Sunday, April 30, 2017

Boston Accent

I'm in Boston, the only place in the world, where my accent is like the majority of the population.

Some say that I speak French with a Boston accent, and a good friend who listened to my Congressional testimony and the press conference afterwards https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZoLSfyyjvI&feature=youtu.be say even though I haven't lived here for almost 30 years.

Therefore, when I saw this t-shirt near Quincy Mahket, I had to buy it. It met two of the three criterhia I have before buying anything; useful, beautiful and / or a memory.

Someone said my testimony at Congress this week https://oversight.house.gov/hearing/reviewing-unintended-consequences-foreign-account-tax-compliance-act/ (Fast forward to after Rand Paul)

Meanwhile I enjoy walking thru the Boston streets and looking at things I love, probably for the last time. However, when I leave, the accent will me.



Friday, April 28, 2017

Walking the hill




Enter six Congressmen’s offices. 

Look at their blue rugs, dark wood furniture.

See symbols of their state, family photos

Repeat our story

There were ten of us. We explained the damage FATCA was doing to individuals

  • how it was unconstitutional-unlawful search and seizure
  • how it hurt American business overseas as well as the image
  • No one can give figures on what it brings in or how many tax cheats caught
  • It brands all American expats as terrorists, drug dealers, sex traffickers and/or tax cheats.

Four Congressmen had their aids talk to us. Two were well versed and/or extremely interested. One was new to the job.

For me, the views of most of the men I met are abhorrent. They are anti-climate, anti-women’s right to choose, anti everything I hold near and dear. Yet on this issue we are in agreement.

It was the Republicans who are working on this issue and the Democrats who are fighting it and the Republicans are hoping to capture Democratic voters overseas.

FATCA goes beyond party loyalty. It violates the 4th and 8th amendment of the Constitution. It costs more than it brings in. It hurts American business as well as individual.

There was a hearing much like the ones shown on TV with the bank of congressmen seats, many empty, but with their aids taking notes.

Political theater.

There were congressmen who didn’t know what they were talking about, but we were there to educate them. I believe we were more successful than not. What that will do to change anything is unknown.

There was the Democratic architect of FATCA who twisted in the wind with misinformation and said that it didn’t matter if FATCA caused people to renounce. There are others to take their place. Her hand was next to the Army uniform belonging to one of the renouncers. He had no choice if he wanted to refinance his condo. I spoke to her during the recess and told her
  • You don’t know what you are talking about
  • You should try living overseas
  • You have ruined thousands of lives.
 I have a great contempt voice. 

Later she said she would like FATCA extended. That means everyone in America would have all their financial information submitted to the IRS including when they bought gas, the new dress, never mind their 401K, roll of Scotch tape bought at Staples on a debit card. 


The hearing ended and we traipsed to another building for a press conference. It can be heard here.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

2 more

I added an Uber ride to my collection of taxi drivers.

I collect taxi drivers. Whenever I enter a cab, I try and make contact with the driver. It makes the rides more interesting.

My best was in Paris with repeated rides with Mr. K from Algeria. We solved the problems of the world when he drove me from my friend's in Puteaux  to the Gare de Lyon. On one trip he called his sister so we could chat. He thought we would like each other. I think we would. Sadly, he left the taxi business before I could go home with him for some of his wife's couscous as promised.

I've ridden with one of the five Greek Parisian taxi drivers, whose love of Greece out-loved the father's in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Rick and I are staying in D.C. while I appear before Congress about how FATCA has jeopardized the financial lives of nine million American expats. FATCA is the reason I am no longer American. We are a friend's house near the CIA and the zoo, far enough out to make a taxi the most simple choice.

We were headed for Clyde's to meet with the rest of FATCA-fighting team.

Our hostess used her Uber account when Rick's smart phone wouldn't work to set up the app.

As soon as we pulled from the curb, I started with my usual, "May I ask..." as a polite opening. The young driver loved to talk.

He drives two days along with a second job and school.  He wants to be a programmer and has one more year. Don't tell me about lazy kids.

Leaving the restaurant three hours later, we hailed a regular cab.

Me: I hear an accent, may I ask where you're from?

Driver: East Africa.

Me: Ethiopia

Driver: Close.

 Me: Eritrea.

Driver: Yes. I've been here 20 years and I'm a proud American.

Eritrea is the only other country in the world that has citizen based taxation (CBT), although it is limited to 2%. Considering FATCA is a result of CBT, we launched into a philosophical discussion of CBT and we brought up FATCA. Like everyone who hears of FATCA for the first time he was shocked.

