Pepé Le Pew in Paris and Les Braves in Normandy (or, Still High Maintenance After All These Years?)

“Are you sure you’ll be able to handle this?”

“Sure, it will be romantic.”

“I don’t know … Remember last time?”

We are in Paris, and Hubby is referring to the very first overseas trip we took together here when we had just begun dating.  (I mean really, what woman wouldn’t marry the guy who takes you to Paris on a date?)  Now he’s questioning whether I really want to stay at the same place we did ten years ago.  It was a “charming” little hotel on the Left Bank in St. Germain. Certainly not five star, but purportedly a favorite among models and artists in the know.

At least in 2002.

Had he been paying attention, Hubby (who was not yet Hubby) should have been put on notice of what a high maintenance woman I was destined to become, because even then:

I couldn’t stop myself from whining about the hotel.

Specifically, about its hair dryers.  (Or rather, hair frizzers — weird devices on a vacuum hose attached to the wall that heated up way too much and blew just the tiniest amount of air — just enough to produce a pretty good Afro, but not to actually dry your hair.  The heat also made it impossible apply makeup in the sauna of a bathroom that resulted.)  From memory, the rooms were pretty miniscule too.

But I didn’t care on this trip.  All I could really think about were the good things: our early romance, the fantastic location within walking distance of the Louvre, plus the in-house jazz lounge with live music.

It would be romantic.

And it was … sort of.  Here we are last week at one of very same bistros we visited in 2002:

French Bistro

But some things never change.

Remember Pepé Le Pew and Penelope?  You know, the French skunk constantly searching for  “l’amour” and the poor little cat who keeps running from his advances? (If you haven’t seen him action for awhile, watch this clip: “Louvre Come Back To Me.”)

Pepe Le Pew loves Penelope

These days, the networks would never allow a would-be rapist to be featured in cartoons, let alone a character who stereotypes national origin so blatantly.  (Same goes for Speedy Gonzales.)  But of course, the reason stereotypes are such fun is because they so often ring true.

I saw evidence of Pepé everywhere last week in France.

No, I was not assaulted by any French men who needed a bath …

I’m talking about l’amour!

Or rather (and sadly for Hubby), Penelope’s reaction to Pepe’s advances.  At least on our first night, I had more in common with that nay-saying cat than any Parisian sex goddess.

Butt at least I'm in Paris ... sculpture outside the Louvre

Butt at least we’re in Paris …

The truth is, a person can really only tolerate so much beauty.  Paris can be overwhelming, even if you’ve been there before.  It’s sort of like this sculpture near the Louvre … is she simply so ecstatic about being in such proximity to the Eiffel Tower that she can’t stand up?

Or is Pepé lurking somewhere nearby and she is feigning a headache?

Both are possible in Paris, especially if you’re crabby about the hair dryers.  (And no, even though our hotel is finally undergoing a complete overhaul, the hair frizzers are exactly the same.  I overheard at least half a dozen other women complain about these at breakfast.)

It’s difficult to respond to l’amour with frizzed out hair.

Fortunately, I did remember to pack a curling iron and adapter, and with the help of a little French cuisine, our last night in Paris was saved.

Kate at a bistro in St. Germain

Plus, wearing French lingerie (for once) instead of the usual we’ve-been-married-forever t-shirt didn’t hurt either.

But we must move on.  After just two nights in Paris, we drive to Normandy because Hubby is a big World War II buff and wants to visit the beaches where the Allies landed on D-Day.  As a typical Lexus Liberal who has never actually experienced war, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about this.

And I still don’t know how to write about it.

First, here is the view from our hotel room in Arromanches, overlooking Gold Beach (and you know how much I LOVE gold):

View of Gold Beach from our room in Arromanches, Normandy

The countryside and beaches in Normandy are stunning, which makes it that much harder to understand everything that happened here 68 years ago.  We visit four of the five invasion beaches: Sword, Juno, Gold, and Omaha.  Each is more difficult to view than the last.

