Au Revoir, Paris!

Sometimes while I sit here in Georgia, drafting my blog posts, I purposefully divide my attention with slices of Americana.  For example, just twenty minutes ago I thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas double-episode of The Office.  It was charming, funny, and extremely nice to watch.  I won’t spoil it for those of you who watch it—but I liked it.  Maybe not Season 2 and 3 caliber, but good nonetheless.  Back in August or so, I decided to subscribe to The Office Season 7 on iTunes.  Sure, that might be a frivolous use of my money, but you know what?  I wanted it.  It’s one of my few American indulgences here (Not true).

A further confession: I’m really quite distracted even now!  Since The Office is a video-audio experience, it actually takes my full attention and forbids me from also writing.  Not so with Podcasts!  No, no.  With Podcasts I can listen and write “At the same time!”  However, as studies claim, there’s no such thing as multi-tasking.  I’m working on it, but let me tell you, 85% of my attention is devoted to listening to the degenerate delights of Dan Savage’s Savage LoveCast.  For those of you who have never heard of Dan Savage, I’ll put it shortly: He’s the premier Sex Advice Columnist in the country.  Something like four or five years ago he expanded his Sex Advice Empire into the digital world with his Podcast.

While in Georgia, I’ve managed to nearly completely catch up on five years of archived episodes.  The way it works is that Dan takes calls—recorded calls—and gives them advice.  Sometimes he gets guests on his show to help with specific types of questions (a doctor, a professional dominatrix, an 18 year-old Dan Savage-wannabe).  His combination of sarcasm, tough love, mean words, and really good advice make listening to his Podcast awesome.  The other nice thing?  It’s really perverted.  Now, I’m not a huge pervert, but man oh man, listening to perverts with major problems (and regular people with major problems [this advice usually helps even me!]) is very cathartic.  The only times I feel weird about it is when someone comes in to talk to me while I’m listening.  Luckily none of my family really speaks English, so I don’t have to worry about them dropping eaves from the other room.  Hoo boy, if they did….

Anyway, moving right along—that’s my confessional rant in which I disclose the lack of focus that I have as I write this and listen to the difficulties and countless joys of marrying a Pie Fight Fetishist—my Parisian adventures are nearly at an end.

Rebecca had heard of some restaurant in Paris where you drink wine from baby bottles and eat fondue.  (The saddest question just aired on the Podcast—“What is trust?  How do you build it?  How can two people who are head over heels for each other be broken up by stuff that happened before we even met?” through tears.  Advice: “Draw a line in the sand and say, ‘This bullshit ends now!’ and if he can’t get over it, DTMFA!”)  We found it and saw that it was packed.  Like, no way were we getting in.  Damn!  Instead, we decided to explore our way to some other restaurant that my mom remembered from days gone by.  We climbed a small hill and countless steps until we found ourselves right near Sacrecoeur.

It means "Sacred Heart" in French. Mom and I sat outside waiting for Myles and Becca to check it out. Kind of Moorish looking though, if you ask me (a dubious choice of who to ask as I've never seen any Moorish buildings in person. Just boorish ones.)

Mom found the restaurant and we enjoyed a tasty meal.  To be honest I can’t remember any of what I ate except that there was some delicious beer!  We headed back to our hotel and hit up a used bookstore on the way.  Did I already tell that story?  Eh, I’ll tell it again (Or for the first time! [Nobody knowwwwwwwsssss!]).  We perused for some while and I ended up with a French Cold War Spy Novel and a novelette by Evgeniy Zamyatin, author of We, the inspiration for 1984.  Frickin’ sweet!

This is the band, "The Cat's Pajamas" featuring Miles Davis's similarly inclined brother Raleigh Davis on Drums! (Read closely, you'll see what I did there.)

The next morning we rose early for breakfast and headed out to the Musée d’Orsay to see what was up.  As it turns out, Jean-Léon Gerôme [LINK] was up.  His was the first exhibit and so we headed towards it.  My family breezed through it but I was veritably captivated by his work.  He painted in a photorealistic style depicting a range of historical and contemporary topics, often basing his images off photographs (the period’s newest art form!) [LINK].  The naturalism and expression conveyed in his paintings really spoke to me, or something.  I loved it!  I wandered slowly through his Orientalist, Neo-Classical, Napoleonic, 17th Century, Meta, and Sculptoral phases reading every placard in detail.  I seriously contemplated buying the exhibit book (49 euro was a bridge to far, alas! [Christmas presents anyone?]).