We told him we were in D.C. to talk to congress about the unintended consequences of the act. "That's terrible," he said. He couldn't imagine life without a bank account or his mortgage being called because of his birthplace.

We arrive at my friend's house. "You go tell Congress," he said. "Bonsoir," he added. French was one of his six languages, although he said it was the one he was weakest in.

As we walked up the steps, Rick said, imagine meeting a taxi driver by chance from the only other country that practices CBT.

Imagine.







Monday, April 24, 2017

travel

I admit I'm tired of travel. If only I could be like Samantha and wiggle my nose and be where I want to be after the twitch.

There is the worry about schedules. Will the planes be late and I miss connections. That can happen n train trips too.

The discomfort is worse when I enter the US, the fear of what might happen even if I have my Esta form. I've told the US government that:
  • I didn't help the Nazis in WWII
  • I am not a terrorist
  • I never kidnapped a child
They still can hold me or turn me away because they want to.

For homelanders this is the type of stupidity all foreigners are subject to.

We carry:
  • Our laptops as clean as possible
  • Our marriage certificate for different last names explanations
  • An Xray of my skull to show the metal placed after I broke my face for body searches
  • A list of passwords for social media in case we are one of those asked
So far we only had glitch when we drove in from Canada  2.5 years ago and I passed secondary processing and ended up with a 3-month visa.

The alarm sounded Monday morning at 3 a.m. By 4:30 we were on our way to Toulouse airport. This time the parking garage code worked.

Time for a breakfast of a croissant nicely over baked, my favorite way, and I savored the last bite.

We were under a pirate flag, although there have been few reports of pirates in the Garonne River. Amusing.

The flight to Charles de Gaulle was on time for us to walk, not run to our connector to D.C. And unlike our last trip we didn't have to go thru security a second time.

The Air France staff spoke four languages (really should be a requirement on all international flights) and were extremely pleasant so different from our Delta flight from the US in March. No problems with baggage delivery to the plane either as happened on Delta.

The safety message was one of the most clever I've seen with mix and match outfits and cute moves by the models.

Watched three movies and Mom, which I had read about in the New Yorker
  • Cloclo
  • Florence
  • Bridget Jones Baby (what my former housemate calls a nincompoopy movie but fun)
And I napped.

Customs and border control were a breeze. The new automatic kiosks make it easy even though being fingerprinted twice and photographed twice seems just a dite inefficient.

The border guard asked me if I had brought any gifts.

I said one teeny, teeny soap.

"Teeny, teeny, or teeny, teeny, teeny?" he asked. Then admitted to just "messing" with me. I told him since I was so tired, I'd failed to come up with a smart-ass reply.

In response to my questions he said there were times he did get bored, but it was the easiest and best paying job he ever had. He doesn't understand why so often the grouchy people are just back from vacation.

My teddy bear suitcase and Rick's green one arrived in record time.

My friends were waiting at arrivals and we took them out to eat. When in the D.C. area soft-shelled crab is must. And a Kahlua sombrero or white Russian is something I seldom get.

Some catch-up on our lives and we staggered up to bed. Some people claim to fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow, but Rick's even sleep breathing began as his head descended to the pillow. I wasn't far behind.

If only all our trips were like this.









Saturday, April 22, 2017

Margaret and me

I was in bed with Margaret Atwood this morning.

Rick slept next to me in his Henry David Thoreau "simplify, simplify" t-shirt. Outside the church bells rang 8. Muffled sounds from merchants setting up for the marché penetrated the windows.

Margaret wasn't there in person, but was in an article in the latest New Yorker, the gift from my husband that keeps on giving weekly. Never is there an issue that I don't learn something. This article was so vivid it felt as if she were there and sharing my cup of tea.

Atwood has always been one of the my favorite writers. As a writer myself comparing me to her is like comparing a marathon runner finishing in less than three hours and a baby crawling the same course over weeks, if not months.

My 11 published novels and a couple of poems do not stand up against her seemingly endless list of novels, essays and poems.

We do share things in common with some difference. We are both in our seventies. I'm three years younger, although young is not a term for either. She's traveled the world, I've traveled much in Europe and North America. To a certain degree we both are iconoclasts at least a little bit. She has lived in the wild. To me, wild is a camp ground that has hot showers.

*****
Here's some quotes from the article.

"Fiction has to be something that people actually believe."

When it comes to women's rights and the current need to protect them yet another time. "After sixty years why are we doing this again?"

On the Edible Woman "(A reviewer in Time said the novel had the 'kick of a perfume bottle converted into a Molotov cocktail.')"

When asked how she got her housework done she said, "Look under my sofa, then we talk."

