Wednesday, December 21

Happy Holidays 2011!

Happy Holidays! Joyful Solstice! Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah! Joyeux Noel! Feliz Navidad! Glaedelig Jul! Seasons Greetings! Peace!

Another year has flown by, generally following the familiar and wonderful pattern of our lives over the last several years. Frequent and fun get togethers with friends and family. A great family spring break trip. Good jobs. Good health. We know that life offers no guarantees - which makes us all the more thankful that our lives continue to follow such a pleasant trajectory.

A tremendous highlight for us was a Spring Break trip to Paris. Madeline and Peter are both college graduates, but Madeline is a teacher, so we have retained the ability to plan a Spring Break trip. If my memory is correct, this is at least the sixth consecutive year that Kate has said this might be the last year that the kids will join us on a trip - so let's make it a good one. And we did. But I'm starting to think that if we keep funding the trip we might still be making family spring break trips decades from now. I hope that is true.

Paris is a magical place for us. And it was such fun to be in such a great city for art and wine and food and friends with our adult children. (There is much more description of our trip somewhere down the page - so I won't try to recreate it here).

Another highlight this year was a trip to California's wine country with our great friends Tom and Kathy Seymour.

It was such fun! Great wine. Great conversation and laughs. And it's the vacation that keeps on giving. Apparently we joined several wine "clubs" while we were there. So wine (and charge card bills) keep arriving at our door - even months after the trip.

We didn't get the opportunity to get dressed up and go dancing as a family at a "Train Party" wedding this year. But Kate and I did get the chance to go to Pennsylvania to see Kitty and Bob and attend Nick and Lindsay Albright's wedding.

Sadly, we did get dressed up as a family. But it was for the service for my mom, who died in August.

Alzheimers can be a cruel disease, and even in the best of circumstances it's never easy. Over the past years mom gradually lost her skills as a driver and then her exceptional skills as a cook and as a bridge player. But even to the last week of her life she didn't lose her personality and her joy in living. For that I am thankful. In an odd way (which I freely admit may just be a rationalization), I feel like the disease "distilled" in my mom her wonderful essential spirit as other aspects of her life fell away.

Even in this last photo of us together, I see the joy and spirit that I was lucky enough to have as such an important part of my life for the last 59 years. A life worth celebrating and trying to emulate.

Our other ancient mariner, Greta, is still hanging in there. The nerve signals from her brain no longer reach her back legs efficiently. But at 16, she's still part puppy (and part old woman).

As our only "child" still at home, she gets the royal treatment (at least from Kate, and sometimes even from me). She really is a wonder. She ignores any obstacle (including me if I am in her way) and always soldiers on.

We enjoyed lots of weekends at the cabin with friends, which are always fun. I love the fact that several have become annual traditions. Bird watching on Memorial Day. The Gang of Eight.

Labor Day. The Gang of Six. Such a great place to share with friends. We're so glad they keep coming back. And the wine and conversation on the porch only seems to get better.

This year Madeline and I made a trip to the Boundary Waters - in addition to my traditional spring and fall trips. It was three trips to this most wonderful of places for me. Marvelous. And such fun to experience with my daughter as well as with dear friends.

The kids grow up. Peter has a "for real" job in Minneapolis. Madeline is substitute teaching daily at Lincoln Elementary in Madison. Kate and I don't feel like we are growing old. The last year has been a good one indeed.

We all wish you the best this holiday season.

Happy holidays!

Stan, Kate, Madeline and Peter.

Monday, August 22

Mom - 1926 to 2011

One of the best people I've ever had the privilege of knowing died recently. My mother Carol. I thought I'd share a few photos of this wonderful woman.

Here she is as a one year old. I understand they cut her curls off for the photo.

I love this old sepia toned photo of mom.

A night out in Omaha with some friends.

The girl in the polka dotted dress.

Mom and Dad on their wedding day - June 24,1950.

Their first Chrismas card photo. Really a good looking, happy couple.

