Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Opening night

Pascal and Marcel opened their new crêperie around the corner and although there are only 14 places in art deco theme, and despite the no grand opening announcement, people from the neighbourhood came in for their test evening. The place has been over a year in preparation as the couple redid their living quarters upstairs then built the restaurant looking for unique furnishings like the copper stamped table where I sat.

Complimentary champagne always is a winner.

Of course for any French eating place to succeed the food has to be good. My meal was a crêpe with white chicken meat, gorgonzola and pureed leeks with a salad on the side arranged with artistry on frosted glass square plates. Wonderful. Breton cider went well with it.

The desert was another crêpe with locally-made mint chocolate ice cream and house-made black chocolate source. I didn't lick the plate to get every drop of the sauce, a no-no in Franco table manners (darn it)

The ambience was more like a party as neighbours chatted. Pascal practised his waiting skills and Marcel was in and out of the kitchen to double check the tastes were to the customers satisfactions.

One wall is a blackboard with the choices listed in calligraphy-quality writing. I plan to work my way through the menu. Neither Pascal nor Marcel did anything to discourage the idea.

I went to Spain yesterday

Okay…when I lived in Grand Sacconex, Switzerland going to France was a four-bus stop hop or a stroll through the countryside, so I often went to France for coffee, lunch or dinner, to leave my dry cleaning, to shop the marché or to meet up with friends living there. Where I live now in Corsier, it is a ten minute drive, and we might go to shop on a Sunday morning or enjoy the Japanese Restaurant across the border.

Going to Spain from my French nest to buy a T-shirt for my friend’s grandson takes a little longer, about 20 minutes by the back roads, nore if you stop along the way.

Still the feeling of smugness is there of being able to hop across a border in what used to take months of savings and planning. Of course if I were living in the middle of France or even the middle of Switzerland that wouldn’t be as easy, although in Switzerland reaching Italy, France, Austria or Germany for a day trip is feasible.

When I am back in Geneva next month, my first Sunday I will hop into France to catch up with a friend from my old apartment complex where I will stay with other friends to catch up with their activities before going to my home on the other side of the lake.

It isn’t the going to France or Spain or even Italy for pizza as I did with RB2 one spur of the moment Saturday that makes me feel smug. It is the activities that I do there are routine to mundance that what once was abnormal is normal that creates not just smugness but happiness.

Moins 25%

Moins 25% the sign read. The same sign migrated from the English bookstore, then the jewellers, then the potters. They weren’t having a 20% off sale, but it was part of a neighbourhood joke started by the French couple Eric and Julie who put it on one display window. That vendor moved it to the next store who in turn moved it on.

Unlike shopping malls the village stores represent a community where people chat on the street when sales are slow, help each other when needed, care… Jokes cement the caring not reduce it by 25%

Monday, January 29, 2007

Time management -- not my strong point

This was one of those days when I stopped work and went to the bank and byto the station to buy train tickets for Paris and Geneva, simple chores all within walking distance. The time should have been 15 to 20 minutes. It took a couple of hours, although my bank card problem was quickly solved.

The problem was based at La Noisette. The first time I ran into the ladies I lunched with a week ago. Then another man came in. He had to tease me about a website I refused to be commandeered into doing for another local. A cup of tea was necessary.

Then coming back from my errands a group sat there including a woman I hadn’t seen since November. Naturally it involved another café sit and it would have been rude not to have a glass of wine.

She had hoped over from the UK on a £1 pound fare, and admitted some guilt over increasing her carbon footprint, but compared to the train fare of several hundred, the chance to come outweighed the environmental considerations.

More and more I hear people say they try to drive less, use less harmful products, etc. but all admit convenience and cost add to their decisions sometimes to the detriment of the environment.

