Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Alito Rhymes with Finito

The AP reports:

"No one seriously believes that the court is about to overrule Roe v. Wade," current Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito wrote in an internal Justice Department memo on May 30, 1985. Referring to a high court decision to review two abortion-related cases at the time, he asked, "What can be made of this opportunity to advance the goals of bringing about the eventual overruling ... and in the meantime, of mitigating its effects."

Alito went on to write, "Perhaps we can combine the alternate side of the street parking laws with abortion restrictions. Then, once women can only control their bodies half the time, we can bit-by-bit get the courts to rule that Roe v. Wade only applies on February 29. "

President Bush, after giving his Naval Academy speech "Victory in Iraq -- right now it's only a notion, but I think I can get the money to make it into a concept, and later turn it into an idea," has suggested that someone in his party, like Senator Joe Lieberman, should propose a bill to ban leap year.

Chicken Hawk by the Chesapeake

One of the latest APF headlines reads "Bush to lay out Iraq victory strategy" and it's hard not to think the headline runs two words too long. This is an article that offers, without snickering, the line, "US President George W. Bush was to unveil a 'strategy for victory in Iraq' on Wednesday, hoping to convince a skeptical US public two and a half years after the war began that he has a plan to end it." Which isn't much different than opining after lighting the post-coital cigarette, "Honey, I think it's time for the condom."

In his endless effort to give speeches only in front of people who actually do have to defend this country, or in front of a wall of flags offering more stars than the Hayden Planetarium can project, or alongside expensive machines that he keeps insisting are the ways to win wars/stop illegal immigration/keep his friends who own companies who make expensive machines in business, President Bush will deliver his next stirring address at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Why there? According to a government chart from May (which is a bit old news, but the best I could Google quickly, and could the ratio really change that much since then?), here was the breakdown of U.S. forces in Operation Give Iraqis Freedom or Give Them Death:

Army 65,044
Marines 20,103
Air Force 7,149
Navy 2,299

So even when speaking in front of the troops, he picks the ones least likely to be upset with him. This is a desperate man.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Vatican Opens Mouth, Inserts, Er, Foot

The AP opens a recent report with this terrific (for wise guy bloggers, that is) lead:

The Vatican defended a policy statement designed to keep men with "deep-seated" homosexual tendencies from becoming priests, but said there would be no crackdown on gays who are already ordained.

Deep-seated? Crackdown?

Guess that means the Vatican realizes even a straight man might accept a blowjob in a darkened room from another guy if he was hard up enough--but no buttsex, that's a sin against God.

Perhaps it's true that the R.C. Church will now let the R.C. stand for Rarely Coherent.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Vain in Maine Wear Little That Is Plain

So I was perusing the Seacoast Online, as I like my internets a bit damp, thank you, and what should I find but this delectable tidbit about small town life (at least I assume it's a small town since it happens to be in Maine):

AUGUSTA, Maine - It's downtown Augusta's latest attraction: three young women clad in lingerie who wave to passersby from a store window.

The attention-grabbing models were hired by Spellbound, a lingerie store that recently opened on Water Street and is trying to establish its name.

There is no truth to the rumor that at first it tried to establish its name by having its employees say "Liverwurst" to customer in their best Ingrid Bergman accents. (You have to know your Hitchcock to get that joke, which is probably why they so quickly moved on to something everyone can agree on--lingerie.)

The reaction from the public and neighboring business has been mixed.

Police have received complaints, and the owner of a business across the road says the women are driving away customers, especially shoppers with children.

"It's tainting the wholesome businesses down here," said Carrie Rossignol, co-owner of Video Game Exchange. "I think it's selfish, and I think it's morally reprehensible."

Rossignol then returned to stocking the shelves of her store with copies of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. "These make perfect Christmas presents for the little tykes," she said.

Spellbound's owner, former Cony High School teacher Felicia Stockford, said she came up with the idea while brainstorming for an inexpensive marketing idea. "I thought, 'You know, that's a big window, and if I put girls in there to wave at traffic, it would draw a lot of attention.'"

Stockford added, "If it were a much smaller window I would have to put guinea pigs in there in lingerie, and that would draw less attention." Meanwhile the school board at Cony High just nodded its collective head and knowingly whispered, "Former teacher, former teacher."

Paid only in lingerie, the women said they volunteer because they love being seen.

Plus, they are all Cony High drop outs. Luckily, they often get to wear edible underwear, so none of the models have gone hungry, as if models eat anyway, even in Maine, which is very silly of them because the lobster there is so cheap and so tasty.

Police officers have visited the store in response to complaints, but have found nothing illegal, said Lt. Peter Couture. He said there are no state or city laws that prohibit wearing lingerie in public.

It's even been reported that some police officers have visited the store in the absence of any complaints. Lt. Peter Couture (I only wish I made that name up), after visiting Spellbound for the fifteenth time this week said, "Just doing my job, ma'am. Trying to keep the piece." [no sic] In other news, Carrie Rossignol (and how can you trust a person named after skis) is petitioning for a law that will prohibit wearing lingerie in public, even under one's clothes. She has also heavily invested in Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder, figuring all that chafing during the cold Maine winters will be a bitch.

Carlos Delgado Never Got Called Asshole (Not Like the Mets)

One of the best things about being a Mets fan (wait, there is something, really) is that you're expected to belittle the team as much as love them (for out-and-out loving them is just not New York). Still my favorite all-time Shea moment goes back to a game in the 1980s when a rotund dad with his chip-off-the-old-rotund son explained to his offspring when Darryl Strawberry worked a pitcher to a 3-0 count: "Great. This is when Darryl is most dangerous. He'll take the next pitch, foul off the second, and swing and miss on the third," only to have the equally talented and troubled Strawberry do just that. Then father and son team grunted together.

Today the Mets leave me grunting. They have wisely traded for Carlos Delgado, a very good (if a bit older than you want, but welcome to New York where you have to win now) first baseman to make up for the bodies pretending they were first basemen last year. (Marlon Anderson is to a productive MLB first sacker as Pam Anderson is to an Oscar winning actress, yes, even Marisa Tomei). Delgado, in addition to knocking the snot out of the ball, also had this endearing quality: he thought the U.S. shouldn't be fighting Iraq. And to prove it, he would quietly sneak into the clubhouse at any "God Bless America" playing at the seventh inning stretch since 9/11. He was a man after my own blog.

But now we get this news from ESPN:

"The reason why I didn't stand for 'God Bless America' was because I didn't like the way they tied 'God Bless America' and 9-11 to the war in Iraq, in baseball," he said when he joined the Marlins [the team that just traded him to the Mets] in January.

"I gave him [New York chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon] my views on that subject and I also said I would not put myself in front of the team," Delgado said. "The Mets have a policy that everybody should stand for 'God Bless America' and I will be there. I will not cause any distractions to the ballclub."

