pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out

10 March 2018

In nomine Matris

London seething
London, United Kingdom
1 January 2018

Yesterday, I was hit by a car. I don't mean my car was hit by a car. I was hit by a car while I was walking down the street, crossing a driveway. I had the right of way. She was looking the wrong direction. I couldn't see that she was looking the wrong direction because she had the front windows illegally dark-tinted.

So I was hit by a white BMW (of course). SUV (of course).

I am okay. It could have been much worse. Just a bruised arm where the front of the car made contact with me. Fortunately, she stopped pretty quickly when she collided with me (that I shrieked probably helped).

She was contrite. There were witnesses. I have her plate number.

The spouse wanted me to go to the hospital but I declined. I could probably blame any number of aches and pains on this, but the truth is that I came away shaken with a slightly black and blue arm.

And people wonder why I'm so desirous of leaving California.


Speaking of which (not being hit by a car, but being desirous of leaving California), wandering Europe mostly on my own for almost three weeks was transformative. I can't stop thinking about it. About my trip to City Pharma and the Paris Sephora. The cemeteries. The trains. The odd corners. Neal's Yard and buying enough cheese to feed me for a week (it did). Monoprix's sushi. Boots and Superdrug.

Sir Gentleman Driver.

Jambon-beurre. You bet that I can say that in French. You bet that I figured out how to make a suitable simulacrum at home.

Standing in Sainsbury's trying to think of all the ingredients that I can never find here. Failing because I hadn't thought to make a list.

Planning to take an entire empty suitcase next time.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6. Title coined by the son.
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01 March 2018

Two months on

Admiralty Arch
London, United Kingdom
1 January 2018

It's only been 2 months. It feels like a lifetime. It feels like yesterday.

It feels like time to go.


Right now, I'm project-based, and I turned down the last project based on distance. But I got a notice the other night that they're looking to fill overseas openings. It's not permanent, and it's not London. Also not Paris. And I snorted when I read it.

And then I started thinking.

Why. The. Hell. Not?

Why, indeed.

'Cause all I need is a passport. And a will.

Got both.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6. Because why the hell not?!
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18 February 2018

Down twisting streets and alleys

Rue Mazarine
Paris, France
13 January 2018

Both times I've been to Paris, I've stayed in smaller, family-owned hotels. First time was in the Opera district; this time I was stayed on the Left Bank near the Pont Neuf. The advantage to staying in these places is that the staff gets to know you pretty quickly. The young man on the desk during the day this trip also played the part of concierge, and we developed a rapport through our many sing-song "bonjours!" and "bonsoirs!" and "au 'voirs!" He sniffed at my French (but she persisted) though he insisted that I practice. I pointed out that I walked a lot (up to 10 miles a day, in the rain, in the wind, etc.) and he told me that I needed to walk Paris and get lost as much as possible (ha! Mischief managed). And when I took the bus to Père Lachaise (after he told me not to walk there. Too far in his opinion), his eyebrows hit his hairline and he pronounced me a "real Parisienne." It may have been a compliment. It may not have been.

My first night in Paris this trip, I needed to go out and find dinner. The hotel had claimed to have room service, but it turned out they didn't, which is the downside of small, family-owned hotels. Room service is the best thing going when one is tired, disoriented and disinclined to speak French. And since I'd skipped lunch, I really needed dinner.

(I developed a really bad habit of not eating on this trip. I'd have a good breakfast, charge around for hours and then be too tired to deal with another meal. I had a packet of digestives I'd picked up in Sainsbury's because the daughter liked them, and there were many evenings that dinner consisted of a couple of biscuits and a cup of decaf.)

Anyway, Yelp and I had a tête-à-tête and I found a grab-and-go sort of place near the Louvre that I'd also utilized in London. I had the grace to be mildly embarrassed that I was going to a fast-ish food place in the City of Light, but damn. I was not prepared that night for the quintessential Paris waiter.

(In all fairness, this trip I had almost universally polite service. The exception was a museum café, and I think the woman was just annoyed that I would not back down and kept speaking French to her despite her best efforts to force me not to. If I learned anything this trip, it was to just keep speaking French no matter what. It apparently annoys the living hell out of the good folk of Paris. But I came to the conclusion that there was no reason for me to listen to them butchering English when I could do a perfectly adequate hatchet job on French.)

It was starting to get dark as I set out--it gets dark early in winter, and the overall overcast meant it got darker even earlier--but I knew I could cover a half mile pretty quickly. I am blessed with a reasonably good sense of direction, and I remembered the general geography of the area from five years earlier. So off I went.

On the Pont Neuf, a man was roasting chestnuts in a shopping cart. I looked with curiosity, but didn't stop. I got across the bridge, located Rue de Rivoli, walked on and somehow missed my turn. Looked surreptitiously but with exasperation at the map on my phone, made a right and kept walking.

And then the narrow streets and dark alleys took over.

Paris is not on a grid. Paris is on God Knows What. One minute you're on Rue de Seine, the next you have mysteriously transitioned to Rue Mazarine. Swings and roundabouts. You Are Not Here.

I am not kidding.

