Thursday, November 29, 2007

Part III: Les Puces et Le Steak

Our game plan, loose as it was, was to simply do One Day Thing and One Evening Thing each day we were there.

I'm not much of a sight-seer, generally. I tend not to like to go on "tours" or organized-by-third-party escapades. I'm much less interested in looking at buildings than I am at absorbing the atmosphere, being near people, trying to get a sense of what it's like to live somewhere else. So on this trip, I wanted to take the time to soak up everything, rather than rush from Monument to Monument just to say I had.

(Please don't get me wrong, though. Doing and seeing a lot makes sense -- it's just not how I operate. I once drove through Arizona and didn't stop to look at the Grand Canyon. What's that about? Who doesn't stop to look at the Grand Canyon? I don't know. Me.)

Our first day was spent Aux Puces, or at THE Parisian Flea Market. I am not ashamed to say that I was looking forward to it as much as any other site in Paris. It just seems so old-worldly and cool. It's been around for ever, and huge, and on the city outskirts, and just awesome in every respect.

I did hope to find lots of little treasures there, maybe Christmas presents or non-run-of-the-mill souvenirs. "Hey, where'd you get that?" "Oh, this? My sister picked it up for me at a flea market in Paris."

Alas, everything was incredibly expensive. So mostly it was just a lot of wandering around.

Also, if I had any photo skills whatsoever, I would have had to spend an entire week there because the whole place was a sumptuous visual feast.




Pretty bowls and um, a giant plastic piece of fake meat with a cleaver through it.
"Honey, will this fit in our suitcase...?"



I love just how French this man looks.


Random things. This would probably be an awesome photo if Dooce had taken it.


One alleyway of about 3,000.


I do not know who Lou is, but he's got nice knockers.


Here, Ish unsuccessfully haggles over the cost of antique corkscrews.

At one point, Ish said that he thought it would be cool maybe to start collecting antique corkscrews. So when we found a collection of them, he was pretty psyched. Until he discovered how much they cost. And then started realizing that unless the antiques are really special and amazing, they basically look like modern corkscrews that have been left to rust. No one is going to see one of these and ask "Hey, where'd you get this REALLY COOL corkscrew." Instead, they're going to see it and ask, "Hey, why haven't you thrown out this disgusting thing?" And then they'll pray that you didn't use it to open the bottle of wine they're currently having a glass of, silently wondering if their tetanus shots are updated.

Anyway, we left Les Puces and headed back to the hotel to freshen up and figure out where to go to dinner.

That night, we took a cab to the restaurant. The cab driver was female and didn't speak any English. She traveled with an enormous black dog in the passenger seat. I asked her what the dog's name was --

-- NOTE: THE ONLY PHRASE I VOLUNTARILY UTTERED IN FRENCH --

and I believe it was Vestral. Or something close. And Vestral was sweet and shook hands with me (you have to imagine the front passenger seat tilted nearly all they way back so as to allow the dog maximum comfort).

And naturally, it was the only part of the trip I didn't have my camera for.

Dinner Chez Catherine was fantastic, except that I made the mistake of joking with the waiter about my American ways, and how I prefer my meat not quite as rare as Parisians. I then ended up with totally overcooked steak. (TOTALLY my own damn self-deprecating fault.) Everything else about the meal was amazing, though.

Ed. note: Wow. You can really tell when I write a post at the end of the work day.
NOT good writing, even if I manage to get the point across.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Flossin' in Phoenix

Ish and I are at the Phoenix airport now, with lots and lots of other people who, from the looks of it, don't travel that often.

There is one man in particular who is currently grossing me out so much that I had to jump online here to tell you about him. Yes, THAT gross.

[Also, our pilots haven't arrived yet and we're supposed to start boarding in 8 minutes and I didn't bring my Ativan.]

But this man. He is middle aged and balding and wearing a lot of denim. And I looked up, innocently enough, and there he was, sitting at the gate, FLOSSING HIS TEETH.

The thing is, I appreciate people for whom dental hygiene is important, and generally associate good clean mouths with good clean people. But who flosses at an airport gate? Surrounded by about a MILLION people and small children?

Sadly, since I began this entry, he has entered new depths of gross-ossity. He put away the floss (I didn't happen to see where he put it, eww), and then moved into picking his teeth with his fingernails. Then he started chewing/picking teeth/blowing through a straw. He then put that away and picked up a book, and started absent-mindedly picking his nose.

