Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Being Transatlantic

Be forewarned. Nothing prepares your for the phone call. The unimaginable, the unspeakably awful happens, and the phone call comes at an odd hour from an unidentified number, un appel secret.

You're in the middle of being witty on the phone, at the dinner table, or in writing. Carefree. You're juggling social plans. And then this. This is your children's life calling, some kind but anonymous official calling to let you know that your family will be forever altered. You spend until 4 in the morning on Skype making new plane reservations, cancelling other plans, and calling stateside family and ex-family in hospital waiting rooms and undisclosed cell phone locations. You contact all your friends and try to find some sort of logical thread in the surreal. You try to make sense of it all, figure out what all your Paris promises are that you have to break. Now more than ever you are acutely aware of the transatlantic time difference, in minutes.

You call the gardienne to ask her to keep your mail. "For how long?" she asks.

"Je ne sais pas. Une semaine ou deux," you say.

You call the taxi to come first thing in the morning.

"I need you to come, but I don't want to interrupt your life," says your daughter.

"You are my life," you say.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I'm Ready for my Close-Up, Mr. DeMille

Do dreams of fame and glory haunt you at night? Do you think you've Got What it Takes to be a star?

For any Paris-area Audrey Tautou wannabes or kids who think they are the next Jean-Baptiste Meunier (France's talented answer to Macaulay Culkin), you can check TF1's casting website.

Or even if you have too much time on your hands and want to find something different to while away the days.

Les castings can run the gamut from being an extra in a movie (long metrage) to auditioning for the Really Big Shoe, Star Ac.

Norma Desmond and I are signing up after tea-time today, though I was going to boycott TF1 since they somehow forgot to include me in the lineup for last weekend's show "La Femme la Plus Sexy du Monde".

I hope you don't need this map

If you anticipate finding yourself behind the steering wheel of a car in Paris, here is a handy reference map to study before you leave the safe, stress-free comfort of your armchair. It indicates the most accident-prone streets and intersections. .
You can also target the riskiest accident locales in your own arrondissement.

The Streets of Paris

I confess. I am addicted to Google Earth. And even more to the aerial view section of the Pages Jaunes .

Here's what I do: to see a location in satellite image, I simply click on pages jaunes (or its cousin on the next tab, the pages blanches), plug in the Paris address I want to see and, then "vue aerienne". Voila! If I zoom in well, I can practically see what kind of cars are parked in the neighborhood. Great for rainy days when I can't get out for a good long walk. And for getting a sense of where I'm going for a dinner party. (I am very very directionally challenged.)

Then to get a street level image, chances are I can find a 360-degree panoramic view, at least of the quartier, here

For the incurably curious among us, or who haven't got a plane ticket here yet, this is Paris-peeping at its best.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Park in Search of Identity

I don't know much about people with multiple personality disorders. Maybe it's denial, but as far as I know the only person I've encountered with many characters inhabiting one so-called body was a certifiable boss I had about 15 years ago. It was fun; we never knew which one of her was going to show up for staff meetings.

It can be fun, too, when a place has multiple personalities. But like my former wacko boss, it can be a bit disconcerting, too. Paris places, like Parisian everything, are usually so "pulled together". That's why my trip to the Parc Georges Brassens was so unsettling today. It takes the word multi-tasking, multi-function -- multi-everything-- to new levels. For Paris.

In fact, the literature about the park touts its multi-level diversity. And diverse it is. In a small space there are vineyards and bee hives up on a hill, fake donkeys on a grand staircase, real ponies, a waterfall, a hideous giant modern tee pee building which wins my March award for RBA (Really Bad Architecture). On another level, a bland petanques courtyard, a covered outdoor market. Across the park, a fake cliff, the obligatory manege, lots of climbing structures, a huge odd shaped pond and and and and and.

But none of it holdstogether esthetically. The handsome bulls at the park's entrance, and the somewhat classical tower overlooking the empty pond seem to announce a traditional (read: pleasing) gathering. Instead of having one pleasiant surprise after another (the case with most Parisian parks), the visitor has instead one minor disappointment after another. Paths wind and snake around the park, but nothing is really mysterious or hidden. Closer inspection of things seen in the distance leads to disappointment. Nothing serious, but vaguely annoying. Craving something else.

