Friday, November 30, 2012

George' Documentary Film -for Duncan Phillips.

I am sending this tribute of George Harrison to the friends and family of Duncan Phillips born Dec. 7, 1982... who died tragically last Tuesday November 27, 2012.   I can not forget my sweet and tormented days among you all, when we stormed "the boards" in San Francisco, Duncan just a lad.   We weep and still we know that Duncan is "safe" now.  Rest in Peace my young red headed "little man".

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fifty + Years ago....a day in my life

When I was a teenager I belonged to a vibrant community Congregationalist church whose minister was inspired and inspiring.    I remember him well and the various guest speakers he invited to our church. 

 One of these and the most revered was Dr. Martin Luther King who came to our modest church to preach both sermons and spend time with the family of our pastor,  Fred Doty.   On that day, January 15, 1961,  Dr. King also spoke at the nearby Canoga Park High School which was the rival to my Taft High.   It was his birthday. 
It all came about because Fred ( we were pretty informal in that church) had stayed up all night reading King's Stride Toward Freedom, The Montgomery Bus Boycott Story and was so moved by it that he immediately made a call to Dr. King to thank him and extend an invitation to come to the San Fernando Valley.  

 As it turned out the visit could not be accomplished until the following year but Dr. King did come and spoke to not just our church but a near capacity audience from our community.  
At the time I knew that he was a great man because of the dialogue at home and the way we had been brought up all of our lives, but I did not know what was to follow with integration in America or how Dr. King's life would tragically end only 7 years later. 

 I realize now that I was to meet one of the great visionaries of the previous century, a kind and committed man whose hand I got to grasp that day.  

The speech that Dr. King delivered to the community was called "The Future of Integration".     Here is the article from Canoga Park High School  

The Speech can not be found on You Tube but is archived and can be accessed from the bottom of the article.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dr. David Aouizerat/ Chirurgien, Dentiste

My French Dentist, Dr David Aouizerat

Well I can't say I like going to the dentist,  but it's gotten a whole lot better since I came to Nice.   It is a pleasure to walk in the door at 19 Rue Gubernatis  (Telephone: 04-93-37-07-37) to see Dr. David Aouizerat and his able assistant, Laura Farina.  

Laura Farina
  About six months ago I was advised to have gum surgery and I took the punt that Dr. David was my man.    I was a little leery because I had had this same surgery in Nice a few years earlier for the same fee, but the results had not been successful.  

With Dr. Aouizerat, I felt immediately that I was in good hands and agreed to go ahead.   He explained his new procedure using my own blood to nourish the tissue ( much thicker tissue taken from the roof of the mouth) before transplanting it.   He showed me what he would do and how he would do it.     And now I can say that this time the surgery was a success and the tissue will continue to grow to cover that "long in the tooth" problem that some of us are prone to.    

Always one for prevention, Dr David first gives a thorough lesson on care which includes, picks, oxygenated water , floss etc etc.  I have never had such a clean and sparkling mouth as I do now. 

I also love going to the "cabinet" because he has devotedly renovated an art nouveau apartment and with great taste.  It boasts a tulip frieze around the ceiling that you can stare out while you sit gaping in the chair and graceful stained glass windows from the former era.

But now the lab is twenty- first century to the nth degree.  Dr. David relies heavily on his Mac and the up to the minute technology.  He can show you every tooth on the screen in front of you, the before and after pictures on his i-phone, and he can see every conceivable angle of a tooth while he is working on it.     

Dr David in the office

And we can thank the gods for the new x-ray equipment that scans your mouth without the horrible cotton pads that used to make me gag.  And for a single tooth x-ray , there is the easily accommodated cardboard casing which you hold in place for a second.  Good dentistry is all a lot more comfortable than even a few years ago. 

X ray scanner

As an experienced surgeon , Dr. David is prepared for all dental needs and has a room built capable of being hermetically sealed for implanting teeth.  There is a special air filter and  flooring conceived to prevent any dust .  The room opens with an automatic gate so he need not touch it while entering with sterilized gloves and clothing.  The lighting and air filter are like those in a hospital, all to keep the room sterile.  

 And this extra room is where you can "patienter" to have your teeth whitened which is the fashion these days for all of us coffee and wine drinkers.  The French don't go in for "refrigerator" white like the Americans, but your "bouche" can look a lot better when the treatment is finished.  