Let us hope he stops short of clipping his toenails.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Turkey Leftovers

I posted this last year, and it is SO HILARIOUS it deserves to be posted again. I have made a few editorial updates (not noted). Enjoy!
(More Europe updates eventually...)

* * * *

A few years ago, I accidentally stumbled upon this website, showcasing a 2nd grade classroom's collections of poems about The First Thanksgiving.

What I can discern from these poems is that the class all heard the same version of the Thanksgiving story. And, for reasons we shall perhaps never understand, this version involved beer.

When the poems were all written, one of the room mothers decided it would be a good idea to post the poems to the Internet. So that some single, childless, snarky blogger could post them on her personal blog several years later.

Thanks, "Alex's Mom."

* * * *

First of all, we have the title:

Title

I'd like to point out that this lovely artistry is circa 2003, not 1993. I shudder to think what "Alex's Mom"s MySpace page might look like.

But on to the really good stuff.

Here we have a very good example of the kind of average poem the class produced:

Mayflower

And when I say average (sorry, Arianna), I simply mean there is no drama or hyperbole or random Thanksgiving wish. Blah blah blah food, Pilgrims, Mayflower.

Although Arianna did pick up on a couple details that several other children in the class also noted: namely, that the Pilgrims "had to" drink beer and also that they went the wrong way.

Again, I'm not sure what version of the story these children heard, but when you put "beer" with "went the wrong way," I get the distinct impression that we are talking about drunk driving. Uh, where was that story when I was growing up?

PARTY ON THE MAYFLOWER!

1st Drunk Pilgrim Named John: Hey, John? [hiccup] JOHN! Get o'er here. Hey. Hey, John? You know I love you, man. And I don' wanna upSET an'one, but-- Whoa! I love your hat you know that? How'd you get that buckle to shine like that? John I got a concern. I kin'a feel like maybe when we were jumpin aroun' out here in the togas -- dude, we gotta do that again -- but I'm not sure the auto-captain worked so good, you know what ahm sayin? Like look, look. There. Does that look kinda NORTH to you?

2nd Drunk Pilgrim Named John: TOGA! TOGA!

Seriously, that would have made for a much better filmstrip when I was in grade school. Mayflower gone all Animal House.

Anyway.

Danielle's take is a little different. No absence of drama here:

Squanto

Danielle seems to have something of a rescue fantasy going on. I picture a Harlequin-esque romance novel with Danielle's name and a Fabio-looking Squanto on the cover. I'd call it, Squanto's Salt.

This next poem by Treimane is especially lyrical if you read it aloud.

Too Many Turkeys

At first I thought Treimane was just phoning it in with this one, but once I recited it for a roomful of people I understood its true genius. Try it.


I think perhaps Anthony is having a little trouble keeping various traditions straight.

I Eat Turkey

Good luck with that, Anthony.

And in case you're wondering, my Thanksgiving wish is that I wake up the day after and know where my bra is. (Uh, especially as I'll be at Ish's parents' house. Ahem.)

An excerpt from that post-Thanksgiving entry, which you should also totally read:

My bra's location was eluding me, and so began the unfortunate, morning-after game of trying to convince myself I'm a grown-up while also trying to remember where I've left my underwear.

But now we come to my favorite group of poems, which amuse me in wholly inappropriate ways since I'm pretty sure all of these children have some serious mental and/or emotional issues.

These are children I would fear.

Take Mike's for example:

Turkey Legs

Sure, I'm projecting, but if you read this in a Hannibal Lechter voice -- especialy the "ha ha" part, this poem is very, very creepy.

Use that same calm, terrifying voice to read this one and it's even creepier:

Turkey Goes Wils

The turkey would never let us out of here?

I notice that Garrett has used the word "out" three times in five lines. I feel like Garrett has an underlying sense of need to escape. Perhaps from the voices in his head.

The turkey! The turkey wouldn't let me out! It wanted to keep me trapped! TRAPPED. It was never going to let me out of here. SO I ATE IT.

But my all-time favorite is this gem by Evan:

Run Turkey

Evan here seems a little...conflicted.

I get that it's hard to reconcile the whole cute-pretty-feathers-gobble-gobble part of the turkey with the delicious, slathered in gravy and potatoes part of the turkey. Still. "In my belly you are cute"?

Eh, I guess there are worse notions.

* * * *

So those are my Thanksgiving Day highlights. Because if making fun of 7-year-olds doesn't say Happy Holidays, I don't know what does.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Part II: We Arrive In Paris

November 4

Our plane landed in Paris at about 5:30 a.m. Once we were through the passport checkpoint, I busied myself by taking pictures of airport chairs while Ish waited in line at an ATM, hoping that the dollar had possibly maybe become worth something overnight.

