Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Goodbye Summer

September 23, 2009

I waived goodbye to summer at sunset last evening in front of the Eiffel Tower.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD46xTNhpv8

So what, if anything did I learn, confirm, or accomplish with this carpe summer exercise? Well, the following things, among others, and not necessarily in the order of importance.

DRAFT 1:

1.Perhaps I enjoy most a good home made dinner with beloved friends and family.
2.With free concerts, sometimes you get what you pay for.
3.Try to have something fun or positive in your day, even if it's small, to help balance out whatever negative stuff you endured.
4.While I cherish spontaneity when it comes to fun things, I cannot rely on serendipity. I have to plan for fun things, such as buy concert tickets in advance and look at the entertainment calendar for one month in advance instead of picking up the A & E on Friday and expecting something good.
5.I need a creative outlet other than writing law memos.
6.I should be better at plugging into what is happening in Portland today, rather than Paris from the 1920s or 1700s. Who are the good Portland artists? Besides Tin House publishing, what other literary resources are there in town? Where are the creative people and what are they doing?
7.A good attitude can infect others, just as a depressing attitude can. One helps spiral up.
8.Not everything I do needs be justified in the context of accomplishing or learning.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Night cruise on Seine

Night cruise on the Seine. Tower lit, as were the other major buildings: Notre Dame, Louvre, Orsay, etc. Very pleasant way to spend an hour with Allyson.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fashion in Paris: Priestly robes to Mini dresses

Sunday

in Paris began with the short walk to Notre Dame for a part of the Gregorian Mass. The blue tunics of the women singers and the green robes of the priests reflected the blue and green of the faithful depicted in the stained glass windows high above. The cathedral was packed with the attendees in the seats and with the tourists along the edges. When the stocky man in a suit came by with the offering basket, he apparently did not get the joke when I showed him the museum pass and he backhanded my temple. No, just kidding; I tossed in some coins.

I can see why more people dress fashionably here than other places. Fashion is everywhere. We spent most of the day close to home, in the Marais. The streets were packed with people wandering around, poking their heads into the shops and the open public buildings / monuments. (It was the rare weekend when the buildings open for the people.) Designer shops are everywhere, and many of the styles are terrific (some not so). Mostly, prices are pretty high, especially when one adds in the conversion rates from Euros to Dollars.

In addition to the fixed shops, 90 "créatures" filled an exposition hall with booths, showing and selling their wares. With all of these choices, it's easy to understand why you see some unique clothing on people, particularly women. By contrast, the choices in Portland are so limited that even if someone wanted to look beautiful, and sexy, she would have a hard time doing so in an elegant or stylish way. Instead, we get some young people who randomly take things out of the second-hand stores, mix them up, and dye their hair fuschia.

Sometimes, the most simple outfit can be quite memorable. As we walked down the street Friday, an older business man, with his suit jacket hack slung over his shoulder and briefcase in his other hand walked ahead of us with a younger woman. We assume these were just two business colleagues. They acted like it, with absolutely no hint of anything but a formal business relationship. She wore high heel shoes, out of which arose long, white legs with no stockings or legings. Not muscular, not fat (not yet). Her bare legs continued up and up and just when one would expect to see something other than legs, the "curtain" of the bottom of the mini dress blocked the view. The mini dress, was white or off-white with pencil-thin, black lines creating squares of about 1 ½ inches. Tailored perfectly, the skimpy dress probably cost more euro than what the man spent for his suit.

Other women in town dress elegantly, while covering more of their skin. Although, one sees a lot more cleavage here than in Portland. But it's not the cleavage, it's usually a slight tweak on an existing fashion that catches the eye. For example, one of the fashion booths had a long woman's jacket that could work for a lawyer in Portland. It was gray, but had rolled out cuffs with a colorful pattern that matched the fabric on the right shoulder (like a shotgun shooting patch). Instead of a straight line up for buttons, the top couple pulled over the center, suggesting a shawl. Stylish, professional, classy and about 340 euros.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Near Perfect Saturday

Saturday in Paris

was a beautiful late summer day: warm but not too warm. I wore shorts to Versailles in the morning, (noticing that no other man seemed to be wearing shorts. Perhaps that's not fashionable.)

Like the Alhambra in Spain, Versailles provides a good lesson in history to those of us who missed that chapter somewhere along education's path. "So that's why French was the language for international diplomacy for 200 years. . . ."