My carbon footprint might have been clean because as usual I accomplish 90% of my missions without using resources, but my time management skills might need a bit of fine tuning – or not…

hmm hmm good

My new ATM card must be delicious because two different machines ate it. The young man at the counter, who asked his counterpart if he could guess my nationality (he didn’t), offered to order a new one at no cost, saying hopefully it would be there before I went back to Geneva.

There were several people behind me in line as we worked through my problem. From no where a grey-haired woman, shopping bag over her arm, burst ahead of me, took the teller’s head in her hands and kissed him on both cheeks. “A vendredi,” she said and vanished.

The teller, who was now bright red looked at me. "Ma grandmére."

"C'est mignon," I said, making him blush deeper, but I did think it was cute. I didn't want to make him redder by saying, it was good to be adored as he obviously was. He is probably safe from more embarrassment until Friday.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

You Tube I love you.

Although Garou wasn’t listed, I still turned on France2 to watch a song fest of French popular music last night snug in my sweats and with my knitting needles good working fast enough for me to attend an execution in A Tale of Two Cities.

But glory, glory he did appear and in several songs. He must have just arrived from Canada because the squeaky-voiced hostess kept asking him how his jet lag was.

Long ago, when I wanted music I had to wait for it to appear on TV or the radio or by the CD. Now I can see my favorites on You Tube so here are some of favourites www.youtube.com videos

Istill haven’t recovered from my Notre Dame de Paris addiction. Of course “Belle” where Quasimod, Frollo and Phoebus sing of their lust for Esmeralda is at the top of the list. The first is Garou alone because there is a verse in English

The second are the three cast originals who performed the song on the stage at Garou’s Bercy concert

Then there’s Bruno Pelletier signing the opening song of the NDdP musical.

Or Lavoie agonizing over his love for Esmeralda. I loved the staging. (Note: I personally think Esmeralda got a raw deal from the men who claimed to love her, but then again she was stupid to believe in them. But if she had gotten the hell out of Paris, the story wouldn't have worked.)

Enough of NDdP and back to Pelletier – this was filmed on the eve of new Millennium in Canada and is from Star Mania where a businessman regrets not his success but wants to be an artist http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-x9q_oqiU4
I saw Pelletier in concert and he is mulit talented going from rock, blues, jazz on several instruments.

I can’t resist adding one more Garou song where he sings that if you think he has given up, he hasn’t he has given a vacation to his heart. But when he takes to the sea and lets out the sail he slides on the wind, when he quits the earth to find his star he will follow her in an instance. It will never be finished.

Then there is Lara Fabian who recreates the Piaf song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGnqaCplF3w with Patrick, who was her lover at the time.

For pure sexual power you can’t top the great of French Rock and Roll Johnny Halliday with Lara Fabian http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Srndu31jf0

And to prove that Claude Francois not Anka wrote My Way
This megamix showcases the man almost 30 years after he died including the song my daughter calls “the butt in your face song.”


To the other side of the pond…

“Willow Weep for Me” is my all time favourite song so when I found this guitar version I kept listening and listening. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcgRZrdvJKM and this one too http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nk2sHWlQU10 and this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WV99z3Dapc

I was glad finally there was a version of “And the Angels Sing” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhYnpWjZyuU although this is probably by least favourite version, but I take what I can get. Hopefully others will be added.

And anything by Phil Ochs, whom I discovered 25 years ago when I listened to Emerson College’s folk radio show, and only later did I learn he was bipolar and committed suicide.
Sadly his anti war songs are too relevant today.


This interview with Helen Reddy hit me for its memories. I used to tell people I made my daughter sing "I am Woman" before getting up http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uF5ZfdTq7Gsto make sure she was an independent woman. Although it isn't totally true, we did the song when we sang other songs like "Tennesse Bird Walk", and "The Candy Man" as we were getting dressed in the morning or sitting around in the evening.

This blog has been keeping from writing what I should be writing, so enough excuses and to work.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Three Bells

The bells at the church tolled as I turned the corner. A group of men stood on the steps next to the statue of the angel. To the side the flower-filled hearse hid. As is usual during a funeral, the chairs at the café were empty, the patrons inside out of respect. The doors inside the church was open. The organ played and I could see the casket being rolled down the aisle.

