Monthly Archives: April 2010

nadirs and zeniths, troughs and apexes


I know, it’s been all about me, me, me, and I haven’t asked about your feelings in a while. I know it’s been eight years (BLOGIVERSARY, MOTHERTRUCKERS!) but sometimes I still just need to sit you down and ask how the heck you’re doing. So today’s CODE WORD question is this:

About what are you the most furious right now, and what is giving you the most delight?

an unamerican in paris


Not that you asked for it or anything, but I thought I’d spew forth a few random observations from 2 1/2 weeks in Europe. Those bored by such things have my permission to surf the fetish porn of their choice, but since it’s my blogiversary (EIGHT YEARS, BABY!) we’re past such formalities, are we not?

Travelogues share the same space as “old college stories”, “other peoples’ dreams” and details about weight loss: unfathomably dull to everyone but the main participant. This is why I never write about our travels (well, that and because I don’t want to over-reinforce the obvious truth that we’re posh liberals who hate America). When I do wax peripatetic, I try to keep it short and post lots of pictures.

But here’s a few random things for those of you traveling in the near future:

1. Clothes – Actually, Caroline did ask about what the nicer-lookin’ Italians and French were wearing, and Tessa has this report:

Ballet flats are definitely still in – particularly colorful ones. Lots of short skirts (mini to knee) with short boots – mostly slouchy but all are working, including the mini-cowboys.

There’s a style I can’t really get behind, but is definitely prevalent: short skirts with black opaque stockings and flat sneakers like chucks or keds. Looks hideous but the girls love it. Scarves are still happening. Skinny or wide, but definitely long. Colors rather than black.

And the French classics are definitely still around – striped boatneck Ts, slingbacks, silk cardigans. Nothing particularly interesting going on with pant length. Skirts are on the shorter side. Haven’t seen any long skirts except on exceptionally refined older women.

Have fun!!

As for me, I bought these light hiking boots at REI because they were waterproof and had Gore-Tex lining, and I wore them every day of the trip in every kind of weather. They get an A+ recommendation from me, as long as you get some Superfeet insoles.

Also, if you have a couple of dimes to throw at one of those new breathable super-light waterproof jackets, they’re perfect for that European cold humidity that can make you hot and frozen at the same time.

Terlets – London – fine. Paris – good. But Italy’s toilets? Oh my god. I know I’m a bit of a hygienic neatnik prissypants, but I visited a couple of toilets in Rome and Florence that make Oklahoman truck stops with glory holes seem sterile. Often no toilet seat, no water, no paper products, and always no soap. Just bring your own personal cleansing wipes, OK?

Doors – I don’t know if this bears mentioning, but automatic doors in Europe open about two seconds after their American counterparts – which means if you’re an American, you’ll be smashing your face into a lot of automatic doors that haven’t opened yet.

Maybe that’s a statement about our weight, or our entitlement, but I know I got used to slowing way the fuck down before entering a building.

Hair – If you’re thinking about getting a haircut before your trip, FOR GOD’S SAKE do it. You know that day when your hair Officially Gets Too Long™ and it’s suddenly bugging the ever-livin’ crap out of you? That happened to me on the flight over. I spent 2 1/2 weeks being bothered – I mean, look at that picture of Lucy and me and imagine having hair like that everywhere you go. I mean, yes, besides my silly choice to have hair almost like that all the time.

Some Stunningly Over-Generalized Comments – The Italians are rude en masse, but amazing one-on-one. The French are the opposite. The Italians are an ice cream culture with an amazing gelato store every block; I asked a French storekeeper where I could get Lucy an ice cream, and she sent me to the frozen foods section of a market at half-mile away.

I got the most amazing Italian shirts in Paris for a pittance, the best croissants in Italy. People speak of getting Stendhal’s Syndrome in Florence (dizziness, hypertension, and hallucinations when surrounded by a magnitude of beautiful art) but if we got it anywhere, it was Paris. And there’s one thing that I can’t get over: when all is said and done, I think we belong, someday, in London.

