Saturday, December 31, 2011

Day 5 ... Bonne année!

To our friends and family: May 2012 bring you health, joy, peace and a whole lotta money.


(That's HAPPY NEW YEAR in French ... I think)

Day 4 ... People Watching In Paris

More rain. So today we decided to just wander and watch people.

Our waiter at lunch was the perfect start. When we first got there, he motioned us to a table the size of a postage stamp squeezed between two other postage stamps with normal sized people. There was another table on the other side of the restaurant that was a tiny bit bigger.

"Here." He insisted.

"Can we sit there?" We asked.


"That one's a little bit bigger..."


"I guess we will sit here," I said.

He was actually a friendly enough guy (for a Parisian). He said Merci once. I liked his sailor duds. I asked him if he was a fan of The Village People. He wasn't amused ... must have been my accent.

I took this picture of the cafe and this girl (I call The Poser) decided to get in the picture. She was sitting forward when I aimed and then leaned back as soon as I snapped it.

She's not a Parisian. She's a new version of a Valley girl. 

If you listen closely, you can't tell what part of the country she's from because the last words in her sentences are stretched out to fill space and time. Always followed by ... "you know?"

"Did you really think I wanted that bread ... I mean realllllllyyyyyy. You know?"

"I was soooo sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepy. You know?"

I ran into one of the Muppets on the way out. I think it was Grover or Kermit or Elmo. Not sure ... looked alot like Debbie, but I know she wouldn't be caught dead in a coat like that unless it was really raining hard. 

She tripped a few times on the way back and muttered something about not being able to see. By the way, the water apparently comes inside as well as out on this jacket. Is that what they mean by reversible? 

Here's one for you. Street vendors in Paris in and around the Eiffel Tower all sell the same stuff. 

They travel in packs.

Ten or more come at you individually within a few feet of each other holding little Eiffel Towers that blink and change colors. When you turn down one of them ... the next one appears with an identical spiel. 

I told the 354th guy no because ... "I like what the other guy is selling better."

He called him over to try to close the deal.

"Is he forrrr reaaaaalllllllll? You know?"

There are not many homeless people ... at least we didn't see many.

But this guy took the prize. Our homeless people could learn a lesson from France. 

Check it out. He lives under a bridge ... but he carries a cell phone!  

Friday, December 30, 2011

Day 3 ... We Louvre'd It

We walked for 10 straight hours. (It rained for the last three)

Our Target: The Louvre

Our Mission: To meet our Undercover Guide ... Jessica ... who will meet us at the Arc du Carrousel at precisely 2:30PM to take us behind the scenes at The Louvre for a look at the "Hidden Masterpieces".

10:00 AM: We start at our hotel eating one of our four free breakfasts. Well ... I say free ... they are actually included in the "special" price of the room. I think it's like 3 million francs or about $10.59. Kidding ... more like $3 million and 10 francs. (What do I know? They use euros anyway. The exchange rate is better for Americans this week ... I think we get an additional $.30 on the dollar so Debbie felt like a diamond encrusted Rolex watch for only $15,000 was a good deal today. She only looked at it, I think.)

11:00AM: We begin our journey walking toward the Opera House (a place that Debbie heard was a must see). Along the way, we check out the architectural work on the buildings. Some were stately, like the front of our hotel, The Intercontinental ... Others had naked people dancing and balancing in odd places over the doorways or old guys with ugly noses.

12:00PM: We reached the Opera House area and noticed a very strange thing.

Every other person we pass is smoking. I mean men, women, children (yes ... I swear there were a few twelve year olds sucking on a couple of cigarettes).

We had "snacks" along the way in the Brasseries. (okay, here's an idea ... so what about opening a Hooters and call it a Hooters "Brassiere"?)

Little known fact: Tipping is ALWAYS part of the bill. Each month, the owners split the service tax among the servers. So ... additional tipping is always  appreciated but not expected.

By the way ... motorbikes are everywhere. To be a citizen of Paris, I imagine you must be able to ride a motorbike on the street, the sidewalk, hit pedestrians and be able to stop in the middle of crosswalks ... forcing people to walk around you.  

We stopped in numerous Parisian boutiques (that's French for reeeeallllly expensive stuff that passes for clothing you spray on your body or jewelry that sits in display cases right on the street with price tags from $100,000 and up).

