Saturday, September 30, 2017

Ninabol Begins. . . Sorta

The ref scheduled to work Nina's first game of the season canceled moments before kickoff because of all the ant beds on the field at the Boys and Girls club.

There weren't so many ant beds on the smaller fields where the younger kids play, so our coach and the coach of the Atoka team we were scheduled to play agreed to have a 7 v. 7 scrimmage on one of those fields. Coach Wes volunteered to ref.


Nina was the first player to get the ball into the net.

Unfortunately, she was called for offsides.

We ended up winning 2-0.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Roller Derby Queen


When Gimena gave Nina these roller blades, I wasn't sure where she'd use them, since Ada is not really big on sidewalks. Now we know.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Grand Tour, Day 11: Auvers-sur-Oise

Gerardo met me at 8:15 am to go to the French train ticket office to buy the regional train tickets that we needed to go from Chambery to Valance at the end of the month. When we got to the office, we realized that I had left a document we needed at the apartment, so I rushed back, while Gerardo sat in line. When I got back to the apartment, I realized that I didn't have a key to the front door, so I headed back to the ticket office to get the key, and then went back to the house to get the document we needed. When I finally made it to the ticket office, and it was our turn, we learned that we didn't need--and couldn't make--reservations on the train from Chambery to Valence!

When we got back to the apartment, we took a bus to the train station, where we took the first of two trains that would take us to Auvers-sur-Oise, which is 17 miles northwest of Paris. Before we started this trip, I thought that we would take a day trip to Chartres to see the cathedral, but after we got to Paris, we decided to make a shorter trip to the village of Auvers-sur-Oise, which Maria Rosa and Jaime recommended to us. Gerardo hadn't been there before, so that was an added bonus.


Along the way, we stopped in the village of Pontoise. That's the Pontoise Cathedral in the background at the top of the hill. Its origins are from the 12th century; it was enlarged in the 16th century. Pisarro moved here in 1871 after marrying his mother's maid. Pisarro lived in Pontoise for seventeen years. He and his wife had seven children together. We got a bus here that would take us to Auvers-sur-Oise. According to my good friends at Wikipedia, if you walk along the Oise between Pontoise and Auvers-sur-Oise, you can see many of the landscapes Pisarro painted.

In May 1890, Van Gogh moved to Auvers-sur-Oise to be nearer to his brother Theo (who lived in Paris) and to Dr. Paul Gachet, who had been recommended to him by Pisarro. Gachet was an amateur painter who had treated several other artists. Pissarro had recommended him to Van Gogh.

Construction of the Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Auvers-sur-Oise began in 1137 and was completed in 1227.

These stairs were built in 1615.

Vincent Van Gogh's brother Theo invited mourners to attend Vincent's funeral in this church at 2:30 pm on Wednesday, July 30, 1890, but according to Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, authors of Van Gogh: The Life (New York: Random House, 2011): "a local curate would not permit a funeral in the Auvers church . . . Whether because Vincent was a foreign Protestant or a suspected suicide, the abbot . . . even forbade the use of the parish hearse. And not all Theo's Parisian politesse, or Gachet's influence, could change his mind. The most Tessier would allow was for Theo to purchase a plot in the sparsely populated new cementery on the plateau above the town, far from the church Vincent had painted" (860).
Today, the Auvers church is best known for a painting of it that was made by the artist whose body was not allowed inside the the building after his death. In the photo above, you can see the church beside a reproduction of Van Gogh's painting. In a letter to his sister Wilhelmina, dated June 3, 1890, Van Gogh described the painting in this way:  "I've done a larger picture of the village church--with an effect in which the building appears purplish-blue against a sky of deep & simple blue, pure cobalt. The stained-glass windows appear as patches of ultramarine, the roof is purple and partly orange. In the foreground a little greenery in bloom and some pink sunlit sand. Again, it's very similar to the studies I did in Nuenen of the old tower and the churchyard. Only now the colour is probably more expressive, more sumptuous" (491).  Given these dates, it looks like Van Gogh was looking at the church at almost the same time of the year that we were visiting it for the first time.

The image below is a photo that I took, which has been rendered as a painting using some photo editing software.


