Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Produce Department: My Soft International Underbelly

When I first started going to Paris grocery shopping was an especial learning challenge.

The problems weren’t particularly related to my lack of French language skills.

I could always linguistically lurch through each new encounter and get where I needed to be from a speaking viewpoint.

The problems were cultural.

One example of this was the checkout procedure.

French checkers sit down as they scan stuff into a pile on the counter side toward the exit.

It took me a couple of times – one to realize, and one to remember the realization, that it was my job to bag my stuff.

“OK” I said.  I can do that. (The fact that I had worked for a brief time when quite young at the neighborhood grocery reinforced that belief.)

And of course I could.  Any goon can put things in a bag.  And I was certainly any goon.

That probably seems to be a minor cultural difference, easily perceived, and easily accommodated.

And it was.

But there was a more subtle cultural trait imbedded in the obvious one.

And it was one whose effect was manifested immediately, but which took some thought and practice to accommodate.

That trait was that once a customer’s stuff (mine in the example at hand) had been scanned and piled on the counter’s exit side, the process began immediately on the stuff of the next customer in line.

If one was not fast with one’s bagging, one was quickly engulfed in another customers stuff.

And if, as was the case with me, a killer combination of forgetfulness and hysteria engulfed one it was easy to start bagging stuff that didn’t belong to one.

And that generated other cultural traits.

And those traits required language skills.

And I lacked those skills.

And I had several interesting experiences.

And I got damn good at being damn fast damn quick at bagging.

In the early stages of my getting good I set a goal each time while waiting in line to be scanned foe what amount of time – in seconds - I was going to allow myself from the point of first scan to the point of last scan before I was out the exit.

I got so good that there were times when I was drumming my fingers on the counter as a sign of annoyance that the last item was still in process while the last item was in process.

As time has gone on either I have become consistently expert at avoiding customer amalgamation, or the scanners have become less aggressively fast, or I have just gotten more used to dealing with my fellow Frenchmen.

God knows I have gotten quite good at being able to speak, especially when I feel threatened.

No matter what has caused the disappearance of the problem, I have never forgotten those early days in the checkout line at Marché Champion.

Recently I spent some time in Italy for the first time.

It was in Florence.

We had a nice apartment with a nice kitchen.

So we were planning to cook some of our meals rather than eating out.

Which meant going to a super market for supplies.

Which re-opened all kinds of neuroses and fears.

Was I up to the task of learning a whole new set of methods and cultural processes, with my ability to cope exacerbated by a complete lack of any Italian language skills?

I found the closest supermarket the evening of our third day in Florence.

As is usually the case in old European cities, the size of a place can’t be divined from the size of its entrance.

The entry to this market was almost not to be seen from the street. 

Just like in Paris.

When I got inside I was in the produce department.

It was so copious that it would have been called a “Farmers’ Market” in the United States.

Just like in Paris.

The produce department, it turned out, was just a minor pseudopod of a massive labyrinth that shuttled hither and yon off in various directions. 

The place was huge.

Just like in Paris.

Before leaving the produce department (la marché de la crudité, peut être) I took stock of how one would check out the produce one had chosen.

I was overwhelmingly relieved: there was a scale with pictures of what it was that one wanted to buy.

Just like in Paris.

So, I thought, I was ready.

But it would be for another day.

I didn’t need anything just then; we were eating on the town that night.

That day came two days later.

I had noticed that the store’s hours were 0830 to 2030.

I always like to get things done early.

So I was there at the door to the produce department about 0845.

As I entered I encountered two women handing out something – sacks – it looked to be.

Just like in Paris: at this time of the year volunteers go to the supermarkets and get people to buy stuff for the local food bank.

I took a sack as if I knew what I was doing and was going to do something about it.

I should have made note of the fact that on the day – several years before – in Paris, I had taken a sack from similar people as I had entered Champion, only to be hurled a few minutes later into a catastrophe involving a roller market sack and a vast quantity of glass jars of brown goo.

But I didn’t notice: just like in Paris.

The food bank ladies were just inside the door of the place.

Immediately inside their station began the various displays of various forms of various types of produce.

For example, the two ladies were immediately in front of the banana display.

And immediately to the left of that display was the orange display.  That was where the clementines were.

And there were, stationed above the bananas and clementines, rolls of sacks.

The sacks were sort of pink.

“Italy” I guessed to myself, as I reached up to snatch with the confident produce shoppers downward rip, of the roll, and got a rather large pink sack.

Bananas, I said to myself.

And then I tried to put a bunch in my sack.

And they didn’t fit.

The sack seemed much bigger than necessary to contain the bananas but they barely went in a little way into what seemed to be a quite long sack.

I grasped both ends of my sack and shook it to drive the bananas down in.

They fell on the floor.

“Shit” I said.

The ladies looked at me.

I picked up the bananas, put them back in the sack – as far as they would fit, which was not much – and returned hem to the banana pile.

I looked over at the rest of the fruit and saw a nice display of clementines.

Clementines were on my list.

I snapped off another sack and put a clementine in.

Then I put a second, and then a third.

The third fell out the bottom and hit the floor and rolled up to the feet of one of the ladies.

I didn't say anything.

She just looked at me.

I stooped over and picked up the stray clementine.

I put the sack with two clementines in it and the third clementine back with the rest of them.

I was ready to give up.

And I would have if it hadn’t been for the fact that, as I replaced the fruit I looked at the roll of sacks just above it.

And I noticed something.

Those sacks had the outline of a human hand on them.

And they had fingers.

And they weren’t very large – certainly not as large as the one that I had tried to put the bananas in.

It began to dawn on me: “These things are for picking out fruit – sort of fruit picking gloves.  And their size and shape make them totally unfit for carrying fruit home.”

And a secondary realization began to dawn: “There must be a roll of (and as these words passed my brain I saw the roll of real produce bags)…”

With amazing speed I bagged some bananas, some clementines, weighed and tagged them at the scale with the pictures of what it is you are trying to buy and withdrew into the inner recesses of the store to buy the rest of what I had come for.

I have been checking YouTube for the in-store video ever since.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 End of Year News Quiz

Which of the following headlines actually appeared this year in Newspapers?

1. Mrs. Clinton Hires Mr. Reagan’s Zodiac Expert

2. Rare Iron Eating Termites Are Destroying Eiffel Tower

3. White Cop Befriends Black Teenager

4. Cure For Hepatitis Made Available For Free

5. Two Year Old Guns Down Mother In Wal-Mart Checkout Line


You are right – none of the above; they are all too ridiculous.

But take a look at this:


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Parc Mont Souris Parrots November 2014

I have decided to celebrate the solstice and the fiftieth anniversary of my being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in USAF with a post for the day.


Mysti and I just completed two great weeks living in an apartment on rue Galande.

One morning I woke up at daybreak – about 0830 due to Paris’ dubious choice of time zones – and the sun was shining brilliantly.

Mysti was sleeping deeply.

“Parc Montsouris” I said to myself.

I arose noiselessly, dressed and left the apartment.

I beat it down through les Jardins de Luxembourg and  de Grandes Explorateurs, and on down rue de l’Observetoir to Boulevard Rene Coty and into Montsouris.

It was still sunrise early.

After wandering around and seeing a lot of great Montsouris things I heard the sound.

Parrots squawking as they hurtled through the air.

Several landed in a huge Chestnut just above where I was walking.

And I got a few pictures for the waning days of 2014.

parc montsouris parrots 112214 00000parc montsouris parrots 112214 00001

parc montsouris parrots 112214 for facebook 00000

And one the wasn’t parrots.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

“Safe” Equals “Dead”

The CIA has been everywhere on the airwaves and video waves and the blog waves and the POD waves of the last day or so.

After all, a report has just been issued that seems to tell some sort of version of something one might construe to be the truth.

And the CIA can’t deal with truth.

So they and their minions have all gone on message.

And the message is:

“EITs” really yield actionable intelligence that keeps Americans safe.

I guess that works with the vast majority of the herd cows that have replaced a once proud and independent people.

“Safe” is the banner under which they graze.

How nice.

I want to puke every time I hear the word “safe”

To me, that use of the word “safe” has always seemed pretty close to the word “dead”.

“Dead” pretty much has only one use; “safe” can have, we can see from the use I am describing, can have many.

But that’s just me.

“Safe” to me implies cowering.

And I don’t like cowering.

I guess, however, that cowering is the new American posture..

