Friday, July 11, 2008


I treated myself to a real French lunch today. A cheap lunch is 10 euros…which is NOT cheap. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for and it was merely ok, not great, not terrible. Well, a little terrible. I had a "faux fillet" and this particular very thick slice of meat was edged with fat (ok, easy to avoid) and very, very rare. When the waitress asked how I wanted, I specifically said "medium" (moyen). They always ask and will suggest "moyen" if you give them a puzzled look. I knew what I wanted, I asked for it and I didn't get it. I should have sent it back but negotiating that transaction felt overwhelming, so I ate what I could (the flavor was fine) and just took my lumps. The unusual side of vegetable mash (probably potato based, but I detected eggplant as well) was tasty and very rich, so I was plenty full. Then I had my coffee and when I paid, I was given a ten euro note in change for my twenty…sorry, no tip for you!

As a follow-up to my news-related rant yesterday, I decided to see if I could subscribe to the BBC news station. It's listed but grayed-out. I figured out that the total cost is .25 euros/month. I signed up. I'll be happy to pay the extra amount as part of my rent! It's much news-ier than SkyNews--lots more international stories and not one mention so far of KNIFE CRIME IN BRITAIN. Very good! They're talking about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with their barely detectable British accents, and I even got to see an interview with Ingrid Betancourt. The same stories are repeated over and over but it's much more substantive.

Yesterday, I did two fun things. First, I took a ferry down the "business" side of the Seine. The service is called Vogueo. I took a ton of not very pretty pictures…this is not the famous, scenic part of the Seine. But for three euros, I got a pretty nice boat ride. I will try to get the pics up tomorrow. (I'm not much of a shutter bug and I hate the whole editing/uploading/sorting process, but for you, I'll make the effort.)

The other fun thing I did was meet my former French teacher, Martine, for the movies. She called around 7pm to see if I wanted to meet early for a drink (we were supposed to meet at the theater at 8pm for an 8:30 show). I said I could meet by 7:30 if I left right away. She answered…something…but I could not, for the life of me, figure out what she said. Much later, on the train, I realized that she'd been saying 7:45. Duh.

I arrived in good time and we went to a "juice bar" and got tasty, pricey smoothies. We sat inside but it was unfortunately loud due to the frequent revving of the smoothie-making blender. Oh well! I spoke in my very broken French. She talked less than I did. I can barely express myself, let alone ask intelligent questions. I cannot tell how much English she knows. Some but she may not be fluent. Well, she is patient, so I hope she didn't mind.

Time slipped away and it was after 8:40 by the time we paid and got our change. It took another 15 minutes to get to the theater, so it was almost 9pm when we arrived. Much to our mutual surprise, the show hadn't started yet and we were able to buy tickets and find decent seats.

What was going on in there? A lecture! It was perfect timing since I couldn't make much sense of what the guy was talking about--I could pick out words here and there, but other than knowing what it must have been about (the films that were to follow and the works of Ernst Lubitsch), I had no idea what he was saying.

He must have talked for another ten minutes. After a pause, the audience applauded enthusiastically…and then he kept talking! He paused again…more clapping...more talking. The audience started to rumble--I laughed and so did Martine. Finally, the lecturer gave up and we got to see the film. It was a silent picture and the subtitles were in German--so they had a woman read a French translation! Clever. Between that and the German, I pretty much understood inter-titles, but you could have understood the film perfectly without it. Very funny. It was a goof on "Romeo and Juliette" called "Romeo und Julia im Schnee" (1919). One of the funniest moments is when the broken hearted lovers good hand-in-hand to the pharmacist and ask for poison. He mixes them up a bottle of sugar water and tries not to laugh when he hands it to them. Romeo is short of cash and so is Julia. The pharmacist says, "You can pay me next time." And laughs and laughs and laughs--and so did the audience.

Before the second feature, Martine decided to go. She has to work, after all, and it was nearly 10pm. I walked her out and we said goodbye. She said we should go to another film. I hope she calls because I don't know if I have the courage to ask her again!

I watched the second feature, "Schuhpalast Pinkus" (1916) alone but I didn't like it as much. Part of the problem was the music. The first film had a live pianist who did a great job. The second film also had live accompaniment, but it was drummer and a guitarist and the music was modernist and atmospheric. I hated it and it really detracted from the film. However, the film wasn't as good either, though the star was Ernst Lubitsch himself! There's a reason he didn't have a career as an actor: what a ham.

Grateful for: Lubitsch.

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