A month later……

Since my last post, I contracted the common cold and was laid low for two weeks. It is beyond my comprehension that we can cure so many ills but the common cold still does most of us in and it just has to run its course. It starts so slowly and shows no sign of being menacing. Blowing my nose every five minutes. In Paris, my nose starts running Nov. 1 and lasts until March 31st. It seems to be the price of walking outside so much–to get the metro, see friends in cafes, etc. So who knew that that day turned into two weeks of misery. I had to cancel almost everything. I had a scheduled flight to San Francisco and anyone who has flown with a congested head knows how miserable and painful that can be. I was determined to be well before the flight even if it meant never moving from my couch.

I planned a month long trip to Oakland to see doctor’s, do my taxes, clean and organise my home and probably do repairs. I wasn’t looking forward to the trip. Paris is my home now and going to Oakland is work not a vacation. I still find it painful to wake up there with the news in your face 24 hours a day and none of it good. Scandal after scandal. Who’s going to jail for what financial or political conspiracy? There was one piece of great news that made me jump up and down. Congress and Senate, both I believe, voted to protect millions of acres of National Park land, land that the Trump administration has been trying to get it’s hands on and destroy the protections that have been in place for years. When I ask friends ‘how do you stand it?, the news?’ They inevitably respond, ‘I no longer listen to the news.’ I understand BUT…..how many of us that want things different aren’t listening anymore or reading anymore? How do we stay informed when the media just eats up all the distractions and twittering? My way was to record The Late Show with Stephen Colbert each night and watch it the next day. He always has some political person on and makes it funny enough to be palatable. It helps that he and I are on the same side of the fence.

Then there is the matter of the weather. I picked February and March to be in Oakland in hopes that I would miss the worst of Paris winter. And what happens? Oakland has not had weather higher than 54o and rain most of the time. Not just a little rain, but gales and flooding and high winds. I’ve been dressed like a ski bunny most of the time. And Paris?—gorgeous weather — 20o/21o. I saw a photo of people sunbathing in the Place de Vosges! My timing is impeccable.


Gusty winds and rain will move across the Bay Area in time for the evening commute. Meteorologist Kari Hall has the details in the Microclimate Forecast.

I was in Oakland one week when I learned that a very good friend of this blog, Philippe Melot, had died suddenly. He was fit, rode his bike regularly and hard, ate well, didn’t smoke, didn’t drink. I was just stunned. I still am. But it reminded me to tell everyone I know how grateful I am for their presence in my life, their friendship. You just never know. It will be a shock all over again when I get back to Paris and realise I will never see Philippe again. It just breaks my heart. He loved Americans and was so kind and generous to all of us. He was, in my opinion, a very special man and special Frenchman.

RIP Philippe

The Gilets Jaunes have not slowed down. I am dependant on my friends in Paris to keep me informed of all the activities. One would think nothing happened in the rest of the world if only watching American news. Even NPR only gives the highlights. I subscribe to The Guardian and keep up with the Brexit antics but Les Gilets Jaunes just get small print. A week ago, my friend Barbara wrote: “Violent protests again in Paris on Saturday. Went to the library to return your book and could hear explosions everywhere and smoke everywhere. My eyes were burning at Rue General Camou. Of course the library was closed. I could see gilets jaunes and CRS everywhere. Losing all hope that this is ever going to end.” Now I’ve come to understand that the gilets jaunes are attacking jews. This just keeps getting worse. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/24/alain-finkielkraut-winds-of-antisemitism-in-europe-gilets-jaune

So for the time being, the rain falls in Oakland, the sun shines in Paris. Brexit may not happen until 2021, if at all. The Gilets Jaunes are being courted by the far right of Marine LePen and the Italian President and Prime Minister (both financially supported by Putin??). Meanwhile, they continue to destroy Paris and cost the French government billions of dollars. I do not think this is the way to win friends and influence people. But France is the land of protest. Life goes on except for my dear friend, Philippe, who I will miss terribly.

A bientôt,

Sara

Happy New Year—-from Oakland, Ca.

In France, one has the entire month of January to send out New Year’s greetings.  Sending cards for the new year is popular, sending Christmas cards is not.

8.jpg

So I’m wishing every one of you a wonderful 2017.  What I wish for us all is an ability to navigate our world, our politics (or their politics as the case may be) and to be the best citizen of this world that we can possibly muster without bringing in more anger, more hatred and bitterness than already exists.  It’s not a new concept but imagine if we did one good, kind deed a day and it spread like “The hundredth Monkey Phenomenon”.  Well, I’d like to imagine it!!!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundredth_monkey_effect

Yesterday, I got on a United flight to San Francisco to return to my California home for 4 months.  I was taken by surprise in mid-December when I was told that I needed hip replacement surgery.  Actually, I was given a choice.  It seems that doctors today cannot actually say “you must have…..” without fear of litigation.  One of my choices was surgery.  I went to all my friends who have had hip or knee replacement surgery and asked them one question: “In retrospect, if you had had the surgery done when you were first told that you might need it, would you have done it?”  Without exception, they all said yes.  When I was talking to the orthopedist and he was telling me the pros and cons of cortisone shots, I asked him straight out “is there any reason to delay it?”

