I've been in Southern France for the last couple of weeks, visiting my wife's family and attending my step-daughter's wedding. Yes, I know. My life is hard.
The truth is, there's seldom been a more affordable time to go to France than right now. The American dollar is really strong against the Euro. We rented a house in a tiny village called Pélissanne for a ridiculously reasonable amount. We walked a block to the local pâtisserie for fresh bread and croissants each morning; a block the other way for beautiful produce and local cheese. We bought excellent bottles of wine for less than three dollars, stuff that costs $18-$20 in Memphis. Clothes, restaurants, even gas ... everything was on le cheap.
We never turned on the television and were barely aware of U.S. news. We didn't think about Donald Trump or Kim Davis or Robert Lipscomb or the Memphis Tigers or much of anything else that grabs our attention hereabouts. We went to dinners with family in the evening, and spent our days venturing into the countryside in a borrowed Subaru. We also drove down to the beaches a couple of times, where they always seemed to be holding some sort of "topless day."
There is a lot to like about my wife's home country.
But some things take getting used to. Waiters and waitresses, for instance. In France, they are paid a living wage and expect very little in the way of tips. Because of this, I suppose, they don't attempt to ingratiate themselves. They don't call you "Hon" or touch your shoulder or kneel at your side. They don't flirt or ask if you're "still working on that" or suggest dessert. It's all very business-like. Thank god, at least they're topless.
No, I kid.
The most difficult part of the trip was our return to the states. Due to a pilots' strike, we had to change airlines and rebook all our flights. Unfortunately, our luggage didn't get the news, and we were forced to deal with the extremely poor baggage claim process of a U.S. airline. I won't name it, but its initials are American Airlines.
Upon arrival in Memphis, we filled out all the forms and showed our luggage claim tickets and went home, reassured by the baggage agent that all would be well. But after two days of waiting, the airline could only find two of our four bags. Finally, we called the airline's national claims office, only to learn that the Memphis office had never actually turned in our lost baggage forms, trusting, I suppose, that the luggage would just show up eventually.
It took two more days, but we finally tracked down our bags by calling all the airlines involved in our return trip. It was do-it-yourself service. If the local AA baggage claims folks are looking for work, I suggest they venture to France and apply at the nearest restaurant. They'll fit right in.
But no hard feelings, really. We had a great time. And I can't wait to try out that "Trump L'œil" headline I came up with over a bottle of Provence's finest.
The lady doth protest too much, methinks. — William Shakespeare
Is there such a thing as "bad activism"? I'm asking because I'm seeing a lot of criticism of the folks who are protesting the Memphis Zoo's encroachment onto the Greensward at Overton Park.
In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."