Paris Diaries: What the French Got Right
After 5 and a half hours in the Louvre, I need to sit and have something cool to drink. The French have the right idea about to serve lemonade (citron presse). If you order one in a restaurant or cafe, they will bring you a glass of lemon juice, a carafe of water, and sugar allowing you to mix your own. No water stirred in with powder pretending to be juice, this is the real thing. What I particularly like is that this situation allows you to make the lemonade as sweet or tart as one likes. This is the only way that lemonade should ever be served. As I sat there drinking my citron presse I thought about other things the French have right.

Leisurely Dining- In NY, I often have dinner and bring food home only to eat it about two hours later. In Paris they have no concept for "doggie bags", but this is unnecessary as you can sit as long as you want until you are done dining. The dinner parties there are quite an experience-they start at around 6 and go until 3 in the morning. There are often take long breaks in between courses to play music and talk. This is, I'm fairly sure, what Roman dinner parties were like. In NYC, people want to eat quickly and get up, even if they enjoy the person with whom they are dining. I often feel here people just want to "get it over with" when they have dinner or lunch. I don't like to eat quickly, and I certainly like the long breaks between courses in order to really enjoy the meal, the company, and the overall experience.

Polite Exchanges-The French are all about please and thank you for everything. There is no such thing as a completely impersonal transaction. You walk into a pharmacy, and as you put products up it's thank you very much and good bye. It's very civilized and something that I think for the most part has vanished from American society with the exception of some pockets of politeness like Minnesota ( hence Minnesota nice).

Charging More to Sit Outside-Depending on where you sit, you pay different prices for food. The cheapest is to sit at the counter, next at a table, and th
en the most expensive as outside. I'm not sure why this hasn't caught on in places like NYC where restaurants could make a killing on really nice beautiful days. I walk by restaruants with packed patios and think "There's a freakin' fortune to be made here." I think it's win win. If Pris is any indication, people are certainly willing to pay more to sit outside, and if not well I wouldn't have to wait as long for a table and the restaurants would still make more money.

I know, you're aren't with me on this one, but seriously. I think we need to adopt this practice.

a bowl of coffee for breakfast-As I learned on my first trip to Paris, that whole brimming bowl of tasty highly caffeinated coffee from a bowl with milk isn't just something they do in foreign films (I thought, much like the "breakfast spread" on Friends-no one in Paris actually had bowls of coffee in the same way no one in NY bothers to pour OJ and milk into pitchers before setting them on the table for breakfast.) It was in Paris I started drinking coffee because it is awesome. A lovely full taste. And just the jolt needed in order to walk up Monmartre to wander around Sacre Cour. First thing in the morning a bowl of good french coffee with milk and sugar-nothing like it.

Croissants-Much like bagels and NYC, you can only get really awesome criossants in France. Sorry, but it's true.

Fresh bread, veggies, and fruits-The French really value fresh food and so the little markets have strawberries so fresh you can smell them yards away. And these little markets are all over the city open every day so you can easily enjoy fruits and vegetables. You can buy baguettes baked so recently that not only are they fresh, but they are still warm. And those baguettes are toted home, slathered with butter, and served with dinner to help you literally clean your plate when you are done eating. And clean it you will, as the French make great sauces-bearnaise, au poivre, au vin. Shame to let it go to waste when it tastes lovely with a fresh piece of bread. My personal favorite pairing is a bearnaise with a whole wheat sourdough. Those two tastes complement each other surprisingly well.

And then it was time to walk down Rue de L'Opera to buy my mother perfume and see if the best chocolate store in all of France was still where I remembered it.

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The Real Fashion Police

I know I am in the middle of the Paris stories and that I rarely blog about news stories, but some times I come across a news article so important, so devatating, so revelatory that it promises to change my life from here on that I simply have to share it.

