New glasses + weekend shenanigans. (Wedding! Anime Comic Con! Dinosaurs! etc.)

It seems like a long time has passed since my last posting date on Thursday, but that’s just because I’ve spent most of the intervening days out of town. We went to the Bay Area for a friend’s wedding. It was a French wedding attended by lots of (mostly) French people speaking (mostly) French. It took place on Bastille Day and the day before France won the World Cup, so it was a very French affair.

We made our hotel reservation months in advance. Unbeknownst to us, the Anime Comic Con would be going on in the hotel at the same time. Surprise!

Spoils from Anime Comic Con 2018:


Marvel Black Panther bag and Sen. John McCain action figure


[Sidenote 1: I got to chatting with the cool guy who sold me the Marvel Black Panther bag. Turns out he’s a musician. He’s a member of Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (aka D.R.I.). He said they’re coming to my town at the end of October to play a gig. We’re going, Callaghan and me.]

[Sidenote 2: I thought it was hilarious that they were selling Sen. John McCain action figures at Anime Comic Con in California. I couldn’t resist. McCain’s been my senator since I moved to Arizona in 1991. I don’t have to agree with all of his political positions (and I certainly do not) to say in all honesty that he’s one of my heroes.]


New glasses, part I-don’t-even-know-what.


[Sidenote: These pics were taken late last week during a time of hot dusty winds, when the AZ monsoon skies were a haze of golden brown. Even the indoor pic on the left looks dusty.]

You may be wondering how many new pairs of glasses a person needs in a year. I am, too. Hopefully the saga ends here. It should, provided that a). my prescription doesn’t change again, b). I don’t step on my new glasses, and c). in the event that I do, my replacement frames don’t come from overseas on a slow boat that either hits an iceberg or gets lost in the Bermuda Triangle. Those are the three things that have happened in the last 12 months. Luckily, the debacle cost only $25.00 to fix – it was $25.00 to replace the broken frames, and when they never showed up, the glasses lady let me pick new frames for a complete re-make (fresh lenses included) and trade the new glasses for the replacement ones.

I’m enjoying my new granny specs. I’ve worn dark, plastic/acrylic frames for as long as I can remember; these super thin gold-toned ones are a change I’m loving. They seem treacherously light and delicate, but the glasses lady assured me that they’re very strong (titanium) and difficult to break.

Returning to the weekend! We got back yesterday in a dramatic climatic shift. On a summer morning in San Francisco, middle of July, I wore jeans and a t-shirt, as usual, but also a sweatshirt over the t-shirt, and a pleather motorcycle jacket over the sweatshirt… and I was still cold. San Francisco in the summer is antithetical. I boarded the plane dressed for a Phoenix winter, landed in Phoenix 1.5 hours later, and stripped myself back down to summer while still on the plane. I walked into Sky Harbor airport in just the jeans and t-shirt again.

And that, my friends, is one reason why I’ll never move back.

The day before, though, we spent a balmy and beautiful afternoon strolling through Todos Santos Plaza in Concord. We had a great time, but I was glad to come home, as usual. There’ll just never be anything like the steady hum of creative energy in our quiet house in our quiet neighborhood in our quiet desert – it always seems quiet, even when it’s not – with the wide-open space all around, the huge sky overhead, and the sound of our Arcosanti bells speaking for the monsoon breeze out front.

OH! We went to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom while in Concord. I thought it was good enough for entertainment, but not good enough for a “monthly favorites” list.

The movie-makers told a familiar story this time, didn’t they? An ark with all the different species, a clashing of good and greed-driven evil, and the not-subtle suggestion that Owen and Claire are Adam and Eve in their neo-Jurassic world. Even the movie’s title (Fallen Kingdom) sounds biblical.

I found myself emotionally wrought at the beginning when the brachiosaurus got left behind on the island, watching everyone sailing away to safety. I cried. Callaghan assured me, “No brachiosaurus was harmed in the making of the movie,” but it didn’t help. I spent most of the movie thinking the poor dinosaurs. Gah. I’m always upset to tears when I see horrible things happening to animals, and I guess CGI dinosaurs are no exception.



Today, we spent four hours between an unanticipated airport and an unanticipated airplane, so here’s an unanticipated travel pic in an unanticipated post:


cakes on a plane


Apologies, friends. I had to amuse myself somehow on one of those planes.

My plan to post here at a reasonable time today fell through when our airline changed our returning flight to Phoenix. Everything is fine! We had an amazing time with family, and we’re home now, but I missed Blog Friday. [insert sad emoji]

Watch this space for a proper post on Tuesday!

What’s in my bag?! (Apocalypse bag.)

If you’re one of my regular readers, you may have noticed that I’ve had survival on the brain these days, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my EDC (Everyday Carry) has evolved into a compact survival situation – I’ve been referring to my handbag as my “apocalypse bag.” I’ve only been half-joking. It’s basically a smaller version of a 72-hour bag, which is, in turn, a smaller version of a Bug-Out Bag (BOB).

