Prime Stages Of Parisian Delights

This independent traveler and his wife play many roles in satisfying their enjoyment of the present. Returning to Paris, this week, we found ample opportunity to practice this multifaceted philosophy. We would first indulge our senses in intellectual, culinary, and artistic delight in a city that honors its illustrious past so well. Concurrently, tests of our sporting mind would enable us to traverse great distances through spacious parksides and winding riverfront to stay in shape. Feeling less challenged, at times, Paris finally represented the opportunity to slow down in life to rest and watch the autumn season unfold.

Having a close friend visit us in Paris this week brought excitement as she decided to accompany us on our itinerary. In fact, her infectious travel energy would inspire us to play tour guide in spite of our jet lagged fatigue. We would thus enjoy introducing her to the bohemian heights of Sacre Couer, the “Impressionistic” paintings of Musée d’Orsay, as well as the Baroque wonders of Versailles Palace.

We love to walk in Paris when we can, as attested by our accumulated total of over 22 miles hiking distance in merely four days. Following the intricate maze of mass transit stations each day became our biggest source of exercise So many steps to ascend and descend amidst bustling, commuter passage would challenge our cardiovascular fitness on this adventure .

“Impressionistic” landscapes envisioned for us a more relaxed kind of Paris. Such masters as Monet, Renoir, or Pissarro would paint scenes of pastoral beauty, reminding us to make time to seek serenity in nature there. Thus, we would find such inner peace on this Paris visit by strolling aimlessly along the Seine River and Luxembourg Gardens this week. Finding a quiet bench to sit, on occasion, we could savor the autumn season of falling leaves and cool breezes then.

Standing silently under the Eiffel Tower one starry night, we gazed in awe at this great symbol of Parisian pride. In this moment, our emotions stirred to truly appreciate this iconic symbol of liberty. We thus certainly intend to make good use of this freedom to travel as far as we can and for as long as we can in the future.

 

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In Search Of My French Groove

A momentous travel decision in my life has finally been made. In anticipation of our one week stay in Paris, next week, I am overjoyed that I finally have decided to “bite the bullet” and learn to speak a bit of French. Conditioning myself to spend an hour or two each day for several months now, I have appeared to accomplish this goal by obtaining a decent grasp of French vocabulary. Such efforts are thus described as follows:

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Duolingo Free App

Using Duolingo as a game strategy keeps me motivated from a learning perspective. Each lesson contains visual cues, audio pronunciations, and ample opportunities to earn (instead of buy) valued gems” for prolonged playing time. Formidable challenges, however, are built into the program as one progresses from simple to more complex phrases. In particular, too many errors made on a given lesson results in an immediate cut off from free access for the remainder of a given day. For the most part, spelling for accuracy presents the greatest challenge for me as I attempt to move ahead to longer French phrases ( eg. Qu’est-ce que c’est).To alleviate my stress, I also use the Duolingo website option which offers a similar format as the app with “unlimited” completion time. As a result of these efforts , Duolingo reports that I have achieved 48% proficiency in French.

Duolingo Tiny Cards

Flipping cards in fast pace fashion to learn meanings and pronounce sets of words helps me immensely. I enjoy the pleasant pings and happy smiles that appear every time I get a word or phrase correct. Such required memory for detail required here reminds of my childhood passion to recite hitting/pitching statistics on the back of my beloved baseball cards. As a side note, I would recommend using Tiny Cards on occasions when the app version disqualifies one from further playing time.

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Learn The Culture

To learn a new language, it makes sense to immerse oneself in real, cultural situations. In watching foreign films, I have thus become a captive observer of time/place for dialogue cues in street scenes , cafe seatings, and times of confrontation. For example, the character portrayed by Julie Delpy in the touching dramas “Before Midnight” and “Before Sunrise” seemed helpful for me to understand Parisian norms of when and how to speak formally or informally to convey a growing friendship accompanied by times of dissatisfaction.

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Color Coded Cheat Sheets

The convenient app, Google Translate, enables me to instantly convert my English to French as needed. Finding a need to stimulate my memory more actively, however, I also write my own paper translations of such online provided phrases. In color coding my lists by category, I can take quick peeks at the appropriate phrase on my cheat sheet list in language challenged situations.

To feel the passion yet sophistication of the French language seems wonderfully empowering to this independent traveler. To know that awkward silence in the face of French interaction challenges in the past can be replaced by intuitive understanding and proactive conversation on my part is equally exciting. It might feel right then to say: “J’aime apprendre comme je cherche la bonne vie à l’étranger.”