Implantation room

The doctor at ease.

 Dr David 
I could give you stories of other patients who are impressed by his  competence with root canals or about his ability to sculpt inlays like a fine jeweler but I say you should go and see for yourself how talented a man he is.  

And it doesn't hurt that he has a sense of humor and looks vaguely like a young James Caan either.  

James Caan in his early days

Monday, November 5, 2012

French coffee bars and cafes

Cafe de Flore, Paris
Let's talk about French cafes and coffee bars.

I have to say that in general coffee bars in Nice took me some getting used to.   One doesn't find the same warm ambiance or the same quality of coffee even(Malongo excepted) that one finds in Paris, Seattle or Milan and we are one of the largest French cities.     

Grand Cafe de Lyon, Nice

 And those iconic Parisian cafes which we see featured in all the old films.... have all but disappeared since I have lived here.  
Le Grand Cafe de Lyon on Jean Medecin is the only Parisian style cafe left in Nice and the high price for a cup includes the privilege of sitting along the tramway to "people watch".

  The rest of the ourdoor coffee house on Jean Medecin have been replaced in the last couple of years by grotty little snack bars with picnic chairs and sad looking baguette sandwiches and sodas.

No, the cafes that are here are hardly along the lines of  Les Deux Magot or Cafe Flore or other "Parisien" landmarks,  but a few of them do have character.  

 My favorite coffee bar with charm is off the Zone Piéton on rue Massenet and was started by Italians.   Even here there is a big tv wide screen with it's incessant MTV offering.   (What... do merchants think...that we will perish if we are allowed to think our own thoughts.)  But the coffee is fine and it is a quiet enough place to read or chat with a friend and the waiters are attentive.  

Many restaurants have a nice quiet time to have a cup of coffee between meal serving times , but the most frequented coffee bars are located in a square where one can watch the world go by.  Usually for the establishment to afford the space,  lunch or other offerings are on the "carte".

The background music is often a deterrent for me in the Nicois coffee bar.  Virgin Records is unreliable if you don't want acid rock or Mongolian folk songs with your java even though they have a nice eating area on the top floor.   For music stores I prefer the bar in FNAC in Nice as they have a more bookish atmosphere and you are less likely to have raucous music to contend with.  ( There are even free public toilets there which is a rare find. )  

  I am not unduly fond of Seattle's Starbucks but the chain has some attractions that other American cafes have followed: American coffee houses have the coziness factor which means comfortable chairs; a warm welcoming, non smoking atmosphere;  subtle but decent music ;  and no wide screen on the wall.  It helps that friendly young people serve the coffee as well.

The thing that stands out for me about local coffee bars in Nice is that they are not conducive to lingering.  One feels very exposed as opposed to enclosed.  

   What you will get here in France are cafe tables a few inches from one another and variations of the straight backed chair.   If you don't like ambient smoke,  better to go inside with the wide-screen.   There will be no armchair to loll in while you log onto wifi.    There will be no feeling of privacy for a conversation.

But if you are immersed in the culture over here, you wouldn’t even like American coffee bars.  Many of them would feel too soft, too personal, and way too commercial.  

 And if you want to enjoy a cigarette alone, to pause over a cup of coffee and watch the square ,  French cafes are perfect.  They have an old world authenticity to them.

 It's "horses for courses".

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Half and Half

  Having just come back from Seattle where coffee is king and everyone knows the name and life story of his local barista,  I acquired the habit of going some mornings for coffee with my sister.   At Vita's place I ordered an "Americana" coffee:  a  "grande" composed of two shots of espresso.   (Americans have adapted the Italian names for coffee drinks thanks to Starbucks, a company started in Seattle. ) 

 In my case,  one shot of coffee I ordered was decaffeinated and one was real.    Here is what happened when I tried the same thing the other day in Nice.

For good coffee,  I vote Malongo,  a Niçois success story. 
 I vote for Malongo as the best brand in France, an excellent coffee with a water processed de-caf on offer.  

Since the Malongo coffee bar in Nice is right next to the Notre Dame Cathedral , my friend Roge and I decided to stop and have a cuppa.

And it is here that we encountered another example of the famous "can't do"  attitude which is cultural difference number 117.   

