Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!

The tree is up, the lights are on, the world is quiet, we have watched "Scrooge." I am at home, and Christmas is upon us all.

Merry Christmas, everybody - I wish you all peace.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Hey, I'm Coming Back For A Bit

So I'm writing this from a BAR - must keep it short or Uncool Rays will cook my soul.

I'm back in the Cedarburg-Grafton Metro Area from the 22nd until the 30th or so. Please keep in mind that I want a big party with music and people I can relate to sometime during this timeframe, therefore I do propose to all readers of this Blog:

Thursday, December 23rd
Circle B

A night of pool playing and generally being too big for our collective britches shall ensue. Come visit!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Meredith Trip - Paris Impressions

Paris was awesome! Dude, I was just kind of walking around - walking around PARIS! The feeling I get now and then when I think back to Cedarburg or Keene (that's in New Hampshire, 'k?) and realize how much of a different, bigger, more threatening deal Chicago was when I first moved there comes back to me. Except that instead of thinking that Chicago is in a wholly different class than those tiny cities of my origin because of its millions of people, transit systems, large buildings, and prodigious murder rates, I think about how Paris is another step up for me from Chicago. Not only is Paris a city every bit as big as Chicago, it's more complex in that I don't know it yet and I still managed to negotiate it (and let me tell you, getting from Chateau Gontier to Paris or vice versa is nobody's exact cup of tea), plus everybody speaks French.

What I mean to say, basically, about Paris is this: it's another set of challenges, another set of unknowns to explore and figure out, and it's still one of those cities that ranks among the Biggest Ever, Thank You. I didn't really see too much of the actual city, and just about 0% of the major landmarks. I did, however, get a hotel room, use the bus, RER (subway, where you must remember to KEEP YOUR TICKET because you need it to exit the station), and train a grand vitesse (Really Fast Train) to get around, and I did it all in French. None of this was all that hard, but what it means to me is that I can do all of this. I can hack my way through a foreign country using their language and getting on the good sides of their waiters. I can negotiate complicated scheduling problems and manage not to seem too much like a tourist. This builds confidence, and I have an appetite for a bunch more of it.

Also, Charles de Gaulle - Roissy airport is large and tortured. The ride between Terminal 1 and 2 is about 10 minutes by bus. Yuck.

Saturday, December 11, 2004


Why France is Rules:
The ATMs give your card back and wait until you take it before they give you the money.

Why France is Sucks:
It is impossible to use that money to buy toilet paper anywhere in the country if it happens to be Sunday.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Picture of the (erm) Day: The Tropics!

Welcome to Tropical France, featuring both palm trees and lens flare!

This was taken in the courtyard of the building across the street from me. It probably used to be a nunnery (sorry, I'm tired of the word convent, plus nunnery is so much more... vivid).

I was waiting for an exhibition on Greek and Etruscan pottery to open (yeah, I live it up here, you know), and realized that I had just been transplanted to Tahiti or something. It looks warm, right? It was actually about 40 degrees outside. Which should teach you all one thing: PICTURES LIE! Especially MY PICTURES!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Picture of the (erm) Day: Creepy Gates

The Creepy Gates - what terror lurks behind them?!

Probably a 1987 Citroen.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Picture of the (erm) Day: Magical Shirt

So Meredith brought me a gift when she visited - a shirt that turns me into a hideous monster!

P.S. No I was not a hideous monster before.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Make My Phone Ring

First you dial the International Dialling Code: 011

Then you dial the Country Code: 33

Then you dial the Secret Code Number Which Maketh the Red Batphone Ring: 2 43 06 63 46

And that, my friends, is how we do that.

And since I am aware of the fact that international dialling is hardcore possibly expensive stuff, I only ask you to call and say two things to me:

1) Which of our 50 fair states should be annihilated - not just tossed from the Union in disgrace but tossed then vaporized by a medium item such as a laser cannon?

And, since it would be a total pain to redesign our flag for 49 stars ...

2) What nation, disputed territory, person, monument, geopolitical feature, philosophical movement, or major feature film should be tapped to take the vaporized state's place?

So, for example, you could call me and say "Ohio, Puerto Rico" or "Oregon, Nihilism" or whatever. Be creative. It'll only cost you a nickel and it will make my day happy and/or interesting. You don't even have to identify yourself! Such fun!

I should add that you don't even have to know me in order to participate. If you out there in internet-land want to play along, well, be my guest!

I will post responses as comments, so keep checking this space.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Chocolate Gunshot

Chocolate Gunshot is likely to be the new name of Strawberry Alarm Clock when they reform for their reunion tour sometime in the next couple of years and find that their original name has been copyrighted by a specialty timepiece concern from Osaka.

In the meantime, it is the official name of my own little ritual here in France. It is not only a fantastic demonstration of sound physics, it is also proof that I picked a very special place to live and indeed a really fun game to play with unsuspecting French people.

My kitchen has a high ceiling - maybe 11 or 12 feet. When I open the window, it overlooks an enclosed shopping area with a *really* high ceiling - panels of glass about 30 or 35 feet above ground level. What this means to me is that I can open my window, place a bar of refrigerator-chilled supermarket brand chocolate on the sill, and break it using the sill as a brace. The resulting sound ricochets off my kitchen's surfaces and out into the shopping area, where it ricochets still more - sounds like small arms fire and nobody can tell where it's coming from.

Chocolate Gunshot - just one more tiny yet worthwhile thing I would not have gotten to do had I not come to France.

Picture of the (erm) Day: My Mascot

So during a (disasterous, actually) class a couple of weeks ago, I was motivated to draw a flying fish on the whiteboard.

