Susan and I had our last walk in the park this morning. Rather than stick to our traditional route we just meandered all about the greenery ... this better lent itself to conversation.
It was sad to part this morning ... I shall miss her company and our conversations.
The taxi ride to Terminal 4 at Heathrow was uneventful.
But, things became eventful as soon as I began the check in procedure to Paris. For starters there was the "carry-on" issue. OK, I tend to lug a lot of stuff onto a plane ... what with a computer and cables and couplers and adapters and plugs and everything else that is needed to ensure that I can log on from almost any spot of earth. Add to that some cameras and recording stuff. Sprinkle it with odds and ends and I wind up with two well stuffed ZERO Halliburton™ carry-ons. Usually this is never a problem in first class, especially on long haul flights. But short hops in Europe, even when booked into seats in the front of the plane, have become a nuisance as of late. There is now a 9 kilo weight limitation for carry on luggage. And, the passenger is limited to just one piece for those 9 kilos. What a fucking inconvenience this is, since most carry on cases weigh almost that much even when empty. Yes, I know that most cabin attendants and a large number of passengers favor slimmer and lighter on board luggage, FOR OTHERS. And, believe me, it wouldn't piss me off so much if this rule was evenly enforced ... but, on tonight's flight fully half the seats in my section of the plane were occupied by luggage collectors.
OK, enough whimpering about that! Let me roll on to my next whine.
Our Boeing 757 "broke" shortly after boarding, just minutes before our scheduled departure. It seems that the automatic refueling apparatus was no longer automatic ... and, the manual back up procedure balked at behaving for human hands. Engineers and mechanics from the British Airways "works" hangar were summoned to the scene but they were unable to put BA #316 back together again. Fortunately there was another 757 that had nowhere to go ... so, it was pressed into service by the BA schedulers. Actually, it wasn't all that much of a delay. By the time we were packed off-from and on-to the twin 757s only two hours had passed. But, we arrived in Paris too late for tea.
Becky was waiting for me in one of the Charles De Gaulle arrivals halls. It was wonderful to see her again after these several months of only contact by phone and e-mail.
A taxi then took us to Le Parc Hotel in about half the time that it would have taken had we started the journey during rush hour. Dear Reader, Le Parc is a leading edge four star member of the Westin Demeure group.
And, lest the Reader forget, this Avenue Raymond Poincare hotel was first introduced to this web site two years ago on one of my Burgundy-Loire Valley balloon trips. Please check with young Denise's journal for amplification.
Not wanting to drift too far from room #210, Becky and I turned right out of the front door of Le Parc and headed in the direction of the Trocadero and the Palais de Chaillot with their fine views of the Tour Eiffel. However, our stomachs were side tracked just a block from where we started. It was a Chinese restaurant that sucked us through its door. Not that the name would have tipped us off to the nationality of its cuisine: "Men Quach" has no meaning in French or in English. Presumably it is a French phonetic for something in Mandarin or Cantonese or some other Chinese tongue. Whatever, we were pleased with the meal.
Satisfied on that need, we continued our walk so that we could enjoy the view across the Seine. In keeping with what is in vogue elsewhere, the Tour Eiffel is acting as another great keeper of the countdown to the year 2000. Only "378 days" to go before all of the world's computers reset themselves to the year 1900. So shine the thirty meter high lights on the side of the tower.
For those adventurous of you who would like to experience the year 2000 to the maximum, you might consider the latest offering from the operators of the Concorde. For less than $50,000 per person you can test the Y2K "problem" 24 times within 24 hours. On December 31, 1999 super sonic flyers can approach each of the earth's 24 time zones on this all midnight east-west journey. Granted, only the least nervous of the 99 passengers will not be wondering what is happening inside the minds of these massive Rolls Royce engines as their internal clocks reposition themselves to '00 more than a score of times during the trip.
AND FROM THE I.H.T.
