Wednesday, July 17

I score 3 frogs, have a religious experience involving pastry, and manage to lock myself out of my apartment.

Routine day yesterday. Nothing astounding to report. More grammar and phonetics and a lecture on immigration to France over the centuries titled "Les Visages de France". A rhythm has been established in my life here that's not all that different from when I was working in Chicago, except I'm a student, and it's Paris. Yes, even living in Paris eventually becomes "routine".

It's getting hotter here. The weather is the same day after day. No rain. High temps in the upper 70s or lower 80s but not very humid. Quite comfortable with no air conditioning. The apartment is surprisingly cool, especially with the window open.

I almost never eat at restaurants. There's so much good take-out in the neighborhood that I don't bother. I shop for my food and household supplies every day, usually hitting 3 or 4 stores to get what I need, usually a trip down and back up the Mouf.

The week is for work, the week-ends are for play, just like a normal person. The Tour de France ends this weekend, with the final circuits up and down the Champs Élysées on Sunday evening. That should be fun. I may also try to get out to Versailles to see the gardens.

Been here almost a month now. I think my rent will be due soon for next month.

About "routine". The lecturer on Monday said that most Parisians have never visited either the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe. If you can do it any time you want, there's no reason to do it today, because you can always do it tomorrow, so you end up never doing it. And they wouldn't be caught dead on a Bateau Mouche, as he pointed out. It's like how I live in Chicago, but I've never gone up to the top of the Sears Tower (or whatever they call it now).

Even the funny money is routine now. I hardly ever fumble around all that much with the coins any more.

When I get back home I really need to start thinking seriously about major changes to my life there. I need to get out of the suburbs and back down into the city in a nice walkable neighborhood where I don't need a car to get a loaf of bread. Or at least over in downtown Evanston. My daughter Andrea lives in a very nice neighborhood on the north side of the city and I've always envied her "routine" there. I hate cars. Every minute spent in a car is a minute of your life that has been wasted that you'll never get back. Aside from the astounding beauty surrounding me here in Paris, it's that part of the "routine" here that I like the most.

Test tomorrow in phonetics and another dictée on Friday in grammar class. Lots of studying to do.

We were discussing our homework yesterday. We had to complete the phrase "une tranche de ...". "tranche" means "slice". So the most obvious answer is something like "une tranche de jambon", a slice of ham. I dislike the obvious, so I said "une tranche de vie", a slice of life. Today the prof brought in a comic book that tells the story of how a slice of ham is made from the pig's point of view. It was titled "Une tranche de vie". Cute.

Quelle urgence. Locked both my keys and my cell phone in my apartment. Borrowed a phone to call my landlord. Left a message. I do have my iPad with me, so I have email, but that's all. Asked him to get in touch with me that way. At La Contrescarpe with un café and the pad waiting for a message. Wish me luck.

Still no word. Sitting outside apartment waiting. Good thing that the building wifi works out here. How very stupid of me, but all too typical. Not a total disaster because I could always rent a hotel room for the night. I have my money, credit card, and passport on me. But such an inconvenience.

5:15 and still sitting here. I suppose it's nice to know now that I've verified it that it is not possible to open my window from the outside without the aid of heavy machinery. Today had to be the day that I remembered to close and lock that stupid window.

My landlord sent email. He's on holiday but his assistant Baptiste will be here at 9 PM to let me into the apartment. A relief. It's almost 7 PM already. I think I'll go get a beer.

Kronenbourg 50 cl at Rollin's Pub on the corner. Feeling no great pain. 50€ to get Baptiste to come let me in. Worth it at this point.

Baptiste came on time and let me in. No problem. Good timing because pad was down to 10% battery power. We talked for a few minutes. I showed him my 3 frogs essay and he said I write very well. Was impressed by my use of the subjunctive. I told him I had dictée and everything, "je suis à college" (I'm in junior high). He laughed. All's well that ends well.

From now on I'm never going to take my keys out of my pocket except to open my door, and I'm never going to leave the apartment without my cell phone. Lessons learned.

Baptiste a ri quand j'ai dit que c'était bon marché. (Baptiste laughed when I told him that 50 euros was a good deal.) He called it the usual "prize" they require for this kind of service. That cracked me up. We talked half in French and half in English, each with our own badly mangled version of "franglais". Baptiste is one the nicest Parisians I've met. He also laughed when I said that my essay was "de l'eau à rose" (sappy).

Un très bien et trois grenouilles! Not bad. I made several mistakes, but they were fairly minor ones with prepositions, details inside idiomatic expressions, and things like that. Prepositions are extremely difficult (à, de, dans, sur, par, pour, ...) For each verb and kind of expression you have to learn which prepositions are used with it. If you don't know, guessing often doesn't work. For example, I wrote "des joueurs au tennis" when it should be "des joueurs de tennis", "faire le bruit" instead of "faire du bruit", and so on.

With the verb jouer (to play), "au" is correct: Je joue au tennis (I play tennis). But with the noun joueur (a player), "de" is correct: Je suis un joueur de tennis (I am a tennis player). I knew the former, but not the later. Difficult. Most dictionaries aren't much help unless they give an example isomorphic to what you're trying to write or say.

Now that I've got three frogs, I'm wondering if it's possible to get 4.

Question: Are a large quantity of frogs called a herd, a school, a gaggle . . . ? Answer: If they're cooked, a pie.

Today's treat is called "une religieuse au chocolate", most likely named that because eating it is a religious experience. I'm back on my bench at the Arènes using the pad.

A group of kids led by a teacher just passed by. Every single one of them gave my religieuse the fish eye and smiled at me.

Down on the floor of the Arènes two teams of kids are playing a great game. Each kid has to run out to the Wallace fountain with a balloon and fill it with water, then run back and empty the balloon into a bucket, and hand off the now empty ballon to the next member of his team to repeat the process. The first team to fill its bucket wins. Looks like fun. They're certainly yelling like it's fun.