Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Thanksgiving didn't go so well. Around 04h30, Robb awoke in pain and he spent most of the day in discomfort. He found some of the medicine he had brought back from France. He took it and it seemed to control the pain to the extent that he could move without being wracked with pain. Then he thought it was over. But the next day the pain was back. He called the doctor but the office was closed on Friday, which is normal for this doctor because they work on Saturday. Saturday morning, we drove over to find that they had closed the office for the entire weekend.

Robb was still in pain, so we drove to the Holy Cross Hospital Emergency Room because it is closest to us. We both thought they would give him something for the problem and we would be on our way in a couple of hours. But they did an Ultra Sound Scan and discovered that he had gall stones. The ER doctor wanted him to check into the hospital, but, since he retired, Robb is one of those millions who have no health insurance. Finally, we decided if he checked in, they could run some tests and when they found nothing, they would at least give him something for the pain.

The problem was that when they ran the tests, they discovered that he needed to have his gall bladder removed and they recommended doing it NOW. Supposedly, they would do the operation on Sunday morning and he could leave that night, but because he wouldn't sign the paperwork before he talked to me, he missed that window. We talked it over and decided that he should go ahead and have it done and get it over with instead of waiting until March when he would start Medicare. At least, he would be rid of the pain which seemed to be coming on more often each time.

His roommate, Greg, was already scheduled to have the same surgery on Monday, and that's the day for which they scheduled Robb. Originally, they were told they would go down to the operating room around 13h00, but they didn't come for Greg until after 14h00 and Robb learned that he was scheduled for 17h30. The nurse told them that it would take about three hours; an hour in prep, an hour for the operation and then an hour in the Recovery Room before they would be back in their room.

I went over to the hospital around 19h30, Greg was there, but Robb hadn't been brought back yet. I sat around talking to Greg for awhile and then went down to see if I could see Robb in Recovery. I could find it, so I went back up and sat in the visitor's lounge for a few minutes. While I was sitting there, his doctor walked by, saw me and came over to tell me what had transpired in the operating room. He began the conversation by telling me that Robb's was the absolute worst gall bladder he had ever seen. He went on to say, that he couldn't remove all of it because it was attaching itself to his liver and if he had cut any more, he would have been cutting into the liver and that was not a good idea. So he had to leave about fifteen percent of it inside. He said that wasn't really a problem because Robb's body would compensate and get rid of it.

Both Greg and Robb were originally scheduled to leave the hospital on Tuesday morning, but because of the complications, it was necessary to keep Robb for another day or two until they were certain they were no more problems and the healing process was moving as expected.

I drove back to the hospital tonight, after taking a couple hours off. Robb was in good spirits and just a while later, the nurse came in and unhooked him from the IV, which means he'll probably be released tomorrow. As confirmation, he was told the doctor had written on his chart "For probable release tomorrow". He really wants to get out of there and I have missed him being home, muchly.
Keep your fingers crossed.

Hasta la próxima, amigos.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Smart Phone

You may have noticed I don't post as often when we're not traveling about.  Normally, I post once a week, but our daily lives aren't that interesting, so it could be longer between posts until we go somewhere.  I know you're all heartbroken.  We're already discussing where we'll go this summer.  At this point, it looks like Paris, Berlin, and either Madrid or Valencia in Spain.

Last week, we went to dinner at Candela's with Robb's niece Wendy and her husband Steve. Candela has changed muchly since we were last there.  It's bigger, the menu has changed and the prices seem to be higher.  I guess that's what happens when a restaurant becomes successful. The food is still good, well actually great, although I wasn't crazy about the presentation of my Trout Andaluza.  All in all, it was a good meal and we had a nice conversation with Wendy and Steve.  At the end of the meal, Wendy introduced us to a dessert wine she had brought (Candela is a BYOB place although you can buy from their wine list).  It is ChocoVine and it tastes very much like Bailey's Irish Cream.  I really like it.

After we left Candela's, we drove to a store named To The Moon.  It's a tiny place and I couldn't believe all the stuff they've got there.  They have just about every candy ever manufactured from the forties until now.  I even found the milk chocolate bar with hazelnuts that I just brought back from Europe.

