Spreading the Kilted Word

Well my friends, much time has passed, and much has occurred in that interval, but I must share a personal victory before getting back into the blogging swing of things. I have just received news that I can count myself among the proud Utilikiltarians  – that is to say, I won a contest with a kickass submission. Which means that I won another kilt 😉

You can click here to see the newsletter (and read my bio on page 15), but it doesn’t quite do justice to the infinite thread of emails I sent in – almost all of which unfortunately did not make it onto the UK website (nor did 90% of the photos, nor my hyphens, apparently; for some reason, they’re replaced with question marks in the article. A mystery.) Fortunately, I have my own website RIGHT HERE, and you can have the whole story – mostly to enjoy the billions of photos that I submitted, as well as their descriptions. Overstated, perhaps, but I was proud, and since I’m vain, I want to share them all. But first, go read the article, and when you get to the beer question, consider my unpublished amendment, as follows:

What kind of beer are you buying for the first round?
While abroad, every week seemed to introduce another beer to my palate. As much as I love Guinness (and I assume that everyone’s at least as familiar with it as I am), I’d start us off with my latest favorite Scottish brew: Caledonian. For the less beer-inclined, it’d probably be Magner’s Irish cider (Bulmer’s in the home country). All on tap, if available, but if I come by any home-brewed mead, that’d be round, uh, whatever round we’re on. Still not happy (nor drunk enough)? Make it a whiskey – preferably WhistlePig.

On to the photos! And descriptions:

The first couple shots show me in my Survival, stringing and preparing to fire my bow back home (I miss that bow…) Then we’ve got me at a Beltaine/Mayday celebration showing some leg in my Workman’s ― what? It’s a fertility festival! ― backed up with my kilted clan brother in his Original. Next, I’m sporting my olive Original alongside Boston harbor, followed by my lady and I (in my Survival) posing for an “aww” moment.


On to the French experience: the first two show me dwarfed by the Bayeux Cathedral in Normandy (Survival); the next two with me and my fiancé in the gorgeous Bois de Boulogne (Boulogne Woods) just outside city limits (Survival); the following in the dungeon room of Le Dernier Bar Avant la Fin du Monde ― “The Last Bar Before the End of the World,” perhaps the geekiest and most badass bar in the history of everything (olive Original); and, you guessed it, the Eiffel Tower! (one of the only photos taken when it was still warm enough to show off my toe shoes in addition to my Workman’s). Then, we lovebirds in the Tuileries Gardens, showcasing my Mocker not too far from the Louvre; the next two demonstrating the difference from the top and bottom of Mount St Michel in Normandy, followed by some shots of me snapping photos in my black Original ― AND sporting my very useful Utilikilts hoodie! Finally for France, I’m walking through the quaint little commune of Saint Chéron near Paris (Survival).

Next, one of my favorites of the Workman’s in action building a home for Habitat for Humanity back home in north Texas. Then we’ve got me being inducted into the Pi Delta Phi international French honor society in my Mocker.

Then there’s the Ireland collection, all but one featuring my Survival: there’s me gazing across the rocky Burren and blue oceans of the isle; me and my travel buddy at the majestic Cliffs of Moher, demonstrating the 60+mph winds and my relief at having a safety system built into my kilt; exploring the ruins of Corcomroe Abbey, a 12th-century structure ripe for photography; me in my black Original, having just found my soon-to-be fiancee’s engagement ring at Appleby Jewelers in Dublin; and for the last page of Ireland, night time on the River Liffey in Dublin.

Then I’m dressed up in my Mocker, along with my lady, for a seriously silly party, followed by three nice demonstrations of my Workman’s as I prepare for another Maypole dance, demonstrate safety with power tools, and have fun with a phone call in the streets of Savannah, Georgia. The following shows how embarrassing it is to run out of fuel in a hybrid vehicle on road trips (for the record, if me and my black Original had been driving, we’d have kept a better eye on the gas gauge). Next is a demonstration of the mysterious and irresistible “napping pheromones” released by a friend’s little doggie (Survival), followed by another romantic moment with my love and I (in my black Original), this time at the Texas Renaissance Festival near Houston. Finally, we end with a very precious photo that includes one of Utilikilts’ original Leather models on my clan brother to the left, bolstered by me and my Survival. What I’m doing with my mouth, I have no idea, but I justify it with the big-ass sword and otherwise heightened level of testosterone in this photo.

This is me and my fiancee at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France – that’s where Jim Morrison’s buried, along with Chopin, Oscar Wilde, and many other famous dead guys. Not in the same grave, of course. That’d be weird.

Snow in Paris was too good an opportunity to pass up. Once again, I’m in the Boulogne Woods, this time enjoying a very cool breeze. My photographers (Parisians themselves) asked the inevitable question “Aren’t you cold?” and I replied honestly: I’m used to it by now, and moreover I prefer to be cold and comfortable than cold and in pants. This Texas boy handled an unusually extreme European winter much better than he thought he would.

