Saturday, April 30, 2016

Idle Speculation and Vague Complaints

Every now and again, "the World" gets to me and I find myself forced to make mention of particulars and peculiarities that ... annoy me.  Today is the day for that. 

Unmitigated Gall
I direct that comment to the illegal aliens who have the nerve to violently protest a Presidential candidate because the candidate proposes that they come into our country legally.  That is just going so far past the pale as to be invisible.  In my Perfect World, every one of them would have been forced to show legal permission to be here and if said paperwork was missing, bust 'em and deport 'em then and there.  This, by the way, applies to ANY Presidential candidate, not just Trump.

Speaking of whom, however peripherally, one of the commentators on the Website has nicknamed him "Dawnie Frumples" which I think is hilarious.

A Modest Proposal for a New National Holiday
Today is Willie Nelson's 83rd birthday.  Need I say more?

The Opening Note of a Symphony?
This morning's newspaper ran a largish photo of Vice President Joe Biden and Pope Francis shaking hands at the Vatican and looking quite matey.  The Pope was blessing Biden's war on the type of cancer that killed Biden's son. 

Various political columns and columnists have speculated that Biden is biding his time (sorry, couldn't resist) only to come out of the Presidential gate late and defeat Hillary Clinton.  Could this be that opening parry?

BTW, Hillary ...
Womens' Lib has been over with for the past 20 years.  Pick a new  hobbyhorse; that one's dead. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Enter Alabama at Your Own Risk

They're animals!

This morning's Daily Mail (UK) has a brief article about an Alabama man who shot the teenager who was pranking him by covering his front yard with toilet paper.  Shot him!  No charging the front yard, waving his arms and shouting, "Stop!"  Straight for the pistol.  Southerners may be typified as "laid back" - but clearly not in Alabama. 

And speaking of toilet paper and related matters,  Oxford, AL, officials passed a city ordinance that people wishing to use a public bathroom must use the designated facility that their sex at birth dictates.  In other words, your original material, no after-market add-ons. 

Since the population figure for Oxford is +/- 21,000, I'm talking to the three or four (estimated) transgenders that live there.  Spring for a box of adult diapers and never use a public bathroom again.  Let'em wonder.  Y'all are welcome.

Comment from a Lady in Illinois - My effort at being a comedian about this is to remark on how much longer lines to the women's restroom will be when guys realize how much nicer ours are!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

France Steals from Domino's Pizza

Who says the French always have to be original?  That they look down their large Gallic noses at All Things American?  That they don't enjoy competition?  Domino's time limit is 30 minutes; theirs is 15 minutes. 

Not the Ibis Hotel chain (1,700 in number.)  The following copy is from a single sheet brochure in the room that I discovered while packing to fly home.  Yes, quite typical actually ...

"We are committed to providing quality service to guarantee you the greatest possible comfort every day.  (They could pay my bill; that would be comforting.)

"So if a little hitch threatens to cloud your stay, do not hesitate in letting us know at any time, day or night.

"It's really simple:  We have 15 minutes on the clock to sort out a problem we are responsible for.  And if we don't succeed in that time, you will be our guest.  (I think they blacked out the wrong thought here...)

"The 15-minute satisfaction guarantee applies to breakfast, your room, the Ibis snack bar or indeed the drinks bar.

"But sadly we can't make any promise about the weather."

Fair enough, non?  

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Random Photographs...

Richie shot 336 photos while we were in France.  The proof sheet numbers don't match the photo numbers and I can't bring up the proof sheet shots on the computer.  So pretend that I'm standing in front of a giant dart board, flinging away ...

The riding school two blocks from Michelle's outside the gate to Versailles's Marie Antoinette little farm.

The beach at Deauville

Mussels for lunch!

But first some country pates

A typical offering at the Versailles Saturday market.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Yesterday's Birthdays

"Yesterday's Birthday" would lend itself to a variety of follow-ups ... "The little girl's parents sobbed at her bedside.  She'd died the day after her sixth birthday" or "Maddie looked around at the detritus that was now her living room.  She was amazed that a group of 18-year-olds could wreak such havoc in only one afternoon.  "And their parents hadn't been much better," she thought indignantly.  Half-empty drinks and full ashtrays had been left right where they'd been placed.

Be those as they may ... yesterday, Al Pacino and I both turned 76 - both born April 25, 1940.  He doesn't know me, but best wishes anyhow, Mr. Pacino.

While all birthdays are a blessing, those that take place in your 70s are particularly refreshing since you have the pleasure of waking up and thinking, "Hah!  I'm not dead yet!"  Furthermore, birthdays are the absolutely only thing in our lives with which we had nothing to do with whatsoever.  Totally guilt free!  Our parents got friendly, and nine months later +/- here we are!

Good enough reason to kick out the jams and revel on a yearly basis.  Since I think 75 is a biggie, 76 is not such a much so no planned celebration other than Richie's expressed desire to take me out for lunch and dinner, a plan I was more than willing to endorse. 

