The World According to Me

The World According to Me is a play on one of my favorite novels, "The World According to Garp," by one of my favorite authors, John Irving. While I am not nearly the writer Irving is, I hope that my musings will offer a unique perspective on life. If nothing else, I have something to look back on when dementia kicks in.

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Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Friday, May 19, 2006

Gay Paris

The Mrs. and I took a well-needed vacation to Paris this past weekend. With her job winding to an end and school drawing near its finish, we cashed in a chunk of miles and headed across the pond. I had never been to Paris and was a little nervous about how we would be received. The French in general and Parisians in particular have a reputation for not holidng Americans in the highest esteem. Nevertheless, I try not to judge anyone or anything until I have some experience of my own.

We had a wonderful time. I dare say it was the most pleasant travel experience I've had. From the transportation to lodging to ease of getting around and friendliness, we couldn't have been more pleased.

Our old friend Larry Milner is in the midst of a three-month soul-searching journey through Europe. Having just jumped out of a plane in Interlaken, Switzerland, the day before, he met us in Paris on Friday afternoon, posing as our Cousin Larry (the hotels keep close tabs on who is entering each room).

Stationed in the Latin Quarter, we maneuvered through Paris with ease, walking nearly everywhere. The few places we wanted to go that were beyond our ability to walk were easily reached via the subway system (which, incidentally, was simple to use and relatively clean). We started out at the Notre Dame and walked to the nearby Jewish area called the Mareis. After a lovely Shabbat dinner we retired to our room and had a needed night's rest.

Saturday was spent at the Louvre, which was fantastic because I was in the middle of reading The Da Vinci Code (which I finished on the plane ride home). It's an overwhelmingly humongous museum, not easily navigated I might add, but breathtaking. We then walked around a bit and came back to the hotel for a nap. Waking up in time for dinner at a lovely cafe a few streets from the Eiffel Tower, we then stood in line for about an hour until we could make it up the quintessential French edifice. It stays light until 9:45 or 10 at night so we were able to see the Paris nightfall atop the Tower -- what a magnificent view!

We left and headed back to the Latin Quarter where we met up with Larry and a few of his friends. I don't have enough room to explain how he knew everyone, but suffice it to say it was a motley crew. We spent the better part of the evening at a terrific jazz club, where we enjoyed great wine and better company. It was the perfect way to spend a Saturday night. Most of the tunes were American (jazz, after all, is an American genre) so we sang along with Mario, this wonderful and young Italian baritone.

Since we didn't get to bed until 3:30 or 4 in the morning we decided to sleep in a little on Sunday. When we awoke, we headed to the Musee D'orsay, housing among other items, a premier pre-impressionist and impressionist collection. Mrs. E's favorite artist is Degas (especially his famous ballerinas) so we got our fill of him and Van Gogh, Monet, and others. It was great and luckily Mrs. E had to go to the bathroom while we were waiting to get in so we avoided the really long entrance line. (Helpful hint #1: If you're ever in a really long line, approach the security guard and inform him of your about-to-explode blatter. Helpful hint #2: You should be of the female persuasion for helpful hint #1 to work.) We went to the world famous Moulin Rouge for the "Vegas Show" part of our trip. It was maddeningly expensive and exceedingly cheesy, but fun nonetheless.

Monday we decided would be our shopping day. We took the subway to the Arc de Triomphe, which serves as the center of Paris and the top of the Champs Elysees, where some of the finest (and most expensive) shops in the world are. We had a good time just going in and not buying anything, although Mrs. E did get a new Longchamp bag for her new job when we got back to the Latin Quarter. It was one of the few things in France less expensive than in America. We spent the evening sitting at a cafe, drinking wine (coke for the Mrs.) and reading our respective novels. It's something that is classically European and not done in the US, unfortunately.

Tuesday morning we took off bright and early for the airport. Paul, a lovely Parisian who picked us up from Charles De Gaulle, offered to bring us back. He firmly believes that the French citizenry dislikes Jacque Chirac more than Americans hate George Bush. We got a good chuckle out of that.

Anway, it was a perfect little vacation and I would recommend Paris to anyone.


Saturday, May 06, 2006

What does community mean?

I think I discovered my role in communal obligation this past week in two forms.

On Sunday, members of my family (several of whom traveled cross country) and I demonstrated on the National Mall in Washington, DC, denouncing the genocide currently tearing apart Sudan's western region of Darfur. Taking time out of my busy life seems easy when compared to the destitution facing the men, women, and children of that land. Listening to the religious leaders, program organizers, politicians, and other invited speakers urge our political institutions to take action, I couldn't help but feel at once both a sense of pride and despair. Our voices, while being heard, were alarmingly small in number. Yes, the issue of the day appears to be immigration -- and that is certainly important. But is there are more pressing concern in our world than that ugly "g" word -- genocide? I think not. Jews clearly took the most active and vocal role in the proceedings. It was impossible to walk anywhere in downtown Washington that morning without seeing a t-shirt or sign identifying the synagogue or movement with which a rally-goer was affiliated. We bear a responsibility to ensure that when we say "never again," we include all people, not just our own. But where were the other groups? Why were not large sums of Blacks, Muslims, and others present? My untrained eyes estimate that over half of those present (and I've heard others guess more) were Jewish. When we make up just 1.5% of the American population, I find it sad that others don't join in our commitment. But we shall fight on.

Late Wednesday night I was speaking with a friend who informed me of a tragic incident. A guy my age, whom I know through several friends, was in the midst of probably the most painful few days of his life. His paternal grandparents died just hours apart from one another. The day of the funeral, while sitting shiva, his father -- choking on a piece of food -- had a heart attack and died. The story left me speechless. It also left me wondering what I should do. I know Seth -- not well, but I know him. One of my close friends grew up with him, his wife also grew up with my best friend's wife -- I've become friendly with him over the years. I wasn't sure if I should attend the funeral (although since he grew up in Westchester, I'd only have a leave work for a few hours). I asked a few people, including Judaic teachers at school, and they suggested that not only could I go, but I should go -- it's a mitzvah. Still, I must admit that as I drove into the synagogue parking lot I felt a little uneasy. How would my presence be received? Not only had I never met Seth's father, I didn't even know the man's name (by the way, it's Jay). But then it struck me. As I walked toward Seth and Karen and saw how comforted they were to see me, I understood that the funeral is not about the person who died. Its purpose is primarily (at least the way I look at it) for the mourners. That I never knew Seth's father was irrelevant.

I'm starting to understand community a little better now.