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Power Failure at Chateau Smith

posted at 11:01 am
on Mar. 10, 1999

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We recently had a bit of an interruption in normal services here at Chateau Smith.  As I was sitting at the computer working on a web project, the power went out.  And I dont mean, flicker, flicker, then back on.  I mean, something blew, and nothing I could do would make the juice flow again.  The landlady, who happened to be walking by outside the apartment complex, was supremely unhelpful.  The Gas/Power Company was helpful insofar as they were able to tell me it was my fault.  The lady upstairs was very nice—she let me use her phone to call the gas people because my phone needs power to work.  She said its been much better since we moved in because she absolutely hated the artist we rent from.  When I told her wed be leaving in the summer she was quite disappointed, because she said the previous woman, from whom we are subletting, was really noisy and made clomping sounds at all times of the day.  IRONY: When we had dinner with the artist owner of the apartment, Carole Benzaken, we all laughed and complained about how noisy and rude the woman upstairs was, and how she always clomped around in high heels and ran her vacuum on Saturday morning between 8:30 and 9 a.m.  Its ludicrous!  So anyway, I ended up calling a plumber/electrician, and he said the problem was in the water heater and the fridge and that I needed to replace both.  I replaced only the thermostat on the water heater, which he assured me was broken, and then he left.  I called the insurance company to see if theyd cover any of this, and went poking around under the sink to find a plastic bag, at which point I discovered the sink drain had been leaking.  Well, I pried that thing apart to look at what was wrong.  Seems the washer had shrunk.  So I went to get a new one of those for about $2.  (The new thermostat and the service call had cost $400).  I replaced the ring.  In the mean time, I ran an extension cord across the room to power the kitchen appliances from another part of the fuse box.  A day or two later, I plugged the stuff back in to the wall and it all worked again.  My diagnosis: The water from the sink had made a big wet mess in the wall that was shorting out something important.  When it dried out, everything worked fine again.  Im glad I didnt shell out for a new fridge and water heater like the plumber was suggesting.  Mean time, the plumbers brother e-mailed me to ask me if I had any need for a Photoshop/Flash/3D artist.  I kid you not.


Ive been asked by a few people (Hi, Mom!) how long we plan on staying in France.  The simple answer is, theres no simple answer.  If the right job opportunity were to come along, I think wed return to the U.S. in a week or two.  But as things stand, well probably be here until August, when the money and good weather run out.  Theres also a chance that well find work here, something interesting and fun, and if that happens, well be here for longer.  Im looking hard for that perfect European job, but so far, work papers have been a real sticking point.

The second issue asks, to where will you be returning? And to that, I can also say, theres no right answer yet.  Calgary and Washington both offer closeness to family.  Calgary is nice because we have a number of friends there, and my familys house there is set up so that we could live there for a while without disrupting the Smiths too much.  On the other hand, L.A. is the land of Internet opportunity, and there are also a whole bunch of people there whod like to see us move back to the area.  Its hard to believe weve been gone 6 months already.  So we havent written anything in stone yet.


Were happy to stay in any part of the city, though were quite partial to this area of the 10th Arrondissement.  We live close to two train stations, Gare de LEst and Gare du Nord.  Its a section of the city that is completely ignored by the rest of the city.  Its has no national museums. Every other Arrondissement, and there are 20 total, has at least one museum.  It has no cemeteries.  It has no official parks, though it does have a lovely canal only a block away from our place called Canal St. Denis.  It has no official monuments—again, every other area has at least one.  If you look in guidebooks, they often skip over the 10th entirely—or have one entry, just for show.  But the 10th is a fairly large area, full of bohemians, with a good mix of nationalities.  There are tons of small shops and restaurants and markets, and for some reason, audio equipment stores.  Its a working neighborhood, not dangerous like Pigalle or the Sacre Coeur area, not suave and debonair like Champs Mars (Eiffel Tower) or the 8th by the Champs Elyse.  There are a number of schools in the area, nothing as prestigious as a university, but a lot of trade schools and finance programs for graduates and things like that.  And theres a large working artist community—graphic designers, web developers, stained glass makers, and things of that nature.  Just up the street is the Peace and Love Hostel.  It all feels very gritty and its common to see people with odd body parts pierced and bizarre clothing.  Id like to compare it to Soho or Melrose or something like that, but frankly, its not the same as that.  Its got a flavor all its own.  Its not typical Parisian exactly, but theyre not trying to copy anywhere else either.


Carole Benzaken has been great.  Her furniture is lovely, if eclectic.  Her apartment gets a lot of light, and her cactus has been no trouble at all, and weve even managed to water it regularly.



Previous entry:
The Food, The People, The Food

Next entry:
Odd Notes


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