He is now the mascot of my classroom.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Nothing Better

There is nothing funnier than when one of your students, in an example of making up a sentence illustrating the difference between British and American English, tells the class that he has sweets in his trousers.

I don't think he meant anything by it; it was just silly.

What a wonderful job I've got.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Meredith's Entry (Entry de la Girl) - Now Annotated With Pictures!

I am happy to report that I now speak fluent french. I am also a newly minted expert on french cuisine: namely, pizza. Often confused as the creation of Italy, pizza is a culinary landmark of France, especially midwestern french countryside. I recommend getting it with another parisian classic: tirimisu. They have also recreated an excellent version of our french onion soup. Mmmmm....

Suffice it to say, I am VERY VERY happy here. And may not come back. I have never seen a more beautiful town than Chateau Gontier (Laval almost beats it, but is currently handicapped by its excess of tacky Christmas cheer: i.e. too many lights and elves and trees and snowmen etc. etc. etc.). Matthew has all the ancient beauty and magic of a town fairly untouched for the past several hundred years at his fingertips, and I think we have all been getting skimped on a number of pictures.

How can I best describe it here...the shoes are VERY expensive. The roads are narrow and winding and in many cases cobblestoned. The houses are tilting and bulging and would never pass American inspection. Everyone is quite kind, and there are many cats that seem to like us and wish we would take them home. We have spent much time walking for hours and hours, along the Mayenne River or in search of baby goats. Did I mention I'm happy?

And France seems to be good for Matthew's soul. Either that or I am. Actually, it's probably me.

Matthew's teenagers are VERY VERY giggly. I am reminded that at some time I was probably giggly too. And french teenagers don't actually speak english with any superiority. I was much put at ease to find out that they speak english with a similar clutziness to which I spoke Spanglish in high school. They seem to like Mr. Porubcansky quite a bit: they have a great time in his class and only slightly abuse his kindness.

Now I have a brief ode to Matthew himself. His french is superb, and only earlier today a stranger asked him if he had lived outside of france, as she detected a bit of an accent. Needless to say, Sir Matt John has been glowing ever since. He has also done a superb job of getting to know this new city, and has been an impeccable escort, leading me everywhere, knowing all the sights, and of course, translating. He has risked life and limb each morning to hunt us fresh bison, bread, and butter for a classic french breakfast. Also, he is the best boyfriend ever.

That's all for now, because there are too many magical moments to mention, I'm sleepy, and we still have another 100 pages to go on the Da Vinci Code.

love to all!

Bonus Pictures!
Girl in Laval: 1 2
Girl in High Fashion: 1 2
Girl near Mansion: 1
Girl being French: 1


I am wrung through the blender and back by these past few days, which I'm sure is nothing compared to what it did to Meredith, who had five days to go from CST to FFT (Fucking French Time) and back.

So here I am, listening to the Smiths, perusing some of our pictures from the vacation, and trying to reflect. I got her from the airport Thursday, and it's been what feels like two really wonderful days since then.

I feel alone already, and I miss Meredith and I miss my family and I miss my friends. This trip of hers has reminded me viscerally of my network of people back at home. I am on my way back for Christmas.

I really liked taking care of Meredith while she was here. I cooked breakfast a bunch, which was really exciting. I also was pleased to have people for her to meet, a place carved out to show her, and the ability to let her enjoy her time here without worrying at all about trains or hotels or bus schedules or paying for anything.

I liked walking with her past the river. I liked sneaking out to the grocery store while she was still sleeping so she could have bread and tea at breakfast. I liked showing her the places I might have lived and the place I ended up taking. I liked planning a trip to Nantes but having too much to do here at home. I liked picking her up and carrying her around. Overall, the trip was wonderful. Since it's been bedtime for quite a while now, I will save specific impressions for future posts. Sorry to cut y'all off now, but I'm just about done writing!

Originally posted 11:05 PM November 30

Picture of the Day: Culture Shock In Writing

At the airport: it now seems that the police are able to detonate any bit of luggage at any moment. You gotta be careful!

A poster from the wall in my classroom. Goodbye the freedom, indeed! I have no rollerblades here.

Quiz Results

1) What is my favorite bit of menacing cartoon-iconography from the musical world? Hint: it/she/he has appeared in this blog.

Answer: Radiohead Bear, 1 point

2) What is my House Name from Sabotage (the red house, you know, in Madison)?

Answer: The Gondolier of Atrocities, 1 point

3) Have I ever written a letter to Jack T. Chick?

Answer: Yes, 1 point

4) True or False: I have offered up my cousin David as a husband to a 17-year-old French girl.

Answer: Yes, 1 point

5) Do I like Ragstock?

Score 0 for "yes", 1 for "no", 2 for "FUCKYOU"

6) How many times has my mother threatened to disown me?

1 point for any answer greater than one, but 9,370 for the correct answer, which is the total number of days I have been alive, margin of error 15.

Bonus Question 1) Fill in the blank: Twenty dollars can buy many ________!

Answer: peanuts, 1 point

Bonus Question 2) Which actress is my only weak spot, despite the fact that she has yellow hair and cannot act (at all)?

Answer: Heather Graham, 1 point

So the winner is MY MOTHER, with a final score of 9,375. She was the only person who actually bothered to answer my cunningly conceived quiz. 1 pound bag of Starburst for you, Mom! Everyone else, you make me cry!

Rabbit, Rabbit

Hey, it's the first of the month. My 4th grade teacher, Miss Corriveau, always urged us to say 'rabbit, rabbit'. Where are you now, Miss Corriveau? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you!