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Once again, The Mouse is sending me overseas. Last year, it was to London and Paris. This year, it's only to Paris. ONLY Paris. Quel dommage!

I swore last time that I would not do another day-by-day because it took a toll. Boy oh friggin' boy, did I lose sleep! But to look back on the trip and have a fun visual record of it makes me think it would be a shame of the crying kind if I did not try it again. Sleep be damned! It's a trip overseas!

For the first 9 days, we will be staying at Disneyland Paris, so I'm guessing there will be less Dinners on the Town and more Dinners in a Tourist Trap. Will enough interesting stuff happen to make this travelogue worthwhile? Only those who gamble on the outcome will reap the rewards. (Read: Read on.)

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Tiny Fleurs

— DAY 0 —
Nothing Yet Again
April 6

Napoleon Charges!

Like last time, I'm still designing this page (hello, CSS!), so this little test picture is not from the trip I haven't taken yet.

Unlike last time, this man is French! But he's dead now.


Tiny Fleurs

— DAY 1 —
Zippy and Pepe
April 7

Already, some snarky gents have posted bitchings on The Wren Forum, clamoring for Day 1. As I remind them of the "Kinda" in the title, I thank them for their enthusiasm, and hope the following will suffice.


The Red Carpet Ladies


The instant Chuck and I walked into the United Red Carpet Club at LAX, the woman on the right pointed to Chuck and said, "You're Zippy!" And like that, the nickname was given. While we toyed with the option of finding it insulting, calling the United corporate offices to demand free flights in compensation for Chuck's emotional beating at the hands of this hussy who was, it was painfully obvious, poorly trained in the delicate art of customer service, we decided instead that it was cute. After demanding a nickname of my own, the woman on the left, after much thought, came up with Pepe.

Neither of these names will be helpful in France.

FUN FACT: You are not allowed to bring any food or drinks of your own into the Red Carpet Club! Zippy and I had to eat our McDonald's out in the terminal. "It's the smell, really," said the Red Carpet Ladies. "Do you have fries in the bag?" "Yes," I said. "Yeah," she said. Then she paged "Zippy," who had already wandered into the Club, over the PA so we could be shooed out to eat with the plebs.

Richard and Chris joined us eventually, and it was off to San Francisco for a layover.

At SFO security, I had a run-in with a TSA agent. As I was about to pass through the metal detector, this short, attitude-soaked guido said to me, "It is highly recommended you remove your shoes." "What?" I asked out of curiosity instead of deafness. "It is highly recommended you remove your shoes." "Oh, that's okay," I retorted. "They're fine." More slowly, and with an icy gaze, he repeated: "It is highly recommended you take off your shoes." Here's when Chuck, trapped behind me in line, said he knew I was in trouble:

"Well I'll wear them through and I'll take them off if it beeps."

The second I was out from under the plastic arch, the power-loving monkey shouted for a check, and I was hustled into the little glass aquarium where a more friendly man touched me in a very professional manner. I was laughing the whole time. He told me several times that he was going to touch me in sensitive areas using the back of his hand. He asked me why the Magic Terrorist Wand might be beeping as it passed over the front of my jeans. "Uh, the metal buckle...?" Three times, in fact, he offered to give me what I think he termed a "private screening." This was, of course, unbearably amusing.

The shoes I hadn't taken off were, of course, removed and sent through the X-ray machine anyway. Yes, the Patriot Cop won, but I had more fun.

My insolence delayed us all for about 10 minutes, then we were on our way. Where? Why, to the SFO Red Carpet club, of course! Compared to the nearly skanky LAX Club, this one was really nice. And though you still couldn't bring any food in, they gave us each two drinks vouchers! I was thrilled to be able to give mine to my chums.

Drink Vouchers Bring Smiles All Around

So here's Zippy, Richard, Pepe, and Chris at SFO, in constant peril of being kicked out for overt loudness. That tomb of a place hadn't seen that much energy since the time PGE held their yearly Sadie-Hawkins dance there.

My run-in with faux authority figures continued on our plane ride to Paris. Richard, the lucky bastard, got bumped up to first class. The other three of us were stuck in the unbearable confines of business class. I visited Richard a few times so we could talk about how maybe I could just sit in the one empty first-class seat and see if anyone noticed, or how we should perhaps get the Godiva assorted chocolates from the duty free catalog to munch on later in the flight.