There’s room left in this bag when fully packed, but it isn’t light. To solve the problem of Callaghan wanting to put stuff in my bag (thus making it heavier), I’m considering getting him a Man-Bag, Dammit (MBD), so he can carry his things around in his NutSac.

That aside, my apocalypse bag is unassuming enough. We went to Target on Monday evening, and Callaghan took this pic of me in the parking lot just to give you an idea:


Me with my EDC (aka apocalypse bag)


–See? You can’t tell that it’s holding everything AND there’s probably a kitchen sink in there somewhere, too.

–There’s an orangutan on the side because it’s a Kipling bag. I kept it there because why remove a perfectly good orangutan.

–Yes, that is my bra. No, I didn’t realize it was visible until I saw this pic. Thankfully, this top is only see-through when the camera captures me in the light of a brilliant Arizona sunset, and at this particular angle. Also because of the sunset, my black top, pants, bag, and shoes all came out in shades of orange. My hair came out red. I don’t usually filter my pics, but this was definitely a job for a filter. I went with the first one I tried (“vintage”), because in addition to kind of correcting the color, it lent a sort of noir energy to the pic, which I thought was apropos.

Here’s the apocalypse bag just sitting there:

Apocalypse bag, full


Here’s how I organized it:

1). Front compartment: Keys. I keep a miniature pocket knife on my key-chain, along with a bolt snap.

Apocalypse bag, front


2). Side compartment 1: Kleenex, gum, glasses lens wipes.

Apocalypse bag, side


3). Side compartment 2: Earbuds.

Apocalypse bag, other side


4). Back compartment: Folding fan.

Apocalypse bag, back


5). Middle compartment: This is my main tool compartment. It holds my folding knife, which I keep attached to the sewn-in key-clasp. My knife is a Victorinox one-handed lockblade Trekker; I covered the handle in gun grip tape for a more secure grip (pro-tips). This compartment also holds my Gerber multi-tool (mainly for its pliers, wire-cutter, and wire-stripper); portable phone charger; mini scissors; mini flashlight; spare batteries for the flashlight; lighter; nail clippers; tweezers; travel adapter for electrical outlets; pen; pencil; neon post-its. With the exception of the knife, pen, pencil, and post-its, everything is packed in protective pouches and plastic zip-loc bags.

Apocalypse bag, middle


6). Main compartment, which includes an inside zip pocket that holds my passport and emergency cash stored in a zip-loc bag. (Travel-ready, though I don’t know where I think I’m going with my bag that’s full of all sorts of tools and blades and scissors and whatnot. I always have my passport on me, regardless, so it’s just a habit.)

Apocalypse bag, main compartment


See how there’s still room left in there? There’s a ridiculous amount of stuff in this compartment:

Under the top layer (normal handbag-type things), I keep four protective pouches/zip-loc bags that hold: a). disposable rubber gloves; antiviral face masks; antibacterial hand wipes; face wipes; bandanna; gallon zip-loc bag for soiled/contaminated materials (or vomit); extra Kleenex; extra lighter; extra pen and neon post-its. b). toothpaste, folding toothbrush, dental floss. c). aspirin; upset stomach tablets; ibuprofen; Emergen-C packets; antibacterial wound spray; band-aids in three different sizes. d). protein bars, fruit & nut bars, peanut butter packets.

I can also put an empty water bottle that can be filled wherever there’s water. Sometimes I have it pre-filled. A double eyeglass case for glasses and sunglasses also fits.

Here’s the empty bag:

Apocalypse bag, empty


The bag is made of water-resistant nylon. It’s very light, which is good; the only weight I’m carrying is of the stuff inside. The canvas strap is thick and adjustable for length.

That covers it, for now. This is a work in progress! I’m going to add gauze, sterile tape, and some sort of thin, strong rope. I thought of adding pepper spray in case of dog attack, but I don’t like the idea of pepper spray in my bag. I also thought of a whistle, in case of drowning emergency. (I did learn something from Titanic.)

I just like feeling ready for basic emergencies. And if the apocalypse is a zombie apocalypse, I might be able to survive that with this bag, too. (But do I need a hammer? Must research.)

I almost died because my Lyft driver didn’t know how to drive. (Ride-sharing hazards – Lyft & Uber PSA!)

I’m happy to be here to publish my Tuesday blog post today, because after I posted last week Friday, I got into a Lyft and almost died. Then I wanted to tell someone in charge about my near-death experience, so the next business day – yesterday – I called the Lyft mothership and spoke with a very nice woman who promised they’ll look into my grievance without hurting anyone’s feelings, which was my primary concern.

One thing about Lyft: the quality of the customer service call was exemplary, and I only had to listen to the loop of 70’s-inspired, acoustic guitar elevator music for five minutes! In my opinion, five minutes can seem like five hours if it’s, say, Vivaldi’s “Spring” of The Four Seasons, which has been the torture hold music du jour for the last 15+ years, or for however long cell phones have existed. 

(By the way, I’m not a terrible person. I used to enjoy The Four Seasons before “Spring” became the default hold music.)

But enough rambling. I’m writing this post as a Public Service Announcement:

If you can’t drive but you insist on driving, at least don’t imperil others by signing up as a Lyft/Uber driver.