To be sure, it is a pleasant place for families to gather. Lots of happy shouting kids. Learning opportunities abound in the apiary and the vineyard, when they're not chained shut. Patches of colorful flowers. Such variety of activities assures that there is something for everyone. A little potager, a vegetable garden, at the entrance proudly announces that it is maintained solely by a local elementary school and the gardeners of the city of Paris. A quaint little patchwork-quilt touch. The rest of it, rather than being charmingly patchwork, felt just patchy and disjointed. I really wanted to like the Parc. I loved Georges Brassens; his music helped me love French even more all those years of serious study.

But today's Saturday in the Parc with Georges was discordant. Not even fun, like those old staff meetings.

But No Baked Beans...

If you've been in Paris for a while and are longing for a good old-fashioned church fair, get out of your chair tout de suite and head up the hill to avenue George V. The Junior Guild of the American Cathedral is sponsoring its annual BBB&B sale today and tomorrow.
That's Books, Begonias, Baked Goods and Bric-a-Brac. Did I miss a few Bs in there?
Delicious home-made goodies, good buys on used books, and -- well the usual, But Better!
Today, 10 am to 4 pm. Sunday noon to 3 pm.
American Cathedral
23 avenue George V
75008 Paris
Metro: George V or Alma-Marceau

Friday, March 16, 2007

Toy Boat Toy Boat Toy Boat

I just love tongue-twisters, and this one's a favorite: I challenge you to say "toy boat" five times in a row, fast.

Okay, time's up! The only reason I thought of that wacky little exercise was the upcoming exhibit at the Musee de La Marine, Bateaux Jouets. Whew. Much easier to say, and it promises to be a delight to see as well.

Opening next Wednesday, the exhibit displays 100 years' worth of toy boats, from 1850 - 1950. Conjures up images of children in sailor suits at the pond at the Jardin du Luxembourg, and E.B. White's Stuart Little (not the awful Hollywood version.) The Lilliputian flotilla includes everything from antique toy submarines to miniature cruise ships, and images of the people who played with them.

Now where can I find the next exhibit on... wristwatches? (You know, wristwatch wristwatch wristwatch...)

Musée national de la Marine
Palais de Chaillot
17 place du Trocadéro
75116 PARIS

Téléphone : 33 (0)1 53 65 69 69

Métro : Trocadéro
Bus : 22, 30, 32, 63, 72, 82
Batobus : Tour Eiffel

Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm. Closed Tuesdays.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mr. Handsome Goes to Harvard

Well, it'll be quiet in the neighborhood this week. Mr. Handsome is away, giving a talk tomorrow at Harvard's Center for European Studies Co-sponsored by the Kennedy School of Government, the talk, which he will deliver in English, is being touted in Beantown as what will "likely be one of the last major public addresses by de Villepin in his role as Prime Minister."

Entitled " The United States and France: How Can We Face the Changing World Order?” the talk will begin at 4 p.m. EST (21h00 in France) at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, 79 JFK Street, Cambridge. Expect standing room only.
If, like me, you find yourself on the other side of the Puddle that day, or even on the other side of the Charles, the talk will be web-streamed live:

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Velib': Bikes for Everyone

The Baby isn't born yet, but Mayor Delanoe has announced its name: Velib'.

The much anticipated new bicycle lending program for the city of Paris has been officially baptized. A raccourci of velo and liberte, the monniker seems a little forced now but I'm sure it will soon be rolling off our tongues.

At these prices, we simply have to love it:

1 euro for one day
5 euros for a week
29 euros for an annual rental fee.

Bikes are sturdy and have ample baskets. They should be in place during the course of this summer.

Gazing Upward

I've been thinking a lot about meteors and meteorites lately. Lord knows why, just cosmic musing about falling stars, plus a few odd news stories. I have learned that when humans witness a meteorite streaking to earth and find the sizzling chunk of sky and its terrestrial impact, the technical term is a "meteorite fall."

Extrapolating, as I tend to, my thoughts took a Newtonian tangent. If all force has an equal and opposite reaction, then what would be the reverse of a meteorite fall? What, I wondered, is the official term for observing a phenomenon that has a reverberating impact on earth and then heralding its dazzling return to the celestial firmament?

I found out the answer last night. It's called "A Tribute to Art Buchwald."

Last evening I had the great good fortune to attend the Paris Tribute to Art Buchwald, who died in January. Held in a standing-room only crowd in a grand salon at the Traveller's Club, the reception could as easily have been held on Mt. Olympus as far as I was concerned. Many of the Olympian gods and goddesses of Paris in my book of myths were there, from Hollywood to journalism to gastronomy. Names jumped off the byline or masthead or silver screen or TV screen, and became real people as I was introduced to them, champagne glass in hand. These were Art's friends and family, who knew him well, including Olivia de Havilland, Ward Just, Joel Buchwald, Jim Bittermann, Philippe Labro, Nicole Salinger, Michael Oreskes, Lee Huebner, and the owner of L'Ami Louis. And then there were people like me who had never met Art at all him, who simply loved him through his writing.

