Archive for September, 2011

AMERICA SHOULD CAN NINE-ELEVEN RECOGNITION DAY; IT DETRACTS FROM AMERICA’S NEEDS

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Today September 11, 2011, marks exactly ten years since bin Laden’s heinous terrorist attack on New York City and the Pentagon, killing about 3,000 innocent Americans.

For me, there is certainly no necessity for America to recognize that particular day nor even to  memorialize the victims; it is time for America to put that day of horror behind them.

The news has for weeks been full of further threats by terrorist on this day, special  security considered necessary, and warnings have been issued to innocent Americans that they too may become victims of a new terrorist attack.  By giving this day of infamy recognition, America appears to be serving the very intent of the terrorists, to instill fear in the minds of the  people of America.

For ten long years, America has spent billions and billions of dollars to provide domestic security for Americans against foreign terrorists and have spent trillions of dollars (and 6,ooo American soldiers’ lives) in Afghanistan and Iraq for the security of the American people, and America has not spent one cent on any effort to alleviate the hatred foreign entities are feeling toward America that inspires and motivates them to become terrorists and perpetrate mayhem upon the America people.

Terrorist do not act without motivation and purpose.

Certainly, I am old enough to remember a time when America was considered a righteous, compassionate, and democratic Republic that foreign entities wanted to emanate instead of hate; Americans did not live in fear of terrorist attacks at that time.  What has changed?

America has ten-year-old children, who have never been without fear of terrorists; this is not good for the future of America.

Just a few days before Nine Eleven Day, America celebrated an uneventful Labor Day, a day America is suppose to commemorate the contributions of America’s working Middle Class; 2011 was a grim year for American Labor which makes up a large majority of the American population.

Instead of commemorating Nine Eleven, America should be addressing the domestic tragedy of America’s vast working Middle Class: unemployment; outsourcing of American jobs; inequitable distribution  of wealth in America; and the current political attack on the working Middle Class’ unions, collective bargaining, and organizing of labor by governors and legislators of Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Minnesota.

America needs to prioritize its issues and care for the needs of a majority of their citizens.

THE PARIS CAPER; AN ADVENTURE

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

In my  lifetime, I have been very fortunate to spend some time in quite a few exotic places: Paris France, Florence Italy, Schaffhausen Switzerland, and Decatur Illinois (my birthplace).  Culture and geography fascinate me.  My favorite place to be for excitement, is Paris.   Every one asks me to tell why Paris has such appeal.  My answer is that Paris feels extraordinary; it is the history of Paris, the art in Paris, the people in Paris, the sights, the sounds, and yes, the smell.  Once you have been there, you understand why great artists throughout modern history have been inspired to create their best work there and the why simply doesn’t seem important.  What can I say?

Now, it would be wrong to describe me as being old; it would be proper and correct to say that I have lived a lot of years.  For me, age has always been relative, death inevitable from birth, and I never give much thought to either; life is exciting and enjoyable.

However, you do reach a point in life where you need to do something extraordinary to rejuvenate interests and excitement in your life.  For me, spending some time living in Paris immediately came to mind.

About this same time the Swiss love of my life, Marlisa, retired from her lifelong career of teaching and was also looking for some new excitement in her life; it was fate.  We rented an Apartment in Paris together for six weeks, arriving in Paris on the first of September to begin our new adventure.

Our apartment was rented, sight unseen; from the description provided for by a property managing company and it sounded great but from our previous similar experiences, we withheld our judgment.

From San Diego, I flew to Switzerland to meet Marlisa and we took the train from Zurich to Paris and arrived at the Gare de l’Est train station four and a half hours later.   You know immediately that you are in Paris when you disembark from the train; you hear it, see it, and smell it.  It electrifies the soul.

Our apartment is a short taxi ride from the Gare de l’Est.

Our Paris apartment proved to have the  basic essentials required.  However, Marlisa and I both tend to surround ourselves with what we consider tasteful creative décor, rather than expensive furnishings.  Our Paris apartment décor can be best described as Early WalMart Crap, décor, typical in rentals.

On the dining table, for example, was an exquisite floral arrangement of artificial flowers resembling Dixie cups stuck unceremoniously on a stick, entwined with curly-cue wood shavings; the living room walls were adorned with pictures of a black and red unidentifiable and nondescript flower losing a petal falling toward the floor, a picture of blue-gray splashing water, and a photo of a dozen or so pails of various colored powdery substance that probably-looks-like curry powder in various of shades of brown, red, and yellow.  I am totally at a loss to determine the symbolism involved in any of our décor; it defies even Forrest Gump and “Life is like a box of chocolates, . . . “

But then in Paris, how much time do you spend in an apartment except to sleep; our beds were comfortable and in the dark of night while sleeping it is easy to ignore the décor.

On our first day in Paris, we had to get settled in, of course; we needed food and a Metro and bus  pass for getting around the city at the least expense.   Grocery shopping in Paris doesn’t take long: bread, cheese, and wine.  Getting a Paris Metro Pass was more difficult.

As usual, when I a in Europe I take extra passport pictures because they are required for the passes used for reduced costs to use public transportation; unfortunately, this time I absent-mindedly left the damn pictures of myself in Switzerland with some other things I thought I would not need in Paris.

Consequently, I was required to obtain pictures from a booth that provided automated head-shot photos of the customer in various sizes, for any purported purpose.  The price of the picture is five Euros (about $7.00).

So, I sat in this booth with a drawn curtain blocking out Marlisa, staring into a blank pane of reflecting glass and then fed a five Euro bill into the automated photographer; I was immediately instructed by voice in French which I do not understand, to push various buttons.  I panicked and screamed for help from Marlisa who is fluent in French.  She jumped in and out of the booth with me, fearing we would get a picture of the back of her head; she couldn’t understand the mystery French photographer either, so I just pushed a series of buttons for a few minutes; finally a dumfounded image of myself appeared on the glass, I pushed another button, and the machine pooped out 5”x7” a photo of me staring into space with a bewildered look on my face, obviously muttering, “What in the . . .”

One thing was certain, a 5X7 photo does not fit tidy onto a 2X3 inch Paris Metro Pass.

After another five euros, another fifteen minute, and much giggling from Marlisa, I emerged from the booth with more pictures of myself with a blank stare, than I ever wanted, but they fit on the Metro pass.  Then, after standing in a long line for another twenty minutes, we had a monthly pass for the Paris Metro, the bus, and the local RER trains for sixty-seven more euros (about $90.00); that sounds like a lot until you compare it to my monthly gasoline  bill in the USA (ninety bucks is about two tanks of gas,  the last time I filled up).

Of course the reason Paris is so expensive for Americans today (in 2011), is that the US dollar, has very little value compared to every other currency; most Americans are not aware of that.  America deliberately tried to lower the value of the dollar during the Bush Administration to encourage other countries to import American manufacturers’ products; good for American manufacturers but bad for American travelers on a limited income pension.

When the Euro first went into circulation, about 2003, I paid $ .87 in US dollars for a Euro; Today a Euro costs $1.50 each and the price keeps going up.  In 2000, I paid $ .60 in US dollars for one Swiss franc and today a Swiss franc costs me $ 1.20 in US dollars.  Fortunately, the cheese, bread, and wine in Europe are comparatively inexpensive.

Well, we then had to try out our brand new Paris Metro passes and we used them to make the trip to the Seine River, the Notre Dame, Place St. Michel, and my favorite sidewalk bar at Place St. Michel for a drink and people watching.  We had and excellent dinner at a restaurant nearby and headed home to retire on our first  happy day in Paris.  It was lovely and soothing for the soul!