Lunch -  Nelson's at Terrenea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes
First we overshot it and had to turn around and come back.  Terrenea is before the Trump Nat'l Golf (going south) so if you see the Donald's giant American flag, you've come too far.

It was a sunny day, very promising looking, but the wind was icy enough to send a polar bear running for a warm spot; hugging himself as he sprinted.  Far too cold to eat outdoors, so we stayed inside.  As the whole point of Nelson's is the view from the clifftop and not a shadowy room, the wind disappointed us.  What cast me farther into sadness was the fact that when I ordered the pair of lobster tacos to share with Richie over drinks, the waiter told us they were "out of lobster."  What kind of poor planning was this? I wondered to myself.  Monday diners don't get lobster?  The Sunday big shots scarfed it all up? 

This unwelcome news also killed my plan for a lobster roll for lunch.  Thinking quickly and scanning the menu again (not difficult; management seems to have truncated it with gusto) I ordered the guacamole ($15) for drinks and the trio of crab cake sliders for lunch itself. ($19)  Richie succumbed to the Monday Blue Plate special of fried chicken, cole slaw and mashed potatoes and gravy. ($20)

I feel in lust with the idea of one of the desserts - the San Pedro Salted Caramel Bar with Caramel and Chocolate Ganache. ($10)  We split it and it was more dry, thin brownie with syrups drizzled across it than anything else. 

Lunch came to $102 with a $20 tip. 

Dinner - Tin Roof Bistro, Manhattan Beach Mall
This is an old favorite and I knew that I'd order the pig and fig pizza (Neuces slab bacon chunks with figs on a white pizza with a drizzle of balsamic reduction) and have a slice and polish it off for dinner the next night.  ($14)  We split an order of Bistro Fries ($3.75) from the sides menu to go with our drinks.  The Appetizers include a much bigger serving of fries  enough to serve a table of six. 
Richie loves his Simmzy's burgers - what looks like a pound of beef on a bun - $10.75.
No dessert. 

The tab came to $71 with a $14 tip.

Pros - everyone with whom we had contact at both restaurants was very friendly and obliging. 
Both rooms were equal in design (translation - noisier than hell) but Nelson gets the nod for the ocean view - on the days you can go out and see it and bask in the sun.

Cons - Nelson's menu is not nearly what it used to be.  Gone was the ahi tuna, the $3 Pabst Blue Ribbon beer ... the shrimp tacos ....

Bottom line on Nelson's vs. Tin Roof?  Lunch cost $30 more than dinner.    When dinner is a better bargain than lunch ... there is something ... wrong.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

How Crazy Is Los Angeles?

Long billed as the land of flakes, fruits and nuts, perhaps the particular zaniness that takes place here has been forgotten or overlooked by residents outside of the State.  Here are gentle reminders...

We can get marijuana deliveries.  Speed Weed is said to circumvent Proposition D that regulates dispensaries.   Meanwhile, a Seattle-based firm - Leafly - is moving into our territory with billboards promising not only a timely delivery but as well information on various brands.

Clearly calling for a pizza is now completely eclipsed in coolness.  A marketing genius for a pizza place should be On This.  "First Speed Weed, Then Call Us For a Pizza! 10% Discount for Speed Weed and Uber Customers."

Art Lover?  Do pay a visit to the Croatia Museum of Broken Relationships, a collection subscribed to by various interested parties sending personal stories and artifacts to this museum for inclusion. 

It's located in the previous HQ of Fredericks of Hollywood.  There is, of course. a certain irony in that. 

Source:  May Los Angeles magazine

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Killer Shrimp? No! Killer Broth!

We decided to get our money's worth out of my temporarily-issued handicapped placard (bright red, hangs off of the rearview mirror) while we still could.  In addition to allowing the vehicle to be slotted into a marked space, if you park at a meter and display the sign - it's free.  Ditto a parking lot. 

Ergo, we had a brief debate over the merits of two places on the Hermosa Beach Pier -- Killer Shrimp or Sharkeez.  When no agreement was forthcoming, I suggested one tonight and the other next week.

Killer Shrimp is the replacement for a Mexican restaurant that was there for years.  It was "upscale" with a big patio out front which had and still has a great view of the Pier, but it was cold - it's always cooler off of the water - so we ate inside.

Studying the menu I saw something entirely new to me.  There is a marked-off section of the menu for the "Killer" items.  What's this "killer" stuff?  The menu boasts that there is a rolling boil pot of their secret broth into which whatever you ordered - shrimp or crab or lobster - is cooked and "rushed to your table."  Frankly, the thought of servers rushing anywhere with a big bowl of boiling hot fluid seemed ... unattractive somehow.  And certainly detrimental to your person if they banged it down on the table with too much speed.   I could visualize one standing there, all puppy dog eagerness for praise at bringing your dinner in record time - while you dabbed at spots of burning liquid all down your front. 

