Unexpected music in unexpected places.

One of the great philosophers of our time, Forrest Gump, once said, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what yur goan git.” (Misspelling used for quotation accuracy.) This piece of wisdom applies to many different life scenarios, but for the purposes of this blog, I am going to apply the quote to music heard while in a store or business. Specifically, music in French grocery stores.

In the United States of America (USA), people can generally expect to go into a grocery store and hear one of two types of music. One will hear elevator music, which generally consists of songs one recognizes but horribly rendered on an electric piano keyboard and without vocals. Or one will hear what is generally termed, easy listening, or soft rock. Basically music that would not be considered controversial in any mix of people. A person may not like the music they are hearing, and they may even think it is boring or not something they would normally listen to if given a choice. In fact, after a couple of minutes in the store, most people have stopped hearing the music as anything other than background noise. This is less likely to occur in French grocery stores.

In French grocery stores, our Forrest Gump quote becomes applicable because you never know what you are going to hear while checking the ripeness of your peaches. One would naturally expect to hear the French version of elevator music or soft rock. Native French music is heard in the grocery store, but it is exceedingly rare. Typically if you do hear native French music, it is some French pop song in it’s original form, not stripped down and turned into elevator music. More often than not, you will hear music that even if you do not recognize the tune, you will certainly recognize that the person is singing in English. More probably you will recognize and be able to sing along with the music.

I will use today’s grocery trip as an example. Not long after entering the store it was hard not to add a little groove to my grocery shopping step with George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic playing, “We Want the Funk.” I thought this was an apt song when one is searching for just the right French cheese. Immediately after George Clinton, none other than Marvin Gaye was needing some, “Sexual Healing.” I am not certain Marvin’s song can be applied to shopping as was, “We Want the Funk,” but the quality of the tunes certainly made searching for my gluten-free bread more entertaining.

I have also heard the following in the local grocery store: Eminem, Survivor, Snoop Dogg, The Temptations, the Stones, the Beatles, Sting, Springsteen, Elvis, Gun’s N’ Roses, Van Halen, Louis Armstrong, Salt N’ Peppa, and the list goes on. One of my favorites that is frequently played is Michael Jackson.

As some reading this will no doubt know, some of the artists listed above tend to have lyrics that would never be played over a PA system in a grocery store in the USA because someone would no doubt be offended. Not so in French grocery stores, where the songs are played regardless of the lyrics. I am eagerly awaiting the day when I see an elderly French lady mouthing the words to Snoop’s “Gin and Juice” while perusing the juice aisle. I can also imagine old Francise (around here better known as, “The Grumpy Butcher”) making up his own lyrics to Eminem’s, “Without Me.” Something along the lines of, “ham and prosciutto, get all you can see, but there is no beef, without me!”

I have used the grocery store as an example for this blog, but this unexpected music happens in other French businesses as well. Take for example a recent trip to the doctor’s office where the receptionist was actually singing along with the music coming over the speakers in the waiting area. What artist was she singing along with you ask? None other than the aforementioned, Snoop Dogg. It should not have been too surprising, considering the doc has a Metallica poster on the wall of his office.

Possibly the most unexpected place I have heard music here in France was in a place that I now believe should always have music, considering these particular places are typically gloomy. Parking garages. It is a most pleasant experience to get out of your car in a dark and dreary multi-story parking garage and hear Mozart. The concrete acoustics somehow work well with the strings of a Mozart symphony.

Go out and be consistent.

*If anyone would like to get a better sense of France, I highly recommend reading any of Peter Mayle’s non-fiction books, such as “A Year in Provence.”

Things overheard regarding Covid19

Since the beginning of the Covid19 pandemic I have heard various rumors regarding the virus.  Most all of these rumors have come from people who read that bastion of knowledge, that haven of academia, that font of truth, Facebook.

I do not know why people have not yet realized that any information reported by their “friends”, on Facebook is not necessarily accurate and likely false.  I think it has something to do with the fact that people can no longer tolerate uncertainty.  When they see something that conforms to the way they think, even if it is ridiculous, they jump on the bandwagon and repeat whatever backs up their perspective.  With so much information readily available, people do not bother to ask themselves whether or not something makes any sense or is logical.  After first being frustrated at people’s lack of logic regarding these rumors, I realized how comical the rumors were and decided to do a little analysis.

