Fezzik In Paris

Two Americans, three cats, and too many places named "de Gaulle"

Thursday evening’s early departure from work was intended to spare us the worst of the crowds at le musée des arts décoratifs de Paris. We were partially successful; having been thwarted last weekend by the lack of pre-purchased tickets and the incredibly long line, we managed to catch what we would find was the leading edge of the after-work crowd, a somewhat surprising response to the exhibition entitled Christian Dior, couturier du rêve.

As to the actual quality of the exhibit, I remain unsure. Having escaped the bizarrely-hot first few rooms, I found myself with a bit of an odd feeling when presented with walls of Dior, um, stuff, presented as a color spectrum. My initial thought was that the curation was a bit lacking; the breathless descriptions insisted that the “New Look” was revolutionary and important, but as someone who is not an octogenarian, a woman, or French, I found the insistence a bit strange, particularly when it would not have been difficult to show off a few of these supposedly horrible post-war jumpsuits (I’m well aware that said garments were not actually jump suits; the word “utilitarian” was tossed around quite a bit though). My feeling that this was more of an advertisement for Dior as opposed to a meaningful exhibition was confirmed as we proceeded through the remainder of that half of the exhibit, wherein we watched various Dior ad campaigns and saw bottles of Dior perfume accompanied by Dior’s assertion regarding perfume being an essential component of a dress.

The second half of the exhibit was marginally more educational; collections by each of the head designers were presented, though essentially no mention was made of the entry an exit conditions of a given designer (per Wikipedia, these were largely drama-filled and, on more than one occasion, not indicative of a sane corporation). There was no mention, either, of the multiple bankruptcies that almost killed the brand at various points.

All that aside, I suppose that it wasn’t terrible; the museum does have quite the bookshop.

In the things-that-make-you-feel-somewhat-old category, we can place twenty-year-anniversaries-of-events-that-occurred-while-you-were-in-high-school.

I am referring, of course, to the twenty-year anniversary of Diana’s death, which occurred on Thursday.

We happened to be wandering that particular evening, so I have photographic evidence.

In complete honesty, I had written a post about last weekend complaining, as usual, about what turned into a weekend of mediocrity: a mediocre movie (Valerian), mediocre duck (always a tragedy), and a mediocre exhibit (Dragonland).

After being distracted for days of watching a hurricane do its very best to drown Houston and its environs (including the house that we still own), however, that particular line of complaint feels, dare I say, petty.

So here’s some week-late pictures of some really lame dragons.

Oh hey, it’s evidence that I’ve been negligent.

No, really, this is entirely unexpected; I had zero clue that I have been lacking in the motivation department, and I certainly didn’t realize that we had gone to Strasbourg the weekend before last, not when this past weekend was spent on such amusements as sitting in an emergency department for several hours on Saturday (the positive side of a universe ambivalent to all of our existences: sometimes things turn out well enough), but hey, what can I say?

Oh, right. Strasbourg.

A pleasant two-hour-high-speed-train-ride-in-an-easterly-direction away, Strasbourg originally earned a place on our to-visit list after a visit to canal saint-Martin, in which we interacted with a shopkeeper with a strangely clear, later-to-be-identified-as-Alsatian, accent. True to our expectations, listening and understanding French in Strasbourg is an oddly clear experience, owing to the crisp German influence on the normally compressed French pronunciation. That said, I had no occasion to try out my likely-abominably-decayed German (not that being told in college that I had managed to pick up a farmer-quality accent has made me eager to speak again in the first place), though I did manage to confuse the hell out of myself after zoning out at lunch and wondering why the weather in Italy was so cool at this time of year (in my defense, we were in a pretty authentic pizza place, and Strasbourg is apparently a popular stop for Italian tourists, because there were inordinate numbers of them).

The highlight of the trip was probably our first meal in town; acting otherwise irrationally and following the advice of a schlubby Youtube personality whose other videos on Malta made us laugh (they’re awful, but the guy has a genuine enthusiasm that’s almost infectious), we ate at Maison des Tanneurs and were introduced to the utter magic that is Alsatian choucroute (sauerkraut cooked in Riesling) with magret de canard (featuring a cinnamon sauce, which is, in my mind, desperately fucked-up but was ultimately tasty). Ka being a wheel, we later suffered food-related lowlights such as a different but supposedly-good Alsatian restaurant being inedibly awful and then an almost-complete inability to find anywhere to eat Sunday evening, owing to the fact that eating out on Sunday is impossible without a reservation (though I will admit that this led us to eating at an unexpectedly-good Italian restaurant with decent pizza, a good vegetable soup, and a bottle of the elusive Lambrusco [sparkling red wine]).

Food aside (paragraphs about food aren’t normally what I would consider my oeuvre), there were a large number of now-indistinguishable churches, museums, pigeons, tourists, random crap emblazoned with storks (the stork as a fertility symbol is apparently of Alsatian origin, and they’re judgy fuckers, even in modern times; no roosting on the house of divorcés allowed), and a nice red sandstone cathedral, which I did not climb and thus am unlikely to remember.