So by now, it was full dark, and I was in a fairly deserted narrow not-quite alley. Fortunately there were some people about, but I was starting to feel less comfortable with my surroundings. I had a fair idea of the direction I was heading--mostly north--but had lost track of where I was going. I found a roundabout that was well lighted and where I could safely stop and give a long hard look at my phone to figure out where in heaven's name I'd ended up.

As it turned out, I'd got almost as far as the hotel we'd stayed in our previous trip. Once I determined that, I was able to get reoriented and back on track. Eventually, I made my way to my destination, grabbed a cold sandwich and a bottle of water. The nice young man at the register asked me something that in my already mildly hysterical state I couldn't begin to understand. I got the gist, though and could only manage to squeak "Take away!" to which he said, deeply pleased, "English!" I thought he meant the language, but it turned out he thought I was a Brit. I counted out the necessary euros for the transaction and made use of the GO! portion of the grab and go concept.

First night out, and I'd already gotten lost in the streets of Paris. Which, in some ways, is the point of travel.

On the Pont Neuf, the chestnut seller had abandoned his shopping cart for the night. I'd see him or someone like him many more times in the coming days. And I'd make wrong turns and end up in Rue de Nevers. Or I'd get claustrophobic with the people and the soldiers on the Champs-Élysées and flee down Rue Marbeuf. Or I'd just head in the general direction of God Knows What.

The point of the journey...

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6. I am, in truth, looking forward to going back to Paris. But one of the oddest oddities this trip was that people were constantly mistaking me for a nationality I am not. And in the UK, telling me I had an unrecognizable accent, which was deeply perplexing.
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14 February 2018

May kick or bite

Horse Guards
London, United Kingdom
5 January 2018

I was testing the waters--a lot of testing, a lot of water--on this trip. And in all my travel, I've never been so anxious to get right back on a plane and head back across the pond.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.
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01 February 2018


Île de la Cité
Paris, France
12 January 2018

I have many words to write. But at the moment, I am too tired to write them well.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.
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29 January 2018

Paris sunrise (with actual sun)

Paris, France
14 January 2018

The flooding on the Seine is no joke and it rained like hell while we there. This drone footage was startling ("We were walking there last week," the daughter and I marveled.) But there was some sun, too.

You're actually not going to catch me complaining about the rain or the cold we experienced while in Europe, largely because it's 90F outside here at the moment. There were a couple of times I was soaked through (survived) and one time I did start to worry a bit about frostbite (survived though I was shivery for awhile).

I liked having some winter.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.
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23 January 2018

All the things we said

Fort York National Historic Site
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
20 January 2018
The daughter and I left North America in 2017, returning in 2018. The transition took place at about 35,000 feet, somewhere near Baltimore.
She'd been accepted to take a travel course during interterm and asked if I wanted to fly over to Europe with her. What better way to give my new passport a workout than to get its first stamp at Heathrow on January 1? It felt nicely auspicious.
She made her plans; I made mine. We figured out where things we'd both like to do dovetailed. And off we went on December 31.
There were great moments, and not so wonderful times. Back at home, one of the daughter's high school classmates disappeared after New Year's Day and was subsequently found to have been murdered. Although she learned of the news as it broke, the story spread far and wide; even the BBC picked it up. The day his body was found, she got in touch with me, and we wrestled with the horror of it all. That same day, I'd gotten an email that a woman I'd known from the kids' primary school, the mother of one of the son's classmates, had died over the weekend. Bizarrely, I'd gotten what appeared to be a spam email from her the day before her passing. It was a lot to digest.
But there were also museums and the theater. Historic cemeteries, the Chunnel, one hell of a lot of rain and Christmas markets. Improbable tacos and poor French. The flooding Seine and a sense of siege. Diamond-shining moments and times of despair.

We missed the Nutella riots, however.


Over the course of 3 weeks, I took some 750 photos. That was one of the biggest sticking points as I packed: cameras.

Ultimately, it was the weather that decided me. For most of the time we'd be gone, it was supposed to rain. So the lighting would be terrible. I left the big cameras at home. At the end of the day, it was a decision I did not regret. Packing light was a necessity and traveling light an even greater one. There were days I walked 10 miles, and given the difficulty of just walking, carrying a lot of gear just wasn't in the cards.

So I went light. It was alright.

In this lifetime LAX from the Virgin Atlantic lounge. The beginning of the adventure. Of course, getting to LAX is an adventure in itself.

On New Year's Day We arrived at Heathrow around 11 am, got through passport control (and acquired that January 1 stamp) and customs, and checked into the hotel. We blearily consumed lunch (fish and chips for the daughter, steak and ale pie for me), and I did what I always do: The Post Transatlantic Death March! The daughter balked loudly, as she always does, and we headed out in the general direction of Trafalgar Square, where we ran headlong into a parade. Who knew? Certainly not us. Anyway, we traveled onward and went to the gates of Buckingham Palace. We only walked 3.5 miles that day, got back to the hotel and fell into bed.