It hadn't.

We then took a cab to our hotel. Our driver did not speak English, so I was incredibly relieved when Ish was able to direct him to our hotel in French.

::Sidebar::

I started taking French classes when I was in the 4th grade, and continued them through my first year of college. That's ten years. TEN.

Ish, on the other hand, took one year of French sometime in high school, and perused a few books before our trip.

The result? Right. Ish did all the ordering and direction-giving, and I said "oui," "non," and "noir" a LOT.

Awesome.


Here is what I can tell you about Paris on a Sunday morning in November before 7 a.m.: it is not only quiet, it is also still dark.

Naturally, our hotel room was not ready at 7 a.m., so we left our luggage with the front desk and went wandering around the Champs Elysees. First stop? The Arc! (Which I kept referring to as "The L'Arc," because I thought it was very funny to call it, essentially, "THE The Arc." Hoo boy. That IS a real knee-slapper, huh?)


Pictured: The L'Arc

Ish: Okay, now you stand in front of it.

Me: I don't want to stand in front of it.

Ish: How will they know you were really here?

Me: They aren't going to think someone ELSE took all these stupid pictures.

Ish: Just one of you, come on.

Me: I haven't even changed yet. And my face is chubby and I have a million hours of plane on me and my hair...

Ish: JUST STAND STILL.


Pictured: La Chubette, giddy as a schoolgirl.

We continued to wander around and stare at lots of unopened cafes and shops.

I can't say I was terribly surprised that there was a McDonald's, but I had never stopped to consider how the tagline "I'm Lovin' It" would translate in French. You know, for people who generally serve better food to their pets.


Pictured: I'm lovin' it = C'est tous ce que j'aime = It's all that I love. How creepily romantic.

Eventually day started to break, and people started to stir. We headed back toward the direction of our hotel in hopes of finding an open cafe.


Pictured: The L'Arc in near-daylight.


Pictured: The L'Arc in daylight, as viewed by a bald man.

We did, in fact, find several open cafes, and this was great. San Francisco cafes tend to open late (like 10 a.m.), and this is something I have never understood. But in Paris, not only could I have coffee and croissants (and bread and jam and butter, oh my) at 8, I discovered the most wonderful breakfast treat in the world: vin chaud.

For those of you NOT as fluent in French as I (what with my TEN years and all), that translates to "hot wine."

Voila!

Pictured: Hot wine. Figures that my "good" photo would be of booze.

It was quite good.

However, after the flight and breakfast and a glass of hot wine, I discovered I was too tired to stand. We headed back, again, to the hotel in hopes that our room would be ready before long.

On our way, Ish pointed out that enough dark and fog had burned off so that you could see just past The L'Arc.


Pictured: What's that in the background??


Pictured: It is! It's the Eiffel Tower!

Truth be told, I was deliriously happy to see it, but also just delirious. We desperately needed to nap.

Luckily, our room was ready not long after we got back. And it was fantastic! (Thanks, UpTake!!)

Here is some of what the room looked like, from a not-very-good angle:

Pictured: A hotel room.

The windows opened as doors out to a small balcony, which was amazing:

Pictured: Room view #1


Pictured: Room view #2

Even with the lovely views, however, it took about 4 seconds before we both passed out.

When we re-emerged, it was late afternoon. We felt refreshed and ready to take in the city. First stop: taking the Paris metro.


Pictured: Uh, sign of the metro.

While we were on the metro, and I was sitting, completely overwhelmed with how wonderful and cool and romantic and European everything was, a guy got on the train somewhere behind us. He started playing his guitar and singing, and it was immediately obvious that he was an American (or at least had been at one point). And he decided to play 'Til There Was You.

Now, as couples tend to do, Ish and I have organically developed a list of songs we consider "ours." It's not a very long list (uh, and for reasons inexplicable, Don't Phunk With My Heart is one of them). But Til There Was You was one of the first songs Ish ever off-handedly sung to me, and so you might well imagine that when we were suddenly hearing it, live, on the Paris metro, I couldn't help but cry just a little.

Pretty great stuff.

We got to our stop, and so walked around some more.

I couldn't have told you where we were at any point, because I wasn't paying attention to the big stuff. I just loved every little thing. The sidewalks, the trees, the people, the accents, the dozens of street vendors selling light-up Eiffel Towers they referred to as, bleeng bleeng.

But I can tell you that I was just wandering along in my own world when Ish stopped walking and just looked at me.