The Hall of Battles was the most thought provoking. This ridiculously long and tall room is lined with huge paintings depicting important battles in the history of France, from the 400s to the 1800s. Most have the french hero mounted on his horse. Many had the heroic dead or dying common soldier down in the corner. I'm glad many painters (or the man who commissioned the work) did not let us forget the lives stilled by wars.

In the afternoon, we walked the shopping areas of St. Germain. Saturday is the busy shopping day because stores close on Sunday. We took a breather at the Rodin museum, eager to take full advantage of our 4-day museum pass. The cafe in the sculpture garden provided the peaceful oasis we needed before heading back to the even busier shopping area of our own neighborhood. At the department store down the street, it felt like the mad rush before Christmas.

A nap recharged me for a lovely evening in Paris.

This time, I tried to dress a little more like a frenchman, with a collared shirt and a sweater tied around my neck. We strolled down toward the historic heart of the city, Ile St. Louis. On the way we stoped at a quiet wine bar along a very old street. Then we crossed the River Seine and found a restaurant recommended by a friend.

Many restaurants are a scene: crowded elbow to elbow with people looking toward the street to see and be seen. This restaurant, Le Caveau d l' Isle, was full but not crowded, with only a 2 minute wait for a table, and the focus was not the street, which is perhaps a good sign for the quality of the food. While the toursit attactions on the island are to the right, this restaurant was to the left, making for a quiet atmosphere. There we enjoyed our best meal of the vacation: very well prepared salad, lamb, salmon, and a chocolate cake with molten chocolate spilling out from within.

After dinner, we walked toward Notre Dame. Still warm after 11:00 pm, we took our time to take it all in, the softness of the air, the lit monuments, the water, the boats, and, at Notre Dame, the litter (nothing is perfect). There, many others also sat, talked, ate and drank to enjoy the evening. Down below, along the river, there was a festival of sorts: booths with businesses from Southern France offering their cheese, wine and other things. We walked through the crowd. Again, many people sat next to the water, across the river looking up at the lit Notre Dame, enjoying a picnic dinner with wine bottles in various states of consumption.

Back to our neighborhood, where people spilled out of the cafes and bars that, although numerous, still could not handle the numbers of people enjoying a warm Saturday night in September, the last Saturday of Summer.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Triumphal Climb up the Sprial Staircase


Friday, September 19, 2009

Living in an apartment instead of a hotel is great. We can relax in the morning with coffee and our own breakfast. We can spread out and relax. Television and internet are here, if we want to plug into the world, which we really do not. We can waste time in that manner in Portland.

Having breakfast does not necessarily mean a person can pass a patisserie in the morning without stopping for a treat, which we did on our way to the Metro stop. When we arose from underground, there it was, the Arc de Triomphe. We climed the 283 spiral stairs toward the top for our view of the Eiffel Tower and the rest of Paris. To commemorate the moment, I had the picture taken in my "Always have Paris" T-shirt, which was the t-shirt of my nephew's band by the same name.

Then, it was down the Champs were, eventually, we saw a classically old French mansion, noticed it was a public gallery, entered, and found a cafe for lunch.

Then, it was on the Metro to the Louvre, and overwhelming, crowded place, where the printed maps seem to have little relation to the reality of the exhibits. We quit there after a fairly short time.

We walked through the gardens and found the much more enjoyable Musee l'Orangerie. It houses more impressionist works. The centerpieces are two large, oval rooms displaying Monet's waterlilly murals. These are very large rooms, and the paintings must be 30 or 40 yards in length.

Back on the metro. The metro is terrific. The trains run constantly and are fast.

In the evening we found a neighborhood restaurant with a lively restaurant and walked around the Marais neighborhood at night. Lots of people out and about on a pleasant summer evening. After walking awhile, we stopped upstairs at the apartment and then went on a quest for desert, settling on gelato.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Paris, Day One


September 18, 2009

At the steps of our Paris apartment, the woman in the broad, colorful straw hat greeted us with news that the plumber locked the top lock, for which she did not have the key, and we would join her for coffee at the restaurant two doors down.

An artist, she is, who helps manage apartments for extra cash. Sweet woman of 59 years whose bottle-black bangs, parted in the middle, are carefully tucked over where some women have crows-feet and held in place by the hat. The colorful shawl over the flowing, untailored dress completed the look of a French country artist, despite the fact that we were in the urban and urbane Marais district, and Barbara Navarro was an American transplant of 32 years, now a dual citizen.

