Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Le Cyrano

There's a little Parisian bistro, more like a boit à nuit, around the corner from Place de Clichy. It's le Cyrano on rue Biot and takes you back in time.

 I think the déco dates back to 1914 when it was called Porcherons and includes huge mirrors and gorgeous mosaic tiling on the walls and a long elegant bar
Historically the clientele complimented the decor. Picture the surrealists who met here; André Breton,  Man Ray, Max Ernst, and Dali. 
Nowadays there is a double happy hour from 18h to 19h, another from 22h to 23h. The only fault of Cyrano, apart from the one less desirable toilet, is the lack of seating.
Cara - Tuesday

Monday, November 18, 2019

My Best Punchlines—#1

Annamaria Back Here on Monday

Having produced a serious blog only few days ago, thanks to the MIE birthday celebration, I am not up for anything earthshattering today.  Given the general state of things, amusing is the best I can hope for, and that will be a stretch.  So here comes a true story out of my past that gave me a real-life opportunity to deliver a punchline.

Sometime in the early 80’s 

One of my clients, a huge international manufacturing firm, had offices and plants all over the world.  In the US, though the headquarters was in Stamford, Connecticut, most of the plants were in the south.  My contact at the company, the director of training, was a wonderfully bright and warm woman, a great colleague in every way.  We had many, many life experiences in common.  The only time our relationship strayed from delightful was when we traveled on business together.  You see she was terrified of flying, something we had to do with a fair amount of frequency.  She came by this terror honestly.  Several of her fellow employees were involved in the worst ever crash in JFK airport history.  Three, as I recall, were among the five survivors.  They suffered injuries but eventually recovered.  What saved them was that they were in the last row in the plane.

As a result of this, Adele (let’s call her) insisted on sitting in the very last row of any plane we flew on.   On the early spring day in question, our destination was a noon meeting in Chattanooga.  We would make it with forty-five minutes to spare by leaving LaGuardia at around 8 and changing planes in Atlanta.  In those days, the saying went, even if you were going to hell, in the Southeast, you would have to change planes in Atlanta.  The trouble was that Atlanta was prone to fog, especially in early spring.  And it was then and is still at least two miles between wherever you are and any place else you need to be in the Atlanta airport.  

Until we got into Atlanta airspace, the flight went as usual.  I did my best to distract Adele with funny stories, while she gripped my right forearm with both hands.  If the plane hit even light turbulence, her fingernails got into the act.  Since I was the consultant and she was the client, I did not wince.

When the pilot told us that Atlanta was fogged in and we would be in a holding pattern for a while, I wondered how long my right hand could survive without blood circulation.

Our flight landed forty minutes late, cutting our time to change planes down to about twenty minutes.    Except that Adele and I were the last ones off our flight.  Make that twelve minutes.


The monitor said the flight to Chattanooga was leaving from Gate 10.  It was during that sprint through the airport that I realized that, despite the programs enacted in the previous decade, women would never achieve equality with men in business until we got rid of the high heels and narrow skirts.  Guys were zooming past us!  Unfair!!

When we arrived at Gate 10, we found a LONG line snaking through the waiting area and quite a way down the hall.   As we neared the boarding door, we realized that on that line with us were scores people going, not only to our destination, but to Nashville, Louisville, Birmingham, and Baton Rouge.  So we were about to get on a plane that was going where????

I was worried.  A beleaguered airport staff member confirmed that we were in the right place.  But.  But.

As we exited through the boarding door, we discovered a semicircle of airport mini vans to take us to our plane, but there was no indication of which bus was going to which plane.  To my question, a member of the groundcrew waved vaguely at the identical vehicles to our right.  I chose one at random.  I stuck my head in the door.  Around the periphery of the interior were a dozen or so men, seated with their attach cases on their laps. 

I said, “Pardon me, boys…”

 Everyone laughed but my client.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Water, Water, Everywhere: Flooding

I’ve just come back from a trip to south Wales (old rather than New) with either the cleanest car bottom ever, or the dirtiest—not sure which!

There was a huge amount of standing water all over the main roads and dual carriageways. And even the A-roads had deep puddles lurking at corners, or full flooded sections in the dips. As for the B-roads, well, I managed to get within about half a mile of my destination before I was confronted with a lake where the road should have been.

