It’s Callaghan’s Birthday!

My birthday two months ago happened to fall on a blog Friday, so I felt I should address it. I said that I was 48 and still not wearing granny panties. Today, two months later and also on a blog Friday, it’s Callaghan’s birthday, so it’s only fair to report that he’s 47 and not wearing granny panties yet, either.

“What would your birthday reflection be as you turn a year older?” I asked him at dinner last night. Because, you know. Deep thoughts about life.

He considered for a minute, then said, “I came to the United States because of my two wives.”

I’ve known him for almost eight years, so I didn’t blink an eye.

“The first time I came to live in the States, it was because I married Magali,” he went on, speaking of his first wife. “The second time, it was because I married you. If I never married you guys, I never would’ve come to the United States. I would still be in France.”

I said, “You were a Russian mail-order bride.”

– because I was thinking of one of my co-workers from 10 years ago. The guy who got himself fired because he spent work hours shopping for Russian brides on his work computer, right out in the open in a common room. He met the woman through the online catalog, brought her over, married her, and then convinced our boss to re-hire him. He came back to work and his bride went to sell fancy perfume at Dillard’s. As far as I know, they’re still happily-ever-after. No green-card marriage there!

That’s one of my favorite love stories.

But my very favorite love story is ours. And today is the day that Callaghan can stop telling people that he’s two years younger than me. He’s only 14 months younger, and now you can see that on paper.

I went to meet him at his workplace yesterday. Before we went to lunch, I took some pics of him with a couple of bikes he’d recently finished. Here’s one:

 

Callaghan at work (with the Triumph Trophy SE he recently finished)

Callaghan at work (with the Triumph Trophy SE he recently finished)

 

Then we went to dinner later and we took this selfie with unfortunate lighting, which is the best kind of selfie:

 

Callaghan's birthday commemoration selfie. That probably sounds more formal than it is.

Callaghan’s birthday commemoration selfie. That probably sounds more formal than it is.

 

Happy Birthday to this crazy, hilarious, unpredictable, dreamy guy!

Callaghan is designing clowns and I don’t know what to do.

Heading into off-season at the amusement parks, Callaghan’s evenings of late have been filled with lots of freelance work. He hung onto a few of his European amusement park clients when he accepted his position as a motorcycle designer, because why not? It’s feast or famine in that industry. He’d only be swamped a few months out of the year.

Now that American Halloween hype has started to gain traction in France, French theme parks want a piece of it in a more major way. So they’ve asked Callaghan to design some clown attractions… because you can’t have spooky, ooky Halloween décor without clowns, of course. If there’s one thing the French have picked up on in their Halloween education, it’s that clowns are essential elements of the fear factor.

Even better, some of this Halloween-inspired design will remain a permanent fixture, so visitors can enjoy the park’s creepy side no matter when they go. Here’s Callaghan’s first design, a rough draft of a horror fun-house-type attraction (with mirrors inside):

 

Clown mirror house of horror (original design by Callaghan)

Clown mirror house of horror (original design by Callaghan)

 

You have to have clowns with wide open mouths as entrances, you know.

And there will be more. Oh yes. I’m already imagining waking up at night, shuffling into the kitchen for a glass of water, and noticing a dim screen-light casting vague shadows on the wall. I see that it’s coming from Callaghan’s office. I go in and find that his computer has turned itself on. The clown file is displayed, and it’s flickering.

Thanks, Parc St. Paul. And Festyland (You mean FESTY THE CLOWN-land, I said to Callaghan when he told me the park’s name), and thank you, Parc du Bocasse.

Here’s a draft of his Parc du Bocasse poster, featuring the bee mascot he’s been creating for years:

 

Buzzy (the bee) the Vampire (original art by Callaghan)

Buzzy (the bee) the Vampire (original art by Callaghan)

 

He loved my idea of designing a vampire version of the bee. Buzzy the Vampire is made of awesome because Callaghan’s art is kick-ass. It’s great no matter the subject. Even clowns.

