Monthly Archives: February 2022

talking toilets

I need to know where all of the public toilets are at any moment wherever I am . Just in case . I’m an expert at planning ahead in this regard .

No , it’s not an obsession . You think ? Well , okay , it’s definitely my preoccupation . I’ll agree to that . Bordering on compulsion , maybe ; but an old guy’s gotta be prepared to pee after a shorter while than in the old days . Not like in younger days when I might pee once and call it a day . You don’t want to be caught in an awkward situation , needing to pee but where there’s no place to discretely do it .

Like near Sacre Coeur in Paris where I have been hanging out for awhile . Let’s take that for example : hoards of tourists , open areas , not much vegetation and crowds of people always around , and no public toilets . Well , that last part is a lie. There’s one public restroom . It costs one and a half euro to use . Sorry , but that’s way too much . Maybe half a euro might be within reason , but even that’s pushing it . ( Today a euro = $1.35 ). It’s beyond my ability to surrender to that kind of extortion and robbery .

Confidentially , I once peed behind a hedge up somewhere beside the massive church , Sacre Coeur . Years ago . I waited a bit for wandering tourists to clear out of the immediate vicinity and then I did what needed to be done . God could see me , of course , from the church windows , but I don’t think that God minded . I was desperate .

Nowadays I plan my next pee knowing that the Montmartre/Sacre Coeur territory is a no pee zone . Ada and I have been taking the doggie over to the dog park that sits just below Sacre Coeur , kind of beside the main steps leading up to the church . There are a few scraggly bushes on the dog park side of the steps and I’ve seen a couple of men pee there . Almost no privacy . I have some sympathy for that kind of action given the price to enter the one public restroom and the otherwise lack of privacy in that general area , but just turning and peeing in close proximity of random strangers is not my thing . Some guys just got no couth !

Yesterday I peed in the Montmartre Cemetery . Behind a bush and near a wall in a corner . No , not on or near any grave . After all , I’m old , yeah , but I’m not a Barbarian . I may not be so suave and debonair , but I got some remaining sensibility and still have a shred of sophistication . Maybe they shouldn’t have such a large cemetery with no public restroom . That’s all I’m saying .

Once we were in Poland , in Ada’s home town , shopping in a small place that used to be a city gate . At the time it sold Polish stuff , souvenirs , wool goods , and knick knacks . Two obviously un-Polish people walked in , a man and a woman. The woman spoke to us in English . Desperate tones . Her husband needed a restroom . I’m pretty sure that he didn’t speak English ; he was quietly at the mercy of the situation . Emergency . They had ventured out on the town from their river cruise boat and the tour book that she had in her hand listed this building as having a public restroom . It didn’t. Maybe at some time in the past it did . The shopkeeper didn’t speak English, so Ada answered the woman .

” Ask my husband . He knows all the public restrooms . “

And I did and I do . I looked around for a few seconds . Ah ! The Dublin Pub was right across the street . I gave her specific directions : walk down the stairs . The door to the men’s room is on the left right at the bottom of the steps .

All of this leads us to the subject of this post , which is the public toilets placed here and there on Parisian streets . They’re usually fairly clean and , extra bonus , they’re free . They don’t have them everywhere , but there some here and there .

There are three buttons on the front of these things . The fates are smiling on you if you get to this thing and it’s unoccupied . Then you push the lit green button and the curved door opens . Push the button to close the door . There is a large mirror and a sink in there . No toilet seat , but you can’t have everything , I guess . Obviously that’s not so good for women . When you’re done , push the button to open the doors and leave . Or swing around behind the structure to squirt a little sanitizer on your hands . So nice !

Now , if the toilet is occupied , the green button is dark . A yellowish button glows , indicating that the toilet is occupied . When the occupier leaves , you have to wait a minute or two for the toilet to in some mysterious way self-clean . You hear the rushing gushing water . It sounds like the whole interior is being hosed down . During this interval a blue light glows . You wait . Then the blue light fades and a green light glows . Ready . Push the green button and the curved door opens .

The first time I used one of these conveniences I didn’t know the procedure . The guy ahead of me left and I walked in . A voice in recorded French told me to what I guessed was something like : Sacre bleu ! What the hell do you think you’re doing ! Get the hell out so we can clean this puppy !

But I don’t speak French . I tried to close the curved door but it wouldn’t close . Worse , I think that I sent it into shock . It wouldn’t budge . A passer-by tried to help , but the two of us couldn’t get the door closed . I made an executive decision to go through with my peeing anyway . Like those guys I mentioned who peed on the edges of the dog park . People on the street could see the back of me ; but at least I was actually inside of a restroom . A man does what he has to do .