  1. THERE IS A CURE!
  2. THERE ARE ONLY MORE CASES BECAUSE THERE IS MORE TESTING!
  3. HOSPITALS GET PAID!
  4. THE VIRUS CAN’T SURVIVE IN THE HEAT!
  5. MASK WEARING TECHNIQUE!
  6. MASK WEARING IS SIMPLY A WAY FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO CONTROL EVERYONE.

Number 1 above refers to the rumor that there is actually a “cure” for COVID-19, but the pharmaceutical companies are not willing to let the public have this cure because the price the pharmaceutical companies get for the cure is too cheap.  Therefore the pharmaceutical companies are secretly hoarding this cure until the price they can get for it goes up and they can make more money.

There are so many things wrong with this idea, it is hard to know where to begin.  Let me start with the most obvious problem which is that this rumor does not have a single specific piece of evidence.  It simply lumps all pharmaceutical companies together as if they are all one company rather than competing businesses.

Speaking of business, this leads to another thing wrong with this rumor.  Let us say that a company could get $1 for every dose of their miracle cure.  Assuming that at least 1/7 of the people in the world would want this cure and there are 7 Billion plus people in the world, that equals a minimum 1 Billion dollars.  There simply are not any companies that I know of that would say, “No, we don’t want a billion dollars and the possibility of being the company known for creating this cure and thereby creating multiple other business opportunities for ourselves”.  I could go on about this one, but let us keep moving forward.

Rumor number 2 above absolutely begs for the still popular elementary and teenage phrase of the century, “DUH!”  Stating that there are more positive cases because there is more testing is like saying, “If you have one basket of apples and you add another basket of apples, you have…TWO BASKETS OF APPLES.”  I am not sure what people were trying to prove with this statement.  For some reason, I think people thought this was a bad thing, instead of realizing that finding out more people were sick is one of the only ways to actually help those sick people.

Rumor number 3, “Hospitals get paid when they say people died of Covid” is one of my favorites.  This rumor is accusing hospitals and furthermore, doctors, of falsifying information regarding causes of death, as well as accusing hospitals and doctors of letting people die so that the hospital can get more government money.

First of all, I am not sure from which government program this money is coming, as the rumor of course does not specify.  Personally, I think it comes from the cabal of Jews who secretly control the world financial industry.

Secondly, this rumor accuses doctors and hospitals of going against the Hippocratic oath. “First, do no harm.”  I think letting people die for the sake of monetary gain goes against this oath.  Not to mention the fact that falsifying causes of death is most likely a crime.

Rumor number 4 that the virus can’t survive in the heat was proven false when most of Africa and India got sick.  For those that do not know, those places are hot basically all the time.  As if that were not enough, when colleges and universities began letting their athletes return to practice, one of the first places to have to shut down their return to play program because of an increase in positive tests was the University of Houston where it is hot most of the time as well.

Number 5 above isn’t a rumor so much as it is a critique of mask wearing technique.  We have all seen, and possibly been guilty of this ourselves as well,  people walking around with the mask under their nose or down around their chin or one of my personal favorites, over the nose but having the bottom somehow flopping around instead of form fitting around the mouth.  A recent guest on the Rich Roll podcast had the best comment (if a little off-color) which I will paraphrase here.  Wearing your mask with your nose uncovered is like walking around with your dick hanging out.  Why even wear pants?  The masks are at best a stop-gap measure so wearing them incorrectly utterly defeats the purpose.  It is a simple thing to have a care for your fellow human beings and wear your mask over your nose and mouth.

Number 6 above is an argument that I have only recently come across.  For some reason, some people have decided that wearing a mask is a way for the government to exert more control over their citizenry.  Well, okay, or it could just be a very simple thing to do that might save someone’s life.

When the Chinese invented Covid-19 in a secret lab in order to kill off a large majority of the world’s population, I do not think they anticipated the further benefit of creating an increasing number of dumb people.

Go out and be consistent!

Sam

Since the first day of first grade when I was six years old, I have had a friend called Sam.  It is safe to say that he has been a best friend for the last forty years.  We went to the same school through the ninth grade.  We played various sports together, went to dinner and the movies together and spent many nights at each other’s homes.

I remember our dinner and movie nights being remarkable for the amount of food we would consume.  Typically we would start out at Pizza Hut beforehand, where we each consumed our own medium pizza.  Of course, by the end of the movie we were hungry again and would typically go to Burger King for another meal before heading home.