I thought of the song Trois Cloche sung by Edith Piaf http://youtube.com/watch?v=eOL61uC5Ww4 .

Bells toll when people are born, marry and die. The song was a hit a couple of years ago re-recorded by Tina Arena, http://youtube.com/watch?v=b0xzNRSlgeM which a good friend fell in love with and used as her wake-up music for a long time. The English lyrics have changed the name of the person to Jimmy Brown from Jean-François Nicot but the ideas are the same, the church bells mark the significant parts of our lives.*

I don’t know the name of the deceased and I didn’t recognize anyone outside as I walked by huddled in my coat with my hood pulled tight against the wind John Donne, read long ago in Dr. Burto’s English lit class popped into my mind.

“No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

We are coming up on February 2nd to Imbolc, the pagan celebration for the banishment of winter and the welcoming of the coming spring. Today’s temperature bore no resemblance to spring. In fact all over the world the temperatures have done strange things, reaffirming the fear of global warming, except for a few nay sayers.

Many pagans tied their lives into the wheel of the year, thinking of life as a circle marked by seasons instead of linear.

In today’s society we tend to not think of our interconnectedness, but on some level I am aware that each of my actions, what I buy, what resources I use, what I say, affect others and will until the final bell tolls for me like the man in the casket being carried from the church.

The hearse took its burden, drove slowly to the cemetery and the mourners walked behind.

The bells tolled.

Old habits die hard but this is just stupid

As I left the bakery with my pave de Henri, the misshapened loaf of yeasty, crusty, fresh-baked bread made by Henri, the bakery owner, I tried to push the door open. It opens inward.

Raised in the US where public doors are required to open outward ever since the Coconut Grove Fire http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocoanut_Grove_fire left 300 dead when panicked people piled up behind the doors that opened inward thus trapping them.

There are no such requirements in either France or Switzerland. It hit me. Next year it will be 20 years or 31% of my life since I first moved to Europe. I won’t even begin to estimate how many doors I have opened inward including the same bakery, yet the behaviour pattern of my childhood still automatically had me pushing the door instead of pulling it.

Old habits die hard, but this is just stupid.

Birthday presents and addresses

When I go back to Geneva, I had planned to scour the stores for a certain birthday present for my daughter, albeit it late. But it was something she said she would like to have in a passing conversation and I had little hope in finding it Argelès, or so I thought.

Running mundane errands (kitty food for Ptah II) with my friend we passed a store that has antiques and junk. I saw exactly what I wanted. Needless to say I grabbed it.

Now all I have to do is call for her address which is written down in my address book … IN GENEVA.

I could plead that she has moved so many times there is no point in memorizing an address. My father used to claim he put mine in pencil because of my many moves.

For a long time I kept all this information on computer but I never had the computer with me when I needed an address, so I went back to the old fashioned paper list in my paper agenda.

However, I didn’t bother to transfer it to the new 2007 agenda because she told me she was planning to change apartments.

Ah well, VOIPcheap means I call the states free, and it will be good to talk to her.

I suppose I could keep computer lists, computer agenda and a printed copy of both with me, but that would only lead to things being in one and not another. Or maybe I can just accept I will never have all the information I want when I need it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The red white and blue

The American, French and English flags are all red, white and blue as are some other countries, but EDF has given the colours new meaning. EDF is Electricité de France.

I learned about the colouration when on a cold night, I was eating with a good friend. The goat was roasted to perfection, the risotto was just right and the salad was made of a veggie that looked as if a cauliflower mated with broccoli and then bleached its flowers. It worked.

A beep went off.

“Damn, that means tomorrow is a red day,” she said. She didn’t wait for me to ask. “Electricity will cost more.”

