Dame Blanche

This story starts at a restaurant near the Sacré Cœur, but it won’t end there. There’s more to tell before and after. I am choosing to begin with dessert.49759214_10156642200665272_7175104310940794880_o Literally.

For all my Outlander fans, in Paris (or maybe all of France, I don’t know) a “Dame Blanche” is a vanilla ice cream dessert with hot fudge and lots of Chantilly cream. Not only is it rich and heavy, there’s a lot of it. The portion size is enormous. There is a chocolate version called Liégeois Chocolat, which is equally delicious but not necessary to my French Outlander experience. These are both presented in the same line on the menu (no space or slash), so I think it’s all one dessert, and the waiter is confused. I keep pointing, and the look on his face as he walks away clearly says “I hope she has a hollow leg,” but that is only in retrospect.

What arrives is two overflowing parfait glasses, and I proceed to take them down like I have never eaten before and am new to the concept. I think my dad might have taken a bite or two, and that’s being generous.

To be fair, I had walked with my dad for over four miles that day, so by the time we got to dinner I was famished… even after having what seemed like an entire braised and shredded duck with mashed purple potatoes (akin to Shepard’s pie) for lunch… and that was just the main course. The entrée was a cream seafood soup and bread. Dinner was a veggie burger and fries. Given the way I usually eat, this was way past “I had too much to eat” and solidly into the perfection of gluttony.

Not being hungry has never stopped me from eating ice cream before, and I have my doubts it ever will again. French vanilla tasted roughly the same as it does in the United States, but chocolate ice cream is beyond comparison… less sweet and much darker, closer to a 60-65% cacao.

Incidentally, the rich desserts sort of made up for the lack of good coffee. Perhaps I was just ordering it wrong, but I thought it was terrible. The one thing I didn’t try that they had at the Charles de Gaulle airport Starbucks was a chocolate cereal milk latte. The rest of the time, I went to independent cafes or had instant Nescafe in my hotel room, which was arguably better than purchasing coffee elsewhere. Go to France for the food, clearly.

Earlier that day, I got my Doctor Who fix. One of the most famous episodes of the show takes place in part at the Musée d’Orsay Van Gogh exhibit, and to see it in person was astounding. musee_dorsayEvery Van Gogh you’ve seen in print is there. I saw the real Starry Night. I saw The Church at Auvers. I was mere inches away from haystacks and sunflowers. If I’d had four or five weeks in Paris, at least one would be dedicated to that room alone. I am not a visual artist by any definition. I would have just stared. I would have let his crazy mix with my crazy and see what writing came out of “us.”

Since I was short on time, I fairly quickly wandered around to the other Impressionists, spending a good five minutes looking at one light green stroke of paint on a Monet up close, then backing away until it looked like a leaf. I marveled at Gougin’s use of color and how it seemed he was the only person who painted people of color in that era. I loved his use of bright, engaging colors with cartoon-like black outlines so that everything stood out, like words with every syllable accented. Gougin’s art didn’t so much speak to me as it yelled in my direction, screamed and dared at me to look. Simplicity was complex. These were island people with spartan houses and blank expressions, so the question for me was, “are they happy?” Perhaps they didn’t so much like being painted, but it was more than that. I wondered if they felt impoverished or empowered.

The next truly overwhelming installation I saw was Monet’s Water Lilies20190106_151827, in permanent residence at the Musée de l’Orangerie. It covers several rooms and defies speech. Yet another work in which you constantly get very close, then very far away, then very close, just to see how the magic is put together. Monet was in his eighties when the collection was painted, and then stitched together to be hung. If you look very, very closely, you can see the stitches, but like everything else in an Impressionist’s work, blends “seamlessly.” When people talk about Water Lilies, they generally only mean the light blues and purples, but the actual cycle is so much more. The way they are hung now is, in essence, virtual reality. You don’t so much look at the paintings as step into them…. Claude Monet in “Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound.”

I am finding that talking about Paris is more suited to several entries and not one gigantic read, so you’ll see more as the days progress. My Facebook friends have seen all my pictures because I couldn’t snap a photo without posting it five seconds later. Sorry I’ve kind of left you out in the cold, Fanagans. I was too full to move, much less write.

And not nearly caffeinated enough. What is sold in the United States as “French Roast” is just a terrible, terrible lie they tell little kids at bedtime.

