Saturday, August 31, 2013

Closing the chapter that is Paris

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."
-Ernest Hemingway, "A Moveable Feast"

I say goodbye to Paris tomorrow, and hop a bus to Belgium.  So ends my stint of living in Paris.  I hadn't expected to spend two months living in Paris, but I hadn't expected to fall in love with the city as deeply as I did.  After two week on, I knew there was no way I was leaving in another two weeks.  Maybe I should have know, given that my francophilie runs in my blood.

I am both sad and ready.  That is a good thing.  Sad to leave a city I love, but ready to move on because I have work to do- things that I can't accomplish from here.  But it has been a supremely wonderful chapter in my life that I will not soon forget.

I dare say I fell in love with the city, and its people.  I found Paris to be a such a beautiful city, with charm to be found wherever I wandered.  The city is truly an enigma; it always has, and always will be.

And I truly loved the Parisians, with their warmth and grace, their subtle expressive mannerisms that always made me smile.  Contrary to the stereotypes, I found Parisians to be so friendly and charming- even with my poor French. Perhaps because I am not an Ugly American, I never encountered a Rude Frenchman.  Or maybe they could just tell in my eyes and smile that I loved and respected their culture, and so they welcomed me in return.

Paris has been a font of creativity and inspiration, and made for the perfect sabbatical spot to recharge my batteries.  I set out to do some reading, writing and thinking, and I did exactly that in chez Paris.

Unfortunately, I did not get to write my magnum opus memoir or tome of public diplomacy played out in the field.  The only mistake I made was to think that I could focus on the past while being surrounded by such present adventures.  Perhaps for my next sabbatical, I will need to get a cabin in the woods so I can have less distractions; perhaps not, as I would probably ended up writing Walden, or at least something akin to Walking to Vermont.

As Ernie knew, Paris will stay with me for the rest of my life.  And maybe I will return to live.  I can't rule it out.  This was the first ex-pat community I actually liked and respected.

As I wrote when I left for Paris, the words of Jimmy Buffett: he went to Paris, looking for answers to questions that bothered him so.  Some answers I found; some still remain there for exploration.

I will close this chapter with the words of another fellow who also spent some time in this fair city.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

So true, Scott.  So true.

As always, Journey On!

La Fin

Making my last meal in Paris, the same as my first: steak tartare. If ever there was a delicious plate of raw salmonella, this is it. #yum


Syria cont.

I rarely agree with Charles Krauthammer, but he is pretty spot-on in this piece:
Or more accurately, shamed into action. Which is the worst possible reason. A president doesn’t commit soldiers to a war for which he has zero enthusiasm. Nor does one go to war for demonstration purposes.
Want to send a message? Call Western Union. A Tomahawk missile is for killing. A serious instrument of war demands a serious purpose.
I'm not sure if I agree with his conclusion, I am still wrestling with all this.

But in the good news from Syria side of things, the Syrian Kurds are carving out their own autonomous region, and units of Kurdish women fighters are kicking the snot out of the Islamists.  Case-in-point of why I love the Kurds.  The upside to all this Middle Eastern mess continues to be more freedom for the Kurds. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

What's in a name, cont.

And as there is always an addendum to my stories, I met a polyglot Frenchman tonight who informed me that "paulus" in Greek means "big johnson." As such, our story will end...

Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen

Worth reading; worth remembering

  1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
  2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
  3. The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.
  4. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.
  5. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.
  6. Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.
  7. No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Any one soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished. But any citizen summoned or arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as resistance constitutes an offense.
  8. The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offense.
  9. As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner's person shall be severely repressed by law.
  10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.
  11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.
  12. The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be entrusted.
  13. A general tax is indispensable for the maintenance of the public force and for the expenses of administration; it ought to be equally apportioned among all citizens according to their means.[11]
  14. All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution; to grant this freely; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.
  15. Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.
  16. A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.
  17. Property being an inviolable and sacred right, no one can be deprived of it, unless demanded by public necessity, legally constituted, explicitly demands it, and under the condition of a just and prior indemnity.

Musee Carnavalet Deux; The Pantheon

The most extravagant idea that can arise in a politician's head is to believe that it is enough for a people to invade a foreign country to make it adopt their laws and their constitution. No one loves armed missionaries . . . The Declaration of the Rights of Man . . . is not a lightning bolt which strikes every throne at the same time . . . I am far from claiming that our Revolution will not eventually influence the fate of the world . . . But I say that it will not be today.

I headed over to the Marais yesterday (Saint Paul).  I stopped first in the Haute Marais to have some falafel from L’as du Falafel- the famous falafel shop in the Jewish Quarter.  Toujours imitè, jamais ègalè (Always imitated, never equaled).  The queue might burnish such claims.  I waited a bit to get a fully packed falafel that was absolutely delicious.  Piled to the brim with fresh salads and sauces, it was quite good.  The falafel had a nice crunch on the outside, but was surprisingly smooth on the inside- a little different texture than usual falafel, but tasty.

I returned to the Musee Carnavelet, a museum on the history of Paris that I had visited earlier in the summer.  When I visited prior, the wing that held the history of the French Revolution on through the 19th century was closed for renovation.  It had now re-opened and I stopped in to check it out.

It was like a completely different museum.  This time, the wing I had visited was closed.  But what was now open was what I had been looking for when I came to Paris.  I meandered through the exhibition on the French Revolution, with painting and portraits of the ancien regime and their culinary plates, on through the assembly of the Estates-General.  There was an interesting portion of the storming of the Bastille in paintings and artifacts, as well as models of the famous fort. 

And on through the Revolution.  Like Moses’ stone tablets, there hung giant cloth banners of the Declarations of the Rights of Man and the RevolutionaryConstitution.  There were all sorts of pins from the revolutionaries.  And a portrait of the good Dr. Guillotine, whose contraption would cost many a head.

There was a fascinating section on Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in their Temple prison, including the imprisoned regent’s chess pieces from his cell.  There were also painting of the royals imprisoned, including a somber-looking Marie Antoinette in her cell.  And the requisite paintings of the monarchs’ executions.

