23 March 2010

Paul McCartney at Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy

Paul McCartney came to Paris December 9th and thanks to our good friends, Tammy and Gilles, we got to see him in concert.  The last time I saw Paul in concert was in Seattle in the late '70s when he and Wings played there.  I convinced Miles, my boyfriend at the time, to get to the Kingdome well in advance to ensure we had great seating.  

Growing up, my older brothers were big Beatles fans who had all of their albums playing all the time.  From Meet the Beatles, to Rubber Soul, A Hard Day's Night, Help and Revolver, we knew every word to every song.  I remember when Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band came out and we begged my mom to buy it for us.  She thought the album cover was clever, so she caved.  I remember when she made my brother Greg take me and my little brother Eric to see the movie Help.  He was so bummed that we came along with him and his friends.  We had a hard time following the plot (didn't everyone?), but it was still a thrill.  As I recall, there was the Beach Boys camp (YUCK!), the Rolling Stones camp, and the Beatles.  I still think the Beatles were the front runners for talent.  

Paul McCartney is 67 years old!  Still, he gave a phenomenal performance to the crowd's delight.  He did touching tributes to both John and George, each uniquely special.  He charmed the crowd by trying to speak French.

He may be father to a 6 year old, and grandfather to four, but he's as talented as ever.  He had amazing stamina and thrilled us with two encores. 

Here's his setlist:
Magical Mystery Tour
Drive My Car
Only Mama Knows
Flaming Pie
Got To Get You Into My Life
Let Me Roll It / Foxy Lady
The Long and Winding Road
(I Want To) Come Home
My Love
Here TOday
Dance Tonight
And I Love Her
Mrs. Vanderbilt
Eleanor Rigby
Band on the Run
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Sing the Changes
Back in the U.S.S.R
I've Got A Feeling
Paperback Writer
A Day in the Life / Give Peace a Chance
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Hey Jude

Encore 1
Day Tripper
Lady Madonna
Get Back

Encore 2
Helter Skelter
Sgt. Pepper's Loney Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
The End

18 March 2010

R.I.P. Reilly

As I scurry about my day-to-day life, it's easy to be mired down by the challenge of the hour. Honestly, I've never before experienced a time like this where the highs and the lows come at me rapid fire like aliens in a video game. Many days it's a struggle to keep everything in context. Like all of us, there is usually something that comes along to jolt us out of our stupor. For me, it was learning that an old friend had died from colon cancer at age 49.

Reilly and I worked together in Seattle at Rainier Bank. Actually, I was his supervisor, but we were the same age and went to school together at the University of Washington. His fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, was next door to my sorority, Alpha Chi Omega.

Reilly was one of the more interesting people I've met in my life. Scathingly intelligent. Curious about everything. Thoughtful. Introspective. Funny.

By day we were college students in the Greek system, drinking beer, writing papers, drinking beer, studying for exams, drinking beer, chilling between classes, attending football games, hanging out at exchanges, and drinking beer. By night, we worked as VISA card collectors, calling people to encourage them to make payments on their past due accounts. The art of persuasion. We cajoled. We begged. We were evaluated based on our results and the team was quite competitive.

At our relatively young ages, the experience gave us a unique opportunity to peer into the gritty reality of people living off of credit cards, dealing with unemployment, divorce, illness and misfortune. During breaks we'd share stories about the crazy excuses people gave, or the sad stories we'd hear about why customers had fallen behind on their payments. It was like a sociology or psychology class. Reilly always seemed to be more sensitive to the hardship people were enduring.

After we graduated, I lost touch with Reilly. I'd hear about him occasionally from friends. He went on to attend law school at the University of San Diego. He was a partner and trial attorney, litigating , writing and speaking on habitability, personal injury, employment and business claims. He married and had three daughters. Reilly was a life-long athlete, excelling at track and field, baseball, skiing, golf, tennis and was coach to his daughters' soccer and baseball teams. A gifted musician, he performed in bands as guitarist and lyricist and produced and recorded four CDs of original music.