This morning brought us not only a wonderful room service breakfast ... rain fell, as well. This latter blessing just made us linger through the better part of the morning. I mean, it was a Sunday ... and though the churches might have been gathering up speed for their own rush hour, we were not all that anxious to brave the wet outside of our window.
A few hours later an 11 kilometer taxi ride took us to Maubert, the nearest Metro stop to Becky's apartment. She was in an anonymous mood, apparently. As it was still raining we dashed from shop to shop before the maddeningly French habit of closure for lunch took place. That done we took the caged lift to the 6th floor and fussed about before deciding what next to do. Hey, how about a movie? Sounds good!
On the way up the Boulevard St. Germain we passed by the Odeon ... where the "Mary" movie was playing ... the one with Cameron Diaz, in which she is stalked by a private detective who amusingly revives her neighbor's dog with a live lamp cord. In order to guarantee indigestion we had a pre-flik lunch at a student oriented Tex-Mex restaurant, the recipes which came from Indiana. Gee ... are we really in Paris?
I guess not! Even though we eventually wound up on the Champs-Elysees much later in the evening it was the Flora Danica Restaurant in the Maison du Danemark that captured our palates.
Winter Solstice on an average of two years in every four.
STILL MORE FROM THE I.H.T.
Up until the very next paragraph nothing happened in Paris.
Le Parc Hotel is also the home of the greatest three star restaurant in France. In fact, the chef (Alain Ducasse) is the only chef in all of France who operates two Michelin three star restaurants. And, of course, the name of his Paris restaurant is Restaurant Alain Ducasse. Our dinner lasted the better part of three hours.
After that paragraph nothing else happened in Paris.
Winter Solstice on an average of two years in every four.
THE I.H.T. REPORTS:
Walk lots ... Shop little ... Eat lots ... Shop lots ... Walk little ... Eat little ... Sleep lots!
LAST SUSHI FOR TOJO (an I.H.T. exclusive eavesdrop):
"LAST ORDERS GENTLEMEN! A sushi to go, Mr. Tojo?"
"AhhhSooo, los sooshee fo Tojo ... mak it Califona woll."
Other Bits on this Date in History
For the next 48 hours I shall be on my own in Paris.
This morning Becky left for Vault de Lugny in order to celebrate Christmas Eve with her immediate family. But, before leaving Paris she had to stock her Porsche with caviar and cheese for the festivities at the chateau. However, an unpleasant surprise awaited her as she attempted to extract her Carrera from the municipal garage near her apartment. Three days of vehicle hibernation had left a check-out bill in excess of 850 francs (more than $150) ... roughly what one would expect to pay for a long weekend in a US budget hotel. To add frustration to anger, the "check out clerk" refused to accept any credit cards. And, when Becky returned with cash, the same government clerk refused to accept a 500 franc note. Hmmm ... didn't the French sometime in the last century have a Revolution that sent an equally surly lot of government types to the guillotine for a lot less than that?
Left to my own devices I wandered about aimlessly. Finally, I sought solace in a church library that overlooked the Seine.
And, from page 6 of the International Herald Tribune:
I am still curious about that peculiar anniversary that popped up a few days ago. The one dealing with the start and end of the Battle of Ferozeshah ... those shots that were fired more than one and a half centuries ago. Any knowledge out there? Where is (was) this place? Who was at odds with whom? And, why? It sounds like something that the Brits would have had a hand in during one of their forays in the Middle East.
Whatever, Becky is still at Vault de Lugny, presumably drinking cheers to all from her fabled cellar. I am still in Paris, just thinking about her fabled cellar. Though it is cold and rainy down there in Chablis it is just cold here in Paris.
After a late morning short lived bolt past my hotel room starting gate my energy level flagged, and I passed the next couple of hours reading a Dean Koontz novel in my hotel lobby. A bit of a waste of my time in Paris, right?
The city was oddly quiet this afternoon. Unlike back home, there were not teems of last minute shoppers all about. The pedestrian movement was less directed ... more relaxed and recreational.