English Language Colloquial Expressions 101.

Nothing says “I hate my brain” quite like trying to explain English language colloquialisms to a non-native-English-speaking person. I suck at it, anyway.

You could probably spend your whole life learning a second language if you’re after facility with all of its informal expressions. Callaghan made his latest joyful discovery the other day when he wanted to know what’s meant when someone finishes a sentence with, “if I do say so myself,” because, of course, there’s no translation for that phrase in French.

The first time he asked about it – I don’t remember what we were talking about – he cut me off mid-sentence.

“But YOU did it, so why did you say ‘if I do say so myself’?”

I had to stop and think about it, which I’ve never had to do, like, ever.

Expressions can’t be nailed down because there’s usually no logic in such statements, right? After a few false starts, I finally said something to the effect of: “You say ‘if I do say so myself’ in a self-congratulatory context, like when you’re giving yourself credit for something, but you want to be humble about it. It shows that you’re aware that you’re congratulating yourself. A more literal way to put it would be, ‘…if I may be so bold as to display pride in (whatever I did)’.”

By then, I felt like I was babbling, but I forged on to offer an example: “Not a bad job for my first time building an IKEA executive desk, if I do say so myself.”

I felt that this should suffice, but then Callaghan demanded finer-tuned clarification. I was unable to oblige due to the sensation of my brain being beaten with a pointy stick, pointy end first.

“I can’t think of how to explain it better,” I said. “You’ll hear it the next time I say it naturally in conversation.”

Since then, he’s been practicing the phrase with great zeal, inserting it where he sees fit:

“That’s a beautiful-looking moon, if I do say so myself!”

“Very funny.”

“Hahaha!”

I have a lot of patience, I thought. If I do say so myself.

Another time, he proclaimed, “Nice is the most heinous city in the world, if I do say so myself.”

Whereupon I was like,

 

Consult an online English-language resource.

Consult an online English-language resource.

 

Later, he assured me that he was just joking when he said “if I do say so myself” about the moon. He said he said it on purpose, to be funny.

Then he told me that he’d had the hardest time learning the whole “Did not!” / “Did too!” argument little kids get into in the backseat of the car while their exasperated parents sitting in the front try to make the road trip a fun time.

“‘Did not / Did too’ made absolutely no sense to me,” he said. “There’s nothing like that in French.”

I was glad I wasn’t involved in that one.

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.

Callaghan vs. Nounours

Callaghan’s been embroiled in an ongoing struggle with Nounours ever since we brought the big guy home with Ronnie James to our Little House in the Rhône-Alpes in October 2012. It’s that ancient grievance of many a cat-parent: Kitty insists that you wake up when he wants you up, not when you wish to wake up. Sometimes, he wants you up long before you want to get up.

Some cats do this, some don’t. The Wrah-Wrah never did it. Nounours always has, and he mostly targets Callaghan. He doesn’t try it on me very often. When he does, he fails… I don’t get out of bed when Nounours demands it. Fortunately for me, I usually don’t even remember his efforts. I’m able to fall back asleep immediately if I’m abruptly woken up, which may or may not be attributed to the anti-anxiety medication I take before I go to bed. Whatever the case, Kristi – 300; Nounours – 0!

Callaghan – 0; Nounours – 732.

This has been Callaghan’s number one complaint in life for the last few years. If he had any hair on his head at all, he’d have long since ripped it out.

Every once in a while, he opens a discussion about what to do, meaning, he’ll tell me his ideas, and I’ll listen. His latest brainstorm was to shut Nounours in his studio/office with a bowl of water and a litter box.

“But I would ONLY do it at the time that he wakes me up,” he clarified. “Not before we go to bed. That way, he’ll know why he’s in there.”

That’s right… Nounours will know why he’s in there. He’s the Einstein of cats.

Callaghan cycles through phases of thinking that Nounours tries to wake him up because he’s hungry, but that theory always fades away in the face of evidence to the contrary.

