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The Incompetent Travelir … in which I am censored

I am not allowed to write any more about the Parisian women. This is because I have been in Paris for three days and, because of my lack of focus on street signs and landmarks, I still can’t find the way back to our apartment on my own. I have to follow my wife. If you were watching us from behind I would be the guy who’s jacket sleeve is constantly being yanked to the right or left. I have to be steered on streets of Paris because they are populated with long-legged, skirt-wearing, flouncy-haired, shopping bag-swinging belles femmes. It’s not that I have been expressly forbidden from expounding on this topic, it’s just that my wife has this way of rolling her eyes that suggest I should reconsider a thing. This restriction makes it tough to go on here because Parisian women are pretty much all I have noticed since we arrived in Paris. Add to that, they’re everywhere.

Okay. I did notice Notre Dame Cathedral today and that was nice. Built from 12th to 14th century, it was a remarkable feat of construction because that was a time before power tools and after slave labor. The work of medieval society, unlike the ancient world, was done by its own people. This of course required money,  so to preserve the reverent experience of visiting Notre Dame and all the other magnificent churches you encounter throughout southern France,  you might not want to delve too deeply into the history of cash flow in the medieval Church.

I’ll do it for you.

Yes, it was a time of the kindly preachings of St Augustine, but also of nefarious fund-raising by, for example, church-commissioned ‘pardoners’. Check your old Cliff Notes for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, The Pardoner was the despicable guy.   Dispycable guye ?   Here’s a new word, or actually an old word lost in time:   SIMONY .    Simony is the selling of ecclesiastical favors like pardons for everything from gluttony to homicide … or the mother-of-all-pardons, salvation.   Heaven, you see, had a Treasury of Merit, according the robed snake-oilers of the period,  into which you could make deposits. Upon payment these pardons were reduced to writing, like receipts, assuring the ‘pardoned’ better seating in the hereafter.   Mendicant monks would sell you a feather from the wing of the Angel Gabriel or a piece of Moses ‘burning bush’.                              ‘Step right up !  Your legion of sins … the travesties visited upon the poor and downtrodden …  are herein forgiven.  Just show this parchment at the Gate”.

Mendicant. There is another good word you can use if you want to sound ‘medieval’. No one will know you don’t know what it means.

I dygresse. Unlike our Notre Dame, which is a football team and inflicts far less mayhem on its opponents than the medieval church did to its adversaries, the Paris Notre Dame was in particularly reverent form the day we visited. There was a Mass underway led by a younger priest, not a day over 80, who happened to be a mellifluous chanter. Standing under the same roof and on the same floor tiles as Kings, Popes and Crusaders, listening to the priest’s ethereal chant, I was so moved I almost jumped in line to receive Holy Communion. That would have been my first HC in 40 years, but then I remembered you are supposed to go to Confession first, which for me would go like this:

“Forgive me Father for I have sinned. It’s been 40 years since my last confession. You got a couple of weeks ? … and, actually, why don’t you go first ?”

I whispered my Communion idea to the rest of the group and I got this ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ look from my more catholicized sister. I passed on Holy Communion so as not commit blasphemy in the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

In conclusion, Notre Dame is a good place to take a break from watching Parisian women





Our Bear Visit…

This was taken 10 feet from our deck, after his dinner in our condo!

In some places they have “fish stories”, in Tahoe, we have bear stories. It’s a classic tale of best intentions, producing unexpected, undesirable consequences. Twenty years ago, it was rare to even see a bear in Tahoe, unless you were in the back country.

Getting as far away as possible from that damn dog!

The way I understand it, at some point some mama bear figured out that it was easier to eat garbage out of the trash cans, or the dumpsters behind restaurants, than it was to forage. She taught her cubs this nifty trick, they taught their cubs, and voila’! – we have a bear population that no longer knows how to feed themselves in the wild. The problem is, that in an effort to stop the bears from eating trash, everyone installed “bear-proof bins” and now lock their dumpsters, so, the bears have no choice now, but to go into houses looking for food. And it is getting worse every year.

Bears are now a regular fixture in neighborhoods – strolling down the street, thru yards, and along fences. Once I watched a mother and her 2 cubs climb on top of a wooden fence and walk along the top like a tightrope! They are smart and very agile. They open home, garage and car doors, and can navigate refrigerators quite well.

OK, dog seems to be safely behind glass door...

The new millennium bear diet – fat & sugar – just like humans! The bear in our house ate a jar of honey, then put the jar in the sink, with the lid back on it!! It took the lid off of the ceramic butter dish, ate the butter, without harming the dish. It opened the freezer and ate frozen organic blueberries, but left a whole container of fresh blueberries on the counter! (Apparently they only know human food, and no longer recognize fresh berries?) He also enjoyed avocados, and my precious farmer’s market peaches. At least he left the wild prawns I had marinating in the fridge for dinner! He left us his calling card – a large pile of poop in the living room – before the neighbors dog “got wind of him” and went crazy. Maybe “scared the crap” outta the bear?

Mom never said it'd be this tough getting food from houses!

The number of home invasions by bears in the Tahoe Basin is increasing every year, and the bears get smarter, and bolder all the time. Lucky for us, they are California Brown Bears (not Grizzlies) so they tend to avoid confrontation with humans. The best tip I was given to avoid tangling with a bear, was “once they have your food, it is theirs, so don’t even think about trying to get it back!” Mark had one drag a 5lb bag of dog food out of his garage, dump it on the lawn in a neat pile, where he sat, legs spread around the pile of food, and chowed down, while the dogs were going crazy in the house! Another bear climbed into a car, the car door closed on him, and in his panic to get out, the bear totaled the inside. The car had to be towed away – steering wheel & stick shift bent, windows broken.

We live in such a small, safe community, is it really a big lifestyle change for me to remember to lock all of the doors and windows when we go out, but I guess I am going to have to get better about that. (The bear slid the bedroom screen door open, cruised through the downstairs and went up the stairs to the kitchen. We arrived home just as he was exiting the same way. If we had come home 2 minutes sooner, we would have been face to face with him in the stairwell! Not a good situation.

I guess if we all lock down our garbage, houses and cars, eventually they will be reconditioned to live in the forest and eat bugs?? Or will they just get more and more aggressive about getting into homes? I don’t know what the solution is. It seems the more we deprive them of the food they have now become accustomed to, the more they break into homes. Quite a conundrum… as much as I love seeing them around, I hope we can find a way to get them ‘back to nature’, otherwise many more will be tagged as “repeat offenders” and could be killed. A sad state of affairs.


Drought driving wildlife into residential areas, from NY Times, Sept 2012

Mountain Lion in downtown Reno!