All I want for Christmas is…jetlag?!

We’re back. And, yes, we did have a magnificent time and I want you to hear all about it. So, put down your knitting needles or your last minute gift list or that Christmas card from Aunt Ida and get comfortable. We were there a week and I don’t want you to miss a thing.

Thursday 12/14 – We left at around 5:30 pm. Smooth flights to Atlanta and to Paris, which was very good for me, although I suspect that the Xanax helped a little. And, because of the miracle of time travel, we arrived around noon on the 15th.

Friday 12/15 – We had a little trouble at first deciding which train, and how to buy tickets…mostly because everything in Paris is written in French. Who knew?! So, we walked back and forth quite a bit in the airport before finally settling on a train that we hoped would take us to Paris. Our hotel (located in the 5th arrondisement if you know that sort of thing) was the Hotel des Grandes Ecoles and it was just perfect. Nice sized room, hot water; everything you look for in a hotel.

Not being ones to sit quietly for any period of time, we set out to discover the city. It turns out that we were mere blocks (which means nothing in Paris) from Notre Dame. We stopped and took some photos, had some dinner, with wine and cheese, and then headed back to the hotel to sleep.

Saturday 12/16 – My birthday! In Paris, you get just as old, just as fast. I turned 32 in France, which still makes me younger than Angie. Unfortunately, it was raining in Paris. Yet again, the intrepid travelers set out with umbrellas to see the sights. We hit Centre Pompidou for some modern art and then to Musee Picasso later in the day for some, well, Picasso. I mean…you know, stick with me here folks. It’s a museum named after the man, they’re not gonna fill it with Michelangelo’s stuff. After museums, we strolled down Rue de la Huchette which is famous for plate smashing Greek restaurant owners. Finally, that night we watched a gospel choir sing spirituals at Paris’ oldest church, St. Julien de Pauvre. They were really very good and they sang for an hour and a half. It was a wonderful way to spend my birthday.

Sunday 12/17 – You know how everybody always talks about how big the Eiffel Tower is and how you can’t possibly miss it. Well, we’d been here two days and hadn’t seen it yet. But today was the day, we set out to find it and there it was…a very large tower in the midst of a park where there was a farmer’s fair going on. Think FFA at the Eiffel Tower. The top was closed, so we went to the second level…which honestly, is far enough for me. We got some great photos and enjoyed our trip to the tower.

Later that evening, we hung out at Caveau de la Huchette, which is a little underground (literally) jazz club. We heard a neat big band play and drank a bottle of wine as we watched people dance the night away. It was a pretty good 21-piece band and by the sight of the dance floor it was quite the party.

Monday 12/18 – The Louvre. You’ve heard of it, you can’t pronounce it correctly and it’s just as magnificent as you might imagine. It’s a massive complex that holds arguably the world’s greatest treasures. We saw everything we could possibly see and we didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of things that you could see. Naturally, we saw the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, the Venus de Milo…and the list could go on and on. At some point, we just glazed over from all the amazing things that you could possibly see. The Louvre itself is a massive monument and I can’t even begin to describe how spectacular it was.

After the Louvre, we walked through the Tuileries, a lovely garden with fountains. It’s the ideal place to kiss the one you love. So we did. And then after a ride on the ferris wheel and some more crepes, we went to Musee L’Orangerie. They’ve redesigned this museum with a double rotunda to display Monet’s Waterlilies. I could’ve sat there all day in this peaceful moment. Not the least of which was that we were in pain from walking so much, but these paintings in the soft light and the quiet amazement in the gallery were truly beautiful beyond measure.

You would think that all of this was enough for one day, but we decided to walk up the Champ s’Elysees to see the Arc d’Triomphe. I don’t think we really let it all sink in because the pain and the cold was very much on our mind, but it was a stunning monument nonetheless. And not to miss a moment of excitement, we took a cab to St. Sulpice to see the famous Rose Line and there is also an amazing sculpture there as well. The churches in France are gorgeous and the height of the ceilings…it was just awe-inspiring.

We stopped at Cafe de Le Deux Magots for dinner and had more wine and cheese. How very Parisian!