And lord knows how distracting First Amendment rights can be.

The Be-lated Great Thanks

I am thankful that my inlaws' house is 7 miles away from the Stone Brewery. I am thankful Stone brews an Oaked Arrogant Bastard, that it puts the ale on tap, that it sells growlers. I am thankful that my inlaws care about Stone Brewing. Yes, this entry is a shorthand for many things. I am thankful that my inlaws had the good sense to raise a wonderful daughter. I am ever surprised, but eternally grateful, she decided to spend her life with me.

Friday, November 25, 2005


For Dog Blog Friday: Nigel says, "You ate how much yesterday? And didn't give me any?!"

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Two News Stories Collide on a Busy Blog

VATICAN — After months of deadlock, leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and the priests union reached an agreement Tuesday to clean up a homosexuals in the priesthood scandal that has tarnished the nation's pastime ("just get me home in front of the TV by kick-off, honey") and left lawmakers worried about young religious people imitating the wrong role models.

Members of the Senate, exasperated by what they viewed as a smoke-screen made by thurible-dragging, were hours away from imposing gay-testing and penalty requirements on all major league religions when the deal was reached.

It will require men of the cloth to submit to several gay tests each year, between Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday (thereby to protect those A&P Catholics who only go to mass when they get something), and will impose lengthy suspensions for Playgirl and Judy Garland CD use. Repeat offenders can be banned for life, at least from the darkened, face-to-face confessional booth.

Members of Congress said the agreement sends an important message to those who look up to priests. "This is about the integrity of the church and particularly the kids," said Sen. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican and Hall of Fame altar boy and former MLB pitcher who is so against anyone scoring he once threw a perfect game, although it was versus the Mets in the 1960s, so deserves an asterisk.

The lawmakers said they would hold off on legislation for now. But they called on other professional religions to follow the Catholic's lead, seemingly forgetting many other religions let women be ministers and/or let their holy people marry, and in other ways pretend that world's century odometer has made it into the double digits.

"We hope this agreement by the Roman Catholic Church will stimulate--well, that might not be the best word--other major league religions to toughen penalties," Bunning said. "I mean, when the Mormons screw around with kids, at least it's girls."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Invade It Till Your Satisfied, Whatever It Is

Dick Cheney insists on November 21: "It is a dangerous illusion to suppose that another retreat by the civilized world would satisfy the appetite of the terrorists and get them to leave us alone. In fact such a retreat would convince the terrorists that free nations will change our policies, forsake our friends, abandon our interests whenever we are confronted with murder and blackmail. A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be a victory for the terrorists, an invitation to further violence against free nations, and a terrible blow to the future security of the United States of America."

The UK Guardian reports on November 22: "Leaders of Iraq's sharply divided Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis called Monday for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in the country and said Iraq's opposition had a 'legitimate right' of resistance.

"The final communique, hammered out at the end of three days of negotiations at a preparatory reconciliation conference under the auspices of the Arab League, condemned terrorism, but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens.

"The participants in Cairo agreed on 'calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation' and end terror attacks."

No doubt on November 25, and therefore buried in all the news stories about the busiest shopping day of the year, that is if people are awakened enough from their tryptophan comas to notice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will say: "Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. Alas, the United States has decided that Iraq has done a very bad thing. Therefore, we will re-invade the country starting December 1, to overthrow this government that seems to have forgotten it owes us one."

Rumsfeld will continue, "Not only will this give us a second chance at getting some people in power who are properly grateful, but it will also allow us to shine, as invasions we're very good at. As for what comes after the initial smashing military success, well, stuff happens."

The Bitter Films of INOTBB von George

There's this Top Ten Movies I Hate meme flying about like a bad cold and I so want to participate that I already did, back in August when I responded to Premiere's "20 Most Overrated Movies of All-Time."

True, most overrated doesn't quite equal hateful (a Fatal Attraction, for what it says about women, is hateful; a Cinema Paradiso is just annoying), and then there's that whole other category of unwatchable that includes the only film I've walked out on twice, Liquid Sky.

Wish I had more time to vent, but for now my spleen is squeezed dry.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Dick, Dick, Dick, Dick, Dick, Dick, Dick

So the VP is out telling Americans, or at least the American Enterprise Institute (home of all the 19% of Americans who still trust him), that, according to LexisNexis, "What is not legitimate -- and what I will again say is dishonest and reprehensible -- is the suggestion by some U. S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of his administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence."

OK, let's say not one person from Bush Co. misled the country during the dash up to the war.

Then why does Cheney spend so much of this current speech, on November 21, 2005, to link Iraq and September 11?

"And our thinking was informed by what had happened to our country on the morning of September 11th, 2001."

"In a post-9/11 world, the President and Congress of the United States declined to trust the word of a dictator..."

"Believing they could strike us with impunity and that they could change U.S. policy, they attacked us on 9/11 here in the homeland, killing 3,000 people. Now they are making a stand in Iraq..."

Couldn't be because he's dishonest and reprehensible, could it?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

On the Surface Bush-Sick Blues

I know every lefty blog in the country is going to post this pic, but I simply can't resist.

The door doesn't work because the vandal has the handle.

Friday, November 18, 2005

So Hungry, So Angry

Competing headlines over at Reuters:

House votes to cut $700 mln in food stamps

Senate approves $60 billion tax cut bill

And while I'm not an economist (I don't even subscribe to the magazine) and barely competent in math, I can't help but think that oh, a $59.3 billion tax cut might be enough.

Next time anyone thinks about voting Republican, they need to think about this: "Under the House plan, roughly 165,000 people who now automatically are enrolled in food stamps when they get assistance from welfare programs would lose their food stamps. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said the affected people were mostly working families with children."

Because working families with children shouldn't eat.

The Mook-iversary around the Corner

For Dog Blog Friday: A picture of Mookie on his third birthday because on Thanksgiving he turns eight! And in case you're wondering, he's not upset about wearing the hat, it's that he wanted to wear the one with Shaggy on it.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

If You Lie about Lies, Does that Make It the Truth?

It' s still shocking to me that Dick Cheney can be wrong calling people dishonest and reprehensible since if anyone should know what those words mean, it's the Vice President.

The good news is that media, finally, isn't buying it. Tonight on All Things Considered a segment with national security correspondent Jackie Northam begins with this priceless exchange:

Michele Norris: "President Bush and Vice President Cheney have been saying Congress had access to the same intelligence that they had in the lead up to the war. Is that in fact correct?"

Northam: "No, it's not."

Knight-Ridder also chimed in today with a story headlined: "In challenging war's critics, administration tinkers with truth."

What is this world coming to? It only takes 5 years of mendacity from the powers-that-be for the media to catch on.

Munchasaurus Rex?