For the second evening in a row I found myself in a church; this time St. George's Anglican Church, just off Avenue d'Iena. By the time I started for home most of the cafes and restaurants were closed for the night. Lucky for me there was a nice fruit bowl in my room.
The day began.
The day ended.
Dear reader, I do so love spending Saturdays mornings with the International Herald Tribune. This is the day of the week that people like Gabriele Thiers-Bense, and other Munich based marriage brokers, offer up their most tempting discoveries via the "Intermarket" section of this otherwise fine newspaper.
For nearly a quarter of a century she and her arch rival, Claudia Puschel-Knies, have brought marital hope and direction to those too weak to seek it on their own. However, some reading between the lines is required in order that the painted picture of the wares be not totally free of real warts. I have attempted to do this with a modest parenthetic insight.
Today's exclusive catch (TRAP) from Ms. Thiers-Bense is:
"A sophisticated & highly esteemed world lady (TRAMP), member of the aristocratic English society (GIFTED WITH CURIOUSLY PLACED INTERNAL ORGANS AND OTHER INBRED GENETIC SHORTFALLS). Very young in appearance, temperament & beauty (RETARDED, PERHAPS DOWN'S SYNDROME IN PLAY), in her vital fifties (INCONTINENCE JUST AROUND THE BEND), 5'6" (WITH 8" SPIKES), life and world experienced (CORNERS KNOCKED OFF BY TOO MUCH USAGE), slim (SMOKES TOO MUCH), very gracious, racy and incredibly enchanting (DRINKS TOO MUCH), presenting intellect, charm (BORING), the kind of inspiring spirit which sneaks under your skin (IRRITATING) ... & exquisite taste in every respect (GOLD DIGGER)! She has an impeccable, excellent reputation (THINKS THAT SHE IS PERFECT), is very wealthy ($5000 PLUS LIMIT ON A VISA CARD FROM A MARYLAND BANK), maintaining impressive property in the UK and the USA (LESSEE OF TWO FURNISHED FLATS). Known, admired and loved by first society circles throughout Western Europe (WHEN MARRIED TO A COLUMBIAN CRACK COCAINE DEALER), this extremely complex & fascinating woman (TOTAL NUT CASE), who was married to a significant & influential British citizen (WHO IS NOW THE QUEEN'S GUEST AT WORMWOOD SCRUBS), now again seeks her adequate complement (FOOL)! For marriage only (ANY OTHER OFFERS CONSIDERED AFTER MONDAY)."
Claudia Puschel-Knies, not to be out-shined by the Thiers-Bense woman, has her own fetching lexicon of spousal attributes:
The I.H.T goes on to remind us that 75 years ago women had other worries:
As Saturday afternoon brought a lot of wind and rain to Paris, Becky and I passed the better part of the day at a Bruce Willis movie. It is worth a "skip". It is the one about Arabs blowing up bits of Brooklyn. Despite its sympathetic theme and some very clever special effects, the story line drifted and tapered to nowhere.
"Jean VALJEAN found himself with MARIUS, still unconscious, in a sort of long underground corridor. Here, complete peace, absolute silence, night."
- Victor HUGO, LES MISERABLES: part 5
This afternoon Becky and I visited The Paris Sewer System. For anyone curious about this other "side" of Paris, the entrance to these bowel tracts can be gained at the intersection of the quai d'Orsay and the place de la Resistance (at the Alma bridge).
To quote a little history from the entrance guide:
"Until the Middle Ages, the drinking water in Paris was taken from the river Seine. The wastewater was poured onto fields or unpaved streets, and finally filtered back into the Seine."
"Around 1200, Philippe Auguste had the Parisian streets paved, incorporating a drain for wastewater in their middle."
"In 1370, Huges AUBRIOT, a Parisian provost, had a vaulted, stone-walled sewer built in the 'rue Montmarte'. This sewer collected the wastewater and took it to the 'Menilmontant' brook. However, the wastewater was still drained in the open air."