Tuesday 12/19 – On Tuesday, we went out to Versailles, because after that Sofia Coppola movie, how could you not? I have to say that this was probably our favorite day of all. Versailles was simply gorgeous in all its opulence and splendor. The magnitude of everything was overwrought. We saw the Palace and the Gardens and the little hamlet where Marie Antoinette played as a shepherdess. They even have goats and chickens and rabbits there. It was extremely cold that day, but we rented a golf cart to explore the gardens and I highly recommend it because it took us two hours to mostly just zip through everything. The fountains, the manicured lawn and shaped trees, the boats on the grand canal. It’s everything you’d want in a palace.

We did stop briefly in Notre Dame after we got back to Paris, but vespers was just beginning so we hurried on out. It’s a little weird to be taking photographs while there’s a service going on.

Wednesday 12/20 – Montmartre is not all it’s cracked up to be. The hawkers and con artists made it nearly impossible to get through the streets and it was fairly dirty in this area of Paris anyway. There was not much to see in my opinion other than Sacre Coeur which was another beautiful church. Even Le Moulin Rouge was disappointing. It’s barely a storefront on a crowded street. I realize that it’s not 1893 anymore, but it’s been made out to be so much more. It’s really not all that. So…unless you just really want to see Sacre Coeur, you can skip Montmartre. They do have a really neat double level carousel which of course we rode. That was the best part of the morning.

We had also gone to see L’Opera Garnier, of Phantom fame, but alas, it was closed for a production of Giselle I believe. Anyway, they weren’t letting folks in to take pictures…but the day (and possibly the entire trip) was saved by scoring some ballet tickets for Coppelia at L’Opera Bastille (the newer, more modern opera house) which was an absolute highlight as we both love ballet. I think it was definitely a highlight for the entire week in Paris.

We also stopped at Musee Rodin which was simply stunning. I know I keep using that word, but you have no idea how magnificent every museum is. Even after so much walking, you just can’t help but keep going because around every corner there is another sculpture. Well, Rodin is Carrie’s favorite and I’m a big fan now as well. It was truly moving to be in the midst of all these amazing sculptures. You just have to go see the pictures because Carrie got some great photos. There were also a couple of Van Gogh works and some sculpture by Camille Claudel which were simply heartbreaking and gorgeous.

By this time, we had found a small cafe on Rue Mouffetard which serves the best risotto ever. Cafe Delmas. It was wonderful and they have the best server, I think his name is Ben, and he will absolutely take care of your every need. It was such a good place to eat, that we ate there the last 3 nights in Paris.

Thursday 12/21 – Our final day in Paris, we began at yet another museum, Musee D’Orsay. We were a little museum-ed out, but surprisingly, this was my favorite and we stayed most of the day. The sculptures and paintings…they were simply stunning. I can highly recommend D’Orsay and I have to say that I think Carpeaux is my favorite sculptor. His work is very delicate and intriguing. This was my favorite museum.

After D’Orsay, we dashed to Saint Chappelle to catch the last fading light as it streamed through the gorgeous stained-glass windows. Practically the entire Bible is depicted in stained glass in this particular chapel.

Now between this moment and the next, I somehow couldn’t find our passports which were strapped to my body. I literally was in a panic and practically in tears outside Notre Dame because I was afraid they wouldn’t let us leave the country. I mean, in this day and age, you don’t just appear in another country without a passport. Carrie’s much cooler head prevailed and we were able to get some decent photos of Notre Dame while I had a mental meltdown. Then, as we were headed back to the hotel to call the embassy (isn’t that the kind of thing you only hear in James Bond movies?), I realized that the money belt had slid down into my jeans and the passports were with me the whole time. My heartbeat returned to normal and we were able to have a much better evening than had otherwise been planned.

Finally, our final night in Paris, we did the most romantic thing. We went to the Trocadero and kissed by the light of the Eiffel Tower. This is a much better way to see the Eiffel Tower…at night, all lit up, from an elevated open space. I thought this was the best evening in Paris and it’s a moment I will treasure for always.