And then along came trouble - a baby with a nasty case of colic (me). I'm not sure that mom found parenting me lots of fun. Or any fun. I'm sure my dad got up to take this photo and went back to bed. I'm equally sure that mom acted with grace and love. She always did.

To me, the scariest of our posed family photos. The only fake smile I can remember in a life of smiles. This was a woman who smiled from her heart.

Second place in the scary photo contest.

With Mom at Linda's wedding.

One of my favorite family photos - taken on an Alaskan cruise to celebrate Mom and Dad's 50th anniversary. Straight smiles from the "nuclears" - wackiness from the rest.

A three generation fruit plate.

With Peter at his college graduation.

A laugh with Linda and me.

With her precious double cousins about a year ago.

A little over a month ago. She had lost her desire to eat much, but not her smile. That she never lost.

August 3rd.

The last photo I took of this wonderful woman - on the day she died. It took me a very long time to figure out that on that day her face didn't capture her lovely peace. It was her hands. Here's my attempt at a eulogy for mom - written to be read (haltingly, it turns out) at the service we had to celebrate her life:

Thank you for joining us today to celebrate the life of a wonderful person. She meant the world to me and to every member of our family. It means so much to us that you took the time to join us today. Our family would particularly like to thank the staff here at Edgewater, who we now think of not as the staff but as “our friends here at Edgewater.” Mom was treated, as Lila would say, “like she was the only one here” by the folks at Beacon Springs over the last two years. Their compassion and warmth and flexibility, particularly over the last two months, has been nothing short of amazing. They made it possible for Mom to deal with the physical challenges of the last months of her life with much of the same grace and warmth that she displayed so constantly over her nearly 85 years.

Linda, Bruce and I were raised by two remarkable people.

Our father Dale – or “Big Red” as I call him now. Intelligent. Logical. With the problem solving skills of an engineer. A lover of a good argument. (He would call them “discussions” but I would argue with that characterization.) Honest to the point of sometimes being a bit blunt. With an edgy sense of humor.

And Carol, whose life we are here to celebrate today. Kind. Warm. Happy. Rarely without a genuine twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face. If dad had the problem solving skills of an engineer, mom had the problem solving skills of a great counselor or minister. Friendly. Helpful. Loving.

These two were exceptionally good parents. Very different, but complementary. In my view particularly because of the fact that each of their children knew at the most fundamental level that they were loved, trusted and respected. Succeed or fail, I always knew that mom was there for me. Her love and affection have always been a constant, unquestioned part of my life. For a person like me who was a spectacularly unsuccessful athlete and awkward with girls, this was an enormous comfort. When I failed at something, I never thought it was because I wasn’t a valuable or worthwhile person. My mom’s presence in my life saw to that. Of course, that didn’t mean that dad wouldn’t remind you that your 8th grade football coach liked having you on the team because you were “fun to talk to.” Every month. For the rest of his life.

Mom was much gentler. More supportive. With a great sense of humor, but one that was never cutting or biting. Affectionate. Always there with a smile. And a laugh or a hug. She always knew, seemingly by instinct, what you needed. Even if you were a teenage boy and what you needed was food in large quantities.

There was one notable exception to her helpful, generous nature. That was when she was playing board games and cards. She always played within the rules but she always played to win.

Dad too. Ours was a competitive household when it came to games. No quarter asked for or offered. I don’t think dad would even let a child win at Candyland. If he drew Queen Frostine, to the top of the board he went. Of course he would only play Candyland once – quickly and correctly understanding that the game was determined once the cards were placed in a pile and the rest was just wasting time finding out who won. Mom would have quickly come to the same conclusion, but she played anyway. She might have even cut her grandchildren some slack in Candyland. But not in a game that required even a small modicum of skill. No one “let” anyone else win at games in our family. That is why so often the number of players among the five of us was limited to three. With Linda and Bruce sensibly developing “other interests.” For anyone who has played a game with me in their life, I apologize. But please blame my mom and dad.