Delcambre Louisiana is going to fine people with sagging pants and exposed underwear 500 dollars. I'm amused by how this law might effect the show Cops. Perchance there will now be a Fashion Police show complete with very short pants around the ankles chase sequences.
Already there is criticism about the possibly racist overtones of such a law, but the mayor denies any racism claiming that "White people wear saggy pants too." I'm guessing next week they will also be banning the thong song as an incitement to violence.

All I know is that I am never going to Louisiana. Never.

Paris Diaries: Another Rant About Audio Tours
Injuries: 1 (blood blister right foot)
Overt Come Ons: 1 (Old Man on L'ile de la Cite)
Theoretical Come-Ons: 0

The first time I went to the Louvre, I got off at the Concorde metro stop and walked through the Tuileries while the Louvre got bigger with every step. The first time you see the Louvre, if you have any control over it, this is the way to do it. Because it just gets more impressive and huge and my inner monologue was basically, " no it can't get more....oh my god....look at that's just too..." and finally my inner monologue just exploded with amazement.

But this was my third time to the Louvre. And you know how when you go back to visit your third grade class room and everything is smaller than you remember, and I use the word you here because when I went back to my third grade classroom I was overjoyed to finally sit in a chair where my feet could touch the floor, but I digress. Going back to the Louvre this time, well, I tried to recreate that awe and not so much. It's not that it looked smaller or less, well, palatial, it was just less impressive.

I should say this, however, before I go on. In the metro station stop for the Louvre there are ersatz displays of works of art ON THE PLATFORM. There is a little Venus de Milo on the platform. I'd like to see that in New York. Oh sure some of our stations manage not to have the mosaics defaced, but can you image what would happen if
there was even a fake Statue of Liberty on the platform? Well, I don't want to, but I'm fairly sure that some poor emergency doctor would be involved at some point and that's all I'm saying. So even the Parisian metro is a unique and civilized experience.

So while the Place de la Concorde is lovely with a view of the Champs Elysees and Cleopatra's Needle, the Tuileries could use a lot of work. But even when I had to hobble through that fucker, the Louvre has restored my good feelings about Paris.

The late Richard Jeni believed that there is a neurochemical reaction that caused people to say stupid things to the MacDonald's drive in servers. I believe that there is a neurochemical reaction that makes people in museums assholes. Not all of them. Some, a very chosen few, are immune.

Not surprisingly this epidemic of assholery coincides with the proliferation of the audio tours. While I talked about my dislike of audio tours in my first set of Paris posts, I need to revisit this issue.
Umberto Eco in his essay "Travels in Hyperreality" condemned amusement parks like Disney World for essentially making attendees into machines. He didn't address the passive nature of the customers (sitting calmly as they are ferried through a "small world"), but the parks essentially regulate and therefore homogenize the experience (to his way of thinking). It seems to me that audio guides are far more effective in terms of giving a homogenized experience and, just for added fun, denigrates great works of art to boot. They direct passive museum goers to what works have been deemed the most important and instead of encouraging the goers to seek out the works that are the most provocative to them and just look. Art should be an interactive experience in which the viewer not only learns to really look at something directly (without the gaze of a camera lens), but also examines one's self. Why is the Lo Zoppo painting of the Virgin and Infant depicting the Virgin's exposed nipple as she breastfeeds Jesus is so shocking to me? Instead you have goers who simply walk through museums plugged into headsets trying desperately to quickly "get" the importance of works of art.

To some degree the argument for audio tours is, for me, a similar argument to those made for "condensed classics." One of the pro condensed arguments is,
"Well, reading an abridged version/listening to an audio tour may lead the person to become more interested and investigate further on his/her own" or that it makes the art less "difficult" and easier to understand thus encouraging intimidated viewers to have their first positive experiences which will lead, hopefully, to more involved experiences. Essentially what it comes down to is this: most of these people want to appear to be cultured the easy way. They want to "learn" what they should say about art to look erudite when they go back to tell their friends about their Louvre experience at the next cocktail party. They want to have a clue about what the subversive lesbian content of Jane Austen's Emma might be so they can intimidate friends with their pseudo intellectual prowess.