As my car is not blessed with the greatest ground clearance in the world, I decided discretion was definitely the greater part of valour. This involved reversing along a watery single-track lane for about 300 yards and finding an alternative route. Mind you, even the navigable way meant driving along several miles of what seemed to be a muddy river bed.

A glance at the UK government Flood Warning Information Service website on Saturday evening shows 106 Flood Alerts in place, meaning flooding is possible and should be prepared for. It also shows 72 Flood Warnings, meaning flooding is expected and immediate action is required.

UK government flood warnings on November 16 2019
According to the figures, there are more than five million people living in areas of the UK vulnerable to flooding every year. They used to talk about such events as happening ‘the first time in living memory’ or ‘once every hundred years’. Now they seem to have become almost annual.

I remember our home being seriously flooded while living on the Lancashire coast as a child. A high spring tide conspired with an onshore gale to send my parents’ brand new car bobbing merrily around the car park. It was not the only victim. An Isle of Man Steam Packet ship called the King Orry IV, broke its mornings and was forced aground further up the Lune estuary. It remained there until the tide level was next high enough to refloat it. 

The 'King Orry IV' forced aground at Conder Green during flooding, 1976
In the UK over recent years, Cumbria, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Berkshire, Somerset, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire and even the middle of London have all suffered severe flooding. Here in Derbyshire has been hit, too. The dam at Whaley Bridge—which was holding back an estimated 1.3 million tonnes of water—started to wash away, threatening the nearby town. A woman was swept away at Darley Dale only a few weeks ago after a couple attempted to drive through water that proved too deep for their car.

The flood-damaged dam at Whaley Bridge
In the Don valley of South Yorkshire, devastating floods hit. In the last twelve years, this is the third time some residents have lost everything. Many of them could not afford the increased insurance premiums.

Flooding not only brings straightforward water damage. It can also bring the three ‘S’s—salt, silt and sewage. All of which will prove highly injurious to just about everything unfortunate enough to be soaked in it. That brand new car I mentioned was an insurance write-off at less than a month old.

Recent flooding in Yorkshire
(pic The Guardian)
Quite apart from the disease implications of having everything soaked through in effluent, however diluted, salt water kills electronics, fabrics and prevents buildings drying out without extensive remedial work. Silt ruins just about everything else that wasn’t ruined by the first two factors.

People underestimate moving water in the same way that many underestimate fire. One foot of water weighs 62.43 pounds. Just six inches of fast moving water will knock your feet out from under you. Two feet will sweep away a car. Even elephants at the Nameri game reserve in India have been taken by flash flooding.

According to the National Weather Service in the US, more people are killed by flooding each year than by tornados, hurricanes or lightning. Half those who lose their lives are in vehicles at the time.

Up to a third of bridges which have experienced severe flooding are structurally unsound so that the chances of a vehicle making it to the other side are only 50/50.

Flash floods are usually caused by intense heavy rainfall and can occur at any time of year. Where I lived in the Lake District was flash-flooded in the middle of one July. However, if the ground is frozen or already saturated, or a river is blocked by storm-damaged trees or ice, this type of flooding is almost inevitable.

Increasing urbanisation—building on floodplains—leaves properties in danger of river floods when a river bursts its banks. The clue can often be found in the old English name of the place, however. There is currently a Flood Warning in operation at Fishlake in South Yorkshire.

I have made a mental note never to buy a house anywhere called Waterside Meadows…

This week’s Word of the Week is noyade, meaning an execution by drowning, like the mass executions carried out between November 1793 and February 1794 at Nantes, France, during the Reign of Terror. From the French noyer, to drown, and the Latin necāre, to put to death, from which root we also get necro-.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Guest Blogger: Jo Perry--In Las Vegas Everything Happens

Photo by Patsy Dunne Access One Photography


Jo Perry writes a dark, comic mystery series I simply adore. It’s about a dead guy named Charles and a just as dead dog he calls Rose solving mysteries together. Yeah, I know, that’s not your normal dynamic duo, but believe me when I say Jo’s work transports you to a mesmerizingly different and addictive plane of thought. That’s why I was so excited when she agreed at Bouchercon to write a post about an astral plane of a different sort, one wildly active, in plain sight, and available to us all: Las Vegas.  It’s a unique perspective offered by a unique writer.  As for Jo’s references to another writer named Perry, Tom to be precise, yes that’s mystery writer Thomas Perry, better known in some quarters as Mr. Jo Perry.