1). Are the little bowls of dry food (“crunchies”) empty? –> Never. We always make sure they’re filled before we go bed.

2a). Does Nounours want his canned food breakfast? –> Maybe.

2b). If the answer to 2a is “yes”: Who feeds the cats their canned food breakfast? –> Mommy.

2c). Who does Nounours try to wake up? –> Daddy.

Theory blown.

My own theory is that poor Nounours tries to wake up Callaghan in order to verify that he’s still alive. Daddy has been lying in one position for 3 hours! Must make sure he’s not dead!!

He loves us both, but Callaghan is his favorite.

Nounours will wake up Callaghan by jumping on him. Or he’ll head-butt Callaghan’s face. Sometimes, he’ll sit on his face. Rounding off his repertoire, he’ll incessantly issue loud meows and yowls that reverberate throughout the house.

“He doesn’t stop! He won’t stop, and I can’t get back to sleep,” Callaghan grumbles. “So FINALLY, I get up.”

“But why…”

“As soon as I’m up? He lays down and goes to sleep! Why does he wake me up if he just goes to sleep once I’m up?!”

“Maybe he wants to make sure you’re still alive,” I suggest.

Some days, Callaghan is so wiped out from Nounours-related sleep deprivation that he’ll set about getting revenge. His favorite revenge strategy is to sneak up on Nounours during the day when he’s napping and pounce on him with his hands, doing his best Nounours imitation to “show him what it feels like”:

“Nouuuuuuuu-nours! Wake up! Wake UP, Nounours!” Callaghan sing-songs in Nounours’ ear, vigorously ruffling Nounours’ fur. “TIME TO WAKE UP!!”

I have photographic evidence of this, of course.

Before:

 

Pre-Callaghan Nounours, smooth and neat.

Pre-Callaghan Nounours, smooth and neat.

 

After:

 

Post-Callaghan Nounours, looking like a rug from the 70's.

Post-Callaghan Nounours, looking like a rug from the 70’s.

 

Callaghan’s logic is simple: “If I don’t get to sleep, then he doesn’t get to sleep.”

Nounours doesn’t respond to these random assaults on his slumber, though. At the most, he’ll crack open one eye, then close it again and resume sleeping. He is not phased. He is Nounours, laid-back to the point of obliviousness.

I try to help. I’ll sometimes intercept Nounours in the middle of the night if I’m semi-awake and he walks behind my head to get to Callaghan. I’ll grab him and hug him to my chest, and he’ll lay there purring for a while. I fall back asleep, though, and then Nounours continues on his way. Destination: Daddy.

“THANK YOU for protecting me, Baby,” Callaghan tells me the next day. I’m his bodyguard, protecting him from the big, lovable cuddle monster that is Nounours.

Callaghan did try putting Nounours in exile one time recently. He got up when Nounours jarred him awake, and he put him in his studio/office with a bowl of water and the litter box. He told me about it later, when I asked why there was a bowl of water in his office.

“It was just for half an hour, and then I let him out,” he told me, proud of himself. “And he didn’t meow at all after that!”

But the whole process was tedious, and the tedium mostly defeated the purpose.

We’ve since considered and ruled out several possible solutions. Then I went online to search for others. I came across some advice on an ASPCA page under the heading:

What to Do If Your Cat Keeps You Awake at Night   

In the penultimate bullet point, it’s suggested that “…you might need to shut him out of your bedroom at night. If he cries and scratches at the door, you can discourage him by…” They complete the sentence with several options, including the following:

“…you can set a ‘booby trap’ outside your door.” A booby trap?

“Try hanging your blow dryer off the bedroom door knob, or placing your vacuum cleaner five or six feet away from the door.” I’m imagining how the ominous sight of a vacuum cleaner might ward off a cat. But the blow dryer? Where are they going with this?

“Plug the dryer or vacuum into a remote switch (available from Radio Shack).” A mental image is starting to form.