(I had a conversation with a Parisian a couple of weeks ago on the quai on the banks of the Seine on the way to Jardin des Plantes.He said that he was appalled at how Americans were all so afraid of everything. I had to agree.We parted friends)

Lest it be thought that this is my first post on the subject of “safeness” please read on.

This link to a previous post pretty well tells the tale of my attitude to being “safe”.

So lets move on to the next subject.

The US Senate (some say the treasonous Democrats) has/have just released a vast report about EITs.

In the 500 page “Executive Summary” we learn that:

EITs are methods acronymously standing for the words “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

The acronym is a stand in for the word “torture”.

It – the acronym - sounds much better when liars like John Brennan get up and spew their stuff upon the airwaves.

But torture is torture and EITs make me ashamed.

But I am even more ashamed when a large segment of my fellow citizens (they would and will deny any such fellowship with me due to their high and esteemed positions in the scheme of things American compared to my low and reviled place at the bottom of things American) tell me and anybody else who is unfortunate enough to have to listen to them that EITs have saved … (you fill in the blanks).

And the crown that gets planted on the head of my shame is the very thought that being “safe” is more important to Americans than being “honorable”


And there are not enough slimy bureaucratic lies and sidesteps and postures and assertions to change that fact.

I am not “afraid”; I do not particularly want to be “safe”; I am REALLY tired of liars telling me “how it is”.

I am a patriot.

I served in Vietnam.

I love the America that climbed the cliffs at Normandy.

I read The Great Rehearsal every few years just to keep the magic and splendor of our Constitution ever current in my thoughts.

But “EITs” and all the associated verbal gymnastics of their purveyors make me sick.

I am profoundly ashamed.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ukraine: It’s Somebody’s Move???

When I heard the results of the Ukrainian Parliamentary elections I immediately thought: “OK Putti, your move next”.

But then I thought for a minute.

It’s really our “move” next.

“Move” as I am using the word implies choices and reactions to changing circumstances.

Puti is the lucky practitioner of a no surprise, no change environment.

That doesn’t mean that reality is not constantly shifting underneath his feet that bestride the world like some surreal Russian-sized hobbit.

It just means that he is oblivious to the shift.

So he has no “move”.

He is on auto pilot.

He is going to resurrect as much of the USSR as possible.

So he has never not been going to send the tanks into Kiev for some trumped up reason or other.

I am, in fact, really surprised that he has waited so long.

I thought it would happen as soon as his Fête d’Hiver had concluded.

But then I hadn’t thought about the Soviets taking back Crimea.

That made some delay in the tanks prudent.

But now – the election is plenty of the necessary anti-Russian premise, and Puti’s psychotic Russian domination need makes such a premise necessary (the term Sudetendeutch pops to mind)  – the tanks will come.

So the question is: “do WE have the guts to make the obvious move?”

Or is it 1 September 1939 all over again?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Direction of the Trickle Doesn’t Matter

I got en email from an old friend recently.

He was decrying Hillary Clinton for espousing trickle up (you may have heard it here for the first time) economic policies.

He was equally negative about the more classic idea of trickle down.

The whole thing caused the following outburst from me.


Which way the trickle matters not.

The CURRENT stage of the problem is that millions of low skill jobs have disappeared to computers.  Those jobs are not coming back and the people that once had them mostly don’t have any job and are not buying things and contributing to economic growth.

The WE ARE IN THE SHIT stage of the problem is that millions more of medium skill jobs are disappearing every day.  More no pay, no buy, no grow.

The IMMINENT stage of the problem is that millions of mid to semi-high skill jobs will disappear in the next few years: basic accounting, basic legal, basic radiology, various transportation functions to name a few.  More no pay, no buy, no grow.

The jobs that will be left, and there will be many, all will require a degree of intelligence and a level and type of education that has passed most of the unemployed and imminently unemployed by.

So except for a few rappers, basketball players and assorted published bullshit artists there aren’t many replacement sources of income for the legion of unemployed. 

And it won’t be long before no one will be able to buy tickets or CDs or published bullshit.

Selling dope won’t even last because nobody will have any money to buy it.

No wonder rich people live in gated communities with houses full of guns. 

The problem they face is that ultimately their wealth comes from the spending done by all those people who no longer have jobs and have no money to spend.

Even the wealthy will begin to feel the pinch.

And all of the wealthy’s food and services comes from those now unemployed people who used to provide it, but don’t do that anymore.

I think I see end game.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Kill Them Dogs

I think I just heard on NPR (I pledged recently) that Muslims can't be around dogs (the Koran forbids it, I think I heard).

I also think I heard that muslims need to kill all dogs because they (the dogs) are unclean (or un-muslim, perhaps) or that muslims need to kill everyone who owns a dog.

That might be something I didn't really hear, but I think I did.

The whole thing I am recounting here is so weird that I doubt that I really heard it.

So y'all can ignore it.


The anti-dog thing - if true and not hallucinated by me - was new news to me about a cult that has more weird beliefs than the republican party. 

Or even Christianity.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Your thoughts? You've spent more time in Europe

The subject of this post was the subject line in an email I got form an old friend this afternoon.

After reading the text that he had sent me I had to think for quite a while.

I thought through a BIG martini, a half bottle of Hogue red blend and a great red chicken burrito mélange that I created under the influence of the former.

During that several hours I formulated a response.

The email had pasted in it an anti Islam, anti immigrant outburst from a far right Dutch politician.

Here is a little of it for flavor.

It is titled: In a generation or two, the US will ask itself: "Who lost Europe?"

“Dear Friends,

Thank you very much for inviting me.  I come to America with a mission.  All is not well in the old world.

There is a tremendous danger looming, and it is very difficult to be optimistic.
We might be in the final stages of the Islamization of Europe.  This not only is a clear and present danger to the future of Europe itself, it is a threat to America and the sheer survival of the West.  The United States as the last bastion of Western civilization, facing an Islamic Europe.

First I will describe the situation on the ground in Europe. Then, I will say a few things about Islam.  To close I will tell you about a meeting in Jerusalem.

The Europe you know is changing.

You have probably seen the landmarks. But in all of these cities, sometimes a few blocks away from your tourist destination, there is another world. It is the world of the parallel society created by Muslim mass-migration.
All throughout Europe a new reality is rising: entire Muslim neighborhoods where very few indigenous people reside or are even seen. And if they are, they might regret it. This goes for the police as well. It's the world of head scarves, where women walk around in figureless tents, with baby strollers and a group of children. Their husbands, or slaveholders if you prefer, walk three steps ahead. With mosques on many street corners. The shops have signs you and I cannot read.  You will be hard-pressed to find any economic activity.  These are Muslim ghettos controlled by religious fanatics.  These are Muslim neighborhoods, and they are mushrooming in every city across Europe. These are the building-blocks for territorial control of increasingly larger portions of Europe, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city.”

And it rambles on in this manner for another 1500 or so words.

Here is what the martini and chicken told me to say.

“My Paris observations are:

Lots of Islam problems; however; Wilders is a Fascist. 

I haven’t gone to les banlieues – I have been on the fringe of them at St Denis, and that has been pretty grim but not on a cultural basis, but on a class basis; nobody that I saw appeared to be included in the “system” and therefore nobody there seemed to have much to do. 

They just stood around and looked hostile.

But I have been many many times in what I think of as the fringe banlieues- which are most definitely not to be called banlieues - closer to down town (they all have arrondissement designations so they are definitely not banlieues) where there is an absolutely amazing amalgam of colors and languages and storefronts and foods and vegetables and meats and drinks and stuff and services; and all of the people in these places that I have seen them have, in their multi colored, multi lingual, multi cultural ebb and flow (and there have been a lot of white French woman avec votres enfants among them) all seemed to be getting along.

Take a walk through Porte Saint Denis and up rue du Faubourg Saint Denis to Boulevard de Magenta and back down Boulevard de Strasbourg to Passage Brady and through la Passage back to rue du Faubourg Saint Denis. 

See what YOU think.

I think “vive la France”.

Islam probably is a huge problem as a political movement in Europe, and probably in America.

Among young Islam men who really need a piece of ass and can’t find a vent I think we have a problem.

However, I don’t think Islam is antithetical to Western Culture.

As a source of potential new ideas – if the piece of ass problem ever gets solved – Islam may very well be the wellspring of a new infusion into our world of ideas and things just as it was seven hundred years ago.”

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Thought for Secretary Xi

Of course you can at any time reduce the Hong Kong protesters to stacks of human rubble.

And of course that would probably be accompanied by vast piles of Hong Kong bricks and mortar rubble.

