Paris blogging: vendredi encore

Back in the city of lights again. This time, decided to be good citizens and took the RER into town. The problem isn’t so much with the RER as lugging the bags up an down the stairs of the metro. And when we got to Gare Montparnasse, decided it was a bit far and took a cab anyway. Going home tomorrow, we’ll just cab it to Denfert Rocherau, then take the RER to CDG. It will still beat the 55 € cab fare all the way to the airport. During our afternoon stroll, which started out with a couple of fougasses to keep the vultures away, we passed through rue Montsouris. You could visit Paris a hundred times and not find all the charming hidden treasures like this little “private” street lined with houses from the 1920s, each with beautiful gardens and vines. Also passed through Cite Universitaire before stopping on Rue Daguerre for a quick drink.

Tonight’s main event will be a celebratory feast of Bouillabaisse at the Montparnasse legend, Le Dôme. Eggads! Time to head out now! To the fishmobile!

Toronto: High Atop Bloor

From the “old-man-and-the-Sea-Breeze” department.

Holding court at the Roof Lounge tonight–the one truly great bar in Toronto. Sandra Oh and friends were at the next table, but the real celebs were sitting with us, namely composer-turned-pipe-organ-tuner JMS and Can-lit-crit gadfly and man-about-town BA. I know that Sandra is a devoted Cyberkrunk reader, so I didn’t bother her (like that tiresome other couple) with my idea: over the course of your next few movies, Sandra, please pummel to a bloody pulp the rest of the cast of Wings. Old Ernest would have appproved (and then he’d get drunk and forget all about it).

San Francisco: An SFO Story

San Francisco is vying for official status as my second city. At least, my second city in the United States since Paris officially holds the number two spot in my heart (somewhere around the left ventricle, I think). Which makes me quite happy, since for the last eight years I couldn’t conceive of living anywhere in America other than my adopted home town of Manhattan. After spending a couple of weeks there over the last month or so, I’ve grown fond of the hilly downtown streets, the great views around the Bay, the passable–hell, decent, even–restaurants, the weather, and just the vibe on the streets. All of this puts me in a great frame of mind when I’m working there. And so it was on Wednesday, happily walking the couple of miles from my hotel in Fisherman’s Wharf to my office on Market Street. On this day, I was working in an unfamiliar office in the Spear tower. When I arrived to check in, there was no space available, so I sat down to work in an “Internet Cafe”, which was a snack room with some network ports. But amazingly, 45 minutes later, the good folks at the front desk called me to let me know they had booked an office for me after all. I couldn’t believe my good fortune as I turfed out the squatter occupying the space–42nd floor, wall of windows overlooking the Bay. This was the exact moment I fell in love with San Francisco.

I happily worked away in this space for the rest of the day. I didn’t even take a lunch break–maybe I thought someone would steal my space. All the while, I was taking in the stunning view of the Bay, the Bay Bridge just to the right, the Richmond-San Rafael bridge just visible way off to the left. I guess it was about 5:30 when I started hearing sirens. Looking down, almost directly below, I could see 5 or 6 big ladder tracks heading along the Embarcadero, converging on one of the piers. Then came a dozen police cars and at least a dozen motorcycle cops. A burst of activity. The motorocycle cops raced their bikes to the end of the pier. Cops running. And this buzz of activity just continued, minute after minute, changing in character but not intensity. Most of the fire engines left, but even then, a large ladder truck arrived from the opposite direction. A red coast guard helicopter zoomed in at great speed, then began circling, a bright spotlight probing the water. It was fairly dark by now. Then the news helicopters began hoovering. Some small boats. I was googling the news, but could find no hint of what was going on. And so it was a few hours later, after dinner in North Beach, when I finally read that what I had witnessed was the aftermath of the young mother who had stripped her three boys and tossed them into the bay–all three had perished.

Frankentheo Zappamonk

Roland Barthes has died. Or so I just learned. I didn’t even know he was sick. But then, I’m about twenty-five years late in finding this out. I’ve been meaning to read something of his for some time now. Besides this fact, I have come to believe that Renquist was a hardcore nerd (not that there’s anything wrong with that, jurisprudentially-speaking).

But that’s not where I meant to begin at all. LGA is like a challenge. It throws down, gentle reader (by which I mean you, Bert) the gauntlet—“Just land here! I dares ya! Ah-Booga-booga-booga!” Ok, so a little rain in Dallas/Ft. Worth is all it takes to throw AA into psychotic spasms, shutting down every flight it can think of, like C3PO in the SW garbage compactor scene: ‘No, shut them ALL down!’.