At one point, as I was in fact heading toward the front to use the lavatory, the stewardess—she deserves the title—blocked my way with her petite, polyester-blue-draped frame. "Sir," she began, and I immediately looked up to the seatbelt sign to see if I had gotten up when I wasn't supposed to. It was turned off. She continued. "You can not be up here. If you need to talk with your friend, he can visit you back in business class." I said I was going to use the lavatory, and she curtly told me they were "back there."

It was preposterous, and later, when Richard did decide to come visit, I headed him off at the border between our lands and said, "Hey! Go back to first class! You are not allowed in business class, sir! You must remain in first class!" He said he could not believe she had told me that. We were mutually bemused.

Is it not sad that both Americans and French people fought bloody revolutions for freedom and independence, only to end up here, with an innocent man being denied a stroll to a part of the plane only three feet in front of where he was sitting?

The rest of the flight was boring, except for the very end, when we caught Chris sleeping with his Super Cop sunglasses.

Turns out he was, in fact, quite ill. But the picture remains funny nonetheless.

Chris Snoozing in His Super Cop Sunglasses


Tiny Fleurs

— DAY 2 —
Jet-Lagged in New York and Chicago
April 8

Huge Windows, No View

Ah, Paris in springtime! Freezing and wet!

Well, at least the drive to our hotel at Disneyland Paris was relatively short. Believe it or not, we flew to Paris to stay at the New York Hotel. And it is, I assure you, nothing like New York. It's not even anything like New York New York in Vegas. It is, we all concur, a creepy hotel.

The very good thing is my room. The width and depth are average, but the height! Look at that! Look at those windows! Sure, I get a view of the roof of the convention center, but the light, even when it's overcast, is awesome!

After some boring business at the New York Hotel, we headed over to... THE CHICAGO STEAKHOUSE!

We were all too tired to go into the city, so indeed the fulfillment of my prediction of Dinners in a Tourist Trap are already materializing.

The food was definitely better than you'd think, though, and the waiter was amusing, so it was perfectly fine eating there.

The Disney brochure says this about the place: "A renovated Chicago warehouse, now an elegant restaurant."

Ah, Fine French Steak!

Okay, yes, a fake renovated Chicago warehouse. This is Disney, after all. Proof? Why, can you think of a real place in Chicago that might have such an interesting vocabulary list running along its high walls? That ain't Engrish... it's Frenglish!

Liberte! Egalite! Fraternite! Omeletes!


Tiny Fleurs

— DAY 3 —
Wherein We Finally Visit the City
April 9

Carol joined us today! She lucked out and got a direct flight. Sadly, she did not get to fly business class. I imagine her trying to get to a lavatory and being told that she was only in coach so she had to go in her air sickness bag.

She told no stories of that kind, so it must not have happened.

We got to go exploring today. Yes, one whole stop on the RER. To the mall we had visited last year. To buy more plug adapters. Like we bought last year.

Le Pizza

But on the way, mere hours after our interesting yet unsatisfactory continental breakfast buffet (yogurt name: Sveltesse!), we had to eat again! Tourist-trap pizza sounded good. Here Chuck, Chris, Richard, and Carol chat over iceless, warm drinks.

FUN FACT: This is something you may not know, but camera phones are pretty lousy! The first four pics from today are from my Nokia. Can you tell which suck and which also suck?

Chuck at Chucks

In the mall, I made a point of hitting the candy store, where I bought interesting candy like "Gummi Feet" and "Floppys" and "Clouds."

The store happened to be called Chuck's. Chuck was thrilled. Interestingly, there was also a store called Zippy's that sold surrender flags and cigarettes.

We then went to this huge store called Auchan. It was huge! We were there last year, but this time, we took time to look around. HUGE! They had cosmetics and lamps and underwear and power tools and luggage and washing machines and plants and TVs and toothbrushes and books and cell phones and mountain bikes and feminine napkins and toys and jewelry... And that was just UPSTAIRS! Yes, TWO levels of hugeness!

Yes, it's good to see the French living the American dream.

We spent quality time downstairs wandering among their vast array of fresh and pre-packaged food. Which we needed. I mean, what's a work trip without snack food, after all?

I love buying European snacks. They are so different from American snacks. They seem less fake, which I'm sure is not true. But gimme a Lu or Hit biscuit over a Mother's cookie any day.

One of the many items I nabbed was a super-long box of Kinder Surprise. Marcy usually buys me these in Switzerland, but not a dozen at once! I liked that the package was not all boxy like something from Costco. It was long and fun. I suppose the French are more accepting of long, thin foodstuffs. I mean, all those years of baguettes, you know.