And of course that would pretty well settle the question of whether 1.3 billion mainlanders are going to be pushed around by a few million island dwelling ex British subjects.

And that would probably make you feel really good.

The feeling might not be long lived however.

Rubble is almost always detrimental to domestic tranquility.

It seems to me as an American who has seen and continues to see in his own country vast twists of political chicanery passed off as good governance, and who has seen that charade consistently accepted by many of his fellow citizens as good governance, (how else can one explain 2001 – 2008?) that there is a less drastic method of settling how the 2017 election is going to be conducted.

Why not add one more candidate for CEO of the City, making the choice for the winner of that office to be from among four rather than three candidates? 

And why not let that fourth candidate be chosen by convention of the people of Hong Kong?

That would go partway to giving the protesters what they want want but leave the chances of who wins heavily in favor of the Party.

Maybe partway would be enough.

The downside for the Party would be that the whole thing would become a crapshoot, but it would be pretty much a rigged crapshoot: it appears that many of the residents of Hong Kong seem not to want to make waves and would most likely line up behind the Party’s choices.

It would probably be prudent for the Party to retain the ballot counting function, however.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Modest Proposal Revisited

Jonathan Swift suggested that the solution to the Irish Problem confronting Britain during Swift’s day was to use a ready source of meat – Irish children – as a food source for the Mother island.

Or it was something like that.

(The contributing historical fact to Swift’s obvious irony was that the “Corn Laws” were in effect.

And those laws made food really expensive in Britain.

Except for one percent of the population.)

But I may be inventing all of this.

As for A Modest Proposal: I haven’t read it.

And that is good.

Because I take great pride in an ignorance fostered by not knowing about  things that really intelligent and educated people know.

But Swift’s suggestion seems to me – if it indeed had ever been proffered – to have been a good solution to a vexing problem: too many immigrants.

Or maybe it was too many potential immigrants.


But what more facile solution to the problem of all those little scofflaw kids running away from mayhem in their native Latin American countries could we propose in 2014?

What more elegant solution to a need for meat for MacDonald's could possibly present itself?

Ol’ Ted Cruz has signed on.

Or so I think I have heard.

He has suggested that we use some of the portable sausage factories that McDonald's has deployed in South Texas and South Arizona as “a source of valuable protein for the American people and a means of eradicating the scourge of illegal immigration”.

How nice.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Competence as a Word and How it Relates to Strategy

After all the foo foo dust has settled upon the glittering generalities of how a “great nation” such as – the profferer of the cloud of foo foo  asserted last evening – we are, one needs to wonder something.

At least I do.

What I wonder is, how do we use air power, which has been a major force in military “tactics” over the last sixty or so years as a suddenly reinvented “strategy”?

Understanding the meaning of the word “strategy” easily answers that question.

But no one anymore knows what strategy means.

So that is why the word is so misused.

How sad.

Sad for about 330 million of us.

But let’s move on.

No point in crying over spilled blood.

The tactical success of air power shouts its strategic flaw.

It doesn’t  and didn’t stop groups like the Viet Cong.

But I am dating myself.

But I will assert that in sixty or seventy years we have pretty well proven in the laboratory of the battle field that air power doesn’t win wars..

And our President, last night declared what I consider to be war, against the islamic nuts in – wherever.

So we are, I guess, at war.

So – how does this all come out?

There seems to be an interesting answer to that question.

It doesn’t.

Come out.

But if we flail around long enough implementing this “strategy”– for long enough,  the President will serve out his term and will be able to go on to the Presidency or Harvard – or, wherever.

Now, that is a strategy.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

This May Become a Novel–or It May Be Just The Remains of the Day

Once upon a tike there was a piece of the world that was different from now.

It was different from now because it occupied a segment of time five thousand years ago.

That is five thousand years ago from now.

That goes back to times that none of us of the internet generation can even begin to really comprehend.

We, after all,  have 140 characters of comprehension span.

That doesn’t encompass much time.

But that distant time was also different because of the people that were part of that world at that time.

They had come in droves from somewhere, but no one knew where that somewhere might have been.

There were, of course, theories as to where that somewhere might have been, but those theories never attained the status of certainty.

They remained theories.

“They came from upriver.”

“They came from downriver.”

“They came from the Sea.”

No one knew.

But everyone had a theory, even those about whom the theories had been spun.

“The Lady of the Lake sent us here” could be heard among those.

“When Arthur died we left” was another common refrain.

Or, “Adrianna was once Morganna” was another commonly heard murmur around the campfires that were the center of the homes of the clans so murmuring.

It all went to little or nothing, but it added fiber to the cloth of the mystique of those people who were from somewhere other than where they currently existed.

In any event, those stories persisted.

And there was one other story.

It was known around the campfires, and even in the adjacent villages, as “The Tale of the Boatman”.

It was a sort of glue that was used to hold the other disparate stories, in all their variety, into a common starting point.

And that is where this tale, about to be told, commences.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

When Will We Learn?

My father fought in World War Two in Europe.

I believe he ended up in Czechoslovakia.

When the war was over a thing that looked like him came back to Seattle.

My mother always told me it wasn’t really him.

Impaired he may have been; silent he was: silent about anything that had happened to him in Europe during that war.

But he always, once in a while, said one thing: “we are going to have to fight the Russians”.

He said had that in the immediate aftermath of VE Day. 

That was when he was still over there.

So, since he would have had to participate in that view of things, I would guess that he felt it to have been a necessary thing.

He really wanted to get out of there, I would suppose.

I know I felt that way in Vietnam.

But he said that we needed to fight the Russians on VE Day.

And he had not been alone.

On that day, he and all of his fellows fully expected to get orders to move on to Moscow.

But the orders never came.

And we now live in a post Soviet world that would seem to be an exoneration for the decision not to complete our (United State’s) job in Europe.

Except that now Vlad the Invader is borrowing the Big Lie from Hitler and moving under his lies to redesign the map of Europe.

And we are standing on the sidelines like Walt Kelly’s Pogo saying “my my”.

We are dithering around the edges of Russia’s imminent takeover of Ukraine.

We want diplomacy and reason to “solve the problem”.

Since “the problem” is that Putin is going to take Ukraine that is a very weak idea.

Unless we inject – NATO and the United States – the number of fighters necessary to cause Vlad to back off, we are going to have a Hitlerian done deal real soon.

Anyone that thinks that he will stop there is an idiot.

There is a stack of states: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland – maybe Finland – that will be next.

My father was right.

He just was too aggressive about the time frame.

The United States needs to reinstitute the draft.  That won’t help for awhile, but this problem is not going to go away in any time that any of us are going to know about.

We need to get our ass in gear to stop this thing.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Inconvenience of PayPal

My Paris landlord represents a number of other property owners.

I am going to rent one of those others in a few months.

My landlord and I have always just settled up when I show up in Paris – no deposit, no problem.

It turns out that the next apartment is not owned by my landlord and the person who does own it wants a deposit.

That is absolutely no problem.

I hate cash rent.

It always feel like a drug transaction when my landlord and I count out several thousand euros on the breakfast table of my then current apartment.

I love paying by credit card.

It’s clean, easy and you get points.

Not so fast.

This deposit needs to be made via PayPal.

Here is the body of an email I just sent to my landlord.

It follows on one in which I had told him that I don’t have a PayPal account.


“Actually I do have a PayPal account. 

But it doesn’t work. 

I had forgotten that it didn’t work: two years ago PayPal told me I was condemned to limbo until I sent them a bunch of information. 

I sent them what they wanted but they told me they didn’t like it and if I didn’t fix the problem I couldn’t use my account. 

They wouldn’t tell me what they didn’t like – they had asked for and I had sent my drivers license and my passport -  so I sent them again. 

And they didn’t like it. 

I sent it again. 

And they didn’t like it.

So I gave up.

Today - after you told me that I needed to make a PayPal deposit for the rental - I signed on to PayPal for the first time in two years.

The first thing I tried to do PayPal said I needed to send them my drivers license and passport.

That was when I sent you the email saying that I might have a problem with PayPal.

Since them I have managed to talk to a person who told me that she would fix the problem – sort of – and I would be allowed out of limbo if only I would do several other things.

I have done those several other things.

No change.

The site still is telling me that I have to send them my passport and my drivers license.

Undaunted, I did a test run of transferring funds, and PayPal acted as if it had forgotten about the drivers license and the passport.

So maybe I can transfer the deposit to Michael.