If that's your goal, don't even bother going into a museum and getting in my way. Seriously. If that's what you want you can get that from any number of books or websites. The goal of art is to be a unique exchange between the artist and the viewer. When I walked into the D'orsay I was shocked to find out I can identify an Ingres and an artist of the "Ingres school" with just a glance, but then I have to ponder what is it about the imitator that gives him away? What does the Ingres painting have that fascinates me? But there is no quick way to do this. One must really look and ponder and, worst of all, think. But the Da Vinci Code audio tour is not about helping "the masses" appreciate art. It's about giving them a simple streamlined generic passive experience of one of the most magnificent museums.

Aside from the marauding assholes with audio tours clapped to their head trying to hit the "right" works of art before running to the next event, I found myself frustrated with the Louvre. Perhaps it was because I wanted to see too much, and there was much that I sacrificed, but I found myself annoyed and for the first time wondering, "Why am I here?" I should not doubt my presence in the Louvre. It is meant to restore my faith, but instead it reaffirmed my deep and abiding hate of Americans. I come to Paris to get away from you fuckers not listen to you chat on your cellphone about, "Yeah, I'm by the Mona Lisa. Uh huh. Well can you hear me now?" After about four hours I was about to leave hot and tired and disenchanted, when I went to the special Praxitele
exhibit where I discovered Phyrne (actually a nickname that means toad), a famous Greek courtesan who adjusted her price according to how she felt about the customer.

There is something about statues, how someone can look at a hunk of rock and have the vision and skill to make it so delicate and alive that one expects the statue to suddenly blink and stretch and reach for a towel. Each step you take around the statue gives you a different experience. And if it's a statue of a famous Greek courtesan, well, that just makes the whole hot sweaty tired experience worth a few more steps on sore feet.

So after 5 and a half hours in the Louvre, I decided it was time to step back into the sunshine even though I had to behind many works that I wanted to revisit. I pondered perhaps going back on Sunday, but somehow I couldn't justify spending another day in the Louvre. After all, I had already seen these works once, and there were lots of places in Paris that I hadn't seen once. Like the Musee Rodin, Les Invalides, and the Eiffel Tower.

Regardless, it was time to seek out a cafe and relax for a bit.

Be Just and Fear Not
"Do you know what the most terrifying thing is? It's fear." Peeping Tom

This filmmaker is making a documentary about "What is scary?" All you have to do is call this toll-free number: 1 (877) 250-8285 and after the introductory message, answer the question, "What is scary?"

I will be calling in, but here is my answer in written form, which is my performed medium.

"What do you see when you're in the dark and the demons come?" In the Line of Fire

I have a unique experience having lived through so many things that people fear. And not only did I face them, but because of my parents, I wasn't allowed to even express those fears. I've confronted major surgeries at 12 years old with less fear than most people experience going for a walk-in surgical procedure. So things like cancer, surgery, death-they don't scare me. I've faced them too many times.

As a child, though, I experienced some very unusual fears. I was terrified of alien abduction for years. I was also scared of spontaneous human combustion and demonic possession. When I was in my twenties (which is when I was finally able to rid myself of the alien abduction fear), I realized the common denominator. For me the basis of those fears was one thing-the inability to control my own body. All of these fears about other forces acting and controlling my body while I am unable to do so. What makes this fear is particularly odd is that I faced this reality on a daily basis. Because of the surgeries and some of the experimental treatments and tests I was subject to (I've had wires injected into my legs and had electrical currents sent through them) I often coped with having control of my body taken away and bestowed on a seemingly malevolent force. Even when another force wasn't controlling me, my body due to neurological damage, I was often unable to control my body. While I could envision the execution of acts perfectly in my mind (like running upstairs), I was, despite all of my efforts, categorically unable to perform the act itself. To me, although I couldn't express it directly, this was the most terrifying thing of all. I was literally not myself or not under my own control. My body was this other hostile thing that had to be coped with and feared.