In a letter to Theo dated July 2, Van Gogh encourages his brother to bring his wife and their 4.5 month old son Vincent to Auvers, where "there are children, animals, flowers and good air." In a letter dated July 10, Van Gogh comments on "how healthy and invigorating I find the countryside."
After we left the church, we went to the nearby cemetery when Vincent and Theo are buried.

On the morning of July 28th, Theo got word that Vincent had wounded himself. By midday, Theo was at his brother's bedside in Auvers. The brothers spent much of the afternoon in conversation. When night fell, however, Vincent's condition worsened. He was resting in Theo's arms at half-past midnight, when he died.


Less than three months after Vincent died, Theo was himself hospitalized, following a nervous breakdown. On January 25, 1891, Theo died as a result of syphillis-related symptoms.


In 1914, Theo's wife asked that his body be reburied next to Vincent's in Auvers. Several people had set small rocks on top of the brothers' graves. Nina did the same.


When his career as a missionary ended unhappily in 1880, Vincent was 27 years old. His 23-year-old brother encouraged him to pursue a career as an artist. By July 22, 1883, Vincent was living in the Hague, when he wrote to Theo, "I don’t really have any friends except for you, and when I’m ill you’re always in my thoughts."

When we left the cemetery, we made our way through wheat fields of the kind that Vincent painted during his final days in July when they were less green.

Below, another photo of mine that has been fed through the paintenator.
Pablo and I did some forest wandering on our own.
We stopped at Carrefour to buy picnic supplies: pistachios, peanuts, salad bag, a box of mango-strawberry juice (we liked it), two baguettes, gouda cheese, cold cuts,potato chips, a peach, tomatoes, carrots, and Petit Ecolier cookies. We then made our way down to the banks of the Oise.

After our open air feast, we headed back into town to visit the Auberge Ravoux, where Van Gogh lived during the final 70 days of his life. (Despite appearances, we did not allow Pablo to consume pommes frites feedbag-style).

Gerardo paid for our tickets to visit the Auberge Ravoux.

According to Naifeh and Smith, "On Sunday, July 27, 1890, Vincent returned from a morning of painting to have his midday meal at the Ravoux Inn. When he was finished, he slung his bag of paints and brushes over his arm, reshouldered his easel, and returned to his labors, just as he had been doing almost every day for weeks" (850).


Naifeh and Smith on the events of July 27: ". . . after the sun had set, [Vincent] staggered back to the Ravoux Inn with out his bag or his easel or his canvas. The Ravouxs and their other boarders, who had taken dinner outdoors on a hot summer evening, were lingering on the cafe terrace. They same him approach on the darkened street. '[He] was holding his belly and seemed to be limping,' one of them later recalled. 'His jacket was buttoned up'--odd on such a warm night. He passed them without a word and went straight to his room" (850).

Naifeh and Smith: "Gustave Ravoux, concerned about his guest's strange behavior, listened at the bottom of the stairs. When he heard moaning, he climbed to Vincent's attic room. He found Vincent lying on his bed, curled up in pain. He asked what was wrong. 'Je me suis blesse,' Vincent replied as he lifted his shirt and showed Ravoux the small hole under his ribs--'I wounded myself'" (850).

The image above is the room adjacent to Van Gogh's. We were able to look in Van Gogh's room, but photographs were not allowed.  The two rooms looked alike. The shutters on the second floor behind Nina's right shoulder open on to Van Gogh's room.

Naifeh and Smith believe the shot that killed Van Gogh was fired by a 16-year-old schoolboy whose identity Van Gogh chose to protect.

On the way back to Paris, to took the train to Valmondois, where we transferred to another train, which took us to the Gare du Nord train station.

At the Gare du Nord, Gerardo and the kids climbed on the "Maison Fond" a sculpture by the Argentinian sculptor, Leandro Erlich. The "Melting House" is a symbol of climate change. According to Erlich's website, Located in front of the busy Gare du La Maison "[interrupts] commuters’ everyday lives with a reminder of what is to come if we do not change our ways."