All evening long, people repeated, "Art would have loved this."

With fanfare and video clips of Art, hilarity resounded. A remembrance by his former Herald Tribune assistant: "When he hired me he didn't know I couldn't type. He never asked. He hired me because his column made me laugh."

Or Nicole Salinger telling Art's tale of "The Six-Minute Louvre"

Jim Bitterman's tale of sneaking a Camembert into Art's hospice room, asking Art if his doctors allowed him to eat such rich food. Art's reply, of course, was "Jeez, I'm dying -- I can eat whatever the hell I want!"

The stories could go on forever, indeed will go on forever.

For Art's resonating impact is still reverberating on this earthly coil, as it did yesterday, with rounds of laughter and hilarity, from the meek (me) to the mighty. Last night I felt very very very tiny in that crowd of Greats. Humble and incredibly happy, but existentially infinitesimal. Wishing upon a twinkling star up there.

But the evening wasn't about star-gazing. It was about reveling in the wonder of the man who never ceased to make us think while laughing, who has found a new desk with a Better View. We know he's still joking up there. Kind of makes you look forward to the trip.

Merci, Art.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Is it Live or is it Jean-Luc Delarue?

By now you've all heard the high-flying scandal about popular French TV talk-show host Jean-Luc Delarue. The man who takes Fear of Flying to the extreme. Last month he apparently popped a gasket on board an Air France flight after mixing pills and alcohol to "calm his nerves" before flying. And while flying. Result: he fondled a fellow passenger, attacked some flight staff... the usual in-flight no-nos. Had to be strapped into his seat for the rest of the flight.

All of France was tittering about it for weeks.

Now a fake "cell phone" video, a parody of the bizarre bagarre, created by the weekly mag Choc, is all the buzz.

The tag line: "If it were real, it would be in Choc."

Monday, March 12, 2007

Free Parking in Paris Tomorrow March 13

This is not a Poisson d'Avril (April Fool's joke).

And it's no laughing matter, actually. The mayor's office has just issued a press release stating that residents will be able to park for free in Paris tomorrow.

The air quality as reported by AIRPARIF is expected to be so bad that City Hall wants everyone to avoid driving if possible, to not contribute to the problem.

Here's the full statement:

» 12/03/2007 Le stationnement résidentiel gratuit demain dans Paris
Par M. Bertrand DELANOË

Les prévisions relatives à la qualité de l'air réalisées aujourd'hui par AIRPARIF sur la base des estimations de Météo-France font craindre le dépassement du niveau de pollution nécessitant l'information du public pour le dioxyde d’azote demain mardi 13 mars 2007.
Cette situation confirme la nécessité de lutter énergiquement contre ce fléau qui constitue un grave problème de santé publique. C’est bien le sens de la politique de la municipalité parisienne qui vise à diminuer la circulation automobile au bénéfice des transports collectifs et des modes de circulation douce.
Face au risque d’un nouvel épisode de pollution, Bertrand Delanoë, maire de Paris, a décidé, à titre préventif, de rendre gratuit demain le stationnement résidentiel dans la capitale.
Le maire invite également les Parisiens à éviter si possible les déplacements en transports motorisés, à préférer les transports en commun ou les moyens de circulation doux, et pour les automobilistes, à adopter une conduite souple, économique, sans à coup et à réduire la vitesse de circulation.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

New Hampshire?

As a kid my family moved around a fair amount -- teachers always asked me if my father was in the military or the diplomatic service. (Nope.) Mostly it was that secretly, I believe, my mother must have gypsy blood in her veins. I like to imagine the circumstances. So exciting!

But for explaining why I attended so many schools: a problem. I was in fact a good girl and a very strong student. We just ... moved a lot. Mine was not to reason why. Mine was but to do, or else.


When I was in seventh grade, at my Next New School (a perfectly lovely Quaker school in Philadelphia), I was yet again the New Girl in the class. New Girls were inevitably assigned to a Teacher's Pet (the most popular, smartest, prettiest girl) to be given orientation. Don't ask, it's just how things went.

