Friday, July 29, 2005

Jul 29 - WLOL - a religious station??

In about an hour Marco and I will be leaving for a weekend trip at a friend's place in the south of France near the Alps (Valence). There should be around ten people coming. I don't know what we'll do, but I imagine some hiking and outdoor activities.

Today I made two cds of dance music. Yes! I'll bring home some hot rhythms for Minnesotans. By the way I haven't mentioned it in this journal until now, but I will soon be coming back home to Minnesota for a month-long visit! Here I come St. Croix! Here I come State Fair! Here I come cheese curds! I arrive August 4th.

Also I looked at Twin Cities radio stations to see what's on air so I don't bring home music that people already know. But what a freaky discovery - WLOL is a "religious programming" station! My memory is of them playing pop hits like Prince and the Jets. And even more freaky there are now 3 "religious programming" stations listed in the Twin Cities. Yikes. The place has changed!

Don't get me wrong. I'm not an anti-religion person. But I got to know "religious radio" in Dallas, where the on-air commentators scrutinized Putin's latest speeches and Hosni Mubarak's diplomatic meetings for signs of the arrival of the "end times". Sends shivers down my spine, dude. I thought that was something I'd never find in Minnesota.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Jul 28 - Rico comes over for dinner

Marco and I have a friend named Eric (aka Rico). We met him when he became our roommate back in Singapore. There's a lot of stories there, but they will have to wait for tonight because it's late.

We didn't do anything spectacular this evening really. Eric called around 7pm to say he was coming by with our umbrella that he had borrowed. He and Marco and I went to the cafe across the street and sat for awhile in the setting sun, then we got take out food from the Japanese restaurant below our apartment.

Here's a photo that Marco took of me n' Eric in London last year.

Jul 28 - Update on my cousins who rock!

I don't want to tell their story for them, but I just think my cousins, are so cool! I got their e-mail update about their effort to kayak the entire length of the Mississippi from Minnesota to Louisiana (I first mentioned it on July 22nd. ) They are in Iowa now.

Here's an entertaining excerpt from their email update of the trip:

Who thought Iowa was such a big state? Last night we pulled into Keokuk, Iowa in the howling wind and pouring rain! There was a crowd at the "boat club" (really a bar/restaurant) that seemed like they were there to welcome us. They were all offering to buy us dinner, drive us around town, put us up, etc. One guy, Jim, works for the local AM newsradio station and he interviewed us for his show. We were on this morning "prime time" at 6:00 in Keokuk, Iowa! We're famous!

Keep it up Barb and Pete!

Jul 28 - Goodbye Valerie

For this entire year I am learning glassworking at a small school and studio. I have about 15 fellow students and our studio is a tiny, close-knit world within the vast panorama of Paris.

One of my closest friends there is graduating (she started her studies a couple months before me). Her name is Valerie and today was her last day.

Valerie started out by teasing me a lot about all things American. She raised hell with me for the first couple months - making me out to be a best buddy of Bush much to my embarrassment in a room full of French people. And she incessently corrected my grammatical mistakes (so many!!).

I was steaming mad with her some days. But for an American like me French friendships can sometimes be like crossing mountains on foot - it takes a long time, there are many ups and downs, and some days you ache all over..... but one day you arrive on the highest pass, the air is fresh, your legs are so much stronger than when you started out....and at that moment you realize that it's been a good walk.

So in the end we became friends. She stopped teasing me one day after a fellow Portuguese student got after her about it, and since then I got to know her as the clever, jovial and always saucy lass that she is. Never a dull moment with Valerie.

It took a lot to get to know her but I'm glad I did.

We will all miss you, Valerie. You've been entertaining. It's been fun. You will always be the most duveteux of us all.

Jul 28 - Fuckin' GREAT Dance Tunes

I've just spent the last two hours compiling the latest in European dance music. It's hard to find this stuff back in the US. I'm all abuzz. I'm all excited. MAN, there is some great music in this world!