One Dozen Eggs of Sheer Delight

Kinder Surprise are hollow chocolate eggs containg a small plastic capsule, inside of which are cleverly-nestled plastic pieces. You put these pieces together to make what is typically an ingenious little toy. The one I put together today was a cute little snail on wheels that, when it was rolled, moved its head up and down. These things are on the entirely opposite end of the free toy spectrum as Cracker Jack toys, which I feel are too pathetic to be called toys in the first place.

Ignoring the Fun Around Us

On our return, we did a little bit of work in our temp office, but mostly everyone wasted time on Bubble Shooter, online poker, Star Trek WAV files, and this website.

What lame-os! Two whole theme parks of fun within a couple minutes walking distance, and here we sat in a room in front of computers! Pathetic.

Finally, we got semi-motivated to go into Paris itself. "Finally" was 10:00pm. And Carol with her jet lag!

On the train ride into the city, I stumbled upon a fun bit: Wallace Shawn doing Tigger. Was it funny because we were all tired? I hope to record a sample and post it here tomorrow so you all can be the judge(s).

Once in the city, we headed for the one area Richard and I knew best: La Marais. Yes, with 100% of the men being gay on last year's trip, we, perhaps unfortunately, spent more time there than anywhere else. So this time, we figured, "Well, it's late, we know stuff will be open there and we know how to get there. Why not drag the breeders along?"

It was 11:00ish when we finally settled on a place to manger. (That's "eat" in French, not "birthplace of our Lord and Savior (if you're into that kind of thing) Jesus" in English.) We partially settled on a place because it was very cold again tonight, and we needed to not be out in the cold much longer...

...and yet, here we are, eating outside for three hours. The café we chose was packed and smoky inside, so we sat on the sidewalk for three hours and ate. It was yummy, but we were shivering by the end due to inactivity and the chocolat chaud being not so chaud.

Eating on the Sidewalk

We passed the time between rare visits from our waiter by being jovial. The jokes, while often amusing, were also often not. Chuck (er, Zippy) decided that this trip's "thing" would be this: If a joke falls flat, give a dramatic pause, then burst into an animated rendition of "Mahna Mahna." Oh, I'm sure the locals around us (though some of the locals turned out to be American ex-pats) loved us for this, because, you see, as we got colder and the time approached 2:00am, the need to burst into animated renditions of "Mahna Mahna" became more frequent.

No, we were not tossed out. We closed the place down.

Sadly, it was so late that we missed the last trains out of Dodge and had to wander the streets looking for a cab big enough to take the five of us all the way out to Disneyland. We got colder and shiveryer as cab after cab passed us by, each containing people whom Fortuna had blessed with the ability to become passengers.

Of course, we finally found our man, who ditched an appointment fare to take us. Hooray!

We shuffled back into our hotel after 3:00am. And it is now after 4:00am. As I have an 8:30 call tomorrow, I think I should stop now and post this sucker. See you all tomorrow.

Tiny Fleurs

— DAY 4 —
Boredom with Character
April 10

Yesterday, I left the grey umbrella I've owned for years on the train to the mall. At the mall, I bought another one. I lost that one somewhere between leaving dinner and returning to the hotel.

Zippy ragged me for forgetting to mention this in the last post, so here it is now. Happy, Chuckles McBangbang?

I also fixed some spelling and grammar errors that were pointed out to me by Richard. Anyone else? No, really. I hate missing errors like those.

Anyhoo, today proved to be boring. Boring, boring, boring. We sat in the office in the morning and did work. Sort of. Though the people in charge have left out so much information as to what we're doing, we ended up not doing as much as we should have been.

A bit toward noon, we got to begin setting up the presentation room. Well, I got to start setting up. The crew had been there since 8:30. They weren't ready for me until later.

See? Boring.

Richard hired a crew from the UK, and they are a remarkably calm-headed, nice-as-pie bunch. Plus, they all have those killer British accents.

As I have no pictures from this first part of the day, I shall post my favorite quote instead.

* * * * * *

Chuck: "I have to run up and get my sweatshirt."

Me: "Maybe it's not that cold outside."

Chuck: "Are you high? It's Paris in spring!"

* * * * * *

Chuck and I created some most controversial and tasteless banter today—and I mean CONTROVERSIAL AND TASTELESS, so do not read the rest of this paragraph if you get offended easily. I mean, some will find (and already have found) this horrifyingly insensitive. And "it" is this: Live with Terri Schiavo! A talk show format with stars, cooking segments, audience contests... She sits in a recliner, not talking, blinking every once in a while...