Sales tax in Paris ... 20%.

Stick with American products (the Parisians do!)

2:18PM: We arrive at the Louvre glass pyramid entrance in plenty of time to look for the meeting place that we will join up with our tour guide Jessica.

I make good use of the time ... taking important pictures of statues and buildings.

I also pretend to be Gulliver and squeeeeeze one of the horses on a pedestal.

Debbie pretends that she is by herself and quickly reads email messages on her phone. I know she must be extremely embarrassed because the last thing she wants to do is use international roaming and pay an additional .50 a minute. I have heard her international roaming lecture repeatedly over the last few days.

2:30PM: Debbie buys a crepe at the nearby crepe stand as I spot and approach our meeting spot ...

... The Arc du Carrousel!

Jessica is waiting for us (I recognize her from her tour photo that was given to us at the hotel desk).

Ahhh ... and she is American ... a student from Michigan living in Paris and working on her thesis. I actually can understand her!

She tells us the history of The Louvre and some of the deep dark secrets. Now, you probably want me to tell you the secrets ... don't you?

Well I cannot.

We signed a confidentiality agreement prohibiting the deep dark secrets from ever leaving the confines of the Louvre ... you have to take the tour yourself ...

That's not true ... actually, the real truth is I can't remember most of the details.

But ... Jessica was truly a magnificent guide. The behind the scenes look at Rubens, Rembrandt and the old guys that did all the Crucifixion paintings were very interesting.

Speaking of the Crucifixion paintings ... one of them I remember well.

It was one of the early ones in the 1300s ... actually it was done with dry ink on silk. The detail was incredible.

The "painting" depicted the events of Jesus's arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, arrived with a “multitude” of soldiers, high priests, Pharisees, and servants to arrest Jesus. Judas identified Him by the prearranged signal of a kiss which he gave to Jesus. Trying to protect Jesus, Peter took a sword and attacked a man named Malthus, the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Jesus rebuked Peter and miraculously healed the man’s ear.

"You'll notice that the soldiers are depicted as very mean and very ugly." Jessica reported.

"Yeah ... why so mean and ugly?" I asked.

"They were Jews and unfortunately ... not well liked in those days."

Debbie patted me on the back and a bolt of lightning and crack of thunder sounded outside. 

After that ... it rained for 40 days and 40 nights.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day 2 ... City of Light?

We realized something today. Paris is dark when you wake up at 8 AM and it gets dark when it's about 3 in the afternoon. The city has light for about 5 or 6 hours a day.

It should be called the City of Dark.

But light or dark ... this place is really cool (actually it's pretty "cold" for a cool place). Magnifique! I mean it ... The food rocks and the people are attractive and skinny (which by the way kinda ticks me off since they eat a lot of bread and butter and pastries and drink all day long). Must be either good genes or they smoke themselves skinny.

So ... Let's get back to a basic question: How the heck did Paris get the name City of Light???

Answer: Paris was nicknamed the "City of Light" (not City of Lights as some people think it's called) originally because it was a vast center of education and ideas during the Age of Enlightenment. 

In 1828, Paris began lighting the Champs-Elysées with gas lamps. It was the first city in Europe to do so, and so earned the nickname "La Ville-Lumière" or The City of Light.

God ... I love Google!

Well ... no more gas (except in the water bottles). It's all electric ... and what a sight.

 From the blue lights in the park....

... to the lights on the museums ....

.... and the hotels ....

... and up and down the Champs-Elysées ...

... and the Arc de Triomphe ...


Okay ... I have to change the subject  ... we just stopped at a great Brasserie and got the dessert to die for ... take a look at the Profiteroles au chocolat. 

I gotta tell ya ... if I lived here there is no way I could fit in my FAT pants. I would need FATTER pants ... How do they do it? Why isn't Paris fat???

Hold on ....


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Day 1 ... Paris at Night

We met the Van Loveren's for dinner tonight.

Been trying to get together with them for over a year ... it took a trip to Paris to make dinner plans. Harry was my neurosurgeon (set up my Cyberknife treatments and told me recently on my annual visit:  "Just as I suspected ... you have nothing up there.") and Jeffrie (his wife) works with Debbie in real estate.