I wish I could put songs in my posts like photos. The best I can do untill technology catches up is to put the titles in a list. But of course this does these great tunes no justice whatsoever.

Great Songs:

2 Million Ways (Axwell remix) - C-Mos
Drop the Pressure - Mylo
When the Dawn Breaks - Narcotic Thrust
Calabria - Rune
Italian Fireflies - Black Strobe
From Paris to Berlin - Infernal
Lift Me Up (Mylo remix - a truly well-constructed remix) - Moby / Mylo
I See Girls - Studio B
Ritmo Dynamic - Calinda
Rocking Music - Martin Solveig
Why - Shiny Grey
Most Precious Love - Blaze featuring Barbara Tucker
The World is Mine - David Guetta
Bouger Bouger - Magic System
Feel the Love - Axwell
San Salvador - Moonlight vs Azoto
In My Arms - Mylo

Anyone who knows Paris' Radio FG would already know most of this, though there are certainly a few rarities in this list. Thank you Paris for good radio!

(ps sorry mom for the foul language, but this music is so damn good)

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Jul 24 - Rhinestone i-pods & Digital Grafitti

I went to the Centre Pompidou this weekend. It's Paris' modern arts museum. They had an exposition on design called D.Day: Design of Today that I thought looked interesting.

But it wasn't.

It was a pretty mediocre exposition. I expected stuff like architecture, furniture, maybe graphic design, and surely product design. But it ended up being a mishmash of everything and nothing.

I assumed Philippe Starck would get a mention somewhere, but he didn't as far as I could tell. Wondering who's Philippe Starck? He's a product designer who also creates wicked interiors around the world. Check out - this is the Clift Hotel in San Francisco, one of the two most memorable interiors I can think of seeing in my life. The photos do it no justice - you can't see the essential details like the blocks of black and white animals set into rich redwood, or the moving art on the walls. It's also hard to see how HUGE that blue chair is in the middle of the lobby. If you ever go to San Francisco stop in to see the real thing.

By the way, the other most memorable interior I've ever seen was the Parkview Square (dubbed Gotham City) in Singapore. Anyone who's even been near this building will know what I mean. It's one of the most surreal modern structures in all the world. That baby's got some design.

Anyway, this expo kind of went in all directions. It took a momentary and noble tack in the direction of sustainable design - things like innovative new solar ovens for folks in regions of Africa and Asia where there is a shortage of fuel for cooking. And it hit items like a new model of Renault car and some rhinestone i-pods. But then it got bogged down in rather muddly stuff like some rubber dolls that someone drew all over, and packages of squishy cooked noodles in stacks. Worst of all there were often no objects, but rather computer terminals where you were supposed to browse files. Gawking at a computer screen, yeah, great.

There were some interesting colored& musical lights and a digital spray can that people could use to "paint" grafitti on a big screen then download immediately to their cell phones (left). But it all seemed techno-gimmicky, like those "household of the future" world expo things back in the 1950s.

The part I liked best was one simple hallway paying homage to graphic design, and in particular typeface and font. One part showed how individual letters could be repeated and rotated to create patterns (see below). I liked it so much that I went home and tried it myself.

The walk on my way to the museum was nice. I left from my house in the 5th, and walked down Mouffetard, across Blvd St. Germain, in front of Notre Dame Cathedral and then in front of the Hotel de Ville (the City Hall). It was raining when I left. There were crowds and a lot of life as always in front of Notre Dame. Today many people had umbrellas which created a colorful patchwork that contrasted against the grey sky. And in front of the Hotel de Ville there were people playing volleyball in sand volleyball courts set up for Paris Plage, an event every summer where the city tries to construct a "beach" atmosphere in the middle of downtown. There was lots of life, lots of energy. These are moments when I like Paris.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Jul 23 - List: Movies I like

Today I've only got time for a quick entry.

How 'bout a list of my favorite movies?