"Under the reign of LOUIS XIV, a large ring sewer was built on the right bank, and the Bievre river was used as a sewer for the left bank of the Seine."
"Under NAPOLEON I, the first Parisian vaulted sewer network was built (30 km long)."
"It was only in 1850, that Baron HAUSSMANN, the prefect for the Seine, and the engineer Eugene BELGRAND, designed the present Parisian sewer and water supply networks."
"Thus was built, more than a century ago, a double water supply network (one for drinking water and one for non potable water) and a sewer network the length of which was 600 km in 1878."
"As regards wastewater collection, BELGRAND won acceptance for his totally new concept: having the wastewater discharged far downstream of Paris."
To do this, a sewer network was built. It worked mainly on the principle of gravity although in low neighborhoods pumping stations had to be set up. Each street had its own sewer. BELGRAND designed large sewers in which there is enough room for the drinking water mains. Moreover, one can walk and work in the sewers. This major project was completed in 1894 by a law that made it compulsory to send all the wastewater to the sewers ("Tout a l'egout")."
After Becky and I entered the BIEVRE sewer, the main effluent tube that runs from the Concorde to the Alma bridge, we saw the first of the giant "flushing machines" and "flushing boats." These clever devices are used exclusively to clean the big pipes themselves; they do not worry their own machinery about the quality of the watery gop which their pipes must continuously send on its way. It is up to the huge under-street basins and sand traps to catch the nasty and smelly solids that have given the really major unwanted bulk to the flowing wastewater. The "flushing tools'" only job is to ensure that the bowels of Paris do not come to an unwelcome halt; beyond that they have no care about what the water carries.
However, the human tenders of the sewage basins and the sand traps must be more responsible than the flushers. For them it is not enough to just give the odd poke or two at a recalcitrant hunk of floating stuff. Is that bobbing blob just a rotting hunk of mattress or is it part of someone's loved one?
Questions like this must be asked over and over again. Each day the Paris sewers are, unfortunately, the final conduit of things that never should have been sectioned into manageable bits and flushed down the toilet or, if circumstances permit, squeezed into storm drains on rainy nights. As this wonderful tour of the Paris sewers is open to adults and children, the "Marie de Paris" has done everything possible to guarantee all ticket buyers that any unpleasant and unwelcome "additions" to the Parisian wastewater will not spill into view from the colorful sewage outfall display in the final viewing gallery.
More from the I.H.T. Archives:
Today was a bit of a "slow news day", as they might have said on Fleet Street at one time. It was rainy and cold outside ...and CNN had very little to attract my eye as there were no tragedies unfolding anywhere in the world. Hmmm ... time for a good read! For you and me!
I have just started LENIN'S EMBALMERS by Ilya Zbarsky. Yes, it is all about how they kept the founder of the Soviet state soft to the touch. From time to time, dear Reader, I shall dip into this little tome and share with you some of its delights. For starters, let's go back to the spring of 1924 and into a chapter entitled "A MAN SLEEPING".
The first embalming of Lenin, carried out just after his death according to the method most popular at the time, had done little to promote long-term preservation. A. I. Abrikosov had injected into the dead man's aorta 30 measures of formalin, 20 measures of alcohol, 20 of glycerine, 10 of chlorine and 100 of water. The mixture was intended to maintain the body in a state of stability until the funeral five days later.
The somewhat primitive nature of this process, together with the endless arguments between politicians and scientists about the best method to adopt, resulted in so serious a deterioration of the body that immediate burial had to be seriously considered. The corpse had turned sallow, with more marked discolouration around the eyes, nose, ears and temples. Wrinkles and a purplish stain had appeared over the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain. The skin had sunk in over an area, roughly a centimetre in diameter, at the place where the skull had been opened to extract the brain. The tip of the nose was covered in dark pigments, and the walls of the nostrils had become paper thin; the eyes were half open and sinking into their sockets; the lips had parted, leaving the teeth clearly visible; brown spots had appeared on the hands, and the fingernails were tinged with blue.