I knew she had changed her meter to a night/day one which charges less at night then during the day, good for working families, and those who want to do the washing at night. Not as good for people who are home all day and heat with electricity. Her old meter had probably been put in before Thomas Edison was born.

In the program EDF has 22 red days during the winter when electricity costs the most during the day. Blue days and white days are figured at lower rates. All colours are higherlower at night.

Another beep.

“It will beep for an hour, so I won’t miss knowing what colour I am living with,” she said. She then showed me a table that explained it including charts.

"Interesting." I hope it lowers her bill. Anyone that can make as good a dinner as she does, deserves the best she can get.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Tramantane

I won’t compare last night’s Tramantane to the winds in the north, for trees stayed in the ground and tiles on the roofs, but it woke me several times, once because it forced open a window. More than once it seemed as if it were swirling around my studio, although I was snug under my penguin-flannel covered duvet.

The marché today, which usually has upwards of 60 commercants selling their olives, cheeses, sausages and other meats, veggies and clothing, was reduced to one brave meat wagon huddled under the protective wings of the 700 year-old church, which has survived decades of this winds and not a few wars.

This is more normal for winter. The ski stations in the mountains now have snow.

Compared to sticky heat, or even the temperatures in Florida last month at Christman, I am content in my slippers and thick sweater with a pot of tea at my side.

Meanwhile the wind continues to blow.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Points of view

A majority of my Arab friends believe as surely as they believe that the sun is in the sky that the TV station Al Jazerra is somehow backed by the CIA.

Listening to the Americans like Rumsfeld, they treat the station as the work of some devilish force.

When I had an Arabic speaker around, I could get translations but it was never often enough and normally when these friends are around we prefer eating, talking, listening to music and even belly dancing a couple of time to watching TV, but now my TV service offers the station in English.

Last night’s debate featured an American, Palestinian and Robert Fisk, two opposing views and a moderating one. It was fair and balanced. However between the Palestinian and the American I worry, because their opinions were so opposite, I wondered if they were talking about the same planet.

One thing that surprised me was when the American said Arabs didn’t know enough about America, that they didn’t study it.

My experience, when I have met my Arab friends, is how many majored in American studies. Those with degrees from other disciplines had read most of the American authors both classical and popular, could discuss the Civil War with more knowledge than most American high school students, and understood how the American government worked that would make a civics teacher weep with joy.

Granted, my friends from the Middle East are highly educated and well-travelled. My trips to the Middle East are limited, but I feel in-depth having stayed with real families and developing networks of friends, rather than just playing tourist, although I have done that too. I can drink matei and crack watermelon seeds for hours while sharing gossip and stories about myriad subjects.

However, if Al Jazeera is Arab or CIA controlled, doesn’t matter. The fact that both sides distrust makes me think they are probably doing something right.

For me it is another point of view to add to CNN, MSNBC, BBC, France24 and the other news-devoted station to try and get the whole picture. This does not mean that I will give up checking with newspapers from the countries where the stories happen to add another point of view. Thank-goodness I am a fast reader.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

When a bowl of tea is more than a bowl of tea

Years ago Steve Allen on his late night show blindfolded people in his audience and made them guess sounds. What triggered the memory this morning was the sound of my tea being poured from the pot (properly made with tea leaves, and the pot warmed before pouring in the water) into my tea bowl. Yes bowl. In the morning I’ve adopted the French habit of a big bowl of tea. I use the bowl with a raised cow that a friend gave me to celebrate my Swiss nationality.

The tea itself had been purchased from the tea shop down the street with its cans and cans of different teas with their different aromas and names conjuring up images of places only seen in exotic foreign movies. Two days ago I had bought some Darjeeling, which the owner had measured into a narrow red bag after writing the name of the tea in the small beige square left for the purpose. She sealed the bag with a gold wire strip using it to fold the top of the bag over and over until she reached the tea.