Ah well.  Life is full of risk. 

We started with a Stella ($6) for Richie and a dirty gin martini, up, ($9) for me and the popcorn shrimp ($7 - happy hour; $9 regular menu) for both of us.  They were daamned fine!  They arrived on a thick porcelain oval platter with a big wedge of lemon and an excellent tartar sauce on the side. 

These were fresh, medium-size shrimp, lightly battered and roaring hot (temp not taste.)  They were far superior to those found at Old Tony's on the Redondo Pier and to the Ragin' Cajun's offering.  I told our server, Marcela, so and she cooed.   

Richie ordered the Killer Shrimp, Shelled ($19) rather than the peel'n eat version.  Having watched me laboriously peeling shrimp across France, he wanted no similar part.  I ordered the Killer Shrimp and Lobster.  The shrimp were peeled, the two Pacific lobster halves were not. 

The "broth" a clear version, in bright orange, nearly set our hair on fire and we like hot/spicy.  It took a minute to get used to it (and to quit coughing as both of us had Airplane Throats - you know, protracted time Up There?)  But we did and we enjoyed it. 

Portions are generous and despite eating our fill, we had enough left over for dinner last night.  I cooked it as they did, with one variation - I put the cooked shrimp in our bowls, cut up the lobster meat and put it in the bowls with the shrimp and poured the boiling broth over them both, just to warm them as they were, of course, already cooked. 

Dinner with drinks came to $105.73 plus a $21 tip for TWO night's dinner.  Roughly $25 per meal is by no means bad.  And the dinner was good.  Especially those popcorn shrimp ... I wonder if they deliver?

Friday, April 22, 2016

The News Isn't What It Used To Be

What Purple Rain?!
The artist formerly known as some kind of invented symbol was found dead in an elevator in his industrial-like looking home.  The ensuing foo-fa-rah has been unbelievable to a person (me) who rarely gave him any thought at all after his initial splash.  Not because I didn't like him or his music, but because I couldn't figure out what the hell he/it was.  He was tiny (5 ft. 2 in.;) he wore lots of eye make-up - Gender confusion? - and high heels.  This last was understandable vis-à-vis his height.  But the sequins?   He looked vaguely Spanish to me, but it turns out that he identified as black. 
He loved the ladies and his list of conquests was considerable.  "Toy boy"?  He was a devout Jehovah's Witness, who didn't drink alcohol but the last shot of him alive was leaving a pharmacy.

Whoever you were, Prince, Rest In Peace. 

Gender Nonsense
This furor about public bathroom use among every sex - male, female, gay, straight and transgender has gotten way out of hand.  I looked it up and of the estimated 135,367 transgender persons, 65 per cent identified as male and 35 per cent as women.  The entire US population is 318.9 million.  The tail wags the dog? 

These are Social Security figures based on name changes from one sex to another due to the necessity of having matching documents for such things as passports and other legal documents. 

I am appalled at the number of hysterical comments by writers suggesting that transgenders are sexual predators toward children.  Predators come in every sexual possibility there is and, given the number of US citizens vs. transgenders or gays, the figures have to skew toward "normal" people. 

A Simple Public Bathroom Fix
Retrofit every big public bathroom (several stalls) with floor to ceiling walls and doors and label the main door Unisex.  This is routinely done in Europe and no one seems to squeak in alarm.

And, Finally, the Most Ridiculous of All of the Above
A kindergarten sent out questionnaires for incoming 4 year olds asking parents with which sex their 4 year old identified. 

In case you haven't noticed - having been busy with other much more vital issues - we now live in a very strange world. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Enough France for the Moment

There are other things in life than visits to France no matter how much fun we had.  To illustrate ...

"Naked at Lunch - a Reluctant Nudist's Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World" by Mark Haskell Smith   Grove Press   310 pages   $25 

Smith seems to have forged a career out of writing on disparate subjects such as "Heart of Dankness:  Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers and the Race for the Cannibis Cup."

In this volume, he explores his experiences on a totally nude cruise ship, (Caribbean, not Alaskan for obvious reasons) discussions with a nudist enthusiast,  village life (shopping in the nude) in a resort in the South of France, naked hiking in the Austrian Alps which sounded alarmingly dangerous to me.  Dangly bits could get seriously injured doing some of this stuff.  Readers, consider your enthusiasm.  I don't say "Curb it" but "Consider it."

And a gentle reminder - if everyone is starkers, that's nudity; if it's you in the supermarket or gas station alone, it's 6 mos. to 2 years in lockup.

There's a new Jack Reacher out!  Lee Child's excellent series about a former MP, US Army, who is the embodiment to a lot of readers of self-determination and a finely-honed ability to take care of one's self.   

"Make Me" by Lee Childs   Delacorte Press    402 pages   $28.99

"Unlikeable - The Problem with Hillary"  by Edward Klein   287 pages   $29.99
Klein is never unwilling to write discouraging words about well-known people.  Previously he dissected the Kennedys, Obama and the Clintons ("Blood Feud."

