Thanksgiving Musings

Hello my people (aka anyone reading my blog, which automatically makes you my people)

I’ve been meaning to post about our Paris restaurant debauchery, but then I got busy and then I got the stomach flu and it just didn’t seem right, on many levels, especially after I heard this story on NPR, about people in Nairobi and India who don’t have access to indoor plumbing, and I wrestled with the whole concept of having a blog on my freaking FREQUENT travels to Paris and France and the decadence of it all….I still wrestle with that, and my feelings about Thanksgiving, which I celebrated for many years along with all my fellow countrymen and women without giving much thought to the origins, and what it meant to Native American people. I’m reading a book given to me by my best-est CEPR best gf, called  Open_Veins_of_Latin_America and it has opened my mind in all kinds of ways. I know that I have some Native American ancestors and I try to learn as much as I can about the damage caused by the powerfuls quest for empire, and how awesome cultures have been eliminated through the centuries, all for the quest for the almighty dollar. The more things change the more they stay the same…

But, on the other hand, there really is a need for a day dedicated to giving thanks, and for appreciating family and friends and preparing and serving and sharing food. I am continually  grateful for so many things, and this year was no different. I was missing my best girl but my boys were here, and it was so nice to see their now so grown up faces,

hearing them say hey D-Boo (a remnant of the days when we all gave each other hip-hop names). I can’t believe that they were 9 and 11 when I met them. Wow! (I don’t have a digital picture of them from that time, but this is from Paris in 2006. AWWW!)

Back to the present, I am grateful that we had such a fabulous meal: A heritage turkey from Springfield farms and mashed potatoes from Jim’s garden and oyster stuffing and chestnut stuffing and a pumpkin pie made from Jim’s pumpkin and beets from my stepdad’s sister’s garden and organic homemade cranberry sauce and greens and carrots made by Mark’s girlfriend and we had some fabulous Burgundy Grand Cru to enjoy along with the meal.

And the day after the feast (the horribly named Black Friday), I am grateful that people all over the country came together to fight for their fellow citizens who work for poverty level wages and can lose their jobs for speaking out about having to work when they’re sick, or on Thanksgiving.  It’s easy to be dismayed over stories about people trampling their brothers and sisters just to be the first in line to buy a flat screen tv that they really don’t need – it’s soul crushing really, But yesterday I met some really nice strangers, people like me, who are lucky enough to work at jobs that pay a decent wage and who give us paid vacation so that we can enjoy the holidays with our families, and who want that opportunity for everyone. Is that what it means to be a Socialist, do you think? Anyway, I couldn’t just sit by and I wanted to do something, anything to show my support, so I drove to the closest Walmart and was welcomed to join in the protest. It would be easy to feel like our efforts meant nothing; that Walmart had the best “Black Friday” ever, so why bother? But I really need to concentrate on the small victories: All the people who slowed down to read our signs, and who waved and gave us a thumbs up after, and the 3 people who actually turned around and left after talking to us. that was awesome, and powerful.

And so, I’m left with all kinds of gratitude, especially for my life that includes the people I love and my frequent trips to the place that I love. So, to bring things full circle, I’ll close with a pictorial homage to our various meals in Paris from October. Here’s a link to my 875503 Chowhound review for all the yummy details (vegans, stay away!!!):

Pirouette Restaurant: agneau

Pirouette restaurant: figs

Basquey cheesecake

Oysters and shrimp, Huiterie Regis

Many thanks…

Interrupting this Blog for One Final Political Message, Paid For by the People

I know, I know, I promised in my blog’s “About” page to restrict this blog to my life outside my politically-attuned life in the DC think tank world, but the recent election was such a big deal and I’ve been thinking a lot about what it all means, so I decided to put those thoughts down on paper (virtual, but still).  So, to anyone who stumbles across this blog looking for my Paris/France/travel/foodie/music musings, please skip this post. Because I am going to vent just a bit on politics – well, not really politics per se, but the policies behind the politics. It could get wonky so read at your own peril! But if you decide to continue on, some things may even surprise some of you, my people.

For one, I didn’t vote for Obama. After lots of thoughtful consideration I decided to vote for the Green party (which admittedly didn’t matter since I live in the 100% predicted vote for Obama state of Maryland). But, even though I didn’t vote for him, I am at the same time VERY glad that he won. I relate to Obama kind of in the same way I survived working for the Baltimore City Public School System: I complained non-stop about the dysfunction to my friends and some colleagues, but defended my system from the slings and arrows that came from unfairly critical outside sources.

