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.

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.

A40

A 38 and A 40 were my seat assignments- the first from National to Midway, the second from Midway to Hobby. I did not expect this in the slightest. Unbeknownst to me, my dad had added Early Bird check-in to my ticket. On the first flight, I sat in the bulkhead for the extra legroom. The guy next to me coughed on me twice. By the time we landed in Chicago, I was coughing, too. Apparently, germs are a thing.

I mean, of course I know they exist. I just didn’t know how fast they could spread. But then again, it might not have been that guy’s fault at all. It could have been anyone on the plane and all that recycled air.I could also be incorrect in that germs don’t spread that fast, and I was already getting sick before I boarded the plane, anyway, and I just noticed it when a big dude coughed down on my head. If that is the case, I indeed apologize to everyone on board.

On the second flight, I sat on the second row- less legroom, but I did not like having to stow my backpack in the overhead bin and the lack of a tray table. Luckily, that flight was short. In fact, in true Southwest fashion, the announcements were hilarious….. Chicago is our home city and we’re done for the day after this, so you’re officially on the fastest flight in the fleet.

My plane to Hobby was delayed by about an hour and a half, so I did what most people do when they have extra time in Chicago. I went looking for pizza. I did not find classic Chicago style, but it was delicious. I hadn’t had anything but three cups of coffee up to that point, and a simple margherita was the perfect antidote.

I would also like to say that even though I went to Chicago, I am still alive and mostly well (you’re welcome, five readers who get that joke).

I landed at Hobby about 9:30, but by the time I collected my bags, it was closer to 10:00 before my dad and I left for Sugar Land. He took me through downtown and showed me all the Christmas lights, the new additions to the hospital where Angela works, and the performing arts center that’s basically on our street. So much has changed since the last time I was here. When I came to Houston in October, I didn’t come to Sugar Land at all. It’s nice to see how much the city has grown and changed- I hardly recognized it.

When we got to the house, my dad showed me my room. It is painted 18% grey, the only color that’s completely neutral in photographs, because it’s Angela’s office/studio… or, at least, it used to be. I seem to remember a few years ago Angela saying that the dogs were jumping out the window in her studio, and I was very confused, hoping they weren’t injured. I didn’t know that since the studio had moved, the window she was talking about was a foot off the floor. I thought they were jumping out the second story.

The paint is very close to my favorite color, which is also grey, but a bit darker. I don’t know the percentage, but it’s #333333 for HTML purposes and you can Google it, because I’m typing on a tablet and it’s a pain in the ass to look it up for you. 😛

My dad was so sweet- he put a coffee machine and a refrigerator in my room, stocked with HEB Diet Wild Red, one of the things I actually miss about living here. If HEB existed in the DMV, I think the region would be closer to divinity than it already is. Technically, I just want a Central Market within walking distance of my house. That’s probably too much to ask, but a girl can dream.

In addition to having my favorite sodas cold, my dad made sure that I had a Roku that tapped into the cable so I have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and………. wait for it……… BBC AMERICA!!!!!! There’s a Doctor Who marathon running right now, which I have turned off and am sitting in the quiet. Otherwise, I will just watch it all night…. Just one more episode…. one more….. one more…. oh, look… now the sun’s up. I made sure that either my dad or Lindsay had BBCA because I cannot miss the Christmas special. They’re always good, but this year’s has a regeneration. I have a very good feeling that Jodie Whitaker isn’t going to pop onto the screen with Alex Kingston saying, “hello, sweetie,” but again, a girl can dream.

River Song is one of my favorite characters because I’ve had a celebrity crush on Alex Kingston since ER. I don’t know whether I’ll end up feeling the same way about Jodie or not- in Broadchurch, she was in grief the whole time, and though my heart bled watching her on screen, I tend to crush out on people who’ve got that humor thing down. There’s just not a whole lot of room for funny when your son dies in the first episode. She was, however, brilliant in the role, and because of that pain, I can totally see The Doctor’s history weighing on her already. I want to say for the record that I have high hopes for Jodie as The Doctor, not The First Female Doctor. That’s cool and all, but I don’t think it’s the radical change people think it’s going to be, because I’d be very surprised if The Doctor’s new gender, and, by extension, sexual orientation, is even made an issue. Doctor Who is about adventure, and hardly ever romance, anyway. It is more about deep and loyal friendships, and those happen with any combination of genders.

I would, however, like to see The Doctor as a wife. But that’s just my own personal taste. There may not be a way to bring River Song back, but with a time travel show, who knows? I just think it’s important to show that when you fall in love with a personality, outward appearance ceases to matter.

There are things that matter so much more, like a coffee machine in my room.