Imagine being in your early twenties and scaling these walls at Pointe Du Hoc, knowing that if you make it up you’re likely walking straight into your own death:

Pointe Du Hoc

You can see the remains of German bunkers, fox holes, and gun stands here, and the earth still has bombed out scars everywhere.  I can’t help but be reminded of Stone Henge when I see the circular configuration of some of the former weaponry sites:

Gun stand at Pointe Du Hoc, Normandy

Gun Henge?

Fittingly, the weather is windy and rainy during our visit which makes it easier to envision what the Allies were facing.  (The original invasion date was delayed due to bad weather.)  We take shelter at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial:

American cemetary in Normandy

Thousands of veterans are buried here; most barely in their twenties when they died.  (And across town at the German cemetery, hundreds of the dead were still children, as the Nazis actively recruited 16 year olds.) 

I am particularly struck by one line in a film at the American Memorial:

“The fate of the free world once rested on their shoulders.”

And I wonder: Did they realize this?

Thank you.

Your lives were no wasted journey.

Artist Anilore Banon expresses this far better than I can with his Les Braves sculpture at Omaha Beach:

Les Braves -- Omaha beach sculpture

The memorial sculpture is meant to symbolize Hope, Freedom, and Fraternity.  Or, as Pepé Le Pew says:

“War eez fine, but zee louv eez bettah!” 

By the way, Pepé was created on January 6, 1945, just a few months after the D-Day landings.  For me, this is just a reminder that among all the other freedoms our war heros won for us, the ability to laugh is one of the most dear.

Incidentally, I accidentally left my curling iron at our tiny hotel room back in Paris.  My hair in Normandy is a flat and frizzy mess.

And for once, I don’t care.

Like, Literally, I’m Just Saying, Like, Seriously, Yikes! (and I’m NOT dying, OK?)

The older I get, the more annoyed I feel about the way people speak.  Especially young people.

And that’s a sure sign I’m getting old.

It just seems the rules I grew up with have all but disappeared.  When did every third word become “like?”   And why does everyone now add “just saying” (jus’ sayin’) and/or “seriously” every time they have a point to make?

Please don’t get me started on the overuse of “yikes!”

Even teachers no longer know the difference between “lie” and “lay.”  (My dog, on the other hand, knows to disobey whenever a trainer tells her to “lay down.”)

It's LIE down, Stupid.

And what’s up with the ubiquitous misuse of the word “literally?”  The next time someone tells me she “literally shit a brick” I’m going to ask her if she’s ever considered moving to a third world country.  (Such talent might come in handy in places where they LITERALLY build houses out of cow dung?)

But why am I ranting about English on a travel blog?

I’ve heard rumors some people are taking this site a tad too literally.

So, to clarify, once and for all:

I DO NOT believe the world is going to end on December 21, 2012.

I’m not planning to off myself or do anything (too) self-destructive on that date either.

But 12/21/12 will be significant in my little world because I will be turning 45 — which  isn’t really that old, for a cougar, but does increase one’s Botox budget significantly.  (And yes, I do like Botox jokes.  I can’t help it, living in The OC for as long as I have has that effect.  Please try not to take my humor too literally.)

On a more serious note, getting older has definitely made me more aware of time.  And just realizing that one day this party will have to end makes me appreciate what a gift life is.

So maybe the whole 12/21/12 thing on this site is a gimmick.

If this offends you, I apologize.

But if thinking about the “End-of-the-World”* makes me more aware of the literal fact that our lives are finite, I don’t see the harm.

* A slightly sarcastic note for the literally minded: Quotation marks as in “End-of-the-World” are sometimes used to convey the thought, “Do not take this literally.”  But don’t worry, I, like, “seriously” have no intention of teaching remedial English or punctuation on this blog in the future … jus’ sayin’.

When I launched this site eight weeks ago, I wasn’t sure about the whole travel blog idea, as I had no concrete travel plans for the second half of 2012.  But it’s interesting what opportunities present themselves once you open the door.  I hadn’t planned to go to Europe this year, but started out celebrating June’s Summer Solstice in Barcelona and will be at Stonehenge for October’s New Moon.  I hadn’t intended to meditate for a week in Taos (last month), nor practice telepathy with horses in Tucson (next month) but feel confident both these trips are important steps in my journey.

But I still haven’t decided where to celebrate 12/21/12.

And there are only 127 days left.