Over the last seven years, Mom and I both habitually started our day by completing the four Jumbles in the newspaper. When I was stuck on a Jumble in the morning, it was fun to call mom. She would either have already solved it – in which case she would gently help me discover the answer myself with a clue or two – which hearkened back for me to her homework help in much earlier days. Or we would solve it together. She never called me to ask for help. I don’t know if that was because she never needed help or because she was unwilling to incur the vast cost of a long distance toll call for something so frivolous. Old habits die hard.

As the Alzheimer’s took a greater toll on her game playing skills, she turned more and more to Word Search puzzles. I think it is fair to say that she was a word search savant. In her word search world, you found the next word on the list, and then circled it with an almost military precision. No working ahead searching for subsequent words. In a puzzle with twenty words if I played by her rules – which I tried to do - I’d sometimes find one or two words before she did. And as I’ve already described, I was trying. She wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. And when I did find a word I sometimes wondered if she wasn’t letting up just a bit, like she might have with a grandchild at Candyland. In her honor, we included in your program a quick word search made up of words and phrases that for one reason or another we associate with mom.

Mom was always there to help. To help me. Or Mrs. Vollers, a retired teacher in Newton who needed some help and whose family lived elsewhere. Or Lela Shultz, her wonderful neighbor at Park Center. Or Tonya, the young woman from Belarus who mom and dad met on one of their international trips. Or dozens of other friends for whom she was always there. I always find it appropriate that mom and dad’s international travel was mostly with an organization called Friendship Force. To me, mom was a one woman Friendship Force.

All of us help others. But, at least for me, it’s sometimes out of a sense of duty. Or guilt. Mom truly felt the joy of giving. She was never “counting”, never helping for show or for credit. She loved and lived to be a help. A friend. As her Alzheimer’s advanced and she sometimes became what Kate aptly described as “pleasantly confused” – she still frequently told me slightly improbable stories in our phone calls describing how she had helped someone. In her heart, I’m sure she had.

Since dad died, when I’m trying to figure out why something doesn’t work, or how to solve a problem logically, I often say I’m “Channeling Big Red.” But for most of my life when I determine how to treat people and how to behave in the interactions that make up every day, I always try my best to emulate mom. I often fail. The behavioral standard she set is hard to reach. I suppose now I can call that trying to “Channel Carol”. No one could have a better role model.

From the day I was born until a week ago - every day of my life until now - I was lucky enough to be showered with the love and respect of this wonderful woman. A great mother. A friend. I love you, mom. And I’d like to say publicly from the very bottom of my heart the last words I said to you privately. Thank you.

Thursday, June 9

Wine Country

It's been an amazing last couple of months. Paris with the kids. The cabin with the boys. A Boundary Waters canoe trip. Memorial Day at the cabin, counting birds and eating. And now we find ourselves in California with our good friends the Seymours, tasting wine and enjoying ourselves.

One would think that I had almost no ability to spread these various trips and vacations out in a rational way. And one would be right. But what a nice flow to go with! We are staying in a great little bungalow in Calistoga.

Our tasting trips yesterday were great, each unique. Beginning with a elegant trip to Brown Estates - stunning wine, caves, lovely presentation. Just off the charts.

The experience was amazing. And it will have legs - just like the wine - since we agreed to have their wine shipped to the tundra four times a year.

Then it was on to Behrens Family Wineries (or whatever their name is today), for a tasting in a trailer.

Again, great wine. Presented with less elegance, but with a great sense of fun. They even feature wines for meat eaters like me.

And finally on to Dehlinger, where we were hosted by Carmen Dehlinger. This was a generous act on her part - she is being married on Saturday. I'm sure we'll attend.

And of course, after a day of wine there is one great way to end the day.

It's been a remarkably fun trip so far, and I'm sure that will continue. The one counterpoint is thoughts of home. Greta, whose back legs are weak in the first place, has had a problem with one of her front legs. It's healing fine and with Peter's care I'm sure that will continue.

The far more serious concern is my mom. She's had slowly advancing dementia for a long time. But she is in a great living situation and my sister Linda does a great job of seeing her regularly and ensuring that she is well cared for. Though her memory has weakened, her basic personality has remained much the same - as sweet and loving as always.

