Funny how divergent events from life come together in memory during travel. In the pre-dawn hour before sunrise, laying in bed in Clermont-Ferrand, France, sleepy and in need of more sleep, my mind drifted to my first French language teacher in 8th grade.
In junior high and high school French classes I cringed when teachers pronounced my name as ‘Reeshard’. I never studied Spanish in school, since most of my grade school years were not in California schools. Would Spanish teachers have called me ‘Ricardo’ in class?
I originally only signed up for French class in 8th grade due to my instant crush on the teacher. She was a young, petite French-German woman who I initially thought was another 8th grade student when I enrolled in the American DOD junior high school near Mainz, Germany a couple months into the school year. Studying German would have been far more practical as a a teenager living in Germany, so I could talk to German girls. I have never been too practical.
Eventually, French paid off in 9th grade when I hooked up with Sylvia, a French girl my own age who was fluently tri-lingual in English, French and German, and studying high school Spanish. Spring blossomed, then summer crashed the party as the school year ended. We lived 25 miles apart on opposite sides of the Rhine River.
You can call me ‘Reeshard’
The point of names and languages is the Paul Simon song “You Can Call Me Al” has been playing through my head over the past few weeks from repeated listening of the Graceland album during the three British Airways transatlantic flights I’ve taken since September 10. For me, Paul Simon is one of America’s greatest lyrical geniuses. As the first recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for popular song in 2007, Paul Simon’s genius is widely recognized in the USA.
Rolling Stone recently named Paul Simon #8 in the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time. ‘You Can Call Me Al’ is a song that resonates with me through my travels this past month in the Czech Republic, France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the UK.
This piece is my Traveler tribute to Paul Simon with select lyrics from ‘You Can Call Me Al’.
A man walks down the street
He says, “Why am I soft in the middle now?
Why am I soft in the middle?
I definitely know the answer to that question. Beer tends to come in larger servings over here in Europe compared to the average U.S. beer. Since I am not driving, I have uninhibited consumption opportunities.
That being said, I have lost quite a few pounds in the last month. I am definitely thinner and my clothes hang looser from many miles of walking, but I’m still soft in the middle.
I need a photo opportunity
I want a shot at redemption
Namesti Svobody: Freedom Square, Brno, Czech Republic
Don’t want to end up a cartoon
In a cartoon graveyard
Cartoon windows on Boulevard L. Malfreyt, Clermont-Ferrand, France.
Dogs in the moonlight
Far away my well-lit door
Full Moon rising over Paris on my walk to Montmartre
Many Parisians were walking their dogs through city streets as I walked to Sacre Coeur under the full moonlight several nights ago.
A man walks down the street
He says, “Why am I short of attention?
Medieval Montferrand is about 3 kilometers from downtown Clermont-Ferrand. This district of the modern city was a separate entity until the Edict of Troyes in 1630 unified Clermont and Montferrand. A well-preserved residential medieval quarter from 1300s to 1400s remains inside the old walls. On the other side of the street is the historic Michelin Tire Factory, founded in Clermont-Ferrand in the late 19th century. Puy de Dome, tallest of the 80 dormant volcanoes in the Auvergne region is seen in the distance. When I exited the tram in Montferrand, there were these structures I assumed were ski jumps like I saw in Norway. Apparently they are 30 meter (98 feet) high test slides for tires.
On a wall across the street from the Michelin factory was this humorous cartoon.
Got a short little span of attention
And, woe my nights are so long
Where’s my wife and family?
What if I die here?
View from inside the Macocha Abyss at Punkvi Caves National Park, near Brno, Czech Republic. A 138.7 meters deep sinkhole in the karst cave system of Moravia. Known as the ‘stepmother abyss’ with the legend of a woman who attempted to murder her stepchild in the belief her sickly natural child would be healed by her stepson’s death. The stepson survived by hanging on to a tree branch and was rescued by woodsmen. The mother returned home to find her own child died. In grief, she hurled herself with her dead child in her arms off the cliff into the abyss.
View from cliff top edge into Macocha Abyss.
Loyalty Traveler – Moravian Karst caves near Brno and why you will never see a tour like this in the USA (Sep 8, 2015).
A man walks down the street
It’s a street in a strange world
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a native son of Clermont-Ferrand. A child prodigy, he is one of the first two inventors of the mechanical calculator, a project he developed as a teenager. Pascal’s work advanced the fields of physics, mathematics and literature.
For after all what is man in nature? A nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all and infinitely far from understanding either. The ends of things and their beginnings are impregnably concealed from him in an impenetrable secret. He is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness out of which he was drawn and the infinite in which he is engulfed.
Blaise Pascal, Pensées No. 72
That is deep thought…and so French.
Maybe it’s the third world
Maybe it’s his first time around
Brno medical center imagery from a dead-end street I walked down in the center of the city.
He doesn’t speak the language
He holds no currency
He is a foreign man
He is surrounded by the sound, the sound
Clockwise: Czech, French, Swedish, Norwegian
Cattle in the marketplace
Scatterlings and orphanages
Free range goats in Spilberk Park, Brno and the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, London.
He looks around, around
He sees angels in the architecture
Basilica de Notre Dame du Port, Clermont-Ferrand is a UNESCO World Heritage Site church.
Spinning in infinity
He says, “Amen!” and “Hallelujah!”
Folketspark statue in Malmo, Sweden
Arctic Sunset in Harstad, Norway.