For your viewing pleasure, I present to you the three photos I managed to sneak in the museum before getting called out.  It was okay—no flash.  I understand the importance of preserving art.  So without further ado, please enjoy the works of Jean-Léon Girôme:

This is maybe one of his most famous paintings. The one gladiator is waiting for the command to kill or spare the guy whose neck he has underfoot. This was the main painting that represented the exhibit. He also did several statues and statuettes based on it!
This one is definitely my favorite. It might actually be called "The Last Prayers of the Martyrs" or something. The Christians are about to be eaten by ferocious lions and tigers. Meanwhile, some of their compatriots have been crucified and set on fire. Not a pretty sight. Yet at the same time, a pretty sight. This specific image has been duplicated in several films!
Gerome's paintings usually capture the moments immediately before or after the main action of the work. In this case, the lions are sated and the charred corpses dangle loosely from the crosses. Cinematographers took a lot of cues from Gerome and he had a major impact on the photographic and cinematographic arts in the next century (20th).

When I left the exhibit behind me and rejoined my family it was about time for my sister to depart to catch her flight.  We said a fond farewell and let her disappear into the Parisian morning to find her own way to the airport.  As I understand it, she made it in one piece.

My mom asked me, “So, what have you still not seen?”  I answered, “Everything except Girôome.”  Myles and Mom looked at me with surprise and a bit of confusion.  “Really?  Okay….”  We wandered the rest of the museum as a loose trio—occasionally crossing paths and high-fiving.  (No high-fives)  To be honest, I only saw two other paintings in the museum that really intrigued me.  I’m not knocking the Musée d’Orsay, far from it!  I’m just speaking well of my boy Girôme!

After we reunited, and while we waited for my mom, my brother reached in his pocket and pulled out a toy that would make Joanne piss herself with Irish delight at our stereotypicality:

That's right, Joanne. My brother had a dradle in his pocket. We played dradle for a bit in the museum.

That was just a taste of what’s to come.  Keep reading, Joanne, keep reading.  Also, where’s Doug?  Am I facebook friends with him?  He needs to find out about this.  All will be made clear.

I’ll spare you some photos of my delicious cobb salad (Mmmm, avocados and bacon….) to keep things moving at a good clip.  With any luck, I can polish this off before the Podcast finishes! (“Maybe the new boyfriend is making up his crazy, pregnant ex-girlfriend!  Did you ever consider that?”)

We met up with my brother’s friend who is spending a gap year in Paris.  I can’t remember her name, shitty though that might be, but she’s a real nice girl!  We all went to this mini shopping district that’s open on Sundays (See where this is going, Joanne?).  On the Rue des Francs Bourgeois we found a small EU center and walked through it to an inner courtyard where we played with the fake ducks and pigs!

This one's pretty adorable. Always watching out for his children, that Myles is!
So, even though Rebecca got replaced by Myles's friend, she still looks like Rebecca. Makes for an easy transition. Love ya, Bec!
Mom's never looked so good sitting on a wooden horse than when she does so in a French garden!

As we window-shopped, and contemplated doing some actual shopping, we meandered further and further into the heart of my presumed (but falsely so) quarter of France.  What quarter could that be?

Let's just call it the Kosher Pizza Quarter, shall we?

I may have mentioned this before, or maybe not, but my family and I look really Jewish.  Let me share a few humorous anecdotes about these cases of mistaken identity.  Take my boss from my Congressional Internship (Note: Not the Congressman), once asked me in casual conversation, “Do you keep kosher, Raughley?”  “No, Gene, but I’d consider it if I were Jewish (And now I know where I could get my Pizza in Paris!)”  “You’re not Jewish?  But I thought you said—”  “Nope, you never asked me what religion I am.”  All in good fun of course!  Unlike the next examples:

It's the Jewish Quarter. Also, this picture isn't the negative example of mistaken-Jewishness. It's the stories below!