Because Lyft does not regulate their drivers in terms of driving and navigating ability. They do not examine potential drivers to determine whether they’re capable. There is no system in place to ensure that people are actually qualified to drive other people around. Lyft (and probably Uber) will check for credentials (license, driving record, etc.), and if all looks good on paper, you’re hired.

The customer service woman said that she drove for Lyft, herself, and she’d had a “mentor” who went with her on a “mock drive” before she was allowed to drive people for real. “I don’t know if they’re still doing that, though,” she said.

Well, they’re not. Callaghan drove for Lyft for a few months in 2014, and he never had any such experience. He filled out a form, and some guy did meet with him, but the guy never observed Callaghan’s driving.

Anyway. I was in the back seat of this Lyft and I texted Callaghan so if something happened, he would know why.



A Lyft driver should be able to:

  • Find you (Granted, our house is tricky to find, especially since our street sign vanished during a bro-house party a while back and the City of Tempe hasn’t replaced it yet)
  • Navigate without holding the cell phone two feet away from your face and looking at it more than you’re looking at the road as you’re driving one-handed, especially on the freeway.
  • Merge onto the freeway without almost getting hit.
  • Stay within the lane, rather than driving like you’re asleep at the wheel.
  • Change lanes (she kept trying to get into the next lane, then finally gave up when she almost got us killed twice.)
  • Drive at the speed limit, rather than below it, especially on the freeway where the flow of traffic is always slightly faster than the speed limit.
  • Focus on driving rather than trying to make small talk and glancing back at the passenger while also trying to see the GPS on your phone that you’re still holding out in front of you.
  • Be aware of other drivers on the freeway, which can’t be done if you’re glancing back and forth between the back seat and your phone.
  • Drive confidently, so you don’t have to fluctuate your speed on the freeway because you’re afraid of other drivers.


I did rate her accordingly, and I made that phone call to Lyft’s safety concern line. I didn’t like doing it (she was really a nice lady), but it was my civic duty. She shouldn’t be driving at all, much less for Lyft.

Thanks for reading my tale of woe, and please pass this on!

I went to Hawaii and ate all the plants.

We flew back in quite late last night after four days out of town, and a busy four days, it was! We took a family trip to Hawaii, where my parents were born and raised, and where, in the homes of extended family scattered across three islands, I spent most of my summers growing up. In my adulthood, I’ve only visited my family on the island of Oahu, because that’s where my parents live half the time. My one adult visit to the island of Maui had been at the end of the 90’s when we went to Grandpa’s memorial service. Last week’s long-overdue return to Maui was also for a special family event, but a happy one this time: my brother’s wedding!

We had a fantastic visit with my parents, brother, and nephew, and we got to know new family members and friends, all lovely human beings. It was an enjoyable way to flex my minuscule extrovert muscles a bit! We stayed with my parents and nephew in a condo we rented in Kihei, a place rich with memories of my favorite beaches on Maui (and my one interesting encounter with a Portuguese Man O’War). We braved the mad tourist bustle of old-town Lahaina only twice, both for wedding-related events, including the wedding, itself. Well, the wedding wasn’t exactly in Lahaina… it was on a boat, but the boat departed from Lahaina.

The highlight of the trip was the wedding, of course, but I also wanted to show Callaghan as much of Maui as possible in the four days we had. He’d been to Oahu with me, but never to Maui, and I’d spent more time there at my grandparents’ house than anywhere. Thanks to my brother and parents, we were able to drive up to Hana (on the infamous Road, which is more of an attraction than Hana, itself, if you ask me – it’s an exhilarating ride, and there are fabulous places to visit along the way. More on that later!), attend a luau, and hit the haleakala volcano crater. The first important thing we did was visit a few precious sites in Kahului, Mom’s hometown. The last important thing we did was go to the beach, where I did a little training (beach workout post forthcoming!) and swimming.

Callaghan loved it. He was also fascinated to hear that a Jurassic Park helicopter scene (view) was filmed over the rain forests around the road to Hana.

It was good times.

I ended up with more pics than I could prepare all at once, but they’ll get captured in the next few posts. For this first installment, I’ll show you some of the things I ate during the trip, as a few of you were interested in seeing what a person can eat in Hawaii other than seafood and Kalua pig.

Without further ado, take a gander at what I ate on Maui, if you’re so inclined!