The AP reports: "Dinosaurs May Have Eaten Grass."

Sure enough, noted lead researcher Caroline Stromberg of the Swedish Museum of Natural History says, "We have found their brownie recipe."

A&G Back from France--Day Fourteen

(Author's note: This entry is the fourteenth--and last--of two weeks of daily entries about our trip to Provence.)

29 October 2005

It's a long way back, from Avignon to Santa Barbara. Just by transport the trip went taxi-train-bus-plane-monorail-plane-car-car, with a few escalators and moving walkways in-between. I won't bore you with details, but the good news is everything happened on time and the flights featured no bonus moments with the seatbelt sign on. Otherwise:
  • Be very careful with how they say a TGV is supposed to pull into a station. When the train comes the opposite way as advertised, you have lots of running to do--with your suitcases. And there will be people running in the opposite direction.
  • EuroDisney just seems wrong. Maybe it's because Disney is so American and having a train stop near it seems to ruin visions of endless autopia.
  • Charles DeGaulle airport just seems wrong. It's not like Dulles doesn't need a facelift, but DeGaulle seems beyond the help of any plastic surgery. It's even possible that the mistaken notion that the French are rude simply comes form the design of this one airport that can't even bother to tell you what airline is inside what door at what terminal.
  • Or bother to tell you about a bomb scare. When we get off the shuttle bus from the TGV, we can't get into Terminal 1. Eventually Amy says lets go stand outside the United door at least, and when we get to it, that part of the terminal is open. Guess it was a small bomb.
  • The good French food ends somewhere outside Charles DeGaulle.
  • Relatively early in our Paris to Chicago flight, a very large passenger comes up to the woman sitting alone in the exit row the row in front of us. A heated discussion follows, as he asserts a flight attendant said the seat next to her was empty and he planned on using it to sleep and she counters, but I paid for this empty seat next to me--even if my husband who was sitting in it has since been bumped up to business class--so the big guy couldn't have it. She goes and gets a flight attendant and the big guy, despite further arguing, loses. Why he would insist on sitting in a seat where he's clearly not welcome is beyond us, but the whole incident leads me to say, "Amy, this means we're back in America."
  • On our Chicago to San Diego flight (the dogs are in San Diego with Amy's parents), a man in our row across the aisle turns pasty and ashen. The flight attendant hooks him up to oxygen for most of the flight. We do not get diverted to Denver. He seems healthier when we land.
  • Before leaving San Diego to get home to Santa Barbara on October 30 we have Mexican food. As good as French food is, they don't have carnitas.

What Goes Around Comes Around

Today is the 315th birthday of August Ferdinand Möbius, and if you consider his works in the right light, he goes on infinitely1. Before his famed career as a mathematician and theoretical astronomer, Möbius created quite a stir in his German village of Schulpforta (that’s really it’s name--if I made it up I would have tried to make it sound more like schtupp) by opening a strip bar. The town elders were particularly incensed that he paraded about women who appeared to be non-orientable two-dimensional surfaces, and therefore weren’t Rubenesque enough for them. Plus he never let any of them in for free.

What most people don’t know – until they read a blog entry like this one that attempts to put the candy in the arcane (there’s a joke there, I promise) – is that Möbius almost was beaten to his own discovery of the Möbius Strip by Johann Benedict Listing. How embarrassing to have something named after you discovered by someone else2. Luckily for him Listing was inclined to follow his middle name and not his last, and therefore ended up with egg on his face.

1 Ironically it’s also the birthday of Gordon Lightfoot, whose “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” seems to go on forever.
2 Of course, Möbius might have just been inventing the job title “boss.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A&G Off to France--Day Thirteen

(Author's note: This entry is the thirteenth of two weeks of daily entries about our trip to Provence.)

28 October 2005

This is really our last day as the next will be consumed by travel home, so it's sad even attempting to write up this entry. In Aix we head back to Bechard for breakfast, try not to order everything (oh, I didn't mention their ice cream cakes yesterday, and they are amazing, with eye-catchingly colorful scoops built right onto them), eat on a bench along Cours Mirabeau, stop in a cafe for coffee (my stomach is caffeine-ready this AM), check out of the Saint Christophe (its art deco touches are quite lovely, did we say that?), and make it out of town on the way to Avignon without getting on the autoroute, although we worry, briefly, that we've blown it. There's more gorgeous French countryside, more grapevines green-going-to-red, more cute villages (although in this region, not really any on hillsides). We also almost see a tiny car get smashed by a truck on a roundabout, but even this miraculously doesn't happen. It is the last day of our vacation, and all must be well.
Outside of Avignon we visit a hypermarche, since we want to know what the French equivalent of Costco is. And it is frightening, at least to me, a place where you can buy anything, probably even French children, but we didn't get to that corner of the store because we ran out of breadcrumbs and I was afraid we'd lose our way. We were hoping to find violette liqueur, so Amy could replicate her fave aperitif once we got home, but no such luck (we would find some in Avignon, but had to ask for it even there in the store with 800 Euro calvados from 1927). (Kir violette are as tasty in the U.S. as they are in France once you get the proportions right, yes, thanks for asking.) We do have a picture of the hypermarche, but do you really want to see a photo of a big box store?

We drop off the car at Hertz. And it does.

We take the bus from the car rental at the TGV station to inside the walls of old Avignon, and as we did 12 days ago, wheel our suitcases up Rue de la Republique to Le Banastiere. We check in and decide we have to live it up as it's our last day. We wander about town to places we didn't hit two weeks ago, doing some window shopping, lots of admiring of the architecture, lots of looking up at all the trompe l'oiel windows, some of which are a bit whimsical.

Or are they? It turns out that France is much more willing to celebrate the weird, wild and positively Americanly pagan than we imagined, as this bar, which admittedly announces its UK-ness with its name and Guinness sign, shows:

Still, much else is very French in a way we might have imagined just perusing guidebooks. I hope to get one last shot of a great clocktower, but there's no good angle to get it around the trees--it's a picturesque tease. In America you'd assume every tree within two miles of something possibly a sight would have been cut down. We go to one last museum, the Musee Calvet, and it's not even clear which of its many doors from a courtyard is the entrance. A tour guide/guard reins us in and brings us to the entrance desk. The art here offers you paintings from 300 years ago that show how little Avignon has changed in centuries. And there's a Brueghel (the Younger) which I could look at for a long, long time.

Since we must be waiting for our cab at 6 a.m. the next day, we decide to eat early, and therefore aperitif even earlier. At one of the many charming places along the Place de l'Horloge I have one last pastis and Amy tries the house kir, and discovers if it bubbles, it causes few troubles. We keep taking pictures, as we have few such chances left. Here's the town hall, and we never did see the figures in the tower dance, which is sad, but a reason to go back.