Spirited Away - Hayao Miyazaki
Howl's Moving Castle - Hayao Miyazaki
The Cat Returns - Hayao Miyazaki
(note, for these three movies the Japanese version with english subtitles is ESSENTIAL! The dubbed English-language version sounds corny in comparison).

A Room with a View - Ivory Merchant

Rushmore - Wes Andersen
The Royal Tenenbaums - Wes Andersen

The Full Monty
Batman - Tim Burton
Slingblade - Billy Bob Thornton
Reckless Kelly - Yahoo Serious
The Matrix & The Matrix Reloaded - the Wachowski Brothers

The Big Lebowski - the Coen Brothers
The Man Who Wasn't There - the Coen Brothers

Hoop Dreams - Peter Gilbert (this one's for you, Dad!)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Jul 22 - Bachelor party striptease!

Marco just left for a weekend-long bachelor party in the southwest of France. No worries, however. Bachelor parties are not the sleazy affairs found back home. In French it's not even called a "bachelor party" actually. It's called "the burial of boyhood" (or girlhood for the ladies). The biggest and most essential feature is that the group of guy buddies take their friend out for a jokingly humiliating day in public. They dress him up in a humorous theme of some sort, and make him interact with people in public.

One of Marco's friends, who had lived a year in Australia, had to wear a rented kangaroo costume and visit Parc Asterix (a big theme park) and ask questions to passing ladies. Then in the evening he had to put on a wetsuit and flippers and go paddle around on a bodyboard in Paris' famous Trocadero fountains in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. The point is not to hire strippers and such, but to have a big laugh with buddies.

The best and most clever joke I heard of though was within the same group of friends. They took a weekend trip to the south by train. One of the friends in the group works for the French national rail system, SNCF, and he borrowed an official train conductor uniform for the weekend, including the ticket-punching device.

They had their soon-to-be-married friend put on the conductor's uniform and pass through the train car, punching tickets. BUT, in the middle, they pulled out a boom box and played "You Can Leave Your Hat On" from the movie Full Monty, one of the world's all-time striptease songs. At that point their friend had to do a striptease in front of the passengers, who all thought he was an actual SNCF employee. And he did, down to the boxer shorts. They said they've never seen looks of amazement like it in their lives.

Jul 22 - My cousins rock!

I just got off the phone with my mom. She said my cousin Barb and her husband Pete are, at this very moment, kayaking the whole length of the Mississippi. Yes, that's from Minnesota to Louisiana. In kayaks. THEN, if they still have some spare time upon arrival, they will go along the coast all the way to their parents' home in southern Florida! I gotta say they're cool dude. Real cool. That puts our eleven-day hikes to shame. They expect to take 2-3 months.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Jul 21 - Luciano on my street

I think I saw Luciano Pavaroti this morning. No joke!

I was walking to the studio and there was a guy at the corner near my house that I SWEAR was Luciano Pavaroti. I would never have thought that I knew what he looked like that well, but when this guy looked over at me it was as if I was looking at a zoom of a Three Tenors poster. It was the spitting image!

Heck, he surely comes to Paris at some point, right?

He looked as if he were about to go jogging. He was stout as you'd expect, and had on a drab navy blue jogging pants & t-shirt combo. It was morning and not many people were out.

In other news, the owner of my school was a darling ol' chap today. He showed up at the end of the day with a homemade chocolate cake baked by his wife and a picnic basket full of bottles of a rose wine which he introduced as "rose de Montcuq". Translated into English, that name sounds like you're saying "rose wine from my ass". It was an excelent wine and Mr. Andrieux, my school's owner, got a big kick out of getting the chance to make the pun. All the students and he and his employees all stood around drinking rose wine and eating the cake. He's quite a jolly fellow. Good times.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Jul 20 - The Documentary Girl

Today I realized I made the right choice.

"What choice is that?" you may ask.

Well, it was my choice to pursue an artisan career, a life of doing good ol' hands-on work.