I had fruit on the flight going over:


Breakfast on the airplane

Breakfast on the airplane


For dinner at Monkeypod, I ordered the delicious fresh island herbs farm organic kale salad (Maui onion, golden raisins, Mandarin oranges, organic waihe’e macadamia nuts, miso sesame vinaigrette):


At Monkeypod restaurant: Fresh island herbs farm organic kale salad

At Monkeypod restaurant: Fresh island herbs farm organic kale salad


For dinner at the luau, I had garden salad, taro leaf stew, stir-fried vegetables, pohole salad (fern shoots, Maui onions, tomatoes), and pineapple:


Dinner at the Old Lahaina Luau

Dinner at the Old Lahaina Luau


For dinner at the BBQ my brother, his wife, and her family hosted at their house, I had salad, veggie kabobs, a little rice, and a few small potatoes:


Dinner at the BBQ

Dinner at the BBQ


(Plate of fresh fruit for dessert not pictured)

For lunch at Ono Organic Farms along the road to Hana, we enjoyed the plethora of exotic fruit we tasted, some of which I’d never even heard of. My favorite was the rambutan, the barbed red fruit. I don’t remember the name of the spiky white fruit, but it was good, too:


Fresh organic fruit at Ono Organic Farms

Fresh organic fruit at Ono Organic Farms


For lunch at Zippy’s (it’s like a Denny’s; this one in Kahului is the first and only Zippy’s on Maui. I’d only been to Zippy’s on Oahu), I ordered their veggie-tofu burger, which I ate open-faced on a whole wheat bun:


Zippy's veggie-tofu burger

Zippy’s veggie-tofu burger


We also had lunch at good old Taco Bell one day, where I got the power menu burrito bowl. It’s like a Chipotle burrito bowl, but better, in my opinion! Black beans, rice, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, and six packets of diablo sauce:


Taco Bell power menu burrito bowl

Taco Bell power menu burrito bowl


And for lunch at Honolulu international airport heading home, we went to Chow Mein Express and had tofu, eggplant, and steamed white rice (they didn’t have brown). This was by far the best airport fast-food I’ve ever had:


Honolulu International Airport fast food: Chow Mein Express

Honolulu International Airport fast food: Chow Mein Express


During the trip, I also had a variety of protein/nutrition bars, raw nuts, and whole grain breads to fill in gaps. For breakfast, I had Dave’s power seed bread with coconut peanut butter (two ingredients: peanuts and coconut!):


Coconut peanut butter

Coconut peanut butter


A lot of wonderful local plants were consumed. But don’t worry… I did save some for the dinosaurs! The veggiesaurs.

My Top 8 Favorite Things about living in France.

A friend of a friend is planning to move to France. My friend asked if I’d share my insights about living there, and I thought I’d share some of those things here, too… because, I realized, that’s something I haven’t done that might be interesting or helpful to someone, in some way.

So I gave it some thought and came up with a list of my top eight favorite things about living in France. These are, of course, my own, personal top favorites, based on my own experiences. Others may have had different experiences. These were the things that made a difference to me or impacted me in some way, big or small, and helped to make life in France an enjoyable experience.

Also! These are things in addition to the wonderful people I met while I lived in France… the dear friends I made there, the many memorable experiences I had with Callaghan’s family, and so on.


1). Hospitality.


Typical French hospitality looks like this.

Typical French hospitality looks like this.


Everyone I met in France was gracious and hospitable in their own homes. They commonly ask you over for apéritif or coffee (by “coffee,” I mean espresso… very strong espresso), and if you show up at someone’s house, you will be served something or another (usually coffee).


2). Bread.


Our favorite boulangerie in Nice.

Our favorite boulangerie in Nice.


Some of the bread inside of our favorite boulangerie in Nice.

Some of the bread inside of our favorite boulangerie in Nice.


As you know, I love bread. There is a boulangerie (bakery) on every corner in France, it seems, and inside each one, there are freshly baked baguettes that are simply sublime. Pain de Campagne is my favorite, but I love all of the breads I’ve tried. In France, making bread is an art form. Some boulangeries make better bread than others, but even the mediocre French breads at bakery chain stores are fabulous and incomparable to breads I’ve had in the States!


3). Socca.


Socca (regional food, Nice)

Socca (regional food, Nice)


Socca is a signature food of Nice, a popular local street food. It consists of chickpea flour, water, olive oil, salt, and pepper stirred into a batter and traditionally cooked on a copper plate in a wood oven. After it’s cooked, it’s broken up into pieces in the pan and served in a pile. Thinking of it brings back fond memories for me, since we lived in Nice half the time we lived in France. Should you ever visit Nice, you should try it. According to Callaghan, niçoise fishermen used to eat socca because it’s cheap. It’s still cheap.


4). Cell phone affordability.


Orange, one of the major cell phone service providers in France

Orange, one of the major cell phone service providers in France


Speaking of cheap, cell phone service is one thing about life in France I definitely miss. In France, your monthly cell phone bill comes out to roughly $20.00, flat… and that includes unlimited everything (texting and calling, including calls to the U.S., South America, Asia, etc.)


5). No tipping.


The euros I still had when we moved back here, an ATM receipt, and my coin purse.

The euros I still had when we moved back here, an ATM receipt, and my coin purse.


(“Je suis à sεc” translates as “I’m broke.” The “E” looks the way it does because that’s the euro sign.)

There’s no expectation of tipping for either goods or services in France. This is convenient. (There’s also a flip side to this, but we shall not go into it, as this is a positive list.) In restaurants, tips are included in the checks, for instance. Unlike here in the States, employees in service industries aren’t paid minimally with the assumption that tips will supplement their take-home pay. The amount you’re charged is the amount you pay, period.


6). TGV (Train Grande Vitesse).