In the last couple of weeks a hiatal hernia (basically a problem where the esophagus meets the stomach) has reoccured and created lots of discomfort for her. She has found it difficult to eat. And with the dementia she tends to simply choose not to eat - ignoring the "big picture." Linda reports that she has even been a bit stubborn. Not her normal style. Of course, I'd be stubborn too if I had a stomach ache. But my mom's behavioral standards are so much higher than mine. Any good vibes for Carol are more than welcome. Alzheimer's is such a difficult disease. And no one deserves the best more than my mom.

We're off to continue the California saga. With joy and a little sadness in our hearts.


An up and down day for my mom yesterday - but it ended on a positive note from Linda and Claire.

As for the wine - nothing but positive notes. We had a marvelous time at the Biale vineyards.

Their wines are marvelous. Our host - a young man named Austin from all places Texas - was fun and informative. We sat on the deck in the late morning watching the fog burn off in the southern part of the Napa Valley. It's a pretty idyllic place.

We are certainly drinking wine. But not in any huge volume. Just great quality wine. Sipping and comparing and contrasting. Learning a bit. More about what we like than anything substantive about winemaking. Kate and I are now proud members of the Black Chicken Society. The photo of Kate above is just one small part of the secret handshake.

Today it's off to Stony Hill. And then to points as yet unknown.


Our exploration of the California wine country has continued to be amazing. Over the last couple of days we've tasted wine at wineries that were new to me - a couple of which were new to Tom and Kathy as well. One was Salvestrin - where we talked Caterpillars with Eddie Salvestrin, and wines with Luke.

We also had a great tour of a winery called Littorai - whose approach is bio-dynamic and sustainable, and whose wines are great.

The experiences have been wonderful and extremely varied. Wineries from fancy to basic. Bocce ball in St. Helena.

We played on the town courts in the afternoon and went back to spectate a bit after a lovely dinner that evening.

I've put together a short video. I've never posted a video on the blog - I hope it works to convey a bit of the experience.

Enjoy. We are.


Now that we've returned to San Francisco, I can get a bit retrospective about the wine portion of the trip. About the wines and the people. So interesting and varied. In my mind the best of the wineries fell naturally into groups. Two long time producers - part farmers, part great wine makers - Biale and Salvestrin. Two wineries stalking wine making perfection without as much regard for the god of marketing - Dehlinger and Litterai. And two purveyors of elegance in their wine and their tasting rooms and everywhere - Brown and Merry Edwards. And an old friend finally met in person - Carol Shelton. And, more important than the rest, two old friends often met in person - Tom and Kathy.

No reflection of the wine country would be complete without a reference to the people we met along the way. Austin and Luke, friends from different wineries. Carmen Dehlinger (now perhaps "Mrs. Carmen _____" - we missed the wedding). Eddie Salvestrin. The accountant at the bocce court and Stan the mouthy player (he seemed vaguely familiar). Niles, our six and a half year old host at Litterai.

And most of all for a thousand laughs now and I'm sure many more to come - B. Fife, Deputy Sommolier. If I tried to describe him like you might a wine I'd go with "part Barney Fife, with a Dobby the house elf note. An essence of uneven sideburn on the cheek. And an ephemeral quality - appearing and disappearing almost magically." I think I'm happy enough that I didn't get a photo. Legends don't need photos.

Sunday, March 27

Paris 2011


There are magical places in the world. Paris is one for me. We arrived yesterday morning after a sleepless overnight flight. Walked to our train connection from the airport to Paris, only to discover that trains were not running from Charles de Gaulle over the weekend due to construction. But we figured out that there was a bus to another stop on the route. Found the bus. And the train and the train connection after that. We got to our lovely little apartment just at 9:30 - check-in time. We wandered out for essentials (Euros, cheese, wine, beer, pate and bread - in about that order). Had a lovely lunch notwithstanding the aftereffects of the flight and the airplane food on all of us (especially Peter). We took an afternoon nap for a few hours. I awoke with a headache easily controlled by a great coffee. In the next hour or so the other three awoke. Darkness had fallen and we were ready for Saturday night in Paris.