Flying – There is no way to prepare for flying internationally in coach; like bad news, it can only be endured. I’m not sure what the answer is, especially for those of us six feet or taller – first or business class is prohibitively expensive for most mortals, which leaves the bulk of humanity sitting in a tiny seat for eleven and a half hours.

Yes, I know airplane travel is magical, and yes, I apologize to my forefathers reading this from the Great Beyond, and how they had to take a 3-month sea voyage replete with cholera to get to another continent. We’re spoiled silly, it’s true, but it’s still amazingly hard to sit in one cramped pen with room for only one of your legs, for a whole human day while fighting jet-lagged fatigue.

There is no wifi, no internet, and no power source – every piece of electronic distraction you possess will die before the flight’s half over. There is only you and your lumbar vertebrae, engaged in constant discussion.

And yet, it is so purely, absolutely, unfailingly worth it.


Jack and Lucy in Rome

c’est les petits choses, n’est-ce pas



When we were kids in England, the running joke for us Americans was the weather on the BBC. They would routinely call for “sunny intervals” in an otherwise dreadfully socked-in day of pissing rain and pea soup fog. When the clouds would actually part, we’d all run outside and put our faces to the sky, taking in the “sunny interval” for all it was worth before the rain started again.


If we’d had a day like Thursday in London, we would have bursted a bleedin’ gasket. Early April, all day sun, T-shirt weather? Completely unthinkable to my classmates at Dollis School and I circa 1978.

Equally unthinkable would have been the London Eye, the giant ferris-esque ride through the sky allowing hitherto-unimagined views of the city. When I was 10, I knew every landmark in downtown London, and sought the highest churches to see them all in a burst of acrophilia. Now this thing puts them all to shame.


La Luce checks out the Houses of Parliament

It’s our last day of the trip, so we came back to Paris for our flight back home tomorrow. The weather here was equally smashing, so Lucy and I went to the park to conquer some more monkey bars and psych out some ducks. I tried to take a picture of us, but right when I snapped the shutter, one of the ducks in the pond dove for food, sending its ass skyward and webbed feet wiggling in the air.

I know that happens every .003 seconds on this planet, but it was so bizarrely funny that we both broke down laughing. Ah well.


somebody spoke and i went into a dream


At some point in 2006, my mom wrote an offhand song – as is her wont – called “The Double-Decker Bus” and taught it to a then-18-month-old Lucy. All I ever heard was the chorus, so I invented a verse to go with it, and we’ve sung it off and on for years. The song starts with someone we know, a friend, a family member, and they end up doing something bizarre while riding a double-decker bus.

For instance:

I know a girl whose name is Lucy

I think she is kind of goosey

She likes to dance and she likes to sing

And one day she’ll wear a diamond ring…

On… the…

Double-decker bus, the double-decker bus, the double-decker bus

Goes up and down

The double-decker bus, the double-decker bus, the double-decker bus

On the streets of London town.

Other verses include…

I know a girl whose name is Mommy

She had a dad whose name was Tommy

She likes growing mint and chives

And her father had five wives…

On… the… double-decker bus, etc.

I know an uncle whose name is Sean

He and Barno mow the lawn

They like to look at lots of art

And Uncle Sean always cuts a fart…

On… the… double-decker bus, etc. etc.

All very well and good, right? In 2008, when we were accidentally in London, we got onto a double-decker bus, but Lucy had fallen asleep minutes before in the stroller, which I know she considered one of her great missed opportunities. But today was her day.

It was raining, miserable, and everyone had to pee. We were seven blocks down the high street from our hotel, and I could see a massive red double-decker bus lumbering around the corner. I quickly talked Tessa into getting on, and we did… and like Paul did in “A Day in the Life”, we made the bus in seconds flat and found our way upstairs.

