Travis Smith: my resume, bio and photos back to the main blog page

But I wasn’t kidding about the wine.  Even the most inexpensive (the French don’t have a word in their language for “cheap,” there’s only “not expensive”—gives you some idea of the cost of living around here.) wine is delicious, and that night before the medical exam, a friend, a true Parisian, came over and we had paella and wine store-brand wine.  Other great meals I can tell you about include scallop and salmon white sauce with noodles, stir-fries (various), curries (not quite Curry house, but pretty good), and various casseroles.  The seafood here is great.  In fact, we’ve been teaching ourselves to make sushi.  Its easier than you imagine.  You go to a fresh fish market, and buy some fresh fish. The key is, fresh.  Come home.  Freeze it.  Thaw it an hour later (after the rice is made).  Cut it up.  Squirm a little, but act brave and eat it.  Delicious and simple!  We have even found some nori (seaweed paper) and rice wine vinegar, to make our own tuna rolls.  Its all amazingly good, and we haven’t had a bad incident at all!  Though we did get some fishy tasting salmon once and we decided that discretion is the better part of valor so we sautéed it to be safe.  It wasn’t bad, just not at peak edibility.  It was amazing sautéed, too, so no loss there.

The things we eat on a regular basis: ham sandwiches, cheese sandwiches.  Lots of cheese.  The bread here is amazing.  Cereal in the morning, salads some nights.  My guilty pleasure is the shop across the street that sells frites merguez, a sausage and French fries in French bread sandwich (quite patriotic, really).  Its really good, but probably only one step up the food chain from slimJims and Doritos.  When we want a quick meal out, we go to Hippo, the Paris equivalent of Dennys.  Its one of the few places you can get a real hamburger.  We have a lot of pasta, some frozen food.  There’s a store here called Picard, its nothing but frozen food.  The whole place is just filled with freezers, and they have pictures of what everything is.  They have frozen bread, fish, vegetables, crepes, rice, soups, guacamole, fruits, pies, sauces, fresh herbs and spices, EVERYTHING!

The and cafe deserve their own category, especially in light of the place I discovered today.  I went to the tea house called Les Mariage Freres, which has over 500 kinds of tea (15 Earl Greys!).  Susie and I went with Victor and his wife.  She’s attending the Cordon Blue pastry school, and she says this place has excellent pastries.  All I can tell you is I had a chocolate creme brule with a hint of tea flavoring and I thought, wow, this is so good I’m going to drop dead right here.  I mean, I could feel the dessert clogging my arteries.  If it wasn’t for that mint sprig at the end to clear the palette and the pipes, I don’t know if Id be writing this to you.  Wow.  Good place.  The coffee in Paris is inconsistent.  Sometimes its strong enough to clean your mouse pad and tastes like they made it with tonic water.  Other times is quite delicate and flavorful, but still strong enough to take gum off your shoes.  Its always better than Starbucks, though.  The real potluck surprise, though, is the hot chocolate.  Even though its never that powdered stuff they throw in a Styrofoam TM cup in the U.S., it varies from a small glass of bitter cocoa for $6 U.S., to a pitcher of hot steamed milk and melted chocolate, enough for three cups, for $2.50.  It all depends.  I stick with the coffee.

Paris has about a zillion films playing at once, and while I haven’t seen them all, I can recommend a few.
o Celebrity—Woody Allen makes another Woody Allen film.  What can I say?  Typical, but funny.  Charlize Theron should have lived in the 30s; black and white really flatters her.  This movie is far easier to handle than:
o Antz—which I’m sure you’ve either seen or missed by now, but humor me.  This is Woody Allen at his neurotic peak, and he just cant carry a film with it.  He’s not a hero type; he needs to be the center of a complicated web of people.  Sylvester Stallone here steals the show.
o Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels—Absolutely hilarious, if graphically violent at times.  But much more redeeming than, say, Pulp Fiction, which leaves no one unbloodied.  Watch for these actors to reappear.
o Buffalo 66—I loved this film.  It takes some time to warm up, and there are some bits that really make you squirm.  But ultimately funny, touching and emotional.  Don’t turn it off half way through, its an all or nothing proposition.

I know I should have written about the people I met sooner, but that’s stream of consciousness for you, eh?  Heres some of who we’ve met:
o Wendy, a nice girl whose family is in New Zealand who went to school in England who wants to go to university in the U.S. and who is from (China?).  Wendy informed Susie and I about a computer animation conference going on at La Defense, a large complex at the outside edge of the city where architects get to do all sorts of funky things to the buildings that they’re not allowed to do in the city of Paris because of strict laws about the way buildings look and integrate into the surroundings.  The conference center was interesting, and the conference was very cool, a SIGGRAPH for Europe.
o Karen, a financial baron on Broad Street? Bond Street? whatever they call Wall St. in London… Fleet Street?  I forget. Anyway, she helped us find some fun clubs around Paris. We spent New Years with Karen, and Wendy, and walked all around the Champs Elysee, which was covered with the broken glass from thousands of smashed champagne bottles.  This was after 2 a.m.—at midnight, we were at the Lizard with them and two other friends:
o Adrian and Alison from Australia.  They’re lawyer types who met at school.  Alison has work papers, while Adrian gets to be a bum.
o Henry is an entrepreneur who lives in St. Germain, a small, mostly anglophone community outside of Paris.  He invited us out for dinner a while ago, but we didn’t eat fast enough and ended up missing the last train back to Paris, so we slept on their foldout couch.  The mattress was a little hard, but they had spare toothbrushes that we got to keep (a souvenir?).  The meal was good, too—poached salmon and a fish soup pure.  Dessert was yummy.

I also have met a number of Brazilians—Vera is the one I spend the most time with.  She lives on rue Moufftard, a Melrose-type area with a great crepe stand.  Her husband is a genetic researcher.  Lucy is also a lot of fun, and the three of us spend a lot of time drinking coffee at the Alliance Francais cafe.  Neither of them has serious employment, though Vera does project Visual Basic work and Lucy takes care of Kate, her 1-year-old? daughter.  For a while, Jean, a Spanish lawyer, hung around with us, but he had to go back to Spain for compulsory military service.  Katerine, who has been an aupair for the past 6 years in England, France and Thailand, would like to hang around as well, but she has to work.


“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?




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