We decided to try to go to a restaurant a couple of miles away. One we'd neither been to or walked by. As the one with the mental map of Paris (and no actual map) we set off. We had a leisurely stroll across the Seine, by the Louvre, along part of the route of the Tour de France, through the wacky Chatelet (looking in shop windows as we passed them),

past the Pompideau Center and the 500 year old church next door, down a couple of small streets to our restaurant of choice. Pretty modern (for Paris) and to my eyes about half empty (or full, depending on your point of view). The owner couldn't have been nicer in asking if we had a reservation. "Non." "Dommage." "Do you have another place?" she asked. I would have answered "We're staying in the 7th Arrondisement." But Kate actually understands French. She and the owner have a short and, to me, unintelligible conversation. Whereupon the owner leaves her restaurant, charges across the street to a little restaurant of a friend of hers, and waves us into the last table there. The place was older. Small and full - with one wall all mirrors to avoid claustrophobia (it worked. It took a while for us to realize that the place was half the size it appeared to be.)

Oddly, Peter had said earlier in the day that one thing he wanted to try on this trip was blood sausage. Of course, the first item on the menu was blood sausage. Magic. Peter and I had that to start.

MO had proscuitto and mozzarella salad,

and Kate had some amazing clam ravioli in cream sauce. From there until the dessert the meal was amazing. The waitress was great fun. It was so fun to be there as a group of four, in a city I love with people I love. On the way back I took us a different way. Through the Marais. Past the Hotel de Ville and then some church called Notre Dame (don't care much for the school but the church sure was pretty. Might have to go back).

Through the Latin Quarter, stopping to look at a Greek guy who roped us into a bad restaurant a decade or so ago with his "Here we dance!!! Here we sing!!" spiel. Churches aren't the only monuments here.

And eventually back to our quiet little apartment. We'll probably go to a cemetery today. If someone rises from the dead it wouldn't surprise me. After all, it's Sunday. It's Lent. And it's Paris. And this place is magic.

Monday in Paris

Hello again from Paris.

Over the last couple of days we've had a great time wandering the city. We spent much of Sunday in the Pere Lachaise cemetery. Monday in the Louvre, and the Orangerie (a smaller museum featuring water lillies by Monet), and walking the streets of Paris, and high atop the Arc du Triumphe (both things visible in the photo above). And when we feel the need to explore elsewhere we have just jumped on the Metro and gone to a different place. The Champs d'Elysee and Place Pigalle are hugely different places. But both fun and interesting. It's a city with both a literal and figurative right and left bank.

If you get a chance to see paintings by Chaim Soutine, do it. They're great.

Of course eating has occupied much of our time. And sipping on a biere and watching the people pass by.

I'm always struck in this city by the wonderful contrasts. The Pere Lachaise cemetery is a fairly serious place, with crypts and gravestones dating from the American Revolutionary War to today.

And yet, as you walk along you come to Oscar Wilde's crazy tombstone.

A few meters more and it's a memorial stone to survivors of World War II concentration camps.

Even in the Louvre, that most staid of museums, there are signs of change and contrast. This new art added since we were here last.

Or this dude "high" above us in one room.

He made us laugh. But maybe think a bit too.

A great city - Paris. It reminds me that people can build things and not screw them up. Of course, much of the power here comes from nuclear power plants. Clearly, the converse is true too. This week my focus is squarely on the positive.


One of the challenges of a trip like ours is group decision making. What to do? Where to eat? I guess those are basically the only decisions we need to make.

Do you let the Four Day Museum Pass which expires on Thursday control the decision making process? Mostly we don't. It was easy to decide to go to the Musee d'Orsay first thing yesterday (at about 10:30 a.m). It's close. It has to have the best selection of Impressionist art in the world. There was construction going on - so there was less to see than on other visits. But still lots of great stuff. And a new "no photos" policy.

Then lunch back at the apartment. Kate has not imposed a no photos policy.

And actually this highly complex organization of lunch was my work.