He apparently thinks his exposes are really, really HOT!  Having read this book yesterday afternoon (it's brief despite the number of pages because each chapter is about 1 1/2 to 2 pages) I can say that while he meant well, there are recycled anecdotes and themes in it.    Often. 

The only surprise I got was an alleged meeting with Obama, Michelle and Valerie Jarret.  The ladies powered over him and he eventually (sullenly) complied.  I never figured the Mooch to be into anything but vacations myself. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

And They Laughed at Me

The French, collectively, have been accused of being humorless.  And, aside from gossiping about others, they have largely confined themselves to making fun of outsiders.  All you have to do to not be laughed at is to be French.  And I don't think you're particularly safe there. 

As a "sale Americain" (dirty American) I got my share of laughs; directed of course at my talents (apparently none) at speaking French.

The first insult came to me as we were having a nightcap beer at the hotel bar in Honfleur.  We and the bartender were the only visible signs of life in the place so I genially addressed the bartender in French.

Whereupon, he sparkled a smile and said, brightly, "Would you like to speak English?"

On another occasion, we were having lunch at an "Italian" restaurant in Parly 2, an enormous shopping mall right next to our hotel.  Michelle ordered a vegetarian pizza and to say the vegetables were sparse is gross overstatement.  I ordered the gambas (prawns) in Pernod sauce and Richie scalloped veal.  All came with a salad, which in France is largely a collection of lettuces (unknown in America)  piled in a corner of the plate, sometimes with a sad little drizzle of dressing across them.  Not so that day.   

I reached for the olive oil bottle in the cruet with the balsamic vinegar.  It was slippery and it slid out of my fingers to score a direct hit on the top of my (full) water glass which promptly exploded like a bomb.  Glass shards flew everywhere and water cascaded on to the floor.    

Displaying typical sang froid none of the French reacted with shock.  The manager, however, nearly had a heart attack and was hysterical as he directed servers with napkins to mop up the mess. 

Order was restored and lunch was served.  I had to learn the hard way that ALL shrimp in France are served "peel and eat" style including the heads, feelers.  Consequently, it takes me awhile to eat.  Michelle was pensively eating pizza crusts and Richie was mopping up sauce before I finally finished.

As there is never a hurry (that I've ever seen) in a French restaurant, I went out for a restoring cigarette.  On my return, I and everyone else entering had to open our purses or shopping bags for a security guy just inside the front doors. 

After the others had marched in, I approached the guard and said (in French) "Excuse me, I know it's none of my business, but ... are you looking for a specific person?"  and he drew himself up even taller and said, icily, "Madam, I don't speak English."

I slunk away back to my seat at the table and indignantly related this insult, but Michelle and Richie only laughed and laughed.  Not quite the tears running down the face, hiccupping laughter, but damned close.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Lunch at Le Central, Trouville

This took all morning.  There's got to be a better way.

Michelle studies the menu - the free glass of champagne is served just after the menus are handed out.

This a typical restaurant interior

Old tourists

Oeufs dur are a typical starter


Each pot of mussels gets a pot warmer like this

Freed mussels in a creamy broth.  If any liquid is left, sop it up with a chunk of bread!

All gone!

This was today's special

A satisfied customer

Mousse au chocolat

Chocolat gateau

Coffee - the traditional end to the repast.

Typical street scene

The fish market

Au voir Trouville

Monday, April 18, 2016


Versailles entrance parking lot.  This was shot on Monday because Sunday, the place was  packed.  You couldn't even see Versailles for all of the tour buses

This is a restaurant on the grounds of Versailles.  it's famous for hot chocolate, of all things.
Richie shot 336 photos and am going to throw up a couple of them at random until I can sort my way through ... this restaurant and the meal that went with it; scenic views and where they were ... very hand to mouth, but damn!  That's a helluva lot of shots!

Photos by Richard W. Murphy     1st North American rights

Mussels are very popular in the seaside towns.  These are from La Central, Trouville

Deauville beach

The French apparently LOVE carousels; we saw them at tourist attractions and in shopping malls.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Airplane Food

I believe one of the reasons so many of us look forward to a meal service on a plane is that it breaks up the often long expanses of time when we have to Just Sit There.  A good book helps, looking out the window at nothing at all is ... tedious.  The movies are never new and usually imminently forgettable.    The only interesting movie that I ever saw on a plane (and it held me rapt)  was "Angela's Ashes" which is not exactly a laugh a minute.

So when the flight attendants (FAs) come bouncing and clinking up the aisle with their drink and food carts, we sit up and take notice.  "Ah, entertainment!"

Air France #065 LAX - CDG 3:25 p.m., arriving at 11:10 a.m.
To commence - Marinated shrimp and scallops on a bed of ratatouille.  Said ratatouille was a bed of raw chopped peppers, tomatoes, celery and not the thick, cooked vegetable sauce we're used to having. 

