Hiding in the Shadows of a Paris Cafe

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As I came to the sideline, there she was, the beautiful Jasmine Cho (not her real name). Then suddenly…uh oh, please, not now…

Lately the temperatures in eastern Kentucky have been as hot as the conjunctiva of a Portland rallyer doused with pepper spray.

I took this photo on a very hot day in Paris while atop an open-air bus.  The only breeze was when we were moving about 40 miles-per-hour.  This is the shade we are all looking for right now.

This brings to mind the days I spent in Houston as a student.  Every day in the summer was like this, ninety-plus degrees with breathing in more water than air.  I can’t believe we played basketball outside and played intramural flag football in August. Ah, to be young again.

One particular robustly, sunny and humid Sunday morning in August when the temps had already hit 90 and I broke out into a drenching sweat just walking out of my apartment into my car.  I was on my way to an intramural flag football game.  I  just had enough time to polish off some barbecue Fritos for a healthy breakfast and washed it down with a Coke before going on the field.

It was late in the game and I was playing wide receiver that day and our quarterback, who was being fanned by the center between plays with a large palm frond, thought it would be in the teams best interest to send me on a fly pattern .  If you don’t know football jargon, a fly pattern is the receiver running down the sideline as fast as he can till he runs under the football thrown by the quarterback who is standing peacefully in the shade of his lineman and sipping a cool drink.  When he has his fill, he looks up to find the receiver running like a meth-cooker with his lab on fire.  He sits his drink down and throws the football as far as he can.

Astoundingly enough, this play did not work on the first try.  After I finally made it back to the huddle…he called it again.  The second try was not successful either.  This time I staggered back to the huddle as the quarterback was polishing off his second cold drink.  Much to my displeasure, he called the play for the third time.  Now my face was feeling as if I had a skin peel with a Texas chili pepper.  I was so exhausted, I couldn’t speak to voice my indignation at this recent decision, but I was a gamer and sacrificed my personal comfort for the betterment of the Nittany Lens flag-football team, a motley crew of first year optometry students.

I mustered all the strength and energy that was left in me as I flew down the sideline.  I caught the perfectly thrown ball, helped by the ball being sticky with lemonade from the quarterback’s fingers.  I caught a touchdown to get us back in the game.  They were yelling for me to come and huddle up for the extra point attempt, however I was indisposed as I was stumbling to our team bench looking like Jerry Quarry after taking a well-placed punch to the face from Muhammad Ali.

As I got closer, I could make out the angelic appearance of Jasmine Cho (again, not her real name), the lovely, athletic fourth-year optometry student unfazed by the Houston heat.  As I approached her, she was about to speak to this lowly plebe to whom she never had spoken.

“Nice catch”, came the words from her lips.

I tried to respond with something clever and debonair but no words came…uh oh.

What proceeded out of my mouth was my breakfast of  barbecue Fritos and Coke right next to her pristine sneakers.  Even in her haste to quickly leave the premises, she was cool and unruffled…almost like she expected it.

I wish that was the end of it, but alas there was another demeaning chapter with Jasmine Cho (still not her real name).

Our social fraternity sponsored a fun run (unfortunately this was the real name) in the spring.  I never knew why they called it that, I never had fun running.  Anyway we were to run the circumference of Memorial Park in Houston, a soothing three-mile run in the Texas humidity.

I wish I could blame the next humiliating incident on the heat, but it was just stupidity.  You see my buddy challenged me to run the full three miles, not our usual one mile.  Bear in mind that neither of us had ever run this far and struggled with the one mile, but a challenge was made and I had eaten my usual power breakfast (see above) so I felt up to the task.

As we approached the finish after this grueling affair of walking more than running.  We decided to sprint the last leg to see who would finish ahead of the other.  I don’t really remember who won, I just remember seeing Jasmine Cho (once again, not her real name) standing at the finish line cheering all of us moronic runners struggling to bring an end to this “fun” time.  You see, she had already finished her three miles, probably ate her lunch and looked like she just came from a spa date.  I was just hoping she didn’t recognize me.  I did notice she had new shoes.

I walked up to her, in hopes of redeeming my last encounter with her.  She said something like she was proud of us to finish the race.  In response I threw up again at her feet.

I have since stopped eating barbecue Fritos and drinking Coke for breakfast. As I don’t want to barf at my lovely wife’s feet, who I  may add is more beautiful than the aforementioned Ms. Cho and I am paying for her sneakers.

 

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Store Window in Chelsea

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“Woke up it was a Chelsea morning”…

I was very excited that morning to be going to Chelsea. I felt very hip, literally, because we had been walking so much in London, much of the time with me carrying my granddaughter, that I felt every hip movement.