Today will be a work day, concentrating on stories from Canada. As I write at my computer, dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, my bowl of tea resting on my breakfast tray, I am overwhelmed by the pleasure something as simple as drinking tea can bring.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Couscous and cinemas

The 10th Cinema festival of Maghreb opened in Argelés, last night, although they had a pre-festival film the night before, a film version of Mohamed Choukuri, Le pain nu, based on the story of his life as a starving and ill-treated child in Tanger who as an illiterate adult had the lucky chance to be sent to prison where he learned to read. He finished his life as a teacher and writer. The film was painful to watch, bringing home the horrendous poverty that envelops too much of this planet.

A couscous dinner and the film Barakat in which a young doctor searches for her kidnapped journalist husband was the program for the opening along with a photo exhibition. The hall had been reserved, the food prepared, the film loaded in the projector.

The price forthe evening was 7Euros ($9).

Almost double the expected crowd arrived, many from surrounding villages, a second hall was opened. Friends greeted each other. Those who didn’t know each other introduced themselves and sometimes found they knew people in common.

Extra couscous had been prepared, but not enough. One of the organizers, a man who taken a year off ostensibly to make a film, but in reality to fulfill and live his passion, shown the week before, made an announcements. Pizzas were arriving so everyone could be fed.

Although fed well there were too many people to fit into the theatre. Only those with pre-paid tickets could see the film, which they took with good humour.

Today there are many films, but I will go to only one adding another to my international wedding repertoire, this one, Noces d’été, by a Tunisian director, about a young journalist who doesn’t like his parents attempts to push him into marriage.

It’s so nice to have so much happening steps from my living space, but then it was no accident that I set up life so I can walk to whatever I need.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Dangerous Doors

According to a New Zealand news paper the US is testing a new communication tool that will beam into all defence communications in case of emergency. The only problem when they tested it they discovered it was on the same frequency that opened garage doors.

Twilight zone openings and shuttings happened, which caused one American to comment, “I never knew my garage was a threat to national security.”


France24 is a new 24-hour news channel broadcast on two channels, one in English, one in French and quick channel switching show that the news is as close to identical as possible although French-speaking experts will show up on one, English-speaking experts on the other.

However as the case of the bi-lingual American ambassador to France, he was interviewed in both languages, but the questions were almost identical. English came first, because when asked about how good his French was, he said he would see in a few minutes.

World news seems to be covered as well or better than either CNN or BBC, but French news obviously gets more attention. One presenter is from CNN.

Two more clicks of the remote in my quest to know…

Monday, January 08, 2007

Why I am afraid

We read about the Greatest Generation, we read the history of WWII but Gladys Arnold in her book One Woman’s War gives a first person account of the Germans entering France, the Vichy, escaping to London then home to Canada where she worked with the Free French.

Her history brought home facts little known. When the Free French took over two small Islands near Canada occupied by the Vichy, held and election and 98% of the citizens recognized the new French government, the U.S. Secretary Cordell Hull was besides himself because the US recognized the Vichy as the legitimate government of France.

Likewise when the Vichy ship Richelieu docked at New York, a majority of the crew disembarked to join the Free French almost causing an international incident. The men were hustled to Canada before their intentions could be known.

Although I had read a lot of WWII history, I had never realised that we did not give full support to the Free French rather than the illegitimate puppet government of France.

Arnold also gives a fascinating description of fascism.

"Everyone could understand communism, we thought. Hundreds of books have been written and its exponents were only too glad to talk about it. But fascism was more subtle, more difficult to pin down. It came in ways the majority of people did not recognize until too late. It was not the ism of the poor. It was the worm that could enter the heart of the wealthy, industrialized nations where bread, shelter and overcoats for everyone was take for granted. It led to dictatorship, and the dictator was usually the tool of a small, power group, representing the top economic and military echelons of society.”

When I say America has moved closer and closer to fascism since the turn of the century, people look at me as if I have two heads, but combing Arnold with the 14 definitions of a fascist society I see that the US meets 13 of the criteria.