There were also paintings and artifacts of Robespierre and Danton (and their beheadings too).  And of course, the martyred Marat by the black widow Charlotte Corday

The exhibition continued on to a young Corsican general who quickly became a consul…

The exhibition continued below with a gilded display of the Second Empire under Napoleon III.  There was an immaculate gilded crib from the Princess Eugenie, and a giant portrait of Napoleon III with Baron Haussmann.  But things fall apart, and we marched on to the Paris Commune in its bricks and blood.  Dark paintings of the army’s reconquest of Paris barricades.

On through the Third Republic and its Romantic and Impressionist imagery, and the famous expositions that changed the face of Paris.  And lest we forget the Dreyfus Affair that ripped France apart.  I wandered through rooms of impressionist paintings of Parisian life, and through art nouveau-inspired rooms.  I even found a room exhibiting the quill of one musketeer Alexandre Dumas.  There were also the effects of Emile Zola, including his cane, pocket watch and quill case.

The museum’s other wing was so utterly different; it was literally a different museum.  And a welcome find, because I had been having trouble finding this history that I was looking for.

The following day, I was over near the Pantheon to meet my friend Irit for lunch.  She is Israeli, and was heading the next day to Israel.  Needless to say, she was a little worried about the ongoing situation with Syria.  She told me of the chaos in Israel as people were trying to get gas masks, which hadn't been broken out since the first Gulf War.  Israelis were waiting in lines for hours to get gas masks, and Israelis don't wait in lines well so it was not pretty.  She spoke of the nervousness of going to her parents' home in Haifa, which was in rocket distance in the last war with Lebanon in 2006, and the fear of not having gas masks for her kids.  Lest we forget that there is a real human side to this business.  All I could do was sigh and give her a hug, for whatever that is worth.

After lunch, I went to the Panthéon, of giant murals like the crowing of Charlemagne and home to France's greats (Aux grands hommes, la patrie reconnaissante, "To its great men, a grateful fatherland").  I wandered down to the crypt, past the urn holding the heart of Leon Gambetta.

I found the tombs of Voltaire and Rousseau, across from each other, and paid my respects to these fathers of Enlightenment.
I found the tombs of Zola, Hugo and Dumas, as well as the Curies (Marie being the only woman in the Pantheon).  There were also tombs of the famous leader of the French Resistance Jean Moulin, and Félix Éboué- the leader of French Resistance in Africa.  Another luminary I found was Jean Monnet, who was a founder of the European Community and key driver to a united Europe.

All and all, a good way to wind down my Paris sabbatical.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

We couldn't make a mistake on WMDS twice, could we?

I have been wondering if this chemical weapons story has been a false flag operation to draw America in on the rebels side. The UN Independent Commission's Carla del Ponte, who headed the war crimes tribunals in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, basically came out and said there was more evidence that it was the rebels who used the sarin gas on the victims of the attack. Okay, I failed to notice the date on that story.

I mean, Assad is winning these days, why would he need to use chemical weapons? Whereas, the rebels are losing ground, why not try to draw the U.S. in on your side.  I have had my suspicions that something is not halal in this whole mess.

Wise Counsel...

From the geniuses who brought us the Iraq War II, comes sagely advice on Syria...

Here is a hint, just do the opposite of what these fools say, and you may end up okay.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Braii Diplomacy

A great article in The Salt on Braii Day as a means to bring South Africans together.  A "braii" is a traditional South African barbecue with boerewors (delicious South African beef sausages with coriander and nutmeg), and I did many of these when I was in SuidAfrika.  Reminds me that I need to write an article I have been trying to get around to on South African gastrodiplomacy via braii, biltong and Cape Malay cuisine. Braii diplomacy would be great culinary cultural diplomacy outreach to Texas and Memphis, and places like South Korea, among many others.

H/T to Sam and Shannon.

They way we were

Some great photos of American cities from a century prior.  Like:
Philly 1905

New York 1905

Washington 1913

All the Presidents' Chefs

George Zimmerman goes gun shopping

Yes, that asshole.  He went to the factory of the place where the gun that shot Trayvon Martin was made. That mofo even posed for pictures.  Even his lawyer was not pleased:
“We certainly would not have advised him to go to the factory that made the gun that he used to shoot Trayvon Martin through the heart,” Shawn Vincent, a spokesman for attorney Mark O’Mara, told Yahoo News. “That was not part of our public relations plan.”

Rather than conduct a military strike on Syria, can we just send a drone after Zimmerman? 

What's in a name?

So I was out last night wandering around Paris. I stopped in a lil grocery shop to buy a can of beer. I got to chatting in Arabic with the young Moroccan shopkeep and his friend. He was from Agadir, a place I had been a few times; we chatted about Moroccan food.

 He told me his name was Hasan, and asked mine. I replied "Boulus," which is Paul translated into Arabic. He and his friend started to laugh. He said I was better going with Paul here in France. When I asked why, he told me that in France, "boules" meant "balls." I laughed my way out of the store and into the empty night.

The morning read

A whole lotta news going on.  Some news aggregation for you dear bloggy readers:

-Questions for President Obama-- before he pulls the trigger by Andrew Bacevich.  Prof. Bacevich is one of my favorite voice, as he asks the tough questions on military ventures. Like:

First, why does this particular heinous act rise to the level of justifying a military response? More specifically, why did a similarly heinous act by the Egyptian army elicit from Washington only the mildest response? Just weeks ago, Egyptian security forces slaughtered hundreds of Egyptians whose “crime” was to protest a military coup that overthrew a legitimately elected president. Why the double standard?
Second, once U.S. military action against Syria begins, when will it end? What is the political objective? Wrapping the Assad regime on the knuckles is unlikely to persuade it to change its ways. That regime is engaged in a fight for survival. So what exactly does the United States intend to achieve and how much is President Obama willing to spend in lives and treasure to get there? War is a risky business. Is the president willing to commit U.S. forces to what could well become another protracted and costly struggle?
Third, what is the legal basis for military action? Neither Russia nor China is likely to agree to an attack on Syria, so authorization by the U.N. Security Council won’t be forthcoming. Will Obama ask Congress for the authority to act? Or will he, as so many of his recent predecessors have done, employ some dodge to circumvent the Constitution? With what justification?
Prof. Phil Seib turns to hard power on Syria:

What will people say 20 years from now when they look back on today’s events in Syria? Will they apologize for doing nothing while chemical warfare was employed?
The United States and its NATO allies possess the precise military capability to cause significant damage to Assad’s war machine. Perhaps the source of the chemical weapons could be hit, and if that is not feasible due to the danger of releasing chemical agents into the atmosphere, airfields or other military facilities could be targeted.
The point of all this is to show Assad – and the rest of the world – that certain behavior, even in wartime, will not be tolerated. Some would argue that this kind of action is a mere gesture and that Assad will find other ways to kill Syrian civilians. Perhaps, but that is not a reason to do nothing at all.
Despite the allure of soft power as a way to deal with international disputes, there is no getting away from the sad reality that hard power is sometimes needed. Forceful action will speak to global publics as its own kind of public diplomacy. It is time to blow up at least part of Assad’s capability to slaughter innocents.
But, fwiw the architect of the surgical strike plan being pushed forward doesn't think it will work:
"Tactical actions in the absence of strategic objectives is usually pointless and often counterproductive," Chris Harmer, a senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, said. "I never intended my analysis of a cruise missile strike option to be advocacy even though some people took it as that." 
And Larry Derfner in +972 makes a good case that if you can't stand the heat in hell's kitchen, stay out:
The ones most discussed are reportedly a “surgical strike” on the Assad regime’s chemical weapons by missiles fired from long range by U.S. ships, and/or the establishment of a no-fly zone over Syria. Nobody is talking about putting American or other Western soldiers on the ground there, not as fighters or as peacekeepers; after Iraq and Afghanistan, nobody wants to get in the middle of another Middle Eastern civil war. Instead, the idea is a no-risk, remote control operation that stops the use of chemical weapons, doesn’t last long, and that has a guaranteed exit strategy. 
In other words, if the Syrians or their ally in the field Hezbollah hit back at American targets after a U.S. missile strike, or violate a no-fly zone, or attack Israel or Turkey or Saudi Arabia or some other enemy and thereby take the Syrian war regional, it would screw up the plan. America would have to strike back decisively – as many times as it takes – or walk away humiliated, giving Assad, Hezbollah and Iran an undreamed-of victory. 
Neither America nor any other Western power has the stomach for such an adventure. And the thing is, Assad, Hezbollah and Iran know it, which would seem to almost guarantee that if the U.S. acts militarily in Syria, it will meet with military resistance. Real simple: If America can’t stand the heat, and it can’t, it should stay the hell out of the kitchen, or rather the oven that is the Syrian civil war.
And one more good debate/discussion from George Packer over the Syria question, even if it happening with himself

And on the other end of the sandbox, NYTimes editor Bill Keller has a good piece called Adrift on the Nile:
It has become the conventional wisdom in Washington that the United States has no “leverage” in Egypt. That is at best an excuse for not trying very hard, at worst a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course, “leverage” does not mean that supplying a few F-16 fighter planes buys you the compliance of a foreign army. (Witness Pakistan.) And, of course, Egypt’s fate is, and must be, in Egyptian hands. But we have serious strategic interests in a democratic Egypt, as the president himself asserted with such fervor, and we have influence. We should have used our influence earlier. We can and should use it now.
And so not everything is gloom and doom, 33 teachers who got the last laugh.

PS: Bacevich has an excellent piece in the American Conservative about the Counterculture Conservatism required by the Conservative movement.

Monday, August 26, 2013

#NSA Pickup lines

What begins in outrage, ends in farce.

From NPR:

 "Revelations that national security officials have used their agency's eavesdropping power to spy on love interests has sparked a new meme: #NSAPickupLines"

Like: [#NSAPickUpLines] Girl, you must have fallen from heaven because there is no tracking data to indicate how you arrived at this location.

Or the ever clever: "I'd tap that"

Propaganda and Public Diplomacy

A good piece by Monsieur Brun on the Paradoxes of Propaganda.

I fully admit I am a propagandist. I propagate the faith in my own causes. But I do it through public diplomacy, which is different.

Breaking Belize

So I finally got a chance to catch up on Breaking Bad yesterday.  There was a wonderful euphemism reference of being sent to Belize as a term for something much darker.  Well, Belize was smart enough to listen and its tourism board came up with a great response.

Smart nationbranding for Belize!

Banned in Pakistan

Apparently the site for the Pakistan-Israel Peace Forum, and petition site, are banned in Pakistan.  One of our followers on FB in Pakistan sent us this screen shot:

C'mon Pakistan, it is no fun for the top brass to have ties with Israel while keeping out all the people-to-people connections...

The Failed Grand Strategy

A rather good, rather sober reading of Obama's Middle East failures by Prof. Walter Russell Mead.

And an interesting piece on the Circassian refugees fleeing Syria for Russia

And PS: Not only did the U.S. know about Saddam's use of WMD, but apparently the Reagan admin helped him with intelligence for such attacks.  Ah, the Saintly Ronnie Reagan and our good buddy Saddam. Helped in the gassing of the Iranians, and did nothing as Saddam gassed the Kurds in Halabja.  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

black, white and green

From Harper's Index: 

  • Percentage of black and white Americans, respectively, who use marijuana : 14, 12 
  • Factor by which a black American is more likely than a white American to be arrested for marijuana possession : 3.7

First the came for the Islamists

Then everyone became an "islamist."  Egypt's military has been broadening the definition to include anyone who opposes it, including even Obama:
Among some supporters of the new government, “Islamist” has become a popular indictment. After Mr. Obama criticized Egypt’s crackdown on the Islamists, Tahani el-Gebali, a former judge close to the military, publicly accused him of having ties to the Brotherhood, claiming his Kenyan half brother directed investments for the group.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Quatre Fromages

The garçon of Les Ondes was correct: it is not proper to drink a carafe of rosé without something to eat. So I got a plate of 4 cheeses. Camembert, Roquefort, Brie and something white. A lil bit of dijon mustard to cleanse the palate.  Is it gauche to take lactaid with wine?

