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Looks like the Parisians might get their white Christmas! Everything looks really beautiful, but unfortunately the snow (along with the strike) is making transportation out to the suburbs – where i practice and teach – very complicated. Travel time his doubled since the drivers of the express line are striking for around 150 EUROS more a month in pay. Insane.

Anyway, I’ll have to say goodbye to Paris and hello to New York since I’m going to spend the holidays in the States. I’m going to arrive armed with all my gifts, which I got over here. I might have spent a little bit more on them, but the idea of braving the cold and holiday shoppers next week deterred me from waiting until the last minute, which is what I usually do. Anyway, Monday I’m off on my 10:30am continental flight to Newark. I’m happy it’s Continental because I would really like a new choice of videos, Delta’s December videos are pretty bad!

Once there, I’m going to be going to the process of getting a new visa called “compétences et talents” which is for athletes, musicians, artists and people who want to do special projects in France. I have my frist meeting at the consulate on Tuesday. I’m keeping my fingers crossed…

On my cold walk to work today I noticed a lot of fat sparrows.  I realized they must be puffed up in response to the frigid temperatures.  Boy I was stunned when I walked out the door and was blasted by freezing air.  I never really warmed up on my entire walk.

The cold affects my life in a number of ways.  Last night for instance I was at a bar with friends.  We were all leaving.  I stepped outside to wait for them, feeling ill at ease in the crowded bar with no purpose other than waiting to go.  But once I got outside, I was immediately went back in, seeking warmth again.  Like an animal.

Here is another rating, brought to you by my own personal scale!

Paris Airport

INTERNET (none =0, high cost = 1, low cost = 5, free =10): 2.5

CLEAN BATHROOMS WITHIN A 5 MINUTE WALK OF ANYWHERE IN THE TERMINAL: 5

MULTIPLE EATERIES (take out, sit down, regular bars, sports bars, coffee shops, etc.): 6

SHOPPING (quality of stores, price of non-luxury items, duty-free selection): 4

DRUG STORE (cvs, rite aid, duane read, etc…yes = 10, no = 0): 0

EFFICIENT TRANSPORTATION BETWEEN TERMINALS (yes =10, no =0): 10

EASY TO FIND OUTLETS (yes = 10, no = 0): 5 (but only in terminal 2!!)

SECURITY (not too much, not too little, not too long a wait): 5

BAGGAGE CLAIM (not too long a wait, not too difficult to find): 4

FRIENDLINESS OF STAFF: 9

total score: 50.5/100 (50.5%)

I travel a lot and I thought this was as good a time as any to start recording my thoughts on airports. I’ve developed a preliminary rating system for airports. I’ll probably see about 12 airports this year, so I think that will give me a good opportunity to get my thoughts about these strange, yet welcoming places down on…well, the blog.

Here is the rating system I’ve come up with:

Each amenity gets the airport a certain number of points. Points are based on the importance of the amenity. Of course different people have different views of the importance of what airports have to offer, but I tried to be as discriminating as I could. I think most heavy travellers would agree that I’ve chosen the most important things to be rated. But I’m welcome to suggestions!

Pittsburgh’s Score:

INTERNET (none =0, high cost = 1, low cost = 5, free =10): 10

CLEAN BATHROOMS WITHIN A 5 MINUTE WALK OF ANYWHERE IN THE TERMINAL: 8

MULTIPLE EATERIES (take out, sit down, regular bars, sports bars, coffee shops, etc.): 9

SHOPPING (quality of stores, price of non-luxury items, duty-free selection): 7

DRUG STORE (cvs, rite aid, duane read, etc…yes = 10, no = 0): 10

EFFICIENT TRANSPORTATION BETWEEN TERMINALS (yes =10, no =0): 10

EASY TO FIND OUTLETS (yes = 10, no = 0):10

SECURITY (not too much, not too little, not too long a wait): 5

BAGGAGE CLAIM (not too long a wait, not too difficult to find):n/a

FRIENDLINESS OF STAFF: 9

total score: 78/90 (86.%)

OK, it’s time for a more traditional post.  This entry is about dogs.  Every day on my walks to and from work, I see scores of people walking their dogs.  A lot of times they’re walking two dogs.  I look at dogs with a fond eye.  They seem so loving and enthusiastic about life.