“When your cat wakes you by meowing outside your door, you can hit a button on the remote to turn on the appliance.” I’m cracking up. I’m laughing so hard, I can hardly get the words out as I read them to Callaghan.

“Your startled cat probably won’t return to your door after that!” Concludes the paragraph. No kidding?

I’m a little surprised at the ASPCA for suggesting this; in my opinion, it would be a traumatic thing to happen to a kitty who only wants to be with the people who love him more than anyone in the world. Poor Nounours! The idea of setting a scary booby-trap for him after he’s already upset about being locked out of the bedroom really kind of breaks my heart. Callaghan says I’m too soft on Nounours, and maybe I am, but that’s why Daddy is the main disciplinarian. What a cliché are we.

 

Nounours and Callaghan, August 5, 2015

Nounours and Callaghan, August 5, 2015

 

Wrapping this up, I’ve got a new Nenette pic from the week:

 

Nenette gets sassier every day!

Nenette gets sassier every day!

 

Happy Friday, All!

Callaghanisms

I’m coming at you at 2:10AM because weird schedules are weird. Alors, bonjour, mes amis Français! Ça va bien? Il est onze heures dix du matin là-bas… vous avez fait de beaux rêves?

I’ve said this before: Callaghan’s English is excellent, and his French accent is so slight that I usually don’t even notice it. But every once in a while, he makes mistakes, and when his accent does reach my ears, it’s often to amusing effect. For instance, he says “fuckus” instead of “focus” (I think I’ve mentioned this in the past), and “bitch” instead of “beach.”

The examples I’m providing below all came directly out of Callaghan’s mouth verbatim, and in complete seriousness. I wrote them down after he said them. Yes, I’ve been keeping a file of the Callaghanisms. They’re priceless.

Let’s get started!

 

Focus:

“My friend Christopher had a Ford Fuckus.”

“I’m tired today. I can’t fuckus.”

 

Beach:

“When we’re in Antibes, we can go see the bitch.”

“Tomorrow we’ll visit the bitch of Normandy.”

 

And other words with the long ‘e’ vowel sound, such as…

 

Sheet:

“I need a shit of paper.”

“Let’s put the shits in the laundry.” (my personal favorite!)

 

I’ve started picking up on some patterns. Here are three, with examples:

 

1). Combining non-American word usage with a French accent results in dialogue like this:

“In high school, my nuts were great!”

“Your NUTS?”

“Haha! My notes. My grades.”

“Oh.”

School grades in France are called “les notes.”

 

2). Direct translations don’t always work:

“That spider is waving at us with its paws.”

“Paws? Haha! That’s so cute!”

“Spider paws.”

“Spider legs.”

The French call spider legs “les pattes,” which is also their word for “paws.”

I love this mistake. I wish we said “spider paws” in English.

 

3). Some words are easily confused:

“Sorry I’m eating like a pork.”

I giggle.

“What’s so funny?”

“The expression is to ‘eat like a pig’.”

In French, the word “le porc” refers to the meat of a pig, just like in English… but it can also be used as slang in reference to a person. Unlike in English.

After I wrote this post (which pretty much wrote itself, since I had all the Callaghanisms saved in a file), Callaghan decided that it was lacking a drawing of a French superhero, so he offered to whip one up for me:

 

French superhero Super Dupont in progress!

French superhero Super Dupont in progress!

 

And now, a bonus! I’ll sign off with a French film recommendation for your weekend… because I’ve been glancing up at this DVD while writing about humorous French-to-English accent and translation goofs, and the two things somehow go together. This film is a quirky black comedy, and I think it’s brilliant. It’s been my favorite French black comedy since I first saw it back in the 90’s.

 

My favorite French black comedy. Notice I've leaned it up between Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe.

My favorite French black comedy. Notice I’ve leaned it up between Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe.