So the pudgy but otherwise intelligent pre-teen Polly fell under the power of "Mimi," this SuperGirl. Suffice it to say I never made the grade socially (oh god, middle school), and was assured of many years of presumed and justified inadequacy anywhere within in a 50-mile radius of this cool, lithe, 13-year-old blonde success story. The Girl You Love To Hate.

Fast forward 30 years. I bump into Mimi's brother at a noisy New England fundraiser. "What's your sister up to these days?" I query.

In the hubbub of the crowd, I think that I hear him say, "blah blah New Hampshire..."

Heh heh heh.

Soooo, I think. The former blonde vixen is now living in New Hampshire. Justified or not, Bostonians delight in forging crass, unsophisticated images of New Hampshirites. I thus conjure up, with vengeful glee, the mental portrait of a Mimi transformed into a manure-shovelling unshaven backwoods hippie. I revel in picturing her with swarms of unkempt children fighting over who has to bring in the firewood. Dirty fingernails and bad grammar. Walmart clothes. Ah. I feel relieved, redeemed.

"Where in New Hampshire?" I ask coyly.

"No, no, it's Amsterdam. And Paris," he corrects me. "She has an international interior design firm. It was on the cover of Architectural Digest last month."


Guess who I haven't looked up in Paris?

Saturday in the Park with...Tout Paris

I am accustomed to visiting the Jardin du Luxembourg in the grey morning mists. On a good day I'm there early, even before they open the gates and let the few dozen joggers (or walkers, like me) into the the gardens. It's an enchanting, meditative place on weekday mornings.

Imagine my surprise when I headed there Saturday afternoon for a leisurely stroll. I felt as though I were trespassing inside a "Where's Waldo?" book.

My initial reaction: if there are so many people here today, who on earth were in all those cars jamming the roads for the ritual Friday afternoon exodus from the city? I can't do the math on that enigma.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


I can just see the screaming tabloid headlines now:

One Full Year Living in Paris,
Woman Doesn't Tread Once in Dog Poop!!!

It's actually true. Must be some sort of Guinness record.

Happy Anniversary, moi.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Back when I lived in Boston, one of my French friends at the Alliance Francaise used to love to spout comedienne Sylvie Joly's sketches. One of my favorite lines was her portraying a very aristo-bourgeoise Parisienne, saying, "Ma chere, mon Jag-u-ar est en panne, figure toi. Donc j'ai pris le metro. Tu connais?"

Translation: "Well, my dear, my Jag is in the shop. Sooo, I had to take the subway to get here. Ever heard of it?"

Unlike Sylvie Joly's character, I frequent Paris public transportation, with delight. It is not only a favorite but also a source of constant awe and inspiration. Paris RATP rides run the gamut from fast and efficient to majestic and noteworthy. I like them all, for the most part. But what I really adore is the adrenaline rush that one can get in various circumstances. I have a bit o' the ADD in me and we attention-deficit types rely on adrenaline rushes where chemical ones have been shunned.

Here are my favorite rides to date in Paris:

1. Metro # 14 The newest line. Get on the front car and sit where there would normally be a driver (machiniste) and watch through the windshield as the train rockets through the tunnels. Better than Space Mountain.

2. Ride the #69 bus as it enters the impossibly tight arch under the Louvre between rue de Rivoli and the courtyard of the Louvre. Every time I'm convinced that the bus just won't fit. Every time it squeezes through. Wild.

3. On the # 10 line to Boulogne, at the Mirabeau station there is a wonderful out-of-body experience. As the westbound train track rises up as you leave the station, you feel as though you are floating above yourself and looking down upon the passengers waiting at the opposite platform below.

4. The absolute adrenaline rush of hearing the blaring of the bells sounding the imminent closing of the doors of the metro -- any line -- and clackclackclack running through the station and jumping inside the car just as the doors are closing. Life just doesn't get much more thrilling. Of course, I never was one for roller coaster rides. So maybe i don't know the true meaning of thrill. This does it for me.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Black Umbrella with a Pink Ruffle

Tuesday night it was pouring, and I was rushing across town to meet up with the girls and our friend Ariane for dinner at Le Grand Colbert. Miss Bee had borrowed one of my larger umbrellas, and since it was really blowing up a storm, I used my other good folding umbrella, a black one with a slender fuchsia ruffle around the edge. It always cheers me up when I use it.