That’s how I feel about Obama. I can’t believe that anyone would ever call him a Socialist (it’s laughable, really), so I am more than happy to defend him from attacks from the far right, especially racist attacks because I am still amazed and proud that my country voted in an African-American for PRESIDENT. But, when viewed though my lefty progressive lens, he has mightily disappointed on several fronts, including:

Drones and kill lists

Continuation of Bush restrictions on civil liberties

No consequences for Bush era torture, etc etc – basically a continuation of Bush foreign policy

Tim Geithner and Larry Summers and the rest of the centrist economic team

Not standing loudly and strongly for my deep-held principles. I am especially concerned about Social Security and Medicare, which any real Democrat would vow to protect to the end

Not holding Wall Street/Too Big to Fail Banks accountable for wrecking the economy (no matter how much they cry about him being hostile, he’s not).

His going-in position on health care reform that included, no embraced, the insurance companies. Public option/single payer was never on the table. Or Medicare for all!

Basically, not taking advantage of his huge opportunity to make real and lasting change in this country. He had lots of political capital, especially in the beginning, and he failed to use it when he could – and where he couldn’t, I would have loved to see him fight to the bitter end for the principles (he said) we share. I would have loved to see his administration work behind the scenes to enact legislation that would help the poor and the working classes, not just write lofty speeches for him to give to fool everyone into thinking that they were actually doing the things he said. He’s a good speaker, but actions speak louder than words, and his administration was mightily disappointing on more issues than not, especially the first two years.

Beneath it all, I think that Obama is a cenrist technocrat who might have even felt at home in the Republican party of 30 years ago, when it was ok for a Republican to be pro-choice and moderate. But the extreme right wing in this country, enabled by the elites and corporate interests, have totally won the PR War. They have joined forces to successfully move the dial way far to the right – so far that to a large part of the uninformed and uneducated masses, any remotely progressive policy or concept or idea is “communist”, and therefore really really bad.  They’ve successfully convinced the Tea Party branch of the uniformed masses that ALL government” is “BAD”, so the TPers rail against “Big Government” while screaming “Keep your hands off my Medicare”. This pleases the corporations and the elites, who pretend to bow down to the altar of the “Free Market” while taking advantage of all kinds of government subsidies that serve to keep them rich and the rest of the unwashed as poor as possible. (See my boss Dean Baker’s books You can also read about his cute dogs).

Throw in the billions of $$ spent on the recent election, the gazillion dollars spent on corporate lobbying and Citizen’s United and the future looks rather bleak. And how sad is it that it would have been much bleaker had Romeny won? Particularly for us women. Shudder. So I am glad that Obama won, even without my (useless) vote.

I could go on and on and on but most people have probably stopped reading by now, so I’ll just say that I was happy to see gay marriage pass in MD, along with a version of the Dream Act. Surprisingly good news, as was the legalization of marijuana in CO and WA (just look to see what Obama’s Justice Department does; however, for some reason they aren’t getting the message that prohibition only serves to waste money and lives by throwing people, mainly minorities, in jail for buying/smoking a joint).  I am also happy happy happy to see that picture of Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin and the other newly-elected women Senators – I hope they don’t get corrupted by the rotten system. Oh, I forgot, I was being happy! Yes, gay marriage, that made me happy, I think that the wave will continue and we’ve turned the corner. Yay. And our bodies had a way of shutting all those crazy anti-abortion women-hating right wing men down. Yep, all those rape-denying men lost their elections. Hallelujah! And Alan Grayson is back in the House. Oooh Goodie, I hope he shakes things up real good.

I just hope that we, my awesome CEPR colleagues and other progressives in this country, can push back on the corporate-funded PR “Fiscal Cliff” scare story so that Social Security will be saved. It scares me that a day or two after the election, the drumbeat is loud and furious about how Obama just has to cut a “grand bargain” with the House to address the “out of control spiraling deficit”. NOW. Or ELSE. The cliff! Wow, it didn’t take long for the true powers that be to get back to their real, non-partisan business: the business of continuing the upward redistribution of income.  They see an opportunity to cut Social Security (dressed up in the friendly term “entitlement reform”).  And the sad thing is that our newly-elected President seems willing to go along with it, despite his campaign promises and populist posturing. And despite the overwhelming economic evidence that it’s just not necessary (see CEPR  or EPI  the data is there).

This all makes me so crazy, because I truly believe that if you strip out the political jargon and present people with economic data and facts and real policy options, a large majority (of the 99%) would actually choose policies that would stop the rising inequality and tame corporate greed. Take out the Republican and Democrat labels and educate people with no spin, and I bet you’d find a real groundswell of populist agreement on many things, across the spectrum. Doesn’t just about every middle class American think that firefighters and teachers deserve a living wage, and a decent pension? (which means that they really don’t hate union workers, do they?)