Jo earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television, and has published articles, book reviews, and poetry, along with her Dead is Better, Dead is Best, Dead is Good, and Dead is Beautiful series.  Her latest work, a novella titled Everything Happens, has been described by our very own Tim Hallinan as “Classic American noir with a contemporary outlook” and a book that he “loved.”

Paired in a tete beche edition with “Death Of A Sinner” by Derek Farrell.  www.fahrenheit-press.com
Welcome, Jo.

"Red Rock Canyon" by ChrisMRichards is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0
The sedimentary landscape around Las Vegas exposes deep time via strata of speckled gray and rust. The gray juttings poke up from the floor of a six hundred or so million year old sea; the toast-colored and smoldering red sandstone cliffs constructed themselves grain by grain of sand loosened from dunes almost two hundred million years old. 
Viewed from inside cooled cars or through airplane windows, the arid surface compels us to contemplate the massive and indifferent inhuman forces unmaking and making the world that we pretend is ours.

I recently wrote a novella that takes place in Las Vegas and realized that to write about or to experience a place is to occupy layers of time, space and meaning all at once.  When Thomas Perry’s great creation, Jane Whitefield––a contemporary Seneca woman who guides people from danger and into new lives and new identities––jogs through her western New York neighborhood, she simultaneously travels through a present where she warily watches for enemies––and at the same time she passes through the world of her Seneca ancestors who named, inhabited and made the fictional town Perry called Deganawida sacred.

Every place has an additional layer that exists outside time and space like an aura––its idea. The idea of Los Angeles is that it’s possible to actualize your dream, to make it big, and live illuminated always by cosmic sunshine. This is an idea that I write about in my mystery series and which often causes disappointment, harm and even death to those who believe in it and whose credulity or bad luck can be cruelly exploited because they do.  

The idea of Las Vegas––that we can exchange the quotidian, right-and-wrong, yes-and-no constrained, human-scaled world for a wide open, lawless, blurry primal zone––asserts itself before we reach the Mojave Desert or arrive at McCarren Airport. The chalky Parthenon fakes and “Best GYROS In The USA” sign at the Mad Greek Café, the Area 51 alien tableaux at the Alien Fresh Jerky gift shop, and The World’s Largest Thermometer (broken) in Baker, California––the last gas, pee and lunch stop for LA-to-Vegas drivers until they cross the Nevada state line––and the deep purpling distances make us feel weird and small and anonymous and free. 

"File:Baker-CA-thermometer Raffi-Kojian IMG 6303.JPG" by RaffiKojian is licensed under CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
These feelings prepare us for the liberating anonymity and mega-weirdness, mega-everything of Las Vegas, home of the Stratosphere, “the tallest building… in Nevada and the tallest free-standing observation tower in the United States.” Are there observation towers that aren’t free-standing? Do we care? Only excess matters. 

Place is scale, geology, infrastructure, architecture and statistics––as of November 1st, there have been 71 murders in Las Vegas.  Place is an accretion of histories. In Las Vegas it’s Pueblo and Paiutes, the Spanish trader who named the once-green and fertile place “The Meadows.” It’s commerce––gambling, organized and disorganized crime, and show business. It’s catastrophes––the MGM fire and the Mandalay Bay mass shooting. It’s beauty, ugliness and mythology––Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, Howard Hughes, the Rat Pack and the loyal patron who died of a heart attack right outside Heart Attack Grill.  Place is also psychology, truth and lies, i.e. “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” 
"Heart Attack Grill, Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas" by holidaypointau is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0
What happens in Las Vegas ––the idea place––not the “real” Las Vegas of schools, libraries, dentists, The Vegas Valley Book Festival, sanitation departments, PTAs, etc.––is an id-driven, lizard-brained, all you can consume––The Heart Attack Grill invites you to “Gain all the weight you want,” offers an 8,000 calorie burger with “Endless Flatliner Fries” cooked in lard and serves anyone over 350 pounds for free––quadruple X, vice- and impulse-gratification, all the Wagyu beef or $2.99 steak and egg breakfasts you can devour, all the pricey handcrafted cocktails or three-foot tall bargain margarita slushies you can chug, all the spare change or big bucks you can wager, all the souvenirs, outlet mall shit or cashmere and Coach you can carry, all the guns you can shoot, and all the people you can fuck buffet. 