  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
  2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
  3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
  4. Supremacy of the Military
  5. Rampant Sexism
  6. Controlled Mass Media
  7. Obsession with National Security
  8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
  9. Corporate Power is Protected
  10. Labor Power is Suppressed
  11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
  12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
  13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
  14. Fraudulent Elections

And I am afraid.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Disney blues

The Dorchester Eagles, a Boston-based Pop Warner football team for kids 8 to 15, won a chance to compete in the national finals. Great…

Wait a minute…they have to raise the money to go, and they can’t save on cheap accommodations or camp. The sponsor Disney says they MUST stay in Disney hotels and buy passes to their parks and others in the region.

“Like more than a million amateur athletes before them, the Pop Warner kids -- ages 8 to 15 -- were bound for Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, which takes in tens of millions of dollars a year from participants who solicit charitable donations from friends, strangers, businesses, and nonprofits to compete in events at the park,” according to The Boston Globe.

Another team, the “St. Philip Saints, faced a $22,000 debt after its $50,000 trip last month to the sports complex,” The Globe reported.

I have not been a Disney fan for years. It seemed stupid to pay $93 million to an exec that didn’t work out. I didn’t like that they sued a small Florida nursery school for drawing their own Disney like characters and putting them in the window without paying Disney for a license. There corporate behaviour in opening Eurodisney had the warmth of Attila the Hun, driving companies out of business by their slow payment among other things. At an IABC conference the Disney spokesman told how they get publicity by co-op Olympic winners. The US is badly in need of real news, not Nancy Kerrigan in a Disney parade. We won’t even discuss the mega ego of long-time Disney head Eisner, who will be history shortly. You can create a fantasy world, which in itself is wonderful, without destruction of others.

Meanwhile the kids from Dorchester are frantically trying to raise more money for the trip than most of their parents earn in a year to help Disney’s profit stay at or beat last year’s $3.4 billion profit.

I often complain that American culture has become corporate culture not human culture, that Americans aren't citizens but consumers. This story only adds to this belief.

An apple rethink

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but I have never been a big apple fan, (apologies to my former assistant who is living his life-long dream with an apple farm in Pennsylvania), but for some reason as I stood at Patricia’s vegetable stand, the stack of apples caught my attention. They were natural of course, no wax no polish, but the way the sun hit the red and yellow of the skins, I felt adding it to my fresh coriander, clementines, onion, and Swiss chard was the only option. Then I forgot about it as I chatted with Caroline about her new baby as she rang up her order. And I paid no attention when I added my fresh produce to the green African bowl on my sideboard.

Because I had a late breakfast and a late lunch that could be called linner or dunch, I didn’t want to eat another meal before going to bed. I looked at the apple. I had also bought cheese from the cheese shop. Which one? Why not both?

I cannot think when I enjoyed a mealette so much. The crunch of the apple was like music, the sweetness ran over my tongue and lingered. The cheese, a tomme, was a mild contrast.

Maybe an apple a day isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Cold nights, warm bed

Florida’s heat had left me drained. Nights in a bedroom where there was no access to outside air had left me tossing and turning with only a sheet for cover. Thus being back where winter is more like winter, I was thrilled with the cool air, the need for my flannel pjs, the puff covered in its blue flannel and penguin pattern.

I rediscovered another pleasure. After doing a toilet-run, my feet tingling from the cold tile floor, jumping back under the covers to discover the bed still toasty from my own heat.

Playing with words.

Reading Natural Curiosity by Margaret Dabble in bed this morning, (reading like this is a luxury still appreciated every day of the week, after years of jumping out of bed to go to work) her heroine mentioned she had recovered love.

Recovered, recovered. The word bounced around my head and I kept going back to the sentence rather than reading on.

Recovered meant to find again as Dabble had used it. You get something back. If you recover from an illness you find your health again. I recover my keys from wherever I have tossed them. I have often thought finding keys should be an Olympic sport.