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Autumn Stroll In Return To Paris

The cold seeps through my light jacket and makes me shiver. Yet here I bask once again in the glories of autumn in Paris. With each breath taken, I notice how life slows into the shadowed nuances of a Monet or Renoir masterpiece. I will thus quiet my mind from life’s endless complexities and simply enjoy the present moment now. Past regrets or future worries can always wait.

So I walk quietly along the Seine with no destination in mind. Crunching along the fallen leaves, I gaze starry-eyed at priceless vestiges of an earlier time. Stately buildings display illustrious inscriptions from the French past. A royal chandelier shines brightly from a passing window with ghosts of sumptuous feasts gone by. Noticing the French flag soaring proudly on a passing barge, I truly feel the French pride in country now.

The geometry of shape mesmerizes me in several ways as a grand footbridge draws closer. Gilded bronze decorations of gods and goddesses reveal a time when great emperors ruled the Western world. Cast iron streetlights remain as a ornate remnants of Beau Epoque ornateness in the late 19th century. A perfect symmetry of arch is formed as a tourist boat quietly emerges into view. As dusk approaches, now, the dramatic presence of Notre Dame suddenly emerges beyond these murky waters in full, Gothic splendor.

The Parisian landscape that I have observed today on this simple walk along the Seine reveals a moment of personal truth. So much in life can be gained if we notice the simple signs of nature that surrounds us every day. A dying leaf, a mystical river, a stony path: I suddenly wish that today would never end.

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Bully Bob Gone Haywire

The following poem is a fictional endeavor that reveals some insight about the dangerous mix of guns and bullies amidst our country’s current culture of open anger expression. While I have been inspired to create this work by the tragic events of the recent, Las Vegas shooting, I do not claim authenticity of the ideas presented. Having experienced the angered backlash of bullies in the past, I find it appropriate to attach the following video from the late and great Tom Petty – “I Won’t Back Down”

BULLY BOB GONE HAYWIRE

Bully led mindsets rain bullets of hate

Cold boasts of no feeling for victimized fate

Delusions of glory no time to see Mom

Stay blind to regret he delivers death’s bomb

 

Set rules to win power whose life he can screw

Imagine no end to his acts of blood spew

Feed nightmares that protest this city of sin

No point in false game when one’s money can’t win

 

Spread fire and fury few question this villain

Our country enraged let’s gets on with the killin’

Spin personal gain in quick triggers of lout

No time for compassion in hubris bound spout

 

As feathers comply with the power of winds

In bully bound glory his life care rescinds

 

Disney Brand Endures

Thinking “outside the box” after facing the wrath of Hurricane Irma in South Florida, my wife Ruth and I decided to celebrate my mother’s 91st birthday with a two- day escape to Walt Disney World this week. Realizing that she would not be physically comfortable with long walks in touring theme parks, we opted to maximize “quality time” together by planning a less ambitious agenda. Thus, our planned itinerary would blend hotel-hopping in mid morning, shady siestas in the afternoons, and leisurely dinners in early evenings. In retrospect, our “Plan B” decision proved wise under these circumstances.

IMG_1752Arriving in early afternoon, our spacious suite at the All Star Music Resort would set the tone for a relaxing visit. Admiring the colorful murals of musical artwork, and well preserved landcapes of native vegetation, I immersed my mind in picture taking “heaven”. To insure privacy for all, my mother would also enjoy her own bedroom while we “made do” with living room, sleeping accommodations.

A few years ago, my wife and I experienced the Victorian grandeur in the Grand Hotel of “Somewhere In Time” movie fame on Mackinac Island , Michigan. Observing that Disney World built a well conceived replica of this iconic resort at the Grand Floridian Hotel, we decided to treat her there with an elegant, dining affair there on our first night. Taking in historic ambience offering a glimpse of American nostalgia for the Victorian American past, we thus imagined ourselves living lavishly as time travelers in this much revered era without paying the $500.00 and up daily booking rate.

On our second day, Disney’s free transportation options for visiting key attractions proved helpful as the idea of slowly traveling by boat seemed the most relaxing option. Embarking from the riverside dock at the Port Orleans resort, we imagined ourself surrounded by French Quarter balconies of Bourbon Street today and Mississippi River plantations from the antebellum past . Arriving at Disney Springs Outdoor Marketplace before noon, we ambled slowly in search of shopping bargains, thus avoiding the tourist crowds and rising heat of the afternoon. With thoughts of fresh seafood entering our mind as we returned to our New Orleans theme point of origin, we would end this relaxing day by indulging in a sumptuous buffet of endless crab legs for dinner at the Beach Club Resort.