Here is the conversation I had ( in french, of course)  with the server .

"Can you bring me a shot of decaf and a shot of real coffee together as one ?"

 Server: "Let me understand,  he wants a coffee and you want a decaf?"

"No, I want two shots but in the same cup?  Half and Half, one decaffeinated and one real coffee.  He wants a cappuccino.

(Look of stupification from the server... slow shaking of the head, hand over the mouth. )

"No,  it's simple I want two shots but in one cup with some room for cream."

FRench man leaning over from another table: " It's easy .  It's done all of the time elsewhere. You simply put two "dossettes" into one cup. "

Server:  (With a doubtful look)  Well, I will go and ask.  Server walks away.

I turn to the stranger and say:   Can't one do this in France?  What's the problem.?   It's possible , right?  

 French Stranger:  " Yes, of course it's possible but you must have a willingness ( bonne volonté)! ( he laughs) The French have difficulty with this.   But it is not difficult just have to want to . " ( shrugs and shakes his head.) 

Well, our two coffees came according to our order and they were a whopping 9 euros.  Roge kindly left her a "tenner".  

On the way out the waitress smiled happily like a child who has taken her first step.   

  Me:  " Now you will remember me for next time , right? "
Server:   Ah oui, madame.  

But still , Malongo is a great coffee.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Squish Squash

 So Halloween has gone and I had no tricker treaters last eve.  I had promised three neighborhood kids who came last year that I would be prepared this time, but the rain probably got in their way and they didn't show up. 

 Luckily for the French celebration of Toussaint which is November 1st, Halloween "trick or treating" has not taken hold in France.   I say " luckily" because the day of Toussaint has long been held as a day to honor the ancestors and to visit the graveyard with the family.  I think any family celebration is a good thing and not to be undermined by the silly commercialism of Halloween.

 Since we have been in Nice though, Halloween decorations are appearing more and more in shop windows and there are more children's costume parties being held then ever before.  It seems to be sneaking up on the French.

The idea of Halloween puts me in mind of Jack-o-Lanterns and pumpkin.     Here in France we don't have all of the same varieties of squash as we have in America.  Over here we have the Potiron or Fairytale pumpkin but not our familiar carving pumpkin.

French Potiron 

 The French name of this squash is "Musquee de Provence." This FRench version of pumpkin is the one we think of for Cinderella's carriage.  Each rib makes a deep convolution and it is easy to cut in slices. 
The Fairytale Potiron is thick, tender, and the deep orange flesh is very flavored, sweet and firm.    To cultivate, it is  a 115 to 125 day pumpkin that takes a long time to turn it's cheddar color.   Its coach-like shape and color make it fine for decorating but not so fine for Jack-o-lantern carving.  
The potiron is usually used for baking but I use it by cutting it into chunks and steaming it and mixing it with a cooked yam to get a better texture.   It makes a great winter side dish.
Here are some pics I took in Eugene, Oregon while visiting with my family 

American Halloween Pumpkin Squash

Carnival Squash

Buttercup squash

Turban Squash

Corn on the cob

And then there is corn on the cob, an American tradition almost never found in French markets.  And when it is found, it is not "fresh picked" still in the husks.  What a shame that the vendors don't realize how much enjoyment is lost when the kernels are exposed.  If it isn't fresh picked that day , its too old.  Any American can tell you that. 

Ornamental Gourds

Ornamental gourds are just that, not edible but pretty in all their variation.  Middle class Americans are fond of decorating their houses or even their porches with Autumn bounty.  We did it even before Martha Stewart came around.  Don't ask me why except that we can't help it. Everything is just so gorgeous at this time of year.

Thistle Down Farms near Eugene Oregon

Friends of Thistledown

Another resident of Thistledown

"Romancing The Wind" - Ray Bethell

My friends have been urging me back to the keyboard after a long absence of not posting. I have been in America and am now back and getting back into the swing of things.

 To start off I want to introduce you to Ray Bethell from Vancouver and his particular form of balletic excellence.    What pleases me is that there is a Ray Bethell and a there was a Delibes and there will be many other originals to inspire us.

And thanks to Bruce Bethany who has sent me so many good ideas for postings.  I have no good excuses now not to get back at it.