Sam is known for having played football during high school, but what I remember was playing basketball with him in elementary and junior high school.  I remember those basketball times with a laugh because Sam was terrible at basketball.  He would throw up the worst bricks anybody had ever seen, with the ball smacking loudly off the backboard.  It didn’t matter to Sam or hurt his feelings when the rest of us would give him flack about being a bit too strong with the ball.  Sam was just happy to be playing with his friends.

During our sophomore year of high school, I moved away.  Being hundreds, or thousands of miles away from Sam did not diminish our friendship.  Each time I made the trip back to Mississippi over the years, I always spent a majority of my time with Sam.  All of those times with Sam involved watching sports, hunting or fishing.  Sometimes all three in the same day.

Our fishing trips usually involved Sam baiting my hook for me and then getting the fish off the hook when I caught one.  We never failed to catch lots of fish, which made the fishing more exciting.  I remember one fishing trip we caught over a hundred fish!  Fishing with Sam should have been called Catching instead of Fishing.  All the catching of the fish led to us eating lots of fish as prepared by Mavis Byrd, Sam’s mom.  That was certainly the best part of fishing with Sam.

Hunting with Sam was also lots of fun, but not because we got a deer every time we went out.  Most of the time we never saw any deer.  Hunting was fun because of all the things that happened while we were hunting, or at least supposed to be hunting.  Sam would wake me up about 3 am so we could get ready and be at the hunting site before the sun rose at 6:30.  We would get dressed and have breakfast.  Next we would gather all our hunting supplies and put them in the truck.  Then we would drive to the gas station and fill the truck with gas.  After filling up with gas, we would finally drive out to the hunting site.  The hunting site was typically in a wooded area in the middle of some large property.  Getting to the site meant we had to drive through pastures where barbed wire fences sectioned off various areas of the property.  When we came to a gate in the fence, I would jump out of the truck and open the gate so Sam could drive the truck through.  I would then shut the gate after Sam drove the truck through, only to realize that I had shut the gate with myself on the wrong side while Sam sat in the truck watching me in his rear view mirror, laughing heartily.  I would then open the gate again and put myself on the correct side, re-close the gate and get back in the truck.  The funny part is that I would do the exact same thing at the next gate, and Sam would sit there in the truck and watch me the whole time without saying a word just so he could laugh again.  I blame it on the fact that it was early in the morning.

Finally, Sam and I would arrive wherever it was we were going to park the truck so we could head into the woods and begin hunting.  The only problem was that it was now about 3:45 am and too dark to hunt.  Daylight being a scant 2 hours away, we passed the time by singing, “Killing Time”, the country song by Clint Black.  After a while we would both fall asleep, only to wake up just in time to see that we now had plenty of light because it was about 7:30 in the morning.

In later years, I would sometimes call Sam when he was sitting in the woods hunting.  The conversation would go something like this:

Sam (whispering): “Hello”

Me: “What are you doing?”

Sam: “Killin’ time.”

Me: “Oh, so you are hunting?”

Sam: “Yep.”

Me: “Seen anything?”

Sam: “Naw.”

Me: “Ok, well, I’ll talk to you later.”

Sam: “Alright, be good buddy.”

Be good. Sam lived his life being good.  Other people have been described as having lived a life of service to others, but I have never met another person who lived that way as much as Sam.  When my grand-parents were still alive, they moved residences constantly.  Coincidentally, they also moved nearly every time I came to Mississippi for a visit.  In other words, I was always around to help when my grand-parents needed to move.  Sam being Sam, he was also there, picking up all the heavy stuff and putting it in the truck.

At a time when I was living in Colorado, I called my grand-parents to say hello and update them on whatever was happening in my world.  My grandfather said his car was broken, so I told him to call Sam.  He called Sam and of course, my grandfather’s car was fixed the next day, Sam having taken care of everything.

When Sam took a job coaching football and teaching at a small school in South Mississippi, about 5 hours away from our hometown of Starkville, I was certain the town of Starkville was going to fall apart because Sam had left.  Proving that miracles do still happen, the town still exists, but that is probably because Sam eventually came back to the area.

Sam always put others before himself because that was the essence of Sam.  It never occurred to Sam to live in any other manner.

It was ever my privilege to have known Sam.  I am certain that anyone who knew him would say the same.  Sam passed away on Wednesday, December 18, 2019.

Thank you Sam, now go up there and be good buddy.