There's a lot to say about why I've chosen this that I won't go into here. But what I will tell you is that there has been a girl filming a documentary about us at the studio for the past two days. I'm studying stained glass, the same methods used since medieval times. This girl is filming people who are carrying on old professions, like bakers, masons and tapestry weavers.

Her filming in the atelier wasn't so far from my old job - photography. In fact it was quite similar. She roamed around trying to be discreet while sticking a camera in at all angles.

But watching her, I realized I was blissfully pleased not to do that as a career.

She just looked like an outsider, a detached and fairly out-of-it outsider. Everyone was friendly with her, but underneath it all I think the common feeling was "if you want to know what it's like to make stained glass, why don't you just take a class and make a window yourself?".

She comes from academia, anthropology actually, and I supected she might create vast, unnecessary explanations for something that's very simple to understand if you just roll up your sleeves and put your own hands into it.

Trying to observe without participating results in superficiality.

I suspected as much when I was doing photography. It felt superficial too. I got disenchanted after a time. I realized it's so easy to make an image that looks impressive but means absolutly jack-squat nothing. Capture, say, an old Chinese man with a wistful eyes-to-the-heavens expression on his face, and you can make people believe he was wise and soulful. But in reality he may have been looking up to the sky as a brief pause between spitting his tobacco on the ground and hollering at his wife. It's way too easy to cheat with a photo.

Still, it's not bad to do a documentary about old professions just to keep people interested in supporting them and even joining them. I'm all for that. It's good to remind people that not all products come from a factory, and that not all people work in a cubicle. I just don't buy it if this documentary gets too lofty and "reveals" what the profession is about.

So I'm happy with my line of work. I'm cutting, hammering and soldering and I love it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Jul 19 - How do I make a chandelier?

I was back at the studio today, the one where I study glassworking. I finished painting a three-section stained glass panel featuring a lotus flower motif. The pieces had to be fired in the kiln, which takes a couple hours, so I had some time to kill. I worked on designing my next object. I want to try to construct a chandelier - a modern style chandelier.

Trouble was, I didn't really know how to construct the structure of a chandelier, nor with what material.

So I came home early and now I'm looking up lamp designs on the internet. There's a Dutch designer that creates some cool ones named Tord Boontje. I first saw his works at Habitat, a European furnishing chain that sells really design objects. Curious? Look at or .

Monday, July 18, 2005

Jul 18 - NPR - an island of anglophone bliss

I speak French with everybody I know here except Marco. I speak French with all my friends, with all the people at the atelier where I study, with all of Marco's family, with all the shop clerks and metro-ticket vendors and even with the guy that gives free massages on Rue Mouffetard. I speak French with everybody! I do know one English guy and a Canadian but I don't see them that often, and sometimes I even speak French with them.

There are days where I get a real hankerin' to hear the music of my native tongue. While I'm not the always the most rabid patriot, I am a diehard and loyal fan of the English language. I love it's turns of phrase and miss it dearly sometimes.

Where do I go for an English fix?

To National Public Radio, my dears, streaming live over the internet to anglo-hungry expats like me. It's only been a few months that we have high-speed internet at home (for free thanks to TI, where Marco works) and hence "streaming audio" is a recent discovery. But through it I've renewed my love affairs with my old flames, Neal Conan, Ira Flatow and Terry Gross.

Best of all I've discovered a new program that I never listened to back in the US - "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me", the NPR news quiz. This is a damn funny show. Marco likes it too, so we put it on each monday evening during dinner (since we don't own a tv). If you've never listened, you should try. It's at, or on your radio at home for US-based folk.

Writing this blog also helps me get out some anglo energy. Does me good...

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Jul 17 - Asian arts at Musee Guimet

Marco and I revisited Paris' Musee Guimet today. Last time we went was almost four years ago during a visit to France. I'm a big admirer of Asian arts, so it's about time I went back.

