turned around, crossed Pont Royal and found a seat on the sidewalk in the front of La Frégate.  Even though that is a smoking section the ever-present and wonderful breeze of the Seine keeps the smoke moving.

I took my seat and ordered un bacchus de bordeaux.

It wasn’t long before one of the local denizens – a lover, apparently, of bordeaux – made himself known.  A bee started circling and diving and feinting at me and my bacchus.

If it had been a honey bee I would not have cared as much as I was caring about this bee’s activities.  This bee was a yellow jacket, or a hornet, or a wasp or whatever any of those types are called in France.  I had never had this happen to me before in France.

I said, “Monsieur abeille, fuck off s’il vous plais.”

The bee paid no attention.

Luckily – for both of us I thought to myself – he went two tables over and started bothering those people.

Those people were annoying, probably Romney supporting Americans.  I had wanted to jump up during the never-ending, high decibel monologue from one of the two women of the four person party and yell “I paid a lot of money so I could come over here and not know what anyone was saying. Just because of people like you that lurk in all the venues of eat and drink in America I had to escape.  Could you either speak French or shut up?”

But I had held my tongue.

And now they were engaged with a common enemy.

In consideration of their engagement of that enemy, I guessed that they weren’t such bad sorts – the woman and her deeply boring monologue notwithstanding – and settled back to enjoying my bacchus.

But the bee came back.

I knew that trying to flail him from the air in flight had only two possible outcomes: disaster and disaster.

So I decided to live and let live.  I decided that in the hope that the bee would sense my amicability and just settle down next to me on my table and maybe strike up a conversation.

But this bee was either stupid or insensitive or intransigent, or all of those things.  He kept flying at me as if he really wanted a good reason to give me a dose of venom.  I had just had such a dose on Lopez two weeks previous when a bee had run into me as I was approaching 20 mph while passing Sunset Builders Supply, and, the bee lacking anything better to do, had hit me in the chest with something that created a great mass of red flesh spanning the front exterior of my thorax.  I was really seriously disinterested in having another such encounter, even at a table on a street in the best city in the world.

So I wished this bee ill.

Luckily, being stupid, or alcoholic, or both, he kept flying closer to the surface of the wine in the glass.  Finally he stopped and lit on the interior of the glass.  He sauntered here and there.  He went up and down.

I put the pewter tray that is used for purveying the check to customers and the payment and tip to the server on top of the glass.  It was a perfect fit.  I watched the bee.  He watched me briefly, but then, overcome I suppose by the joyous aroma of the wine, he fell into the liquid.  He swam.  And he swam some more. and he swam yet some more.

When I thought he must be tired, or drunk, or both I folded my “addition” – the tote of what I owed – into a rigid probe-like configuration.  The multiple linear folds made the thing pretty rigid.  I hoped that that sort of rigidity would make it a tool with which I could scoop the bee out of the liquid when I deemed that action to be prudent.  However, I had not gone to end-game.  I had not thought of what to do with the beast once he had been scooped.  I watched him swim in aimless, seemingly diminishingly-sized circles.

I decided that it was time.

I took the pewter tray off the glass.  The bee didn’t notice.  He kept swimming in circles.  I grasped the tool.  I lowered it to the surface of the wine and waited for the bee to come to where the tool waited.   He came toward the tool.  When he got within scoop distance I scooped.  I missed.  He kept swimming, albeit with some added vigor.  I think he had been swimming and drinking previously; now he seemed to realize imminent peril and seemed to have made swimming his primary activity.  In any event he was a motivated, wing flailing swooping around the glass sort of bee.  That was a distinct change from his previously relaxed, almost leisurely backstroke sort of activity.

I scooped again.  And I scooped again.  After several more scoops I threw the bee out of the wine onto the table.

I had hoped he would be drunk – I had left him in my wine for quite a while to that end – and would just sit there.  Perhaps he would look at me and perhaps I would hear a thin reedy voice saying “merci monsieur”.

Instead he did some kind of hostile looking bee dance.  It looked as if he was about to hurl himself into the air and do evil to someone or something.

I was pretty sure that I would be the someone, since something did not seem to be readily available.

So I hit him – twice – with the little pewter tray.

That pretty well settled the situation.

It settled it at least for the bee.  He got pushed off the table – guts spewing from his shattered exoskeleton – to the floor.

But now I had the better part of a complete bacchus of quite good bordeaux with – with what; or with anything additional from the bee?

Was the wine full of bee shit or bee puke?  Or, of an even more sinister nature, was the wine full of bee venom?  Do bees when under duress shoot venom out their asses?  I had no idea.  I asked the Americans to my left – the ones from which the long boring monologue had emanated – and they didn’t know.  They thought me tobe rather quaint to even have such a question.

I looked at the wine.

The wine looked at me.

I drank the rest of it.

A Little Cameo of Paris 1 September 2012

It was pretty early.

I like it that way.

That was why I booked the British Airlines flight from Seattle to Chicago on the American Airlines partner flight rather than the native BA flight.  That native flight gets into Paris in the late afternoon.  There are too many fun things to do from midday in Paris to make that  late arrival option attractive – at least to me.

But there is a downside to that fun early arrival time: as much as I dread the gradually grinding metabolic decline associated with the need to not go to sleep before 2100 local Paris time, I dread more the temptation of taking a little nap after arrival and the never ending dysfunction associated with taking that nap.

That temptation is associated with early arrival.  It just seems to be the right thing to do to take that nap.  It, in fact, seems to be necessary for one’s life to continue.  It is not.  The one time I succumbed to that siren call  I was screwed up for sleep the rest of my Paris residency. 

So I always get here early and I always don’t take a nap.

Not taking that nap requires a plan.  And I have such a plan.

That plan is a series of rote Paris activities that I love and that take up time.  The grinding feeling alluded to, above, is a sort of grim reaper clock that lets me know how much longer I have before I can go to bed.  Grinding though the clock and its associated activities might be, they are fun;  I always look forward to them. 

I am nothing if not frivolous.

Unfortunately for my desire to have as short a grinding clock as possible, BA went way beyond the call of on-time-schedule duty.  A 0830 arrival normally means that I can get to the apartment by noon.  Egress from the plane, passport check and customs (there really isn’t a customs check, but one never knows)  and baggage claim usually get me to the taxi stand or bus stop or RER station, depending on what form of entertainment I have chosen for getting to my place in the city, by about 1000 or so.  Once on the chosen transport method I can get to rue Guénégaud by somewhere between 1100 and noon.  If the peripherique is bouchon it will be noon.  If the peripherique is fluide it will be earlier.

I was in the apartment – new codes didn’t even cause a stutter – at 1042.  The Sony iPhone radio/charger  in the apartment said so.

So I had even more time to grind through than usual.

“No problem” I heard someone say.

So I went to Le Départ St-Michel for wine and onion soup.

Then I walked to Le Jardin de Luxembourg.

The picture opportunities in the Garden are amazing absorbers of time.

And I found many such opportunities.

And they absorbed time.

Hunger, amazingly, again interjected its acidic little voice into my conversation with Paris.

So I abandoned the image gathering opportunities for the outdoor bistro by the fountain.  Une assiette des frittes and some kind of generic red wine were just what I needed.

How boring.  But I thought it was fun.

And so it went until, after a dinner with my friends at La Citrouille, I finally went into a near death form of sleep.