We left our Kings Cross flat, our haven for the week, and headed out to meet my son-in-law in Chelsea.  He was taking classes in that fashionable section of London with so rich a history of 60’s rock stars.  I was going to look for the tavern that was the Rolling Stones hangout, The Cross Keys.

“And the first thing that I saw”…

Well, the first thing that we saw was a Tube train (subway for us Yanks).  It was jam-packed.  It looked like one of those jars that was crammed with jelly beans and you had to guess the amount. When it stopped for loading, I guessed a gazillion.  It was only loading because NO ONE WAS GETTING OFF THE TRAIN.  The level of angst was rising in my lovely wife, for she doesn’t like to be in fast-moving, narrow cylindrical emcumbrances that move swiftly underground. My daughter, who had her 15-month-old asleep in a stroller, was looking a little sheepish also.

I gently suggested that we wait for the next train. Surely it wouldn’t be so crowded since the rush hour is over. Now I obviously don’t know anything about the sociological aspect or the engineering feats that go along with moving the masses in large urban areas.  My only experience is me having to go to work in a town of about fifteen hundred people in the hills of eastern Kentucky.  I live about five hundred yards from my work.  But if you act like you know what you are talking about, it should bring great comfort to those in distress around you.  That seems right, right?

“Was the sun through yellow curtains and a rainbow on the wall”…

So after waiting through two more trains, each more crowded than the previous one, we knew we had to suck it up and board or we would be late for our rendezvous.

All I can say is “Wow”.

At this time, I thought my wife needed more of my mass transit-wisdom.  So I pontificated, “when we get into downtown London (do the Brits even say “downtown”? It seems so American.), the train will thin out because everyone will be exiting, Love.”

The laws of physics were being tested as more and more people got on this train and no one was getting off.  I think everyone wanted a Chelsea morning.

Our “rainbows on the wall” were bearded chins, backs of heads pushed up against our faces, ear lobes,and armpits.  I looked for my granddaughter, still asleep in her carriage and she was in a  black forest of skinny jeans.

At one time my wife was nose-to-nose with a young chap for an extended period.  They were staring at each other like two MMA fighters getting ready for a bout.

It was again time for more wisdom from her empathetic husband.

“Just take deep breaths.” I told her lovingly.

Now my wife is very adept at expressing her deepest feelings.  She looked at me longingly with her blue eyes and said the phrase that every wife has, at sometime longed to say to her spouse, “If you say another word, I will punch you in the face.”

Silence became golden for the rest of the ride.

As evidenced of the photo above, I did actually see a rainbow in Chelsea. I liked the shirts hanging in this store window.

Joni Mitchell, I apologize for taking liberties with your beautiful words.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

 

Old Fort Myers Apartment

 

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Sometimes you find the pot o’ gold without chasing the rainbow. Sometimes you stumble upon the “X” without possessing the treasure map.

My wife and I recently returned from a visit with my in-laws near Ft. Myers, Florida.  I took this photo of an upstairs apartment in old Fort Myers Beach.  I like the colors and the feel of days gone by in an old beach town.  This however was not the discovery.

My discovery occurred when I stumbled out of the back seat of my in-laws car in a dazed stupor after a less-than relaxing ride over to Matlacha, Florida.  We pulled into another island trinket shop and all of a sudden, the clouds opened up and there was this heavenly aura around a small restaurant called “Island Pho and Grill”.

At this point, I had two choices.  I could go into a store that caters to adolescents, tweens, teens, and middle-aged women with a condition that can’t be explained by anyone with a certain level of testosterone coursing through their body, or I could eat something completely foreign to me.

I made a mad dash across the traffic, my wife made a mad dash into Ye Olde Shoppe of Island Minutiae.  Of course, I can’t explain why she would.

Every culture seems to have their own version of comfort food.  That statement alone seems to sum up my new love for food…it gives me comfort.

The Jews gave us chicken soup. The Germans, who gave me my lovely wife, gave us sausage and sauerkraut.  In eastern Kentucky we seem to gravitate to soup beans, cornbread, and fried potatoes.  The Vietnamese have given us pho. As best as I can figure it is pronounced “fuh”…rhymes with “duh”.

Now bear in mind there is some sort of squiggly accent mark that accompanies the spelling that,  one, I can’t find on my English keyboard and two,  I can’t find anyone who knows what that squiggly line does to the pronunciation of the word.

I ordered a bowl of vegetarian pho, since we were going to eat supper in a few minutes and my mother taught me,”Don’t spoil your appetite.”  I have disregarded this advice since I was about 16, for it seems I always have an appetite now.

The taste of this Vietnamese delicacy led me into a state of palatable bliss that I haven’t experienced in a long time.  Maybe since my first potato chip or first bite of a chocolate doughnut.