Being accustomed to LGA’s sly gambits, a mere flight cancellation does not phase me. Within moments of returning to the gate following a peripatetic fool’s errand, somehow thinking I could find a copy of Richard Dawkins’ “The Blind Watchmaker” at an airport bookstore (I can dream, can’t I?), only to find that the flight is, no, not delayed as usual, but downright cancelled, I am all “Hello Moto” on the Razer (the ‘It’ phone) to my travel agent. The fellow-traveler fellow traveler next to me (I’m all ‘I haven’t been home in two weeks’ and she’s all ‘I haven’t been home since June’) tells me of a Continental flight into EWR tonight that still has some seats left. Wow, humans. They’re just super sometimes. Meanwhile, my agent is trying to sell me on the great AA flight out tomorrow leaving 11:50. Uhm, staying at the airport Marriott would be lots of fun and all, but can you please check Continental for me?

As Bill Cosby once said, I told you that story to tell you this one.

I can’t say that I approve of the whole ‘car’ thing, but at least I understand it. Your own personal pressurization chamber in the morning, de-pressurization chamber at night. And perchance to listen to some music. Finally, I come around to the point.

Thelonious Monk is great, and any day in which you don’t hear at least a little, is just that much wasted. But what is the link between “Monk’s Time” and the other CD I grabbed from last weekend’s drive-fest in Northern Georgia, Frank Zappa’s “Sheik Yerboutti?” Well, Monk is wonky, and Zappa’s goofy, but they both belong on the same side of the ping vs pong, gnip vs gnop, Pespsi vs Coke spectrum. And it’s a damn good side, too, with plenty-long tracks.

Oh yeah, Bert. Wireless hotspots are, like, way old. But I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

Over, Under, Sideways, Down

LGA, 6:13 am: The cab pulls up to the AA departures outside lane. “Thank you sir. You’re a good tipper.”

Odd. But that’s not where I meant to begin. That is not where I meant to begin at all.

One week earlier.

JFK, a somewhat saner hour (the Little Rascals is now over). : The new terminal is… new. And very clean. Few people. I imagine for a moment that I’m in Canada. It’s convincing.

Seven hours later.

“Velcome to the most beautiful city in the world.” Just after touching down, the lead of the front attendant crew came over the P.A. and uttered this in his thick Russian brogue. I already liked this guy for his sense of humor–playing up his accent for comic relief in a Bronson Pichot kind of way, weirdly dragging out Sun… Frun… Seesco every time. And there’s something to what he said, which you can already begin to see on final approach. This nicely sprawling city nestled in the California coastal mountains.

It’s pleasantly chilly. And hilly. How delightful!

When I caught up with Ivan again on the way back. I looked at him and asked, “Paris?”

“Yes, but ve must be patrreeotic!” he replied. You can’t argue with that. Plus, he’s a big guy.

“Velcome to the capital of the world!” he announced as we landed at JFK. Not sure if that’s quite true either, but I didn’t really mind.

And now Dallas. (Back to today and LGA.) Well, Irving and Las Collinas. But who would have thought that there’s such a nice Italian restaurant just across the highway. And three PhDs at the next table, the one speaking of the time he met Bucky Fuller.

East, West. North, South. Hot, Cold. Left, Right.

I feel streteched and folded. Like a filo. And then Atlanta, a drive, the Wedding. Dallas. Then home, sweet home.

san fran

“Welcome to the most beautiful city in the world.” Just after touching down, the lead of the front attendant crew came over the P.A. and uttered this in his thick Russian brogue. I already liked this guy for his sense of humor–playing up his accent for comic relief in a Bronson Pichot kind of way, weirdly dragging out Sun… Frun… Seesco every time. And there’s something to what he said, which you can already begin to see on final approach. This nicely sprawling city nestled in the California coastal mountains.

“Welcome to the capital of the world!” he announced as we landed at JFK. Not sure if that’s quite true either, but I didn’t really mind.