Then, since the day was sunny, we decided to climb to the top of Notre Dame to look out over the city.

But it inexplicably closed early. So we visited San Chappelle, an amazing little cathedral built in the 1200's.

And when we came out of the cathedral it was . . . raining. Two jackets and no umbrellas for four people. Sir Walter Stan gave Kate his jacket and we headed back to the apartment, in a less than cheery mood.

Then it was dinner planning time. A complex negotiation. The Vietnamese/French place 20 meters down the street? It's written up very favorably in two of our books. How about the restaurant right across the street? People who've stayed here seem to have liked it. Or the Joel Roubochon restaurant only a couple of blocks away? It had been on "No Reservations". But it's probably more upscale than we are. I had liked the look of the Bistrot du Universite a couple of blocks away. While Kate and I were off getting some supplies we took a look. Small. Not too formal. It didn't seem to be a place frequented heavily by tourists (a positive from our points of view). We tried it and were treated to a wonderful meal.

Foie gras shared to start. Peter and Kate had a steak which they raved about. Madeline a lamb shank. I had rabbit in mustard sauce with Brussels Sprouts - amazing. The wine was the best we'd had on the trip. The desserts were tremendous, though the waiter refused to give me a bowl of the mustard sauce as dessert. He was fun, and resisted the temptation to respond to our French in English.

Decision making at its finest (or luckiest).

Nous Amis

We spent most of yesterday below ground with our friend Chris, who Kate and I have known for over thirty years. In the evening we rendezvoused with his girlfriend Valerie, and immediately felt we had known her for almost as long.

We saw almost no art. Instead, for something different, we visited the Musee des Egouts de Paris - a museum dedicated to the sewers of Paris. Some interesting history as we examined a very real
and kind of odiferous section of the sewers.

Chris is no fan of rats. But who is? As we moved on we stayed underground, visiting the Catacombes. It's a place in Paris where thousands of skeletons have been relocated. A bit sobering perhaps.

But actually very interesting. Even a bit religious and inspirational. And very French. We were all very glad to have gone.

It's a long series of tunnels. Dark and a bit damp. With religiously oriented plaques which Kate, Madeline and Chris worked together to translate into English. Interestingly though not surprisingly, concepts involving life, death, eternity and salvation are much more complicated to translate than "where is the bathroom?" or "I would like the veal, please."

Appropriately, no flash photography is allowed. This gave Peter and me a chance to work on our stability and to learn how to operate our cameras a bit better.

Then, after a stop for a snack and a trip to the Limognes store to purchase some small items, it was on to Valerie's apartment. Such fun. Lots of laughs and great conversation with Chris and Valerie.

In our conversations we discovered to our surprise that on the day after we arrived France had gone on daylight savings time. So perhaps it was a bit more understandable that we were denied entrance to Notre Dame (though we were more than an hour before closing time at that). Fortunately we discovered this fact before we were an hour late as we made our way to our plane on Saturday morning.

We "louped" our way to one of Valerie's favorite restaurants in an area of Paris somewhere near the Pere Lachaise cemetery we visited earlier in the week. The specialties were from Cameroon and Senegal - two African countries in which French is often spoken. Yet another amazing meal! And without a doubt at a restaurant we would never have found without the aid of our friends. In fact, we barely found it with them!

Another wonderful day - this time in the underground side of Paris.

L'Addition C'nest Pas Du Specialite

Another lovely (if gray) day in Paris. We wandered through the city after a late start, stopping at the Pompidou Center to look at some of the modern art there. Kate and I really loved the work of Sonia Delaunay and her husband Robert.

From there it was a short walk and a medium wait to climb high atop Notre Dame to look at gargoyles and view the city from on high.

A stop for a beer and a bit more strolling brought us back to our apartment. And then it was time for dinner.

We decided on Tan Dinh - a Vietnamese restaurant (with a French influence). A little aside - when we first met in 1977, long before we were dating, Kate suggested that I take a friend to a St. Paul restaurant which I think was called The Phoenix. She described in fairly glowing terms as "Vietnamese, with a French influence." Pretty classy stuff for a rube from Iowa. Ever since, lists of cuisines for us have included styles like Italian, French, Mexican and Vietnamese (with a French influence). How could we resist just such a restaurant, with a stellar reputation, just three doors down on our little Rue du Vernueil?