 

Delicatessen was directed and co-written by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who directed and co-wrote the more well-known film Amélie about a decade later. Both comedies are off-beat, but Delicatessen is quirky and dark where Amélie is whimsical and light. Both are quite funny in their odd little ways. Hey! These two complimentary Jean-Pierre Jeunet films would make for a great movie night double feature, n’est pas?

Bonsoir, et bon weekend à tous!

St. Patrick’s Day – The Story of O’Callaghan and O’Dude

Two years ago, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day at Gallagher’s pub in Chandler, Arizona. Last year, we didn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at all, since we were occupied in Nice. This year, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by drinking Killian’s here at home, listening to Alan Stivell – not Irish, but it’s Celtic music, so close enough – and savoring Callaghan’s cooking.

“Callaghan” is an Irish name.

With this in mind, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d interview Callaghan about how he got his nickname.

INTERVIEW, PART 1

Me: You’re French. How did you end up with an Irish nickname?

Callaghan: Because my friend’s a cowboy.

Me: Uh….

Callaghan: He used to wear a fringed leather jacket that made him look like an Indian.

Me: I’m not getting it. I need further explanation.

Callaghan: Back in 1988, Dude (Jean-Michel, aka Jean-Mi) got a beautiful fringed leather jacket that went very well with his long, dark hair.

Me: WAIT. Jean-Mi had long hair?

Jean-Mi is one of my favorite people in the world.

Callaghan: Yeah. He looked like an Indian, so we gave him a cowboy name, haha!

Me: Why – oh, because the French are enamored with the whole American “cowboys and Indians” thing.

Callaghan: Oh yeah!

Me: Okay. But why “Callaghan” for a cowboy name?

Callaghan: GriGri (that would be Christophe… no one I’ve met here goes by their actual name) started calling him that. Because of Clint Eastwood. Dirty Harry. You know, Dirty Harry Callaghan?

Me: No. I do not. I guess I’m a terrible American.

Callaghan:  You suck. Especially for a San Franciscan!

(lunch)

INTERVIEW, PART 2

Callaghan: Yay so we finally have a journalist interested in this! Well just so you know, there’s really a cult of Dirty Harry here in France. People in France really love Dirty Harry. Now I’m VERY surprised that you don’t know about him.

Me: I know about him, I’ve heard about him, but I’ve never seen it. So how did the name “Callaghan” go from Dude to you?

Callaghan:  Well, Dude decided that the name “Callaghan” was so intense that he should call GriGri “Callaghan,” too. And because I was hanging out with them all the time, I became “Callaghan” as well. And then I started to… well, it became a nom de plume… I started signing my drawings “Callaghan.” So the years have passed, and um I stayed “Callaghan” because I was signing my drawings, and… so people called me “Callaghan.” Because of my drawings. And I was still calling Dude “Callaghan” for a long time. I still do today, from time to time.

Me: Dude? I never heard you call him “Callaghan,” except when you introduced him to me as “the other Callaghan.”

Callaghan: Yeah I just call him “Dude,” really. When I came back from the States, people were calling him “Dude” because his brother Lio – that’s short for Lionel – oh, and Lio’s wife’s name is Valerie, but we call her “Valoche,” which is argo for “suitcase” –

Me: Why do you call her “suitcase”?

Callaghan: Nah, it’s an actual nickname for Valerie. “Valoche” is a nickname for Valerie, and it also means suitcase (valise). And even another word for “valise” is “valdingue.”

This is how I learn French.

Me: Okay! So anyway… Dude…

Callaghan: So Dude. Um… so um yeah so when I came back from the States, Lio was calling Dude “Dude,” so I started calling him “Dude,” too, instead of “Callaghan.” Anyway, “Callaghan” stuck for me. And I’m still signing my drawings “Callaghan.” Parce que j’ai un gros flingue. (“Because I have a big gun.”)

I won’t even go into that. It’s yet another slang phrase derived from French pop culture.

So that, my friends, is how Callaghan (Philippe) got to be called “Callaghan,” and Dude (Jean-Mi) got to be called “Dude.”

Erin go Bragh.