The original American cuisine; the new American cuisine

Two interesting articles, one on Nephi Craig and the rediscovery of Native American cuisine within the American culinary landscape.  Oh man, I hope someone at the Culinary Diplomacy Initiative at State reads this piece, because Craig would be the perfect gastrodiplomat.  And Native American food would make phenomenal gastrodiplomacy to share around the globe.

The other article is an interesting piece on the Goya empire, its connection with Latino consumers and how it brought ethnic food to White America.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Don't Fly While Brown

Columbia, SC to Homeless: Drop Dead

Harry brought this article to my attention.  The city of Columbia, SC basically outlawed homeless people in the city, with ordinances to round them up.  Not that the single shelter that they have for the homeless they are going to corral is remotely big enough.  Nice work, Columbia- some real humanitarians you are.  

State to FSNs: drop dead

Via JB, State Dept denies its local embassy staff the ability to unionize. On the grounds that it would threaten "security."

I am so glad to see my article aimed at getting greater appreciation for State's FSN workers had such a tremendous effect at Foggy Bottom...

I am curious how allowing your workers to unionize would threaten "security"?? Would it open them up to being commies??

 I have also come to abhor the word "security." It is such a bullshit, meaningless term used to shut down real discussion.

New pics up: Montmarte Sunday, Poitiers, Battle of Poitiers

Glenn Greenwald Killed the Internet

September Resolutions

When I was asked by French tv about my September resolution, I didn't exactly tell the truth.  I had made a September resolution: to leave Paris on September 1st.  I felt if I didn't, I probably never would.  I couldn't explain this in French to the television crew, and I doubt at the time I connected the two thoughts as such. Counterfactual memories are my specialty.

This morning I carried out my September resolution, and purchased a bus ticket to Brussels on September 1st.  I have never been to Belgium, so I am excited to visit the the hallowed ground that is the birthplace to Jean-Claude Van Dam.  I know a few others who would be jealous for such pilgrimages to the birthplace of "The Muscles from Brussels" like Kay, and Mike Hallquist- a leading scholar on the Jean-Claude Van Dam Hardpower Theory of IR.

I am also excited to visit this Capital of Europe, and I will check out Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp before I head north to the Netherlands.

I had considered getting off Facebook before I left on my sabbatical.  Came close too.  I had penned my goodbye post so that I could enjoy the peaceful solitude of a social media-free world after years of being paid to be on such biz.  But then I got a FB message from my friend Phillippe in Antwerp, letting me know that he had opened an Argentine empanada bar in his hometown.  I had traveled with Phillippe in Malaysia and Thailand, and he subsequently went on South America, where he fell in love with Buenos Aires.  He had been a chef to a Belgian diplomat prior (a culinary diplomatist, if ever there was one), and so decided to try his hand at creating an Argentine culinary outpost in Antwerp.  Che Felipe and Bar Buenos Aires, where the empanadas are hot, and the fernet & coke is cold; I feel a gastrodiplomacy article coming on Argentine edible nationbranding.

I am off to Belgium to, among other things, crash on Phillipe's couch and bar, and this is all a round-about way of explaining why I did not get off Zuck's info-gathering project: because it helps with the most random connections.  Phillippe's message reminded me I wanted to stay on this useful connecting tool; I am ultimately quite glad I didn't get off FB because I have had friends pop out of the woodwork in Paris, when I thought I knew nary a soul in this celestial city.

But back to the present.  I had my landlady Frederique stop by yesterday.  She had some new tenants coming from Roastbeeflandia (The Brits call the French "frogs"; the French call the Brits "Roast beef"), and also was coming to see me about some problems we were having with the rent. I had found the studio through a third-party site.  For the second month, we decided to cut out the middleman and just handle it directly to cut out the service fees tacked on.

Good idea in theory, but slightly more difficult to execute in hand-off since she lives in Breton.  First it looked like her husband was coming to Paris around the beginning of the month, but that fell through, so she asked if I could send a mandat cash, the French equivalent of a money order.  Easy in theory, but nothing is ever completely easy.  It took three trips to the Postale to get it right (need a passport; credit card didn't work in their machine, needed fistful of euros).  And while Frederique had made it sound like something that would be wired, instead I had to mail the form to her hubby Yasser.  So I bought an envelope and sent off the mandat cash.  And waited for a confirmed receipt.

About a week later, Frederique emailed me that they hadn't received the mandat cash.  I got a little worried, given that 650 euros were now somewhat missing.  We waited for postal Godot, but he never came.  So she visited yesterday and we were going to stop at the postale to see about getting the mandat cash reissued.  I was a tad worried given a fat chunk of change was missing, and I knew nothing of the process of cancelling or reissuing such biz and could ill-afford to pay another month's rent if the money was indeed gone.

But just before we left the building, she jokingly said that we should check the mailbox to see if it had been delivered to the apartment's mail slot.  And what was sitting in the mailbox: the envelope!  Such a relief.  The amazing thing is that the mail slot had her husband's name on it, yet the letter's return address was addressed to me at the building.  Somehow, while the postale couldn't find Yasser's addy in Breton, it could figure out that this was an address for him, even though the return addy had my name on it.  So, they connect the name on the front with the address on the back.  A tad bizarre, but I was relieved.

The RT ambush

Journalist James Kirchick shares on his actions in ambushing RT, the Kremlin-backed international broadcaster, with rainbow suspenders.  Kudos to him for his actions.

And ironically, the advert on the right page as I read the article was for China Daily. And as I typed that fact into the comment section, an advert for "Russia Beyond the Headlines" popped up--also a Kremlin-backed outlet. Ah WaPo, such a whore for advert dollars...

Meanwhile, the paywall seems to keep going up on new sites.  Now Foreign Policy wants me to pay to read their biz.  No thanks...

Le Service

An interesting article on service in France.  Merci, JB.  The article is slightly inane in implying that Paris needs to do more to inject life into its tourism sector, given that Paris was only the number one travel destination in the world...