And then it's impossible to stop taking photos of the Palais des Papes, which simply gives you too many angles of wondrousness, like this one I call Heavy Held High:

Speaking of heavy, there's one last terrific night of eating. We go to La Fourchette, a restaurant owned by the folks who run Hiely Lucullus, but just as second labels from French vineyards are often a great deal, so is the case here. We almost don't get in, not having a reservation, but the kind hostess seats us, warning us that another table will be close by. We are happy to be here, although pass on our last chance for pieds et paquets (mutton or lamb tripe with pigs' feet). After all, I've never been one to believe all traditions are good things (slavery, hunting, oppression of women, eating pigs' feet--all seem mistakes from another era, if not all of the same magnitude). We do feast here on terrific things. I can't remember Amy's first course, but I have a chicken liver pate that also comes with an onion confit, so it's a witty re-creation of liver and onions. For mains, I have another delicious duck but Amy's dish takes the (beef ) cake--daube de boeuf, a beef in red wine stew that is delectable. And it comes with the world's most luxurious macaroni and cheese that makes you want to find the folks at Kraft and slap them a few times for besmirching what can be such an elevated dish. We drink a 2002 Gigondas Cuvee de la Tour Sarrazine.

We also end up chatting with the folks at the table so close that the hostess warned us about its proximity. They are two men from Wales, so we can actually talk. They are witty and worldly-wise and we and they chat off and on in just the right, not too intrusive proportions. Not only are they fun, but we are pleased to know we can still carry on small talk after talking English at any length only to each other for two weeks. Or the Welsh couple was just so nice that they flattered us by laughing in the appropriate spots.

We all got to laugh about the desserts, particularly Amy's, which was nearly as big as her head. But when you're meringue with nougat ice cream stuffed in your middle, you really can't be big enough.

I promise you that objects on the blog are more delicious than they appear. My dessert was very very good, but couldn't hold an egg white to Amy's. It was just pastry with chocolate and raspberries. Heck, any wonderful kitchen could whip that up.

That's it. France is over. I left you with 2 desserts.

OK, there will be a postscript tomorrow, without photos, since the only 3 we took that day are of us, boldly trying not to bawl on the TGV and at Charles de Gaulle. This evening we did walk up by the Palais for one last lit-up look at its hugeness. Of course we took pictures. Sure enough at 6 the next morning when the taxi would speed us off to the train station, he would have to circle about a bit to get out of the walled city not built with cars in mind. Along the Rhone I would get one last look at the Pont Benezet, and then crane my neck to get one last glimpse of Avignon, still lit bright in the dark of pre-dawn. It's a scene like ones in paintings from centuries before at Musee Calvet, one on websites today. It's one in my mind now even without this photograph. How odd it is you can have something and miss it at the same time.

Cheney Risks Lightning Bolt, Calls Others "Dishonest, Reprehensible"

Of all surprises Dick "Puts the Dick in Dick" Cheney went on the attack today, saying things very much like what he has had President Bush say first, so it might seem like Bush is the real leader of the Torturing World. Cheney is pissed that some Democrats who voted for the war are now willing to say they made a big mistake and that the White House helped them make that mistake by fixing intelligence.

Reuters claims Cheney said, "American soldiers and Marines are out there every day in dangerous conditions and desert temperatures -- conducting raids, training Iraqi forces, countering attacks, seizing weapons, and capturing killers -- and back home a few opportunists are suggesting they were sent into battle for a lie."

He went on to say, "Our troops weren't sent into battle for a lie, they were sent into battle for me." And then he ripped off what turned out to be a dickie from the front of his tux and revealed a Halliburton t-shirt.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A&G Off to France--Day Twelve

(Author's note: This entry is the twelfth of two weeks of daily entries about our trip to Provence.)

27 October 2005

I awake feeling better if not best, but I'll be damned if I'm going to miss two days of vacation. I still am uncertain enough I decide we shouldn't venture to Marseille, what we originally planned to do this day, as we mostly wanted to go to have the real true bouillabaisse, and that seems like too much of a feast for my just finding normalcy stomach. I even pass on coffee this morning. French coffee. So maybe I still am not feeling so well.

Although pretty much any ailment short of the black death (which I really shouldn't joke about given Provence's history but) could be cured by a visit to Bechard, a patisserie/chocolaterie that's been in business for 100 years. Everything looks delectable and here looks aren't deceiving (we will return for sandwiches for lunch and tomorrow's breakfast, too). If it could fit in our suitcase, we would have brought Bechard home with us, way before any French children and even the A180. Anybody can have the love of a devoted youth or a cool car, but few can have the world's best almond croissant and chocolate eclair.

Amy then opts to live Groundhog Day and takes me through the old town on the walk she did the day before (but we pass on Cezanne's atelier, since there are no Cezannes there). Aix is full of markets this Thursday: an everything-on-sale flea market along the Cours Mirabeau (some women buy their fine lingerie on the street, which just seems to be asking for trouble); a seafood market including sea urchins:

A vegetable market including flowers:

A flower market for those who didn't buy theirs with their vegetables:

And a mushroom market, because this is Provence (plus the Log Lady from Twin Peaks might stop by):

None of these markets were running when Amy did her solo walk, so at least it's not a complete repeat of the day before for her, plus the roads are so pell-mell that you never quite take the same route to anywhere in Aix even if you hope to do so. She also gets another special treat as a tour is examining the carved doors of Cathedrale St.-Sauveur and we both get to see this:

A far sight better than anything I could make in shop. Inside the church, I take many of the same pictures she took the day before, so it is true that after 8 years of marriage you start seeing things the same way.

After lunch of our Bechard sandwiches we decide we should take another shot at the basilica Ste-Marie-Magdalene (that's Mary Magdalene for those of you who don't read French) in St-Maximin-la-Ste-Baume (whoever named stuff in France must have gotten paid by the hyphen). On the way we look for and find (!) Chateau Simone, not only one of the best wine producers in the region but also named after a cat I had for 16 years (or at least she would have liked to think so). We consider tasting, but it seems so calm--that is, non-touristy--that we just poke around and are leaving when someone pops out of the office. Still, a wine from the region called Palette has to be cool, because it reminds me of one of my favorite character actors, Eugene Pallette, who just happens to be in the movie from the night before The Lady Eve. We continue heading out on the N7, the impressive Mount St-Victory to our left, and my lap, as it did for much of the trip, looking like this, although it's only a trick of the photograph that is seems we left an iron on the map. There are no irons in France, and 100% cotton me was often wrinkled, not to mention my clothes.

We also find the basilica in St-Maximin, as there's no market in town this day to block the streets. It's hard to miss as it's one of those fantastic soaring Gothic cathedrals that seem both impossibly grounded and about to leave the earth, perhaps pulled away by the menacing gargoyles that always seem a bit too scary for a house of God, but what do I know, I left the church.

