Sunday, June 17, 2007

La Vie parisienne, Premier acte

Paris was not what I expected, actually.

It was really quite nice. Pleasant, relatively stress-free and easy. It is an easy city to get around in, and for the most part, people are polite and helpful. There are some notable exceptions to this, which give the place a bad reputation, but overall...

We had a lovely time.

I'll start at the beginning.

International flights are truly becoming an ordeal. This one was relatively straightforward, and yet it was a pain. I believe they are trying to see exactly how much we will put up with before we all just stop traveling. Hmmm...

Anyway - I bitched enough about that the last couple of times... so we will move on.

We got there and got to the hotel early Tuesday. Killed time until we had to go to a reception at l'Hôtel Talleyrand that evening.

Dressed-up and everything. Listen to awful speeches and get free drinks. But since we had to perform the next day... we had to keep it under wraps.

The next morning we had to go out and check out the Ambassador's residence,

which was where we would be performing later that evening. So, once again we did not have too much time to check out the sights... but we would get there. I forgot my passport that day (because I am an idiot), so they didn't want to let me in... but a little convincing and a credit card, got the job done. We had to kill some time in the gardens out back...

So that sucked, obviously. We briefly met the Ambassador's wife as she strolled through while we practiced. Seemed like a nice lady.

Then we went back to the hotel and crashed for a bit. The last few days had been exhausting, and we needed to be at out best for that evening. Did I mention that we were performing for three ambassadors?

More to come...

La Vie parisienne, Deuxième acte

Now for the performance...

What can I say? We kicked ass. Kathleen played beautifully, and I sang like a beast. That's all there is to it.

Oh - you need more detail? Okay - here goes.

We get back to the residence later that evening (Wednesday) and got there in time to wait for an hour just outside where they were having dinner (this was the last event of a long celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Marshall plan), and where we would sing in a minute. Long lines of servant-types going in and out with food and drinks tried to mke us nervous, but hah! We foiled them.

THEN - we get introduced by Connie Morella (U.S. Ambassador to OECD) and walk into this room -

Morella hypes us up, big-time, and Vivien (our great friend who set this up) talks about the songs we will sing. We then launch into "La vie en rose" and the song we were supposed to do "One Song." This one was really the whole point of the trip, and they had cards printed up for it, and everything. We were in great synch and I sang my heart out for this piece. It went over very well, I must say.

We were originally told that they MAY want one more after that, so we planned on a German operetta piece - Dein ist mein ganzes Herz. Great show-stopper. They definitely wanted more, so we launched into it and knocked it out of the freaking ballpark. It was great.

We leave the room on an absolute high. We did what we had come to do and we did it wonderfully, together - in a high-pressure situation. It was amazing.

THEN - we were taking a quick breather and looking to pack up, etc., when the U.S. Ambassador's assistant came out and said "The Ambassador wants more!"

This will remain one of the greatest moments of my life for a while, I think.

Unfortunately, of course - we hadn't prepared anything! We weren't sure we'd be able to do all three we'd put together, and now we had to perform some more opera arias picking relatively random things out of the book I happened to have to hand - in front of big-time state dept. people!

What fun.

Of course - we still kicked ass, and they gave us a standing ovation after we finished two more arias... but MAN was that harrowing. We didn't do AS good a job on the last two bits (I forgot some words, and we didn't stay together as well as we would if we had actually practiced them at all), but we still sounded solid... which under the circumstances is amazing, I think.

Then we went back to the hotel, got some food at out, and crashed like mad.

Oh yeah - did I mention that they were so impressed they asked us to come back the next day for a wine-tasting they were having at the residence? And that we were too cool to go?

Living the life, man...

La Vie parisienne, Troisième acte

Now... about the more fun stuff in Paris itself.

One quick thing I have to mention. Bizarrely, and for no good reason for the first few days, we did not actually get any French food. Our first meal was Lebanese. Then we had Greek and then we had Italian...

It wasn't until after our performance that we actually got to a traditional French restaurant. And that one was somewhat disappointing (food-wise, at least - it was perfect, atmospherically). This isn't to say that we did not eat well and often. We had some great meals and some wonderful times out everywhere we went. The only issue we had was the one time we really tried to do something special. We set up a reservation at the famed and historic Procope cafe, after it was recommended from a reputable source (which will go unnamed). However - when we went there the service was dreadful and we got stuck at a table with four other people! Not very romantic for our one big dinner out in Paris.

So we just left. Screw those stuffy French jerks. We found a much friendlier and more intimate place a few blocks up and had a great time. Probably had just as good food, as well.

This was our first free day. After we finally woke up and got out and around we went to go see some nearby sight and completely stumbled upon the Musée national du Moyen Âge and had a lovely time looking at amazingly old things like this -

And this -

This was the most amazing thing about staying right in the Latin Quarter. Not only did I continually feel like singing stuff from "La boheme" (and I did - I hope Kathleen liked it), but you walk out of your hotel and two steps later you are near something amazing.

After that, we were about spent and needed more rest, food, etc. The next day was the big one.