Fwiw, I have found the service in Paris to be surprisingly warm and friendly.  Sure, it can be a bit indifferent- as it should be.  I prefer that to the faux obsequiousness of  American waiters and waitresses who are forced to grovel for tips because they aren't paid a living wage.  But generally, I have found plenty of genial wait staff and clerks, who meet my smile with a smile.

I would have added such comments to the WSJ article, but they required me to sign up for a subscription if I wanted to make my views known.  No thanks...


Oh, America. Bradley Manning gets 35 years and George Zimmerman gets none.

That is American justice these days....

The poodle bites

Ever the poodle, Britain first detains Glenn Greenwald's partner, then forced the smashing of computer hard drives at The Guardian in part because the poodles didn't like news of their spying in the Middle East getting out. Pathetic.  If the US and UK are the beacons of light for freedom and democracy in the West, then the world might as well go dark.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dia Luna

Let's meet at a dirty lil sangria bar. Her words not mine.  After eating wine-drenched orange peels, I stopped at Cafe Saint Germain for a plate of moules frites. The briny taste of the mussels balanced by the salty pomme de terre with dijon hints to burn away the sea.  The cup of Sauvignon washed it all away.  After escargot and moules, I am not sure what would constitute an unkosher trifecta; perhaps a plate of jambon.

I couldn't begin to explain the bus ride home. A girl was crying, shedding tears down her cheeks. I offered as much comfort as could to a problem not my own, in a language not my own. A fellow in a wheelchair with her said it was okay, and I had to let it go.  The Eiffel Tower hit its strobe effect, and we all smiled subtly.

Hoy dia luna, dia pena. Hoy me levanto sin razon. Hoy me levanto y no quiero. Hoy dia luna, da muero.   Arriba la luna, ohea.
-Manu Chao 

Student loans will haunt you to the grave

Prof. Walter Russel Mead hits the nail on the head in citing a Demos study on the deleterious effects of student loans on the American student body.  I should have been smart enough to be dumb, or born French with free education...

The Ring

"The way your dad looked at it, this watch was your birthright. He'd be damned if any slopes gonna put their greasy yellow hands on his boy's birthright, so he hid it, in the one place he knew he could hide something: his ass. Five long years, he wore this watch up his ass. Then when he died of dysentery, he gave me the watch. I hid this uncomfortable piece of metal up my ass for two years. Then, after seven years, I was sent home to my family. And now, little man, I give the watch to you."
-Pulp Fiction

Thankfully, an equally intriguing story with a less orificial ending about a ring that found its way back.

But what do you do?

A wonderful story of the essence of cultural diplomacy written by John Brown the Elder, kindly posted by John Brown the Younger.  I am posthumously bestowing a gastrodiplomacy croix de guerrre on JB I for the coq gaulois incident.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Apples to Apples

An old fav I wrote a long time ago, republished on The Apple

Serious Eats GlobalKitchenNY

Congrats to GlobalKitchenNY, for its write-up in Serious Eats.  GlobalKitchenNY does some fabulous p2p gastrodiplomacy work introducing immigrant cuisine to New Yorkers.  

The Battle of Poitiers

I awoke nice and early in the hostel and made my way downstairs.  I filched a cup of coffee (I had not purchased breakfast, but on principle reject that I should have to pay 4 euros for breakfast at a hostel as it should be included) and got myself going.  I got up and dressed and made my way out of the hostel.  I stopped at a lil bodega to grab a croissant and jus d’ananas (pineapple), and found a trail through the woods back to the city center. 

As I embarked on the trail an older gentleman who was working on his car bade me bonjour.  I wished him the same, then watched him toss a plastic bottle into the bushes.  I gave him a stern look, and said “Monsieur…” and gave him a tut-tut with my finger.  He laughed and sauntered after his littered bottle.

I walked through the forest path, listening to the Hounds of Heaven rise and wishing passers-by a good morning.  I wandered my way up into the city center, stopping in front of the Renaissance revival  Hotel de Ville in the middle of the city.  I sat out on a plastic art bench, staring up at the spires and cloudless sky. 

I made my way through the windy streets, past the courthouse dating back to the Middle Ages that was once-home to the counts of Poitou—the dukes of Aquitaine.  I was soaking in the tranquil air, marveling at how much I love being in places outside the capital. Always such a quieter vibe that is more reflective of life outside the metropolis.  I swam through memories of Tandil (Arg), Třeboň (CZ, pre-blog) and Tainan (TW). 

I was making my way to the tourist office to find out more about the Battle of Poitiers in the vicinity.  But I was lured into an open-air bakery by the smell of fresh croissants.  Hint to all bakers, always make your front an open wall-less entry and attract in your customers on the smell of breads and pastries on the wind.  I grabbed an incredible pain au chocolat et amandes- a flaky marzipan filled croissant with little bits of chocolate, covered in powdered sugar and almond slivers.  I think I had most of the powdered sugar off my sweatshirt and my mug by the time I made it into tourist office.  Maybe.

And interestingly, as I passed the  Romanesque church Notre Dame Le Grand Eglise with its sculpted façade.  Except I noticed that all the sculpted images had the faces chiseled off.  Puzzled, I was.  Such iconoclasm in France?  I made sure to ask in the tourist office. 
Once inside the tourist office, the woman explained to me that it had been common in France after the Revolution that people chiseled off the faces of kings and bishops across France and this was rather a widespread phenomenon. 

She also broke out a map and showed me where the battlefield for Poitiers was.  Not exactly in Poitiers, she said, it took its name from the closest town.  It was about 20km outside the city, and she pointed it out on the map.  She said I would probably need a car, or a bike.  But biking 40km (aller-retour) might be a lil tough.  I am no Charlie Walker.  But she pointed out a place renting electric bikes next to the church.

I stopped in the church and took in the impressive stained glasses.  More impressive, me thinks, than San Chappelle which I found rather disappointing.  I wandered through the grand church to Notre Dame, and watched the sun pour in through stained glass above.

I left the church and decided to investigate the electric bike situation.  The girl named Sabrina explained to me how it worked.  It was 8e for the day, and the place closed at 6:30pm.  It was about 11:30am, so it seemed doable.  But I could return in the morning if need be for no extra charge.  The electric powered bike was just that.  Not a motorcycle or moped, but running with a little battery powered motor and could reach upwards of 30km/h with a lot of cycling.  It had 7 gears, and three levels of motor to aid.  It seemed doable, so I rented it and headed off. 

