Thursday, January 29, 2009

Happy 99th Birthday Pop!

Hi Pop!

I just wanted to wish you a happy birthday and tell you -- as if you didn't know already -- that not a day goes by I don't think of you and thank you for giving me life. I don't mean in the biological sense, although frankly I do appreciate that part of it of course.

No, I mean in the larger sense of serving as an impeccable role model of fairness, honesty and gentleness.

And for coming to get me so many years ago.

I'll never forget you and Uncle Red driving up to God-forsaken Canby, Minnesota, in the winter in Red's Green Mercury. What a trip that must have been, all the way from Decatur! But you came for me, a little boy alone and cast adrift in a world of cold strangers.

So have a happy 99th birthday dad! Give my love to Mom -- oh, and tell Tunis his daughter loves him and thinks of him often. Say hi to Carma, Jack, Gene, Frank, Bill and all those so many others with whom you shared laughs and love over the years -- it must be some party. . . .

I love you dad,


St. Martin Canal

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Louis and Marie Antoinette

Louis and Marie looking better and probably remembering better times:

That's Marie's marker in the far left. The Revolutionary upheavals notwithstanding, they are pretty sure that it's her remains buried under that slab of stone. Not that it matters much to her now.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Cold, Snow, Back to Paris and my Dad

As many of you in the northeastern part of the US know already, its been incredibly cold the past week -- and to top it all off, the snow that we got right before Christmas has been generously replaced; the last batch coming just over this weekend. Sheesh. I thought Rhode Island was supposed to be warmed by the ocean, you know tempered by the water, that sort of thing.


But the big news for us right now is we are going back to Paris. And we're going this spring.

The plan is Susie will head off in mid-March, take two weeks of intensive French at Alliance Francaise and then do three weeks of continuing ed, professional development courses at Le Cordon Bleu. These will include work on chocolate and confectionery one week, then plated desserts and viennoiserie the second week finished off by entremets for the third week. (Apparently entremets is a fancy way of saying desserts. But then every time I try to say "deux baguette" I always get that puzzled look over my pronunciation of the word "deux," like I've said it in Turkish or something.)

We're still waiting to hear if she will be able to do a stage, an internship. If so, she'll stay for a few additional weeks after the courses.

As for me, I'll join her for the month of April. My exact plans are a bit tentative right now but I'm hoping to make progress on laying out a guidebook of the Big Three cemeteries in Paris: Pere Lachaise, Montmartre, and Montparnasse. I'm not sure yet but I am fairly certain it won't be typical. . . Anyway, Marie and, I hope, Philippe will help bring this project to something approaching a printed conclusion. I also want to spend hours roaming the Orsay Museum (or Musee d'Orsay for you purists).

Lest you think we are foolish to contemplate such a thing in these troubled financial times, I need not remind you that there is no time like the present to do what must be done. And we have to do this.

Have to? Absolutely. Susie needs the inspirational lift and I need the turn of my imagination, both lurking on every corner of Paris.

Look, we don't want to miss a moment in Paris if we can do it and right now we can -- now is the time before we wake up one day and find our primary preoccupation is with drooling.

Now is the time.

And I have my dad to thank for every step of this journey. His very last words to me -- words I have repeated here before and will do so again -- his last words were simply and clearly:

"Have a happy life Steve."

And so I shall. and I intend to take Susie with me.

Pop turns 99 this year and we are still nowhere near to closure with Rush Medical School and Lost Cadaver Facility in Chicago. It's the least I can do for him.

Take care of yourselves, stay warm, keep calm and consider the historical watershed tomorrow, January 20. We inaugurate a black man as president of the United States. The cool thing is it seems so natural, so right.

Have a happy life.

St. Denis and the History of France

The basilica of Saint Denis on the northern fringe of modern Paris was, for a long stretch of French history, the burial place for all the kings and queens of France, or what passed for France before there was a France. Anyway, the burials here reportedly go back to the Sixth Century, or some 1,500 years ago.

Not willing to leave well enough alone, the Revolutionaries of 1789 were bound and determined to change things forever and during one of the more turbulent moments of that period mobs stormed into the basilica and overturned virtually all of the sarcophagi that had been lying in the quiet darkness of the crypt beneath the church for hundreds of years.

After the commotion (meaning the revolution of course) was over and they tried to put everyone back together again, it quickly became apparent that wasn't going to happen. All the bones were walled up in the crypt and the effigies of French history were put out on display for us to see (for a modest fee). They are all well-marked, though, just in case you were wondering. But not here.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Friday, January 09, 2009

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Monday, January 05, 2009

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Paris liberation

One of scores of markers scattered around the streets of Paris, usually on the sides of buildings, denoting where someone fell during the Second World War, particularly during the liberation of the city.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Jardin du Luxembourg slide show

Happy New Year from Providence

Well, as some of you probably already know, the weather in this part of the planet has been incredibly cold: -23 Celsius (or nearly 10 below Fahrenheit) this very first morning of 2009.

We had our second major storm of the season on New Year's Eve -- probably about a half foot of very light fluffy snow and after Mother Nature went to all the trouble to get rid of the snow from two weeks back. Goofy.

Fortunately the storm tapered off by late in the afternoon and the roads were clear for revelers. And we were intent on reveling.

Susie and I decided to brave the elements so last evening, after splitting some sparkling wine at home and relaxing during the late afternoon, we warmed the car up, got dressed and headed over to Gracie's for their New Year's Eve celebration.

We were there last year and had a really grand time and since Susie had made a ton of desserts this year we thought we really should go back.

The joint, as they say, "was hoppin'" -- lots of folks decided they weren't going to stay home either and were well on their way to wishing adieu to 2008 and bonjour to 2009.

We got to the restaurant about half past 8, dashed through the arctic blast inside where it was warm and cozy. There was a live jazz group in fine form and lots of food to be had. And the champagne was flowing pretty much non-stop. Lots of slinky black dresses and high heels -- and those were the servers!

Anyway, here are a few images for you to look through. Take your pick, the slick animated version with music or the traditional slide show presentation:

Susie and I wish the very best for you and your family this brand-new year and we hope you make the most of it. We certainly plan to.

Wish you were here,


End of one thing and the beginning of another

So, 2009 draws to a close; the end of one year and the beginning of another -- the end of an entire decade and ten years of struggling to figure out what to call it: "the 2000s," "the aughts," lots of ink spilled on this issue.

It's a brand new year and for all of us, no exceptions, that means change: we lose something, we find something, we move something around. And we get older.

Of course, some things never, ever change. . .

. . . such as love and beauty.

Happy New Year and may you find peace of mind and lightness of heart.