Amoeblog

Snowman in Paris

Posted by Whitmore, January 11, 2009 08:19am | Post a Comment

I’m back in Los Angeles and it’s sunny and warm. I’m overjoyed -- and somewhat warped, yes -- knowing that those are my dirty dishes in the sink and that’s my cat box that needs cleaning. I understand most of what I hear on television. And except for a dream that was apparently about the 1919 Flu pandemic (who knows where that came from?), the rediscovery of sleep in my own bed is just short of a mystical experience.
 
There were two things which surprised the holy hell out of me during my two weeks in Paris. First of all, how cheap it was for a doctor to make a house call on my behalf under the French healthcare system … yeah I think I’m dying, but who isn’t … Secondly, and truly the most unusual event, was that it actually snowed in the city of Paris for the first time in years. Its not everyday your six year old son can make a snowman in Luxembourg Gardens, or throw snowballs next to Serge Gainsbourg's grave, or make snow angels alongside Boulevard du Montparnasse. The morning after I flew out of Charles de Gaulle Airport it was 16 degrees Fahrenheit in Paris. I’m not sure what the temperature was here in LA but I walked down to Albertsons in my T-shirt.

The Bat Cave In Paris

Posted by Whitmore, January 4, 2009 01:13am | Post a Comment

Perhaps it is due to the holidays, possibly because we’re in Paris, but we seem to be constantly raising our wine goblets high, toasting to a helluva lot of people, places and things. Needless to say, we’ve also been drinking a lot of wine, very good wine. Inevitably during the course of a meal, especially a holiday meal, several choice bottles are opened, glasses refilled and then refilled again.
 
Three of the four residences of our French extended-faux-step-mock-families we’ve had the pleasure of dining with have a wine cellar of some sort. These people take their wine seriously; I’m not looking forward to going home to LA, opening my kitchen cupboard above the refrigerator and yanking down a bottle of Two Buck Chuck after all this. Sadly that’s all we’ll be able to afford after spending these few weeks living semi-large in France. These photos are from my quasi-once-removed-half brother-in-law’s newly built ‘bat cave,’ finished in April of 2007. His initial wine collection consisted of about 200 bottles; today he suspects that there are close to a 1000 bottles of wine and champagne stored down yonder under lock and key. That’s gold in that cave!
 
Anyway, here are, as far as I can figure, the top three toasts we’ve heard this Holiday season.
 
#3- Bonne Année (to the New Year)
#2- A la Santé (to health)
#1- Barack Obama
 
By the way, we have yet to toast Nicolas Sarkozy.
Chin! Chin!” 

Godzilla in Paris

Posted by Whitmore, January 2, 2009 11:13am | Post a Comment

The conversation at dinner last night bounced between French and English and began with the announcement that we were having rabbit for dinner, much to the shock of my six year old son. But then it was quickly re-announced that there was a mistake in translation, we were in fact eating chicken. My son was relieved, he likes chicken. He’ll eat chicken. Our host then served the rabbit with a Roquefort cheese sauce. From there the conversation went on to my son’s great love for animals and how at the age of two he learned the truth about chicken. To his absolute horror he discovered that the thing we ate called chicken was the exact same thing that clucked, flew badly, laid eggs and hatched cute baby chicks. (It was a dark day for the boy. Since then he’s adjusted well; chicken nuggets were a huge influence on his decision to eat meat.) Our dinner conversation then went on to vegetarians, veterinarians, ostrich meat, wine, medieval life in Burgundy, torture, science and reason, Kansas, the lack of reason, and we talked about how my French quasi-mock-faux-step father-in-law was a research scientist who studied magnetism (and something else about solids and mass, but I didn’t quite get the gist of the French conversation there -- just another spot where I got lost). The subject briefly switched to piano lessons, downloading music, and how the internet, phone and cable television works here in France. Also mentioned was the odd fact that everyone we have stayed with on this vacation has the ability to call the good ol’ U.S. of A. for free. Again the nuance of the French explanation was lost to me. The subject briefly stepped into American sci-fi films, I tried to shove the chat in the direction of 1950’s red scare style sci-fi but nobody took the bait. Instead the tête-à-tête went east to Japan and 1950’s Godzilla movies. And then the moment! One of our friends mentioned Bambi Meets Godzilla, and how while tooling around on YouTube one cold Parisian night, he found the classic, primitively animated film from 1969. I hadn’t seen it in decades! So here it is. A little walk down memory lane, my New Years gift from France.

My Ostrich in Paris

Posted by Whitmore, January 1, 2009 11:48am | Post a Comment
 
The travails of travel … I’m in Paris, the city of lights, and I’ve been here just over a week suffering from the worst jet lag of my entire chaotically wayward life. On top of the jet lag and the most mind-tweaking insomnia I’ve ever experienced, my knees are killing me, my back is killing me, I know -- pity the poor son of a bitch who is spending Christmas and the New Year in France. Did I mention my knees? By the way, it’s snowing right now. Which is about time. It’s been colder than shit here. The other day it got to a high of only 23 degrees. My freezer isn’t even that frosty. At least with a bit of snow on the ground, the cold becomes a little more bearable. Remember, I’m a third generation Angelino. Snow is as exotic to me as eating ostrich--I’ll get to that in a minute.
 