Perhaps when I feel less petulant, I will revisit the gallery and add captions. Perhaps not.

Walking into Les archives nationales, one gets the feeling that while they do technically have a museum with a handful of (actually very exciting) documents on display, most people wander in more or less on a whim, and only because the two main hôtels that make up that particular part of the archives are so nicely preserved. It is thus with a bit of surprise that I can report that their current exhibit, chronicling the abuse of the French national archives (in the Revolution, in the uprisings of 1848, in the commune, in the Franco-Prussian war, in the first world war, and most recently in the second world war) was well worth the six euros each (plus a whopping 2€ for an affiche and a further 10€ for one of the memory games we so like to play when inebriated) that we paid.

While the aforementioned laundry list of civil strife resulted in all sorts of horrors being perpetrated on otherwise defenseless codices, cahiers, ledgers, papers, binders, and other written records, (I should note that the curation displays a wry sense of humor; the section regarding the Revolution-era pillage of the archives also featured the blood-stained desk on which Robespierre spent his pre-guillotine last night) the exhibit injected a needed bit of levity in the form of an experiment that was conducted early in the year in which, with the help of an apparently-amused group of pompiers, the archives decided to see exactly what it looks like when fire is applied to some rather large books and documents (said documents were extraneous duplicates).

As it turns out, that shit burns.

July is gone.

The fact that we existed during the month of June and continue to exist in the month of August demonstrates that we were extant during July as well, though there is little photographic evidence of said existence.

It’s the existential squeeze theorem, though I suppose the squeeze theorem is already existential if you subscribe to the philosophy that calculus is life. Confession: I use far less calculus in a direct professional capacity than I had expected (conceptually, however…). We won’t speak of my lingering disappointment at the abject lack of differential equations to be solved, nor will I comment on just how little MATLAB and just how much Excel are used.

July, however, is still gone.

Let us then reflect on what we accomplished:

  • We enjoyed a few days of a cat-free apartment;
  • We requested that the cats be returned to us early, owing to our unexpectedly early return;
  • We promptly regretted requesting that the cats be returned to us;
  • We wandered around La défense (subsequent to seeing Wonder Woman);
  • We hid from the heat;
  • We hid from the rain;
  • We wandered out to Pompidou at some point;
  • We got sick of hiding, but with the Purrito out of commission, my excitement was limited to becoming lost in the 15e, owing to a dead phone;
  • I drafted a blog post about getting lost in the 15e in which I compared my then-dying phone to a dying animal (“…as the last of the heat ebbs from its plastic body…”), decided that this comparison was really fucking disgusting, and abandoned the post on principle;
  • I gave up on watching the Tour de France pass by when the live tracker on their site insisted on malfunctioning for the entire day of the Tour;
  • July ended, and here we are.

Oh look, a few token pictures.

We’re back.

(I’d start with the lyrics from Without Me, but at some point the album whence it came turned 16 years old. Holy shit.)

In truth, we have been back for four days at this point, but I haven’t been in the mood to write and we have been a touch distracted; upon opening the door to our apartment Wednesday morning, we noticed a section of plaster on the floor, the result of a new water leak. Having roused both the management company and our insurance company and then dealt with the plumber on Thursday, we then spent much of Friday waiting for Darty to deliver our shiny new dishwasher as ours threw an error code stating that its mainboard had burned out after we tried to do the first batch of post-return dishes.

As for Houston? It was, well, Houston. While the Purrito has been making regular jaunts to carry things back and check on the house, this visa run was my first time back in the US in three years. This trip basically confirmed what I had suspected; three years of living in Paris has soured my outlook on a city that I never really loved, but had at least made peace with in the year or two before we came over here. Strip malls, traffic, and over-salted, at times unexpectedly sweet food are what stand out to me in my current (admittedly still jet-lagged) state; I’m grateful for the anti-high-fructose-corn-syrup movement that seems to have taken hold, which made selecting food somewhat easier for me, but holy shit are food portions huge, and when the fuck did 20-ounce bottles become the norm for Coke (disclaimer, owing to having grown up in Albuquerque)?

Confronted with the existence of all of three museums and Space Center Houston (which we did not end up visiting owing to extreme heat the first weekend and intense rain and packing the second weekend) in the “cultural activities” category, we saw, with renewed clarity, that there really is not much to do other than eat and buy shit, so the Purrito cooked (ask us how much catfish we ate [or don’t]), we bought shit (not that we didn’t possess Lego before…), we watched strange “family” movies (The NeverEnding Story, Labyrinth, and Where the Wild Things Are; Target’s $5 DVD collection was, shall we say, interesting), and we bobbed around in the temporary corporate housing’s apartment complex’ saltwater pool.

All that said, it could be the residual jet lag, but my memories of the trip are actually more positive than portrayed above; due to the strange schedule I was working from our kitchen table in an attempt to mitigate the seven hour difference with France, we found many of our afternoons free, and it has been quite a long time since we’ve had so much time together. It was usually running errands or grabbing Starbucks (again, nothing to do but eat and buy shit), but it was time with the Purrito, and for that I am always grateful.