But if you recover a couch with new fabric you hide it where you can’t see it. If you open a box to reveal its contents, but when you recover it, the contents are hidden an opposite meaning.

I went to www.etymonline.com to find the history of the word.

C.1300, "to regain consciousness," from Anglo-Fr. rekeverer (1292), O.Fr. recovrer, from L. recuperare "to recover" (see recuperate). Meaning "to regain health or strength" is from c.1330; sense of "to get (anything) back" is first attested 1366. Recovery is c.1302, in Anglo-Fr., both of health and of legal possession.

Nothing about the second meaning. I looked at my click-clack (French for convertible couch because when you change it from a couch to a bed it first goes click than clack as you lift the seat up and down). The blue cover is in perfect condition so there is no need to recover it. When I do maybe I should use the word reupholster and when I put the lid on a box for a second time, I can close it rather than recover it.

As for my constantly missing keys, I hope to recover those as regularly as I lose them.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


The boulangerie case had was filled with frangipane http://www.recette-dessert.com/galette-rois-frangipane-r262.htm of all sizes. Since it was just going to be just Barbara and me eating the round, flat slightly almondy pastry, I chose the smallest one.

After our chicken from the man down the street, I cut it in half. Since there were no small children to say who got one which piece, she selected her own.

The fava bean was in hers. Mine had the little ceramic figure, two mice, with the French words for “the lovers” in tiny French letters.

We each wore the crown for a few minutes. She confessed that she still had her ceramic figure from when she got the figure last year. In Geneva, I had the King. I told her I kept mine. As a person who throws out everything, I feel the need to slip them into my change bank. I have no idea why. It is all part of the celebration of the Three Kings Day.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Jacques me contactez s.v.p

Je pense que j’ai un couple des locataires pour 29 juin à 15 juillet, mais je suis perdue votre email. Ou téléphoner à Barbara.


French love

The couple at the next table at L’Express Bleu Brasserie held hands. His gaze radiated love for the woman. His clothing was that of the successful French businessman including the black raincoat. His black hair was speckled with grey and his skin was weathered from what could have been much time on the ski slopes.

Her style was jeans with high black boots. Her white sweater that came to the top of her thighs was belted. She stroked his hand but the look in her eyes showed which one in the couple loved the other more. Besotted would apply only to the male. She was the besottee.

Had they not been touching and that her skin was too dark to be the result of a mixed marriage, one might assume they could be father and daughter.

His eyes never left her face as he hung on her every word.

And oh yes, he wore a wedding ring. She did not.

Monsieur Kamel I miss you

I held the tea cup in my hand in L’Express Bleu, the barasserie at the Gare du Lyon, my petit dejeneur in front of me. The murals of people in 19th century dress are behind me, photos of trains in front of me. Suitcases outnumbered people eating. My hands were still shaking. On the taxi ride from Puteaux to the train station we had two near accidents. Another coat of paint and we would have crashed first into a taxi then into a bus.

My usual taxi driver, Monsieur Kamel, took the vacances scholaire. He told me that when he drove me to Charles De Gaulle when I went to Florida before the holidays. Now I was back and heading to the South of France riding with another cab driver. My friend teases me that I am the only person she knows that befriends taxi drivers, but after numerous trips to airports and train stations in his taxi with him we have shared much information.

He is of Algerian descent although raised in France. He wears a full beard and talks at a speed that keeps me concentraing. We have exchanged so many ideas. He has asked me to come home to sample his wife’s couscous and sometime when I am in Paris long enough I will take him up on it. The last two times I have been in his taxi he has called people he knows to “meet” me. Thus I feel I know his sister, a school teacher, and his friend another cab driver.

Since taking my daughter to the airport last year, he always asks about her and shakes his head that neither she or my hostess are married. Given a bit of encouragement, I am sure he would start seeking husbands for these women.

