off to Lille for the mother of all flea markets


jellyfish trapped in paperweights


It’s that time again! Always on the first weekend of September, rain or shine, the gigantic flea market starts tonight in the northern city of Lille. Lucky for us, the weather forecast for this weekend is sunny and warm.

One million visitors from all over the country and from neighboring Belgium, Germany and the U.K. descend on Lille which transforms its city center into a giant pedestrian zone. To give you an idea of previous flea markets, here are two links from previous years (lots of photos.) When I return Sunday night, I’ll post new photos from this year.

7 pm, Round Pond, Tuileries Gardens

I left the office at 6 pm, jumped on the metro and zipped straight down to the Place de la Concorde. My mission? To buy the required book for my brand new book club meeting next Monday night. I’m excited. I’ve never belonged to a book club before. Which is odd considering I love books, and I’m writing one. The English-language bookstore, W.H. Smith, is located on the rue de Rivoli at the Place de la Concorde. And the required book for next Monday night’s discussion is Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time. (I hated it.)


Once in the bookstore, I wasted no time going out again because the evening light was so beautiful. Across the road, the Tuileries Gardens beckoned. I went into the gardens and took these photos at the Round Pond.

What is it about water that soothes and mesmerizes us?


Actually, I know the answer to that question. Because water reminds us of where we came from. It invokes a feeling of connection to something or someone beyond ourselves.


7 pm on a weekday, an oasis in the middle of a chaotic, jarring (and terribly polluted) metropolis. Sadly, the noise and air pollution in this city has become intolerable.



Have you ever seen Parisians so relaxed? Or maybe they weren’t Parisians at all. It’s still August and the city is jam-packed with tourists.



The air temperature was a perfect 25°C (77°F). The last of summer before autumn arrives. But I love autumn, so I’m looking forward to September and October.

Here’s the rue de Rivoli where W.H. Smith is located. The Tuileries Gardens are directly opposite (metro Concorde).


And here’s the entrance into the gardens from the Place de la Concorde.


summer is rosé season


Summer is rosé season … and we are spoiled for choice here in France. Sometimes I’ll stand for ten minutes in front of the rosé wine section at my local supermarket, deciding which region to choose. Corsican? Provençal? Languedoc? The Bordeaux region? They’re all good.

Bordeaux Clairet is a distinctive rosé from Bordeaux, so deep in color it might almost be mistaken for a lightly-colored red wine. As might be expected, it’s made using the classic Bordeaux red-wine varieties – predominantly Merlot with a little help from the more “serious” Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Despite their intense color and rich fruity scent, the wines are always dry in style.

Typing the word ‘Merlot’ reminded me of that funny scene in the movie SIDEWAYS. If you haven’t seen this movie with Paul Giamatti, I highly recommend it.

Here are a few simple plates I threw together for a friend who came over recently. It was during the heatwave, so we ate cold. That cheese is halloumi … a Cypriot brined white cheese; so so good, grilled or cold.







I’ve been making this salmon dish for decades, it’s so tasty. Marinate salmon in soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh ginger, scallions, garlic and a drizzle of honey. Place in a foil-covered baking dish and oven bake at a low temperature. Delicious hot or cold.

The star of the meal was a big bowl of quinoa-bulgur; I forgot to take a picture of it. Too bad because it’s really colorful. At my local supermarket you can buy a box of quinoa-bulgur already mixed. Once you’ve boiled it for ten minutes then drained it, throw it into a large bowl and add a chopped red and/or yellow pepper, tomatoes, cuke, red onion or scallions, dried cranberries, and fresh chives or any other fresh herb (parsley, coriander.) Optional additions are cut-up chunks of mozzarella or halloumi cheese, cut-up black or green olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. But the best addition is corn: not from the can, but kernels sliced from the cob. You can also add grilled chicken breast cubes or, alternatively, serve with grilled, turmeric-rubbed chicken on the side. Then I make a lemon juice-olive oil-vinegar-garlic vinaigrette and spoon it on at the last minute. I’ve been eating this salad all summer long, it’s a meal in itself. Serve with a chilled white or rosé wine.


And last but not least, here’s my new IKEA wardrobe. I’m so happy with it. It takes up nearly an entire wall. Who doesn’t love IKEA?


I bought these ceramic door knobs separately at Zara Home.


a perfect summer’s day

The weather was so perfect I wanted to preserve it in a bottle: cobalt-blue sky, blazing sun and a cool breeze blowing in from somewhere. Impossible to stay indoors! So I jumped on the metro and crossed town to my favorite large park in Paris.


I make only one change on the metro, from the number one central line to the number 14 line. There are two metro stops that serve the Parc de Bercy, one at either end: Cour Saint-Émilion which takes you directly to Bercy Village, and Bercy, at the far end of the park. Personally, I prefer Bercy because it allows me to walk through the elongated, beautiful park that runs parallel to the river Seine.


Bercy Village is located at the end of Bercy Park (metro stop Cour Saint-Émilion on the number 14 line.) Tastefully designed and spread out along a single pedestrian street, it houses an even number of shops and restaurants. It’s what I call a “feel good” place.


Here’s a favorite shop of mine. Fragonard sells gorgeous soaps, bath products, body creams as well as clothes, jewelry and a few home furnishings. If you’re looking for gifts, this is the place to go. It’s also beautifully air-conditioned.