 Gare de Nice, the TGV station in Nice

Gare de Nice, the TGV station in Nice


The TGV is my favorite way to travel between regions in France. The train is super fast, as indicated in its name, and it’s quiet, smooth, clean, and comfortable. It’s also affordable – from Nice to Paris, for example, tickets range from 19 to 36 euro (the higher price is for 1st class). There’s a café car where you can purchase beverages, light meals, snacks, and candy. You can charge your laptop and other devices on the train, and there’s plenty of legroom. The TGV is the way to go when traveling from one part of the country to another!


7). La fnac.


An old plastic bag from one of my many purchases at la fnac.

An old plastic bag from one of my many purchases at la fnac.


This one really is personal to me. I’m putting la fnac on the list because it’s my favorite store in France. La fnac is a big, multi-level bookstore, and I could (and often did) spend hours on end there. My favorite area is the café, which is kind of reminiscent of the restaurants in IKEA, but larger. You can get food or beverages there and station yourself at a table and stay there indefinitely with their free wi-fi. I loved spending time there! I bought my first Reacher novel at the la fnac in Nice and read half of it in one afternoon sitting in the café.


8). Art and history.


Musée International de la Chaussure in Romans-sur-Isère

Musée International de la Chaussure in Romans-sur-Isère


Living in France is like living in a gigantic museum.

Even villages in more remote regions are rich in history and filled with art and architecture that I found to be breathtaking. Romans-sur-Isère (near where we lived), for instance, is famous for having been the home of the factory of Charles Jourdan, one of the first houses of Haute Couture shoes, if not THE first. This museum, Musée International de la Chaussure in Romans-sur-Isère, has to be one of the most comprehensive museums of shoes in the world. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it so much since I’m not especially interested in shoes, but it’s amazing how viewing and reading about shoes through the ages unfolds as a detailed history lesson in human culture.

Then there are places such as:


Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval in Hauterives (between Valence and Lyon)

Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval in Hauterives (between Valence and Lyon)


Between 1879 and 1912, facteur Cheval (“facteur” is a mailman) collected rocks while delivering mail, and he used them to build this little palace in an obscure village between Valence and Lyon. It’s made mainly out of lime, mortar, and cement, and it’s unlike anything I’d seen. I’m including this little gem here to show that there’s art literally everywhere you go in France.

This concludes my list of favorite aspects of life in France. It would be interesting to see other’s favorite things!

Yes… we’re still in France. (Many pics!)

First, thank you for your words of support following Callaghan’s loss. Thank you for your kindness, your thoughtfulness, and for being here… for reading, and for caring. All the love means more than we can say.

Callaghan’s been handling his emotions well, leaning on humor as a tool, enjoying time with family and friends, and keeping busy with work, as well, with some of his French clients. This morning, he left early for a full day of work in Toulon; I’ll spend the afternoon hanging out with a friend until Callaghan gets back tonight.

We brought Papy’s ashes home yesterday.

It’s been busy. The fact that we’ve been going non-stop since we landed hasn’t precluded me from taking tons of pics, though, so I thought I’d share a few of them here (sans family members).

To start, this first one is a quote we found in a German magazine on the airplane, because it had us in fits of laughter. A little lightening up is always good, right?


It was probably one of those you-had-to-be-there situations, because we’re not sure why we found this so hilarious. We just did, and I’ll tell you what… we’re not complaining about cracking up over some much-needed random silliness.

On that note, here’s a pic I took of an old bank in Nice the other night:


Old Bank in Nice. No idea what it's called.

Old bank in Nice. No idea what it’s called.


I’ve walked by this bank hundreds of times, but I only thought to take a picture of it this time, because, again, Random Silliness Therapy was in order. See, this very bank is the bank that French actor Jean Dujardin’s character attempts to rob in Brice de Nice. Brice de Nice is one of my all-time favorite comedies, and was filmed here in Nice. The bank robbery scene was actually shot inside this bank (as opposed to on a stage set).

To give you an idea of the bank robbery scene, lest you haven’t seen the movie:


Six years before he swept up Best Actor awards at the Cannes Film Festival, the Golden Globes, the Oscars, the BAFTAs, and the SAG Awards for one film (The Artist) in one awards year (2011-2012), Jean Dujardin, then mostly known in the south of France as a comedian, wore ridiculous blond hair to play a ridiculous character of his own creation, Brice Agostini, in a ridiculous movie. (Brice de Nice is pronounced “Breece duh Neece.” The character calls himself “Brice duh Nice” as you’d say it in English, though… that’s a part of the humor.) Brice de Nice belongs in the “So bad it’s good” category of films, so if you haven’t seen it and you’re in need of Random Silliness Therapy, I recommend it! (Get the subtitled version if you don’t know French. Dubbed is awful.)

Brice de Nice has something of a cult following around here. The whole joke of the story is that Brice aspires to be a champion surfer, but he “surfs” at the Mediterranean beaches of Nice, where there are no waves.