Choice of - Chicken with a mildly spicy red curry, jasmine rice with vegetables and Japanese furikake garnish.   (Richie's choice)
Shell pasta, lobster sauce, vegetables (Mine - the pasta was plump shells filled with, one hopes, lobster meat and not pollock.)

Fruit compote and Grand Marnier almond cake

About an hour before landing, they served us breakfast on a tray which was:
Orange juice in those little aluminum cups with the peel back top
Roll and butter  The roll was actually room temperature and not frozen.
Blueberry muffin
Plain Greek yogurt
strawberry jam
1/4  of a ham and cheese grilled sandwich

Air France #076  7:10 p.m.  CDG - LAX arriving at 9:40 p.m.
To commence - Smoked duck foie gras with mango chutney with lime and ginger over baby spinach

Choice of - Chicken with lemon sauce, bulgur with spices  (Mine)
Spinach and ricotta cheese tortelloni, creamed spinach, cheese.  (Richie was in the john.  He loves spinach.  I never cook it.  So I ordered this one for him.  He was furious; he wanted the chicken.  So I ate some sauce and bulgur and handed it off to him.  This was not a sacrifice.  Am not that fond of chicken, but hate spinach more.)

Camembert cheese
Tropical fruit salad (leftovers?)
Vanilla streusel cream puff

Again, about an hour before we landed they passed amongst us with more food but for the life of me, I can't remember what it may have been.  I'd been deeply asleep and all I remember is a lovely, hot cup of coffee.

The just-an- hour- before-landing offerings are to give the passengers time to get themselves together, bathroom themselves, gather their possessions and be ready to get off of the plane.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Everyday Water Conservation in France

Over the years, I have been fascinated by the surprise I've often gotten when opening a bathroom door anywhere in France.  On an early trip, I amused myself on the plane home, by labeling and drawing 11 different types of toilets I had seen.

They ranged from the English-style hanging tank on the wall with the long brass bell pull to a park toilet which was minimal to say the least.  It was a ceramic floor with a hole in the sloping center with a pair of horseshoe-shaped cleats to place your feet.  "Primitive" is understatement.  Despite a bursting bladder, I couldn't bring myself to use it.  You'd be amazed at how tough said bladder can be and the storage tank capabilities. 

On a driving trip years ago, Michelle and I made a pit stop and the bathrooms were unisex which I'd never seen before.  I was startled to see both men and women casually strolling inside. When a cleaning woman persuaded me that this was normal, I pulled down my dark glasses and sidled cautiously in.  No worries.  The restroom contained a number of toilet closets with floor to ceiling doors and a shared wash basin on one wall.  "Oh," I thought.  Checking doors for the Occupied sign, finding an unoccupied one, and opening the door provided another (unpleasant) surprise.  The toilet  had no seat.  You parked your butt right onto the porcelain rim of the bowl. 

When we were both back in the car, I mentioned this to Michelle and she laughed and said, "They don't want you to take your vacation in there!"

In today's world, I found that the hotel public restroom (just outside the breakfast buffet) did have a toilet seat, but no toilet lid.  An improvement, to be sure.   

But water-saving toilets were rife in their numbers.  Picture the top of a toilet tank.  Now position a large rectangular button on the left side of the lid and a smaller square on the right of that.  The square is for flushing liquids; the rectangle is for, uh, larger deposits.  There is a variation in style - a pair of interlocking wide round buttons.

This struck me as so practical that I wanted one.  I am tired of the old Hippie saying here at home:  Yellow, let it mellow; brown, flush it down.  Kohler sells one for $936 and it uses 20% less water than a 1.6 gallon.  The small button uses .8 gallons; Big Job 1.6 gallons. 

This is a bit pricy but sells various kits for conversion to this system of flush for as little as $30. 

Put your money where your mouth is - Google "top actuator French toilets"

Proof that the French are prudent - there are rarely droughts there (unlike SoCal) but they're ready!  

Friday, April 15, 2016

Technical Matters in Everyday French Living

I noted a number of differences in "stuff" like toilets, lighting, elevators and to give you a feel for being in France, here are some of them.

Lighting Savings:
The French are frugal (read "parsimonious") in many things and leading the list is the light-that-automatically-turns-itself-off.  Right after electricity was discovered, French landlords invented and had installed 30-second timers on flights of stairs so that the hapless tenants wouldn't loll around in the stairwells gossiping with each other.  Get the door open, and run for it!

Perhaps merely an attempt on the part of the landlord to keep the tenants fit (and the rent francs coming  in) and I misunderstood.  My error and apologies to the landlords.  All of whom have been deader than vaudeville for a number of years.

Michelle's condo is so-metered right after a long, twisting tunnel from the street entrance (must have a key) to the elevator (must have a key) in the garage.  She and Richie went up first (small elevator) and I waited for my ride.  Click - and inky blackness!  I literally could not see my hand in front of my face.  I did the only thing possible and froze.  Next day, Richie started carrying a little flashlight.  He needed it because I always rode with Michelle after that.