One can't be an (uncommercially successful) artist in America. Here, they get their health care. In the United States, artists cannot not afford it.

With great enthusiasm, she told us about her life. Barbara spends her winters in the Amazon jungles of Venezuela and spends her art energy on creating and burning art to draw attention to the issues of deforestation.

The apartment is quite nice, displaying a creative use of small space. Purchased by a Portland Lawyer just two years ago and then remodeled, everything is new, even though the crystal chandeliers and furnishing carry forward the classically French style. The building was constructed in the 1600s, and during the remodel, they exposed the 400 year old support beams to open up the room. The plumber did not complete his work, and there is a bit of a leak under a drain, and the washing machine is out of order, so I write this paragraph in the Laundry across the street.

In the laundry, a nice colllege professor, fresh from his PhD in Boston, showed us how to use the machines and gave us a couple of visiting suggestions: Notre Dame for music on Sunday, and Normandy as a day trip.

Back to yesterday.

We got our 4-day museum pass and enjoyed the Orsay yesterday, where I completed my trifecta of posing with Vincent in Chicago, Amsterdam and Paris. Forget art history classes, the only way to appreciate art and learn art history is go visit the great museums. The audio guide did not have to tell us that a 19th century artist was influenced by the Dutch Masters, we were just in Holland viewing their work.

We found a busy restaurant in the Marais for a later dinner and slept soundly in a very comfortable bed.

Goodbye Bruge

September 17, 2009

On a speed train about 20 minutes out of Paris, we caught up to the gray skies that snuck out of Bruges in the wee hours. Certainly, the Gods do this as a welcome mat for Portlanders.

Bruge contrasted from Haarlem as follows.

Bruge Market Square is more dramatic than Grote Market: Grander medieval buildings. Bruge is packed with foreign tourists, and there is the tourist infrastructure to meet it: the horse carriages and the menus posted around the square in 4 languages. (I wonder what "Lukewarm Salmon" was before it was translated?) Haarlem was great because we felt like we were one of very few foreigners. We liked that. Better to get the flavor of the town.

Bruge was a pleasant stop in the road, but I would not recommend it as a destination. I want to re-view the move "In Bruges" to see if it is an allegory for the screenwriter's love-hate with the town. There's the big bad guy, who thinks Bruge is this charming beautiful place that Colin Farrell should see before he dies. Then there's Colin's character, who hates the place, even before he knows that he was sent there to get killed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In Bruges

Arrived in Bruges 9/15 by train. Sampling chocolates and waffles. Marvelling at the Disneyland-esque Market Square architecture.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Vincent & Me, Part Twee

September 14, 2009

Travelling in Holland is easy, in part, because everyone speaks English. Also, Dutch words often look like misspelled English words. Can you guess what the following Dutch words mean; koffie, melk, centraal, Portugees? Twee means two.

In June, Ann, Pat and I enjoyed hamming it up with Vincent Van Gogh's self portrait in the Art Institute of Chicago. On this date, Allyson and I made it to the Van Gogh Museum, which contains some 200 works that no one wanted to buy in his lifetime. They fell to brother Teo, who died six months after Vincent shot himself in the chest. So Vincent's sister-in-law had all of these paintaings, and she started to promote them.

She released letters between the brothers. As with John J. Audubon, it is the writings that illuminate the life and works that help create the interest and increase the value. The paintains stayed in the family until 1962,

It's a pleasure to see the arc of the painter's work. The audioguide and the arrangement of the art in the museum permits a person to see Van Gogh's evolution, and how what her learned from one phase influenced a later phase.

For most of the rest of the day, we walked the lovely neighborhoods on a gorgeous early-fall day. Brisk and clean, the air was refreshing. We poked our heads into several boutiques and had the obligatory pancake and walk through hookerville.

Again, it is amazing that such a big city has such limited auto traffic, at least where we walked.

European cities and their museums are history lessons for us Americans.