Musee Guimet houses Paris' Asian arts collection. It's almost the best Asian arts collection that I've ever visited. I say almost because Singapore's Asian Civilisations Museum gives it a serious run for it's money and may even be better. It's a question of taste. Paris' Musee Guimet is more oriented towards "fine arts", meaning sculpture and painting, whereas Singapore's museum gets it's charm it's diverse vernacular objects like clothing, furniture and decorative items like betel nut boxes and tea sets.

The best thing to see at Musee Guimet is also it's worst. The best is the collection of beautiful and elaborate Hindu-Buddhist carvings from the Angkor kingdom, in Cambodia. I don't think any museum in the world has a comparable collection of Angkor sculpture. The carvings are intricate, rich, fine and detailed.

This is also the worst thing in the museum to see, because all these works were hoisted out of Cambodia by the French when it was still their colony. That's why they've got such an amazing museum. In fairness, lots of other antique thieves looted Angkor as well and didn't even open their spoils to the public, just stashed them in the collections of private millionaires. Heck there's probably a guy chipping away there while I type.

The picture below is an example. In front of two major gates in the Angkor temple complex, there are two immensely long seven-headed serpents called nagas, who protect Buddha. You can walk up the road along these serpent's bodies for the length of a football field. But when you get to the end, the heads are gone. Gone where? Here, in Paris.

Marco and I stayed about two hours, until the museum closed about 6pm. Upon leaving we both realized we were REALLY hungry for Asian food, imagine that. So we killed some time at the Bombadier Pub near the Pantheon till the reasonable Parisian dinner hour of 8, then went and ate a delicious Korean barbecue near the Place de la Contrescarpe.

Here are a couple other items from the museum:

Two closeups from a very lively Japanese screen

Chinese horse statues; elegant with simple, clean lines

Jul 17 - Mom & the 50 states

Mom just got back from a trip to Alaska and announced that she has now been in every US state except Hawaii. Well, she's not too sure about Oklahoma, but she thinks she did cut across one corner of it once.

I'm pretty impressed.....

On another note - another hot and noisy night (no fan yet, so windows open). At about 2 am some woman walked down the street in astoundingly noisy shoes. The CLAK-CLAK-CLAK-CLAK of her flip-flop high heels on the stone sidewalk seemed be audible 5 blocks before her arrival and 5 blocks further down her route. Dang! It not only woke both Marco and I up, but even made him start laughing ("what is that woman wearing...tap shoes?!?!?").

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Jul 16 - List: Dumb Warning Labels

As far as I know, these are all real warning labels on real products.

"Caution: The contents of this bottle should not be fed to fish." -- On a bottle of shampoo for dogs.

"Do not use while sleeping." -- On a hair dryer.

"Do not use while sleeping or unconscious." -- On a hand-held massaging device.

"Do not place this product into any electronic equipment." -- On the case of a chocolate CD in a gift basket.

"Shin pads cannot protect any part of the body they do not cover." -- On a pair of shin guards made for bicyclists.

"This product not intended for use as a dental drill." -- On an electric rotary tool.

"Do not drive with sunshield in place." -- On a cardboard sunshield that keeps the sun off the dashboard.

"Always drive on roads. Not on people." -- From a car commercial which shows a vehicle "body-surfing" at a concert.

"Caution: This is not a safety protective device." -- On a plastic toy helmet used as a container for popcorn.

"Not intended for highway use." -- On a 13-inch wheel on a wheelbarrow.

"100% pure yarn." -- On a sweater.

"Eating rocks may lead to broken teeth." -- On a novelty rock garden set called "Popcorn Rock."

"Warning: May contain small parts." -- On a frisbee.

"Do not use orally." -- On a toilet bowl cleaning brush.

Warning: Do not use on eyes." -- In the manual for a heated seat cushion.

"Do not look into laser with remaining eye." -- On a laser pointer.

"Do not use for drying pets." -- In the manual for a microwave oven.