It's incredible inside, full of that fervid religious art that makes commitment to a higher power and the need to be committed blur. It's also got an amazing pipe organ we wish we could hear (or sneak up and play with, not that we'd know how). Of course the kicker is the chance to go to the crypt and see the crypt master, or mistress, as the case may be, for legend has it that skull in the bronze gilt reliquary staring back at you is Mary Magdalene's. It is pleasantly spooky, whoever she is.

We walk about the town a bit, just to balance the secular with the religious. Not much is happening, except for this belltower that looks like a science fair project solar system model gone haywire:

In the evening, having chosen not to go bouillabaissing--it sounds so involved, what with the soup first and the massive platter of fish second and the croutons and rouille all along the way, that it deserves its own verb--we wander about reading menus, or at least the parts we can translate, trying to figure out where to eat. We settle on the peculiarly named Juste en Face, which attests to the Northern African influence in France that you might have heard a thing or two about in the news of late. Instead of rioting, the menu offers a tasty mezze first course and then meals cooked in tajines, including Amy's lamb and my monkfish. We sit outside in an area full of other outdoor restaurants, and as the whacky Google translation function attempts to describe, "the in love ones will appreciate this place." We did, along with the a bit young and therefore more rash than bold 2004 Marquis d'Fonsequille Vacqueyras we drank.

And for one last picture a bit out of sequence, Amy mentioned we had a room with a view, and we did, and it went a little bit like this:

Bush Says We Have No Plan B, We Just Do Plan A Over and Over

In a speech before thousands of one-son families in China attending a conference run by the country's National Population and Family Planning Commission, U.S. President George W. Bush lashed out at critics back in the States who agree with "a new government audit that has found that the Food and Drug Administration may have decided to deny permission for the so-called 'morning-after' pill to be sold without a prescription well before the scientific review was complete" (as reported on NPR's Morning Edition, among other commie news sources).

''Some Democrats who voted not to authorize the use of Plan B are now rewriting the past,'' Bush said. ''They're playing politics with this issue and they are sending mixed signals to our women and the unborn who are living the moment a person thinks about having sex. That is irresponsible.''

He went on to say that in situations where there is a one night stand, "Only one person manipulates, well, for the children's sake let's call it the 'evidence' and misleads the man - and that person is the hussy. It's a slamdunk that women have Wombs of Mass Deception. There is no question that the Democrats know all about this problem of sex outside the sanctity of marriage, which is the only time you would need a 'day after pill' anyway. Just ask Judge Alito, for he knows only the husband can approve his wife's abortion, because he will know better than for her to have one and beat some sense into her for even suggesting it."

A&G Off to France--Day Eleven

(Author's note: This entry is the eleventh of two weeks of daily entries about our trip to Provence. And this entry is written by Amy, and you will soon learn why.)

26 October 2005

We wake up and poor George is not feeling well (which is why I'm writing today's entry). I'm not feeling great either so we opt to skip petite dejeuner and start our trek to Aix en Provence. This is the longest single drive of our trip so we decide on the most expedient route which is the A8, our first big trip on the "auto route." I drive and George sleeps, er, navigates. The auto route isn't much different than any freeway that I've driven on (except that it isn't free, it is quite chere...but they do take credit cards!). The only difference is that they have large signs warning you of weather and road conditions in French, so we never quite know exactly what they are trying to tell us. One such sign I swear warned us of men diligently working ahead... but when we reached them, they were lunching. I wonder if the sign was updated in the mean time? The speed limit is 130kph, 110kph in rain... since the weather was nice, we got to drive legally at 80mph! nice.

As we near our destination, a lovely mountain range come into view, Montaign Ste-Victoire.

It is a mountain range that Cezanne was quite fond of, and you can see why. I'm not sure our picture does it justice. Also along the way, there is a massive basilica in St-Maximin-la-Ste-Baume that boasts of relics of St Mary Magdalene. When we see it off the A8, we must go. So we exit the A8 and head towards St-Maximin. When we get into town, it is market day, and we miss the turn and somehow lose site of the basilica. I know, I know, I said it was massive (it was!) which is why it is noteworthy that we lost site of it. It was probably for the best as George didn't look like he could really make a walk through a basilica anyway. [George note: Although I had hoped that the healing powers of seeing Mary Magdalene's skull might have cured me.] So we head on to Aix on the N7.

As we pull into Aix, we try our normal strategy of driving in the direction of centre ville and the information de tourism...but then the signs stop directing us to our destination and I swear we just about make it all the way around Aix when we spot an unofficial "centre ville" sign that takes us through a parking lot alley, and dumps us on a road that ends up running into the street our hotel is on. We park and find Hotel Saint Christophe hoping that we can check in and get George to bed. Our room is odd (the bed is in a loft up a rather steep staircase), but it has a great view of St. Victoire. George settles in to sleep and tells me to not let him stop me... but I'm not sure what to do. George is the tour guide! He's also the journal writer and food critic.

I try to figure out the highlights of Aix, and head out with a map the hotel left in our room and a guide book. I walk down the Cours Mirabeau, which is that main street billed as "one of the grandest, most beautiful avenues ever built." It is tree lined, but the trees have recently been trimmed so it wasn't at its most beautiful. I walk through winding streets to find the Hotel de Ville, and then on to the Cathedrale St-Sauveur.

It is a lovely cathedral, but it is missing two of the three things pointed out in the guide book. The doors are suppose to be sculpted walnut from 1504, but they are covered up. There is supposed to be a triptych of "The burning bush" but is also missing. I do, however, get to see the large pipe organ.

Leaving the church, I read that the Atelier Paul Cezanne was just a short walk from where I was. I decided to check it out. I was also a bit curious because I believe Paul Cezanne was one of the great men's sperm that is stolen in Roald Dahl's "My Uncle Oswald." Anyway, as it turns out, Cezanne's studio is up hill! So I get my up hill walking in for the day after all. The Atelier turns out to be a bit strange. You pay to see his studio which is basically a room with old bottles and stuff... however, there are vases and other objects that have been in his paintings. The urn that was in the Cezanne print in our hotel room was on a shelf in the studio. I guess there is something to be said for being in the studio of a great artist.

I head back to the hotel to see how George is doing. By evening, he is feeling better and he agrees to go to dinner with me. We eat at Le Bistro Latin. George barely eats which doesn't make our waiter happy, but I'm just happy not to be dining alone. The food is good but not great [George note: but much cheaper than the places we have been eating--at least I'm not wasting an expensive meal] and we order a half bottle of Domaine de Val D'Aran Bandol Rose to go with our fish.

We go back to the room and turn the TV on to see The Lady Eve on TV with French subtitles. We decide that screwball comedies don't translate very well with 40's slang like "positively the same dame."