At the Bar
Have you ever seen this?  We stopped for a nightcap in the hotel bar/breakfast room in Honfleur, for a couple of beers.  The bartender took a glass off of a shelf, turned it upside down over a ring inset in the bar counter top and pushed a button.  Icy water flew up into the glass and the outside of the glass grew a lovely promising rime. 

Wines are sold by measurement which were, in descending order, 46 ml (?)  36 ml and 25 ml.  The 46 is the equivalent of a full bottle of wine; the 25 is a small ladylike serving. 

Old buildings have the old-fashioned one-half person capability brass, open elevators so beloved of cinematographers. 

Modern ones are roomier with added services.  Push the button.  It lights up to show it heard you.  As it nears you, the push button light begins blinking "Almost there!"

The elevator lady talks to you but her French was so fast that I have no idea what she was saying.

"Service compris" still reigns which means that when your tab comes to the table, the waiter's already been tipped 15 per cent.  If you received excellent help, it's customary to leave a couple of coins for the waiter.

Doggie Bags
A concept that has not yet entered the French psyche.  At lunch on Wednesday, when a large pottery dish arrived with my pommes Dauphine (scalloped potatoes) arrived, I confidently assumed that I'd be providing the starch part of that night's dinner.  Michelle quickly informed me of "French rules" - you eat what you were served or risk the chef's wrath.  But she relented and explained to our waiter something rather cutting about American eating habits and they had a good laugh and then he brought an aluminum dish and foil cover.  Yes, he got a tip.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Our base this trip was, as always, Versailles which is a short commuter train from Paris' Gare du Nord.  We didn't take it in to Paris due to the recent troubles there.

An overview of Versailles and next door neighbor Le Chesnay.  The Ibis Hotel, Le Chesnay, is a four-minute walk from Michelle's condo along wide sidewalks and a double street separated by a curbed, grass strip with a walking path.  The two streets go in opposite directions.  There is no trash blowing around. 

The streets are fenced for safety with handsome green wrought-iron "short" fences.  Just the right height to lean on your forearms and take it all in -- the businessmen, striding briskly along; mothers transporting their kids in push chairs; the Sunday morning joggers - all very smartly kitted out in Proper Attire For Jogging. 

French men as a general rule are nicely dressed and businessmen usually in a suit and tie.  Their hair is clipped short and neatly combed.  The fashion this season seems to be the tightest trousers seen since the '60s with a wrinkly part breaking across the laces of the shoes. 

Unfortunately, the male braided pony tail still exists (saw one halfway down the guy's back) as does the Intellectual Look which is hair skinned back off of the forehead into a small sort of brush at the back.  There are a lot of tall foreheads there.

I studied the women closely and I believe that the reason French women look so put-together is a universal reliance on a good tailor.  Their clothes fit beautifully - not too tight, not too blousy.  Tailoring must be a lucrative business there...

People watching Sunday morning, while waiting for Michelle to pick us up, we saw a pair of Yummy Mummies with an 8 to 10 year old daughter each, attempting to rollerblade.  Their knees knocked together, the kids arms flailed forward as they leaned into the breeze.  They all made it safely across the double street and sank gratefully on to a park bench.  There they remained long enough to eat a candy bar (or something) before getting carefully up and making their unsteady way down the path.

The hotel breakfast buffet (extra charge on the tab) had a wonderful coffee machine - about 10 different styles of coffee of which one - #0 -was "American" which was very, very good.  The buffet starts with a baguette, with a napkin for you to hold it and a saw-toothed bread knife to cut it.  The bread type varies from day to day.  Croissants and  Pain Chocolat are above the bread board.  All of the baked goods are made in house. 

Boil-it-yourself eggs are near the cereals and milk; after that comes a tray of deli ham, saucisson* and a very hard cheddar cheese and a brie.  Lined up before them are four containers of jams - apricot, orange marmalade, strawberry and honey.  Two kinds of wrapped butters in separate bowls - sweet and salty and they aren't kidding about salty - tiny grains of sea salt are an ingredient.

There was also a variety of yogurts resting in an iced tray but since it's Greek yogurt (pure chalk) I can't tell you what flavors they were. 

I was tempted by the thought of boiling myself a hard-boiled egg until I remembered that the French put the cooked egg in the shell into a dish designed to hold it and whack the top off with their knife.  Not only is this too rowdy for me, but the thought of inadvertently eating a piece of shell was ...unappealing.

*"Saucisson" is a generic name for what we would call salami, pepperoni, etc. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

It's 4:37 a.m. and Guess Who's Wide Awaaake...

As I tend to remember the most recent experience, shall we start with the end of our trip to France?

Michelle drove us to Charles DeGaulle (CDG) airport in plenty of time for her to make it back home and not have to do needlework or read a book in the parking lot of rush hour traffic on the A13 periphique.