All these details were carefully noted by a special committee responsible for establishing the state of the corpse at the end of March, before the second embalming began. It was also on this occasion that my father asked the architect Alexander Pasternak, Boris's father, to record in watercolour the tones of nine different parts of Lenin's body. This was because Vorobiov wanted to avoid being held solely responsible for the deterioration of the body should his own team's attempt at embalming fail.
For dinner tonight Becky and I ordered off the room service menu. We each had meat dishes.
The I.H.T. notes that 100 years ago in their pages the following was reported:
Elsewhere and at another time:
Having whet your appetite with details about the first Lenin embalming, I am sure that you are ready to read about what happened on the second "go".
Finally, on 26 March 1924, about two months after Lenin's death, Professor Vorobiov and his assistants Arnold Shabadach, Alexander Juralev and Yakov Zambovski, aided by Professor of Anatomy Piotr Karuzin and my father, were at last able to set to work. The proceedings, which Vorobiov expected to last four months, took place in a cold gloomy cellar underneath the temporary mausoleum.
My father told me later how much he was affected by the sight of the partially decayed corpse, the smell of decomposition emanating from it, and the enormous responsibility resting on the embalmers' shoulders. Now that he, who had moved heaven and earth to get Vorobiov involved in this venture, found himself face to face with the body, he was momentarily at a loss: he had no experience of working on corpses.
Vorobiov, on the other hand, was in his element. He began by getting rid of the sutures that had been used to sew up the head and chest after the autopsy. Then, having removed the lungs, liver, spleen and other viscera, he ordered the inside of the ribcage to be flushed out with distilled water. He next fixed the tissues with formalin, a powerful antiseptic which also inhibits autolysis. Wads of cotton wool steeped in a 1-per-cent solution of formaldehyde were laid over the face, hands and body. After the body cavities had been cleaned out with acetic acid, formalin was injected into such areas of tissue as showed signs of softening. In late March the outside temperature was below zero, and as this was too low for the work of the anatomical conservation Vorobiov had stoves installed in the cellar to bring the temperature up to 16 degrees C.
In just a few more days I shall be heading home. Of course, I shall miss my London and Paris winter haunts ... but, it will be nice to get some predictable sunshine into my life. And, for the past many days I have been spending hours and hours avoiding the Paris Metro; not that I have anything against the Metro ... it's just that with all of this wonderful Parisian food at my finger tips I have had to find a way to equalize the calories.
And, from a century ago in the I.H.T.:
More nasty weather in Paris. Back to the book.
Dear Reader, yesterday I left you just at that point where Vorobiov was about to kick on the burners in the stoves ... so that Lenin would not chill out before the chemicals kicked in. Today we begin with our embalmers working in shirt sleeves.
The next step was to immerse the body in a 3-per-cent solution of formaldehyde. Vorobiov, however, did not want to use an ordinary metal bath, the surface of which might interact chemically with components of the liquid. Only a glass bath would rule out such risk, but frantic appeals from the OGPU to all the laboratories in Moscow succeeded only in proving that no such bath was to be found in Russia. Dzerzhinsky therefore promised to have one made within twenty-four hours, and called in Comrade Kurochkin, who ran a small glassworks. The latter, however, told him that under current conditions it was impossible to produce a glass bath at such short notice.
Vorobiov then considered the possibility of a rubber bath, and Dzerzhinsky went in person to a rubber factory on the outskirts of Moscow. He was disappointed - to say the least - to find that as it was a Saturday no one was working. He therefore scoured the whole neighborhood until he found the manager, and then made him sound the factory alarm. This brought the workers who lived near by running, thinking there was a fire. They were taken aback to find themselves being ordered to make a rubber bath by the head of the secret police, but the order was at once carried out.