So Much Trying

It’s already 30 December at 1045, and I have so much to do before I leave for Paris on 3 January. I think the first step is finding clothes that I would never wear so that I can wash all the ones I would. It’s a bigger deal than it seems with so many housemates. I can’t just get everything together and put it in the wash. I have to find a slot. Surely there’s at least one between now and then. The trouble is that I doubt I can fit all my clothes into one cycle. I would rather drop my shirts at the dry cleaner, but with the holidays, I can’t be sure they would actually get done in time. So, the obvious answer is ironing with heavy starch and hoping that my suitcase doesn’t ruin the effect. Most American hotels have irons in the room. Not sure about Europe. Here’s hoping.

With the infinite care the baggage handlers take with our suitcases (insert eyeroll here- I have worked at PDX), I believe I will just take a couple of outfits in one carry-on. The rest of my laundry can go in my closet, provided I can reach it.

The problem with my stunning combination of mental health issues leads me to two conclusions. The first is that my severely less than neurotypical brain gets bursts of brilliance but does not handle the mundane or the minutiae very well. The second is that ADHD people work in piles (I am not hyperactive, but the DSM does not differentiate anymore). I can find anything within a few minutes, but no one else can… unless I put down my wallet, glasses, or phone. I think it is the difference between short-term memory and long. I can find things a lot easier that have been there for a month rather than a few seconds, made horribly worse by monocular vision. If you are not familiar, monocular vision means that my eyes don’t track together, so I have two distinct fields of vision. I can put something down on my dresser or desk, and if my field of vision changes, what I just put down disappears. I have literally lost my glasses when they were right in front of me. However, I have never lost my phone while I was using it…. so I got that goin’ for me.

Because of this, I put my passport with all my other important papers, and have not moved it since. I know for sure that if I did, I would be racing around on the morning of the 3rd, panicked to the point of tears and snot rolling down my face. I have at least learned that much, which is kind of a big deal.

What is also a big deal is knowing that I have readers in France, and though I will not meet them, I will see one of the places from which they read. My stats don’t get as granular as city, but I have had hits from almost every country in the world. I think there are 208, and I have stats from 205.

Once, and only once, my friends said “prove it.”

I got out my phone, opened the WordPress app, and they started quizzing me:

“Micronesia.”
“Check.”
“Lichtenstein.”
“Check.”
“UAE.”
“Check.”
“Nepal.”
“Check.”
“Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Russia.”
“Check, check, check, and check.”

Then they got bored.

Checkmate.

The majority of my readers are in the United States, but I tend to use as much international English as I can, because the next two countries catching up are the UK and Australia. I spell like an American, but tend to use international time and date formats.

I try not to think about spam bots, because certainly there are some from Russia and China. But I have too many hits from those countries by now to think that all of them are. In fact, some of those international hits may come from friends who don’t use a VPN. I have one, but the only thing I would use it for in France is Netflix. You can only stream in the country with your credit card.

This is relatively new. I used to VPN into the UK and Australian versions of Netflix until they caught up with the game. This is because different TV shows and movies are licensed in different areas of the world.

What has changed is that Netflix has realized how much Americans enjoy UK and Australian television, and a lot more shows are available in the United States than were previously. For those not in the know, Doctor Who has moved to Amazon Prime.

Speaking of Amazon Prime, I just got a watch that syncs with my Android phone for $20.00 (it will also connect to an iPhone, but not all the features work). I also had some AMZ credit that brought the price down a little. It has slots for both a micro SD card and a SIM, which means that I can store music and photos, as well as make calls without attaching it to my phone via Bluetooth. I find that bit unnecessary, though, because my phone will stream media through Bluetooth as well. I just need to get some Bluetooth headphones, because otherwise, the media and calls play through a tiny little speaker on my wrist, which is fine when I’m sitting in my bedroom. Not so great when I’m on the go.

I do want a micro SD card, though, because the tiny little camera makes me feel like a spy… and I promise, that is the closest to espionage I will ever get. It’s not like I’m going to run across foreign state secrets, but at least I look the part.

Speaking of which, a few years ago my dad and I went to see Jason Bourne, and a day later we were in a tourist trap gift shop near the White House. I found the coolest CIA baseball cap that has the big logo on the front and the tiny symbol on the back, which means it looks awesome no matter which way I wear it.