Me: Huh?

Ish: Uh, look.

Me: What?

He pointed.

OH!

And all of a sudden, there it was.


Pictured: Like you don't know.

And um, there I was, too. In the same place! I even stood in front of it without protest.



And then it got all super sparkly!!!



So we got closer, on the idea that we were going to go up in it. But by the time we got to the base, I decided I'd had enough terror for the day (since the only thing I'm more afraid of than flying is heights), and the lines were long, and while I'm sure the view is great from it, the view of it was perfectly marvelous.



Instead, we decided to take a tour of Paris from la Seine! Ooh, la la!

It was the perfect thing to do on our first night: Get a feel for the layout of the city, see some of the historic sites from a cool perspective, you know. I did also think it would be a terrific opportunity to take some photos.

From a moving object in the dark.

Thus we have these four gems:


Pictured: Scalp of German female tourist. Also, something very historic in the background.


Pictured: Scalp of German male tourist. Also, opposite perspective of something very historic in the background.


Pictured: Definitely historic building and wall and trees.



Pictured: My favorite photo of all. Of a dark historic building. Or possibly a boat. Or maybe a wall. Plus with more scalp.


Right.

So After our picturesque tour, we strolled along and found a cafe for our first glass of French (non-chaud) wine.

Here, Ish makes his best "French" face.


Pictured: Ish thinking his wine is better than your wine.

Next to him on the cafe wall was a poster, and I found the phrase "provided in following web" tres charmant!



It was fun in the cafe. I loved that people were eating and drinking coffee and wine and some were lovers and some were friends and one woman behind us was just studying. Even in SF there are very few places that have the all-in-one feel of a cafe/restaurant/lounge where you could have a meal or not, linger or not, smoke or not, and drink coffee or wine or Perrier. It felt great.

We had dinner nearby, and then made our way back to our hotel.

And there in our room, with the windows open and Ella in the background, we danced.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I Went To Europe! Part I: Getting There (with Intro)

When my family would go on vacation -- which was every few years -- my dad would take lots of photos. Good photos, taken with a good camera. And from his myriad rolls of film, he would create slides.

Remember slides?

Watching the slide shows was always such a production for my family. We'd have to wait until it was dark, for one. And we'd have to haul out the screen from the basement, which was never an easy feat. But hauling it up was easier than setting it up. The screen would inevitably be lopsided and sitting at a precarious angle. But once the lights were shut off and the projector turned on, it didn't matter.

We'd all sit, spellbound. My father would have painstakingly gone through his contact sheets and selected the best images, and would downplay how excited he was to show us. And we'd watch with bated breath, there in our darkened kitchen, to see what he had compiled. He'd click through the batch, taking his time, and we'd ooh and ahh over the colorful still shots, retelling the stories behind the pictures and delighting in their reflected glow.

Occasionally, there would be a few "bad" slides in the bunch. Images that were slightly off-center or a bit blurry or dark, or not very interesting. But this was back before the digital age, when there was no on-the-fly editing, no Photoshopping to speak of. You had to take great care with your picture-taking. And for the most part, my dad did.

My father was a very talented photographer.

I am not.

I have a perfectly mediocre camera that I take perfectly horrible photos with. I have no sense of things like, "composition" or "not sucking." And sometimes, like when I try to take "artistic" photos? My okay-at-best shots become downright laughable.

And yet here I am, post-vacation. And I've gone through my contact sheet (iPhoto) and circled the best ones (uploaded them to Photobucket) and had them made into slides (cut and pasted their html tags) and hauled out the screen and projector (Blogger). And since you're kind of in my kitchen (She Walks), why not fix yourself a drink, turn down the lights, and enjoy as much as possible.

* * * *
November 3

On Saturday morning, we opted to take a taxi to the airport. It was very early (too early to ask friends to drive us), and the problem with shuttle companies is that they insist on picking you up several hours before you need to be. Given the hour of our departure, I'm pretty sure the shuttle would have tried to pick me up sometime on Tuesday.


Pictured: Ish is in the cab, tired. Cameraperson also in the cab, tired.

When we approached the airport, the cab driver asked what airline, and then he asked, "domestic or international," and I felt quite overjoyed. I have been asked that question many, MANY times in the last few years and it was a bit amazing to hear myself say, "international."

It was very thrilling to be in a new section of the airport!

Until we got to the terminal to discover that no one was working yet!

Pictured: NO people standing at the various silver podium things.

And then when the ticket agents DID show up, and we finally got to one, we learned that even if Paris is your final destination, if you're stopping in DC first, you're actually traveling "domestic."