I am willing to try.

However, if PayPal won’t let me do it, I am fresh out of ideas.”

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Solstice Song

I wrote this when I was in Paris this June.

I forgot to publish it at the time.


“The longest day of the year”

I heard myself thinking.

“Mid-summer night’s eve”.

As I sat in the darkness drinking

The calvados still not gone;

Not gone yet from Tuesday

From the bottle at the sink

“Or was it left from Jeudi?”

Whichever - no real difference;


“It won’t last long now”

I heard myself say.

“The bottle or the year”

Seemed to sum the day.

Friday, August 8, 2014

How High’s Your Camel, Mama?

I have been listening to the BBC while I have been eating my mid day meal.

There is a lot of interesting stuff today, as always is the case, on the BBC.

My ears really perked up, though, at the discussion of the fact that INOI (islamic nuts of iraq) have taken over Mosul Dam.

Actually I heard yesterday that they had taken it over, but nobody much wanted to talk about that grim fact at the time.

Today – apparently - grimness is more popular in the international newsfeeds.

The short story is that if the INOI either decide to let the dam disgorge its store of water, or, because they haven’t a clue how to maintain it (and apparently the thing needs daily maintenance by high tech hydraulic and geologic engineers – a skill set sadly lacking in INOI, they being more versed in things sharia) the dam just plain fails, the resulting flood will cover Mosul under 30 meters (I think that’s what I heard) of water and then move on down to Baghdad where it will only cover that city with 5 meters ( I did hear that) .

Five meters is more than fifteen feet.

Where is Noah when we need him?

Maybe Russell Crowe can get his boat to Baghdad in time for the event.

It would be a hell of an entertaining documentary.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Genocide: Is Turnabout Fair Play?

That is a question that has leaped into my conscious forefront today, having to do with the news of today.

I really don’t know the answer to the question, but I have some observations and one follow-on question.

And one follow-on demand.

ISRAELIS: “The enemy was exploiting a space near the school.”

NOEL: “Maybe you should have figured out how to ‘unexploit’ the space near the school to avoid killing a bunch of innocent people.”

(“Or do you even care about that sort of nicety?”)

THE QUESTION: “Why did you bomb a shopping center just a little after bombing the school?”

Those people all thought that you had declared a ceasefire.

Cute trick.

“And lay off John Kerry.”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Puti Putin: The Little Tin Hitler

The first time I ever have felt this way was 12 September 2001.

It was the day after 11 September.

I had had time to think.

I was much younger then.

But I was old.

I was fifty nine.

What “feeling this way” entailed was, I wanted to get back in the fight.

I really wanted back in the fight.

I left had the military in December of 1968 as a Captain in the Air Force,

I went to work for IBM not long after that and 30 years flew by.

I had no desire to ever have anything again to do with the military.

But after I saw one of the planes – just after I had returned home from a nine mile run I had turned on CNBC to see what was up in the financial world - and I saw my world take a major hit as a plane flew into a building as I watched.

“Where can I sign up?” I thought to myself.

“I don’t know” was the response.

So my idea that if “the powers” could make me a lieutenant colonel and get me back into some combat support IT position (I had learned a few things in thirty years as an IBM employee and manager) I would go in a minute.

Or, if they were nuts enough to allow it, I might even consider carrying a gun.

But, as always happens to dreamers, I dreamed too long and had no idea where to try to plead my case nor did I have any idea if I had a case to plead.

So I did nothing.

Now it is 30 July 2014.

I am almost seventy two.

And now, in 2014, Russia is clearly a major threat to everything that Europe and the US have accomplished since 1945.

Putin is clearly a little tin Hitler.

But Hitler had been, once, clearly, a little tin Napoleon (a great man, unlike Hitler – or Putin) and we didn’t stop him – Hitler.

And we all know how that turned out.

So now I am back to wanting to sign up.

Shooting down an unarmed airliner and then lying about who did it is in league with Auschwitz.

The US needs to reinstate the draft post haste.

And that draft needs to take anybody willing who can still walk up four flights of stairs without breathing hard.

Anybody know where an old man who still rides a bike thirty miles a day (arthritis has made running not a real option any more) and can live for two months on the fourth floor of a Paris apartment without an elevator, and who walks four to five hours a day when in Paris can get his commission back?

And a promotion?

I still would like to be a light colonel.

I am ready for this fight.

I hope the rest of AmerEuropa is.

Related post at

Monday, June 30, 2014

Don’t Try to Talk to Russians in Paris (If You Are An American)

One of the myriad joys of sitting in a French bistro or restaurant has always been – for me – the people that I often get to talk to.

Whether sitting at Le Départ Saint-Michel, Le Bonaparte, Café du Metro or many less frequently attended, and therefore not remembered by name, at the little round tables scattered hither and yon, or at Brasserie Lipp in the interior at a banquette (see for more on that) I have always been able, if I wanted to, to talk to people adjacent to me that attracted my attention; sometimes the situation has been reciprocal – I had attracted their attention.

The grease that has lubricated the communication machine that has allowed me to talk to such  an interesting variety of people over the years is the English language. 

It is surprising how universal English is.

Really, demoralizing would be a better descriptor.

If one wants to try to stumble though one’s French, most waiters don’t have time for that. 

They just talk in English.

Probably the pinnacle of conversation-in-the-bistro incidents was several years ago when Mysti and I were in a very crowded one of the Brasseries Fernande. 

The guys next to us asked us if we spoke French.

Mysti does.

They said, “great, can you help us with this menu?  We are Italian and we don’t speak French”.

We did and an interesting conversation ensued.

And I have had many other similar encounters over time.

A uniform aspect of these encounters has always been that, when I finally decide to – politely (“please excuse my rudeness”) interrupt the conversation at some adjacent table – or bench space in the next slot at the banquette – has been that the interruptees always respond with some degree of cordiality.

The least cordiality I have ever encountered has been several times with Brits: they have always cordially responded to me with statements that – given that I do speak English – I have easily been able to parse as meaning “fuck off; we don’t talk to Americans”.

So today at my au revoir dejeuner at Le Depart Saint-Michel I perceived an opportunity looming from the following little story.

And, I thought, it was about to become le premiere of conversation opportunities de brasseries de Paris to date.

I was eating the green salad that I had ordered as dessert to the really good steak au poivre et frittes that I had just wolfed down.

As I tried to shove an unruly glob of greens dripping French dressing into my mouth without too much residue being deposited on my beard I became aware of someone taking possession of the table immediately next to mine.

A voice appeared to be speaking French.

That seemed reasonable since the words and rhythm sounded vaguely familiar and I had no idea what they meant.

I would have faded to black from that had it not been for the next words coming from that adjacent table.

The voice had switched to a guttural from of English and had asked for the “English menu”.

I was, of course, interested.

Another conversation opportunity?

The plot thickened.

The voice also asked for the “Russian menu”.

I didn’t know that Le Départ had a Russian menu.

“This is going to be great” I heard in my head.

“I have never talked to a Russian.”


I waited until the voice’s (turned out to be a round little man – about five foot three and bald and about 300 pounds – basically a rather small man in the form of a very large egg) table mate had returned from the toilette, and they had examined their various menus, and had ordered before I made my move.

I am seventy one years old and it sounds really stupid that something such as this could be an exciting event after all this time and all the places that I have been in my life – but it was.

“I have never talked to a Russian” I heard from somewhere.

I had, while considering whether I was going to make an attempt at talking to this guy considered what I thought to be the obvious alternative outcomes of such an attempt:

1. He really didn’t speak English and we would smile and nod to one another and go back to our business.

2. He would respond in a manner similar to the Brits, mentioned above.

3. He would try to engage me with a brilliant command of French, to which I would have to mumble “je ne, etc.”

4. He would, as it sounded, speak English and another rapprochement of individuals, in spite of their governments would have taken place.


“Please excuse my rudeness for interrupting you, but do you speak English?” I said, having turned to face my maybe Russian bistro mates.

I might have thought that I had seen hate during the course of my life.

But at the moment that my round-man-intended-interlocutor looked at me, as I spoke to him, I knew that I had never really seen hate before.

He looked at me with such an intensity of hate that it almost frightened me.

“What do you want?” he said in a manner that closed the encounter with his last word.

He sort of snarled; spittle almost came forth.

He had a wolfishly canine manner.


I had no idea what to do.

It had been like a scene out of “The Exorcist”.

“Please forgive me” was the best I could do.

I turned back to my table.

I finished my salad.