I just hope that the newly elected hope-fulls, including the President, listen to the voices of the people who put them there, and abide by them, and not their corporate masters.  I hope that my man Bernie Sanders can make his voice heard in the Senate. He speaks for me – if I weren’t moving to France, I might just consider Vermont. Too bad it’s so cold there

Thanks for reading those of you who made it this far. End of rant. Hello Project Runway All Stars. And soon, back to Paris, I promise.

The Paris Chronicles: Part 2, The Soul of the City

Paris is a beautiful city, and the tourist sites are certainly one of the major reasons why Paris is, what, the number one tourist destination in Europe? And I’m sure it makes the top listing of most-visited places in the world.

So, OK, that explains why people have it down as a check mark on their bucket list. But what keeps many of us coming back goes beyond that. It’s the culture, and the food and the people, and the way they go about living their lives. And the light. And friends.

My dear foodie peeps, I will get to the restaurants in another post, as our meals deserve to shine on their own. First, I need to talk about the way of life that draws me back to this beautiful place. I love the café culture of Paris. It warms my heart to see the rows of cane backed chairs and tiny tables.

I love getting that tiny cup of strong espresso, in a china cup, sometimes with a cookie or a piece of chocolate, and I love stirring the sugar cubes with my silver spoon.

I love the boulangeries and their smells, I love how everyone wishes you a good day when you enter and leave a shop.  It touches me when I see people walk down the street with their baguettes, breaking off the end to have a taste.

I’ve already waxed poetically about the markets but they bear repeating. I just love them so much, and I love the late night dinner hour and the three-hour meals and the fact that no one clears your plate before everyone is finished and that no one gives you your check before you ask. I love seeing the old ladies with their dogs, and the beautiful chic girls in their scarves that are tied just so, in a way I’ll never be able to imitate.

I love the light. Paris glows, iridescent almost. I can understand why so many artists are either from Paris, or move to Paris and never leave. The light at sunset is magnificent, especially from Montmarte. I love it. (this is an old picture of me showing the world my city :))

I also love my friends, both old and new. It’s beyond great to be able to spend time with people who mean a lot to me in the city that I love so much. I’ve met so many friends, people who live in Paris and who visit Paris (and wish they did live there!) through my various Paris websites, as well as through Chowhound. I am so happy to have met all of these great new friends who add so much to my experiences in my favorite place on earth.Through my dear Paris forum friend Jo I met N and D who live in Paris, and S who practically does, and this trip we shared one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had, in my favorite restaurant in Paris (more on that later, I promise my foodie peeps!) But here’s a sneak peek of us playing with our food:

I am also always happy to visit my best Parisian/honorary Baltimorean best-est French (sorry yes French) friend Loic. We’ve been friends for over 7 years now, ever since we picked him up in a bar in Fells Point, and he was a big part of our lives until he abandoned us to go back to Paris. Here is a picture of us, it’s very blurry but I love it because we are in motion, arguing as usual:

We argue every time about the time we met. It was 2005 and Jim and I were getting ready for our first trip together to Paris. We were in our favorite Fells Point (Baltimore) bar, the Wharf Rat. Drinking beer and eating pizza, like we did at least once a week.  There we were, sitting at the bar, talking about our three week away trip, when this guy sat down next to Jim and ordered a beer and I think a bowl of seafood gumbo. He had an accent – huh? He almost sounded FRENCH! In Fells Point? So I nudged Jim and said “ask him where he’s from”. Of course Jim just kept talking to him about, whatever, and I kept whispering “ASK him where he’s FROM!!!” And FINALLY Jim said “so where are you from?”, and Loic said “I am from Paris”. Well, I couldn’t stand it! I stood up and I think I hit him on the arm and said “GET OUT! We’re going to Paris in 3 weeks!” Of course now I understand that he probably had no idea what I meant when I said get out and since I hit him he probably thought I really wanted him to leave. But he overlooked my rudeness and we all chatted throughout the night and reveled in the fact that we were all smart-asses, which is a term that we taught him that he liked very much, because as he said, the only people he had met so far seemed to be (as we also taught him) tight-asses. We exchanged emails and he told us places that we should visit in Paris and the rest is history, as he became our dear friend and we spent the next 2 and ½ years sharing all kinds of adventures, and talking way into the night, dueling dictionaries in hand. I like to think that we all taught each other a lot.