For dinner, we found the place where they used to give free meals to the poor, Now, it provides cheap meals to locals, cafeteria style: a plate full of potatoes and either sausage or meatball.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day 2 in The Netherlands

September 12, 2009

The Vermeers in the Mauritshuis museum have been inspiring artists for over a century. Van Gogh fawned over the technique in Vermeer's painting of Delft. Of course, The Girl with the Pearl Earing inspired a contemporary screenwriter. One can purshase her immortally-young face in about every size. Only about 33 Vermeers, worldwide, have been authenticated, so seeing even three in one place is rare.

Rubens, on the other hand, was more of a business man, subcontracting some parts of is own canvass out to other artists more skilled in certain types of paintings.

On to Delft, which was packed with the Saturday-Market crowd walking past vendor's tents along the canals and populating the plazas and other places. On this September saturday, it seemed like almost entirely Dutch people and not tourists: just folks looking for something to do on a the weekend.

Back in Haarlem, the plaza, too, was packed by people. The cultural weekend here included middle ages tents, foods and activities in the plaze. At the Philharmonic, free concerts drew people.

After dark, the fun moved to one of the canals, where boats paraded on water and people promenaded on shore. On one end, a live band played Stevie Wonder hits. On the other end, large speakers pumped out disco versions of Michael Jackson hits.

The atmosphere here is very comfortable. People are normal looking, clean and polite. No beggars; no pushy vendors, we are left alone to do as we please. Everyone seems healthy and content.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bicycle-land

September 11

Yes, Netherlands has the canals and the quaint architecture. Bicycles, however, provided the most striking memory from our first day here.

The population of the city centers of Haarlem and Amsterdam employ more bikes than cars, to my eyes. No one wears a helmet, and the style of bicycle riding is more upright: the spine is vertical, not leaning forward. Some are specially equipped with seats or double seats for tiny children behind the pedaller. Some have what look like deep-narrow wheelbarrows in front of the pedaller, which sometimes carry other children. But mostly, we see single riders riding upright, hair blowing in the breeze.

At the Haarlem train station, the demand for bicycle parking is so great that there are double-decker bike racks.

Portland wins accolades for being bicycle friendly. But painting a few extra stripes on streets is nothing like the construction around Haarlem to facilitate bicycles.

We took the bus from the airport to Haarlem. At one point, I noticed a paved lane for cars going in one direction, separated by grass from the lane going in the other direction, separated by grass from the bicycle lane, separated by grass from the pavement dedicated for two-way, bus-only traffic. In that stretch, each mode moves without the distraction, danger and interruption from the other modes.

In the 400 year old city, with the narrow lands, some bike lanes are denoted with a slight depression in the brick, just an inch or so. On those streets that are wide enough for pedistrians, bikes and cars, the cars are at one level, the bikes are an inch or two higher, and pedestrians are an inch or two higher still.

As a pedistrian, crossing the street in Amsterdam can take some time, because one needs to wait for a break in the bike traffic, as well as auto traffic plus the rail traffic.

Lots of people moving. And that's the key word, moving. In Bangkok, gridlock prevails as cars fill every square foot of road. Here, cars seem a tertiary mode of transport, after public transit and bicycles. Maybe statistics would prove me wrong on this, but that was my first impression of the city centers of Haarlem and Amsterdam.

Bike friendly - but in some areas, pedestrians must beware and walk at your own risk.

Monday, September 7, 2009

No cheescake for Ken

September 7, 2009 Labor Day

Blustery wind and lots of rain yesterday previewed fall. But, despite what schoolchildren say, despite fashion's caution against wearing white tomorrow, it remains summer until the night of 9-22.

I've lost a bit of the carpe diem fire this past week. Work and preparations for the rest of September and October have focused my attetion on tasks rather than on entertaining or entertainment. Yet, yesterday was a good combination of both work and play.

Ken and Ann joined us for dinner, and it is always a pleasure to prepare for guests. Even better when guests are family, because there is no pressure: if things are not quite right- they don't care. We enjoyed getting together, conversation and sharing food. Ann brought down a delicious homemede chocolate swirl cheesecake. Ken is back on his diet of virtually no carbs, so we tortured him by enjoying bread, cheesecake, and wine. He was stuck with water, green beans, and lamb.

Thank you, Ann and Ken.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Full days of work

September 3, 2009

It’s been a busy week. Working hard on several fronts to be ready for the grand finale to summer. Law cases are harder than they should be, with opposing attorneys not seeing things as I do. Also trying to get things done for the remodel project on the home and for the website. Another few days of pushing hard will, hopefully, make for a relatively care free vacation.