As a result, the following Monday Lenin could at last be put in his rubber bath. Immersed in the viscous liquid, he looked like some strange marine creature. The noxious fumes given off by the formalin (formaldehyde is poisonous) irritated the eyes, noses and chests of the embalmers. As it was, they were hardly able to stand, having now worked for some days practically without sleep. On hearing how exhausted they were, however, Dzerzhinsky sent for my father and said that at the present rate they wouldn't last long enough to finish the job. In reply, my father pointed out that the corpse had to be kept under constant observation during the embalming process. At this Dzerzhinsky promised to arrange for experts to work in two shifts so that they could get at least a minimum of rest. Three hours after this conversation a contingent of workers and engineers arrived in Red Square. There they installed a tramcar, equipped with beds and electric stoves and all sorts of crockery, for Vorobiov's team to use.
Dear Reader, tomorrow you will see that Lenin's woes were not yet over. Though now tidily propped up in his tub, and watched carefully by his minders 24 hours a day, further dangers lurked beneath the surface of the murky soup in which he slept.
And, lest you think that I have left Paris for Moscow, I invite you to examine this extensive selection of women (in different forms) as seen by various artists. You will not be disappointed with this diversion from obscure anniversaries, French sewer rats and Russian embalming needles. Another available diversion: some old (but racy) French post cards.
The International Herald Tribune with a triple header:
And, a few final noteworthy dates from Mr. Newnes:
Sometime between these last two dates, Lenin's woes continued to unfold:
In the meantime, the immersion of the body in the formalin bath had not produced the desired results. The tissues had not absorbed the fluid sufficiently, which meant that incisions would have to be made in the skin and muscles. This prospect worried Vorobiov, however, for he was afraid that he might be later criticized for mutilating the sacred remains of the leader of the world proletariat. He asked Professors V. N. Rozanov and B. S. Weissbrod, who had been charged with supervising the operation as a whole, to give him permission to go ahead. Rozanov's reply was not encouraging: 'I'm more worried about the living than about the dead in all this,' he said. Vorobiov finally took his courage in both hands and made the incisions in the abdomen, shoulders, thighs, and back, and in the palms and the webs between the fingers.
Meanwhile the liquid in the bath had been modified. The content was now 20 per cent alcohol, which has the property of improving the colour of the skin and making it more permeable. After six days the percentage of alcohol was increased to 30 per cent, and 20 per cent of glycerine was added. The body remained immersed in this solution for two weeks, and was then put into a mixture of glycerine and water. The tissues gradually recovered their elasticity.
Next, large jars of potassium acetate were poured into the bath, which by the end of June contained 240 litres of glycerine, 110 kilograms of potassium acetate, 150 litres of water and, as a disinfectant, between 1 and 2 per cent quinine chloride. This was the formula adopted for all subsequent treatments of the body, treatments which, even now, still take place beneath the mausoleum every eighteen months.
Last night the manager of LE PARC hotel kindly presented me with a copy of Alain Ducasse's cookbook, "Flavors of France". The "Poached Chicken in the Pot" suggestively caught my eye:
This opulent version of 'poulet au pot', made with the famous plump and buttery-flavored chickens from Bresse, has a stuffing studded with foie gras and cepe mushrooms and lightly flavored with Cognac. Aromatic vegetables cooked in chicken broth and then drizzled with a buttery Barolo wine vinegar sauce accompany the chicken, along with a 'marmalade' of cepes, truffle, and truffle juice.
Today was my birthday. As the years slip by December 31st seems to come up on my calendar with far fewer intervening days. I guess that is mother Nature's way of allowing me to get through the year without having to remember long strings of mixed zeros and ones: a gray matter data compression of sorts.
However, I shall never forget tonight, for more reasons than one! The view was of Notre Dame. The table was on the top floor of 47 Blvd. Saint Germain. The plates held cheeses from Camembert, St.Nectaire and a goat. The fishy stuff was 250 grams of caviar from the House of Petrossian. My greedy girl friend hogged it all.