Turns out when you use these Parisian toilettes , you must wait while the thing self-cleans , or plays the recording of water gushing , or whatever goes on for that minute or two . ( When you finally get inside there nothing is wet ; it’s all dry .) Otherwise , the whole toilette gets a little surly and doesn’t cooperate . A public restroom’s got to do what a public restroom’s got to do .

I like the fact that in Paris someone recognized the need for people to pee . For free . Are you listening , Sacre Coeur ? At least there are a few public toilettes here and there around the city . It’s a work in progress , I suppose . Vive la France !


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more Paris photos (2 of 2)


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more Paris photos ( 1 of 2 )

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still in paris

Ah , Paris in the Springtime !

Well , when that Spring equinox rolls around we’ll be back home in California .

Ah , Arcadia in the Springtime !

They won’t be watering down the sidewalks in Arcadia like they do here in Paris . Small green trucks come along periodically to wash down the sidewalks . At times water rushes along the gutters and sometimes there are city crews with spindly plastic brooms and green uniforms to hurry it along . That would never happen in drought-ridden California . Even watering down your driveway is illegal in Los Angeles county .

When we get back to Arcadia we won’t have a boulangerie on the corner to buy a baguette or maybe a couple of croissants or a fancy small pastry for breakfast . In earlier days the main drag near the house had a few bakeries . There were also a few meat markets and and several stores that specialized in selling fruit . There was a rambling business that sold refreshments and fruit to tourists who came along that last part of Route 66 ; but then the city fathers changed the course of Route 66 for a mile or so through the city so it from then on it stretched along Huntington Blvd and left our nearby street dejected and forlorn . Long before my time .

These Paris streets are packed with walking people all day long . They say that people don’t walk in Los Angeles and I think that’s pretty much true . People hop into their cars to go a quarter mile to the supermarket . Paris , with regard to that , is a horse of a different color , at least in the 18th arrondissement where Ada and I are staying . The place is packed with small eateries , small markets of all kinds , a few larger supermarkets and an assortment of other small businesses such as barbers , shoemakers , plumbing places , laundries , and phone stores . There is a Renault car dealership next door that is , in my experience , a tiny place with only six or seven cars on display in their tiny lot . That’s not what I’m used to in California . Car dealers back home control multiple acres of space .

Several of the buildings here have the architect’s name inscribed on the exterior with the date of construction . As is often the case , the older buildings are more beautiful than the newer ones . They show more style and decorative work than almost any of the newer buildings .
The truth is , I think , that I am not a city person . All the people beetling around the streets is unfamiliar to me and make me a little nervous . I’m not used to it . The tall buildings that line the mostly narrow streets make me a little claustrophobic . The little tables that line the exterior of the cafes and bistros don’t seem to appeal to me since I’ve been here in Paris . Part of the reason is that it’s just too cold to be sitting out on the sidewalk sipping my beer or coffee as the bundled hoards stroll by .

As it begins to get dark there is a clattering of metal shutters on apartment windows being closed . Most of them seemed to be on the first two floors of the buildings so I assumed that they were for security ; but many people closed their shutters up on the higher floors . I asked Ada’s sister about that . She explained that French people like to sleep in dark rooms , so the shutters shut out light ; but also they are for security , she said , and privacy too . All three , she said , but then I think that she began to wonder why they do it too . A good question , she said . After all , she’s an immigrant here ; she’s only lived here for thirty or forty years so far .


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Paris photos


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if this is tuesday…….

I saw a movie once about Americans traveling to Europe . I think the title was ” If This Is Tuesday , This Must Be Belgium “. It was some kind of a light-hearted comedy .

A couple of days ago in Paris I thought it was Wednesday until Ada corrected me . It was Saturday . And , of course , Sunday comes after Saturday ; but the next day Ada somehow thought it was Saturday . I don’t think there would be two Saturdays in a row .

I glance at a French calendar on the table from time to time , but it’s in French , after all , and I don’t speak French . I know , I know : shouldn’t be too hard to understand , you say , but I suppose it just doesn’t seem to matter . Days kind of blend one into another lately as we buy our baguettes and explore the streets around here and wait for Ada’s sister to recover enough from her heart surgery and post-surgery rehabilitation to return home .

Ada has been pointing out the similarities between French and English to me . Take the yogurt containers , for example ; peche yogurt is to us peach . Apricot is apricot . There is a French word , spelled somewhat similarly , that means morsel . I don’t remember the French word , but Ada was surprised that I didn’t recognize the similarity right off the bat . (There were morsels of strawberry in my yogurt .) Well , my mental bulb lights up sort of like those energy-saving light bulbs : you sort of gots to wait a bit before the light comes on .