Here I’m sharing the spotlight (and my Mocker) with some more traditionally-clad folks of Scottish inspiration at my first traditional Robert Burns Supper, hosted at the Auld Alliance Scottish Pub in Paris. (Oddly enough, the other folks in the photo were almost all French. Great friendship between the French and the Celts!) Then I’m below the streets of Paris (in the catacombs) on my way to the underworld in my Workman’s. Finally, I’m at the Cernunnos Pagan Fest at the Moulin Rouge, getting my drink on with a brand new drinking horn! Not the best quality photo, but the only one that showed enough of my black Original to include in the contest.

Next I visit the Château de Chantilly near Paris  – if you’ve never heard of nor tried the famous crème Chantilly, you are missing out on a world of calories, sugar, and fat that will blow your taste buds away. These all feature my black Original: from behind the castle, and from a throne of stone in the gardens (I have Utilikilts to thank for the shadowy blackness of the garment, otherwise that view might be a bit shocking to some), then we’ve got me at my sexiest by the pond. Gotta have a little air guitar at the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, once again rocking the Original and also my Vibram FiveFingers® toe shoes. Then comes Versailles, about as far away from Paris as Chantilly: one in what I was sure was a dungeon that needed a more authentic touch, and another that reveals my hippie side under a crazy, knotted tree.

A few more from my visit to Normandy: at the American Cemetery visitor’s center; at various Normandy beaches (note the fantastic weather); and another sample of me snapping some shots at Mont Saint Michel.

Did I mention that I went to Ireland a second time? There are some real jewels in this batch. I was on the Emerald Isle with my fiancee this time, and we had a full week to tour the country. First, I’m beside one of the ironically named “Peace Walls” that have separated the Protestant and Catholic communities of Belfast for a number of decades now, some dating back forty years. The causeway photos are also in Northern Ireland, at the Giant’s Causeway (one photo for good looks, the other for scale). In one of my favorites, I’m on a boat called the Connemara Lady, floating down Killary fjord near the west coast in one of the most beautiful, picturesque landscapes that Ireland has to offer – made all the more enjoyable with a pint of Guinness. Then we progress to Howth, a lovely little fishing village near Dublin on the east coast: me and my lady in the heart of a rhododendron forest; me on top of a mountain overlooking the harbor (with “Ireland’s Eye” closest in the background – with yellow gorse even closer); us lovers again; and me climbing a rather steep trail on our decent from the mountain. Then we’re in the Long Room at Trinity College, Dublin,  after having seen the Book of Kells. Then back to Northern Ireland for one of the most terrifying experiences of my life: I’m traversing the rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede about a hundred feet above the violent surf and jagged rocks, which is certainly saying something if you have vertigo and acrophobia like I do (notice the clenched jaw, forced smile, and iron grip on the hand ropes. I sure as hell wasn’t going to look down. But I made it!) Finally, we’re at the Hill of Tara in the Boyne Valley, County Meath, posing between a tombstone (St. Patrick’s, maybe?) and the very phallic Lia Fáil, the Stone of Destiny, where the high kings of Ireland were crowned.

Oh, and if you’re ever in the little town of Doolin in Country Clare, you need to stop by Fitzpatrick’s Pub & restaurant for a round or two of their local red beer, Dooliner. I think it compliments the laid back atmosphere and beautiful countryside quite nicely.

 

Whew, glad I got that out of my system. Here’s to a new kilt! Hope to see you guys soon 🙂

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L’Hôtel de Ville de Paris

One very interesting excursion with our school took us to the Hôtel de Ville de Paris, the governmental, administrative building of the city (and the country). It’s the seat of the mayor and hundreds of other functionaries, but unlike most other such state institutions that I’ve seen (and that’s admittedly not a long list to begin with), this one is very rich – in history and culture as well as in actual accoutrements and decor.

The following shots of the exterior show the building decorated with all manner of ribbons and banners welcoming some very important figure – our guide at the time didn’t inform us of precisely who was expected, but there was a very large crowd of enthusiastic French folk hanging about. At any rate it added some more color to the occasion. We also saw some military folk marching around, some carrying arms, others with instruments, presumably after having participated in some sort of parade or ceremony.

Once inside, we toured the large ballroom (at least, that’s what I remember it being called, though it would probably be wise to check my facts since they’re quite dated in my mind at this point. At any rate, I think it at least used to be a ballroom reserved for dances and such, now repurposed for large-scale events and gatherings). It was ornately decorated with depictions of France’s empire on the ceiling: portraits representing each of her regions and departments both in the contiguous and intercontinental spheres, each portrayed with objects or symbols unique to those areas; different arts were represented on the ceiling by huge murals boasting musical instruments, dances, and all manner of cultured life. The Paris city seal was recreated on most surfaces in the building, and it appeared a few times in this hall.