I called for my brother-in-law to come and share in my savory fortune.  He looked at me as if I had gone daft.  Then he informed me of my daftness for Vietnamese cuisine wasn’t too high on his bucket list.  But once he imbibed in this dish, he was taken in by the wonderful flavors.

My wife came out of the Island shop and much to her surprise, she saw my brother-in-law and me up to our wrists in pho, looking like piranha feeding on an unsuspecting water buffalo who happened into the Amazon for a leisurely soak.

I don’t know who was happier at that moment, me or the store owner counting his fistful of cash as my wife and her sister were walking out of the store.

I will be pho-ever be grateful for discovering this new-found delicacy.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my photography here.

 

 

 

Reflections on the Louvre

IMG_2887 2 (1)Ah Paris, la ville des lumieres.

My dad sent me an email while ma jolie femme (my beautiful wife) and I were in Paris last summer. The email came on the last day we were in Paris. He said, “It must be beautiful there at night. I always wanted to see Paris at night.”

It suddenly dawned on me…

We had not really seen “The City of Lights”.

Paris was given the above nickname, La Ville des Lumieres, because it was one of the first European cities to use gas street lights and it was prominent in the Age of Enlightenment.  Now we did not see much of the physical lights of Paris and considering our lack of awareness as to our location most of the week, we did not feel too enlightened.  Nevertheless we had a good time slogging through the streets of Paris in hot and humid conditions, sans lumieres.

The previous week we spent in London, where the skies did not darken until about 10:00 PM. We were not accustomed to this, even with the much-anticipated switch to Daylight Savings Time in eastern Kentucky, where it gets dark a little after 9:00 PM. We still do the time change to aid the farmers, or the late-day yard mowers.  I belong to the latter group.

I thought in Paris it would get darker sooner since we were east of London. However, my internal compass could have been playing tricks on me since in Kentucky, Paris is slightly west of London. So give me a geographical break.

The summer days in Paris are llllooooonnnnggg and hot.  Due to the heat and humidity, and my 60+ yr-old body tiring more easily, we were back in our hotel room by the time it got dark.  The only lights we saw in Paris were generated by our handheld devices.

This last night, we tried to stay out past dark. As we were eating our last Parisian meal at a cafe called Le Petit Suffren.  I was about to fall asleep in my plate of tomatoes with mozzarella and pesto.  The beautiful Missus was dazed as she finished her chicken crepes.  We were both sufferin’.

We did see some lights of Paris during the day.  I took this picture while we were on top of an open air bus.  It is the reflections of light off the pyramid at the Louvre.

We actually were walking in Paris after dark the first night we were there, but we were lost and looking for our hotel.  We did get a glimpse of La Tour Eiffel dans les lumieres that showed itself between buildings. However, my wife playing the part of femme fatale in our little street drama was putting me in a compromising position of choosing between setting up a tripod for a photo or…actually there was no choice.  She was tired of walking and wanted sleep. When I slowed to a stop to reach for my camera bag, I saw the look.

No amount of French could pretty-up what she was thinking.

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Bridges on the Seine

0ea2acee15a73723b7c6d5213d092dc5_10864123Mon chocolat a fondu!!!

This does not mean I am having a chocolate fondue party on Monday.  This is French for “my chocolate has melted”.

My wife and I visited “la capitale francoise” this past summer.  Now let me tell you, it was hot that week.  I now have a theory of why the French Revolution started in July of 1789…everyone was hot.  They were wearing those powdered wigs and heavy clothes. This provided a boiling cauldron-type atmosphere of discomfort among the commoners and the buorgeoisie society and set the city on an emotional precipice.  Inevitably one day, too many chocoholiques, wanting to savor their recent purchase in the shade by the Seine, discovered, ” MON CHOCOLAT A FONDU!!!!!”

At about the same time Marie Antionette was summering in a cool cellar in Versailles eating her solid chocolate and enjoying it so much she tweeted a photo of her bliss.  Well, needless to say, her head may have been the first thing dipped in chocolate.

The heat was oppressive that week in Paris, much like the French monarchy of the 1780’s. My wife and I did two days on the Batobus instead of the one we originally planned.  This is a water taxi that travels the Seine and drops off a boatload of tourists at advantageous locations to tour the city.  The second day, we never got off the boat except to eat. It was the most relaxing day we spent in Paris.

The above photo was taken on our second day on the Batobus.  It was late afternoon and the sun was reflecting on the Seine.  I like the lighting and the silhouette of the bridges.

As far as the chocolate goes, we spent most of one day in Montmarte and as we were working our way down the Street of Martyrs, we found Henri le Roux chocolates.  We bought a small assortment, because we belonged to the commoners.

We decided to wait until later that night to nosh on our treasured purchase.  We found a small table outside our hotel on the street. With much excitement, we opened the elegant little box.  “Mon chocolat a fondu!!!!”