It's been roughly 25 years since I last spoke to Reilly, yet learning of his death hit me hard. There's no understanding why his life was cut short. He was a good soul. A quality person. I treasure the time I got to spend with him while he was here. His last gift to me is reminding me not to take one moment of life for granted. R.I.P. Reilly.

17 March 2010

Driving Miss Crazy

I got my Washington State Driver's License on the morning of my 16th birthday. My appointment was at 8am and my kind father drove me out to Renton to take the exam. By 10am, license in hand, he was driving me to Holy Names Academy, my all girls Catholic high school. On the way, I suggested it might be easier for me to drop him off at his office in downtown Seattle and then take the car up to Capitol Hill where my school was. I don't think I've heard him laugh that loud since.

Fast forward too many years for me to actually say here. We've been in living in Paris since December 2008. I was able to drive here with my Washington State license up until December 2009. At that magical moment, the deal was over. The French have decided that I can no longer drive unless I take driving lessons and pass their written and road exams. Crazed by the challenge of finding time in my busy schedule to learn French, study the Code de la Route - en Francais! - and then take these pitiful tests, I GOOGLED like mad looking for an out. There was none to be found.

My lovely car sits parked in the garage while I take the Metro and study at the Fehrenbach International Driving School in Suresnes, a suburb of Paris. For 1800 Euros (roughly $2500), I get private lessons in English and a crash course. After spending all day Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday with a tutor, and taking practice tests on the DVD they provided, I tagged along with a group of five students to some other remote suburb to take the written exam.

It's a sweet set up for English-speakers. After all of the paperwork is settled (and believe me, we're in France, so we're talking a lot of paperwork), we are given a device that looks like a remote control and assigned seating. No cheating! The French facilitator reads the questions on the screen in French, along with the possible answers, while the English interpreter, her back to the screen, repeats what she says in English. Each question is accompanied by a movie size photo of the situation we're being asked about. The main actors are the roads (auto routes, major / important roads, substitute roads, access controlled roads, etc.), tunnels, and overpasses, the lines on the roads (dashed, solid, blue, yellow, white, etc.) and the signs or "paneaux" we must interpret. Bit players include people, animals, wind socks, emergency vehicles, etc. The settings vary from city to town to village and from urban to rural.

Forty questions. Can miss only five. I missed seven. ARGH! It is rare for anyone to pass on the first try. I thought I was rare. Turns out I'm common.

My new friends and I stood in the parking lot going over which ones we thought we missed (they don't tell you). It's funny how quickly six strangers can bond over a common experience. One woman from Nigeria passed on her first try. She studied and studied. She read the book over and over. At the school before the test, she was a mess. She said she couldn't sleep. She was hilarious.

I'm hoping to go back and pass it on the second try. I know why I missed five of the seven. It's funny how something I thought was going to be a thorn in my side has turned out to be just another one of life's interesting challenges. And along the way, I've met an eclectic group of people - including my private tutor whose other job is Marc Jacobs' personal chef in Paris - who have made my life richer. LUCKY ME!

Wistful Thinking

Tuesday, March 16th was the 11-year anniversary of my mother's death. I know some people say "passing" but that word has never felt comfortable to me in this context. Anyone who knows me can attest to my tendency to be direct. She died. It was a very sad day for me and my family.

My mother and I had an interesting relationship, one that changed shape many times during the course of our 74 years together. As a young child, I was thrilled when I got any attention from her at all. I came from a big family, and enjoyed the limelight as the youngest for a brief 18 months before my younger brother came along. He was cuter so that was the end of that. Not that I harbor any resentment. When I look at photos of all of us, I can certainly understand his appeal and my... well let's just say of the many gifts I received, a pleasant looking little face wasn't one of them.

As I grew older, things changed and as life events came along, our relationship either grew closer (my heart surgery at age 6, my first wedding, giving birth to her grandchildren) or more strained (her treatment of my friends, my husband, [insert anyone's name here]). As a teenager, a friend and I grew bold enough to start calling our parents by their first names. We thought it was funny. My mom never minded it at all, especially because I called her Betts. Her name was Betty Jane and she hated that name. She loved Betts so much more that she actually ended up having friends call her that.