I like watching two people walking dogs who let their dogs greet one another while standing by holding leashes and not interacting with one another or commenting on the activity of the dogs.

Sometimes I don’t like it when a dogwalker keeps walking ahead of me then falls behind because of the dog, then walks ahead of me again.  I feel they’re crowding up my segment of sidewalk.

*

There’s a white, middle-aged homeless woman who warbles and screeches across from the post office on 9th avenue, on the block with the PBS building.  She’s always really bundled up and usually has a male companion and sometimes she sounds like she’s on death’s door.

America is fully of mediocre restaurants. Paris is full of mediocre ones too, but they’re not usually as mediocre as the American ones. But for some reason the first thing I wanted to do when I got to Pittsburgh was eat some greasy, fatty American food. And I had some, too. A giant tuna melt and BBQ chips from the bagel store and fries and banana cream pie from Houlihans….

The fries were great, so was the tuna sandwich. The pie wasn’t so great, but the white chocolate shavings on it were spectacular. The prices were also spectacular, which I really appreciated.

Today it’s off to the mall so I can get my SAD lamp! I’m also going to try to find Target so I can stock up on shredded wheat and microwavable popcorn.

I don’t feel the desire to see the city….I competed yesterday and just want to shop today and tomorrow, if places are open. I heard this is a pretty interesting place, though. Apparently there are a fair amount of artists.. . I like the feel of the downtown, too. It’s like I would have imagined it to be 100 years ago. A train that runs along the river, restaurants and bars in between the river and a mountain (which has a church on the top). And people a milling around outside of Macys waiting for the bus.

I stayed at the Westin for two night and tonight I’m moving to the Omi, a beautiful hotel that looks like the lobby of a really, really classy hotel. There is a 30 foot Christmas tree, a grand piano, multiple bars and lounges and smartly dressed people.

Tomorrow, I am going to the American Embassy. It is one of the few places that can always manage to fill me with anxiety, because I feel like everything I can do there is wrong, and I will never be allowed to leave this country again, at least to go to America. I hope all goes well there.

The Embassy is tucked away on Queen St. behind a huge McDonald’s downtown ( I kid you not) and is across from the major downtown hotel, the British Colonial. Whoever decided to put the Embassy there (and/or the McDonald’s) clearly had a sense of humor and a rich appreciation for symbolic geography.

Once upon a time, people would camp out in front of the Embassy at 3,4am in the morning just to ensure a spot in the visa processing line, but now the Embassy gives out appointments, and you go at a special time. The Embassy tried to say that this shift was because the consular workers were distressed by the sea of humanity waiting outside in all types of weather, with no assurances of being seen that day, but we all know that the people were really a huge security risk, and after 9/11 they had to find a way of keeping things orderly.

The métro isn’t so bad here in Paris, and in some ways it is better than the subway in New York. The métro definitely smells better (well, when it doesn’t smell like urine or vomit), it’s cleaner, it runs faster and you’re provided with signs that tell you when the next train is coming. Unfortunately, there are a fair amount of strikes, and during these times it’s horrible. Anyway, the métro isn’t half bad. Keep in mind that the RER (regional line) is another story. These trains are much dirtier and tend to be late a lot and are generally unpleasant to ride in. On the métro you’ll find the occasional gross thing, a tissue, a spilled coke…but the RER is a totally different level of grossness. There are wads of spit, booger-filled or bloody tissues, popcicle sticks, orange peals, chicken bones….Plus, the RER trains are huge double deckers with fabric seats and windows that barely open, so the smells tend to linger.

Un printemps en hiver

The printemps department store on Boulevard Haussmann just put up its Christmas lights!

French people love their feriers (holidays). There are so many of them it’s basically ridiculous. I’m not complaining, though. Anyway, today is Armistice. It’s the holiday to celebrate, as I heard it described this morning on the radio, their win of the first world war. That’s right THEIR win of the first world war. Not The Allies’ win of the first world war.