"Her feminism assumes women's rights to be human rights, and is born of having been raised with a presumptive of absolute equality between the sexes."

"My problem was to that people wanted me not to wear frilly pink dresses--it was that I wanted to wear frilly pink dresses."

"All characters have to live somewhere even if they are rabbits in Watership Down."

When discussing nail polish with a friend, Atwood remembered she was wearing red. "How frivolous of you to remember." the friend said. "How novelistic of me to remember it," Atwood said.

*****
The article talked much about Handmaid's Tale which has had a resurgence in popularity because of America's current political climate.

Like all New Yorker articles, it was several pages. My tea was cold when I finished. There were things that needed to be done. Check out the marché, pack for our D.C. trip tomorrow, empty the dishwasher, eat breakfast.

Margaret went her way and I went mine.
 









Friday, April 21, 2017

Greed



Normally when one thinks of greed, bankers and CEOs with inflated salaries come to mind.


But I am greedy. Not for money, but for the experiences I can cram into the day.

When I wake I want to:
  • Watch Télémartin
  • The news on CNN, BBC, France24, I24, Al Jazeera, 
  • Stay in bed and read while sipping tea that my lovely husband has brought me
  • Have my husband beside me also reading or...
I can do all these things, just not all at the same time. That's greedy to want it all.

I want to be in Argelès yet step out the door for lunch at Mikado with my former housemate...the problem? It's eight hours travel time away.

I want to be able to:
  • Write emails
  • Check news sites
  • Play games
  • Check out FB
  • Post photos
  • Write blogs
  • Work on my novel
  • Market my novels
The problem? I want to do it all at the same time.

And at the same time I am on the computer I want to
  • Sit at the local cafés in the sun
  • Chat with friends
  • Take a walk to the beach (ASM)
  • Take a walk to the lake (Geneva) 
  • Take a walk in the woods (ASM and Geneva)
  • Investigate something and or some place
  • Go on Photo Safari
The problem? I want to do it all at the same time.

Now it is easy to see why I am so greedy. I have all these wonderful alternatives every minute of every day. It involves selection and the ability to concentrate on what I'm doing not what I'm not doing.

I'm not asking for sympathy. It would be a wasted exercise. I live in two wonderful places with a wonderful husband with wonderful choices.

The bankers can keep their money. I have experiences that tell me I'm alive every second.



Thursday, April 20, 2017

Juniper

The memories started when my Danish friend asked me the name of the berry used for gin.

A total blank until five minutes after she left the café where we'd been enjoying une noisette.

In a world where parents schedule almost every minute of their kids' time, I was brought back to my own childhood. Personally, I would kill any parent that did that to me and consider it justifiable homicide.

I did take piano lessons for one year, hating every minute of it. Although at the end I did play "Swaying Silver Birches" in the Key of C with a certain competence. My teacher was the daughter of a Boston Marathon runner.

In grade school there were the dreaded ballroom dancing lessons from Mr. Curry, his piano-playing mother and his boxer. The only advantage to the wasted afternoon came later when alumni had a wonderful dance during high school.

And then there was the time when I was sent to my grandmother's friend after school to learn arts and crafts. After a bout of measles, I refused to return. 

Activities stopped me from what I wanted to do after school.

Play.

We lived on 14 acres of land. There were gardens on the side and back, a hill for sliding in winter and covered with violets in the spring. My grandfather's tool house was half converted into a playhouse. I still wish my father had finished it.

No friends lived nearby, but I had imaginary friends. Each lived somewhere on the land. Maida's home was under the juniper bush (thus the memory trigger) and Anita under one of the big rocks left by a melting glacier eons before. June lived under the other.

We had games of being Romans, Greeks, Tudors, cowboys and indians and even the FBI hunting Al Capone. We rode bikes up and down the semi circular driveway that surrounded our pine grove or roller skated on the porch.

After a rain storm when there were puddles everywhere we would build canals until the water ran into one big puddle where the driveway dipped, then splash in it.

In winter, we built snow forts and snowmen until my grandmother had me bring in a plate of clean snow. She poured hot maple syrup on the snow making the best candy.

On the coldest of days, my imaginary friends and I would play newspaper, draw, paint or just curl up with a book before they had to return to their rock and juniper bush homes.

Playing alone made me happy. Maybe I have such an active imagination today because of it. And it didn't hurt my ability to make friends. Maida, June and Anita sometimes were so stubborn I had to compromise.

Today I have a very active social life with friends of all ages and nationalities. I enjoy all the times we spend together. However, I need alone time or I will break. Fortunately, my former housemate, my daughter and my husband and I all have the ability to be alone together in the same room each engrossed in our activities and thoughts.