Maybe we should have heeded the advice of Ms. Antoinette and ordered cake.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

 

Eiffel Tower

IMG_3828 2Google maps said it was just a short nine minute walk from the Gare du Nord train station to Chez Cazimir.

My lovely wife and I disembarked from a relaxing train ride from London to Paris.  We needed relaxing because we had just spent a week in London with our 15-month old granddaughter who wasn’t too concerned with the Crown Jewels or The Tower of London or where Winston Churchill helped plan the defeat of the Nazi forces invading his beloved England during the big war. Her only concern was to lick every hand rail she came into contact with and to use her pacifier as a vehicle to taste the subtle differences of each sidewalk she trod.

My wife and I had a little different noshing experience planned when we got to Paris.

So we were ready for our first French meal, a Sunday afternoon brunch, at Chez Cazimir. We were meeting a friend of mine and his wife.  He and I had been on trips to Haiti together and by coincidence we happened to be in Paris at the same time, they at the end of their trip and we at the beginning.  It sounded like the beginning of a Hemingway novel, a chance meeting of New Englanders and Appalachianers. And for good measure, a Frenchman living in Monte Carlo thrown in to share our table.

This sounds all too easy doesn’t it?

Well fate had to work overtime to overcome my directional inadequacies.

Imagine my surprise as we walked out into a light Paris drizzle and found that all of the streets in Paris, France are written in French.  And they aren’t displayed on the street corners but on the sides of the buildings.  And the street names change at each intersection.

I guess when you are a city that is over 2,000 years old, there have been a lot of people after which to name a street.  Sooner or later you run out of streets, therefore you don’t get a whole street, you just get a block.

I could sense my wife’s panic set in.

When I finally stopped to ask directions of a lovely Parisian family, there was a bit of a language barrier.  We repeated this Franco-American street drama numerous times over the next 45 minutes until we were thirty minutes late for our meeting time.

It was the first of many exquisite meals we enjoyed over the next four days.  It was so good to see my friend and for our wives to meet.  We spent about two hours in that cafe and it was a good start to our Paris stay.

I took this photo of the Eiffel Tower on our last day in Paris.  I experimented with my take on French impressionism.  However I don’t remember seeing any of Monet’s paintings in black and white.  Maybe he wasn’t artsy enough to pull it off.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

 

 

 

Riding Through Port-au-Prince

haiti-2011-125-2-1He was waiting there, like he always does.  Just standing…and…waiting…

I have been cycling (this sounds more manly and adult than saying “riding my bike”) for about three years now. This is because my almost sixty-year-old knees remind me every day they are almost sixty years old. Riding a bike doesn’t make them feel almost sixty years old.

I love riding through the eastern Kentucky countryside,  riding through woods and past streams, riding past newly cut hay fields, and fields of cattle and horses. We ride past tobacco in the fields and in the barns, a wonderful smell that brings back memories of fall in Kentucky. We ride past fields of wildflowers.

What an idyllic experience to cycle through eastern Kentucky.

Until…

Many times we are snapped out of this pastoral bliss by the canine consternation, when your body goes from producing hot sweat to cold sweat.

Many people have dogs that protect their property from dangerous, middle-aged bicyclers that roam the rural routes, usually in packs, looking for free air to feed their flat tires.  Most of these mutts are not a threat. However,there are those who are threatening and we get to know those very quickly.  We ride many of the same routes and we know where the dogs come a-runnin’.

One particular mongrel stakes out his spot in the middle of the road when he sees us coming.  We lovingly refer to him as “Cujo”.   He has mastered the game of “chicken”, because he will not move.  He makes us decide the path we will ride, then the chase begins.  He is big, about mid-tire high, and muscular, a bad combination for possible contact with your high velocity velocipede.

Last week the aforementioned happened.  Cujo decided he wasn’t going to chase me, so he decided to stop me. He blocked my path like Dick Butkus plugging a hole.

My helmet now has a dent in the side after hitting the pavement with my head inside.  There was various scrapes and blood. There was groaning, but I didn’t cry.  Even now my insides feel like that side of beef looked after Rocky pounded on it in the meat locker

I took this photo of a man calmly riding his bike through the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  There can’t be a calm ride through these streets.  It is ultimate chaos.  He has to dodge cars and trucks and motorcycles and buses and other bicycles navigating without lanes, carts pulled by animals, and  tap-taps (Haitian taxi’s) loaded with people and their belongings.  He also has to avoid goats, pigs, chickens, oxen, and “lions, and tigers, and bears”.  Oh MY.

Every day he is playing a real-life Frogger navigating the streets of Port-au-Prince.

I just had to miss one dog in the middle of the road in peaceful Stacy Fork.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.