The answer, not so surprisingly, was “No”

So I’m scheduled for surgery in mid-February.  The curious fact about me is that I have never been in a hospital since I was born.  My father used to joke “Sara, you were born in Garfield Hospital in Washington, D.C and they immediately tore it down”.  Yes, of course, I’ve been in many doctor’s offices and had two one-hour procedures (that I can remember) but to have a serious surgery and spend the night, that has been my sister’s realm.  And to say I’m a bit anxious would be an understatement.

IMG_5290.JPG
View from my bedroom window

Now, the window I get to look out of is my westward-looking windows here in Oakland.  I can see the San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge that spans from Oakland to downtown San Francisco (4 miles) and the Golden Gate bridge.  Many evenings, there is a sunset that cannot be rivaled.

California has been suffering a terrible drought for going on six years.  There has been rain, quite a bit of rain, in the last couple of weeks.  As my Uber drove me up my street from the San Francisco airport, the landscape looked strange.  It hit me that everything was Green.  Really Green!  And because it rained on and off yesterday evening, the green was sparkling like itty bitty diamonds jumping around on leaves, on new grass. Now sixteen hours later, it is pouring cats and dogs, as we like to say in English, or I’d go outside and inspect the gardens and see all the changes.

My cat, Bijou, stayed in Paris.  She is living with a friend who has a larger apartment than I did and also has children who love cats.  When I said good bye to her on Thursday evening, everyone had a bit of a hesitant smile.  Bijou was moving around carefully, looking around each corner before she let herself into a room.  W and E looked excited but not sure how to react to her.  I taught them to clap their hands very loudly when Bijou jumps up on a counter or somewhere she shouldn’t be. As if by direction, she immediately jumped up on a kitchen counter.  I clapped very loudly, she jumped down and scampered back to the laundry room which is her temporary quarters.  Then I left and felt my heart thudding with sadness.  It didn’t seem right to make her fly two long plane flights just because I have to have surgery.

IMG_0425.jpg
Bijou (photo by Fatiha Antar)

Banya, on the other hand, who grew up in Oakland and moved to Paris with me is in kitty heaven.  She was an indoor/outdoor cat, became an indoor cat in Paris and never seemed to adjust.  Now she is home after a long plane ride.  She must have known she was coming home because she stayed calm and hasn’t stopped purring.

 

IMG_0413.JPG

I wish I had a smart closing line like Garrison Keeler and could say “and that’s the news from Oakland where all …..”  If anyone can dream up a really punchy line for me to close with, there is a small Thank You coming your way.  Until then,

A bientôt,

Sara

Wednesday morning, Nov. 9, 2016

Dear Friends,

I went to bed last night not knowing a result but it was pretty clear which way the wind was blowing.  I looked on at the commentators in admiration as the night dragged on and they stayed cool, clear headed and just reported the facts.  I went to bed because I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I woke up this morning to the result I saw coming.  The country has a President-Elect.  It’s not Hillary Clinton. All my city and county results were almost exactly what I wanted.

My friends will think I’m being naive.  I am refusing to say anything with hate in it.  I have not turned the TV on but I know that there are protests happening all over the country. It’s certainly a way of getting anger out!   And there is plenty to be angry about.  One thing you can say about Donald Trump is that he didn’t make false promises.  He did not run on unifying the country.  He has no intention of trying to bring together blue and red.  He also made it very clear that he believes in Revenge.  I suspect that will be his number one priority: to get revenge on all those who weren’t with him.  So if you happen to be a member of the blue group or a man named Paul Ryan, there is definitely difficulty ahead.  The similarities to 1933 Germany are striking.  I am looking forward to reading Op Eds from people much smarter than I am on how to move forward.

09eveningss-slide-1PV8-articleLarge.jpg                    Protests in Oakland, California where I am at the moment.

A friend called me and told me to listen to Hillary’s concession speech.  Which I did.  What a woman!  Although I’m sure she was in shock, her speech was gracious while admitting her pain.  And she urged we give Trump open-mindedness.  No one seems to be listening.    I also listened to Kaine, Obama and then Trump.

But what is on all the airwaves is: how could the media have gotten it so wrong.  I was in the UK, two days before the Brexit vote.  It never occurred to me that Brexit might win.  The cab driver who took me to Exeter airport told me that it would win, “just watch” she said, “The leaders have no comprehension what’s happening in this country”  She voted against but she had her finger on the pulse much more so than the media or the leaders.