Prostitution is legal in most Nevada counties, but not in Clark County where Las Vegas is located. Brothels like The Chicken Ranch––which, Wikipedia notes,  “…[a]pproximately 60 courtesans call ‘home,’”––are a short drive away. 

Feel like destroying something?  For a fee, a Humvee will haul you to “Battlefield Vegas” where you will “crush a car with a tank,” or fire automatic weapons at The Gun Store.
"Jenny and Kevin take a gondola" by Kevin Hutchinson is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0"M4A1" by big-ashb is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0
Eiffel tower "Las Vegas 2015" by usareisetipps is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0"Luxor Las Vegas" by Andrew Milligan sumo is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0
A scorching one hundred-and-eleven-degree stroll and bingo––you’re half-awestruck below the half-sized Eiffel Tower, or the second tallest Statue of Liberty, or the one-third tall New York skyline and Brooklyn Bridge, or you’re contemplating mortality at King Tut’s replica tomb inside the 36-story Luxor pyramid with a Sphinx twice as big as the original out front, having the royal treatment at the Royal Treatment Spa in the Excalibur “castle,” or riding a gondola along a chlorinated “Venice” canal that meanders through an underground shopping mall under a cloud-dappled, perpetual sunset as your gondolier sings and people eat gelato in “St. Mark’s Square.” Or maybe you’re downtown in the Golden Nugget, stepping through the smoky coffee shop and around a corner where you behold the world’s biggest chunk of gold––named "Hand of Faith”–– “weighing almost 62 pounds”and “the size of a baby.” 

That’s a Vegas baby, baby.

"Hand of Faith" by lancehenry is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0
Not totally amused or fully sated? Play the slots below live circus acts, breathe perfumed hotel lobby air, see Renoirs and Picassos, watch chocolate churning, visit secret gardens, white tigers, dolphins, wave pools, dancing fountains, pirate shows, shark tanks, a Soviet-themed frozen ice bar, or take selfies with wax effigies.

Johnny depp wax "Vegas Feb 2008" by mr.throk is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0"Scooby Doo Man" by Omar Le Fou is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0
The Las Vegas idea is to do anything you want whenever you want. Anything except feeding the pigeons or feeding the homeless––an infraction punishable by a $1ooo fine. Oh and don’t sit or “rest” on a Las Vegas sidewalk. That’s illegal, too. Just ask any of 14,000 low rollers, especially those living in drainage tunnels beneath the Strip they cannot see and that glows so brightly that, according to NASA, it is the brightest spot on earth.
"Las Vegas Areal" by MCW Student Wellness is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0
In the seventies architect Robert Venturi visited Las Vegas with his wife and a student and wrote Learning From Las Vegas, a book challenging and repudiating postmodernism’s  emotional remoteness, minimalist and elitist aesthetic. 

The book explains how casino interior design stops time, eliminates day and night and creates an impersonal, humming, womb-like perpetual twilight; and how ornamentation communicates, invites, provokes.  What Venturi learned from Las Vegas is that, no matter how sleek and efficient “less” might be,   “Less is a bore."

"Monte Carlo Casino Gaming Floor, Las Vegas" by holidaypointau is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0
Las Vegas is designed to entice, built to facilitate what happens in Vegas, which is everything––impulse consumption, risk-taking as entertainment and instant access to everything, especially divorces and weddings like the $99 Valentine’s Day Pancake Wedding Special at Denny’s which included ceremony,  “silk presentat0on bouquet, boutonnière, champagne toast, and certificate.  For an additional fee couples received “Pancake Puppies,” cake pops with a pancake filling. 
"Wedding Information sign from the Neon Museum in Vegas" by Lachlan is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