“Think like a kid”, “good triumphs over evil”, “beauty defeats beast”, welcome home”; These enduring testaments of the Disney brand brought over 30,000,000 visitors to Magic Kingdom and Epcot alone last year. For this curious follower of the present mindset, each Disney visit arouses my desire to seek childlike play amidst such pleasurable fantasies. For good reason, then, the Disney brand for me remains a much valued commodity, even when I indulge at a much slower pace.

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A Vital Form Of Protest

Mack appreciated his role as the defensive play caller on a winning football team. He felt he had truly earned this honor by enduring eight years of violent, gridiron battle. On game days, he would always look forward to adding maximum energy to each testosterone-filled collision that he encountered on the field. Off the field, Mack’s incessant scowl would similarly offer evidence that he “cut” others little slack.

Last season, Mighty Mack had begun to notice that his mind would stray otherwise from the field of action.  Much younger men than him seemed to rule with gladiator bravado, having less concern for the brute physicality of this game. In fact, he now sensed that time might be running out for him as a dominant presence in this competitively demanding career. Cortisone shots in his aching shoulders before each game would ease the physical pain but could not silence such mental anguish. Recent stories about early onset, brain disease among retired players added to his increasing anxiety.

During training camp, Mack received cold news that he had been traded to a new team far from his home state. Allegiance to the past meant little now as he pondered how his value in this new environment was measured to be no more than the late round draft choice that he was offered for so dispassionately. It seemed that family and friends suddenly meant more to him than his exorbitant salary.

Predictably, Mack could not will himself to be silent under such circumstances. He knew that any attempt to “dog it” on the field would bring immediate calls to “cut him” during preseason. If personal protest was needed, then it made sense to make opening day the target. The stage would now be set for Mack to go AWOL from his new team and send a message of defiance against such disrespect of his talents

On the eve of the first game of the regular season,  Mack knew the familiar, road game ritual. Team meetings would end early and a player curfew would take effect overnight. With each player banished to their hotel room, Mack would now scurry out on the street without being watched at midnight. Booking an early morning flight on his I-phone, Mack would soon escape from his inner pain by finding refuge at home. His mind would finally find peace in this vital form of protest.

Boisterous Mack would never again play the game of professional football; the game he truly loved. The bone-crushing hits that he had endured as a player would mean a future life of stiffness and pain. Yet Mack would find new success in raising two children successfully, staying married , and later passing the bar to become a dedicated lawyer in this country. Past glories on the football field seemed so unreal to him now to be replaced by the sweetness of a much more settled mind.

Sweatbox Blues In South Florida

Green Oasis Illusion Find Cool Breeze In Mind
With Skin Drenched in Sweat In Sun Torrid Felt Grind
No Signs of Juice Power Slows Life To Plain Bore
As Victims Mark Time Until Power Restore

Your Home Or In Mine Lets Chat Closely For News
Pole Conveys Converge To Ease Desperate Blues
Let Us Count Ice Cubes In Hopeful Plot Dream
Set Free From Self Anger In One Mighty Scream

Wide Swaths Bring Land Chaos Routines Run Amok
Gain Eyes For New Wisdom Quit Passing The Buck
Be Kind To New Homeless Give Aged Your Time
To Ease Them From Lonely Seems Surely Sublime

Gaze Trees Felled By Wind Brings Fresh Notice Of Space
Time’s Hourglass Runs Down You Survive With New Face
Extreme Acts Of Nature Fear End Of Life’s Rope
Global Warming Reigns True We Must Broaden Our Scope

 

A True Test For Dare-Devil Dave

You expect a rational human would comply with orders to evacuate their beachfront home on an exposed, barrier island lying directly in the path of a hurricane monster. Yet our dubious hero in this account saw himself as no ordinary human and did not fear such catastrophic outcomes. No one it seemed could envision then that this self proclaimed purveyor of doom could be taught a cruel lesson of mortality as the approaching stormr drew closer to the densely populated portions of South Florida coastline.

“Dare-Devil Dave, as his condo neighbors called him, never liked the attention of others. He had lived his secluded life as a lonely hermit, now, rarely showing his face, to surrounding residents in this beachfront high-rise. Unemployed for two years since the state government layoffs abruptly ended his career as a lifeguard, Dave seemed downright adamant that the government or anyone else for that matter could ever be trusted by him again. He would merely scoff at the throngs of evacuees nervously heading off the island today and assume his role as the “Lone Ranger” of his beloved, sandy turf tomorrow.