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Road Trip to the Big City

When you move to France, you have to have a medical exam from the French immigration office, known as OFII.  The OFII office nearest to us is in Annecy (pronounced Aahn-see and not Ann-eh-see, because as usual, the French have given up on some letters in the word).  Annecy is about 90 minutes from Le Tour.  That distance and the timing necessitated a road trip.

Emily and I have not had the occasion or desire to do any big road trips since we moved here and do not look forward to doing them often.  At least not yet.  This is mainly due to the fact that we are still uncomfortable driving around in France.  There is no real reason for this discomfort other than the fact that we are scared.  We are scared because we are uncomfortable and vice versa.

The main thoroughfares in France are some of the best roads we have ever driven on.  If there is a bump on the highway we haven’t found it yet.  It is true that the roads through little villages are a bit on the narrow side, slightly wider than a US bike path is normal.  Our journey to Annecy was all on big highways though so there was no need to worry about narrow roads.  There were tolls however and those made us nervous.  As it turned out though, the toll stations were easy to navigate and round trip cost us a little less than 20 Euros.

Annecy is mainly known for it’s lake, aptly named Lac Annecy.  It is a medium sized lake surrounded by large hills and it is quite beautiful.

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Lac Annecy

The lake draws a lot of tourists and there are many boats for rent or for hire, including sail boats.

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Part of the Rental fleet

There are also quite a few statues and other pieces of art to view around town.

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ART!

I think the main part of Annecy reminded me of the Pearl Street area of Boulder as it had lots of restaurants and shops and was for the most part a pedestrian only area.

Our appointment with the doctor went fine and was just a series of questions along with height and weight and an eye test.  The appointment took about an hour and we were on our way back to the car which was parked in a parking garage that had classical music playing.  Of course there were some distractions between us and our car.  Namely shops selling all manner of bread and sweets.  As shown below with Emily having found a small beignet.

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The Beignets are slightly bigger down here!

While I was waiting for Emily, I too found some nourishment.

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A whole Gluten Free store!

Technically the sign on the door says, “Without Gluten Free” but I got their meaning and had to go in and buy some sweets for myself.

We also saw what appeared to be an imminent game of unintentional dominoes.

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I really wanted to see the results of this impending disaster.

Our trip was very successful and we are looking forward to visiting Annecy again in the future.  It is a possible drier winter running area that offers many trails around the lake.

This week is UTMB week which means there are lots of spandex clad runners hanging about the Cham valley.  If you are unfamiliar with UTMB, www.irunfar.com has a nice preview of the various races.  Americans have a fair chance in several of the different races this year so hopefully they can perform on the biggest trail running stage in the world.

Emily and I meanwhile, will be trying our best to avoid the madhouse that is Chamonix during this week.  The main street through town is literally shoulder to shoulder with people and the buses are packed like sardines in a can.  Thankfully Le Tour is fairly removed from all the hustle and bustle.

Now go out and be consistent!

 

1/3/18 – Team SWAP

For those not in the know, Team SWAP is a running group founded by David and Megan Roche. SWAP stands for, Some Work, All Play.

I have been a part of the team for just over a year now. The membership of the team is comprised of a huge variety of people. Elite athletes like Clare Gallagher, Cat Bradley, Coree Woltering, and David and Megan themselves, are part of the team. So are people like myself and my wife M, and Pamela whom I’ve never met but I follow on Strava because she is encouraging.

Hopefully Pamela won’t mind, but I would like to use her as an example. As I said, I have never and likely will not ever meet Pamela, but she exemplifies the main characteristics of SWAP and why being part of the team means so much to me. The characteristics of the SWAP team are encouragement, accountability, knowledge, wisdom, adventuresome, curiosity, sacrificing for others, helpful beyond the call of duty, and LOVE.

Growing up I was a part of many teams, some successful and some not. No team I was a part of however, exuded all the fine characteristics that members of Team SWAP exhibit. Like many others on Team SWAP, I will never win a race. I am fortunate to finish in the top half of the field, maybe. Those things do not matter on Team SWAP. No matter where I finish in a race, the other team members will give the same praise as if I had won the biggest race in the world.

Even though I am not an elite, Team SWAP members make me feel like an elite. The team makes me feel a part of something right in the world that is bigger than just myself.

I wish there were more teams and team members in the world like Team SWAP.
GO TEAM SWAP!