We got back to Gerardo's neighborhood around 5:30 pm and picked up a few groceries at the Carrefour. After showers, the kids and I enjoyed a dinner of rice, broccoli, hummus, and fried eggs, while Mari and Gerardo went out to dinner.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Grand Tour, Day 10: Paris, Tour Eiffel

On our first morning in Paris, we got up at 7:30 a.m. so that we could get to the Eiffel Tower before the lines got too long. For breakfast, we had croissants, a baguette and peach/strawberry juice (most of us agreed that the juice sounded better than it tasted). By 8:10, we were out the door and headed to the Bienville Metro. We made a transfer at Nation, and by 9:20 we were waiting in line for our tickets.

We opted the for the tickets that go to the second floor instead of the more expensive ones that go all the way to the top, and we took the elevator, though Emilio lobbied for the stairs. Before we got to the elevators, I was informed that I couldn't take my pocket knife inside. I was encouraged to hide it by the exit. I did, but it wasn't there when I got back.
The second floor is about as high as a 30-story building. The publicity campaign for Paris's bid to host the 2024 Olympics featured large banners hung from four skyscrapers.  That's the "4" of "2024" in the distance behind Mari's hand.
The trips I plan can often feel like trapeze acts. Between anticipating the next leap and managing the kids' interests, energy levels, hungers, conflicts, and curiosities, it is sometimes difficult to be entirely in the moment, even on an extraordinary trip like this one. But looking out over the city from the viewing platform of the Eiffel Tower was one of the moments from this trip when I experienced the greatest sense of satisfaction about how far we'd come to reach this point. It was a high point of the trip, both literally and figuratively. It's ironic, since standing on the Eiffel Tower, you're in  one of the few places in the city where you can't see the city's most iconic structure. (According to legend, the writer Guy du Maupassant--no fan of the Eiffel Tower--used to dine there every day for the view if offered: of a Eiffel-less Paris.)

That's Le Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre in the background behind us. We'd go there four days later.
According to my good friends at Wikipedia, when the Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, it surpassed the Washington Monument to become the tallest structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years until the Chrysler Building in New York City was finished in 1930.

Wikipedia, again, reports that designs for the Eiffel Tower were inspired by an octagonal 30-story high, iron-braced wooden observatory that was built as part of the 1853 Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations in Manhattan. The tower was the tallest structure in New York City until it burned down in 1856.

We walked down the stairs from the second-level platform to the first level platform, which is 17 stories above the ground. The glass floor on this level was added in 2014. I was more leery about walking over it than my children were.

The painter Adolph Bouguereau and the musicians Jules Massenet and Charles Gounod were among the 300 prominent French artists who vigorously protested the construction of the tower, which was originally supposed to be dismantled after twenty years. They signed a petition that read, in part, "imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream. And for twenty years … we shall see stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal." Twenty years was optimistic.
Wikipedia tells me that French saboteurs cut the elevator cables when the Nazis occupied Paris in 1940. In August 1944, Hitler ordered General Dietrich von Choltitz, to demolish the tower along with the rest of the city. Von Choltitz disobeyed the order.  The elevator cables were repaired in 1946.
After we walked the rest of the stairs all the way do to the Champs de Mer, and I learned that my Swiss Army Knife was no more, we took the Metro to the Catacombs.

We got in the line for the Catacombs around 12:20. The ticket line ended up being longer than any other line we stood in during our Grand Tour. While we were waiting, Mari went hunting for a healthy snack and came back with some expensive strawberries.
While Mari and I stood in line, the kids read on their Kindles and Mari's cell phone while sitting under tree on a nearby lawn. The weather was pleasant. Mari ended up putting put on her sweater. Around 1:45, we finally made our way to the front of the line.
After descending a spiral staircase that led five stories beneath the surface, we walked down several long stone tunnels like the one above, each one little different than the next.