I ordered a double espresso.

I nursed my wounds.

I thought about what, if anything, I ought to do in response.

My command of language and my sense of self worth, and my pride for my country were goading me to do something.


When I had finished and had paid my bill I stood up and purposely towered over the little round man and his table mate.

The little round man was engrossed with an encounter with a ridiculously shitty little camera; he had obviously chosen that as his premise for not looking at me.

Which he was NOT going to do – look at me.

I chose to wait; I figured I could wait him out and embarrass him into having to look at me.

I couldn’t.

I had stood there for long enough to make other denizens of the place to begin to look at me.

Finally I chose to speak.

“To answer your question.

“What I had wanted was to be able to talk to a Russian which has been a privilege that I have never previously had offered to me.

“I think I now know why that privilege has eluded me.”

And then I left.

In a lifetime replete with frequent oddities, this encounter had been among the very most odd.

La Citrouille 2014

If you ever had occasion to read my post from 2010

about this restaurant you might have tried it yourself since then.

Or you may have read the post and not been moved to try it.

Or you may have just found yourself to have been mildly entertained by my screw-loose description of the place.

Or you may have never heard of me or my post.

Or … or, I don’t know.

But it’s 2014 and I am still going to La Citrouille. 

And for me it as good as ever, or maybe better. 

Having a place in Paris that I can go to and be welcomed like a long lost friend every time I show up after a year or so absence is a very pleasant phenomenon.

In 2012 my wife and I and my daughter in law and my son spent the entire evening of my 70th birthday in the place.

It’s just not right for a family to have as much fun as we did that evening.

The La Citroilleians even sang happy birthday to me.

I probably could pontificate at length about how great a place I think La Citrouille to be, but the previous post did quite enough of that.

Suffice it to say that I still think if you want to go to a place with good food and great people when you are in Paris go to La Citrouille.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Some E-Mails

A friend of mine recently sent me this email.

“Just for some fun:

Here is one for you to try.  Easy quick and tasty.  Cooks up in no time, maybe half hour total time including prep of cutting the chicken

Boneless skinless chicken breast (as many as you need)

Sesame Oil

Couscous plain (can use Israeli or Lebanese couscous but the regular makes the meal seem lighter)

Small can of sliced water chestnuts

Small can of bamboo shoots

Small can of mushrooms (any variety or fresh if you chose)

Slice the chicken into cubes (I do it length wise and then cross cut for the cubes)

The chicken breasts we get from Sam's are rather thick so they are halved and I think the thinner the chicken breast the better

In a deep frying pan or small pot cook the chicken breast in a mixture or extra virgin olive oil and sesame oil when nearly done mix in the water chestnuts bamboo shoots mushrooms and any other veggie that may appeal to you like baby corn or the likes.

While cooking this mixture, prepare couscous spread couscous on plate and top with the chicken veggie mix.

There is a store selling olive oil and olive oil mixes that just opened up down here.  While I like the sesame oil for cooking, they sell a Tuscan herb and olive oil mix that is a good flavor.  So I sense that one could experiment with different flavored olive oil mixes and try different flavors.”

To which I replied:

“A couple of chicken things from me:

I do several chicken cube recipes; among them:

A tomatillo/jalapeno/Anaheim pepper chicken wrapped in flour tortillas and put in the oven at high heat covered with jack cheese and once that all gets heated and melted I serve them covered with sour cream and sliced avocado. I guess they are generically burritos. There is always a lot left over and – I am really weird – I like it cold for breakfast.

Chicken curry with jalapenos and whatever green stuff is around at the time: usually asparagus or broccoli, or both.  Served on jasmine rice is nice.

And, finally, one I invented just before I left for Paris, I put as many chicken hind quarters as I can fit in a huge cast iron frying pan with a thin sheen of olive oil to brown the chicken.  To that end – browning (and cooking) I put the cast iron lid on the pan and put it in the oven at 380 for an hour – or so – I can’t remember for sure.  That produces moist falling apart chicken and an amazing liquid that begs to be reduce ( without the chicken) to a - I guess it’s called a roué – to which I add white wine, capers and Dijon mustard and reduce it back down to get the wine non-raw and the roué a little thick.  Put that on the chicken and viola you have poulet de Lopez.  One salubrious side effect is that the weight of all that chicken, added to the weight of the pan and lid makes the face that I handle the thing with one hand – usually my right one – a test of how far age and arthritis have taken me down the path to oblivion.  So far I have been the great one handed chef of 41st Avenue South.

The final thing is I have always bought boneless breasts at Costco.  Recently I noticed that they had a separate skinless chicken breast product – tenders – which are those elusive beautiful little strings of chicken breast muscle that always comes loose when you decide to bone your breasts rather than buy them that way already prepared.  Actually, even if you buy the fully boned breast you probably have those things frequently falling out of the rest of the breast which leaves you with a bunch of one density and size and shape of cubes, and a small amount of a totally different density and shaped things. 

That makes for uneven cooking.

Costco apparently noticed this phenomenon because they now sell those “tenders” as a separate product.  For me it is a better solution to my insatiable need for chicken for – other than the hindquarters in the cast iron pan thing – the various chicken preparations I like to do.

They are, as their name might imply, more tender than the rest of the breast and they are less expensive per pound and they come in smaller packages so it is possible to get a meal per package ration that makes more sense to a single person household.

I know, I know; we have things called freezers.  But in the best of worlds I try to minimize that artificial intervention into the preparation of my food.”

Then, after some thought, I needed to follow on to this long term friend, with whom I have talked for years and in depth about the weakness that exists at the seams that hold the United States together.  I offered the following non-sequitur:

“Something that amazes me is that it doesn’t seem that anyone in the political class there in the good ol’ USA – which is as clueless as the political class here in Europe - is how transportable and transferable is the ISIS model to the various militias that lurk on the edge of things in the United States.

That amazes me, and worries me – a lot.”


The nihilistic desire to pull things down seems to me to be the central motivating force – spiced and laced with the everlasting twinge and twang of unutilized testosterone - in all militias, but especially so with the nut Islamists.

If we could figure out the reason for, and fix it, for that unutilized hormone, I would not be anywhere near as worried as I am.

The fact that that problem has cataclysmic consequences for our 200 plus year old experiment in self government is disquieting.

How nice; how tragic; how stupid.

It is especially stupid since the answer to how to fix the testosterone problem is so obvious.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Au Revoir Iraq

I have been rooting for the Kurds ever since the beginning of our Cheney/Bush “surgical” entry into the Middle East.

They have always sounded like a cohesive "people" to me.

They have sounded like a people.who have been trying to have a "homeland" for a long time.

Looks as if they might finally have one.

Au revoir Iraq.

And good riddance.

At least it will be the Jihad Disneyland.

There must be some Islamic benefit to all that.

To this Facebook post a friend replied:

I root for the Kurds, too. If the place is going to be divided up, they deserve their own homeland, and that includes the Turkish Kurds

To which I replied:

I agree with that and that is not good for NATO.

But Erdoğan is such an Islamic asshole that it probably turns out that Turkey will come unglued and leave NATO anyway.

It is unnerving that - except for, apparently Tunisia, Islamic clusters can't get out of the 8th Century.

Other than Tunisia the Kurds have seemed to be less than nuts.

(That ignores the Egyptians.  There the people valiantly tried to get into the Twenty First Century a few years back and ended up with Mubarak light). 

Since I don’t know how to deal with something of that tragic magnitude I have folded it into my personal view of all other Islamic clusters.

The Kurds, though, have always seemed to me to be the only segment of Islam that are generally like what I always thought Islam to be: the third monotheistic religion, nothing more, no other agendas.

Under that banner I thought I had a pretty good idea of what Muslims believed and how they viewed the world.

How wrong can one be?

I guess not participating in the Renaissance has been a real problem for Islam.

But then, in the defense of the 8th century crowd, I can't help but remember some idiot American general - whose name I didn’t know at the time and so can’t even claim to remember now - several years back who commented that "my god can whip their god (Allah, I guessed at the time) any day anywhere".

You want to know what a problem we have, just parse that comment.

And, finally, before anybody starts mouthing off about my opinions, please read "The God Problem" by Howard Bloom.

Bloom is a pain in the ass pedant, but what he says - unfortunately for the size of the book, with great redundancy - is brilliant.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Iraq: It Seemed to Me

I had no idea, when the event  occurred, why Maliki decided not sign the SOFA .