It is still a bike and requires a bit of effort, but it greatly reduces the effort required.  So I cycled down and out of the city, along the D4 two lane road.  Soon I was out of the city and in the countryside.  After about 30 minutes, I stopped by the side of the road at a river to check the map.  I could hear a small waterfall but could only see the reflected glass water and lily pads.  Beautiful nonetheless.

I continued my trek through small towns and bucolic French countryside, past chateaus, baled buns of hay, fields of golden sunflower and wildflowers galore.  The journey was immaculate, under a cloudless azure. 

After a few hours, I stopped at the French equivalent of a Walmart to grab the trappings of lunch.  Poulet Basquaise- a Basque chicken stew in tomato sauce with peppers and onions, a baguette, a tomato and a lil hunk of rich Roquefort with blue dimples.  The cost of my picnic: less than 4 euros.

I biked on until I reach the next town, and stopped for a picnic outside the moat of a small castle.  I ate my basque chicken stew with the baguette with a little bite of the cheese for dessert as I stared at spires and gargoyles.  I sipped cognac from my flask and enjoyed the picnic under a banyan.

I headed back out on the long and winding road, meandering on the long path.  I don't think I am winning the Tour de France anytime soon.  I climbed the hills with a lil aid from the electric bike, and roared down winding passes-- flying so fast there were tears in my eyes.  I hit 45 km/h (28mph) in a down hill stretch.  Generally I was keeping a steady clip of 25 km/h (15 mph) with some heavy peddling.

I biked and biked, and biked some more.  I had a feeling that this was going to be one of those adventures in which the truth lies in the journey, not the poirt(iers).  But eventually I passed enough hills and found my way to the battle field of Poitiers at around 2:30pm. I locked up the bike, and slunk down in the shade to rest for a bit.  I sipped water and cognac to regain my strength.

I got up and headed over to the monument display for the battlefield.  It was surprisingly quite good and engaging.

Whoever you are, wherever you come from, young or old, casual visitor, or serious researcher, you are a friend. You will find some answers to your questions here. The land you are going to walk on is quiet, but the blows of adversaries of another century and another faith still resound....

Whoever you are, you are a friend. At this thresh hold you may lay down your convictions and your fears. Your feet and your eyes are sufficient for you to carry around, because no one will prevent you from leaving with your ideas, for the north, the south, the east and the west.

There were different sections on the respective generals and forces, and gave a very good historical overview of the context of the battle.  It detailed the Ummayyad invaders from Moorish Spain, and their leader Abdul Rahman.  It also discussed Charles Martel and the Gallo-Roman Eudo, Duke of Aquitaine.  As I was wandering around, suddenly I heard Carmina Burana start playing with a voice over discussing the battle that unfolded.  Close your eyes and listen: horses spring from behind you raising dust and grass.  

I listened as the voice described the battle and the panel that illustrated the battle field below.

The voice gave a great description of the events of the day.  It was a fascinating case of cavalry against a heavy Roman-esque phalanx- in part a strategy from the Gallo-Roman Eudes' tactics.  To make a long story short, the heavy armor and better positioning sealed the battle for the Frank army.  Meanwhile, the death of Abdul Rahman left the Moors leaderless and fragmented.  They withdrew, and history was made.  The Arabic invasion of Western Europe was checked, the rise of the Frankish kingdom sealed (and the end of Roman Gaul to that of the newly converted Franks and Germanic tribes).  In a generation, Charlemagne- the grandson of Charles Martel would unite Europe the likes of which unseen since Rome.  History would have been so utterly different if the Moors had swept through France and conquered a divided Europe that lay in their path.

I sat under a banyan, watching the nettles sway in the breeze as I tried to take in the landscape before me.

I had to make my way back before my bike turned back into a pumpkin, so I began the long journey back.  My thighs were burning, and my back hurt.  Not to mention that my tuchus was killing me from sitting on a bike seat all day.  I peddled and peddled back through the hills.

As I was peddling, I noted that the bike was running low on battery.  I kept it on low power, and switched it to neutral or off when on inclines to save battery.  I stopped at a fruit stand to refill my bottle of water to stave off the dehydration I was starting to feel.  And I had the most amazing nectarine of my life.  I took one bite and said mon dieu. It was the perfect texture of sweet and ripe, and its juices oozed all down my arm.  I have never had a better nectarine in my life.

I returned back through the fields of gold (we'll forget the sun/ in his jealous sky/ as we lie in fields of gold. -Sting).

And I noticed that the battery was dying faster than promised. I had about 11km left, and I had 11km worth of juice.  Than suddenly it dropped to 9km.  Hey!

I kept right on chugging, and watching the power, and turning it off on every chance I got at the slightest incline.  It kept at 9km for a nice stretch than suddenly dropped to 7km.  I had not gone an additional 2km.  This was looking to be a problem, but hey, it was still a bike right?

I was racing the battery and time as I wanted to get back to the shop before it died and did not want to have to lug around a dead bike all night.  I got over a pass, and back down to the Franco Walmart, where I stopped to fill my water bottle.  I still had 5km of juice left.

Then, suddenly, I had no more power.  It declared low battery, and went into neutral.  I still had about 5km left to go.  I kept fiddling with the buttons while I was biking, switching it from on to neutral to off.  Then I realized with the battery dead, the bike gears did not turn as well.  It wasn't a regular bike after all.  For starters, it was a heavy bike, weighing in at 28 kilos (61lbs).  Secondly, as I was about to find out, it did not work like a normal bike when the power was dead.  I was peddling and peddling but the friction got seriously heavier.  I simply was barely moving. I was on a massive button push of switching it on, into neutral and off to try to keep it moving.  I tried powering through with it off.  Nothing was really working well, and I was running out of time.

I decided to try hitchhiking, but all the cars that were passing were not big enough to fit the bike.  Besides, I looked like a total wuss trying to hitchhike with a bike.  And I couldn't explain well-enough in French that it was the bike's fault, and I wasn't lazy.