Friday 12/22 – We came home, exhausted and a little bit airsick (at least I did). These are the highlights of the trip. I’m sure there’s much more for me to cover and I can give you a lot more detail in person…which doesn’t really help if you don’t know me, but the pictures can suffice in that instance. Back to regular blogging soon.

See you in the funny papers!

Thoughts on leaving

Today I leave for Paris, France for a week. I absolutely cannot wait to get there. Carrie and I even discussed science-fiction possibilities for getting there even faster. The top three that we came up with are:

  • Portkey (a la Harry Potter)
  • Apparation (a la Harry Potter)
  • Teleportation (a la Star Trek)

We’re not going to be able to use any of those…but we would prefer portkey I think. Oh, if only Air France were aware of these possibilities.

On a more serious note, today is an anniversary. A 5-year anniversary to be exact. Five years ago today my best friend Melisa was killed in her home. She was taken from this life long before she was able to do all the good things she had planned. Even so, she was a bright shining star in the universe and I miss her every day, some more than others. Especially when I want to share a moment like my trip to Paris with her. She was a great and wonderful person and she is missed immeasurably by people who knew her even better than I. I want to leave this with my favorite thing about Melisa. She was a staunch defender of her home state of Kansas. She knew the Latin motto and everything. I once made the mistake of “dissing” Kansas and she sent me a tourism packet that practically made me a citizen of the state. So, let me say this…Praise to Kansas.

Melisa Ruth (Harley) Augustson
June 3, 1977 – December 14, 2001

Peach and Red

Peach and Red

Originally uploaded by ConspiracyofHappiness.

I know I promised pictures of the new kitty cats, but it was so hard to get them together…plus, Red is curious about the camera. So, every time they’re cute, you get the camera out and she comes running to see what you’ve got. It makes it very hard to take a photo. But, Carrie got this one the other night. Aren’t they adorable?

There are also new (and some old) photos that have been added to my Flickr pages. Check them out, because in a week or so, I’ll be adding the photos from Paris.

A day that will live in infamy.

USS Arizona at Pearl HarborI have no poignant thoughts on Pearl Harbor. My feeling is that anything I could say would merely cheapen the memory of such an event. I wasn’t there, I wasn’t even born yet. My parents weren’t even born yet. I do know this, however; many men gave their lives that day doing their jobs for a country they believed in. Today, many men may give their lives doing their jobs for a country they believe in. Yet, tomorrow, we will still be no better off than we were yesterday if we continue to devolve into war. We should have learned something from that day so long ago, but I fear that we have not.

Segregation Junction, what’s your function?

There is currently a case or two before the Supreme Court regarding use of race in public schools to determine admission. In your mind, you probably imagine that it’s the Brown v. Board of Education all over again. In reality, the publicSegregation in schools schools have been trying to avoid that and it’s the parents who are now saying that it’s discrimination to disallow their child because he/she overloads the racial balance on one side or the other. The public schools are trying desperately to abide by the original rules which provides for desegregated schools. The parents are saying, fine, be desegregated, but not if my child can’t be in the school I want him/her to be in.

I suppose it would be naive of me to think that we could possibly leave race out of it altogether.

So, here’s what I propose. Design a school system where children are taught what they need to know to succeed in life; not certain jobs, in life itself. Staff that school system with teachers who are allowed to do their job without needing to cover things that will only appear on a standardized test…which are really anything but standard. Allow anyone to attend any school regardless of the color of skin, religion or lack of, sex or sex identity and educate them the same by providing the same access and facilities…across the board. Sure, this is probably going to mean your school tax rate is going to go up and you’re probably going to have some schools that look segregated, but aren’t.

The point is the education and how good it is…it’s not who learns it where, or teaches it. We’ve got to move past this black/white thing, otherwise, our children are going to suffer.

See you in the funny papers!  Movies page updated!