This is my all-time favorite umbrella. It's even more dear to me because I got it for a song at TJMaxx or Filene's Basement in Boston. Then, last week when I popped into Madeleine Gely's fabulous umbrella boutique on boulevard St. Germain, I spied very similar umbrellas for the gobsmacking price of 130 euros. A gentleman with his 9 year old daughter was purchasing two of them. Blow me away. Anyway, I was thrilled to already own one -- though not an authentic Madeleine Gely parapluie --- and proud that I had had the vision to pluck it from a pile at a discount store.

I do tend to lose umbrellas, and since they are de rigueur here in Paris I have amassed a little collection. I never leave the apartment without one, even if it's a sunny day. So whenever I see a cheap folding umbrella, I tend to buy it to have in reserves. Some are Totes brand umbrellas, from the States. Some are little touristy French parapluies (with images of French newspaper mastheads as a design motif). A plaid one, a bright yellow one. A burnt orange one that required lots of input from sales staff at the little shop on rue la Boetie last spring (a fun event where all were deciding on the right color: "This goes well with your hair, madame; that one goes well with your Longchamp bag", etc etc.). But this special dainty-but-strong black umbrella with the pleated pink ruffle -- well, I have held on to that. It somehow makes me feel very Parisienne in a Gigi sort of way.

Tuesday evening, entering Le Grand Colbert in a wet gust of wind, I did what everyone does, and put my dripping umbrella at the front door with all the others. I saw Bee's umbrella already there, so stashed my precious brolly behind hers.

We had a jolly dinner, and it was fun to show Bee's friend Jessica the "typical Parisian restaurant" now of movie fame (Something's Gotta Give). Oddly, they have now put up posters of that film in the entrance, which is a little tacky, I think. Then, at the end of the evening, we were leaving and MY UMBRELLA WAS NOT THERE. I got in a complete swivet. "Where is MY, umbrella, monsieur?" I asked the doorman.

Totally unfriendly, totally uncooperative, this toad in the fancy schmancy uniform postured, "If you wanted to keep your umbrella, you shouldn't have left it at the door."

I have been in France long enough to know that any time you try to take a soaking wet umbrella into a nice establishment you are immediately and disapprovingly asked to put it away from other clients and staff, at the umbrella stand at the door. However, this fact was clearly not going to enter into the logic of the little Cerberus’s haughty response. He proffered, "Here, madame-- you want a black umbrella? I give you this, “and flourished a cheap Tati umbrella in my face.

"Je ne veux pas de votre parapluie, monsieur," I snarled back. By now it was no longer raining and the only storm in the 2e arrondissement was me storming out of that restaurant. I always get slightly nauseous indigestion after dining at Le Grand Colbert. This time it was heading toward an ulcer. Now I have a real excuse not to ever go back.

So friends, the next time it rains, if you see anyone walking the streets of Paris sporting a black umbrella with a very lovely hot-pink ruffle around the edge, please tap her on the shoulder and tell her to return it to me.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

With this Ring I Thee Scam

Scam alert!!

Twice in the past two weeks I have fallen prey to a little swindlers' trick. Maybe it's an old ploy and I'm just a rookie here. I fell for it the first time.

Breezing down a quiet residential street near Bon Marche, I was stopped by a man ahead of me on the sidewalk who had leaned over to pick up an object by the curb. He approached, saying, "Excusez moi, madame, but I have found this wedding ring. Look, it has inscriptions on the inside." The point is to get the target (me) engaged in dialogue and a small level of trust. Foolishly I fell for it -- he wanted me to return the ring to the police. Then he asked for lunch money. He had me right up until then. I offered him one euro.

The guy then said, sneeringly, "I can't buy lunch for that much! I need more money!" and he re-pocketed the ring.

Then my smart brain kicked in and I realized that he was just a con artist.

"A simple thank you would suffice, cretin," I said as I stormed off, totally pissed that I had given him a euro. How stupid of me.

So yesterday when a different guy tried the same trick (same ring! fat gold band) -- right outside a friend's apartment building on avenue de Tourville, I told him to get lost in a most unhesitatingly crude way. Sometimes I just love knowing French mots grossiers.

Body Language

Most pedestrian stoplights in Paris are like this. A somewhat benign, passive, stay-put message.

But then I noticed that some are more adamant don't-you-DARE-move messages, hands on the hips and all. Perhaps part of Mayor Delanoe's new Paris Dit Stop safety program?

Monday, March 05, 2007

You go, Guy!

"We've got the Green guy -- let's go!"

Green Guy, Green Man -- what do YOU call the Paris pedestrian walk light figure? If anything.

I tried "Gringo" for a while but a date with no sense of figurative speech kept saying, "No, a gringo is what Mexicans call white Americans." Duh. Anyway that kind of spoiled that pun for me.