We had a 7:10 p.m. Air France flight home.  When we checked in online we were told we could board at 5:15 which they later pushed back to 6:15 p.m.  We got to CDG a little after 3 p.m.  What do you do for 2 or 3 hours at an airport?  Well...

We checked the two roller bags and got our boarding passes.  I had a $190 voucher from Air France's partner Delta.  Could we use this to upgrade to Business?  "Oh," we were told, "you have to ask Delta, our air partner." 

Off to see the Delta lady.  She checked; Business was full.  "Okay, I said, "How about free admission to  the sky lounge then?" I asked.  "Oh, no - the voucher is strictly for a ticket on Delta." 

We have never flown Delta in our lives (that we can remember) and don't have any plans to do so. 

We were invited to sit in the Reserved For Cripples area to wait for the wheelchair person to take us to the gate. 

Bringing the wheelchair was a stroke of genius if I do say it myself.  The wheelchair guy pushes me in an Air France chair; Richie pushes mine with the two carry-on bags both of which weigh enough to re-sink the Titanic, no ice berg needed.  Bonus points:  CDG is so huge, so convoluted, that we would still be wandering around looking for baggage claim were it not for the chair pusher.  Up elevators, across expanses, onto another elevator and down.  Repeat several times.  There are separate elevators for wheelchairs and attendants only and they are all one-chair sized. 

But first we had to do Security where something on my person set off the alarms three times.  In France they don't use a wand, they use their gloved hands, but:  it's a woman for women, male for guys.  They are not shy.  She went where no stranger has gone in quite some time.  Let alone a lady.  I began to wonder...maybe she's going to offer to buy me a drink when I'm cleared?

Finally it dawned on me that it was the artificial hip!  This after handing Richie my watch! And preparing to do battle about handing over my wedding ring.   AF has got those machines trigger tight. 

The nice man pushed us to Gate 22 and departed, after showing me the about-every-three-gates Smoking Areas!  CDG admits people still smoke in this day and age!  Believe me this would be headline news at LAX or DFW.  Granted, they are glass cages, approximately 10 ft. long by 4 ft. wide, with a rapid air exchange system.  At one point there were five women in there with me.

Richie found a liquids shop - various coffees and styles and beer taps.  He got us a couple of large ones and we had a nice relaxing sit before going back to the plane and, after a 10 minute wait, boarding. 

To Be Continued... we did a lot of things in France and I made notes about them all.  When I get through with Our Adventures in France, you will go out and actively cruise for frogs to kill.  I promise you.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


Not a good start ... Air France e'd and asked Richie to check in.  They made no mention of me.  I freaked, called the long-suffering Peggy at Zen Travel who said that Delta, (AF partner) in it's wisdom gave us separate reservations.  No luck finding me there so the hell with it, we'll check in tomorrow. 

Leaving Monday  - 3:20 p.m. flight that lands at 11:10 a.m. Tuesday.  It's 10 1/2 hours there;
11:1/2 home.

Today's exchange rate is 1 Euro = $1.14 US.

"Today" is actually Sunday night and I am frothing with excitement.  Pardon (ParDOHN).

Will download Richie's camera into Michelle's computer and, hopefully, send pictures. 

Assuming, of course, there are no suicidal terrorists on board to blow us up or the Muslims who work at Charles De Gaulle haven't blown up the airport which seems unlikely even to me, the Nervous Nellie of the Skies.

As have flown AF before and swilled down nothing but champagne, have confidence that someone at Delta knows I will be aboard and stocked the champagne cabinet accordingly.   I've got the Valium in my purse.*

*Joking.  My doctors don't trust me with Valium.    They saw the profit I made vending the leftover Oxycontins from hip surgery. 

Some Travel Tips When Fleeing the Country

Merely a compilation of things I knew and others I have learned prior to going to France.

If you have a replacement joint, ask your doctor for a little plastic card that says which joint is now faux (getting my French up-to-speed) for Passport and Security.  I'm taping mine to my passport back or front.  Decisions, decisions...

Unless you are in 1st,  Business or Jumped-Up Coach (and I wouldn't trust that latter too much) bring a little something de manger (to eat.)  Try to keep it classy such as Trader Joe cookies or cashews or similar.  Potato chips crunch! and flavored ones crash!  Like gnashing your teeth.  A grabbed pizza before you board is a very bad idea.   Why be so discreet?  Other pax may not have planned ahead and have nothing to eat.  Hungry fellow travelers can turn savage in a heartbeat.  Word.  Don't tease the animals.

Find a sleep mask -  and store it  in your take on bag so you always have one..  They are wonderful for jet black inkiness in which to sleep as opposed to "subdued lighting" and never more so than in a daytime flight.  Sometimes the airline provides them.  Go online and find one.  I had a dandy that had a reversible Velcro patch - one side was red with a simplified line drawing of a stick figure reclining; flip it over and there was a green patch with a crossed knife and fork.  This means "Wake me up at feeding time."  They were good-sized and easily visible to any roaming FA.