Here’s the trailer from which I’d snipped the pics:



On a more somber note, due to current events, some loved ones in the States were concerned for our safety regarding going to France. I was cautioned to refrain from “galavanting around,” as I’m wont to do when I’m here, but galavanting can’t be entirely avoided if daily life is to be lived. We had (and still have) errands to run on le Rue Jean Medecin and the Place Massena, which is adjacent to Vieux Nice, which attracts a lot of people and is therefore potentially hazardous… and since our schedule’s been so hectic, we’ve had to go at night, mostly. But it’s been fine. Here are a few pics:


The Ferris wheel all lit up.

The Ferris wheel all lit up.


Nice Etoile (mall)

Nice Etoile (mall)


A less-traveled street in Nice.

A less-traveled street in Nice.


Flag made of lights. French patriotism like I've never seen it. There are also a lot of French flags hanging over people's balconies.

Flag made of lights. French patriotism like I’ve never seen it. There are also a lot of French flags hanging over people’s balconies.


The train station where we went to get Callaghan's great-aunt, arriving for Papy's service.

The train station where we went to get Callaghan’s great-aunt, arriving for Papy’s service.


Weather-wise, it’s been chilly and mostly overcast and rainy, but the sun came out this morning, giving me a good opportunity to snap the views. Here’s the view from our bedroom in Callaghan’s Dad’s house in Le Bar-sur-Loup, a village in the hills above Nice:


Bedroom view, Papa's house, Le Bar-sur-Loup

Bedroom view, Papa’s house, Le Bar-sur-Loup


And the view from the bathroom:


Bathroom view, Papa's house, Le Bar-sur-Loup

Bathroom view, Papa’s house, Le Bar-sur-Loup


And food-wise! I have indeed been taking foodaholic pics, even though I’m a vegan in France, which translates to “I’ve mainly eaten salads supplemented with things from my back-up supply of nutrient-dense food that travels well.” By the way, this is the first time I’ve stubbornly refused to deviate from veganism in France. Not a single pastry has passed my lips… no croissant, no pain au chocolat. No cheese, no dairy of any kind. It’s hard to figure out what to eat. This is not a country that makes it easy if you go out to dine at restaurants and at people’s houses.

But here are a few of the beautiful salads of which I’ve partaken:


Salad in a restaurant (greens, tomatoes, onions, toasted walnuts)

Salad in a restaurant (greens, tomatoes, onions, toasted walnuts)


Salad at Callaghan's Dad's house (endive and green apple with a homemade mustard vinaigrette)

Salad at Callaghan’s Dad’s house (endive and green apple with a homemade mustard vinaigrette)


Salad at Mamie's house (Callaghan's grandmother): Mixed greens and tomatoes in another homemade vinaigrette, this one with garlic.)

Salad at Mamie’s house (Callaghan’s grandmother): Mixed greens and tomatoes in another homemade vinaigrette, this one with garlic).


That’s a piece of tomato pizza off to the side, by the way. It’s a south of France thing, and in its original form, like this one, it doesn’t have cheese. We picked it up in the boulangerie across from Mamie’s place in Cagnes sur Mer. It was delicious.

While I’m sharing foodaholic pics, here’s what I ate at the airport when we stopped over in Frankfurt, Germany on our way here:


Muesli with soy milk

Muesli with soy milk


Because it was 5:45 in the morning. I also had coffee with soymilk. Germany is hip with the times and you can ask for things like soymilk and almost always get it, like in the States.

I also got a pretzel, since I was in Germany, the mothership of pretzels, and I love fresh, authentic pretzels:


Wonderful pretzels in Germany!

Wonderful pretzels in Germany!


Last, I took a couple of pics of the artwork Callaghan did for his Mamie when he was just five years old:


Artwork for Mamie (Grandma) by Callaghan, age 5.

Artwork for Mamie (Grandma) by Callaghan, age 5.


His signature wasn't written by him, though.

His signature wasn’t written by him, though.


And that concludes my sharing of random photos.

We have three days left here.

We’re in France for Callaghan’s Papy (in memoriam).

A man here on the French Riviera died recently. Men on the French Riviera die as frequently as men everywhere else, but only one was Papy, Callaghan’s grandfather.

Papy was the reason Callaghan came here to visit for two weeks last May/June. When Papy fell into medical crisis, Callaghan hurried to his side, even though it meant flying across the United States, and then across the Atlantic. Callaghan would not have thought twice about going if we lived on the moon.

Five months later, on November 2nd, Callaghan returned to France to work on a project in Normandy. In the middle of his 10-day business trip, he took a day off and flew down south to spend the day with Papy. That trip turned out to be a blessing on a deeply personal level, because within three weeks, Papy’s health declined until coma swallowed him alive, as comas do. Less than a month after Callaghan saw him that day in early November, Papy was gone.

That Callaghan and Papy had one day together recently while Papy was lucid and at home was a tremendous gift. Papy had spent a miserable summer and fall revolving in and out of the hospital for various reasons. Callaghan’s work trip couldn’t have been timed better.