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Degree from the Waiting Seminars

I want to be funny, but don't feel I've got the laughs in me today. And then I ran across this, as John McGowan is guesting over at Michael Berube's blog for a couple of weeks:

I have this fantasy, one that attaches to various people at various times, about people who are at one with their lives. Someone who has found an occupation that is completely enthralling, challenging, pleasurable, and satisfying. The person pursues this occupation with single-minded devotion for the whole of a life, each new step on that journey producing a new problem to be solved or a new way of seeing the whole enterprise. But, meanwhile, there is also the satisfaction of things achieved along the way. The life well lived as a career in making. An honorable life devoted to producing things that the world values. (No, I don’t experience my own life that way. It feels like constant scrambling, with each thing done a messy compromise between what was aimed for and what time, circumstances, and personal limitations made possible.)


Except I wasn't even with it enough to write that myself.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Throw Mamet from the Peace Train

Today I had a ticket to Romance, so I went. Luckily Amy had a ticket, too, because Romance for one just isn't the same, especially when you're married.

The latest David Mamet play, Romance is a farce "intended to excite laughter and depending less on plot and character than on exaggerated, improbable situations, the humor arising from incongruities, coarse wit, or horseplay" (C. Hugh Holman, A Handbook to Literature). Indeed. As the program describes the play, it "contains a drug-addled judge, an anti-Semitic defense lawyer, his fiery Jewish chiropractor client, a gay prosecutor and his very fey boyfriend." Arguments about how to keep kosher, was Shakespeare both Jewish and gay, and can a good adjustment of the lumbar region bring peace to the Middle East end up uproarious. Nastiness is funny. Which doesn't seem very romantic at all.

But no one ever said a romance was romantic (at least no one parsing terms in even a relatively elementary lit class). Mamet does make Romance lots of things--over before you know it (90 minutes with an intermission), jaw-droppingly funny in that way that you laugh and then laugh that you're laughing at what you're laughing at, inappropriate. It's a story just of guys, which might be his biggest criticism of justice, of literature, of his own plays (speed that plow indeed, boys). In Romance you're guilty not of burning the roast but ruining the pan; after all, a roast is one meal but the pan could be forever, and would be if you cleaned it how I told you when I stormed out of the room. Romance is loggorhea looking for justice which won't come until everyone confesses their crimes, none of which match up to the charges filed, and someone is always getting undressed at the wrong moment. Yes, there is a wrong moment.

Perhaps it is always wrong moments, so you get me to admit how much I love you when you interrupt me at work prosecuting a client who it turns out had an a affair with you, you liar I love. But perhaps that is all our work--loving, prosecuting, confused by wanting a piece or wanting peace. That might be Heisenberg's rule of the heart, not being able to grasp both of those at the same time, and so any courtroom comedy called Romance must devolve into the vilest names we can call each other and still laugh off, wondering if we can get away with saying, "Is that your punchline, or are you just happy to ream me?"

Friday, November 11, 2005

A&G Off to France--Day Ten

(Author's note: This entry is the tenth of two weeks of daily entries about our trip to Provence.)

25 October 2005

First, I have to admit that this day is the first for which I took no notes during the trip, so my memory will have license to be even more fanciful than usual. Second, never make fun of a town by referring to it as part of an 80s television show, for it will get revenge. But more on that later.

This day we make the fifteen minute walk from our hotel to what has to be one of the best modern art museums in the world, Foundation Maeght. This institution managed to be buddies with the art world when it opened in 1964, so it has specifically designed installations by Miro, Giacometti, etc. And the design, while creating galleries full of light, is also fun to look at itself, so kudos to architect Josep-Lluis Sert.

I think I forgot to mention it's in a grove of oaks and pine, a site as peaceful as can be, and although on a hillside (thereby giving us our climb for the day), it doesn't even look down on the incredibly scenic St. Paul. This is all about the 20th century, thank you very much. The museum does allow for you to take pictures, but you have to pay a few extra Euros to do so, and I go shutter-finger happy to get my money's worth. I'll spare you most of the shots, but some you have to see, like a room of Calders:

As I've always been a sucker for his simplicity, a kind of truly American optimism without too much of the usual bullshit promise that comes with keeping your sunny-side-up; the works are almost blatant in being all surface, which is one way to see America, after all. Then there's a room with almost as many Chagalls as there are in the museum with his name on it in Nice, and a bunch of Braque, including a special reflecting pool:

In fact, much of the sculpture outside of the building itself is better than the artwork inside. Although it is intimidating to stand next to a Giacometti after all the eating we did on the trip.

There's also a labyrinth Miro designed specifically for the site that's whimsical and reminds us how seriously unserious art can be.

It was a great couple of hours, to say the least. All that art, especially the giant egg, left us hungry, so we walked up to St. Paul and had a jambon and fromage crepe at one of the numerous crepe-makers-in-a-window establishments that France offers. And visited La Petite Cave de St-Paul, my kind of grotto, a wine cellar. It's one of the few places you can but the wine the Foundation Maeght makes from a nearby small vineyard, so we bough a bottle of their rose as a way to have an artfully consumable experience back in the states. Here's hoping it tastes as lovely as this St. Paul doorway:

After lunch we headed up to Vence to continue our meander through modern art. Our main goal was the Chapelle du Rosaire Henri Matisse, a small chapel completely designed by the artist--from stained glass to simple line-drawing stations of the cross to the priest's vestments--and the work he considered his masterpiece. You can't take pictures there, but you can buy postcards. Alas, when we visit we missed the morning sun that would throw the stained glass colors all about the church. But it's still quietly impressive, the chance almost to be in a canvas, as it were. He certainly tapped into a serenity so much of religion promises but rarely delivers.

It turns out even chapels take a break from 12 till 2 in France, so that's why it looks all locked up when we first arrive just prior to 2. But it also hints at the place's modesty.

We also visit the old part of Vence, another sleepy lovely town on a hillside that seems oddly shuttered for a Tuesday after 2. Perhaps it, too, is seasonally warmed by tourists' feet. Those who do go get to look at buildings like this:

The rest of the afternoon becomes a story of traffic, as we crawl along through rush hour on French roads that aren't charming, but instead like Route 22 in New Jersey, crammed with minor businesses with majorly ugly and large signs, to Biot, where the Leger Museum is closed, and all the supposedly good glassworks seem sort of cheesy (maybe we just failed to hit the right places, not that you should hit stores full of glass).