In other news, I finally succumbed to the smartphone craze.  I was already pissed at T-Mobile because they wouldn't replace Robb's phone without charging us way too much. Tiger Direct sent me an email advertising the HTC EVO 4G, which is the latest, hottest mobile on the market.  So far, Sprint is the only company offering it, and since I was looking for a new mobile company (and since just about every electronics site I checked said it was the best) I went for it.  It's kind of expensive, but I get unlimited calling to and from any mobile phone in the US, unlimited text, Pic and Video messaging; unlimited emails, web browsing and messaging; all calls free after 7PM weeknights; and nationwide long distance.  It also has an 8 megapixel camera and it can shoot HD videos.  Here is the first picture I took with it.  I think it's a pretty good deal.  But there are two really great features; the HTC EVO has a 4.3 inch screen so I can easily see what's there, and I can use the phone as a WiFi hotspot no matter where I am.  I've already used it to post on Twitter.  EDIT:  Since I ordered the phone, I found another site that's offering the same deals for $40 less per phone.  I am currently negotiating with TD for a matching price or a refund.

Am I the only one who has noticed how things are getting smaller and smaller, while the prices rise and rise?  The other day, I bought what I thought was a half-gallon of Edy's ice cream.  A half-gallon is two quarts.  What I got was 1.8-quarts (and that was with 20% more).  Breyers is even worse; I only got 1.5-quarts.  I think we need to start an email campaign telling these companies that we won't buy their products until they give us the full size for which we're paying.  I've already fired off emails to Edy's and Breyers.  Our local supermarket, Publix, still sells half-gallons of their own brand, and it's just as good if not better than the others.  The same is true of coffee.  The usual containers have 39 ounces.  But when they're on sale, have you noticed they're only 33 ounces?  I've already gotten a reply from Breyers.  They're so unhappy that I'm unhappy. They're going to send me a coupon.  But this is just the tip of the iceberg, it seems to be true of just about everything sold in this country.
Here's something fun: The Tone Matrix.

An ingenious French anti-ronflement (anti-snoring) solution?

Hasta la próxima, amigos.

Monday, November 08, 2010


Monday night (wow, has it been a week already?), after we got home and dragged our bags up to the apartment, we attempted to drive to the store to get milk and stuff.  The car was dead.  Our neighbor who had agreed to start it at least once a week, forgot to do it.  Tuesday I called for the Smart roadside assistance.  Because it has only been a little over a year, it's covered by warranty and it cost me nothing.  The guy came and got it started, after I showed him where the battery was located.  Forget normal cars.  In the Smart Car, the battery is under the carpet on the passenger's side of the car. Talk about a pain in the butt.  There are so many things to love about the Smart that you've got to shake your head in wonder at how they could have ever come up with such a stupid idea.  I drove it for about an hour and a half, but as soon as I turned it off, it was totally dead.

Wednesday, I called roadside service again, and they came with a tow truck, got the car and took it to the dealer who put in a new battery.  All at no cost.  However, they did rip us off big time for an oil change and rotation of the tires.  I couldn't believe they charged us $35 for one (count it - ONE) quart of oil. The total bill, which did not include the towing or the battery, was over a hundred dollars.  I'll never change the oil there again.  But in Florida, as in most of the US, you must have a car.  As much as I love riding the trams and buses and métros in Europe, I really miss being able to get into my car at my convenience to go, or return from, wherever I want.

It seems so strange to be back to our normal life.  One of the things which takes a lot of re-adjustment for us, is the never ending number of commercials on American televison shows.  This was driven home when I attempted to watch a football game on Sunday (an hour early because we hadn't set the clocks back).  Thankfully, we don't watch that much TV, but it's so annoying for those few times we do.  You would think American businesses would have figured out by now, that almost no one actually sits there glued to their TV screen during their (usually) obnoxious advertisements.  It just seems like a hell of a waste of time and money to me, or do they really gain or lose sales this way?

Hasta la próxima, amigos. 

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Paris 2010-End

29 Octobre (Vendredi) - We were already late when we left the apartment, so when we saw that the bus wasn't going to arrive for another half hour, we grabbed a taxi. On our way to Avenue de l'Opéra and rue du 4 Septembre, we of course, passed one of my favorite "sculptures".  Although all of them have the correct time at least twice a day, none had the correct time as we passed.

Because we had taken a taxi, we were more than half an hour early for our meeting with FWAB (Frog With A Blog) in front of the BNP on the corner. We wandered about until the appointed time, noting there were at least three BNP buildings in the same area.

FWAB was on his lunch break.  He took us to a great restaurant, Le Zinc d'Honoré, on the Place du Marché Saint-Honoré.  I wasn't planning to eat anything, but then the waiter mentioned cassoulet and, well....  We had a very nice lunch and a very nice chat, and then FWAB had to get back to work.  We wandered around the area a while longer.  All around the square containing this huge building, that I think is full of artist's ateliers, are a bazillian restaurants and a few clothing stores. 

