Saturday, September 16, 2006


The last thing to go in the carry-on bags are the two French phrase books, very nifty pictures, entirely useless for anything other than a drink coaster for booze on the plane.

Both purport to contain great heaps of everyday phrases the average American traveler might use. I hope I do not run into the person whom the editors seem to think has a burning, constant need to announce "I would like to order the brains." I also enjoyed "Do not lean out of the window."

Pronunciations are an issue; the French equivalent of the average English phrase can take years. Both guide books contain "emergency phrases", but the structure's very language seems designed to bounce Americans off the morass of vowels and apostrophes: "Does anyone here speak English?" is "Est-ce qu'il y a quelqu'un ici qui parle anglais?" By the time you gut that one out, the E. coli has spread to the farthest reaches of your spleen.

Josh The Pilot is kinda-sorta-formerly fluent, so he tried to help me with my pronunciation, which went about as well as my first day of driver's ed, only with fewer mass injuries.

"Bonjour," he said.


"No. You're pausing too much. Slide it together. Bonjour."


"Now you're not pronouncing all the vowels."

"I said it just the way you said it!"

"You did not."

"I did!"

"Try it again."


"Okay, that'll get you dragged behind the Louvre and killed."

"Eh, just as well."

orange sorbet served in an orange is orange givree, write it down at:

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Guest Star

I've made Josh The Pilot a blog admin so that he can post new material while I'm causing international unrest in France. Which means... Ask Josh The Pilot, Volume V!

Go ahead and post your questions here. He'll answer them throughout the week, as well as updating you on the string of the offended as I stomp across Europe.

There should be plenty to talk about. I found an international phone card at Walgreen's today while desperately gathering chocolate for the plane, because I've somehow formed this notion that Europe doesn't have certain necessities of life I enjoy here in the U.S., like ballpoint pens, or pillows, or water, or Mr. T.

Kit-Kats and a trash bag of hairbands: That should make it all better.

tennis socks in Paris at:

Thanks To Anonymous, Deux

Two very kind Anonymouses (Anonymii?) have helped me with the day-to-day running costs of this site. I don't know who you are, but I do know one thing: Y'all ROCK.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Eggs, It's Time For Your Close-Up

Business Trip! To! France! countdown continues. I packed today. All the fluorescent tube tops, into the suitcase! Tshirts with enormous American flags and the words "IF YOU DON'T LOVE IT, YOU CAN JUST GIT OUT" emblazoned over the boobs, carefully folded! Bedazzled fanny packs, packed packed packed! France will love me.

As part of my preparation, I got a Rick Steves DVD from Netflix. Have you met Rick? Rick has a website entitled "Europe Through the Back Door." That's pretty much all you need to know about Rick.

In the DVD, delicately scored by a porn soundtrack specialist, Rick stomped around Paris in the world's most unironed pants, arming himself with the most unattractive people in all of France to plop next to in various cafes. This appalled me, but not as much as when one of my friends pointed out that these could very well be the most attractive people he found.

Rick also enjoyed parlez-ing at various wincing farmers and winemakers, hauling them away from their livlihoods to give him and his wrinkled mass of Dockers directions. Oh, and he bought some apples and included, as part of his coverage of the most important aspects of the entire nation and culture of France, an extremely detailed, unnarrated sequence on the construction of an omelet.

The most important thing about France to remember, Rick says, is that we are "not to judge" and that we must "absorb, accept, and learn." Because that's exactly how Europe feels about America! He winds this up with the cheerful announcement that while Americans may have heard that the French are rude, he's found that's not the case, and anyone can find nice people in Paris "if you really look." Which must be true, if he made it out of the country without being severely beaten and bartered for further apples. Sorry 'bout Rick, France.

you got any of that european money at:

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I almost got kicked out of Barnes & Noble the other day. So now you know what I do for fun on the weekends.

The other Twentysomething Authors and I have developed a tradition of alerting one another how the Formerly SuperSecretDoubleProbation Project is displayed in our local bookstores, complete with pictures. Thanks to an alert from Friendboy Andy, I found us in a Swamp Barnes & Noble, not only in the Essay Section, forced to rub up against Anna Quinlin, but, like, out there. On The Table.

You know The Table. The "New Releases" table. It's right when you walk in the door, before the Starbucks and the bathrooms. Wow. I'm on The Table, you guys. One of the other authors took a picture of it at a B&N in New York City:

But it was even better here in The Swamp, because not only were we on The Table, we were... elevated on a shelf, standing up on the table, proclaiming our love for attention. We were the Tom Cruise of the literary world, and Barnes & Noble was our couch!

So I took a picture of us, standing up on The Table.

This apparently violated B&N's Lame People With Cameras Law, because the manager ran up all, "Ma'am? Ma'am, you can't do that in here."

First of all, okay... not so much with the ma'am. And also, I wasn't humping the table, I was taking a picture of it. So by way of explanation, I pointed at Twentysomething Essays and announced, "That's my book."

Ah, no, he could out-dork me. "Well. Barnes & Noble has a very strict policy regarding our displays."

Be-- because they were so mind-blowingly creative in the way they'd stacked the books on a table? I apologized meekly and slunk away to spend three hours doing research in the Writing Reference section without buying anything instead of the usual four. At least he didn't rip the film out of the casing.

Meanwhile, at Border's, my mother was fixing her Official Teacher Glare upon a salesclerk who was tapping away on a computer and not finding Twentysometing Essays or anything like it.

"Never heard of it," he sniffed.

"My daughter is in that book," she said stiffly. "I wanted to buy five copies."

"We should bring her in for a signing," he suggested.

"Well, that would be kind of hard to do without books, wouldn't it?"

My mom is awesome, y'all.

very strict policy at:

Monday, September 11, 2006


Mostly, I remember the running. North from the World Trade Center, to the phone, out of the Capitol, into burning buildings.

Today I ran too. The parking lot near the University of Airplane's memorial service was too full too early, so I had to run. Past the flagpole, the students heading to the flightline, over the grass. I made it just in time for taps, the ROTC cadets with their hands at their backs, some of them who were still in grade school on the day it happened, some of them off to the desert in a matter of months.

In the student union, where Josh the Pilot saw it all unfold as a sophomore, the same television set was broadcasting footage from the day it happened. I sped up as I walked by; it was one thing to watch it happen as it happened. It was quite another to watch it happen as it happened knowing full well that it was just going to get worse.

The President's face as he sat before a grade school class arrested me. I stopped, watching Andy Card lean over the schoolchair in which he sat. He looked so young. Everybody looked so young.

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