"For use by trained personnel only." -- On a can of air freshener.

"Keep out of reach of children and teenagers." -- On a can of air freshener.

"Remember, objects in the mirror are actually behind you." -- On a motorcycle helmet-mounted rear-view mirror.

"Warning: Do not climb inside this bag and zip it up. Doing so will cause injury and death." -- A label inside a protective bag (for fragile objects), which measures 15cm by 15cm by 12cm.

"Please store in the cold section of the refrigerator." -- On a bag of fresh grapes in Australia.

"Do not use intimately." -- On a tube of deodorant.

"Caution: Remove infant before folding for storage." -- On a portable stroller.

"Do not iron clothes on body." -- On packaging for a Rowenta iron.

"Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly." -- On a child sized Superman costume.

"May be harmful if swallowed." -- On a shipment of hammers.

"Using Ingenio cookware to destroy your old pots may void your warranty." -- A printed message that appears in a television advertisement when the presenter demonstrates how strong the cookware is by using it to beat up and destroy a regular frying pan.

"Not to be used as a personal flotation device." -- On a 6x10 inch inflatable picture frame.

"Not dishwasher safe." -- On a remote control for a TV.

"Do not drive cars in ocean." -- In a car commercial which shows a car in the ocean.

"In case of flood, proceed uphill. In case of flash flood, proceed uphill quickly." -- One of the emergency safety procedures at a summer camp.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Jul 15 - Paris rollerbladers

A few minutes ago I was writing my previous post, grumbling about my noisy busy road outside my apartment. But the lovely thing about Paris is that many things can be loathsome one minute and a dashingly charming the next.

Such was my road in the past ten minutes.

Every friday evening a phenomenon comes to life in Paris. It's the friday night rollerblade run. Maybe this once started out ten years ago as a few rollerblade enthusiasts, but now it's a whooshing hoard of public that takes to the streets. This year they changed their route and it now passes in front of our apartment. The city police stop all traffic (I love seeing the frusterated drivers) just for the love of sport. For a solid fifteen minutes thousands of rollerbladers roll by in a solid mass. They give high fives to spectators on sidewalks and jump and shout. I've never done it, but it looks like a ton of fun.

Here's a picture out our window:

By the way, a big hello to Aunt Bobbi and Aunt Judith!! I just saw your messages!

Jul 15 - Your vote - hot or noisy?

It's summer in Paris. Yes.......I moaned and groaned through what seemed like three centuries of cold, gray weather. I claimed that Paris never had good weather (good, for me, is of course at least 80 F and humid). But I'm forced to fess up, fair and square, that we are indeed having a streak of beautiful summer weather. It's downright nice out.

But I still manage to gripe. Dilemma #2 in Paris is that 99.999965 % of the buildings here are absolutely not designed to accommodate hot weather, our apartment included (how do you think thousands of grandmas and grandpas here managed to keel over in one week of 100 F weather last year?).

During the night we have two choices.

1. Leave our windows closed.......and cook like wilting lettuce in a steamer

2. Leave our windows open.......and awake 5-6 times per night as people on our busy road holler pointless conversations (where did you park the car? I don't know....) at three a.m., shortly before the morning delivery trucks start stopping below with idling motors that register 7.2 on the richter scale.

Either way I'm a foggy zombie come morning.

So, hot or noisy? What's your call?

Of course, as Marco pointed out, a simple solution would be to purchase a fan.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Jul 14 - Italy Pictures

In April Marco and I did a road trip to Italy. We visited Florence, Siena and Arezzo and hiked the UNESCO World Heritage area called the Cinque Terre on the Mediterranean coast. Here are some pictures of the trip.....

Florence: Il Duomo

Florence: the dome inside Il Duomo

Florence: the Ponte Vecchio -- it's a a medieval bridge which has shops built across it. Many medieval bridges were encrusted with shops and houses (in Paris, for example) but few such bridges have survived.