In Russia I had a few mistaken-Jew experiences.  Once in Novgorod my friends and I were followed into a grocery store by a small group of skinheads.  We dodged them and escaped (it wasn’t that dramatic) and had a swell night drinking Sovietskoe Shampanskoe with Lenin.  And eating cake.  Lenin loves cake.

Historians are still researching Lenin's taste for bagels.

In Moscow, a few months later, some friends and I were standing around deciding what to do when an unfamiliar face protruded into our circle.  “Do you know our President, Dmitri Medvedev?”  Seeing as he had just been elected, we were all well aware of who he is.  His one campaign poster had occupied one entire façade on Nevsky Prospekt for all of a week before the election, side by side, chumming it up with Putin—a surefire election tactic (Maybe McCain should’ve tried that….)

All it takes is standing next to Putin and declaring "Together we will win!"

“Medvedev: Clone.”  Excuse me?  What?

“You know Putin?”

“Yes…”

“Putin is also a clone.”  We were sensing a pattern.  “Where are you from?  Germany?  France?  England?”

Some chucklehead blurted out “We’re from America!”

“Ahh, your Bush is also a clone.  In fact, all of us from the ‘Old World’ are clones, even I am a clone.  Princess Diana was cloned and they killed the clone.  Do you know where they keep the original?”

“No, insane lady.  Where do they keep her?”

“With all the other clones, of course, in Transylvania!”  I think she might be mixing her legends at this point.  Clearly she’s confusing the classic tales of Count Dracula and The Tale of the 5,000,000 Clones!  “And in the brain of every clone is a microchip so they can control us,” she continued, pantomiming a puppeteer (Marionettes, not hand puppets), “And do you know who is controlling them?”  She turned and pointed an accusing finger in my face.  “The JEWS!!!  Are you a Jew??”

Do I look Jewish to you? What's that? I do? Oh, okay, fair question, in that case.

“No, I’m Italian.”

“Okay, good.”  Then she turned to my friend Lauren and, patting her on the arm said:

A Jewish-looking guy and a "Good Human" standing side by side! The insane lady would probably disapprove.

“You are a good human.”  She then told us about the countless letters she’d written to the FSB (Russian state security organization) detailing the global Jewish conspiracy and demanding, “If this isn’t the truth, then write me and tell me what is the truth.”  She hasn’t received any letters.

I think that means Bakery? Maybe in Yiddish? What do I know, I'm a terrible Jew.

Is that enough mistaken-Jew stories?  I’ve got more.  Like the time I was babysitting and the mom said, as she was scrambling to get out the door, “There’s pork on the grill—do you eat pork?” or my first conversation ever in Georgia with a Georgian in a cab, “So where are you guys from, Israel?”  Alas, no.

I've never celebrated Hannukah. I was there once by accident on night #1 of Hannukah in...2001 when my friend Dan and I were studying for a big test together. He got called up and had to go sing some prayers with his family while I continued making notecards. It was nice. Also, recently realized that my host family has a menorah in the corner with their icons. Dichotomy?

So we did our shopping, killing a short amount of time until I had to leave for my flight.  I said goodbye to my family and Myles’s friend (She sure looked like Rebecca though!) and headed into the metro, where I got a bit lost.  It was super, though, because I found the best buskers ever!

Pop Quiz, how big does it have to be before it can be called an orchestra? მე არ ვიცი!

Also found an advertisement for a Russian art exhibit!

Don't know where the exhibit was, but I was on my way to the airport anyway. I'm living in some of the old lands of the Tsars, so I can just ask some Georgians what it was like to be "In the Service of the Tsars!" Burn!

As I returned to Georgia, I came to realize that I liked Georgia a lot.  A real lot!  Sure, there may be cows hanging out in the yard in front of the store

Where are they? Look Stage Left and Stage Right. Normally I might confuse that, but since there are two cows, one on each side of the photo, it makes it really easy!

But there’s also the lovely surprises that await me every day as I live in and fall in love with Georgia.

How I love this kid. I think he's a gold miner in this one. Lookin' good though! That famous Luka smile came in handy on this one!

Me Miqkhvarkhar Sakartvelo!

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