I know , in my defense , the whole confusion began centuries ago when the French Normans invaded and took over England . 1066 , Battle of Hastings ? You remember that . The new rulers spoke their oh-so- sophisticated Frenchie language in the castles and at the posh parties and the poor conquered Saxons held on to their own lingo in the barnyards and the villages. That’s why we Americans raise pigs and cows in pens on farms but when we eat them we call it pork and beef . ( Well , unless we’re vegetarians or vegans , of course , or fruitarians . Or yogurtarians —- could be such people , I suppose . )

Anyway , I have to make a couple of corrections to my previous posts . It seems Ada was reading them and , well , I made a few glaring errors .

I may have mentioned the chien — I mean the dog . I may have said that the beast was from Madagasgar or Maldivia or someplace with an M ; but that was an error . Well , the M wasn’t in error . The animal is from Martinique . It is , according to Ada , an Iron dog from Martinique . So , there you go ! C’est la vie !

Well , I meant to say : It is what it is . I guess c’est la vie means something slightly else . Sorry , but let’s move on .

Oh , and Ada’s sister would be in the rehabilitation facility after her heart surgery for three weeks . I said ten days , but that was the length of the hospital stay . So now you know . All is right with the world .

Except for Hunter Biden . I heard from an old colleague of mine just a couple of days ago on Facebook . He posted something about some quiet retraction by the New York Times about something they had denied , I think , about some obscure e-mails in eastern Europe regarding Burisma and Hunter Biden ………….. Well , I skimmed the article from the New York Post that my friend had referenced but nothing really caught my attention , to be honest . I don’t think that I’ve been politicized enough to really care ; and all this time I surmised the contrary !

Okay , c’est la vie !

Speaking of politics , I read that President Macron is in Moscow and Kiev trying to mediate some kind of a solution to the situation on the Ukrainian border . As I understand it , Putin had built up a military force of over 100,000 soldiers with tanks and artillery and medical teams , etc. on the Ukraine borders for no particular reason whatsoever . No , he says , there’s no intention whatsoever to invade . That suggestion is all US propaganda to stir up trouble. Personally , I think Hunter Biden is behind this whole situation pulling the political strings . Call me crazy , but I’ll assure you of one thing : there should be an investigation .

Meanwhile , we’re ready to walk the chien again . Not even quite sure what day it is . I think we’re having cow for dinner with pasta . I think the Italians got pasta from China way before Hunter Biden was born . I like pasta , but since it may originally be Chinese , I won’t dare say my views out loud .

Vive le France ! Good luck to Macron ! All power to Martinique !

I think tomorrow’s Tuesday , but this ain’t Belgium . (Don’t get me started on the languages spoken in Belgium .) I’m pretty sure it’s still Paris and that this post may have turned out to be a debacle ( debacle: French word used in English ) . If so , then c’est la vie .


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notes on paris

Three weeks now in Paris and we haven’t been to a bistro or a restaurant . It’s been too cold for me to sit out on the sidewalk and I’m not up to going inside , either , to sit at a tight little table to sip a beer or to nurse a coffee or to eat a meal .

We’ve been preparing meals in the apartment , mostly stews , always with a fresh baguette . I walk down to the little bakery two or three minutes away . They know me by now , that English-speaking guy who gets a baguette and once in awhile a couple of croissants. Ada usually cooks for us , but today I made meatballs and fondant potatoes . It’s supposed to be finished in the oven but I couldn’t figure out the controls on this French oven so I had to improvise and do the whole thing on the stovetop burner .

My laptop decided to give me a problem yesterday . The cursor didn’t show up for work . I tried a few combinations of buttons , Fn and F this or F that , but nothing worked . Re-booting usually works to solve problems , but not this time .

I had decided to hunt for a mouse today and see if I could use that instead of the old disappeared cursor . I was all ready . Determined . I decided to start the laptop up for one more try , though . Kind of magical thinking , since I had messed around with it so much last night , turning it off and on again and pushing combinations of buttons with absolutely no results . They say miracles do happen , but none last night .

When I restarted the thing today that old cursor had again shown up . I may have hit another combination of buttons , and if I did I stumbled upon the magic formula . Anyway , it did surprise me . I think it knew that I was determined to replace it , maybe permanently , with a mouse . On the other hand , maybe it just needed a day off . Okay . Everyone needs time off now and again .

We walked the dog up to Sacre Coeur today because there is a dog park there . The other dogs were not very active , however . None of them wanted to run or to play tag , and the wind was cold , so fairly soon we decided to leave . We wandered through Montmartre and looked for an artist friend who used to go up there and sketch tourists ; but he wasn’t there .

We got lost on the way back . That’s easy to do in Paris , because the roads head off at angles and we are unfamiliar with the city . The locals are happy to offer us help , often looking places up on the GPS on their phones . Many of them speak English but even if they don’t they try to help . Their friendliness defies the old stereotypical reputation of the French toward Americans . Maybe they all decided to change their attitudes or maybe our stereotype was wrong all the time . I’ll let the historians , as they say , make that judgement.


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