We decide to make things really interesting by attempting to check out Le-Haut-de-Cagnes (and Lacey), what our guidebook says the New York Times says "crowns the top of a blue-cypressed hill like a village in an Italian Renaissance painting." Unfortunately, driving in Haut-de-Cagnes is like trying to drive in an Italian Renaissance painting for many of the roads seem two-dimensional. It's partly because we get freaked out trying to park in garage where the passenger must exit and some sort of car elevator is involved, so we decide not to try, then miss the "all other directions" sign and end up in what might have been a bobsled run and not a road at all. Amy managed to get us through, but it was scary. So we don't get to try to eat at the recommended Josy-Jo, even though we do drive past it at one point. Then we don't know where to eat. We head back to our hotel hungry and puzzled and frazzled, ask the ever-there-when-we-show-up hotel manager if he has any ideas, and it turns out Le Blanc Manger is the place near St. Paul he says is best, unless we want to spend tons of money. We don't, so get back in the car and go to Vence (it's really only 20 minutes away, if on dark and windy roads) and try the guidebook picked Auberges des Seigneurs.

Hang on to your cyber-taste buds, as I don't have the whole meal written down to report on. Almost more notable than the food was a table with three young French girls who more or less romped about the room much of the meal, but somehow they were funny and not annoying. Once again, we wanted to adopt a cute French child (you can see them somewhat in this photo).

I might settle for the copper pot collection instead of one of the children, to be honest. Perhaps one of the children could stop by weekly to polish the pots. As for the meal, it was good-not-great, as we both had a veal chop with mushrooms crusted on it, and that rocked, but the mushrooms alongside the chop were oddly bland, especially compared to every other one we had had so far on the trip. My dessert I also recall, as it featured a cream that was sauterne infused over berries. That was about perfect. As was the wine, a 2001 Mas de la Rouveriere Bandol Rouge--probably the best wine we got with a meal in our two weeks.

As for the amuse, some combo of tuna and crab, it will make its appearance again tomorrow, as our story, or at least my part of it, will take an unpleasant turn.

Something's in the Ear

For Dog Blog Friday, part 2: Nigel heard--just look at those ears--that some hounds were in the blog and figured he had to drop by, too.

Every Dog Must Get Stoned

For Dog Blog Friday: The Chateau Trigance must have known we were coming, so put out the welcome bronze greyhounds, who weren't haunted either, although they did manage to drag some odd sticks into the castle, just like non-bronze hounds. Oh, and I know that bronze is an alloy, not a stone, but why let the facts get in the way of a good title.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A&G Off to France--Day Nine ( Part 2 of 2)

Before dinner we head back to the shore to watch the sun set over the Mediterranean. There's a reason this light inspired so many painters, when it can even be captured, somewhat, by us with an auto-everything digital camera.

Grossly picturesque, I know.

Luckily one plus that accompanies Nice being a bit more urban than most of the places we've been is you can eat dinner a bit earlier. Yes, here we are in a city where we should explore the nightlife, but instead we get tuckered out and hope we aren't as old as we are. Choosing a dining spot isn't easy, because the edges of the Cours Saleya are more or less one monster food court. We choose Le Grand Bleu as it has deliciously fresh displays of seafood gracing its exterior. We share an order of mussels marniere, which is bread soppingly good, and then a fruits de mer platter with langoustines, oysters, mussels, clams, tiny shrimp and two kinds of sea snail. It's a wild, briny seafest.

And things taste different here, the seafood is gamier, somehow, than the milder versions of oysters and clams we generally encounter in the U.S., even in the best places. There needs to be a water word to pair with the land-bound terroir. We wash the many mollusks down with the wine made just above Nice and that rarely makes it out of France, a Bellet, namely a 2004 Clot Dou Baile Bellet rose.

Nice is nice indeed.

A&G Off to France--Day Nine (Part 1 of 2)

(Author's note: This entry is the ninth of two weeks of daily entries about our trip to Provence.)

24 October 2005

From St. Paul-de-Vence we drive to Nice, which is only about 15 miles away but it's a trafficky 15 miles and none of our maps are really detailed enough to help us get where we first want to be, the neighborhood called Cimiez where the Matisse Museum is. Based on our map I tell Amy to turn right at one point, only to put us on a road that dead ends. Next we worry we have dropped ourselves into a tunnel that will put us back on the autoroute but we actually wind up in the right place and make it to The Musee Matisse, which itself is a sneaky work of art as the windows are drawn on, that hard to spell, hard to pronounce trompe l'oiel method.

What can you say about Matisse that someone smarter hasn't said better? Brilliant simplicity, as he whittled his work ever more to essentials. And a perfect sense of color (we'll get to his masterpiece the chapel in Vence tomorrow, if you're wondering). Outside the museum there just happen to be more Roman ruins--you can almost feel passe about them after a while, thinking, "Hmm, some more structures from 100 A.D. Got anything new?" We walk to the Chagall Museum, a longer walk than I imagined (and a walk uphill on the way back, making up for us not visiting any churches this day), which is terrific but maybe has 30 of his works on display. They are big, dense and totally fulfilling works, but it seems a bit of a cheat. Still , Chagall's work is sort of the art equivalent of foie gras, so rich it's hard to enjoy in mass quantities. Your eyes can go gluttonous in front of his works, and I found myself shooting details of his large canvasses, for the entirety of a painting was just too much.

We decide to move the car to get closer to the beach and Vielle Ville and other touristy type things, and that mostly goes well (although getting the car from the garage, which means going through a closed mall, will be creepy if really ultimately uneventful at 9 pm). We walk and walk, checking out some of the Cours Saleya marketplace which is a flea market today, with stalls where you can buy pretty much anything someone once kept in a French attic or closet--silverware, paintings, pitchers, pictures, jewelry, etc. We buy a couple of fougasse at a patisserie for lunch and take them to the beach, where you can sit along a retaining wall above the pebbled shore (there's no sand here, so it's odd it's such an in-place to be). It is very reminiscent of Santa Barbara, so maybe those American Riviera lines aren't just hype.

It takes about a half an hour, but eventually we do see a topless sunbather, and then some more. I can die happy. Later, we can do without what we see. A late 20ish woman, walking with a 50ish man in a sportscoat. She's got a tux jacket on over her top, very tottery heels and a skirt so short it might only be justified to be called a sk. In fact, I have to ask Amy, "Am I seeing what I think I'm seeing?" Amy concurs; the bottom of the woman's bottom is below her skirt. Fashion I do not quite understand, but I assume hanging your derriere to the air can't be called avant.

We stroll way down the Promenade de Anglais/Quai des Etats Unis, peek into the luxury we can't afford at the famous Negresco Hotel, come back, stroll all over the old town Nice, and get to the Musee d'Art Contemporain, which is closed, despite what our guidebook says. It is a nifty building, and is graced by a sculpture by Nikki de Saint Phalle who created the very-much-lives-up-to-its-name Queen Califia's Magical Circle in Escondido, CA.