The surrendering of control, although expressed in an unusual form in my life, is fairly common and is what underlies (I suspect) the common fear of dentists and doctors.

Once I realized the basis of my fear, it significantly diminished. I'm still terrified of dying in the OR, that my death not only would be while I was completely vulnerable (naked and unconscious), but in front of a bunch of apathetic strangers is worse than dying alone, but not by a lot. For a while, after my father died, I was scared that he would come back from the dead to continue to tell me how I was fucking up my life. (I didn't sleep until he was buried,which since he was a Jew was right quick.)

"Keaton used to say that didn't believe in God, but he was afraid of him. Well, I believe in God, Agent Kujan, and the only thing that really frightens me is Keyser Soze." -The Usual Suspects

I think now aside from those fears, most of my fears are more in the abstract realm-like dying without making difference. I'm not afraid of actually dying itself. Actually if the last 7 months have been a testimony to anything it's how not afraid of death I am. I'm probably more afraid of living. Living alone. Living without hope. Living with the idea that nothing I do matters. Being so unhappy with life and yet being categorically incapable of ending it. I think these are far more terrifying than death.

I'm honestly probably the most terrified by things like some of my former students and their inability to follow a line of thought to its natural conclusion or their pathological apathy about almost everything. I'm terrified that I've spent my life building myself into an intellectual because my parents taught me this was the way to happiness and being loved only to find that it is absolutely the wrong way, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars, to achieve either of those goals. I'm terrified of wasting my life. I'm terrified that I am unlovable. That there is something in me that makes impossible for people to love me. (I have often billed myself as the cure for romantic love-that is both a joke and a truth of which I am terrified.) I am scared that all those kids who made my life miserable in middle school were right-the idea that I could be lovable or useful or cool is just ridiculous.

"Even without the events of 40 years ago, I think man would still be a creature that fears the dark. He doesn't face that fear, he averts his eyes from it and acts as if he doesn't have any memories of his past. But, 40 years is both a short time and yet, a long time. Man's fear has withered. And even time itself tries to wither the desire to know the truth. Is it a crime to try and learn the truth? Is it a sin to search for those things which you fear. My purpose in this world is knowledge, and the dissemination of it. And it is I who is to restore the fruits of my labor to the entire world. Fear... It is something vital to us puny creatures. The instant man stop fearing is the instant the species reaches a dead end, only to sink to pitable lows, only to sit and wait apathetically for extinction." The Big O

I used to ask my creative writing students about fears from their childhood. They came up with some classic ones: butterflies, bridges, and turtlenecks to name a few. I was terrified of the Muppet re-enactment of the Jabberwocky and the girl who turns into a giant blueberry in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I'm sure there are reasons for those fears, but I think a lot of comes down to our little minds looking at something and saying, "Now that is some fucked up shit."

I eat fear for breakfast. I spread fear on a bagel, with a little jam and nuts." Catscratch

If you don't feel like sharing your fears with some twit filmmaker in NJ, I totally understand. You can, however, share them with me. I promise not to hide under your bed with a flashlight and playing my special edition of "Creepy New England House Noises Vol 2."

Unless, you know, you want me to.

Apocalypse Now

In case you don't know, one of the lesser known signs of the apocalypse known as the Two Coreys will premiering on July 15th on A and E. (Can those letters really still stand for Arts and Entertainment?)

There's no joke here. Just my recommendation that you drop everything and invest in shotguns, canned goods, and bottled water. Oh and maybe sweep out that bomb shelter out back. Might have more use than you imagined.

Apres moi, le deluge
Well it seems that I actually will be teaching a whopping seven students, but still I must spend tonight preparing. Sorry for how long the Paris diaries are taking (and to me they seem strikingly boring, but don't worry they have a happy ending), but I promise another post tomorrow. Until then anyone reading in the NY area should know that tomorrow it will pour. One of the perks of arthritis. You know when stormy weather is on the way.

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