So I kept powering on, and getting closer inch by inch.  I pushed the sucker up a hill, and then rode down with the bike off.  I was getting close, and it was getting close to 6:30.  I saw the sign for Poitiers and got a jolt of energy.  I just might make it.  I got close enough to the city center, and hopped off to wheel it up the steep hill.  I just barely made it in time.

Sabrina felt awful that the battery had died on me.  She told me about how another fellow had also gone to Poitiers and had kept it in neutral the whole time and returned with the battery half full.  I sat exhausted in the chair trying to recover from my 40km long ride.  I had one thing in store for me that evening: steak frites.

As previously mentioned, I got my cut of meat bloody and still on the cutting board.  And I devoured it.  I trudged my way back in the dark to the hostel, exhausted as all get out.

I got back to my room, and exhaustedly exclaimed to James my long day.  Turns out, he was the other fellow who went to Poitiers, and did it all in neutral.  And he went an extra 10km to the other battle of Poitiers site.  I slumped down on the floor and declared myself a wuss.  He tried to cheer me up, explaining that he did a 10km bike ride to work everyday, and biked to cricket matches with all his gear on weekends.  I showered, crawled into bed and passed out.

The Road to Poitiers

I spent my morning killing time until heading out to the bus station.  I took the 9 to the 3 to the end of the line to Gallieni, where the Eurolines bus station was.  The place was a bit disorganized.   I had already purchased my ticket online, which was a good thing because there was a long snaking line to the one or two windows open selling tickets.  But there was nothing to indicate which gate I should wait at for my bus.  I picked the line that looked to be for reserved tickets or information or something—at least a shorter line the queue to buy tickets.  It proved correct, and the lady gave me a plastic pass with an 11 on it for my gate.  I waited for the bus to come amid Portuguese and African passengers. 

The bus arrived, a Portuguese company.  We boarded and were off.  The promised wifi on the bus never materialized, but instead I was greeted with loud Portuguese soft rock ballads. Like blaring through the whole bus loud.  We rolled out of town, and I fell asleep for a bit.  I woke up to the blare and we were at a gas station but were just sitting around.  The two guys of the bus company were not on the bus.  We weren’t pumping gas, just sitting there.  We sat there perplexed for another 20 minutes, until one of the guys came back and told us we had five minutes.  I ran to grab a snack and got back on the bus as the fellow was counting and getting ready to pull out.  We were still missing a passenger, an African fellow.  Yet we started to pull away anyway.  I yelled that there was still another person, and pointed to him running towards the bus.  The bus idled and he hopped on.  I am starting to think the Portuguese have a rightly-earned reputation.

We sped off into the countryside, past irrigating fields and meadows of sunflowers.  We passed long armed windmills, and I smiled at this Quijotean good sign.

We meandered on until we arrived at Poitiers around 6:30pm.  I couldn't find an actual bus stand to inquire about a return ticket, so I opted to get the cheapest train ticket back and be done with it.  I got a return trip for wednesday evening from a nice ticket fellow.  I broke out my map of the city and prepared to follow the directions I wrote down, but saw a sign pointing towards the hostel.  I figured the sign was probably better than my googled directions, so I followed it up and around the city.  The hostel was about 2.5km away, so I hoofed it through the shuttered streets.  I figured the hostel was probably not close to food, so I stopped in a Carrefour along the way for some dinner provisions (a baguette, a tomato, a can of maquereau (mackerel) in a shallot sauce, a bottle of red wine).  I found my way to the hostel, and checked in for the evening.

After settling in, I made my way outside to have dinner as the sun's fading light lit up the green gardens.  I chatted with a French family.  They asked why I had come to Poitiers, and I explained about the battle.  The gentleman asked if I had ever heard of Futurscope.  Nope.  That is an interactive science park near Poitiers which is a main attraction for the city- not the battlefield.  I sat out chatting with the family and some other hostel mates, a Franco-Irish fellow and an Iranian.

The night got dark, and the Franco-Irish and the Iranian and I finished our wine as we chatted.  The Iranian was getting his PhD in metallurgy at the local Poitiers university.  He had studied French in school, and had just arrived a week prior.  Bienvenue!

We all turned in relatively early and I chatted with my roommate, a large Englishman named James.  He asked why I had come to Poitiers, and I said to see the battlefield.  He asked which one?  Apparently, Poitiers was the sight of a major battle during the 100 Years War between England and France.  He had come to see that battlefield, and didn't know of the battle field I had come to see.

A Poll Asked America Which States Were The Drunkest, The Hottest And Which Had The Silliest Accents


In silence, there is everything

I sit in silence at Le Biblio Cafe, in silence.  Down the cobbled street to my right is a grand old cathedral.  To my left, a saxophone sings softly from around the corner.  The sounds of French babble down the stone alley's tight walk.  In silence, there is everything. 

Classics, Colorized

Some classic photos colorized.

this one of Liz Taylor is a beaut:

As is this pic of Audrey Hepburn

Iraqi refugees in America

A poignant piece on two Iraqi refugees' lives in America.

There are countless more who are waiting to be brought to America because their lives are untenable in Iraq after their work for the US Army.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I love it when French restaurants ditch all formalities like plates, and bring me my medium rare steak (et frites) on a wood cutting board.

Musicians Leave War-Torn Syria to Study in Waco

Some work I am proud of: although I left American Voices, I am still helping with some media related to two Syrian refugees named Amjad and Andreh studying music in Waco, Texas that have been taken in by a real mensch Prof. Bradley Bolen. This is a story on the local NPR station KWBU: Musicians Leave War-Torn Syria to Study in Waco.

Monday, August 19, 2013

On the way to Poitiers

I flows a lot better when pronounced in French.  As in the actor.  I am on the way to Poitiers today.  I needed to get out of Paris and see some more of France.  Also, Poitiers is one of the points that can be described as a hinge of history.  Some of you well-versed history buffs will know why, and for those who don't know, I will describe in the coming days....

Winning Heart Attacks & Minds

At the defibrillated heart of any great American gastrodiplomacy efforts! Fried food from the State Fair!