Monsieur Kamel has another wonderful quality. He is a sane driver.

The Syrian Bride,

If I were getting a Ph.D in international communications, films or women’s studies, I would want to do my thesis on marriage in movies. There are many, not just the American like Father of the Bride, but ethnic ones like My Big Fat Greek Wedding. And each culture has them such as Monsoon Marriage, which I saw with my Indian neighbours who pointed out cultural things, that I would have missed.

I have added a new one, The Syrian Bride and like the Indian film, my Syrian friend pointed out things I would have seen but not fully understood. The film was made by Israelis and was the story of a woman in the Golan Heights marrying a distance cousin and moving with him to Damascus. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0423310/ to read about it or to see the trailer

My friend said that she knew many Damascian women who did the reverse. What made the movie so painful, was that as soon as the woman crossed the border to her new husband’s country, she could never return to her own people. They might wave across the border from barbed wire to barbed wire, but that was it.

She also told me that in the Golan Heights people loved Assad not like in Syria where he was feared and hated, something I would have missed as much as I would have missed why the mother snuck her cigarettes in Monsoon Marriage.

The family dynamics of living in an occupied land, parents saying goodbye forever to a much-loved daughter combined with difficulties of getting the bride’s passport cleared on both sides was a contrast to the normal happy marriage movies. In one scene, a border guard brings the bride, dressed in a white gown, veil and gloves, a chair to sit on. The day is hot and she accepts it. She is alone staring through a gate and across a stretch of land looking at her new husband to be. She can not go home. Her passport, which reads nationality unidentified, as do all her families’ has been released to the Syrians. She cannot get it back. She can not go forward. I won’t tell you how it ends. Find the film.

“Do many people have a passport stamped, nationality unidentified?” I asked my friend. Until that moment, I had never heard of such a thing. In my quest for nationality, I had never thought of what happened to people when their nations cease to exist or they are trapped by occupiers.

“Yes,” she said.

We talked long into the night instead of going to bed early as planned because I was jet lagged and because she had to go to the hospital where she is a resident the next morning. She has educated me to the results of governmental policies of centuries not in broad terms that would be taught in economic or military history courses, but on the results of those policies, that could leave a woman in a wedding gown, sitting in a chair caught between two countries.

Shaking off bad feelings

Usually when I get off the plane at Charles de Gaulle, there is a tremendous relief at being on my home continent, a chance to heal, but this time, I carried the heaviness with me despite the warm greeting of my friend and former neighbour where I was staying for a couple of days before finally heading home.

The evening was especially nice as we ate freshly prepared Syrian food and shared a conversation with two of her friends, one whom I had met before and whose family I have come to like from my Damascus visits. The conversation, as always with them, touched on politics, religion, medicine (I was the only non medical student), families, literature, history nourishing me a little.

When I collapsed into bed, the same feeling of having come back from a pummelling stayed with me, although I wouldn’t have traded the time with loved ones for anything.

Walking to the ATM and La Defense did nothing to lighten my mood. The same streets I usually strut with pleasure because I am in Paris and it is ordinary not a once in a lifetime experience to be there looked dreary.

I was the only one at the SNCF office and the clerk who waited on me was in a joking mood practising his English with a word or two among his French. He asked my nationality. I told him to guess. He didn’t. Only when I pulled out my Swiss identity card did he believe me. I did admit that I had grown up in the States and had started to learn French very late.

With my ticket for my nest safely in my hand, I walked back through the concourse and back to the flat. Even though it was raining, everything seemed alive again, I had left the depression back at the SNCF office. It has stayed there.

The three-seat theory

It is no secret that when height was being handed out, I was in the liver line. I am exactly three airline economy seats tall. This is one of the reasons I chose to fly back to Europe from Christmas in the States on New Years Eve. I usually can find three seats and can sleep the flight away.

This year I even had my choice of three-seat beds. It made the trip seem like a short haul instead of 7+ hours.