And, two hours of fireworks over both sides of the Seine entertained four million Parisians, and us. Everyone was drunk, but us.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Needle and Thread Ceremony: On this day the Bursar of Queen's College, Oxford, presents to each guest at the 'gaudy' a needle and thread - 'aiguille' and 'fil', a pun on the name of Robert de Eglesfield, founder of the College (1340) - with the words 'Take this and be thrifty'.
The embalmers of Lenin now tie up the loose ends:
Vorobiov was not the first Russian scientist to use this process for preserving tissues. In 1895 Professor Melnikov-Razvedenkov, an anatomical pathologist at Moscow University, had concocted a similar solution containing potassium acetate, glycerine and alcohol. In the course of his researches Melnikov-Razvedenkov had observed that potassium acetate is highly hygroscopic, and that this power to absorb and retain water helps prevent loss of moisture. Similarly, he noted that glycerine preserves the elasticity of tissues and permits the skin to keep its natural colour. It may be said, therefore, that Professor Vorobiov's real distinction lies in his adopting and improving upon Melnikov-Razvedenkov's method.
One of the main difficulties encountered by Lenin's embalmers was the appearance of dark spots on the skin, especially on the deceased's face and hands. In the event Vorobiov managed to solve the problem: in between baths the spots were eliminated by the use of a variety of reagents. For example, if a patch of wrinkling or discolouration occurred it was treated with acetic acid diluted with water. Hydrogen peroxide could be used to restore the tissue's original colouring. Damp spots were removed by means of disinfectants like quinine or carbolic acid.
Once these visible defects had been attended to, there remained the restoration of the eyes and the mouth. Stitches were inserted under the dead man's moustache to close the lips. False eyes replaced the real ones to prevent the sockets from becoming too sunken; then the eyelids were closed again and sewn in place.
Good Night, Lenin! Sleep tight!
After a very late in-room breakfast Becky and I walked up Rue Lauriston to Avenue Des Champs Elysees for a final visit to the Arc de Triomphe. However, we quickly slipped into a movie theater as there were just too many people on the street; apparently, everyone was celebrating the first full day of the "euro" ... the franc will check out of this world with a final weight of 6.55957. Incidentally, we saw "The Truman Story", with French sub-titles.
Am I really still in Paris? Barely. Tomorrow I pack. Sunday I fly.
A sartorial something from today's I.H.T.:
The Museum of Erotic Art is the only Paris museum that is open night and day. Located just doors away from the Moulin Rouge, it is almost guaranteed a steady stream of both diurnal and nocturnal visitors. It's seven day a week visiting hours from 10 a.m to 02 a.m., combined with student and group discounts also make it a convenient last call on the itinerary of budget minded museum groupies.
Though not on a budget we went there.
The museum glowingly and proudly advertises more than 2000 original pieces from all continents save Antarctica. Aside from "works of art", the seven floors showcase a curious assemblage of what it modestly refers to as "unusual objects". And, for a tempered view of some last century postcards, another click of your mouse will lead you to your desired location. However, to leave the safety of my own sandbox, in order to play at your own risk at the source, go to: http://www.erotic-museum.com.
This afternoon Becky and I made our first ever purchase using the euro. We bought some CD's at the Virgin store on the Champs Elysees. OK, obviously we didn't use any euro coins or bills as those things have yet to be coined and minted ... but, we were able to pay in euros using a credit card. Of course, when I get my Visa bill the euro price will have been converted into dollars, my currency of choice for that card. For anyone who is not yet aware of what happened yesterday, 11 European countries bumped their own bits of money for this new pan-European stuff.
Tonight is my last night in Paris. But, not for long! In less than three weeks I'll be back at Chateau d'Oex for yet another Swiss Alpine Hot Air Balloon Festival ... and, this will be followed smartly by a short return to Paris in preparation for our journey to southern India.