It seemed to me to be irrational on the part of Maliki,  since without a backbone of US troops remaining for a long time in Iraq, it seemed to me, there was a pretty good chance of things falling back into chaos.

But Maliki wanted our troops to be subject to Iraqi “law” and we didn’t sign the SOFA.

So: welcome to chaos.

The fact that, without a SOFA, we went home is something that needs to be talked about.

We ought to talk about it because the republican party, in its never ending mission to bring down our President, will inevitably, now that a disaster of biblical proportions looms on the horizon in Iraq, say that it is all Obama’s fault.

Actually it is all Maliki’s fault.

No American president was going to sign an agreement that said that a residue of its citizens, left behind in a war zone, were going to be subject to a capricious and questionable legal system administered by a pretend government.

Maliki insisted that that would be the case and Obama eschewed.

If Obama had not eschewed signing such a SOFA the republicans, when the first errant American suddenly was being tried in an Iraqi pretend court, would be beating the drum of impeachment, saying that the President had passed to a foreign “government” (quotes mine) sovereignty over American citizens. 

And they would, I imagine, be saying that that was a sort of treason.

But the President – for reasons obvious to all but the republicans – (unless they had gotten their dream scenario - a signed SOFA - in which they would have been cheering, as they waited for the inevitable American-in-the-clutches-of- Iraq) and joyously filed their Articles of Impeachment – didn’t sign the SOFA.

Now the world is seeing the inevitable result of no American military presence. 

They have been replaced by a huge hoard of islamic nuts.

Welcome to the caliphate.

I guess that (or at least I hope that) drones can be armed with precision-targeted micro nukes, so that the critical mass of islamic nuts heading toward Baghdad  may not be all bad.

They should make a great target.

How nice.

Taking out the incipient caliphate in one blinding fel swoop would be a good thing.

Since we are going to have to do something major about this, that would be, or would have been (if it happens) a good thing.

The other thing that needs to be talked about is that America, if she really wants to continue as the keeper of the post WWII peace, will have to bring back the draft.

The all volunteer military is an abject failure.

So we need to fix that problem with a universal conscription law – post haste.

And that will be a really good thing – for America and for the world.

I may post something about that at another time.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Real Zombies

Back in the CrackBerry days I was on a plane. 

The woman next to me had her Blackberry out in her hand as we taxied after landing. 

She was scrupulous. 

She wasn't going to turn the thing on unless intergalactic control told her it was ok.

But her fingers were twitching and I think she was suppressing a scream as she waited to be told that it was ok to turn the thing on. 

On the Metro here in Paris almost every lump of human flesh that I see, once they have gotten through the doors and have lurched to wherever they choose to take up their semi-permanent residence for the duration of their journey all does the same thing.

It is eerie.

It is if a cosmic dog trainer had sent out a cosmic emanation and trained all the dogs in one fel swoop.

Here is what they do.

They all  get out some rectangular sort of thing and, breathing a sigh of almost sexual relief, they start thumbing the thing. 

If I were a time traveller from 1980 – which in a way I am – I would wonder what it was about those small rectangles that could possibly cause every human I saw to do the same thing.

I would also, I suppose, wonder what had occurred to cause the entire human race seem to have one of the rectangles.

I am sure I would  wonder what the things even might be.

But I am not such a time traveller and I know what those rectangles are.

I have one.

It is the second one I have owned. 

I had to buy a new one recently after two successive releases of the software that made the old one work had become so rotund and cycle hungry that the old one was a functional cipher.

The ownership of – now – two of the things I hope supports my assertion that I do have a pretty good idea what the lumps on the Metro are doing with their rectangles.

That is why I know that what they are doing is the functional equivalent of nothing.

That trend of thought causes me to make the following observation.

I seriously doubt that the average lump of human flesh has ANYTHING THAT CAN BE THAT INTERESTING OR IMPORTANT AT ANY TIME OR PLACE IN THEIR MISERABLE LITTLE LIVES to justify the twitching mesmerization that I see everywhere.

But - peut être.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Who Really Gives a Shit Whether Bowe is a Deserter?

I didn't know anything about Bowe Bergdahl - not even his name - until recently.

I knew there was some guy from Idaho that was the only captive in the hands of "the enemy" in Afghanistan.

So when he was traded for a paltry number of Taliban - the Israelis deal in hundreds of tradees when they get back one or two Israeli captives - I thought "great".

Of course I didn't know that he was maybe a deserter. I had to learn that form a friend of mine who is an Idahonian.

So I am Pogo, looking at this whole fiasco from Paris saying "my, my".

The thing that really seems to be relevant to this, though, actually does have something to do with Paris.

A couple of days ago I posted:

about my thoughts about D Day.

In net, those thoughts are that Americans, and the guy who later became their President, did something that day that eclipses anything else any other nation and its citizens have ever done - world history to date.

And that is what bothers me about the Bergdahl Travesty - deserter or not.

How can five Islamic nuts, given their freedom, threaten the very foundation of the nation - and its citizens - that climbed those cliffs seventy years ago? And then kept going and turned Hitler into a charred jaw bone in a cigar box?

If that is true, that five nihilists can bring our civilization down, we - the American People - have atrophied in a manner that has never been seen in world history.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Seventy Years to the Day

It was an absolutely beautiful  day today.  80 degrees, low humidity, no wind, no clouds to speak of.

So I went back to my favorite Parc and took a little bottle of wine and a sandwich poulet that I made from leftovers from last night’s dinner.

And I toasted the men who scaled those cliffs 70 years ago today.

And between toasts I ate my sandwich.

I make really good sandwichs.

The secret is: use the standard baguette; the tradi is too dense for a good sandwich.

But back to Normandy.

If it hadn’t have been for those men, Eisenhower chief among them, I would not be able to have had this wonderful day in this magical place.

My father didn’t get here until a few days later.

But I toasted him as well.

He got here, didn’t he?

And he never really came back.

I guess all the horrors didn’t stop at the cliffs.

Their day on  that day, and the days that followed, makes my year in Saigon a trivial postscript to a trivial life.

The debt to those cliff-scalers, and to my father, that I was happy to pay – or thought that I was paying by going to Vietnam, rather that becoming a Canadian – turned out not to have been a a payment; it turned out to have been a joke.

My laughter has always been hollow.

The pictures start in le Jardin de Luxembourg and follow on down the spine of that part of the City to le parc.

No parrots were seen or even heard.

paris 2014 jardin de luxembourg 060614 00000

paris 2014 avenue rene coty 060614 00000paris 2014 avenue rene coty 060614 00001paris 2014 st john's wort 060614 00000paris 2014 swans 060614 00000

Sunday, June 1, 2014

But Here is the Rest of What That (Soon June) Was All About

Perhaps the declining toe had been the warning bell. If it had been, it had been unheard. Perhaps it had been the visual warning that had emerged from the drawer of my bedside stand when I opened it and took the time to rummage the several expired driver’s licenses that were kept in the drawer into some form of sequence among the other flotsam and jetsam. Whenever I had laid those licenses side by side - oldest to newest - the question always formed “who is the young guy with all the hair?” That question would be followed immediately by the follow-on question, “who is that increasingly older guy with less and less hair?” And finally I would wonder, “who, for that matter is the guy on the license in my wallet?” By laying them side by side and blinking rapidly I could see a movie like progression of a somber faced, vaguely familiar looking person changing from younger to older. It took only moments. “How many years do those moments’ of metamorphosis represent?” I would wonder. Those pictures looked progressively less like the “me” that I thought that I remembered. They looked progressively less like the “me” that I continued to feel as if I were. In fact, rather than looking like “me” they looked more like some ancient grandfather. If they had anything to do with “me” it could only have been from some other consciousness or some other life or some other time or some other place. Except for being mildly entertaining, nothing else ever emerged from that experience of the progression of the pictures; no bells of warning had rung.

The longest day of the year, every year, had begun to seem to be closer every year to the shortest day of the year. The shortest day was always a day of quiet introspective internal celebration; after all, the darkness would begin to retreat with the following dawn. The longest day was a day for quiet introspective internal grieving; after all the darkness would only advance with the following dawn. Those days had both increasingly seemed to have been bent upon lurching out of their temporal containers of years and into increasingly brief temporal containers of months, days and hours. It seemed as if the longest and shortest days were moving toward merger. Would time reach a point where it flowed back upon itself? And if so, what would happen then? Was the apparently accelerating compression of time an intensely individual experience, or was it universal? And, if it were universal, what would be the end-game of that universe? Or, what was that universe? Or, even, was – as in did it exist - that universe at all? Am I it? Is it me? How can it have become fluid to the point of being actually in question as to its existence? Am I where? Where am I? Am I, even?”