Of course, being the Epidemiology Professor that he is, he argues that our meeting was totally random. That it was purely coincidence that we met, and that the odds were likely that we would have met at some time because he went to the Wharf Rat and we did too. Nothing more. Period. Me? Um, no, It was FATE that we met, of course. I had never met a French person in Baltimore in my whole life, and I meet a Parisian 3 weeks before my trip to that magical city? No way is that random, mon cher hon. It’s all part of some big plan, the end of which remains to be seen. But I think it has something to do with Jim and me moving to France…

Which is my dream. Our compromise (as you must compromise in any relationship) is that I will agree to live on a farm (well, on a piece of land with a garden and no neighbors. And MAYBE an animal or two. Definitely chickens) on the condition that said farm be in France so that I can live the French lifestyle while being able to escape to Paris whenever the itch strikes. So the next step in the adventure is daydreaming on just where Green Acres Francaise should be: Burgundy? The Lot? Basque Country? Brittany? Alsace? Here’s a hint: This map


along with real estate prices could determine the winner – stay tuned…:)

The Paris Chronicles: Part one – Random Thoughts on a Random Walk

Paris!!! What more to say?  Unfortunately we had a stressful entrée into my favorite city on the planet, as there was a miscommunication with our landlord and we ended up stranded for several stressful hours until I was able to reach him to let us into the apartment. We also had to hassle with returning the car.

But then, finally, we were free. Hallelujah! And finally I could relax, and enjoy my town. And I did, and we did! We walked and walked and walked. I’ll post on our restaurant and other experiences and deep thoughts separately. This post is just a tour of our random wanderings all across and all around my favorite place. And lots of pictures (like this one from our apartment window.)

We had no agenda and no plans. We made our way over to the 5th for lunch one day,

and enjoyed a stroll up rue Moufftard, enjoying seeing the market bounty,

and reminiscing about previous strolls and experiences…

On our way back across the river we happened upon this church.

For some reason Jim decided to go in, so I followed. Wow, what a beautiful place!

What was the name of this church again? Hmmm. St. Genevieve. Who was/is this St. Genevieve?

OMG, get out!! The Patron Saint of PARIS! Paris has a Saint? Why have I never known of this Saintly woman? You better believe I will be praying to her from now on. I ever saw some of her REMAINS! Jim saw this and said look, it’s St Genevieve’s finger.

And then we read that it is supposed to be one of her bones. The POPE had been there…

You never know what you’ll find wandering around Paris.  Swept away with my newfound religious fervor, I decided that St. Genevieve wants us to buy this abandoned house on Rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève.

HER street, So please join me in celebrating her feast day, January 3. It will be a big par-tay. Let us pray.

Still feeling full of the Holy Spirit, we walked over to  Notre Dame. Some people need to see the Eiffel Tower to know they are in Paris. Me, I need to see the Flying buttresses and then I know I’m home.

And the bridges. The bridges make me sigh



Bridge of sighs

I love this song. It reminds me of standing on these bridges:

We did manage to fit in some culture in between our debauchery,  We spent a few solemn moments at the memorial to the deportees.  I had never known of its existence, right next to the Seine near Notre Dame. It was very moving.

We also went to a new to me museum called the Pinacotheque, where we saw a Van Gogh exhibit called Rêves de Japon. There were two exhibits, one of the Van Gogh paintings that were paired with the Japanese prints that inspired him, and one of the works by the Japanese artist Hiroshige This was particularly interesting to Jim, who recognized several of places in the Japanese prints.

There was a lot of explanatory material accompanying the exhibit, so my eyes and brain were too exhausted to accompany Jim to Hiroshige exhibit so we split up and I went to another kind of museum (shrine) Galeries Lafayette.

Now this is a department store.

We also spent a day at the Orsay, communing with the rest of the Impressionists and looking out over Paris.

Of course no trip to Paris would be complete for me without seeing the Tuilleries, my favorite garden (I don’t know why, it just is). I was filled with joy to see the flowers in bloom. So beautiful.

It must have been lunch time, because all of the of Eiffel Tower key chain sellers were on break. I was glad to see that they get a rest…

And what’s a trip to Paris without a view of the city from Sacre Coeur?

We were there at night, having gone to a restaurant that sits on the other side of the Butte.

All those Montmarte steps = calories burned. You need to have some motivation to climb that many steps.

These are just a few of the moments that made me happy. There were so many more.

What is it about Paris?  Others way more gifted than me have tried to capture the reason why it calls to so many of us. In some ways it’s easy to explain,, And in others, it will always remain a mystery,

Next, I try to unravel some mysteries…