The restaurant was called Au Petite Sud Ouest. It sits right behind the Eiffel Tower and serves nothing but duck and goose.

I told the owner that she should change the name to "Duck, duck, goose."

She looked at me as if I was from a different planet.

Harry hit a home run with her when he asked for tobasco sauce for his foie gras and his duck cassoulet. "No Monsieur! No tobasco ... no ketchup and no mayonnaise either!"

By the way ... foie gras is not the celebration where you watch parades and throw beads to women who raise up their blouses. It's actually duck's liver. People pay big bucks for just a teaspoon. Fancy names make stuff that you would never dream of eating sound fantastic ... like mountain oysters (Look that one up).

We all had duck, duck, duck, duck. And washed it down with wine, wine wine wine .... and it was good, good, good, good.

Highly recommended if you come to Paris.

The owners were fantastic and check this out ... every table has its own toaster.

When the bread is served for your foie gras, you toast them at the table and cut ... NOT SPREAD ... the liver. Why you don't spread ... I'm not sure but who am I to ask such a foolish question?

Anything that costs $200 a spoonful should be worshipped first.      

After dinner we walked by the Eiffel Tower. It really is beautiful. There were blinking lights up and down the expanse of the tower ... which created a magnificent show.

I thought about it later. Leave it to the French. They had to copy the original one ... you know, the one in Las Vegas, huh?

Oooo La La

So we decide at the last minute to fly stand-by to Paris.

Those who know us are not surprised. Those who don't ... think we are idiots. Personally, I side with the latter group. But, undaunted, we continue to brave the Delta Airways ... hoping against hope to get space available and not spend days waiting at the airport.

This time it worked! Praise be to you-know-who!!!

We actually flew to Paris in BUSINESS CLASS.

Yes ... that's right ... Business Class ... the Class of Class. Okay ... so I'm obnoxious about it. The years of having others look at us in disdain for being "Non-Revs" ... the cheap, low life, airline employees that get to fly for free ... finally paid off.

Here I am sitting comfortably in my Biz Class seat. 

I checked all the toys that were close at hand. Thought that this was an earphone but it turned out to be a reading light.

These were the real earphones. They live next to the goody bag filled with special treasures like sleep mask, toothpaste, toothbrush, kleenex and some smelly socks.

Before we take off, we are handed champagne to toast each other.

 Then the safety film comes on to our individual armrest television sets. (You know the one that still tells you you can't smoke and how to buckle a seat belt for all the people that have been encased in glaciers for the past century.)

Dinner choices are incredible: tenderloin tips, pasta marinara, halibut ... real food with real china and real silverware.

After the meal, we slept, watched 3 movies in 7 and a half hours and finally landed ... then we met the cab drivers!!!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Family Time

The kids are home.

Funny ... the "kids" are 25, 28 and 33. But I still call them kids.

On Thursday, we had a day out together. Beautiful day ... Alissa and Nikki and I walked downtown. Nikki took about 328 pictures of everything from clouds to light poles. It was like she had never been to Florida before ... you'd never know she grew up here.

Actually ... they were just beautiful.

Here are a few:

We stopped along the way to get a bite to eat ... 

A couple of omelets later ... we were on our way to the movies. In the lobby, there were big cut outs of the Chipmunks.

Alissa asked Nikki the question first ... "Which chipmunk did you relate to the most?"

Nikki ... "What ... Alissa? You didn't really ask me that did you?""

Alissa (giggling) ... "I wanted to be Alvin ... but somehow I always came back to Simon."

Nikki ... "I was always about the size of Theodore"

Okay ... so I had to pose with Alvin ... just ... because.

Last night, Debbie cooked a beautiful meal.

Sammy joined us and we were ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY! (We saw this game at CVS and had to shoot it.) Our happy family play set would look a little different ... ESPECIALLY if we played a game.

My Competitive Happy Family would be the name of our game ... and fortunately ... we played no games last night.

Speaking of Sammy ... gotta share one gem from last night:

Sammy .... "Joel, you ever watch Rhonda Shear on TV?"
Me ... "She's on Home Shopping. Remember I told you she lived here now."
Sammy ... "Grew up in New Orleans ... you know?"
Me ... "I know. We were in high school together ... do you watch her?"
Sammy ... "Every week. She sells these great bras .... The Ahh Bra."