Specific to Air France our airline of choice to Paris.
Michelle flew for them and said that it's the FAs that hold the power after you board.  She carried a nice box of chocolates to reward them for an upgrade in class.  All I want is for us to be able to occupy two side-by-side seats on the aisle/window so I downgraded a box of Godiva to a box of Trader Joe's dark chocolate almond laced cookies.  I will hand them off when (or if) appropriate with a smile and say, "I thought you might be tired of airplane sweets..."

I would advise you never to do this on, say, American.  They consider themselves (and rightfully) there to save you not serve you.  Friendliness, not creating any kind of a scene and general good manners may get you a bottle of wine or champagne slipped to you on deplaning..  We've (Americans) got it right!

But I've GOTTA pee!  The plane is bouncing around like a big-breasted woman in a singles bar, the captain has come on and not only ordered us to belt up but the FAs to flee to their seats as well.  This is not the time to rise and head for the bathroom.  Women of prudence will be wearing an adult diaper.  Men will have stashed the upchuck bag and a blanket within easy reach.  Be sure to seal the bag before transporting it to a bathroom in calmer climes. 

Dry Nose - airplane air is notorious and deeply maligned by every flyer evah.  Swab your nostrils with a Q-tip laden with petroleum jelly.  Holds the moisture in. 

A relatively quick trip from Charles deGaulle (CDG) in to Paris is to use the Air France Bus (pronounced "boos".)  These are fancy coaches with reclining seats, a big screen TV up front and since they are much higher than a car, you have a very good introductory view of Paris.  Usually from 50 to 60 minutes, depending on traffic, and 17 Euros per adult.  They run every half hour so God only knows how many of them there are. 

A light-weight raincoat or smash-down umbrella are good ideas year 'round in France (or London or Dublin.)  Layer as needed underneath.  If it gets hot, take off the raincoat and tie the sleeves around your waist.  I really like mine because it has the right-sized pocket inside to hold a passport and a little button hole loop to keep the pocket shut. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016


Robert (Bob) F. Brodsky, PhD, PhD          Pat Brodsky
B 5/16/1925 - March 29, 2016                    B 7/29/1932 - March 30, 2016

Bob and Pat died within a day of each other and I hadn't even known Pat was sick enough to die!

Here's what Bob's daughter told me.  Bob had been in the hospital for 10 days, recovering from double pneumonia.  When he flunked the Ability To Swallow Test, and was told he would need a feeding tube for the rest of his days (age 90, probably not many of them) he elected to undergo hospice treatment at home. 

Pat was said to be "coughing a lot" and the daughter later said that when Bob came home, Pat went into a decline.  It was their mutual desire to die together.  Given Pat's dramatic proclivities (active actor in community theater productions for many years) I could just see them - Bob peacefully sinking into a coma and Pat in the other bed, screaming, "Wait for me!  Wait for me, dammit!"

We've all been close friends for at least 20 years, so pardon my informality above.  We laughed almost continuously during our times together -- so much so that right now I can only remember two specific examples...

We plus my sister and her husband were all lunching at Nelson's, Terrenea resort.  My sister and Bob were mutually delighted that they both shared Chicago experiences.  Bob did Navy boot camp at the Great Lakes facility.  Pat, who had been remarkably quiet suddenly said, pensively, "That's where Bob lost his virginity."  We exploded with laughter!

A dinner at our house - Bob and Pat, "Raffish," MD and us.  To perk up the conversation, I asked Raffish if he'd been a member of the Donner Party, what part of the human body would he eat? (gasps from the rest of them.)

Raffish thought (nothing phases him) and said, "Probably the ribs -not a lot of muscle there."

At that Pat, reached over and patted Bob on the ribs and said he better watch it; he would be first to go, teasing him about his well-covered ribs.

Bob chuckled, patted his own ribs and said, "Aged!" and thought for a second and added, "Well-marbled!"

This is the kind gathering we will miss.  Literally, a laugh a minute.

NOTE: the double PhDs after Bob's name are not an error.  He had double degrees and Pat said at faculty functions, wives were addressed as "Mrs. Doctor (last name.)"  I asked if they addressed her as Mrs. Doctor, Doctor Brodsky and she said they did!  And we howled at the ridiculousness. 

I like to think of them laughing together again.  RIP.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Lost Giraffe

Lost Giraffe
Answers to the name "Snuggles"

May be frightened and hungry.  He was last seen on Monday.  I am worried that he may wonder a long way from home looking for food.

Snuggles is a male.  He is about 18 ft. tall with large brown spots.  He is friendly and not at all aggressive although he does not like pigs.

He was wearing a blue collar with his name and address on it when he went missing.  I had let him off of his lead for a run.  I still have his lead.

I miss him so much.  There is a reward for information leading to me getting him back. 
Please help.

H/T to John McGowan

from Florida - The lost giraffe is at --- Toys R Us!