When he came home, Callaghan didn’t need to describe to me Papy’s happiness during that visit. I have a warm memory of the countless times we’d trekked up the eight flights of stairs leading to Callaghan’s grandparents’ apartment: We would reach the last landing and turn the corner to find Papy and Mamie standing at the wide-open front door, waiting patiently with joyful expectation on their faces. Papy’s patience felt alive with anticipation beneath his calm exterior. That was the part about Papy and his relationship with Callaghan that I remember with the most clarity… the ritual and vision of Papy standing at the open door, waiting for his beloved grandson to appear on the landing. Every time, their faces lit up when they saw each other. There was so much love there!


Callaghan's Papy, c . 1950, age 25

Callaghan’s Papy, c . 1950, age 25


I don’t think I’ve known anyone else as dedicated to a grandparent to the extent that Callaghan was dedicated to his Papy, despite the long distance between them after Callaghan and I moved back to the States two years ago. Their bond reached back to the 70’s, when Callaghan was five years old and his mother suffered a stroke (a shocking occurrence at her young age). Callaghan went to live with their grandparents in the wake of their Maman’s hospitalization… and throughout his teen years, Callaghan continued spending lots of time with Papy, staying at his grandparents’ place at least one night a week.

I’d always been impressed with how Callaghan so resolutely assumed responsibility for his grandfather’s health. He cared for Papy with a gravity unique to their special bond. He cared for Papy like no one else did.

Grandparents are special, especially when they take part in raising you during your formative early childhood and teen years.


We walked to Le Jardin Secret to order the floral arrangement for Papy's obseques (service).

We walked to Le Jardin Secret to order the floral arrangement for Papy’s obseques (service).


I didn’t spend nearly as much time with Papy, but I got to know him through the many stories Callaghan told. How Papy played the accordion in his youth. How the events of World War II impacted him. How he’d gone on to own his own shop. How he’d enjoyed his daily walks to the center of his village, Cagnes sur Mer, to talk with his friends. How he’d loved red wine, and his Citroën Traction Avant.


Papy cherished his Citroen Traction Avant Quinze. It looked like this one.

Papy cherished his Citroen Traction Avant Quinze. It looked like this one.


Along with his father, Callaghan will be delivering the eulogy at tomorrow’s service, which I imagine will be difficult; writing and delivering a eulogy for the most important person in your life, for your hero,  can’t be an easy thing. I’m honored that he asked me for help with writing and rehearsing it.

Such as it is that I’m here with Callaghan in France. This time, I had to join him. This is a time for family and for supporting each other. I couldn’t be with Callaghan during his earlier visits, but what matters is that I’m here with him now.

For the night of the ceremony – tomorrow night – Callaghan is planning a celebration for Papy at a favorite old pub. Everyone who will be there knew Papy, because they’re Callaghan’s long-time friends… they knew how important Papy was in Callaghan’s life, and what he meant to him.

Airport Security FAIL (story)

No one likes going through security at the airport. I don’t know anyone who’s travelled in the last 14 years who doesn’t have a nightmare airport security story to share, or at least a general gripe about the whole process.

Up until our recent trip to France, I’d been indifferent (in that resigned kind of way) to the hassles of airport security, relatively speaking. But now that I’ve had my own airport security, um, experience coming back to the States last month? I’m sharing it here. It’s a pretty ridiculous story that I think you’ll appreciate.

This happened at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris when we were coming back to the States in March. We were flying with United Airlines.

At first, everything was normal going through security. I walked through the screening doorframe thing with no issue, went to the conveyor belt to collect my handbag and my laptop with its case, and put the laptop back in the case. Then I waited for my carry-on to come through on the belt.

And I waited.

And I realized that my carry-on, a small suitcase, had been set aside for a more in-depth inspection. I was told to wait at the far end of the belt. There was a dude there who’d also been told that he needed further inspection, for whatever reason, so I took a place behind him to wait.

It’s very rare that I get stopped at any point in the airport security check-through process, so this was mildly annoying, but I said nothing as I stood there. I kind of zoned out as my mind wandered to a hundred places during the wait, but at some point, it registered in my consciousness that there was a fiasco happening with the dude waiting in front of me. It seemed that he was getting quite the robust security once-over all of a sudden.

I glanced down the conveyor belt to my left. My carry-on was still sitting there, untouched.

The minutes continued to pass, and they got longer and longer. The dude in front of me was now being questioned by two or three security people. Since all the security personnel at our end of the belt were preoccupied with this one dude, my carry-on was being ignored. It was getting late… our flight would start boarding soon! Our gate was within view, and I could see that people were standing and lining up. I looked over at Callaghan, who was waiting on the periphery of the area, and we exchanged eye rolls.

The fuss going on with the dude in front of me continued and intensified, and then, in the middle of it, one of the security guys involved noticed me standing there and demanded that I hand him my laptop.

I think I did one of those things where I quickly looked to my left and right, saw no one, pointed at myself, and said, me? With just the expression on my face. I was confused. My laptop and its case had both been cleared in the digital screening process on the conveyor belt, along with my handbag. That’s why I was standing there holding these things; you’re not allowed to collect and hold things that are suspect!