Their signature glycerine soaps cost 5 euros apiece. I bought a green one (Verveine which is lemon verbena). I also bought a gift box of four jasmine soaps for only 12 euros per box. The prices at Fragonard are reasonable, the quality excellent.


To see more photos of Bercy Park (and the open-air swimming pool on the river Seine) from a blog post written three summers ago, click here –


from Syria to Winnipeg, Manitoba

An 11-year old boy loses his mother and siblings (and nearly his leg.) He and his father start a new life in Winnipeg. A heart-wrenching story.

“Do you have brothers or sisters, and if so, how many?” the teacher asks the class in a Winnipeg school. What is the poor boy supposed to answer? “I did have brothers and sisters … but they’re all dead. My mother too.”


I met you in the rain …

A few years ago I stumbled across this text (essay? open letter?) on the internet. I don’t know who wrote it, or to whom it was written. All I know is that the writing is beautiful, and it moved me. There’s so much information surreptitiously slipped into the sentences … reading it is like eating a full meal.

I met you in the rain on the last day of 1972, the same day I resolved to kill myself. One week prior, at the behest of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, I’d flown four B-52 sorties over Hanoi. I dropped forty-eight bombs. How many homes I destroyed, how many lives I ended, I’ll never know.  But in the eyes of my superiors, I had served my country honorably, and I was thusly discharged with such distinction.

And so on the morning of that New Year’s Eve, I found myself in a barren studio apartment on Beacon and Hereford with a fifth of Tennessee rye and the pang of shame permeating the recesses of my soul. When the bottle was empty, I made for the door and vowed, upon returning, that I would retrieve the Smith & Wesson Model 15 from the closet and give myself the discharge I deserved.

I walked for hours. I looped around the Fenway before snaking back past Symphony Hall and up to Trinity Church.  Then I roamed through the Common, scaled the hill with its golden dome, and meandered into that charming labyrinth divided by Hanover Street. By the time I reached the waterfront, a charcoal sky had opened and a drizzle became a shower. That shower soon gave way to a deluge. While the other pedestrians darted for awnings and lobbies, I trudged into the rain. I suppose I thought, or rather hoped, that it might wash away the patina of guilt that had coagulated around my heart. It didn’t, of course, so I started back to the apartment.

And then I saw you.

You’d taken shelter under the balcony of the Old State House. You were wearing a teal ball gown, which appeared to me both regal and ridiculous. Your brown hair was matted to the right side of your face, and a galaxy of freckles dusted your shoulders. I’d never seen anything so beautiful.

When I joined you under the balcony, you looked at me with your big green eyes, and I could tell that you’d been crying. I asked if you were okay. You said you’d been better. I asked if you’d like to have a cup of coffee. You said only if I would join you. Before I could smile, you snatched my hand and led me on a dash through Downtown Crossing and into Neisner’s.

We sat at the counter of that five and dime and talked like old friends. We laughed as easily as we lamented, and you confessed over pecan pie that you were engaged to a man you didn’t love, a banker from some line of Boston nobility. A Cabot, or maybe a Chaffee. Either way, his parents were hosting a soirée to ring in the New Year, hence the dress.

For my part, I shared more of myself than I could have imagined possible at that time. I didn’t mention Vietnam, but I got the sense that you could see there was a war waging inside me. Still, your eyes offered no pity, and I loved you for it.

After an hour or so, I excused myself to use the restroom. I remember consulting my reflection in the mirror. Wondering if I should kiss you, if I should tell you what I’d done from the cockpit of that bomber a week before, if I should return to the Smith & Wesson that waited for me. I decided, ultimately, that I was unworthy of the resuscitation this stranger in the teal ball gown had given me, and to turn my back on such sweet serendipity would be the real disgrace.

On the way back to the counter, my heart thumped in my chest like an angry judge’s gavel, and a future — our future —flickered in my mind. But when I reached the stools, you were gone. No phone number. No note. Nothing.

As strangely as our union had begun, so too had it ended. I was devastated. I went back to Neisner’s every day for a year, but I never saw you again. Ironically, the torture of your abandonment seemed to swallow my self-loathing, and the prospect of suicide was suddenly less appealing than the prospect of discovering what had happened in that restaurant. The truth is I never really stopped wondering.

I’m an old man now, and only recently did I recount this story to someone for the first time, a friend from the VFW. He suggested I look for you on Facebook. I told him I didn’t know anything about Facebook, and all I knew about you was your first name and that you had lived in Boston once. And even if by some miracle I happened upon your profile, I’m not sure I would recognize you. Time is cruel that way.

This same friend has a particularly sentimental daughter. She’s the one who led me here to Craigslist and these Missed Connections. But as I cast this virtual coin into the wishing well of the cosmos, it occurs to me, after a million what-ifs and a lifetime of lost sleep, that our connection wasn’t missed at all.

You see, in these intervening forty-two years I’ve lived a good life. I’ve loved a good woman. I’ve raised a good man. I’ve seen the world. And I’ve forgiven myself. And you were the source of all of it. You breathed your spirit into my lungs one rainy afternoon, and you can’t possibly imagine my gratitude.

I have hard days, too. My wife passed four years ago. My son, the year after. I cry a lot. Sometimes from the loneliness, sometimes I don’t know why. Sometimes I can still smell the smoke over Hanoi. And then, a few dozen times a year, I’ll receive a gift. The sky will glower, and the clouds will hide the sun, and the rain will begin to fall. And I’ll remember.

So wherever you’ve been, wherever you are, and wherever you’re going, know this: you’re with me still.