We've had great luck with restaurants and waiters and waitresses during our stay. I don't suppose you could say we have developed "relationships" with them, but earlier in the day we had waved hello and exchanged smiles with our waiter from two nights ago as he walked by on his way to the bakery. This was to be no exception.

Tan Dinh does not accept credit cards. But, having learned our lesson earlier in the week, we prepared ourselves by making a trip to our trusty ATM for a cash infusion of 200 more Euros, bringing our cash supply to about 250 Euros. Since the cost of our dinners this week have ranged from 100 to 200 Euros, we were all set.

We were greeted at Tan Dinh by the host/owner, all 4'10" of him. An elderly gentlemen, with an endearing style that made you want to hug him. We had had such success the previous night when our new friend Valerie ordered for the group, that we followed the same pattern. Kate and our host conversed and laughed and conversed some more. Our order was agreed upon and yet another memorable meal began. Ravioli with smoked goose.

Shrimp with a lovely sauce. The appetizers paired with a small bottle of a crisp white wine.

The Old Gentleman was such fun, giving us suggestions on his view of the best approach to the food, and literally feeding us our first bite of the main courses.

Duck, beef and chicken. Each excellent. As was the red wine paired with them.

"Dessert?" "Non. L'addition s'il vous plait." And then our bill came. 273 Euros. A bit higher than expected, particularly when we had only 250 Euros in our pocket. So I was once again sent scurrying for money to pay for an already eaten dinner.

Apparently, while I was dashing for cash Kate described the situation as "pas grave." However, when I was told by my Friendly Cash Machine that my limit for the day on my Wells Fargo cash card was exceeded, the situation seemed to me to be "un peu grave." But not too grave. I had an American Express card. I wouldn't leave home without it. In it went. When my Friendly Cash Machine told me that it would only deign to speak with cards with a little chip in them, and a four digit identification number. The gravity of the situation increased just a bit. My MasterCard received a similar response from my Friendly Cash Machine. I wish I had worn a hat so that I could put it in my hand as I returned to the restaurant with the same cash supply I departed with.

But never send an old man to do a young man's work. Peter had his cash card (avec le quatre digit id). So off he went, now accompanied by the Old Gentleman. This slows the process somewhat - since the Old Gentleman moves at a markedly slower pace than the long-legged Pierre. But justice prevailed! Liberty and Equality were restored! No one was beheaded. Thanks to Peter, cash was obtained. International relations may be a bit tense for a day or two, but peace is restored.

And I'll be a bit tense too. Particularly this morning when I go to visit my Friendly Cash Machine to start our last full day in Paris.

Pain au Vin

We spent our last day in Paris wandering around. Perhaps not totally successfully. My internal compass usually works pretty well. But not so much today. We did our best to try to get reservations at Frenchie - a restaurant that was featured on Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations." But we failed. So it goes. Perhaps the No Reservations connection was an omen.

I find it doesn't really matter. We have a bottle of wine (well, thanks mostly to me, we HAD a bottle of wine). And a baguette from the Eric Kaiser boulangerie on the corner.

I'm just eating it plain. Without the fromages du chevre and blue cheese that I've become accustomed to over the last week. The crust is wonderfully crisp. The center fresh and even a bit doughy.

And the kids brought back another bottle of wine. We are managing things for the train trip to the airport tomorrow at 6:30 am.

Nous Finisons

The trip home went well. A complex trip to the airport negotiated well (other than one "ass over teakettle" fall by me, brought on by the combination of clumsiness, bifocals, the early hour and a heavy bag).

Here are a last few images from the end of our trip.

A courageous street juggler.

The artistry of a Meilleur Ouvrier de France.

The Bistrot du Paris - site of our last dinner.

The dining girls.

Cruising over Greenland - bound for Minnesota.

But part of our heart remains in Paris.