I have nearly fallen on the floor laughing several times when people look at me wide-eyed and ask if I work there. I always say that if I did, I certainly wouldn’t be ADVERTISING IT ALL OVER TOWN (huge eyeroll). Sometimes the stupid, it burns.

A couple of times, people waiting for the Metro have gone out of their way to avoid me, which I find equally hilarious. As an introvert, I don’t want to talk to strangers anyway. It’s as efficient as wearing a T-shirt that says “Jesus Loves You” and carrying a Bible.

I suppose that my baseball cap means more to me now than it ever has, because I feel like it says “I support the men and women of intel over our dumpster fire of a president.” Gina Haspel practically has to make a coloring book for him, and he still doesn’t get it.

Same goes for State, although I can’t find a cool baseball cap for that…. not for lack of trying.

And on that note, now I need to try doing my laundry. Wish me luck or send help. Either is fine with me.

Mission Accomplished

Getting my passport was a lesson in schadenfreude, except that I was laughing at my own misery, which is infinitely funnier.

My printer broke a long time ago, so I put a .PDF of my passport application on a flash drive and got an Uber to Kinko’s (or whatever they call it now…). We drive up, and it’s not there anymore. There is an empty parking lot where it and the Rite Aid used to be. I’m thinking to myself, “how is it that you did not know this?” And then I realize that I work so damn much that I hardly ever get to the Metro Station area of Silver Spring anymore, and even closer to never go to that Starbucks, which is the only way I would have noticed the absence. So I do what anyone would do in that situation. Give up completely and try not to cry. Not going to Paris isn’t that bad.

Really? No, not really.

I went to said Starbucks and got some coffee (Christmas Blend is excellent this year) and some bagel bites while I swore a blue streak and tried to figure out what to do next. I decided to just show up at the post office, because the passport office guy might be able to print out my document for me.

I get to the post office and they (rightly) laugh at me. I had to fill out another passport application in pen. Unless I set my mind to it, my handwriting is absolutely unreadable… just a carpal tunnel pile of garbage. I felt ten thousand years old, because who writes with a pen anymore? After a few minutes, though, I got into the rhythm of block capital letters, going slow enough not to agitate my wrist… which, by the way, is really, really, really, slow. On the positive side, because I got to the post office very early, they were able to move my appointment up… which was a very good thing. The guy putting the application together asks for my driver’s license, birth certificate, and pictures.

I told him that I’d put on my appointment that I was taking pictures there. He said, “well, you’re going to have to walk to CVS and get them done there, because our camera is out of film.” I’m sorry, WHAT?

I felt like I was in some sort of time travel nightmare, because it was misting, and as I walked, started raining harder, as if I had to run to get to the current century. I walk into CVS, where the nice clerk takes out a digital camera and snaps two standard-issue ugly government ID pictures… although we had to do them twice because apparently, in passports, you can’t smile. I thought about telling him that wasn’t true, that I was smiling in six of my other ones, but decided against it.

He apologized for not telling me before. I was wearing a DC United soccer jersey and jeans, and I said, “I’m not worried. As you can see, I put a whole lot of effort into this because government pictures turn out badly no matter what I do.” He laughed his ass off and handed me a folder with two pictures that have been approved for use not only with a regular passport, but biometric facial recognition as well. Like everyone else who’s ever had a passport or a driver’s license, I look like a serial killer on morphine.

I walk back through the rain to the post office, where the guy holding my application staples a picture onto it and tells me I’ll have it in two or three weeks. I hand him my debit card and he says, “we only take checks, but you can buy a money order at the desk.”

Let’s do the time warp again……

It’s $1.25 for the money order, and for some reason they start apologizing like it’s an astronomical sum of money, and tell me that if I want, I can walk to 7-Eleven and get one for 65 cents. I tell them I’m pretty sure it’s not going to overdraw my account, and can only imagine what kinds of fresh hell they’ve been through with other customers that they start apologizing beforehand over a dollar and a quarter.

Why didn’t I bring my own check? I literally cannot remember the last time I ordered a box of them.

Mostly because you couldn’t read them anyway.

Life, Abridged

Today has been all about scrambling to find an original copy of my birth certificate, which I thought I knew exactly where I’d put it. It was supposed to be in my top dresser drawer, where I keep all my important documents, like my ordination papers in case anyone needs to get married in a hurry. So far, it’s just been the one. Since I have completely torn my room apart, and I have no other stashes in any other areas of the house, I have decided that I must have given it to an employer and they failed to give it back.