(The kids are dying laughing at this point)

Sammy ... "What's so funny ... they really are great."
Josh ... "Grampy ... You watch her on Home Shopping every week?"
Sammy .... "Naw ... I see her commercial after I watch my TV show."
Alissa ... "Which show is that?"
Sammy ... "Sex and the City"

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat!

My good friend Marsha sent me a very cool way to differentiate Christmas and Chanukah. Here are the TOP TEN:

1. Christmas is one day ... the same every year. Chanukah is eight craaaazzzzy days and falls on the evening of the 24th of Kislev (whenever that is). Jews never know until a non-Jewish friend asks them when Chanukah starts (forcing us to look at a calendar so we don't look like complete idiots). There are Jewish calendars that Jews get in the mail ... if you plant a tree in Israel or give to the World Jewish Congress.

2. Christmas is a major holiday. Chanukah is a minor holiday with the same theme as most Jewish holidays "They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat".

3. Christians give wonderful presents like jewelry, stereos, perfume ... Jews get underwear and socks.

4. There is only one way to spell Christmas. (Xmas doesn't count). No one has decided on Chanukah, Chanukkah, Chanukka, Hanukah, Hanukkah, Honker .... whatever.

5. Christmas carols are beautiful ... Silent night, Come All Ye Faithful ... Chanukah songs are about dreidels made of clay, having a party or dancing the Hora. Of course ... there is secret pleasure in knowing that many of the beautiful carols were written by MOTs (members of the tribe) and sung by Barbara Streisand or Neil Diamond.

6. Christmas smells are wonderful ... cookies and cakes baking. Chanukah smells like oil and potatoes and onions.

7. Christian parents deliver gifts to their children on Christmas morning. Jews have no qualms about skipping one or more nights.

8. Christmas is a time of great pressure for husbands and boyfriends ... their partrners expect special gifts. Nobody expects a diamond ring for Chanukah.

9. The Christmas story has players with easy to pronounce names like Mary and Joseph and Jesus. The players in the Chanukah story are Antiochus, Judah Maccabee, and Matta whatever. No one can spell it or pronounce it. On the plus side we can make all kinds of stuff up and our friends believe we are well versed in history.

10. Many Christians believe in the virgin birth. Jews would say ... "Hey Joey, your woman is pregnant and you didn't sleep with her? Now you're gonna say it was The Almighty's fault? Here's the number of my shrink."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sammy's Waffles

I called Sammy this morning at about 9:30 ...

"Who's this?"
"It's me ... Joel ... your son."
"Yes, Joel."
"Do you want to go out to lunch today?"
"I just ate lunch."
"Wait a minute ... what time is it?"
"Oh ... I just ate breakfast. You can take me to lunch."
"I can? Thanks ... I'll be there at 12."

He was patiently waiting in the lobby when I drove up. His walker was stuffed with his treasures ... magazines, pieces of random papers, probably a week old bagel.

"Ready?" I asked.
"Where are we going to eat?"
"Wherever you want."
"I read about a place in Largo called Big Jim's. They said that they have the best philly cheese steaks in the world. Ever hear about it?"
"No. Is that where you want to go?'
"I don't really have an appetite."
"Would you rather not go out to eat?"
"I want a waffle."
"Okay ..."

We pulled into Waffle House. He studied the menu.

"Joel ... they have Belgian Waffles here?"
"Um ... don't think so. Here are the waffles."  I pointed to the picture as the waitress stepped up.

Waitress ... "Are we ready to order?"
Sam ...."Do you have Belgian Waffles?"
Waitress ....."No. Just regular waffles."
Sam gave a disgusted sigh ... "Joel ... you said they had Belgian waffles."
Me ... "No I didn't ..."
Sam ... "Plain waffle please."

The waitress took our menus and turned to the cook.

"Dad ... we come here all the time and you always get plain waffles. Why did you ask for Belgian Waffles?"
"Those are the ones that are thick right?"
"I don't like those."
"What??? Why did you ask for them?"

"Never ate one." 

Ballad of the Big Prostate

Here’s a little country tune I wrote just yesterday to commemorate a dark day in my history. I don’t have a tune but realized you can use an...