My parents honeymooned Las Vegas in April, 1950. After this photo was taken, a terrible sunburn confined my mother to their hotel room for the duration, and my father got word that he’d been hired to be a joke writer in Hollywood. Their life-altering trip was little more than a year before I was born, just short of a year before the Nevada Test Site––about as close to Las Vegas as the Chicken Ranch–––began decades of atmospheric and underground nuclear bomb tests. The end-of-the-world blinding flashes and hellish mushroom clouds drew bomb tourists to Vegas and radiation invisibly contaminated people, aquifers and the toxic clouds that didn’t stay in Vegas drifted all the way to Los Angeles. The test site is still one of the most radioactive places on earth and my beloved parents’ marriage remains radioactive even after their deaths––I still feel the seething afterglow.

""XX-34 BADGER" atmospheric nuclear test - April 1953" by The Official CTBTO Photostream is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0
When I wrote Everything Happens, a novella about a young woman heading to Las Vegas for the fast divorce she hopes will fix everything, and about her soon-to-be-ex husband in Vegas to celebrate scoring some serious cash and new a girlfriend, I realized that the promises we make, the lies we tell, and our sincerest efforts to be the best person we can be can sometimes become crushing burdens we find it necessary to briefly dump. The sensory and impulse overload and obvious vulgarities that happen in Vegas free us––temporarily––from boredom, limitation, aspiration, shame, and guilt.
What happens in Vegas is the fantasy-idea that failure can be nullified, that feeding desire will kill it, that losing enough will make us win, and that giving in to restlessness will bring us peace.
Mirages are what happen in Las Vegas––beautiful sky-reflecting silvery pools that vanish when we get close to them as we travel the long, overheated roads and make our escapes.

Calling a tow truck when our car broke down on the way to Las Vegas.  Photo by Thomas Perry
—Jo in for Jeff

Friday, November 15, 2019

A Tale Of A Tail

From our base in Florida we set off to Clearwater beach to see some animals.


Not this animal though it was happy to pose for the camera.

We were going here!

To blog about this.. a dolphin called Winter.
Who was found in winter. You can guess when they rescued Noelle and Nicholas. 

A two month old  dolphin was found in  Mosquito Lagoon, near Cape Canaveral, Florida  caught up in a crab trap line so badly that her  tail was devoid of sufficient blood supply and she suffered irreparable  damage to her tail flukes.  After she had been cut free of the ropes, she was  transported to the  Marine Aquarium in Clearwater. Usually a young dolphin in that state has very little hope of survival. She effectively lost her tail- the main propeller for the ‘Dolphin kick’  but she pulled through and developed her own unique style of swimming.

Then, one of the vets at the centre  who had an interest in orthopaedics, thought about a prosthetic tale and the rest is history. 

And of course. Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jun and Kris Krissofferson all play this out in the film  Dolphin Tale.
 From the photographs I guess that a disabled young man  connects with the disabled dolphin, as an Winter gets to grip with her prosthetic tale, so the young man learns to come to tends with his own prosthesis.
 some stills from the film. 
Winter plays herself!

 The divers in the main aquarium dive dressed as superheros- the kids love it, very engaging and educational.  Then the diver gets upstaged by a manta ray.

at the back you can see a diver holding a clipboard, asking the school kids questions. Much of it was  the 'plastic is killing the oceans questions.'

 This fish looks as if he should have known the answer, but had forgotten.

 The next few pictures are of Winter lolling around in the water. The pictures are in sequence and on a  quick repeat, I think you can make out the other dolphin noseing Winter around.  The other two female dolphins rarely left her alone, often nosing her behind her midline and pushing her through the water. There was a lot of  audible communication going on, Winter talking and the others answering. I guess if I was offered a superpower, it would be understand what they were actually saying. It might have been as mundane as ' hey you, wake up, the fish is over there.' But anyone who reads Douglas Adams may think that they  were saying something far more prophetic. But it probably all was about the fish!

All the animals in the aquarium, scaled. feathered and furry have been judged by a government inspectorate as unsuitable to be returned to the wild.


The vet's office set from the film is preserved in the aquarium.

The aquarium has a rescue van and a rescue boat - it's called.... wait for it..... 'TAIL FORCE ONE'

 Caro Ramsay 15 11 2019