The next room was either a meeting or waiting area, decorated with statues of what I think were representations of the economic trades important to France’s history – fishing, agriculture, hunting, etc.

We continued to another smaller chamber filled with the country’s seal and some more murals, but this time the latter represented the exchange of power between France’s king and its newly formed, democratic government. With some oriental urns, to boot.

I think that I was most impressed by the incredibly huge hall which payed homage to the arts and sciences via some incredible murals, sculptures, biographical references to important historical figures, and sections devoted to one field of study or another: literature, mathematics, fine art, etc. Moreover, the preserved wood that made up the floors, columns, and ceilings of this area was unbelievably well-maintained, even now after decades of use (at one point, I believe, the Hôtel de Ville was burned down and had to be recreated, but it was long enough ago that the efforts for reconstruction and preservation are quite admirable, by today’s or any other day’s standards). I included a few shots of the building’s exterior around its courtyard, seen through the windows of this room, too.

The whole place was filled with some amazing sights, as you can see. I only wish that I could remember more of the specifics regarding the building’s many functions and all of the incredible details that make this place really come alive. And honestly, I do recall more than a handful of impressive statistics, but I shy away from sharing them for fear that I might misinform you because of my memory’s tendency to embellish things…

If you are at all into politics, history, art, architecture, or culture – any or all of them – then I would definitely recommend a visit here. I think that something like 400 separate events and/or meetings per year are hosted here, so there is always something interesting going on at any given time. There is no shortage of things to learn, and I find it very satisfying to get a glimpse into the inner workings of what makes a city tick (even though we were not allowed to tour the more modern, basic offices for such-and-such department or branch of government: they told us that we would risk being terribly bored there as compared to the rest of the building’s majestic interior).

If ever you have any questions or would like some specifications, feel free to leave a comment and see if your inquiry sparks any memories or particularly interesting facts that might be hiding in the depths of my gray matter somewhere 🙂

 

À bientôt!

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Un Peu de Tout

As you might imagine, I ended up with a large number of photos filed “random” on this trip. For this installment, I’ll share some memories from all around Paris when I happened to have my camera on me. Please forgive me if you see some repeats: I figure that if I’ve forgotten them by now, you probably have too 😉

I strolled through the Luxembourg Gardens a number of times, but, as with most of Paris, I preferred the relative calm of the winter months for such locations over the tourist season of springtime that brought in both foreigners and Parisians alike, even though everything was much greener and arguably more beautiful and welcoming than before. Here are a few samples, with some air guitar for good measure.

If you know “Under Paris Skies,” then the following shots might give you some idea as to the song’s inspiration, followed by some samples of the Seine that flows through the heart of France:

And here’s the true hodgepodge that’s a bit too random for categorization:

Mostly I’m just cleaning out my files, here. I hope you’re getting something out of it!

 

À bientôt

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l’Opéra Garnier – Not the Shampoo

When you hear about the opera in Paris, it’s the Opéra Garnier. Although I certainly do enjoy singing while I shampoo my hair, the namesake (as far as I know) has little connection with this magnificent place. Music, on the other hand, most definitely comes with the package: I was lucky enough to see a number of ballets here during my sojourn in Paris, all with amazing, live orchestras and phenomenally choreographed dances. The following  photos come from a guided tour of the facility, which I would highly recommend if you find yourself in the area. The first few shots show what used to be a preparatory room underneath the orchestra/seating area where high-class individuals would spruce themselves up before attending a performance. The four big statues of composers represent the four schools of Opera music, which I can’t remember for the life of me (it may have been as easy as French, English, German, and Italian, but don’t trust me).

Then we have the library and museum: the library is functional today, and if you have a membership (which extends to the BNF, the national library of France), you can check out signed, original copies of many scores of famous music from throughout the ages – with supervision, of course, and with very special permission. There were many scene mock-ups and other works of art that I thought were both wonderfully crafted and displayed.

If my memory serves me correctly, we then have the Great Hall, a very impressive show of what funding went into this place and that which continues to maintain it. Whether real or false, there was a lot of gold on those walls…

Finally, here are some shots of the orchestra, where all of the spectators sit, and some of the false curtain covering the stage. The ceiling featured a very interesting, almost childlike mural – by Matisse, if I’m not mistaken? Once again, you have my apologies for not uploading these when my memory was fresher.

This was easily one of my favorite sights in Paris, largely because it came with sound and spectacle as well! I wish that I’d had my camera on me for my last visit to the Musée d’Orsay, because they feature a cross-section scale model of the Opéra that would have been a very helpful tool to illustrate the layout. There’s always Google 😉

 

À bientôt

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Finalement, l’Ecosse à Montmartre

How time does fly, n’est-ce pas?