Then I tried calling him "Vertigo," for Vert (green) I Go, but that was too obtuse.

If you have any other ideas or pet names for this guy, let me know at, pollyvousfrancais.

More about his evil twin, the Red Man, tomorrow.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ouch! My Back Hurts

It's spring break for US colleges and universities, so happily my daughter and a friend are here for a whirlwind Paris visit this week.

By popular demand, we had dinner at the legendary Bouillon Chartier this evening, with delightfully old-fashioned service, and waiters in traditional black with white-waisted-tablecloth attire. As luck would have it, we got one of the kinder waiters, a truly charming grandfatherly type. He was so sweet and tender, I wanted to take HIM home in a doggy bag.

Not so for the rest of the dinner. Unfortunately I have such a backache from 30 minutes of sawing through all the gristle in my gigot d'agneau that my shoulder blades may never be the same. Granted, I saved a few euros by going for a place where cheap means cheeeeeap. But the savings will have to be spent relaxing in a hammam tomorrow just to unknot the muscles and regain my upper back strength.

Restaurant Chartier
7 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre 75009 PARIS
01 47 70 86 29

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Haute Couture or Pret-a-Porter?

Decisions, decisions. For all you fashionistas, here is Parisian chic at its finest.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Flowers that Bloom in the Spring, Tra-La

Spring is definitely arriving en pleine force in Paris. It's March, so why not?
But many Parisians and provincial denizens are worried about the printemps precoce, worried that it's too early and we'll get a bad freeze later which will kill off all the blooms and their fruit. Ce n'est pas normal, they say.

I hope this doesn't happen. Meanwhile, this proud gardener from Parcs and Jardins of Paris agreed with me that Paris has the most beautiful gardens in the world. It seems that every little patch of green in the city is in full technicolor these days.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Card-Carrying Genius

Guess what? I'm a genius. I have a card to prove it. So what if I had to pay for it?

No, it has nothing to do with self-congratulatory groups like MENSA. (I coulda been a contender anyway.) This Genius card is offered by none other than my favorite place in town, La Poste. Which is now La Banque Postale. And while they're at it, in addition to being a post office and a bank, they're now acting as a temp agency as well. I couldn't believe it either, but it's true. So of course I signed on the dotted line. Not to be a genius, actually, but to hire one.

It all began this morning when I practiced my weekly self-flagellation of standing in line at the Poste. Actually I have grown to love this special drama, so the waiting room at La Poste draws me like a magnet. Good thing I get some inspiring plot-lines somewhere, since my France Telecom TV service still isn't working and it gets expensive renting videos every night that I'm home. But, as usual, I digress.

So today as I am entering the tail end of the line at the Poste to buy my enveloppes déjà timbrés there are three very smiling young faces greeting me -- Julien, Elise and Magali. They tell me that they are Geniuses and want to "simplify my life". Oh wow, this doesn't get any better. Unfortunately, this happy trio is made out of cardboard. Life-sized and handsome, but mute cardboard nevertheless. So like the rest of my compadres I must wait in line on tenterhooks until I can quiz the the lady at the guichet, "How can these Geniuses de-stress my life?"

And so here's the deal: for just under 10 € annually, you can buy a Genius card. This gives you access to all sorts of temporary "personal help" from agencies screened by La Poste.

Need a babysitter so you can escape your little mophead for the evening? Call a Genius.

Fido or Cesar desperately needs walking while you're at work? Call a Genius.

An extra pair of hands is essential for hanging those curtains or preparing for that dinner party? Call a Genius.

The laundry is piling up and you're just too busy to iron? Or wash. Call a Genius.

Mamie needs someone to help her with her computer or paperwork? Call a Genius.

Your teenager is flunking and desperately needs tutoring? Call a Genius.

You need someone to pick up your dry cleaning and run other errands? Call a Genius.
You get the picture. Genius gives you access to all sorts of personal helpers, at basic market rates, screened by a known entity.

So, let me see. If I have this right, I could hire a Genius helper to ....go stand in line for me at La Poste?

If a Tree Fell in the Forest...

I have walked past this tree in the Tuileries countless times, and silly moi, I always assumed that it was real, like the decomposing fallen oaks in New England woodlands. Mais non! Yesterday I took a closer look. We are in Paris, of course, and this is in fact a bronze sculpture, by Giuseppe Penone. Arbre des Voyelles is the title; I'm not quite sure why.
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