On Sunday morning, the initial squalls of the hurricane approached ominously from the south. Being unfazed that these storms would soon intensify to category 5 status, Dare -Devil Dave ventured out to the end of his favorite fishing jetty to watch the encroaching storm. Chugging his morning beer, he soon grew drowsy. As the alcohol began to take effect, his glossy eyes could not focus well nor could he maintain his normal balance on the jagged rocks below.

With heavy crosswinds from an approaching gale now awakening Dave from his idle stupor, he now frantically set his sights on returning to the jetty shore. Misjudging his distance and direction back to the beach now, he would be blown by a sudden gust tragically into the foamy darkness below. As he flailed helplessly in the wind blown surf, this misguided beachcomber would soon find his watery grave tragically alone.

Our victim’s fatal flaw in this story was clear. He failed to see that human beings are inferior adversaries in facing raw forces of nature. The approaching arrival of dangerous Hurricane Irma this week tests the egos of those who are similarly blinded to become wandering fools in extreme hurricane conditions. Take a beach walk, feel the pelting rain, and listen to the fierce wind whistle but be mindful that the risk of experiencing this storm’s wrath up close for you might mean your own life disaster might soon come to pass.

 

Hurricane Fury Hits Home Quickly

Extreme weather warnings linger in my mind today as South Florida faces the prospect of catastrophic Hurricane Irma coming ashore this Friday. When I taught in the stressful atmosphere of urban, public schools, such a major storm would bring great relief to me in the anticipation that classes would be closed for days. In fact, life seemed much simpler during these “trying times” as I concentrated on the mere essentials of food, shelter, and family communication at home. How secure I always felt then that our solidly built condominium seemed secure from wind destruction and our storm shutters protected our family safely from flying glass and debris.

Yet, as I drive around my community today, I note how little can be done to withstand a major, hurricane strike in “So Flo.” I thus observe many locations where damaging winds could propel loose coconuts, flimsy signs, and patio clutter through the air like Nolan Ryan fastballs in the height of a storm’s wrath. I note also how canals and lakes, already overflowing from summer deluges, invite “wave-hell” flooding in low-lying areas. In addition, so many electric power lines hang flimsily along major roads to interact opposingly with brittle, tree branches, dangerously invading each other’s designated space.

I guess it paid off well to be a teacher who spent almost his entire working life planning for every contingency of daily crisis in the classroom. As I never waited to have ample, classroom supplies available to me at all times, it would only be second nature for me to stock up on essential hurricane supplies this week. Realizing that a power outage in my classroom required a more assertive approach to handling behavioral problems with my easily distracted students, I also would seem well prepared to handle the “trapped like a rat” conditions in my home to as I wait out the storm passage and destructive aftermath patiently.

As our country seems so divided today by angry -isms in our perplexing political climate, oddly enough, hurricanes have always provided me with evidence that our community can find new will to peacefully co-exist amidst such tragedy. Anonymous neighbors suddenly bond over sheltered sites to park their car or discuss cheapest locations to buy gas. Hammer and nail banging alerts nearby residents to take proper precautions in covering their windows and doors. Stray dogs and cats suddenly disappear from the street and are taken indoors by concerned residents.

Listen to the wind roar suddenly as this passing freight train arrives in the blackness of night. Gaze intently at the slow drip of your lighted candle as you appreciate its brightness as a welcome respite from your loss of electrical power. Most of all, savor the much needed sleep needed to re-energize your mind/body in peak form as you soon face the uncertain wrath of destructive silence next morning.

 

Find True Fortune a la Inner Vegas

A Sprinkling of Neon Raises Hopes of Rich Winnings
As Masses Give Trust In Chance Unlikely Spinnings
No Matter Such Fortune Seems Risky At Best
These Pockets Fill Coins To Find Money Greed Quest

High Stakes In Crowd Rush Where Cash Moves Through Many
Yet Wiser Spark Thrills Without Spending A Penny
When Wealth Grips Attention To Win By Obsess
Sublime Can Find Awe As More Worthy Possess

Gape Dazzling Displays Of Botanical Bliss
In Bellagio Galleries In Nature Draws Kiss
Find Coldness or Hotness The Choice Does Not Matter
As Long As Your Silence Shuns Monkey Mind Chatter

This Desert Oasis Makes Fertile In Mind
This Day Finds No Need To Be More Wined And Dined
Find Fantasies Of Sweetness Gain Smiles Abound
Dream More Of Pure Beauty Like Sight, Smell, And Sound

When You Consider Our Efforts To Master Our Plot
Know That True Happiness Can’t Ever Be Bought
While Casinos Of Greed Amass Riches To Gain
True Fortune In Vegas Knows Ego Contain

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