According to my friends on the Smithsonian website, during the 13th century this extensive network of tunnels was dug under the streets of Paris to give miners access to quarries that provided limestone for the city’s new buildings, including the city's ramparts, Notre Dame Cathedral and the original Louvre palace. Eventually further extensions of this underground network were discontinued because they presented a threat to ground-level structures, some of which collapsed. The tunnels offered a solution for another city development problem in the 17th century, when Paris’s overcrowded cemeteries became overstuffed with corpses to the point where some of them became uncovered.
In 1780, when a prolonged period of spring rain caused a wall around Les Innocents cemetery to collapse, decomposing corpses spilled into a neighboring apartment building. Beginning in 1786, Louis XVI more ordered all the corpses in designated cemeteries in the old city to be transported at night into the quarry tunnels. Among the corpses that were transported were those of Montesquieu, the philosopher, and Rabelais, the writer.

At first, the bones were simple tossed into abandoned quarry shafts, but after 1810, the Inspector General of the Quarries ordered walls of decoratively places bones and skulls to be built up in front of the larger spaces where the other bones had been piled.
Many of those who died during the French Revolution were taken directly to the catacombs, which were used temporarily as a morgue. The remains of Danton, and Robespierre are buried somewhere in the Catacombs.
More than 6 million corpses had been moved into the catacombs by the time the process was discontinued in 1859.

In the photo above, Pablo is standing in front of a well used by the quarry workers. The well is called "The Fountain of the Samaritan." The inscriptions on the columns behind Pablo are from John, chapter 3, verses 13 and 14, when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman and says, “Whoever drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst again. For the water I give them will become within them a fountain of water producing eternal life.” (Omnis qui bibit ex aqua hac, sitiet iterum; qui autem biberit ex aqua quam ego dabo ei, non sitiet in æternum: sed aqua quam ego dabo ei, fiet in eo fons aquæ salientis in vitam æternam.)
The inscription on the left in the photo above, taken in the Crypt of the Ecclesiastes, reads, in Latin: "Memento irae in die consummationis." The English translation is: "Think of wrath on the day of death." The line is taken from  the 24th verse of the 18th chapter of the book of Sirach, written in 200-175 BCE by the Jewish scribe, Ben Sira of Jerusalem. The entire passage is:

22 22 Let nothing prevent the prompt payment of your vows;
do not wait until death to fulfill them.
23 Before making a vow prepare yourself;
do not be like one who puts the Lord to the test.
24 Think of wrath on the day of death,
the time of vengeance when he will hide his face.
25 Think of the time of hunger in the time of plenty,
poverty and need in the day of wealth.
26 Between morning and evening there is a change of time;
before the Lord all things are fleeting.


The insrciption on the right says: "Memento novissimorum, noli oblivisci." It comes from the 38th chapter of the book of Sirach. The English transation is: "Think of the end, do not recall him." the entire passage reads:
18 When a person is carried away, sorrow is over;
and the life of the poor one is grievous to the heart.
20 Do not turn your thoughts to him again;
cease to recall him; think rather of the end.
21 Do not recall him, for there is no hope of his return;
you do him no good, and you harm yourself.
22 Remember that his fate will also be yours;
for him it was yesterday, for you today.
23 With the dead at rest, let memory cease;
be consoled, once the spirit has gone.
We heard a tour guide tell his group that the catacombs became a touristic attraction as early as 1787, when the Comte d'Artois--who later ruled France from 1824 to 1830 as Charles X, brought the ladies of the court here. And on April 2, 1897, a group of amateur musicians staged an illegal, concert in the Catacombs late at night for about 100 people.

After we climbed out of the Catacombs, we sat at a table on the sidewalk outside "Le Petit Chez Soi," where we ordered pizza, pasta, and salad. We also asked for a plate of pommes frites, which were mentioned on the menu, but not as a separate side dish. We probably wouldn't have ordered it, if we'd known they would charge us 9 Euros for them.

Our brusque waitress told Pablo not to put his feet on the chair he was sitting in.

To get to the bathrooms in Le Petit Chez Soi, you have to climb up the narrowest spiral staircase in Christendom. Once you get to the top, there are two doors. Open the wrong one, and you'll be in someone's bedroom, looking at a cat, looking at you.

After lunch, we headed to the Luxembourg Gardens public park.

My good friends at Wikipedia tell me construction of the Luxembourg Gardens began in 1611. It was enlarged following the French Revolution, when leaders of the French Directory took land from the neighboring monks.

The Luxembourg Gardens is the largest public park near the Sorbonne, so it's a student favorite.