Hmmmm ... this looks disturbingly familiar! It was a little past 8:30 in the morning. The Paris streets were wet and it was a Sunday so the Porsche had little traffic to slow it down. We made it from the hotel to the Autoroute in less than a dozen minutes. The only hitch is that we were on the wrong Autoroute. Instead of nosing south toward Orly, Becky was navigating her way out to CDG. However, my retinas connected with my brain only when we whizzed by the huge new stadium where France smashed Brazil last year at the World Cup thingy.
"Becky, are you sure that this is the way to Orly?"
"But, I thought you were leaving from DeGaulle?"
"No! I'm flying American ... not Air France."
"Why didn't you tell me? You usually fly home from DeGaulle."
"But, I told you that I was booked on American; and American ONLY flies from Orly."
"How should I know from where your American planes fly?"
[Lengthy pause while the Porsche tries to find an Autoroute exit that is coupled with an entrance back to Paris]
"In the future you should be more precise as to your airport."
Again, thanks to the day of the week and the weather, I was checked onto my Paris-Miami flight with an hour to spare. At this point one of Murphy's minor ordinances made a "Hrrruuumph" noise. After some throat clearing, a Gaelic accent announced that the departure of flight #63 would be delayed.
Not only would it be delayed, but, due to very strong head winds this outgoing flight would take about 11 hours to creep across the Atlantic. Connecting passengers were advised to enjoy their stay in Miami. The announcement went on to taunt us with the fact that the incoming flight had made a record sub-sonic crossing; and that by now its passengers must surely be having croissants in their hotel.
The schedulers and predictors were accurate to the second. Eleven hours later the front cabin door allowed the first passengers to exit into a US suburb of Havana.
But, not before our Boeing 767 was treated with a view of one of NASA's more memorable launches. We were just west of Cape Canaveral when, at 3:26 p.m., a rocket carrying the latest Mars lander pierced its way through the clouds on its way to the Red planet. Of course, all of these things with clocks and times and space age stuff brought to mind some unsettling points that were captured in an article in yesterday's Financial Times (London).
Dearest Reader, if you think that 01/01/00 and 00.00 minutes was the only moment in time that is frozen with danger ... not so! Y2K has some spillage on either side of that tiny precise moment when all the hands of the clock point straight up.
Thanks to researchers at the Financial Times, we should also be aware of a few more calendaric glitches that string out to way past the time when we had felt that it was safe to return all that dried food to the survival shop. And, best not put those 40 secluded Colorado mountain acres up for sale quite yet. Oh, and by the way, some awkward moments with the clock may give us grief long before '00 chimes in with either a trip back to the steam age or a tick-tock into the 21st century.
As the Financial Times so nicely put it: "Survivalists, who like living in the wild, munching berries and trapping small animals, will have a field day."
Below lie a few dates over which to fret:
And, for something even more obscure than Y2K:
The Financial Times goes on:
"And it won't be all over one year from today (January 1). Some of the blame belongs to Pope Gregory XIII, who in 1582 had the calendar changed to square the man-made year with the solar year. Apart from losing 10 days altogether, his team modified the leap year rule, dropping one at every change of century except for one divisible by 400 years. So 2000 is a leap year after all. How many programmers remembered that? And what will happen if they didn't?"
"Not only could there be trouble at the end of February next year (2000), but also on December 31, the 366th day of the year, not to mention October 10, 2000, which will be the first date with eight digits in it: 10/10/2000. For some reason or other, March 1, 2001 is another milestone, and some program languages are end timed up to the year 2038 ... "
And, sigh, there is no solace by converting to Islam or Judaism. Though these believers are now shopping for 1420 and 5760 calendars, respectively; precious few programmers are thought to have had these years in mind when compiling lines of code.
[Leap year fans who have a British bent in their lives might be interested in a Times of London explanation of leap year logic.]
UNTIL CHATEAU d'OEX, GOOD BYE!
And, for "What's it all about, Alfie?"