This leaves me with just one thing I can possibly say:



QUESTION:  Do you have any strong opinions about how others should speak and/or write?  Do you have any stories of others taking your remarks literally when you meant them figuratively?  Tell me all about it …

33, 44, 55, 66, 77 … Kate’s Sequence (or, what’s in a number?)

I used to be really good at math … when I was thirteen.  So good, they allowed me to skip a class and take Algebra II when I was a freshman in high school.  But by the next year, in Advanced Geometry, I had had it … my little brother (now an engineer) was two years ahead of his class, sat right behind me, and beat me out on every single test.

Being one of those shallow narcissists who can’t stand being bad at things, I dropped out of math and science before I ever took Calculus or Physics.  (Thankfully, lawyers don’t have to be good at math …)

But this hasn’t stopped me from being fascinated with numbers.  In fact, I noticed just this morning while getting my overdue Botox fix that a strange number pattern has emerged in my life this year:  33, 44, 55, 66, 77 …

I call it Kate’s Sequence.  The numbers represent the age of my (bratty beautiful) younger sister, my own age, my best Newport girlfriend’s age, my mother’s age, and my mother-in-law’s age as I type this in 2012.

But one of the most important women of my life doesn’t fit the Sequence:  Grandma turned 94 on Tuesday, as did Grandpa a couple of weeks earlier.  They are still married, still have their hair, still have their minds, and are utterly disgusting to the rest of us impressive:

My grandparents' 93rd birthdays in 2011

If you haven’t noticed, Grandma bears a distinct resemblance to Betty White.  And not just because she’s tiny, cute, and Norwegian … it’s because she still has that lust for life and sense of humor that keeps a person young forever.  Even (especially) without the Botox.

I owe Grandma a lot.  She was the one who bought me the all important Calvin Klein, Jordache, and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans in grade school … and later, Guess, Bon-Jour, and (when slumming it) Lee jeans in high school.

Grandma would have really enjoyed being a Real Orange County Housewife.  Not because she ever had plastic surgery or hair extensions, but because to this day, she is the only woman I know who has never washed her own hair.  (I’m not kidding!)

She also taught me to hide my credit card statements from Hubby. 

So what’s my point here?

I started this blog because I was afraid the world was going to end in six months.  How was I going to make the most of the scant time I have left?  And how was I going to cope with turning 45 in the high maintenance capital of the world?

Grandma is 50 years older than I am.  If I have her genes (and I must have at least some of them), I’m not even half way there yet.

So my Sequence (the ages of various beautiful women I know) is not so different from the Fibonacci sequence.  In that famous pattern, each number is the sum of the previous two numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987 … The higher up in the sequence, the closer two consecutive of the sequence divided by each other will approach the Golden Ratio (approximately 1 : 1.618 or 0.618 : 1).

Why does this matter?

Because the golden ratio (also called  “phi” and depicted by the Greek symbol Φ) is in everything.  It represents no less than what constitutes BEAUTY in the world – both in nature and in art.  It’s the ratio used to design the Parthenon and the Pyramids of Giza. It’s the number expressed in spirals, snowflakes, flowers, fractals, and our own DNA.   It’s the ratio between a perfectly fertile woman’s waist and her hips.

It’s the closest thing to spirituality a scientist can believe in.

The golden ratio is also expressed in this ancient fossil I discovered last week in New Mexico:

ammolite & ravens

The photo isn’t great, but it’s a picture of an ammonite fossil affixed to a gold bracelet I bought last week in Taos.  (The background pic is just a notebook with ravens on it — the birds are considered to be messengers between this world and the next, a fitting totem for a writers’ journal?)

I realize I’m rambling here.  But heck, Grandma has been here for 94 years, and that ammonite fossil has hung on for 35-million years

And if Fibonacci’s number and the golden mean are found in everything beautiful from nature, to art, to music, then certainly there is beauty in women of all ages.

Suddenly, I feel like I have time.

And that’s not a bad thing.  Even at the end of time …


Questions:  Do you find time to be elastic?  What state of mind are you in when time just flows effortlessly?  What are you doing?  And when does time drag?  Are you a chronic clock watcher?  If so, might it be time for a change?