We feel pretty walked out at this point, so decide it's time for a beer, whose price will include a seat at a bar. Cours Saleya is lined with bars and restaurants, so we choose one with the most interesting choices pressant (on tap), and I get a Leffe Abaye while Amy has a Hoegarden. France is close to Belgium, and Belgian ales are close to God (they are made by monks, after all). Sitting is pretty heavenly, too, and there's plenty to watch as all sorts of Nicoise walk by and the flea market closes up shop and the flea marketeers' dogs take advantage of their last chances to pee on each others' booths.

(Day Nine will continue in another entry that will, I hope, let me post more photos.)

OK, You Don't Want Your Dad to Have Prostate Cancer

But do you want to hear him say, "Screw him, it's my set of nuts."

(That's about his doctor who isn't pleased he's trying holistic medicine and skipping the hormone treatment that gives him hot flashes at 78.)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A&G Off to France--Day Eight

(Author's note: This entry is the eighth of two weeks of daily entries about our trip to Provence.)

23 October 2005

It's another mixed morning of clouds and shafts of sun, which is perfectly fine if you live in a castle (at least for one night) and get views like this:

Although to be honest by this point in our trip, I'd be happy to live in a French house that looks like this:

We check out of the Chateau and the 12th century and head into town to get pain au chocolates and cappuccinos and watch a man feed a cat some of his croissant (yet somehow French cats don't get fat). Through the country on the road to our next destination we get caught in a sea of sheep; while other cars on the road seem frustrated they are trapped and have to wait out the woolly herd, we get the camera out and thank the French travel bureau that clearly is sending goats and sheep toward our car at regular daily intervals.

While we wait for the parade to pass, we try not to think about the lamb we've eaten. We continue our winding descent along the Route Napoleon (although he was heading the other way after he returned to France from exile on Elba), neither eating the pastry to which he gave his name nor singing "Waterloo" by Abba. We're heading to the sea we cannot yet see, thanks to the clouds.

In Grasse we stop as it's the center of the perfume world so it's what you do if you're in the neighborhood. The major factories all offer tours, but we opt for the one at Fragonard, which includes a terrific perfume bottle museum, too. Of course the free tour ends with a sampling of scents in the showroom where you can buy, just like the glass-blowing tours in Murano, Italy. Even though we like the smells wafting to us from the little white smell slips the tour guide offers up, we don't make any purchases, as neither one of us is too fond of announcing ourselves in a room by our aromas before we even enter the room.

We go through a few confusing minutes trying to get our car out of the garage where we've parked. This one only takes coin Euros and a credit card we don't have, we don't know the French to ask for change (and aren't sure that's really acceptable, anyway), all the stores are still on the French siesta. We sit at a cafe and order cafe we don't really want just to get change from our Euro bills, then run back to the garage, where now we owe more, but at least we have enough. At least we hadn't demagnetized the payment card. Amy did that the first day in Avignon with the closure on her purse, so I took the card the second day in Avignon, only to put it in a pocket where I had also put the Pont du Gard refrigerator magnet we bought--we got really good at finding the offices in parking garages this trip.

Through the Gordes du Loup we go, as we can't have enough gorge-ousness. Plus there's the Florian candy factory, where we skip the tour and just get down to business and buy treats, including violets and roses made into candy, I guess so in case you get in trouble with your spouse you can bring flowers and sweets in one handy package. The French certainly know amour. We also stop in Tourettes-sur-Loup, which leads to many jokes and some window shopping.

We eventually make it to St. Paul-de-Vence, our home for the next three nights at the Hotel les Vergers de Saint-Paul, the most modern of our places to stay, a study in clean lines and stripes, with a pool that's very inviting but too cold to jump into. After checking in we walk up to St. Paul which is completely abuzz with day-trippers on a Sunday, and gives us the first hint what things must be like during high season in France. Not just another sleepy lovely town on a hillside, this one is perhaps the classic example, but it's also, in a way, the world's coolest mall, as every doorway seems to be a shop. Some offer art and some offer "art," but there's a lot of people-watching and object-watching to do. The sad part is the village's chapel is closed (and tomorrow we learn it's under renovation), which means we don't get to see the Tintoretto there (St. Roc in Venice is busting with Tintoretto brilliance, and one of the highlights of our last Europe trip, so I have a soft spot for the religiously fervent guy). We do get to be mesmerized by the stone paving patterns:

Back outside the village walls we go to the popular Cafe de la Place and have our first beers in France, two Pelforths, a beer Amy's parents recommended from their French visit. A malty brown ale akin to Italy's Moretti La Rossa (visit your Trader Joe's and taste away), it's a good thing after a lot of walking. But then it begins to shower, and we must scuttle back to our hotel, about a half mile away, in the rain, which, at the least, is French rain. Still it obscures the view of St. Paul we got on our way walking into town:

After a quick towel off, we ask the very friendly, if oddly always at the door to meet us even though our room is quite far from the office, just as if he knew we were coming every time, innkeeper to recommend a place to eat. He sends us to the next town over to Le Blanc Manger, where for about half our meal on a rainy Sunday, we are the only guests. Luckily, this is not a bad sign about the quality of the place, except for one oddness--the host/waiter/owner?, who is incredibly friendly to us, when he wanders off into the kitchen seems to mutter to himself, twice, "shitshitshitshitshit." Nothing seems wrong, so we simply assume he was born in Tourettes-sur-Loup.

This dinner is when Amy has a kir violette, and why we now have violette liqueur in the house to replicate her divine aperitif experience. The food kicks off with what's clearly the seasonal amuse, some mushroom soup, this one rich with cream and roasted garlic. As we are within 15 miles of the Mediterranean we switch from meats and game to seafood and for entrees Amy has a classic preparation of grilled filets of rouget (red mullet) and I have le petit pagare rotie with aoli bread. For mains Amy goes with the monkfish with artichoke ravioli and I have the filet de loup roti (I was in a roasted mood, I guess) with breaded zucchini and mashed potatoes and roasted tomatoes, one of those dishes where, as good as things tasted individually, it really took off when I got a little bit of everything in my mouth. Luckily my mouth is big. Since our eyes are also big there's dessert, and Amy has a millefeuille with caramel and pear tartin and ice cream and I have a heart attack watching her eat all that. No, seriously I have le fondant au chocolate chaud et la glace l'amande, and you don't need to know French, even, to be able to taste that, do you? As for a wine, we opted to drink what Provence is so good at offering, a real rose. Damn white zinfandel ruined the name of good blushes who have nothing to be ashamed about, and a 2004 Terrebrune from Bandol is perfect for seafood.

And if you go to France, one piece of advice--don't think the French movies on TV will be better than American films on the USA network. We watched something that was very sub-Buffy about an archeology student who transforms himself into a monster/Saxon (perhaps it just was a long dig at the British?) only to get his butt kicked by his girlfriend and it wasn't good, although not being able to understand the dialogue surely was a point in its favor.
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