I didn't notice the two students who were cheesing in the background of this shot when I was taking it. The photo below is a cropped enlargement of the photo above.

The French Laverne and Shirley?


In Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables, Cosette and Marius meet in the Gardens.


Mari got gelato for the kids, and then we headed for the Panthéon. That's the Panthéon behind Pablo in the photo above. Construction of this building began in 1758 and was finished in 1790. It was originally intended to be a church dedicated to St. Genevieve (the patron saint of Paris), but during the French Revolution it was repurposed as a secular mausoleum where French citizen heroes would be buried. On April 4, 1791, the revolutionary leader Mirabeau was the first citizen to be honored in this way. In later years, the remains of Voltaire (1791), Marat (1794), Rousseau (1794), Victor Hugo (1885), Émile Zola (1908), Louis Braille (1952--on the centenary of his death), Marie Curie (1995; she died in 1934), and Alexandre Dumas (2002; he died in 1870) and many others were also buried here. During the French Revolution, when popular views of Mirabeau and Marat changed, their bodies were dug up and moved elsewhere.

On the other side of the Panthéon is Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, which you can see behind Emilio and Nina in the photo above. Built between 1494 and 1624, Saint-Étienne-du-Mont provided a home for relics of St. Genevieve. After being removed from the Panthéon, Marat was buried here. During the French Revolution, Genevieve's relics were thrown in the sewer, and the church was rebranded as a secular "Temple of Filial Piety."

We walked through the Latin Quarter (so called because so many of the students and faculty at the nearby Sorbonne spoke Latin), past the Université Paris-Sorbonne, and stopped in at the Paroisse de Saint-Séverin, whose construction was completed (mostly) in 1520.

We then crossed the Seine to get to the  Île de la Cité and the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris.Construction of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris began in 1163 and was, for the most part, completed in 1345. There is no entry fee.
Mass was being celebrated inside when we arrived. We took a seat and listened.

During the French Revolution, the cathedral was renamed as a temple to the Cult of Reason. On December 2, 1804, the coronation ceremony for Napoleon I was held here. Pope Pius the VII officiated.

Pablo was soon napping. When I took this picture, he was sound asleep.


Door handle for the Portal of the Virgin.


The north portal on the Western facade of the Cathedral--the Portal of the Virgin--was built in the 1210s-1220s. The four statues here were destroyed during the French Revolution, and replaced in the 19th century.The statues on the left door jamb from left to right are: Emperor Constantine; an angel; Saint Denis--the patron saint of France and Paris--holding his head (he was decapitated); and another angel. Denis was executed in the third century on the highest hill in Paris, which took its name, Montmarte (the Mount of Martyrs) from the event. According to the legend, after his decapitation, Denis carried his head in his own hand and walked down the hill, preaching as he went.


This fellow appears under St. Denis's feet.

This fellow appears under the angel on St. Denis's right.


This fellow met us outside the Cathedral when he got off work.


We followed Gerardo across the Seine to the Île Saint-Louis, which is one of two natural islands on the Seine along with the Île de la Cité.


In the early 17th century the Ile Saint Louis was actually comprised of two islands. The smaller of the two, Ile aux Vaches, was upstream, and the larger Ile Notre-Dame was downstream. Both served as cow pastures for the Notre Dame Cathedral. In 1614, the islands were merged into one island, which soon became a fashionable place for the French aristocracy to build homes. Between 1620-1650, the island was covered with new mansions, which had a unified architectural style.


The last stop on our tour of the Île Saint-Louis is the Place Louis Aragon. Across the river, you can see the 16-story Tour Saint-Jacques (a favorite for the No-Eiffel-Tower petitioners). It was built between 1509 and 1523.

After leaving the the Île Saint-Louis, we wandered through Le Marais ("The Marsh"), stopping only briefly to price Swiss Army knives in a department store before we took the Metro back to Pyrenees station.


When I came up out of the Metro this time, I took the picture of the Eiffel Tower looking down the Rue de Belleville. Before heading back to the apartment, we stopped at the Carrefour market to buy pasta, rice, guacamole, an orange, and--for Mari and Gerardo--lunch meat.