Siena: Il Duomo

Siena: the Palazzo Publico

Cinque Terre: the Cinque Terre, or Five Lands, is actually a set of five traditional Mediterranean villages. The local fishing industry here was dying and along with it these five villages. UNESCO made the area a protected World Heritage site. The villages are now closed to cars and are experimenting with a system of sustainable tourism that will enable the villages to survive. For three days we hiked the area through all five villages. Here we are leaving from Porto Venere, past old fortified ramparts.

Cinque Terre: peninsula fort at the entrance to the bay of Porto Venere

Cinque Terre: coastal flowers

Cinque Terre: a family vineyard

Cinque Terre: spending the night in the village of Riomaggiore

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre: the village of Vernazza

Cinque Terre: cold water in the village of Vernazza

Cinque Terre: the village of Vernazza

Cinque Terre: they got that date right...

Cinque Terre: boat back to Porto Venere

Jul 14 - Bastille Day Eve

Today is July 14th. In France that's Bastille Day, the day the French Republic began.

Marco and I were not diligent citizens of Paris this year. We went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (on opening night!) this year instead of celebrating the country's civic heritage. We did hit the festivities last year however. They went something like this:

People start celebrating on the eve of Bastille Day, the 13th. Like all over Paris, a makeshift stage was erected in the morning at the Place de la Contrescarpe, just up the street from our apartment. This was in preparation for one of the many bal popular or "people's balls" that take place all over the city.

We showed up after dinnertime, with our friend Damien, as the first act was wrapping up. This is a night for the masses, so there is something to please all folks. Entertainment began with a traditional French accordian band playing nostalgic sing-along favorites that old folks danced and warbled along with. In the meantime one-night entrepreneurs with homemade stands started selling bowls of rum punch and sangria at 2 euros a cup along the sidewalks so the younger public could warm up for the next act.

We got our cups at the stand of a jolly Spanish-looking woman. She was selling punch with hand-picked ceries griottes bobbing in it, a breed of sour cherry with a nice tang. Then we gathered around the stage to watch the accordian players leave and the next band hit the stage. Rockin' round number two was a rock n' roll band that must have come straight from a wedding reception. They belted out the whole gamut of 80s hits from Little Red Corvette to Funkytown. Cheesy but engaging and yes, we did dance.

Towards midnight we started roaming. The balls in the public squares are fun, but the real action is at the firemen's halls. Like the firemen's yearly pancake breakfast back home in the St. Croix valley, the firemen raise money for the upcoming year by throwing a Bastille Day ball. But Parisian firemen know how to party. They turn their firetruck hangars into the scenes of Paris' hottest nightclubs for one night, with the swells of club music throbbing through their walls.

We tried to see what all the fuss over the firemen's balls was about. But the two we found along Rue de Rivoli had long, lonnnnggg lines of young hotties dressed all shades of tight and glittery wrapped around the city block. Too long for us. We kept walking and capped off the night on a sidewalk patio in front of, very appropriately, the Bastille column.

The next morning I walked out (to visit a potential apartment) only to see fighter planes with blue, white and red exhaust trails swooping across the Paris sky. The military does a big parade down the Champs Elysee boulevard, but like most folks who spent all night at the "people's balls", we were too lazy to go and instead spent a long and indolent day off in the warm July sun. Then in the evening we were re-energized enough to picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower, where I saw the most dazzling array of fireworks I have ever seen.

Welcome One and All....

Two weeks ago I didn't have any idea what a blog was. Now I'm making my own. So much for pretending to be low-tech eh?

I wish I'd known about this earlier. I'm going to record my life out here in the world, principally for my Mom and Dad back home. I kept journals as a teenager then lost the habit, so it's kinda cool to revive my journaling spirit. I was always a bit of a grandstander anyway - writing my journals with the expectation that someone else would be absorbed by my life. Why let go of such a long-standing delusion?

Here's to journals and the memories they hold. Cheers!!