Command Blogging

When the second best writer I know tells me to blog more, dammit, I’d better do as I’ve been told. Especially when I see cyberkrunk linked at the top, mind you, of his blogroll. I teared up a little when I saw that. But maybe it was just continuing ill after-effects of that late Wednesday night in Nashville. (It turns out, by the way, that a round or two of bowling is the perfect desert after ingesting bad tempanyaki {which was misidentified as “Hibachi”.})

More on Nashville in the weeks to come. But for now, I will only note this. Air travel in this country is badly broken. Much more on that…

New York: The Plaza closing its doors

So we were sitting in the Oak Bar, having cocktails with friends who had traveled from Toronto to see the Gates, when B. said, “it’s a shame about the Plaza closing, isn’t it?” “The Plaza closing?” I replied with my trademark incredulity, “no, you’re probably thinking of the Gramercy Hotel, which just closed to go condo.” I think it was the next day when I saw an ad from the union protesting the hotel’s closing–and then it sank in. $400 a night for a room and a grand for a jr. suite just isn’t enough to make money in NYC anymore. Not when you can carve the place up into $50M condos…

One of the prettiest small parks in New York is Gramercy Park. What was interesting to me when I first saw it is that it’s not open to the public. In fact, is has a tall wrought iron fence around it and big locked gates. It’s a private park, and one of the privileges of living in this square (hi Julia!) is getting the keys to the park. Coming from Canada, this notion of a locked park struck me as a bit odd, a bit in the same way that bringing a credit card to the doctor’s office did. But New York has always been comfortable with this interplay of public and private. The Villard Houses were originally built as private homes, now they are the New York Palace hotel. But the current real estate boom is driving everything in the private direction. Earlier this year, the Gramercy Hotel ceased operations, sold off its furniture and now is converting to condos. This had been sort of a shabby-chic version of the Plaza, a place for rock stars to smash furniture when they couldn’t get into the Chelsea. And another fine hotel-bar watering hole.

Spending a weekend at the Plaza has always been on my to-do list, but low on the priority level because I live just down the street, and because, well it’s the Plaza, it’s not going anywhere! A few years back, a similar to-do was dining at the Rainbow Room, which also closed its doors before I could enjoy it. I think this means I have to re-evaluate some other entries on that list: seeing Bobby Short at the Carlyle, Les Paul at Iridium on Monday nights and maybe even Woody doing his thing. Not that these guys are about to be privatized…

Here’s what’s on the Hotel’s web site at present:

The owners of The Plaza have announced that on April 30, 2005, the hotel will close for extensive redevelopment into a mixed use retail, residential and hotel complex, at which point Fairmont Hotels & Resorts will no longer manage The Plaza. […]

The crown jewel of Manhattan’s fabled Fifth Avenue, The Plaza reigns over New York with a grace and glamour that has drawn visitors from around the globe throughout the century. From glorious meeting rooms and palatial ballrooms to the brilliance of the legendary restaurants, The Plaza dwells in a class by itself. Whether for business or pure pleasure, a stay at The Plaza entails the ultimate in gracious luxury, attentive personal service and the pleasures of an incomparable location at the foot of Central Park.

There’s more in a section on the Hotel’s history:

The Plaza opened its doors on October 1, 1907, amid a flurry of impressive reports describing it as the greatest hotel in the world. Located at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South, it was constructed in the most fashionable residential section of New York. […]

Construction of the 19-story building (a skyscraper back then) took two years at a cost of $12 million – an unprecedented sum in those days. Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, who also designed the Dakota apartments, the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. and The Fairmont Copley Plaza Boston, set about his task to provide all the pomp, glory, and opulence of a French chateau. No cost was spared. The largest single order in history for gold-encrusted china was placed with L. Straus & Sons, and no less than 1,650 crystal chandeliers were purchased. […]

Although The Plaza appeared fleetingly in earlier films, the hotel made its true movie debut in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 classic North by Northwest – the first time a crew, director and cast assembled on site to make a picture. Before then, movies were shot almost entirely on Hollywood soundstages and rarely on location. The Plaza has provided the location for other motion pictures such as Plaza Suite, The Way We Were, The Great Gatsby, Barefoot in the Park, Funny Girl, Cotton Club, Crocodile Dundee I and II and Home Alone II: Lost In New-York.

For the love of God, let’s hope they keep the Oak Bar open.

There and Back Again

From the, “Then again, maybe I won’t… department.”

Cyberkunk industry insiders have known since December 2004 about plans to re-locate the global headquarters of cyberkrunk Labs, Inc. to Paris. The cyberkrunk corporate communications department reports that cyberkrunk will actually remain in midtown Manhattan. This decision came after detailed analysis of a contract proposal that centered on cost of living comparisons between the two cities. While the proposed move was highly attractive on a personal and professional level, the numbers simply didn’t work out.

Paris remains one of my favorite places, but we’re not at all displeased about staying in the world’s capital, NYC.