It’s been over a month now since my last post, and you might recall that I was up to my eyeballs in research papers and schoolwork as the semester drew to a close. Close it has, and a very busy few weeks have followed, including my more or less definitive return to the United States. As you might imagine, I’ve been on a number of adventures since I last made my presence known here, so what say we try to catch up some, hmm? Contrary to the norm, however, I’ll be keeping these updates comparatively short (mostly because I’m so far removed in time from the events that they are quite fuzzy to me, save what the pictures bring to my memory).

As promised, here are the photos (and video) of l’Ecosse à Montmartre, a sort of festival and parade celebrating Scotland through the joyous sound of cats being slowly tortured — I mean bagpipes. In all honesty, I’m rather fond of the pipes myself, though I tend to favor the more folk-oriented incarnations over the military-style marching pipes that were featured here. Regardless, it was a great cultural event, and I’m all about the culture.

Here are the preparatory shots of what were at least a dozen different pipe bands, groups, and organizations gathered to spread the love and noise.

The following gallery is a mix of the parade itself and some shots of Montmartre.

Like any other day in Paris during the winter/early spring season, it was quite cold, but that didn’t seem to put off any kilted folk (myself included). I wondered if that might change the pipes’ tuning or quality of sound, but I also wonder if I would be able to tell the difference if it did…

Here’s a link to a playlist I made of all of the short videos from this event – I figured that would be easier than trying to embed all 10 clips here on the blog. Like I said, I’m keeping it short — but that means that you can look forward to more posts about other events even sooner 😉

À bientôt!

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Au milieu des devoirs…

Don’t worry, I’m still alive ― just very focused on trying to get my schoolwork done! And enjoying the lovely spring weather, from time to time.

As a quick update, I’m making progress on my papers, but slowly. I’ve always known that I work/write at a relatively sluggish rate, but I am surprised that I haven’t made the following observation sooner: something in me seems to necessitate putting off the hardest portions of scholarly work until the last minute, and it always results in a very stressful end to the semester. Somehow, though, it always works out just fine, and I’m never disappointed with the eventual outcome, so perhaps my subconscious has been telling me that I put out the best material under the stress of a short timeframe. Having said that, though, I’ve also adopted the wonderful attitude of not letting anything gum up my emotional gears: I’ve just decided not to worry about anything ―which is probably why more isn’t already done, but also why I’m not pulling my hair out. I can live with that compromise.

You might remember that I said I was working on a poetry blog for NaPoWriMo; I didn’t get to 30 poems in 30 days (far from it), but there’s always next year, and now I have a poetry blog to update from time to time! If you haven’t already, clicking on the above “spring” link will take you there.

I am proud to say that I’ve stayed off Facebook for a full week now, and I’m still going strong. I’ll reactivate it on Wednesday or Thursday after I’ve turned in the final drafts of my two papers, but it might only be a temporary reactivation since I’ll still have two more final assignments to crank out in a few days after that.

Meanwhile, have you ever wondered how they keep the gardens of Paris looking so nice? I found one answer at the Jardin des Tuileries in front of the Louvre: goats.

Apparently ol’ Billy wasn’t working hard enough the first day I saw him out there, so they had to hire another worker ― and presumably cut his pay. Of course, if the lawn is his payoff, then it would seem that he makes a living by cutting his own pay.

I still owe you a Scottish bagpipe parade and a visit to the Opera. If I could outsource my blog, I’d have someone else do it for you, but there’s not even time  for that. Meanwhile I hope you enjoyed this little update. Wish me luck!

À bientôt

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Crunch Time!

Hey folks, it’s finals weeks — yes, plural — and school demands my attention. In fact, it has done so for about the past two or three weeks, which partially helps explain my absence here. In addition to the academic strains and being away from the house for extended periods of time, I also decided to do something for myself, more specifically for the stifled writer in me, and created a poetry blog in celebration of the National Poetry Writing Month (US) of April. No, creating another blog does not seem like the most logical way to cut down on my to-do list, but it’s therapeutic and will hopefully replace a more dangerous habit of mine than I am trying to curb: I am a Facebook addict, and as such I am suspending my account to give my brain a chance to defrag and focus on getting things done. Given that the social network seems to be the axis of my distractions, I hope that its removal will discourage me from wasting time on other sites like YouTube, pop news hubs, and web comics.

But back to the subject at hand: poetry. As I continue the project, I notice that most of my poems so far are somehow or other related to my life here in Paris. Since I’ve been slacking on this blog (the one that you’re reading now), I figured that I’d share my poetic content and give you a time-filler until I can get back to the lengthier posts here. So if you’re interested, you can find my new blog here:

https://rhythmsnest.wordpress.com/

Meanwhile, it’s studying, testing, researching, and writing on a very tight schedule, but hopefully you’ll be hearing from me from time to time. Thanks again for  your readership!

À bientôt

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