A38

Though Dana and I are divorced now, there are still hilarious stories that run through my mind all the time when I think of her. Today it was Southwest Airlines.

I am sure that you are all familiar with the Southwest cattle car boarding process. You have to check in 24 hours before your flight time, and the closer you are to that exact period, the closer to the front you are in line. Every. Single. Time. Dana and I flew anywhere, she would sit at the computer with her hand on the mouse watching the seconds tick down…. Travel was literally the only time I ever saw her become a Type A personality. By the time it was ten seconds til, she was practically borderline diarrhea trying to outmaneuver the other 200 or so passengers. She’d hit that button like she was playing Call of Duty….. and God help us if she forgot and we were in the C group. But I think in the entire 7 years and change we lived together, she forgot once. Or maybe I was in charge and I’m ALWAYS Type B, so it could have been ALL. MY. FAULT….. the more likely scenario.

I am laughing so hard that tears are coming to my eyes remembering every time I had to “walk” through an airport with Dana, because it was more like trying to keep up with a hurricane.

I just want to get there early enough to go through security, and outside of that, I don’t care. I don’t care who sits next to me, I don’t care what boarding group I’m in,  I don’t care if I end up in a middle seat, I don’t care how early I get to the gate, because boarding takes forfriggingever anyway……….. Especially after having worked in an airport (I was a prep/line cook in a pub at PDX), my objective is just to be the most laid back, friendly passenger ever.

The story that has stuck with me the most from that time is the woman that missed three flights in a row from being too drunk. Eventually, security came and got her, and probably sent her home. As far as I’m aware, there’s not a drunk tank in that airport, although there is good coffee. In my experience, however, coffee does not make one sober up. Coffee makes one make stupid decisions much faster. It’s very effective.

Dana and I actually both worked in the same pub, because it had two locations in different terminals. I think we worked together once or twice, but mostly it was comparing notes at the end of the day… and a competition on how many famous people we’d met, which Dana always won.

When Grimm was at the height of its popularity, the stars would come through a lot. Silas Weir Mitchell (Monroe) made an appearance in Dana’s terminal, and the conversation ran thusly:

Dana: My wife wanted me to tell you that she punches me every time she sees your car.
Silas: ……………
Silas: OH! BECAUSE IT’S A YELLOW BUG!!!!

Diane and Susan worked with Thomas Lauderdale from Pink Martini for years- Diane because of music, Susan because when Thomas was young, he worked with her at the ACLU. I begged Diane to introduce me, and she didn’t.

One day this guy walks into my pub and tries to buy two San Pellegrinos. I don’t have access to the cash register, so I tell him that the waitstaff will be right with him. While I’m standing there, the conversation runs thusly:

Leslie: Do people ever tell you that you look like Thomas Lauderdale from Pink Martini?
Random Dude: ………………
Leslie: Oh my God. You are Thomas Lauderdale, aren’t you?
Thomas: ::wink:: ::blush::

As he walked away, I realized that duh, of course it was Thomas just because of the way he was dressed, which is completely unique and sassy. I didn’t beat myself up too bad- I’ve felt dumber.

The other story I remember as if it were yesterday was actually a conversation between one of the waitresses and me. I didn’t cry in the moment, but I did in the debriefing. The setup is that in our restaurant, there’s a mother/daughter team who live together, work together, and are seriously glued at the hip….. The conversation runs thusly:

Waitress: So, my mother and I were driving home yesterday and she asked me if I’d heard about some sort of explosion overseas. I don’t remember what country. I looked at her like she had three heads. When did my mother get interested in current events? I asked her about it, and she said, “oh, Leslie listens to NPR in the back all day.”
Leslie: (laughing) It’s true. I do.
Waitress: (tears in her eyes) Leslie, thank you for educating my mother.

I didn’t even know what to say, I was so touched. I was just doing my own thing, being all me, all the time. Most of the time, I worked on weekends, and I preferred Wait, Wait to music while I was slicing five pounds of tomatoes (oh, GOD. The acid burns…..).

One of the other cooks made me laugh when she said, well, it beats the hell out of Tejano. My answer to that was to start singing No Te Vayas….. LOUDLY. Hey, you work in a kitchen long enough, you memorize these things, because just like English megastations, they play the hits 68 times a week. Of course, as a Texan who speaks only passable “Spanglish,” I only know about half of what it’s saying, but I get the gist. The only part I really understand is the refrain.

But no, do not go!
Do not leave me without your love!
I need to feel again
The fire of your passion.

But no, do not go!
Do not be cruel with my heart!
But no, do not go!
Do not leave me a sad goodbye!

I can just picture him running through an airport, trying to keep up with a hurricane.