The front seat up top – THE BEST SEAT IN THE BUS-RIDING UNIVERSE – was unbelievably open. We all plopped into it, and Lucy had a cultural freakout of constant awesomeness. She commented on every building, every other bus, the other passengers, and sang the song AT FULL VOLUME, making up lyrics in random order.

After eight minutes, we were back on our block, and she hopped off the bus in sated, incomprehensible elation. If we do nothing else this trip, it will have been a total success.


they left the house, at half past nine


Greetings from France, everybody!


stitched-together pan of Polly & Lucy at the you-know-what



Being in Paris is awesome, but making it très super awesome is having old pals George and Laurie here, along with Polly, perhaps Lucy’s oldest girl friend in the world. Together, they have danced across Paris:



And of course, Lucy is still on her Arabesques Across the Continent Tour™:




We took a short trip down to the Côte d’Azur to see Jiffer and Ingo in the mountains above Nice near Grasse (where she was married) and got to meet their twins Amalia and Henry for the first time. They gravitated toward Lucy with heartbreaking swiftness, and she walked steadily, slowly, utterly unused to being the tallest one in a crowd:




Tessa stuffed Easter egg dye in her suitcase all the way from California, and we did our best with the brown eggs as Ingo filmed:




And then the twins had their first hunt, piqued by odd-colored orbs peeking out from the early spring soil:




Back in Paris, the weather changed from sullen, frigid and gloomy to carbonated gorgeous, and we’ve spent the last two days outside. On the Batobus, Lucy ponders the Seine:




The opulent decorations are so stunning, like the detail from the corner of the Concergerie:




And the little things are just as arresting, like these happy shutter-dogs in Montparnasse:




But of course, there was one place in France that Lucy had dreamed of for many months. Ever since Christmas 2008, when she had asked Santa for “hard guys in pajamas” (and we deciphered what she meant), we have referred to Playmobil characters as “hard guys”. You know, “hard” as opposed to soft dolls and stuffed animals.

Tessa discovered there was a Playmobil Fun Park in Paris, and thus Hard Guy Land® was christened. The real Hard Guy Land is in Germany, with slides and open-air accoutrements, but Lucy and Polly – having never been to a place like Disneyland – got to the small one in Paris and were in heaven. Pretty much every kid was, and I have to say, being an old Hard Guy aficionado myself from the ’70s, I was into it. Long live le Pays des Hommes Durs!


Lucy and Polly at center, beneath wing tip of plane

vinegar, piss, acid and urea


I could say how Dook got the easiest path to the Final Four – nay, the final game – than anyone else in the modern history of the college championship. I could talk about they way they flopped, hacked, undercut, elbowed and hand-checked their way through the last two decades, then hid behind their subtly racist “aw, we’re the good guys” trope until the refs followed suit.

I could talk about the older college games you can still watch on ESPN Classic, the games where the patented Dook poke-your-opponent-in-the-eye followed by “who, ME?” brand of hoops hadn’t caught hold yet – and how you can actually make a case that college basketball might be irreparably ruined.

I guess I could also mention an ideological bias, the Republican fund-raising of Koach K, the sniveling narcissism, his inability to include Dean in the list of great coaches, the perennial lapses of basic decency best exemplified by blaming Tyler Hansbrough for Gerald Henderson breaking his nose.

But I’ll just keep it simple: I hate those bastards because I hate them. Every time they win, a kitten in my heart is strangled. The only thing that could possibly lessen last year’s national championship was botching the next season and then having Dook win it. My grapes are sour, my earth is scorched, and the only thing that makes it remotely bearable is that I happened to be in Paris when last night’s game was played.

There is only one cure for this. Only one way to devalue their current championship, take the wind out of their sails, and right the ship, and you all know what it is.


maybe this pic of Lucy and Polly dancing on the Petit Pont will remind you there is still innocence in this world

all hands on dreck


I’d like to interrupt this photo blog to get situated in Paris, and also to say it again: I really, really hate April Fool’s Day.

And if there’s anything you’d like to talk about, how are you all doing?