Seems it was the same for the US.  The media had given Hillary a 75% chance of a win. I believed the media.  I will be be very interested if a consensus is ever reached about the media.  What I saw last night, when NBC put up the map with the red states and the blue states, was that the country had turned red with blue hot spots.  People are pissed off at everyone, at the government that is always in a stalemate, at anyone who represents the establishment.  It’s not dissimilar to me when I was 20, 21, 22 years old and we didn’t trust anyone over 30 years of age.  We wanted to change the world and we caused quite a disruption.  Our one great coup was forcing the end of the Vietnam war.  What will happen with this war?

So many questions.

Please feel free to leave your comments and predictions.  But please no hate statements.     Thank you,

A bientôt,

Sara

The Bad and the Good

Somewhere I heard a saying “Make plans, God laughs” or something to that effect.  After having written my post on Monday and looking forward to my flight to San Francisco on Tuesday, everything changed.  I woke up at 4:15 and treated myself to a taxi since it was a bank holiday in France and I wasn’t sure of the trains.  I arrived a little before 6am to learn that my flight was ‘delayed’ 11 hours.  Would I like to reschedule?  After hearing my options, I told the woman at the check-in desk that I’d rather wait for a direct flight at 7pm.  I’d just go back into Paris.   Weeeelllll, she really did draw that word out, it might be safer if I rescheduled another flight.  She clearly already knew what she couldn’t tell me–that the flight would be cancelled 20 minutes later.

It seemed my only option was to wait at Charles de Gaulle for 5 hours then fly to Washington D.C.  I would go through passport control and customs in Washington then go to a domestic terminal after checking my luggage back in.  I’d get a flight to SFO about 2 hours later.  And even though I had upgraded to Business Class with miles, “we are so sorry, Madame, there are no business class seats left, so you’ll fly economy”

CDG-star-alliance-business-class-lounge-cdg-05443-533x400.jpg                                                                              United Lounge at Charles De Gaulle airport

First, I’m not good with change.  It throws me.  I’m not very good at waiting.  However I managed to sit in the United Lounge for my requisite hours, e-mailing people that I wouldn’t be where I was supposed to be and boarded the plane to Washington.  I’ve been very lucky, as it turns out.  Both Paris and San Francisco are very lenient with flights coming from both cities about getting through customs.  Not so in Washington D.C.  I was walking down the walkway when a cute looking beagle walked right up to my suitcase smiling away.  The beagles handler asked me if I had fruit etc in the suitcase and I said yes, and waved my Drs letter.  She gave me an orange sticker and pointed me in the direction of  a new conveyor belt.  Between fatigue, disappointment over all the changes and some basic unfounded fear, I had myself a temper tantrum.  The little woman in charge of investigating criminals bringing one apple into the US was tearing open all my presents I had bought in tax-free while waiting at CDG.  She found my apple and gleefully raised it with an ah ha, gotcha you.  I tried some 10 year old manipulation tactics that never worked when I was 10 years old so not sure why I thought they’d work now.  Yes, I made a scene and in so doing, turned what was already an uncomfortable day into a bit of a nightmare for myself.

 

CBPDulles_800_1.JPG                                                                     My cute little beagle at Dulles International!!

Sans apple, I rechecked my luggage and made my way to the second leg of my flight. I got to my home in Oakland, California about 9 hours after I was rescheduled to arrive.  I didn’t have to stay awake until this time zone’s night time, I went right to bed and got a good night’s sleep.  But it took me another day to stop blaming customs in Washington DC for my “nightmare” trip and own up to the fact that I brought quite a bit of it on myself.

My willingness to be a little more generous may have had a lot to do with the fact that I got to see my first baseball game Wednesday evening since last April.  For a baseball fan, that is quite a drought.  And what a game!  Game 7 between two evenly matched teams that were both in search of an illusive World Series Championship.  For the Chicago Cubs, it had been 108 years.  I was rooting for them just because of that history.

And what a nail biter of a game.  Trying to explain baseball to a french person is somewhat like trying to teach Chinese in a day.  The french are Futbol fans.  Futbol is fast and lively.  People who don’t understand baseball say it is like watching paint dry!  So I go without baseball in Paris.

 

IMG_5283.JPGThe game was so unpredictable, so closely matched and, in my opinion, so overly managed by Joe Maddon, that the Chicago Cubs won in spite of him.  Not that this is news to anyone.  Everyone in the world must know that “Wait till next year” came this year.  The Chicago Cubs are 2016 World Champions–although the word world is a bit euphemistic.  It was thrilling, it was worse than a horror film.  At one point, I changed the channel, I thought my stomach would never survive the back and forth of scores between the two teams.  But the Cubs had God on their side Wednesday.  There was a seventeen minute rain delay and in that time, the Cubs held a team meeting without any of the coaches and boosted themselves back on board as winners.

 

360-worldseries-largeHorizontal375.jpgExcitement and joy are contagious.  I’ve been to Wrigley Field once in my life.  But I had no trouble jumping on the bandwagon of exhilaration and felt so grateful that these moments allowed me to forget my trip and appreciate that I got to watch the game.  And what a game!!!!!

http://m.cubs.mlb.com/news/article/208017164/cubs-to-have-world-series-parade-on-friday/