I am actually not kidding.  The State Fair represents such an iconic portion of American life, and the food is a big part of the fun.  I have seen how popular deep-fried oreos and frito chili pies were at the fair at the Yokohama Naval Base when they had an open-fair day.  

It is so important to remember that public diplomacy, cultural diplomacy and especially gastrodiplomacy cannot be just about communicating high culture, but also some good ol 'Murican values like a fried twinkie. But for what its it's worth, the State Fair and its deliciously fatty fried foods really showcase Americana in all its caloric glory and help project a simpler down-to-earth America that would resonate abroad in many respects, and would be a good angle for people-to-people connections.  

This all gets back to my theories on the Bernays-Barnum School of Public Diplomacy.  Perhaps all I am at (defibrillated) heart is a PD carnie.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Round up the usual suspects...

Nice work UK (and US) security! Detain uber-journalist and leaker Glenn Greenwald's partner to intimidate.  You must be so proud of your security work.  The homeland is secure...

Beurre et sucre

Don't get me wrong, I love a nutella and banana crepe.  But sometimes the best things in life are the simplest.  Like a simple crepe with butter and sugar, when the sucre caramelizes with the melting buerre. beurre.

Merci Monsieur Brun, pédant par excellence.  
You are reaching Dutch status...

A Salvador Sunday

La surrealism c'est moi
-Salvador Dalí

I made way to the Espace Dalí, a museum of the great surrealists predilections and dreams.  I walked down the staircase and simply said: wow.  There was the Emperor of Montmarte building his Quixote kingdom on the Parisian hills.

Everything you can imagine is real

Dalí made it so.  In giant bronze melting clocks.

In an elephant with bronze tusks, with the legs of a giraffe, carrying a giant jade obelisk (space elephant)

If my words did glow, I couldn't illuminate the creations in their full surreal glory.

And his surreal water colors, and tarot dreams.

Forks slithering out of silver snails; spoons made of shells

Dalí, what is your secret of success?

Providing the right honey for the right fly at the right time and place

Are you always so sure of yourself?

Well, I have a few minor inner conflicts

And the coup de grâce:

I don't do drugs. I am drugs. 

I wandered out down Montmarte's cobblestone lanes, past tilting windmills until I found my tilted cafe.  I sat on the incline hill, staring at the resplendent Invalidies, drinking bergerac and medoc, as I chatted with some English tourists on holiday.  The sun intermittently appeared from behind the day's grey clouds and licked my face with its effulgent glow.

The morning star

Even the devil was an angel in the beginning
-Boulevard Émile Augier 

Nous Twitterons

A funny article about the deleterious effects of social media on the French language.  Merci JB.

Maslow and me

Merci KC.

Titans on Titans

"His talent was a natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly's wings.  At one time he understood no more than a butterfly did and he did not know it was brushed or marred. Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think. He was flying again and I was lucky to meet him just after a good time in his writing if not a good one in his life."
-Ernest Hemingway on F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What we lose if we give up privacy

A great piece by Peggy Noonan on what we lose when we give up privacy.  Yes, the Fourth Amendment is as important as the First Amendment, and more important than the Second Amendment.

Never Let Me Down

We are all here for a reason on a particular path
You don't need a curriculum to know that you are part of the math
Cats think I'm delirious, but I'm so damn serious
That's why I expose my soul to the globe, the world
I'm trying to make it better for these little boys and girls
I'm not just another individual, my spirit is a part of this
That's why I get spiritual, but I get my hymns from Him
So it's not me, it's He that's lyrical
I'm not a miracle, I'm a heaven-sent instrument
My rhythmatic regimen navigates melodic notes for your soul and your mental
That's why I'm instrumental
Vibrations is what I'm into
Yeah, I need my loot by rent day
But that is not what gives me the heart of Kunte Kinte
I'm tryina give us "us free" like Cinque
I can't stop, that's why I'm hot
Determination, dedication, motivation
I'm talking to you, my many inspirations
When I say I can't, let you or self down
If I were of the highest cliff, on the highest riff
And you slipped off the side and clinched on to your life in my grip
I would never, ever let you down
And when these words are found
Let it been known that God's penmanship has been signed with a language called love
That's why my breath is felt by the deaf
And why my words are heard and confined to the ears of the blind
I, too, dream in color and in rhyme
So I guess I'm one of a kind in a full house
Cuz whenever I open my heart, my soul, or my mouth
A touch of God reigns out
-Kanye West, Never Let Me Down

The Golden Arches

I was walking down Avenue Victor Hugo to take care of a lil business.  I passed a silver-haired homeless man sitting on the boulevard.  I didn't have any change to spare, so I touched my heart and smiled.  He touched his heart and smiled back.

I stopped by the postale to handle business but it was closed.  As is everything in August in Paris.

On my walk back, I passed a McDonalds.  I stopped in Les Mickey Ds for the euro menu. It didn't quite compute (Non, je ne veux pas un Big Mac, je veux deux hamburgers).  I grabbed two burgers and headed out.

I passed the fellow back on Ave Victor Hugo. I pulled the hamburgers out of the bag, and he pulled over a newspaper for me to sit on. Such is appreciated hospitality.

We sat eating our hamburgers in the afternoon shade.  His name was Paul too.  I have a soft spot for Pauls, we are good peeps.  He showed me his semi-toothless grin and explained that it was difficult to eat; this hamburger was perfect.  We tossed breadcrumbs to the pigeons; passers-bye offered us bon appétit.

We finished our burgers, and he bade me well with a touch to his heart.


I was just handed a strange utensil to eat snails. It looks more like an eyeball remover. A silver plate of six escargot cooked in garlic and butter just arrived. Bon Appétit!

oooh, that is yummy..

 And I just sent a snail shell flying. It is kind-of a culinary whack-a-mole.

Just a slow Saturday at my favorite Parisian cafe, Les Ondes (The Waves, but far more profound in French).  A place unlike Cheers where they don't know my name, but they greet me warmly all the same with a handshake.  A proper Parisian cafe with all the accouterments of a proper Parisian life: good espresso; cheap wine; good snails. A place that the porteños would say had buena onda.

A Trip Across Pont Bir Hakeim