[Dead silence.]

Mahna Mahna!

(Yes, I doubted I should share that here, but it is not in my nature to shy away from such topics.)

For those of you still remaining, here's what we did later on in the day: Walked around Disney Village! Richard was shopping for a Disneyland Paris sweatshirt. Repeating the experience from last year, there was nothing good in the T-shirt/sweatshirt park logo department. Strange!

Cowboy Stampede!

While browsing through a country-themed store, I noticed through a window a very large mass of people walking up some stairs from a lobby area. Everyone had Disney-provided cowboy hats. It was a cowboy stampede! Surrreal. I'm guessing maybe they were on the way into the Buffalo Bill Rodeo Dinner Show.

After more hours of some tedious, Microsoft Windows-induced networking headache issues, we threw up our sweaty hands and headed out to Café Mickey. Yeah, another missed opportunity to see Paris. But, hey, work is why we are here in the first place.

On the way to the Café, I finally got some snaps I've been meaning to nab. First, one of the ice rink right outside the hotel lobby, where tourists have been skating even in the brisk cold.

Ice Rink in Spring

Balloons in France!

Steps from the rink is this sight: A huge hot-air (or some other gas of notable buoyancy?) balloon ride. This was the first day the weather permitted the craft to actually launch. The thing is huge. You can get some sense of the scale in this photo.

The balloon is tethered to a cable so it won't escape across the French countryside if a gust should materialize. The thing goes dang high, I tell ya.

I misspoke before. This being a Disney kingdom, the balloon is not simply some kind of "ride." It is an event! It even has a Disney event name. Ready for this one? It's called "Panoramagique." No, it's okay. It takes a minute to grasp. So easy to wrap your mouth around, eh?

Rejcted alternate names, as reported to me by a classified source within Imagineering, were "Parisian Heliumosphere Adventure," "Soarin' Over Something Landscaped Like California," and "Fantaballoonasy."

Balloons Aloft in France!

Once arriving at our dining destination, we found Café Mickey to be a happenin' place. It was noisy and not what one would call high class, but it turned out to be fun! It was a character restaurant. Every forty-five minutes or so, a flock of Disney characters would wander into the restaurant and visit with everyone. We're talking four or five characters at once! And perhaps because we were not in hypocritically puritan, lawsuit-friendly America, the characters were allowed to be a bit, er, wacky.

Frisky Bavarian Toymaker

Geppetto, for instance, was particularly frisky. He got into the booth next to me almost as soon as we arrived and became incredibly chummy. It made for a good pic, though.

Carol and Chris got visits from Pluto...

Pluto In Orbit

Mickey Slumming It

...and the woman in a mouse suit herself, Mickey.

Yes, even this family restaurant had an extensive wine list. And who were we (sans me) to not take advantage?

Baloo noticed he and Chris shared a certain shape of midriff.

Two Guts

Triple Bouncy Trouncy

The two spazzes of the group got to hang with their idol. We got to bounce in tandem. Tandem trouncing with Tigger! Terrific.

(Was Wallace Shawn inside?)

Even at this Disney-run, lower-end eatery, dinner took hours. Four of us were consistently in danger of nodding off at the table. But the character shenanigans kept us awake. Oh, yes!

Pluto and Tigger got into a tiff at our table, with Pluto making fun of Tigger begging for a piece of the cake I had yet to receive. The women were consistently flirted with by Chip, Dale, Goofy, and Pluto. Baloo popped over the booth behind Chuck, scaring him out of any fatigue he may have had. The Sheriff of Nottingham, when not scaring tiny children into hiding positions under the tables, was attempting to steal people's more valuable posessions, and even took a picture with Tresa's camera.

You could tell the rowdy night was coming to a head when Geppetto, after doing a strip tease two booths over to remove his vest, stood by our table and lifted up his shirt to show both us and his Disney handler how something on his pants was coming apart. The handler yanked the old coot's shirtfront down and shot him a most memorable look of shocked sternness before looking around the room, both embarrassed and amused.

Yes, my friends, I doubt we will ever see this level of entertaining behavior from the characters in the States! Each character was alive with a dance of inhibition and joy, their every furry touch and polystyrene kiss an expression of the abandonment of social stoicism that only those who have been animated can posess!

Thank you, and good night.

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