The toe had been the second one in from the big toe. It had capitulated to the leftward pressure from the big one following the big one’s collapse. Perhaps it had been the partially buried flint of Jardin de Luxembourg; perhaps it had been something else that had sealed its doom. But its doom had been sealed. And the toe next to that one had been in the process of going the same way. The composite result had been that running had ceased to be an option. But the real reason hadn’t been the collapse of the toes. The real reason had been the iron grip of arthritis. A feeling of being encased in a vaguely painful cage of steel had been creeping forward for years only semi noticed.

The increasing spin of the hands of the clock, the flow of the days, of the seasons, of the months and of the years and the little movie of the rapidly aging face in the pile of expired driver’s licenses had only seemed to accelerate. And there were the chestnuts. The specifics of their yearly march never varied. Only the interval had changed. The sticky and shiny protectively coated buds would always burst forth into little palm tree-like fronds. The fronds would become full-fledged leaf clusters, appearing from nowhere and taking on a darker green hue and looking like serrated green fans. Then emerged Christmas tree shaped clusters at the tip of each stem. Each Christmas tree shaped cluster would soon become a glorious burst of creamy white flowers with dark rosy colored throats or, in Paris, beautiful pink flowers with deeper rosy colored throats. Little round green nubbins would appear where the flower clusters had been; the leaves would continue to darken; the nubbins would become golf ball sized and then bigger; and the little protrusions that had been on the nubbins would become identifiable spikes. One-day fall would arrive. The angle of the sun would always confirm it. The leaves would turn yellow. On a chilly night the wind would rise and the husks of the golf balls would split and shiny brown gems would fall in cascades to the ground where children would pick some up. The rest would be pushed around in piles of leaves; those piles of leaves were then raked and burned. And some of the chestnuts would get charred. And some would escape getting charred. And those would be ground to meal by passing automobiles. And then the rain would begin to torrent. And the car ground meal would roil into the gutters with the rain and be washed into the drains. And only moments – it began to seem – would have passed. And then it would begin over again. And each time the interval of the chestnuts would have been shorter.

And there was the Mountain Ash. There would be the rapid-fire sequence of fans of small pointed leaves, masses of flat multi petaled creamy white flowers and an unpleasant smell. The flowers and fans would rapidly fade and disappear into a summery green mass of leaves that fluttered and shimmered in the summer breezes. Suddenly after an extended anonymous absence on the part of the Mountain Ash there would be emphatic attention-demanding clusters of red-orange berries, which would have appeared as if from nowhere. Robins, and sometimes, wax wings, would briefly complete the scene as it rushed by with increasing speed but with undiminished clarity. And only moments – it had begun to seem – would have passed. And then it would begin again. And each time the passage of the Mountain Ash would be faster.

And there was recycling and garbage pickup. It had seemed as if I had no sooner put the garbage and the recycling on the street than I was doing it again; and then I was doing it again; and then I was doing it again. Individual Saturdays or Sundays sometimes appeared fuzzily through the blur of Wednesdays, and sometimes a Monday, but it had begun to be that every day was Thursday. Thursday was pickup day. Early every dawn seemed to begin with the roar then the silence, then the roar again of the oncoming trucks. Intermittently the sound of a bell of the truck backing up punctuated the silences. And then the roar and the bells were separated by hours, then by minutes then by seconds; and then it was just one roar punctuated by bells.

And the chestnuts had begun to interleave with the Mountain Ash and they had both further merged with the Thursday morning roar and silence and roar and silence and the bell; and all of these were merged with and punctuated by the blinding transition from shortest to longest to shortest to longest days of the year. And none of these were blurs but were instead distinct and clear as individuals; and they were distinct and clear from each other; and in spite of their increasingly astonishing speed they had continued to act as individual marks in time. And the moments that those things were brief were becoming briefer between the beginning and the end and then the beginning again.

What I had previously perceived as the inexorably forward progress of time had begun to appear as if it were spinning toward some sort of merger – front to back - where, like the spokes of a wheel seen through the slots of a stroboscope running faster than the wheel, the wheel would actually appear to be in reverse. It had begun to seem as if there would soon be a moment when the longest day and the shortest day would appear together and then would pass one another in the opposite direction. And the blackened chestnuts of the rainy gutter would merge with the reddish orange splash of Mountain Ash. And there would be a flickering moving picture of a man with measured acceleration oscillating between images with hair and images with no hair, between younger and older. At some point would it all become one and then, perhaps, would all fade to black just like a real movie? And then, what?

Then one spring morning I had awakened very early. It had been barely light. I had long since ceased to be accustomed to be being asleep at that time of day, and on many similar mornings I had become familiar with the silence of that time. When I had realized what I was hearing I had assumed that it must be a dream. There was an almost deafening sound. It was almost like a medium pitched roar with occasional wisps of sound leaking out of it. It was the sound of myriad birds, all chirping at random, and singing their morning songs. I had heard it before. With a feeling of joy I recognized a chorus of robins sequentially calling for rain. Or were they calling for the sunrise? I was never to know.

The house had been strangely silent. It had seemed totally out of character for it to have abandoned its periodic creaks, snaps and pops. Perhaps it had known something that I hadn’t known. Perhaps it hadn’t felt the need to keep me awake anymore.

“I must be asleep and dreaming,” I had concluded. “How else could I be seeing and hearing what I am seeing and hearing?” “How could I be seeing and hearing the flow of the chestnuts, the flow of the Mountain Ash, the bell of the recycling truck backing up? And how could the huge tribe of birds long missing suddenly have returned? And why was the face in the driver’s licenses lurching backward beyond its long known limits?”

Why indeed?

And what are all those other sights and sounds: my nose against a huge Parisian "mirror"; peepers, leopard frogs, toads, bullfrogs and my family of tadpoles fully grown; sodium flares and things roiling the evil smelling nasty soup of a small roadside lake; flashes of blue followed by flashes of yellow; thunks heard through a haze of grey lint; "wake up Maggie" and a little blue light; toilets straddled; murders considered and murders not committed; and more; more; and more.

And then everything folds backwards upon itself. The chestnut blossoms have become recycle days and recycle days have become mountain ash berries. The time of a clock that appears from nowhere is at hyper speed even as it stands still, even as its hands pass one another intermittently backwards, even as it blurs, even as it disappears. A sense of mortality blends with the realization of boundaries. The dream is not a dream. The dream is reality. And reality is a dream. And the boundaries fade and opportunities lost and achievements unattained loom and overwhelm. Whatever it had been that I had ever thought that I might be or might have been is becoming a neatly wrapped package; it is becoming a sleekly designed capsule. And then some infinite unseen and unseeable facility or force compresses it all – the hopes, the dreams, the illusions, the achievements, the misses and near misses, the loves, the hates, the intentions good and the attentions bad - into an expendable portion and inserts it into infinity.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Sort-Of Poem Just Popped Out of Space and Time

In the early predawn of 31 May I awakened as I often do at that time of day.

“It must be about 0430” I thought to myself.

I didn’t need to look at the clock.

My near neighbor in the trees just across the Seine had begun to sing his morning song.

Merles Noirs do that.

Just like robins in North America.

As I listened to the melody loop and repeat and change and unfold  an almost audible thought crossed my mind.

“Soon June”.

For some reason I kept thinking that phrase.

After all, pre-dawn 31 May is almost June.  So the phrase was certainly true.  But I couldn’t shake the feeling of deeper meaning.

As has happened on a few other occasions, usually in Paris, the yellow writing pad seemed to be the only way to banish the thought and get back to sleep.

This sort-of poem quickly wrote itself.

Soon June

“Soon June”

I thought I heard someone say.

“Soon June”

There, I heard it yet again.

“Soon June”

I wonder what it might mean?

“Soon June”

Means it that June is almost here?

Surely it can’t be that simple.

Means it that the end is near?

Surely it can’t be that grim.


If it were the end,

The end of what?

How easy!

If it were the end

It would be the click of the clock;

The set of the chestnuts;

The reddening of the berries;

The chirp of the robins;

The chirp of the merles.

There, I heard it.

The clock just clicked..

“Soon June”

paris 2014 052614 merle noirt 00001

Friday, May 30, 2014

There is a Pattern Here

And it really bothers me.

I have voted for President Obama twice.

