The Provence roadtrip I mentioned earlier started in Avignon. Just a short visit, en route farther east. The weather was cold, gray and very windy, which gave all those crenellated stone walls a slightly menacing feel. It also meant there weren’t hordes of people in the streets.

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A Festival of Film

In honor of the Oscars this weekend, join me for a visit to the International Political Film Festival. It’s fairly new–this year was only its fifth–but growing very fast. It has an interesting concept–the point is to see as many films as possible, so you buy a pass for a day or the weekend rather than tickets for each film. There are five screens around the center of Carcassonne within a few minutes’ walk of each other, with the theaters ranging in size, so you have to be sure to reserve your seats for some of the smaller sites. But for a very reasonable price, (13€ for a day; 25€ for the weekend; 60€ for the weekend plus the opening and closing ceremonies and the cocktail party at the end), you can see dramas and documentaries all day.

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Ever since I moved to southern France some two decades ago, I have suffered from a fear of missing out related to having chosen Languedoc over Provence. For years I’ve heard that the grass is greenest over there in Provence. I finally went to see and discovered the grass is just as green right here. I’m back from a little roadtrip and have to say it didn’t feel like a getaway at all. It felt very much like around here. This isn’t to slight Provence, which is as beautiful as everybody says, but it’s to say that it’s just as beautiful–even a very similar genre of beauty–but with fewer hassles. I’ve never been so happy to be right where I am.

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First baby tooth. First baby tooth to fall out. First words. First reads. Riding a bike. Learning to drive. Cooking. Living independently. Choosing a partner. Having children. Milestones mark the journey of life, reminding us of befores and afters so that our time on earth doesn’t just pass by in a monotonous blur.

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Take This Job and …

We all know, or have been told by Emily in Paris, that the French work to live, rather than live to work. So it isn’t surprising that a proposal by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to gradually raise the retirement age to 62 from 60 has brought people out into the streets and has shut down most rail travel (not just trains between cities but also the Paris Métro).

In the absence of relevant photos, I present you photos of what the French live for. Like amazing pastries. Most important is the top photo–terrace cafés.
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A few weeks ago, I went to a delightful jazz concert at a winery in the countryside outside of Carcassonne. I’ve been to concerts there before, since we first moved here. This concert was by the Marc Deschamps trio, who embodied 1950s cool cats of jazz and who played a mix of beloved standards and lesser-known pieces by such pillars of jazz as Dave Brubeck. As lovely as the music was, the concert room, as always, was the star of the show.

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The word on everyone’s lips in France these days is sobriété–sobriety. Not regarding consumption of alcoholic beverages but regarding consumption of energy. It all just makes sense, but as usual, it takes a crisis to kick people into action.

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Tinsel Town

A couple of days ago, I noticed that reindeer had landed in the square, the first ride of the “Magie de Noël” (Christmas Magic–not Magi like the three guys who followed a star with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh). And today, I shared a laugh with a municipal worker who was rolling giant “snowballs” down rue Trivalle on their way to being hung up.

The sign says “Strasbourg Capital of Christmas”
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Sticking with last week’s theme of sounds floating into one’s ears. First, let’s be clear that overhearing is not the same as eavesdropping. It’s like the difference between hearing and listening. One just happens, as sound waves travel through the ear canal to the tympanic membrane. You can’t decide for it not to happen. Listening (or eavesdropping), is intentional–you’re making an effort.

A few random shots of Carcassonne, where the extended summer has snapped to seasonal norm.

Overhearing is like clicking through channels and catching out-of-context snippets that sometimes make your eyebrows jump up to your hairline. Like the time I was in Paris with a friend and we overheard two young women ahead of us talking about being held up. My friend and I quickly shifted from overhearing to eavesdropping. This was too interesting to not follow. So we followed them, just far enough behind to not freak them out yet hear their tales. “I put my phone in my underwear now,” one said. “The worst part is losing your photos,” the other lamented. Paris is extremely safe as big cities go, but things can still happen. Mostly it’s pickpocketing–a pain, a hassle, a financial hit, but not violent. In fact, the point of pickpocketing is for the victim to not notice. But sometimes things escalate.

The New Yorker has run a few features in which one or another of their cartoonists goes out into the city to sketch overheard conversations. They are hilarious. In that vein, use your imagination around some of these random street quotes that I’ve been collecting. Much of the time, my reaction is just: So. Many. Questions.

“I work with children. I get coughed on on a daily.”

“Nobody wants to hear that word.” !!!!!!! what word??????

“I don’t think I can dye my hair pink.”

Three twenty-ish guys in a hot argument….about Keith Haring. New York.

One burly, bearded millennial to another: “Then my ACTUAL girlfriend is going to come and she’s going to f***ing say WTF your ex is still f***ing here!”

“C’est interminable!” (“It never ends!”) French woman looking for the street exit after seeing the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

“Bon anniversaire! C’est la moindre des choses! Oh la la!” Woman on the phone.

“I want an apology first off.” Different woman on the phone.

At Zaytina, José Andrés’s restaurant in Washington, a child has a screaming fit. A nearby diner observes, “They’re definitely LA.”

“C’est qui, Richard Nixon?” (“Who’s Richard Nixon?”) French woman in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. Her middle-school-age son explained.

Man: “I really regret it.” Woman: “I know.”

“He was like a sharpshooter.”

“I don’t know…I flew too close to the sun last night.”

“My bedroom is SUPERCOOL!” Three-year-old.

“You wasted the $200 you got paid?!?!” kid to parent in a mall.

“That’s why I appreciate you, man. You’re really rooting for me.” Man in Bed, Bath and Beyond.

“Well, to be real, it’s been Covid.”

“I’ve got to do something. I don’t know, you know?”

Two guys in suits, looking like escapees from the movie “Hidden Figures.” One says: “In an era of ripped jeans and yoga pants, I feel like I’m the only one who wears a tie.”

Man yelling at woman: “I’m not yelling at you!”

“Is it controversial? Yes. Will the city do it? Probably.”

“I’m not ravenous but I’m eating.”

“Whaddaya want? I can hear you.” Bartender at airport motel bar (there are dives, and then there are dives at airport motels, where, by dint of isolated location, one has a choice between taking a chance and going in or waiting until the promised rebooked flight the next day and finding something in the actual airport–marginally better ambiance but perhaps not better food. In this particular establishment, table drinks were served in flimsy to-go plastic cups because of “incidents of beer-throwing.”)

Elderly guy in Washington Square Park to another elderly guy at the end of our park bench: “Jim! Where the hell you been for two days? You been missin’ for two days!”

Jim: “I have no cash. I have income but it ain’t comin’ in. Not ’til the 20th!”

You just can’t beat New Yorkers for witty repartee. And I don’t think Jim was even trying.

Do share your wacky overheard snippets with us!