Then again, I’m not wandering much outside. I’m traveling, but my days of sightseeing are pretty much behind me. I know that sounds asinine, but what I need is more than a building or monument. So why then am I here? Who knows? I had room left on a credit card? Actually there is an answer. I need sustenance. Yeah I could use some spiritual, emotional, intellectual readjustment, but first and foremost I desire something astonishing to fill my gut. It’s called an insatiable appetite. Inevitably, whatever I do, wherever I go, food plays a staggeringly major role. I should have been a food critic. I should also weigh in the neighborhood of about 400 pounds about now. I don’t yet, but as a kid I used to aspire to be the next mythic Hollywood-concocted character like an Orson Welles. I may attain it one day, but only in girth alone.
 
So here I am in France, the land of incredible wine, cheese, bread and sauces, and my French step-semi-half-removed-extended-faux-in-laws are both excellent chefs. And what suits me and my appetite even better is the fact that they are divorced. In the demise of their marriage, I won the settlement. The family may have lost stability, but I inherit twice the dinner choices in half the time. And on top of that, because it is the holidays, out comes the competition and the big guns of exotic meats, expensive vintage wines and cheeses that redefine the meaning of life, the universe and everything.
 
Here’s an example. For years now I have heard about a certain cheese from the Franche-Comté region of eastern France. I’ve been told you might not want to check out this cheese too closely under a bright light right after spreading it on some fresh bread and right before popping it into your mouth. You may notice that the innocent looking white dusty coating is moving ever so slightly, and it’s not because there’s a breeze in the room. Alive or not, the flavor is an incredible near-religious experience; it has a bit of a punch to it, almost pungent but not overwhelming, with slightly smoky and nutty overtones, and to maintain its character, this cheese cannot be pasteurized. Maybe because my gourmet meal was served and devoured on Christmas Eve within shouting distance of a 700 year old church … I found myself closer to somebody’s god.
 
My perfectly delicious Christmas Eve dinner also included my first experience with ostrich, the other, other white meat. Actually ostrich is a red meat that is low in fat and can be used in any traditional red meat recipe. Its flavor and texture is similar to a lean beef, but tastes slightly sweeter and richer than most other meats. Some people say they are reminded of veal, I just say it just kicked my ass. For all of you health-conscious people with a fresh New Year’s resolution, ostrich is low in fat and cholesterol, as well as high in calcium, protein and iron. And here is some advice about cooking ostrich: it cooks faster than other meats because of its low fat content; you’ll notice there is considerably less marbling than any chunk of beef. Ostrich steaks should be cooked medium rare to medium, and according to my French quasi-faux-semi-half-removed father-in-law, cooking ostrich till well done is not recommended. Another thing, for all you trying to live a little greener out there, ostrich, according to the International Ostrich Gazette, has the best feed to weight gain ratio of any land animal in the world -- 3.5:1, whereas cattle is more like 6:1. Then add the additional methane all that bull shoots into the atmosphere … well hell, ostrich sounds like the thinking man’s choice.
 
That’s all for now, I have to catch the Metro and head off to another dinner … bon appetit!

THE BEAUTY OF THE SONOMA COAST STATE BEACHES

Posted by Billyjam, April 22, 2008 02:15pm | Post a Comment
   

Engage any former Bay Area resident in conversation for long enough and odds are that in short time the talk will turn to what they miss most about living in the unique and special place that is the Bay Area region of Northern California.  And one of the things that most folks who used to live in the Bay Area seem to miss most is the easy access to so many breathtakingly beautiful, scenic, peaceful places - all within a relatively close distance and time from San Francisco and the East Bay.

These numerous scenic getaway destinations include the recommended spectacular and dramatic Sonoma coastline, specifically the State-owned, public-access Sonoma Coast State Beaches that stretch for many miles north of Bodega Bay alongside Highway 1. 
This recommended day trip from the Bay (about an hour and a half drive north from SF if traffic is light) offers a breathtaking rugged Pacific coastline dotted with beautiful beaches and great trails (of all lengths) that are wonderful to hike along -- and all open to public access. 

This stretch of NorCal coastline is ideal for beach-combing, tidepool exploration, sea lion and bird observing, whale watching (January through May), reading, writing, painting, taking pictures, or (for idle fun) trying to find faces embedded in patterns in the numerous dramatic rock formations (like the face in the rock left), or simply relaxing and meditating while listening to the soothing sounds of the crashing ocean waves. Note that swimming is not advised since the ocean is very rough with rogue waves aplenty.

This time of the year is one the best times to go since in the summer months fog tends to stick around a lot longer every day.  If possible make the trip on a weekday and avoid weekends, when most folks seem to make the day trip from the Bay.  One recent week I made the trip on a weekday, arriving early in the morning, to find entire beaches (including Shell Beach which is a little bit of a hike down to it) deserted of other human life. Sure, a few hikers will show up here and there but you are likely to find a peaceful refuge nearly all to yourself.

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