Friday we got up early, feeling awake and alive for once. This was our chance to get all the big Paris sights in. We got to the Louvre just as it opened... and boy were we glad we did. Not only does that place get crowded - but you would need at least a week to see half of the place and appreciate it even a little. It truly is worthy of the reputation it has. The hype does not do it justice. We spent half the day there and barely scratched the surface, really. But we saw the big things a little (got annoyed with the Mona Lisa crowd - especially since the large groups basically ignore the French and lowlands painters. Crazy. This room of Rubens was unbelievable.

I need to find a book about that series of paintings.... it was probably my favorite part of the museum.

This one is fairly representative -

This Caravaggio was one of Kathleen's favorites -

And she loved this Rembrandt -

One more post should get us through the rest of our trip....

La Vie parisienne, Quatrième acte

To wrap this up (mercifully). We then ran around to some of the Paris highlight spots - Notre Dame, Champs-Élysées, l'Arc de Triomphe, Angelina's (unbelievable hot chocolate - good lord!)

We were not able to go inside Notre Dame - but we'll do that next time. Also, Kathleen was bummed that we missed out on the inside of the Saint Chappelle. Oh well... we really only had the one day to get in all of the big cool thins in Paris and we were not going to kill ourselves. By the time we got to the end of the Champs-Élysées and saw the Arc - we were about burned out. More food was needed. This one really fun lady on our street had been harassing us all week to come into her restaurant, especially after she saw Kathleen looking beautiful in her lovely gown for the performance evening (I would like to think My tux helped get attention, but Kathleen stole all eyes). We finally relented that last evening - and were very happy we did - it was the best meal we had all week! We both had great meals, and Kathleen decided to fall off of the gluten-free wagon for an evening... because one can't go to Paris and forsake bread, and all suchlike things completely, can one!??!

We had a nice, romantic, lovely evening there and had a beautiful time later with more Boheme in our Garret in the Latin Quarter. A good final evening.

Then we got up, had a quick (wonderful) Parisian breakfast and ran out to the airport - ready for our long, long trip home. And now we have a couple of days off to de-compress. Lovely.

And that is ONE way to do Paris. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it - but we had a great time. I'd do it again, for certain.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Since You've Been Gone

Yes, it's the official Kelly-Clarkson-title-inspired, welcome-home-Wiggins post. Here are some of the highlights from the week you missed while you were off singing for important people in France.

  • Justin Verlander through a no-hitter. Not only that, but he delivered a 102-mph fastball to the last batter of the game. That's pretty sick. Oh, and I suppose this means I have to give up talk about his impending drop off.

  • Going to the opposite end of the "no hitter" spectrum, if certain allegations can be believed... Elijah Dukes further poised himself to take prospect flame outs to a whole new level. This story is so bizarre that I don't even know how to comment. Despite his incredible baseball skills, it's impossible -- even for me -- to be a fan of the guy at this point.

  • The Cal-Irvine Anteaters take the field Saturday night for their first ever College World Series game. Their jerseys say "Eaters". Awesome.

  • The Marlins honored the 1997 World Series champions this week. On Thursday night, they even wore turn back the clock jerseys. While the players didn't like them (apparently), they looked pretty cool:

  • In light of the above, I think the Marlins should bring back at least one jersey that incorporates some teal. It could be an alternate jersey of some sort.
  • FIU hired Turtle Thomas, a former long time Miami assistant, as their new baseball coach. Mark the day... Turtle will help the FIU program, which will hurt the state's traditional baseball powers. How much is still up for debate. What's also still up for debate is how long it will take controversy and/or probation to land on FIU's campus. Those things usually follow Thomas as well.

That's all I know. Not much else exciting happened. I hope Paris was awesome (well, speaking of that, there was a lot of Paris Hilton news, but I'm not getting into that... unless you stayed at the Paris Hilton... then we'd have some cool stuff to talk about I suppose).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bonds Hits 747

I think the SFGate moved the image location, but I finally found it. Looks like I may need to update the previous homers.

Man, it's been a long time since Barry homered. And he's been hobbling around the OF, looking absolutely nothing like the former Gold Glover that he is. I'm hoping that last night's homer gets him going again.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

I Have a Dream

The Yankees tank badly this year - Steinbrenner gives up control to someone who overreacts and does even dumber moves, and the team goes in the tank for the foreseeable future. We have years of Yankee darkness. How delicious.

ARod has to leave right? He is bound for Chicago or Anaheim next year, a huge contract and more fun freak-out shit. I can't wait.

So far, this all seems not only plausible, but semi-likely, if you ask me - but here is the real fun part - if this all comes to pass... Does Jeter stick it out to the bitter end? Or does he go elsewhere? Where could he go?

I can only think of one likely destination - playing second base for the Mets, in a last ditch attempt to win another ring. He can't leave New York... the Mets are set up to win for a few years, and that infield would be sick. He can justify leaving if Torre is gone as well, I would imagine (which he would be).

How do you think the ever-so-faithful Yankee fans would react to that? I hate press conferences, but I would pay to watch that one.