The spontaneous demand to inspect items that had already cleared security just seemed gratuitous. No, it was gratuitous. I was waiting there because of my carry-on, not because of my laptop!

It was almost like Security Guy asked for my laptop on a whim, as in, I’m on a roll here with this other dude, so hey! Why not check out her laptop, too, because you NEVER KNOW, she might have slipped something illegal into her laptop case AFTER it successfully went through on the belt!    

I tried not to let my incredulity overwhelm me, but I’ll tell you what, it was tough. At least I didn’t let it show. I played along with a cheerful outward attitude and handed over my laptop without complaining.

Meanwhile, across the way, our flight had started boarding. In fact, they looked to be more than half-way through. Callaghan and I were in the second boarding group, so it was well past our boarding time. We’d been at security for almost an hour!

Security Guy removed my laptop from its case and made a big to-do inspecting it and the case.

Across the way at our gate, the last group was boarding; we were now in danger of missing our flight.

Security Guy returned my laptop to me and told me to hold out my hands, first palms down, then palms up, so he could screen them slowly and carefully with his little hand-held scanner thing with the little red light, just like they’d done with the dude in front of me. Really?! I thought. Why don’t you go inspect my carry-on, since that’s why I’m standing here! It was seriously like he was just thinking of things to do, just for the fun of it. I couldn’t believe it. My carry-on being held for inspection warranted none of this; my person and my laptop and its case and my handbag had all successfully cleared security already.

Finally, I was handed my carry-on. I grabbed it and ran with Callaghan to the gate, where some words were exchanged with the airline lady who was collecting tickets. She actually lectured us sternly and said that we were “too late” and couldn’t board the plane! Callaghan argued with her briefly (It’s not our fault! We were held at security for an hour!), and she relented. Merci, Madam. We didn’t have her blessings, but we were granted passage onto the plane.

It was surreal; it was like everyone at United Airlines at Charles de Gaulle that day woke up on a pumped-up power trip.

Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about all of this was the fact that my boarding pass designated me as a “Pre-TSA” passenger. Callaghan was “Pre-TSA,” too. This designation is a privilege meant to expedite a passenger’s security process, allowing for a less involved process! Instead of that, I had the opposite experience. Something was very wrong with the whole picture.


[click to enlarge]

[click to enlarge]

Now, would you like to know what happened next? Yes. Yes, you would, because you know I’m not writing all this just to complain. Here’s the punchline:

After ALL of that unmerited, borderline-harassment rigmarole that got us scolded for tardiness by Airplane Lady at the gate and very nearly caused us to miss our flight, I finally boarded the airplane…

Wait for it…


Because I, myself, had forgotten that it was in there, and no one found it.

Yes, you read that right. After all of that, no one found the knife in my bag!

I couldn’t believe it when I realized it.

Just like my laptop and its case, my handbag had sailed past the cameras on the belt with no problem at all. It wasn’t stopped, held, re-checked, manually inspected, or anything. It passed right on through, and I collected it as soon as I stepped through the screening doorframe. The whole time Security Guy was making a big deal looking at my laptop and my carry-on was being scrutinized for I don’t know what, I was standing there with a knife inside the bag that was on my arm, and then I boarded the airplane with it.


My keys, complete with my Victorionox Swiss Army knife (which includes pointed-tip scissors).

My keys, complete with my Victorionox Swiss Army knife (which includes pointed-tip scissors).


Do I even need to say that this constitutes a spot on the Top Ten most absurd airport security FAIL stories you’ve ever heard?

It’s a small knife, a pocket knife on my keychain, but it’s still a knife. I checked United Airlines’ web site; United doesn’t allow knives of ANY blade length. The rules on their web site are clear:


[click to enlarge]

[click to enlarge]

The knife in my bag is a Swiss Army Victorinox pocket knife, exactly as stated on the not-allowed list, complete with “scissors with a pointed tip.” I should not have been allowed on that plane with this knife. The security people should have found the knife, and they should have confiscated it, after which I would have come home and gamely purchased what would have been my third or fourth such knife. (Yes, I’ve had several of these knives confiscated at airports over the years, and I never blame anyone but myself. I always have a knife on me, and I’m just really bad at remembering that there’s a blade on my keychain when I go to the airport. Trivia: I always replace the confiscated knife with the exact same knife, and always in black.)

Also, while I’m at it, I should say that I had a tube of hand lotion that was neither in a 3-oz (or smaller) container, nor removed from my bag and sent through in a clear plastic Ziploc bag. Airport security DOUBLE FAIL.

I’m not telling this story to bitch about being held for an hour at security. I’m telling it because I was held for an hour at security for the wrong reasons and then let on the plane armed with a knife, and everyone should be aware of this. Don’t trust your fellow airplane passengers just because they got past security and got on the plane. If I was someone else, it might have ended badly for a lot of people. Knowing that all of this happened, how much can we trust the security measures taken at the airport, especially on trans-Atlantic flights? We can’t. We can’t really trust them. We have to “stay alert to stay alive,” as they teach you in the military. And on my part, I’m going to try to remember to remove my knife from my keychain before I travel from now on.

On that note… Happy Friday, everyone!