The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Also Some Pocket Lint, a Jump Drive, and 35 Centimes

Emptying my mental pockets of mental crumpled Post-It notes before heading to NC. I have a great many things to do--it's also the tax deadline day for overseas residents, fun fun fun--so this will probably be the most incoherent and noncohesive Frogmarch post ever. Apologies in advance.


Note to self--Things to remember while in America:
  • People tip in restaurants. Waiters may become agitated if you sit at a table for three hours then leave no tip.
  • Though an accepted, even expected national pastime in France, openly leering at college girls in Chapel Hill could lead to your being arrested. Or maced.
  • Do not bisou other men. Bisou women with extreme caution (see above).
  • Do not point at the fat people.
  • When entering a store in the US, it is not necessary to find an employee to say "Bonjour" to. One is not required to do this before shopping.
  • Try not to bore people with endless, pointless anecdotes about France.
  • Read that last one again.

Note to the Cleveland Cavaliers--
Dear Cavs: You don't know me, and I don't really know you, as I haven't paid attention to your team since you had Brad Daugherty back in the late '80s. But may I be so bold as to ask a a favor--that you win even one lousy game in the NBA finals so the series won't be over by the time I'm back in the States? So I can watch even one game on American TV instead of on a 3x3 window on a computer monitor, at 9PM instead of 3AM, and in English instead of Chinese? I know it's a lot to ask, but come on! They've got a French point guard, for Pierre's sake. Try making fun of his clothes, or suggest that French cuisine is inferior (e.g., they have cheese and they have French fries, but why do they not have cheese fries?). Just a suggestion. Kthxbye.

[Edit: Thanks for nuttin'. Jerks.]


So, did anything happen on The Sopranos?


Things to do today:
  • Pick up US greenbacks at bank.
  • Peel bands off Cuban cigars so they'll make it through customs.
  • Begin composing lengthy, detailed instructions for housesitter en Francais.
  • Try to remember PINs for US bank cards.
  • Check limits on baggage weight (for return trip).
  • Write out request to get deposit back from Boog's school.
  • Download kiddee videos to iPod for flight.
  • Sign and fax POA form for accountant in US.
  • Leave out-of-office phone message and obnoxious I'm-on-vacation-and-you're-not note on office door.


I was originally against the idea of returning to the US for a vacation this year. Airfare is incredibly expensive, and besides, I'd rather spend my vacation time going someplace I've never been (Spain, Italy, etc.) than to a place where I lived most of my life. It's only been a little over a year, anyway. What kind of a wimp can't be away from his hometown for a year without going back? It's not like I'm stationed in Baghdad away from my family or something--that's real hardship, not the petty annoyances you've been hearing me whine about.

But a few things broke our way: I turned out to have even more vacation time than I thought (we'll still have enough to go to Spain this winter), and I found that my employer will pay for Boog's school next year, saving us about, oh, 6000 euros. So I caved. And I am looking forward to the trip, no doubt.

But you can't go home again, and you can't step into the same river twice, and all that. Will I see my home with different eyes? Stay tuned. I'll try to post a few times from the road and let you know how it's going.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

God Bless America

Just last night a group of men vying to be President of the United States stood onstage and faced the TV cameras. Some of these men, when asked, averred that they did not subscribe to the "theory" of evolution. To our enormous discredit as a society, these men were not immediately laughed off the podium or removed by means of a giant offstage hook a la The Muppet Show. (They were not asked for their position on gravity--after all, just a theory--or whether the earth is round, flat or hollow). Is someone who is so blindly obeisant to their interpretation of the dictates of their religion that they ignore simple scientific fact even qualified to be President? Why do we meekly accept this? What kind of idiots are we? How have we slipped so far that this type of question even gets asked at a presidential debate? Look, you can read any number of rants on the dumb-assification of America, so I'm not going to subject you to mine. But we should realize that to the rest of the world, the US is like the kid in the Twilight Zone episode who makes poor, capricious decisions yet wields such incredible power that everyone else is afraid to say anything about it.

I love my dumb-ass country.
I miss my dumb-ass country.
So much so that instead of going off to Corsica or Italy or Spain for a summer vacation we're coming home for a visit, for 3 weeks starting June 18.
And I'll probably run down Franklin Street like Jimmy Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life: Hullo, Pepper's Pizza! Hullo, old Varsity Theater! Hah-ha! Hullo, you old Schoolkids Records!
You're welcome to join me, of course--send me an e-mail at mylastnameandfirstinitial at iarc point fr, and we'll get together.

The list of things I want to do while I'm home--and it is still home to me, something I don't think Lyon could be if I lived here 50 years--is pretty long, and V's list is long as well (though many items on her list begin with the word "Buy"). But it's very interesting that the things I'm looking forward to doing are the types of things I was tired of doing just a year and a half ago.

(By the way, while googling to see if I could use my European driver's license in the States, I ran across this piece by a German computer scientist who worked in SF for a while. Interesting perspective on living in the US. Also, if he thinks a US supermarket is inefficient he's obviously never been to a French one.)

Pioneer of Aerodynamics!

I was looking back over some pictures I took in Paris when an old Pixies tune came up via Random Play All. A song with more than a soupcon of filler about it on an album that had too much of that, but the coincidence was too great to ignore.* So let's look at some tourist-cliche pictures of the Eiffel Tower.

Pioneer of aerodynamics!
He thought big and they called it phallic!
See, I'd always thought of the tower as a sort of masculine thing as well, not just because of its general ratios of height to width, but also because of the steel girders and exposed rivets and so on. But in real life, it's much more feminine than I had expected--for all the hard angles of the girders, the overall shape is much more curved, and the details, not visible from any distance or in any rendering that captures the immense height of the tower, are lacy, even filigreed.

They didn't know it was panoramic!
Gustave Alexander Eiffel built wind tunnels at several levels of the tower, and used it as the platform for atmospheric research and early experiments into what would later become known as aerodynamics. I did not know that.

Little Eiffel stands in the archway
In the winter months there's a skating rink up there on the first level. I think they should take it a step farther and install a ski jump.

They didn't want it but he built it anyway!
Today a beloved symbol of Parisians, maybe, though I didn't see any Parisians actually at the tower unless they were disguised as foreign tourists. Well, how many New Yorkers hang out at the Statue of Liberty, anyway?

Sometimes people can be oh so dense. Keepin' low don't make no sense.
At the time of its completion, this was the tallest manmade structure in the world. It's bigger than it looks on TV, you know. Like, lie-on-your-back-on-the-grass-and-gawk-up-at-it big. Like I-can't-get-the-whole-thing-in-my-viewfinder-unless-I-back-up-a-few-hundred-yards big.

You probably have some similar pictures in your own photo album or hard drive; anyway, these are mine.

*I could just have easily gone with Husker Du's "Eiffel Tower High".