Over time everyone quickly realized Betts' bark was worse than her bite. She said provocative things because she loved a good debate. I remember when she kept telling me that OJ was innocent. She could get me so hooked into the arguing and then I finally realized it's best just to laugh. And laugh we did. She was so much fun. She had a great sense of humor and was so well read that we could talk about anything - books, art, movies, history, fashion, cooking, sewing, politics, religion, childrearing, sex, love, heartache, money, finances, gardening, entertaining, flower arranging, travel, etc.

Betts positively adored my children. From the time they were babies, she would sneak into the daycare on Friday to get them and then call to tell me they were staying over with her for the weekend. I remember when she picked Nick up and drove him straight to Baskin & Robbins for an ice cream cone on the way home. He was about 18 months old in his car seat covered with ice cream by the time they arrived home. Me - the clean freak - would never have done that. It was great to have a babysitter, but there were times when their father and I kind of missed them. She rewarded us for sharing them by hosting a delicious meal on Sunday afternoons when we came to retrieve them. I thank her for creating such a strong and memorable bond with them. They were very close to her and learned many lessons at her side. That was the best gift she could give me.


This may be a cliche, but there's a reason for it. It's true.

At times I find myself silently talking to her. I imagine wistfully how great it would be if she could just come back for one day. We'd spend a long day strolling through Paris. She'd love every minute of it. I'd treat her to a fine meal and we'd share a good long talk and a lot of hearty laughter. If only it could be so. If only.

07 March 2010

Work / Life Balance

Okay so we haven't updated the blog for awhile. There are good and bad reasons for this. On the plus side, we have been busy living our lives to the fullest, trying to capture and relish every minute of every day. Randy's photo tours business has taken off. He managed to get Photo Tours in Paris placed on tripadvisor.com and with 5 star ratings from 34 of his clients, he shot up to the 3rd highest ranked attraction in Paris (out of 790!). Needless to say, he's been B-U-S-Y and is getting busier every day as he books more and more tours. This week and last he's been running around town taking photos of the beautiful people inside and outside for Paris Fashion Week. His shots are amazing. He's hanging with the fashionistas.

Delaney has focused on her studies. She's up to the challenge those French teachers constantly throw at her, and as a result of hard work and diligence, she received exceptionally high marks for her exams. She is our fluent speaking French guide and we routinely put her on the phone to make reservations, and interpret for us when we have absolutely no idea what someone on the phone is saying - which is often. We struggled to get by for the past couple of weeks as she flew to Texas to visit her mother and took along close friend from school who is Spanish and has never before been to the United States. It was a treat for her to have a traveling buddy and to show off her native country and all it has to offer (at least, all Texas has to offer).

And me? I'm struggling to find a light at the end of the tunnel with my situation. I love spending time with my family and pets in Paris. Problem is...I'm rarely in Paris. I'm in lots of other places, on trains and planes, in meetings rooms and hotels. I now have a matrix management situation with a manager in Antwerp and a manager in Redmond. With the 9-hour time difference. It's assured I'll have email coming at me from 6am until midnight, and meetings booked in the day and in the evenings. I remember a time when I said at work, "I'm bored. I need a new challenge." That was a long, long time ago. ;-0

My latest struggle came when I was summoned back to Redmond for a week of meetings with the new CIO and my peer Directors. It was short notice, bookended with Valentine's Day - my all time favorite holiday - and a planned vacation in Switzerland. That sounds better than it is. It mean that I couldn't leave for the beautiful Pacific NW any sooner than the 15th or I would have spent Valentine's Day on a plane with 200+ strangers. NO WAY! And I couldn't extend my stay over the weekend so I could spend more time with Seattle family and friends because I had to be back in time to hop a train to Engelberg, Switzerland with Randy. On top of all that, our good friends the Yamauras were due to arrive on the 13th for a week long visit. We'd overlap for a short two days!