Christmas market Christmas markets are a thing in Europe. I've never seen one in the U.S., which doesn't mean they don't exist. Anyway, I knew there was one along the Thames, and cheerfully dragged the daughter out to see it. We nibbled on churros (yes, really) and looked at the lights and walked along the river.

When in Wales... The daughter, being her mother's daughter, had a bee in her bonnet to go to Cardiff. Her class didn't actually convene until late on the 4th, so we had several days to romp about on our own. And being in the business of making dreams come true, I figured out how to get to Cardiff. Where we found Welsh tacos for lunch. Which was weird as hell, but they tasted good even if not particularly taco-y. And then we walked miles in Cardiff, saw what the daughter wanted to see, and caught our train back to London. While engaged in this, the daughter paid me the ultimate compliment. "One thing you've taught me," she said, "is that nothing is impossible." My work here is done.

Soho needless to say The last time I was in London, I was there for a very short period of time and had young kids, so wandering around was pretty much contraindicated. This time, it was mostly me on my own, and the daughter when she happened back around into my orbit (generally when she wanted dinner and wanted me to pay for it). So I just grabbed maps and started out to see places that had figured in my readings and imagination. Carnaby Street was one of the those legendary places I heard about so much as a kid, so I made the trip. Same was true of Lincoln's Inns Fields. It both did and did not matter that they weren't the places of fiction and legend but places of the 21st century. I was at least able to put places to names. Title from an Al Stewart song.

The cat and George Eliot Because I am...weird, I guess...I like old cemeteries. They are filled with stories, often of heartache but mostly of love and sometimes of hilarity. There is interesting history, too. The daughter had a day off, so we ventured out to Highgate Cemetery. There are two sides to the place--one side you are guided, the other self-guided--and we visited both. It was freezing cold, beautiful and filled with interesting people: Douglas Adams, Elgar, Marx, George Eliot, Faraday and so forth. We saw two cats, one of whom was wholly uninterested in us, and the other who perched on graves and blinked lovingly at me as I showered it with compliments. It made me miss Milton in the most terrible fashion.

35-feels-like-29 That was the temperature (Farenheit) when we did the night tour of the Tower of London. You notice I'm not carping too much about the temperature. I got drenched more than once, and was very cold and loved every moment.

In a strange place The British Museum and these relics from the Mausoleum of Halikarnossos were certainly different, but it was my head space to which I was referring here. It was a day of death, wholly shocking and unpleasant.

From Tower Bridge This is about the devil you know. Nowhere is safe, and I tend to be on alert when in certain public places here at home, but that sense is certainly heightened abroad. I walked across a lot of bridges in the UK and Paris both. I decided that if I could traverse the Golden Gate, I could certainly cross the Thames and Seine several dozen times.

Carry a laser For the '80s kids who remember the song "Kyrie Eleison." 'Nough said. Yes, that's the Eiffel Tower from the Pont Neuf.

Cemeteries of Paris So, it was actually funny. Our Highgate guide said that yes, Père Lachaise is a must see (but that Highgate was nicer). The other reason that I had to go to Père Lachaise is because the spouse, who couldn't go on the trip, is a big fan of The Doors, so I made the Jim Morrison pilgrimage on his behalf. Père Lachaise is a lovely cemetery but there is a very different feel to it compared with Highgate. And fewer cats.

Generation Selfie Musée d'Orsay. I spent hours there among the Degas, the Monets, the Van Goghs and all the decorative arts. I also ordered my entire freaking lunch in the café in French. No, my French has not improved much since the last time I was in Paris. But I got the iced tea (yes, I know. Who orders iced tea in the middle of winter?) and asparagus risotto that I ordered.

The Bast collection (Louvre) Apparently, I collect photos of Bast statues in museums. I now have them from the Louvre, the British Museum and the Met. And yes, I saw the Mona Lisa. Rembrandts, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, Rubens, etc. There is an entire post in my museum going, and the fact that I am not, as such, a fan of Art. And that I felt my art professors standing behind me in the museums. But I did find myself thinking hard on the nature of Art and who makes the call on what is Art. Most people (looking at you, long deceased art history prof) would not appreciate my conclusions.

Rembrandt's use of light This was a well-worn joke between myself and a long-ago roommate. The joke doesn't bear repeating, but Rembrandt's use of light remains remarkable. And yeah, no Rembrandt in sight. Just I.M. Pei's wildly reviled (when it was built) pyramid at the Louvre. Now, of course, it's just part of the scenery.

Wherein the kid gets me to the top of the CN tower I'm sure I've mentioned that I can NOT deal with heights. They don't bother the daughter, who has gleefully dragged me to the top of the Empire State Building too. She really wanted to go up (147 freaking stories), and I just pretended that none of it was real. For better or worse, it was really foggy. One of the interesting things I learned is that I've been to five of the seven places CN tower listed as wonders of the modern world.

A lot of really weird things happened on this trip, but what may have been the weirdest is that I was approached not once, not twice, but THREE times in about 40 minutes by French people asking me for directions in French. They were shocked when I confessed (once in Spanish because that happened to be the language that came out of my mouth) that I wasn't from Paris. I couldn't decide if I needed to be appalled or flattered. I continue to tend toward appalled.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.
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