Friday, July 25, 2008

It's time to go back to Paris

That's right folks. Our Michelin map of Paris (Plan 58) is out, unfolded and up on the wall in our bedroom, which makes it as official as it gets: we're going back to Paris. And we're going soon.

We have our tickets -- Delta nonstop from JFK to CDG, and we're going back to stay in Drea's apartment on rue General Renault, just a 10-minute walk from Pere Lachaise, 2 minutes from Place Leon Blum and even less to a metro stop.

Planning has begun in earnest -- any suggestions will be entertained of course, but right now we're focused on putting together a short (OK long) list of places to eat, nibble, snack and just generally get the best food we can find. Most of which are thanks to the groundbreaking work of Clotilde Dusoulier and Mort Rosenbloom. Well, mostly.

And you thought this was all about Providence. Think again. We certainly are.

Oh, and in case you absolutely need to know, that's a photo of Nancy Fleury's grave in division 27, Montparnasse Grande cemetery.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

UPS Discriminates against US

Apparently UPS has taken upon itself to discriminate against those of us living here at 1488 Westminster street in Providence -- they refuse to leave any packages unless they are signed for in person. And since everyone works here there's no one to sign so . . . well you see the catch-22 here. FedEx leaves packages here but not UPS. Nope. and when I called to ask about this "policy," I was informed that because of where we live UPS couldn't risk leaving packages outside. It's a bad area.

BAD AREA? Maybe it's all those black kids, or Latino males hanging round Mi Ranchito, eh?

Bad Area. Hardly. It's quiet, peaceful and we have had no problems since moving here. Nor has anyone else.

No, it's discrimination pure and simple. Just like the in (not-so-) old days when insurance companies and realtors would discriminate against certain neighborhoods because, ahem, people of color or modest means were the predominant inhabitants. Some attitudes continue to lurk just beneath the surface, even in our (so-called) age of enlightenment.

Well, I've got to go and put out some land mines in the parking lot -- this is a bad area don't you know?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

First Fourth in Providence

No, this isn't about yet another dumb name for a merged banking conglomerate. It's about food and people getting together.

Until recently the weather here in this corner of New England has been beastly: hot, sunny and sticky during the day and hot, cloudy and sticky overnight, but muggy and hot generally. The Fourth of July, Independence Day here in the US, brought an end to this bit of meteorological unpleasantness: it's been rainy and slightly cool for the past couple of days. Much needed relief, believe me. Freedom from the heat I suppose.

It's been a good couple of weeks, though, the weather notwithstanding.

Almost two weeks ago Susie and I drove up to Whitinsville, MA for a party at the home of a local artist. Gracie's catered the food and I thought I would take photos -- Susie was invited by a young woman who works at the restaurant and whose mother was hosting the event at her home/art gallery/studio. The place was packed with local folks showing their support for Alternatives, a local organization that seems to help those with serious disabilities lead productive lives. It was a grand evening -- lots of happy faces and of course the food was incredible.



A week ago Sunday we drove over to Gracie's, for another party. Although normally open on Sundays, the restaurant closed for the first week of July -- lots of restaurants in town close about the same time, particularly since "Restaurant Weeks" takes off in full force from July 6-19. (Lots of places in Providence offer a 3- or 4-course prix fixe menu at greatly reduced cost. Eating at a few of these places, like Gracie's, can be an incredible value.)

Anyway we went to Gracie's for a party: Brendan the wine guru and bar manager at Gracie's is moving on, in this case to California, where he will pursue his love of wine and work on his Master's of Wine. He asked if I would take photos and so I did. You can check them out online. And I have placed a little slideshow below.



So Gracie's has been closed all this past week and Susie has been at home most of that time, reorganizing her voluminous recipe files. Since she also feels compelled to be baking during much of her waking hours, she has been using her family as guinea pigs for the next set of sweeping changes to the dessert menu at the restaurant. Since we planned to join Dick and Dorothy at their home on the Fourth, along with Susie's sister Mary, their Uncle Frank and Susie's other sister Joyce and her husband Carl (more of that later), Susie agreed to bring dessert.

Or rather three desserts: plum financier (brown butter almond cake) with lemon creme anglaise, chocolate cake with chocolate ganache swirl, and a mango and milk chocolate mousse with homemade ladyfinger -- as you can see in the photo this was actually like a "mousse" cake ringed with ladyfingers.

The group agreed: all three were delicious -- now the question is which one gets the nod and goes public?

My week went fast -- the holiday cut it short of course, and Thursday was a short day at the office where I spend most of my time. The web content is flying now -- temps have been hired and have already started entering our edited content into the website production system. It amazes me how much has happened in the two short months since I started and the things I have learned -- these kids, and they are all so very young, these kids know an incredible amount of stuff: whether it's about contemporary music, photoimagery, or web design architecture, I'm continually amazed at the breadth and depth of their knowledge. To top it off, Brad, one of the full time web editors, and who has been head over heels into this project since last fall, is about to become a father at any minute. Still, he manages to keep it together. Incredible.

Closer to home, we will soon have a new neighbor: the apartment directly beneath ours just closed last week, Monday in fact, and the new owner, a young woman and her roommate will be moving in in the next week or so. That makes half the units sold. We, the five of us present owners, will soon have to assume full control of the association -- right now our builder and his partner are president and treasurer, for what it's worth, and they want to hand over control as quickly as possible. It should prove to be an interesting year as we evolve into real condo home owners.

Sadly, there were no wine flights at Gracie's this past week since the restaurant is closed for the week, but we are eagerly awaiting this coming week's offerings, whatever they may be. Dick and Dorothy will join us this time and we'll find some place funky in town to eat afterwards.

Speaking of D & D, we had a wonderful Fourth of July dinner at their house yesterday. Lots of good food, delicious grilled chicken, cool white wine, plenty of scrumptious salads and of course Susie's grand desserts. Mary dropped by and Uncle Frank too -- although sadly his wife Cathy was under the weather and didn't come. She's such a funny person and just makes you smile when she starts talking. Brother-in-law Carl had just picked his wife Joyce up at Logan airport. Joyce had been in Texas visiting her daughter Christina and granddaughter Kiera and had stayed a bit longer than planned -- but it all worked out since they could join us all for the holiday bash.

Our plans for returning to Paris in September are now pretty firmed up. We have our tickets -- Delta from JFK to Paris -- and will be staying at Drea's apartment on Rue General Renault, a 10-minute walk from Pere Lachaise cemetery and an easy Metro ride to just about anywhere else in the city. We rented her apartment last fall and I suppose it is only fitting we do so again -- seriously though, she was most kind in making the space available. It's absolutely perfect for us and we loved the neighborhood.

OK, I admit it: we pretty much love just about any and every neighborhood in Paris. There, I said it and frankly feel much better having gotten that off my chest. I've come to grips with it and embraced it. I'm now centered, at peace with myself and all of humanity (excepting the Republican Party) and ready to return to the place of rebirth.

But a lot is going to happen before we head east for the Land of Parisii: July will fly, and then August will find us making a long-awaited (and long overdue) trip to Colorado to see Stan and Margie -- where we will also celebrate 25 years of marriage (yes, yes our anniversary if you must know), followed by a quick trip to NYC to work Gracie's Beard House dinner (quite an affair that).

Then Paris.

I hope you're up for it all.

I know we are.

Wish you were here,

Steve