So, my plans were to leave Paris and because of the time change arrive in Seattle on Monday, February 15th. I would attend meetings Tuesday - Friday, as well as business dinners, and save Thursday and Friday nights for dinner with my children. All was going fine until Wednesday night when I returned from a business dinner. It was around 10:30pm and I was working at my computer when I felt some intense chest pain. I laid down and tried to find a position that would make it stop, but nothing worked. It just grew more intense. Words cannot adequately describe how painful it was. I struggled because I was alone in that hotel and it was now midnight and I really didn't know what to do. I had a meeting the next morning at 7:30am. I thought "they'll find me dead here...I'd better change from my nightgown into street clothes so when they carry me out, I'll be decent." I managed to call Randy to tell him how bad things were. He urged me to call 9-1-1. Well I don't like drama, but the pain was so incredibly bad that I called and asked the nice operator at the end of the call to please have the paramedics quietly enter the lobby and come up to room 242. They did! They were very understanding and kept it all on the down-low. They hooked me up to an EKG and did a few other tests. They strongly suggested I go with them to the hospital. I didn't want to go because I had a meeting the next morning and what if it was nothing and I didn't want everyone to know... I mean trouble follows me everywhere. I finally agreed to go because they lured me with the promise that drugs to kill pain could be found at Overlake Hospital.

I arrived there around 1am and then spent some time describing my pain to four different inquiring minds...LPNs, RPNs, doctors, etc. They kept asking me to rate my pain on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the worst and I kept saying 11. They did an ultrasound and told me I had gall stones...lots of them..and needed my gall bladder removed. This was about 3:30am. By that time, they had given me strong painkillers via an IV so I felt great. I told them I had no time for gall bladder surgery because I was due at a 7:30am meeting and if I left then in a cab back to the Marriott, I could take a shower and be ready to roll for the meeting in one of the hotel conference rooms. Of course, they thought I was nuts. I told them I'd fly back from Paris in a month or two and have the surgery then. (I figured it was a good opportunity to come back and seem my family and friends.) They reminded me of the intense pain that brought me to their door, pain that would surely return the minute the drugs wore off and/or the next gall stone made its way down the tiny track. The doctor was clever and suggested it could happen mid-air on my way home and if I don't like drama, well I certainly wouldn't want a plane from Seattle to Paris to have to be forced to land in Detroit because a girl postponed gall bladder surgery. The doctor had a point. We continued negotiating. He let me leave on the promise I'd return at 3:30pm that same day - after the meeting. He said it was a 40 minute procedure done laparascopically and I'd be out by 8pm. The doctor armed me with Percocet (woo hoo) and I made it through the once-in-a-lifetime meeting fine and then took a cab to the hospital. I made arrangements for Nick to pick me when it was all done.

Unfortunately, some complication arose so I had to spend the night at Overlake. The doctor called Nick and told him that only 2% of the population has a gall bladder connected to their liver the way mine was and that required a longer surgery and an overnight stay, particularly since I was scheduled to fly home on Saturday. The doctor called Nick when it was done and told him to swing by and see me at 9:30! That’s when I was in recovery. I was so drugged up I don’t remember much. Nick took my valuables home and promised to return at noon the next day – Friday – to pick me up. It was a rough night but I made it through. And when Nick picked me up and took me back to the Marriott to retrieve my stuff, we moved to the Westin in Bellevue.

Merisa drove down from Bellingham and the three of us went shopping, out to dinner and saw Up in the Air. It was so great to see them again, albeit for a very short timeframe. We had a slumber party in my room at the Westin and then Merisa drove me to the airport to catch my noon flight back. It was an ordeal, I assure you. I arrived home at noon on Sunday and we left at 4am the next day to catch a train to Switzerland.

And now we speak constantly of our struggle to balance work and life. It's certainly a challenge we all share. At the end of the day, family and friends are what sustain us, what makes us want to continue the journey. Let's see how it goes.