Update: I mailed it to my dad for safekeeping. Total dumbass attack that I didn’t remember. It will be here in plenty of time to get a rush passport.

I need it because my dad and I booked a trip to Paris just after the new year, and then my sister and her husband asked if they could come, too. My dad and Lindsay have been before- not sure about Mathew. Years ago, when I was living in Portland, my whole famn damily went to Paris for vacation, and I could have gone, but there wasn’t enough time to get a passport by the time they invited me, because they thought I already had one.

I did get a passport when I went to Mexico, but the story behind that is my (now estranged, but still Oregon legal) wife accidentally gave it to Goodwill, when I left it in a pair of shorts I threw in what I thought was the laundry pile. I’ve been thinking of her a lot lately, what with the cooking and all. Dana has actual Le Cordon Bleu badges, and I don’t. I would have loved to take her to the real thing. And while I still love her in a friendship sort of way, we’re also estranged for good reason. Mostly because I was a total jackass to her and vice versa. In separation, universally, no one gets away with clean hands.

There’s nothing I’ll ever hold against her, but there’s nothing I’ll ever (ever, ever) forget, either.

But I do remember her a lot, and Paris is a place we both wanted to go, both from the food perspective and the several couples we asked to leave locks on the bridge for us to find when we eventually made it. Those conversations are memories that now make me indescribably sad, because I will indeed experience the divinity of Paris, just not quite the way I imagined.

But then again, I experience the divinity of The District every day, but not the way I imagined, either. It’s a good thing that I now think everything worked out the way it was supposed to resolve. I am glad that we never took a vacation here together, as I love living in a place that doesn’t trigger me all over the place. As I was telling a friend, being with Kat in my early 20’s is the part of my memory that is not so good (we lived in Alexandria, VA), and for that I am grateful.

Many, many people have now given me their recommendations for places to eat, although I hear that I need to go to a cafe rather than a restaurant, because they take forever. I can’t imagine that we won’t go to a restaurant at some point, but it’s a relatively short trip, so we shall see…..

Paris also reminds me of Anthony Bourdain, because I’ll never forget that he stayed in the hotel where Oscar Wilde died, his last words being, “I’m in a fight with the wallpaper, and it’s winning.” Bourdain did the ritual of absinthe, dripping it over a sugar cube, and realized what Wilde meant. 😛

It tastes like Fernet Branca, rich and herbaceous in all the right ways. I know because they sell absinthe without wormwood in the United States. I may or may not try it. I hardly ever drink, so my tolerance for alcohol is incredibly low. But I’m sure my dad, sister, and brother in law all want to hear how much I love them at 0200.

The last cocktail I had was when my sister took me to a Mediterranean restaurant here in DC. I wanted a something that would complement the food, so it was pomegranate and ouzo. I thought it was delightful, but I love the black jellybeans. Lindsay was not nearly as enamored with it.

I’m glad that I will have a passport again. The next dream I have is going to Helsinki for December 6th,fid Finnish Independence Day. I would tell you why, but it’s a long, long story and one that I don’t want to let go…. more than I already have, anyway. I’m sure if you look through my archives, there’s something in there somewhere. But the story reminds me of a dark time in my life, and how one celebrated holiday had to become another, and Finnish Independence Day was available. I basically had to bring a lantern into the dark, and for better or for worse, it came from a country I’ve never studied, and never cared about one way or the other for most of my life. But now, sufficed to say, my love for it is real and it’s deep. Finnish Independence Day threw me a life raft, and I took it.

Plus, Anthony Bourdain went there and now I know some good places to eat, if they’re still open when I eventually make it. I don’t know what I’m doing with my culinary life if reindeer pizza isn’t #goals. I also tend to buy soccer jerseys when I travel, or ask for them if others are going to another country. I would proudly wear the Finnish one for the entire month of December…. although I doubt it would make as many people jealous as my Honduran one. Half my kitchen is Honduran, and every staff member there has said they wanted to steal it when I’ve had it on. I didn’t wear it during service, just over my t-shirt on the way there so I’d have something to wear afterwards that wasn’t covered in food. I had to make sure it was completely hidden, because I don’t think they were kidding.

It feels nice to relax now and be able to enjoy my day off, but I do have to put my room back together after completely tearing it apart in fear that my birth certificate was buried somewhere. I think it’s time to read or watch a movie. I’ll flip a coin.