The Ice Man Cometh

It’s currently 16 degrees in Louisville, and yes, I rode my bike to work today. You’ve seriously got to question the sanity of a person willing to strap themselves to a metal conveyance and hurtle downhill with oncoming traffic at this temperature. The wind chill is 8 degrees. My face, what little was left exposed to the wind, felt like it was melting off. At one point, I couldn’t breathe through my fleece collar and I only had one eye open because it hurt to do anything else. My hands, while gloved, were frozen by the time I got to the second stop sign. And yet, I’m currently at my desk, drinking hot chocolate, and I feel fine. My face is a little tingly…it’s probably the frost bite…but other than that, no lingering damage.Orange Bowl Patch

In other news, Louisville is going to the Orange Bowl. I remember a day quite similar to this when my godmother and I sat out at old Cardinal Stadium watching the Cardinals futile effort against an unremembered team. I must have had 8 cups of hot chocolate that day. Those were the early 80s and Schnellenberger was perfecting the “3 and out” with his play perfect “up the middle”. Little did we imagine then that the university would be playing in a major bowl game this year, one loss removed from a possible title-game matchup with Ohio State. My wife says I never talked about football before we were married 3 years ago. Her brother also never talked about football either (He’s a WVU grad). It’s interesting how a decent football team will change your mindset. Not to worry though, I know that Red Sox Spring Training tickets went on sale this Saturday and it’s only a few months til pitchers and catchers report. I will have forgotten there is such a thing as football by then.

See you in the funny papers!

Fourteen days

How long must we wait to go to Paris? A mere 14 days. The agony is sweet and beautiful. Ordinarily I don’t ramp up like this for vacations that involve air travel, but I am geeked for this trip. Paris is a true “world city”. When you say Paris, nobody is confused about where that is. They may not be able to point it out on the map, but the word alone evokes notions or, better still, memories that cannot be evaded. The Paris of the mind is beautiful, romantic, and definitively European. It’s my opinion that even Europeans hold a certain reverence for the Lady of the Seine. And I simply cannot wait.

And it’s a good thing I have all this love and warmth, because the bike ride this morning was a serious bitch. HELLO DECEMBER! I was very nearly blown back up the hill on my ride to work; the little pellets of icerain tagging me in the face. But, I got here before the really nasty stuff started. I think we’ve finally left autumn behind though. So, in honor of the oncoming season…the Friday Five.

  1. Do you have a hurricane or tornado story? Back when I was little, my family went to Charleston, SC for a vacation. I don’t remember the time of year, but I do remember that my godmother wanted to take us out onto a boat into the harbor there to see porpoises and I assume something historical. I don’t remember a lot because I do remember thinking that the boat would tip over. I think my sense of balance has always been a little off, thus my fear of heights, planes, elevators, etc. Anyway, we’re out in the harbor, but it was a short boat ride because the rain really started to come down and come to find out, the city was evacuating due to an oncoming hurricane. Where was I? Yep, on a less than seaworthy vessel in the midst of an onslaught of nasty weather.
  2. When was the last time you flew a kite? Again, my godmother appears in this story. I think I flew a kite once in my wholeNatural Bridge life. It was in a field across from her house and we would run to get the kite up in the air, but I think I was too young to understand the concept. My sister, apparently more aware than I was, refused to run and became incensed and tearful at the thought of running through tall grass for what seemed like little value at the time. I’d love to fly a kite again sometime. I think I’d be good at it.
  3. Not counting in the midst of a storm, where’s the windiest place you’ve been? I was on top of the arch at Natural Bridge in Kentucky having lunch with some friends. As I stood there looking out across the Red River Gorge, the wind stiffened and I could feel a peaceful push of nature as the sun warmed my face. It wasn’t very windy, but most of the places I’ve been have to have a serious storm to get real wind.
  4. When did you last see a real windmill? Have I ever seen a real windmill? Probably when I went out to Kansas. I’m sure that there was some sort of windmill out there, or probably in Illinois somewhere. Now, if you’re talking about an actual mill, that grinds meal using wind power? Not likely. And for those of you who remember a really good laugh…“I don’t know what this windmill place is, but I’m not stayin’ in no hotel!”
  5. From which direction is the wind coming right now? I think at the moment the wind is coming from every direction, but if I had to pick, I’d say west southwest. And it’s picking up steam. Maybe we’ll get some snow this weekend.

That’s about it…maybe more baby pictures this weekend. The child has been photographed at least 215 times (I KID YOU NOT!) since it was born. That’s roughly 9 pictures an hour.

See you in the funny papers!