And I cannot imagine a republican candidate who– if offered by that religious cult masquerading as the Party of Lincoln – for whom I would vote if Obama were again the alternative.

But I have questions that increasingly haunt me about our President.

One of them is:

“How has the totally obvious Bush dodge on the real costs of his middle east wars been ignored by the Obama administration? Not only did W do a war off the books, he also did not acknowledge the follow on costs – which are probably four or five times the costs of the actual war – to be considered.

And the Senate “Rs” and “Ds” alike just said “my, my” and voted to invade Iraq.

How nice for them.

That gave both sides the chance to tell their cretin voters that they were red blooded ‘Mericans.

They were going to defend the Constitution by waging war in Iraq.

That’s what many of the veterans of that war have told me.

And, while that – to me - is the ultimate indictment of those veterans participation in a really stupid expedition, to say nothing of the US education system (defending the US Constitution in Iraq – come on) it at least gave a premise for the troops to have gone. 

It was sort of like when I was in Vietnam: we were there to defend  - something.

And  was another really, really stupid expedition:

But the question still remains: “why didn’t our President arrive on the scene in 2009 with a fiery sword and  why didn’t he smite the various unclean spirits who were cooking the books and fixing spreadsheets in the endeavor to prove that our veterans were getting the service - implicit and overt - resulting from their service in Afghanistan and Iraq, when in fact they were being denied anything resembling service?”

Maybe he is a closet W supporter. That would be weird, but it would be a facile answer given the screaming fact that it is undeniable that three or four trillion dollars are lurking in the not distant future if the nation were to honor its post Afghanistan and post Iraq war obligations to the citizens who fought those wars, again and again and – in too many cases again.  That would explain why a problem that has surfaced briefly several times during the Obama administration has only recently boiled.

Now it is 2014.

We have just found ourselves – us jokes, we citizens – hearing again that the VA is probably killing people.

The question shrieks, why has this become an issue again, and why has it just seemed to have been there all along. and why are we still hearing, again, that “they” are going to get to the bottom of it?

Why didn’t “they” get to the bottom of it in 2009?

And where has the President been all this time?

Looks to me as if the off-the-books war of W has had the tacit approval of the follow on administration.

Which might be some sort of bi-partisanship, but to what end?

Unless there is a bi-partisan conspiracy in support of stiffing our veterans.

And, given the Bush/Chaney genesis of that possibility and their “we don’t need to pay for this war or residual several decades of expenses” mentality of their great war to banish the world from Saddam’s nuclear weapons, it is really curious that Obama has never stirred that pot.

The problem has become that, finally, people are dying and it isn’t possible to pretend anymore that we don’t have to pay for it.

My question is, “why didn’t our president, who is smart, who is compassionate, who sees things clearly, fix this thing on the moment of taking office?”

The only answer I can conjure really bothers me.

Several other questions follow.

But some other time.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Not Dead? No Problem!

There is no research behind this proposition.

I don’t even know which of all the States (members of the United States of America) might be the intended users of my proposition.

I think a few of them are Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri.

There are probably, but may not be, many others.

Whatever the number, or whatever their names and locations in the USA, they all share the same vexing problem: they all like to execute some of their citizens who have been convicted of certain capital crimes.

It is an odd fact that there aren’t many civilized lieus where that sort of outcome still occurs.

But the US is one of the few.

Given the perceived need to indulge in human housekeeping, the places in the United States that still have capital punishment all do it with great god fearing  humanity.

They all use drugs injected into the about-to-be-dispatched offenders.

Apparently that isn’t as easy as one might think, or one might hope – if one thought that the whole thing was a good idea in the first place.

In a nation in which a cat or dog can be “put to sleep” with dispatch, celerity and swift certainty it is not so easy to dispatch a human miscreant.

I’m not just asserting that.

As Bert, my 22 year old cat, lay on my lap last October, just prior to his life terminating injections, I asked the veterinarian why the human execution chambers didn’t seem to work as well as what Bert and I were about to go through.

He gave me a mealy-mouthed, no meaning, answer.

“My, my” I thought.

Moments later Bert slipped into non-existence without a whimper.

The only whimpers were mine.

So – going back to the main stem of this musing – why is it so hard to replicate that outcome in humans?

I just don’t know.

And I really don’t care.

But it is hard for me to ignore the fact that recent American applications of justice via lethal injection have not gone well in the states that have applied them.

I think I have heard that there has been a lot of thrashing around and twitching and unattractive stuff like that.

When I thought I had heard that I made the mental note that I was really glad that Bert had had an apparently much more competent application of life terminating lethal injection.

I loved that cat.

I wouldn’t have wanted him to have had a moment of life-transition fear or pain.

And he didn’t as best as I was able to divine from his exit demeanor; and I was glad.

But for humans recently things have not gone so swimmingly.

So I have a suggestion.

And it is simple and it might even add American jobs.

A baseball bat, as a mandatory piece of equipment for all lethal drug injections in America, would solve the problem.

The minute an about-to-be-dispatched prisoner begins to twitch and moan someone can take the bat and beat him the rest of the way to death.

The only question remaining is who should be the bat swinger.

Since in most cases, the states with aggressive capital punishment regimens have republican, loudly pro-death-to-the-criminals governors, I suggest that each execution be attended by the governor of the state where said execution is taking place.

Think of the political advantage:

The governor can emerge from one of these events spattered with brains and blood and shout with Nixon-like uplifted arms to his or her faithful: “One less threat to our christian faith and beliefs; another unclean spirit has been dispatched”.

That will make re-election hard to deny.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Moveable Concept

My screen saver just displayed a black and white image of Storm Large.

It was some sort of promotional thing I had seen somewhere and in some manner had digitized.

Post digitization it had in some manner crept into my cache des images.

The thing said she was excelling at being the fill in for China Forbes of Pink Martini.

I couldn’t remember having saved that image, but I knew why I had saved it.

Storm Large is probably one of not many entertainers who loom (dare I say?) large on a pretty grim entertainment scene.

If you have ever seen her perform her one woman show you know what I mean.

If you haven’t that is too bad.

Anyway, that is all just prologue to what I have on my mind right now, looking out on la Seine as the sun is beginning to set over Paris.

What that little prequel is supposed to set up for me to say is that, in spite of the fact that I continue to be pissed off about never having been able to get any East Coast publishing interest in - what is now – four books, I have absolutely no right to be pissed off.

Storm has a right to be pissed off.

Maybe she is.

I have no way to know, but if she isn’t she should be.

She is so talented that – if you care about that sort of thing – it is scary.

And yet, as far as I know, she languishes in a halfway-there nook of the entertainment industry that allows her to make a – perhaps fairly good – living, but which denies her stardom.

And if you have ever seen her do any of the various things she does you will be hard pressed to see how stardom can have eluded her.

But it has.


Being published in my personal ethos is the same as stardom probably would be for Storm.

And that linkage does a lot for me.

Because at best I am a literary hack.

But many of that species make good livings writing.

I just haven’t been able to crack the code – if there be one – as to how to do that.

But it all seems fair to me to be denied (my sniveling word for no success) any chance at being published when I consider that a really monumental talent – Storm - stays just out of the prime limelight.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Parrots of Paris

In January 2013 I made this post:

I am now back in Paris and I have been trying to see where the parrots are, if they are at this time of year, and if I can get some pictures of them.

It hasn’t been easy.

Green leaves make green parrots hard to see, their amazingly species-specific shrieks and the amazing volume of those shrieks notwithstanding.

I have gone to Parc Montsouris – where I know that there is a large winter-time population – and Jardin de Luxembourg, Jardin des Plantes and Parc Monceau; I have heard them, but I have not seen them.

All but Montsouris parrots are new news to me on this sojourn, by the way.

Anyway, today things changed.

I was in le Jardin des Plantes.

And I heard a parrot in one of the gigantic sweet gum trees that loom the Jardin. .

I heard it and was staring up into that really tall tree where the sound, but I couldn’t see it.

Too much green was around the sound – leaves and all that.

There was a French family who had also heard it, and, unlike several hundred other people within earshot, they knew what it was and wanted to see it.

The woman spotted it.

She talked me, limb by limb and leaf by leaf to where it was.

I got  bunch of pictures and this video.

I think if you click on the video as it plays it will become full screen video.

The resolution is good enough to support that view.

Here is the link to the video:

And here are a few pictures:

paris 2014 jardin des plantes parrot 051814 00007paris 2014 jardin des plantes parrot 051814 00008paris 2014 jardin des plantes parrot 051814 00009