We walked over to Avenue de l'Opéra and caught the 68 Bus to rue du Bac, passing these interesting sites; a beautiful fountain near Place Collette, l'Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, the section of the Louvre through which traffic flows (and where Robb got lost the other day), la Seine et Pont Royal and the representation of the City of Paris.  We walked down to rue de Grenelle to the Musée Maillol, where we saw Trésor des Médicis.  It was a great exhibit, but rather crowded.

Checking out the area after the show, we came across this fountain, this antique store and a boulangerie.  Then we walked over to Boulevard Raspail and caught the 83 Bus to Place d'Italie and Italie2..  It's a good thing Robb bought a large suitcase, because the two bulky sweaters he bought at Jules will take up a lot of space.

Dinner at Pizza Trionfo.  We had the lasagna bolognaise.  I couldn't eat all of mine and, again brought it home.

30 Octobre (Samedi) - Oh, I forgot.  Thursday, when we were changing trains at the Concorde station, we came across a group of buskers that I've seen on many videos, but had never had the pleasure to see and hear in person.  Of course, I had to make a short video.

We thought today we would pop over to the 13é and visit Aimee at her tea house, L'Oisive Thé.  We rode the very crowded Ligne 6 to Place d'Italie, walked down rue de Bobillot to rue de la Butte aux Cailles.  As has been our luck the last couple of times we tried, Aimee was not in today.  Since we were there anyway, we had a pot of Thé Vert Amande (Almond flavored green tea).  It was excellent.

After our nice, warming tea, we caught the 57 Bus, past Gare de Lyon, to Nation where we got the Ligne 6 métro back home.  I shot another picture of l'Arc de Triomphe, but this time with the lighted Tour Eiffel in the background.

Robb wanted to eat at Chez Gabrielle, but she flat-out lied to us and said she was full.  So we ate again at Pizza Trionfo, which was fine with me because I really like the place, the owner and the food.

31 Octobre (Dimanche) - It most definitely does not seem like we've been in Europe for three months already.  Not only that, but tonight they're turning the clocks back an hour.

It's about 13h30 and I've packed everything that can be packed.  Surprisingly, I got it all in the one suitcase.  I'm not sure how I did that.  Of course, picking it up now will be the problem.

Jean-Michel called and arranged to meet around 17h00 to give back our deposit check and reimburse us for the money we spent to have the washer fixed.

We had our last Parisian dinner at the Hippopotamus.  You smirk, but it was quite good.  Since they will be turning back the clocks tonight, we ate earlier than usual.  Also, because we have to be up at the crack of dawn to get to the airport around 08h00.

1 Novembre (Lundi) - Up at 07h00.  Jean-Michel had arranged for a taxi to pick us up at 08h00 and whisk us off to Aeroport Charles de Gaulle.  I was bringing down the last of the bags when he arrived.  Because Monday was a holiday celebrated by the French (Toussaint), traffic was extremely light and we made excellent time.

We were flying American Airlines and it was the very last check-in counter in the airport.  But we had no trouble and were directed to the self-serve machines for online ticket buyers.

When we arrived in Dallas, ten hours plus later, it was all I could do to get off the plane.  Luckily for me, one of the airport security people noticed the trouble I was having and arranged for a wheelchair.  One of the problems with landing in Dallas-Fort Worth is that you have to do the whole customs thing.  Meaning, you have to check in with passport control, pick-up your bags and go through customs.  Because I was in a wheelchair, I was treated as special, and I have to say I really enjoyed it.  We just whizzed through the whole process in a few minutes and were on our way to the boarding gate.  Of course, the plane wouldn't leave for another four and a half hours.

With about forty-five minutes to go until they started boarding, Robb ran off to the men's room.  He'd only been gone a couple minutes, when I overheard one of the staff tell someone that the gate had been changed from A35 to A21.  No announcement was made.  If I hadn't overheard their conversation, I would not have known.  I went over to the men's room to alert Robb.  As I was about to go in, I overheard a 'guy' with a wheelchair ask another staff member if he would like a ride.  I said, "I would certainly like that."  I told 'him' of my problem and 'he' offered to take me in the chair.  However, when we got to gate A21, we were told it was now gate C43.  That meant we had to take the Rail Link (an elevated tram) to Terminal C.  We barely made it in time.  Just before we left, I discovered that the 'guy', whose name I thought was Bill, was actually a woman named Marilyn.

I thought the flight to Fort Lauderdale would never end.  My legs were cramping up like crazy and I was in a middle seat.  Robb and I were in different rows on different sides of the plane.  Once off the plane, my legs were fine.  Again, a staff member saw the trouble I was having and called for a wheelchair.  I coudln't believe that all the stewardesses actually stood with us until the guy (really this time) with the chair showed up.  A few minutes later, we were in a taxi on the way home.

You can see all the Paris pictures here: Paris 2010 

À la prochaine, mes amis.