So we had to traipse back to the same stupid terminal I'm all used to.


Pictured: generic domestic terminal. Also, are you not thrilled with this photo? Does it not scream, "I am a worldly sophisticate"? Mmm.

But whatever! Paris!

Now, here is the point of the post where I point out that I am maybe not the best flyer. I'm not exactly terrified of flying, but I have some incredibly irrational moments. Generally I can contain them, but not always. And I really didn't want to have that be an issue on this trip overseas.

I discussed this with a physician.


Pictured: Not a photo of the discussion so much as the solution. (Also, note the super-cute passport holder in pink!)

And then got a second opinion.


Pictured: Second oPinion Grigio. Next to the INTERNATIONAL gate in DC.

Sure enough, it worked! I wasn't totally knocked out, but I was awfully comfortable. For example, rather than see the inside of the plane as freakishly large and unnatural and impossible to get off the ground (wtf!!!), I remember instead thinking, "Hey, this is neat."


Pictured: Completely unremarkable plane interior. At the time, thought it was "neat."

So a few games of solitaire, episodes of Sex and the City (on my new iPod) and like, maybe some unremarkable plane movie later, who remembers(?), we were descending!


Pictured: Screen in front of me, kindly reminding me where Paris is located. According to this image, you will note, our plane was in fact as big as Paris. I suspected as much.


Pictured: Woo! 12 minutes!

We arrived in one piece(!), and from there, it was perfect. Just, perfect.

Unfortunately, however, the perfect nature of being in Paris inspired my many and varied attempts at "artistic" photography. Beginning with the following:


Pictured: A photo of chairs in an airport. Because, you see, it was an airport in PARIS. And the chairs were PARISIAN chairs. I don't know what else to tell you. I had arrived in Paris, and took a picture of chairs in an airport. Artistic? Maybe? No, I know. Hopeless.

My apologies.

Also, since I knew I'd be blogging, I took several photos of things I considered "humorous."

Behold. A different (humorous??) airport chair:


Pictured: Nevermind.

Uh huh.

And this concludes the "getting there" portion of our slide show.

I promise it gets better.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Home Again! What The Hell Time Is It?

Jet lag plus returning to work after a full week without email means I have not had an opportunity to post anything coherent. But photos and stories are coming, as you may well imagine.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Friday, November 02, 2007

While I'm Away...

So yes. We leave tomorrow for our trip to Europe. We're spending 4 nights in Paris and 2 in London. I'll be back on November 10th.

I cannot believe this is actually happening.

Well, but I can believe that I haven't packed or cleaned or done any of that other "preparation" stuff. So I will busy myself with that and try not to freak out too much about the plane ride. (omgomgomgomg.)

I doubt I will be able to post much while I'm gone, but I feel that I should at least post SOMETHING.

So here are some random entries I rather liked from the archives. In case you need fodder for next week. :)

* * * * * * * * *

Monday: Awww, it's not so bad. Here, wanna laugh? Here's the dumbest thing I've ever done that resulted in bodily injury. And because I was recently reminded of it, here's the dumbest thing I've ever said on a job interview.


Tuesday: Election Day. Go vote. And then read my version of political satire. I, for one, thought it was incredibly clever. (But this is nothing new...)


Wednesday: Hump Day! And speaking of "hump," here's the one, like, sexy post I wrote.


Thursday: It's Karaoke for the Uterus day!


Friday: Date night! Here is a collection of actual emails I received from ads I posted on Craigslist. They did not result in dates.


Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Erudite, Indeed

I am busy doing some last-minute vacation things and so, without even thinking about it or realizing HOW HORRIBLY INEXCUSABLE my life was at that moment, I...

...opened my Mac calculator widget so that I could multiply 8x8

...SO THAT I could confirm that 8x8 actually is 64

...because I really wasn't sure

...but that was what Clay Aiken(???) was waffling about

- on Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

So to recap: I was at my desk, with the television on in the background. Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? was on (why???), and the special guest contestant was, in fact, Clay Aiken. I was tuning in and out, and when he got to the question where he had to know what 8 x 8 was, he swore it was 64 but couldn't QUITE be sure. And in the back of my head I was thinking, "What is 8 times 8? It is 64, yeah? Hmmm..." and then yes, I WHIPPED OUT A CALCULATOR TO DO 3RD GRADE MATH IN SOLIDARITY WITH CLAY AIKEN.

If that isn't proof positive that I NEED a vacation, I'm not sure what is.