Notre-Dame

I used to live about a 20-minute walk from Notre-Dame de Paris….
A red-headed girl was then the object of my affection and since the Left Bank was my favorite haunt, we often met Place St Michel in front of the fountain.

Photo by Alain Efron

To get there, I would often walk past the cathedral, and like all Parisians paying scant attention to the old structure. It was just a familiar place that I liked without realizing it.
Especially as a kid, I always delighted stepping on the magical “Kilometre Zero”, the marker located on the parvis facing the cathedral. This is the starting point for all the distances measured in France.

Iconic Notre-Dame (Our Lady) is a catholic church, but it is much more than that. It is a national treasure, and regardless of one’s faith, it is a place to visit and to reflect on. Unlike the Eiffel Tower, it is located on the “Ile de la Cité » which is truly the center, the beating heart of Paris.

Momentous events took place in this ancient structure. In 1572, Henri de Navarre (a Huguenot) marries Marguerite de Valois, the catholic daughter of Henry II, King of France. But Henri being a protestant is forbidden to enter the church. He will have to convert to Catholicism to do this. This conversion of convenience will allow him to become king of France; but it won’t prevent him from being stabbed to death a few years later by a Catholic fanatic.

In 1804, in a 5-hour ceremony officiated by pope Pie VII, Napoleon used this majestic 800 years old venue to crown himself “Empereur des Français ». There were no cell phones there, but the world took notice.

On November 11, 1918, World War One finally came to an end. The killing stopped and an armistice was proclaimed. On November 17, a solemn Te Deum is organized at Notre Dame to celebrate the end of the war.

Almost 25 years later, on August 26, 1944, Paris is liberated and General de Gaulle goes to the cathedral to attend a mass celebrating that glorious event.

The catastrophic fire that erupted a few day ago, could be a blessing in disguise though. The common grief felt by all the Frenchmen, could be the panacea to end the violent street demonstrations that have plagued France since last November.

The Paris of Esmeralda and Quasimodo does not belong exclusively to the French. It belongs to the world. And when Paris suffers, the world feels the pain and wants to help.

There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that Notre-Dame de Paris will be restored. It will cost an enormous amount of money, but like a phoenix, the burned spire will rise from its ashes and tower again over the Seine and the City of Lights.

Alain

Sacramento

Jean-Claude Bunand and I left San Rafael around 7:00 am to arrive at the Club Français de Sacramento slightly past 8:00 am. A quick and easy ride, not to be repeated on our return unfortunately.

We were both surprised upon our arrival to be met by cold weather and a biting wind that lasted most of the day. Christophe Sarafian welcomed us and invited us to share croissants and coffee.

Two separate Concours were scheduled that day. One for the men, one for the women. On the men’s side there was 13 triplettes (39 people) and on the women’s side there was 6 triplettes.

So about 60 contestants from all over the bay Area showed up to compete. On the Marin side, I counted Christine Cragg, J-M Poulnot, J-C Etallaz, Sandra and Mark Shirkey, and of course Jean-Claude Bunand and myself.

Three 11 points games were played in the morning, and Concours and Consolante in the afternoon. Due to a shortage of women players, no Consolante was scheduled on the women’s side.

In this contest I partnered with Jean-Claude Bunand and Pierre Bremont.

Given the caliber of all the contestants, we didn’t not expect to do too well, but we managed better than expected.
We lost the first game (5/11) won the second (11/9) and lost the third (6/11).

After lunch, in the Consolante phase of the tournament, we faced Manu Le Bihan and his gang of cutthroats. Upon losing the coin toss, they took us to “Purgatory”, one of the playing areas covered with pebbles.

Being very unfamiliar with this kind of topping, we fumbled our way through and lost 3/11. We were then out of the competition and free to indulge in whatever. For me, it was photo time, a pastime that I almost enjoy as much as pétanque.

In Sacramento, we found a strong contingent of Hmong people. A friendly lot but with rather confusing names unfortunately, and I am sorry to say that I remember and can spell just a few.

After photographing as many people as possible, around 4:00 pm I sat down to watch the men’s finals opposing Ed Porto, Wolfie Kurz, MickeyCoughlin against Christophe Sarafian, Mike Lee and Pao Li. All very good players.

To my surprise Porto’s gang steamrolled Sarafian’s posse 13/1. The 3 of them played very well and overwhelmed their opponents. Sarafian pointed well and both Mike Lee and Pao Li also shot well, but were not as consistent as Porto’s team.

This game ended around 5:00 pm and due to cold weather and increasing fatigue Jean-Claude and I decided to go home. Our return trip took over 2 hours. We left San Rafael at 7:00 am and came back at 7:00 pm.
A rather long but altogether pleasant day.

Ed, Wolfie, Mickey

Concours:
1st place: Ed Porto, Wolfie Kurz, Mickey Coughlin
2nd place: Christophe Sarafian, Mike Lee, Pao Li
3rd place: Chong Xiong, Reid Evans, Adam Grace
4th place: Michel Yang, Nicolas Yang, Paul Bissonette

Consolante:
1st place: Manu Le Bihan, By Vang, Fue Vang
2nd place: Bee Moua, Philippe, Serge Hanne

Women:
1st Place:  Tish Harris, Chue Thao and May Herr
2nd Place:  Maggie Lane, Erin McTaggart & Lisa Vaughan
3rd Place:  Janice Bissonette, Chia Tjo-Po Yang & Michele Dang

Hmong friends, please excuse my poor spelling of your names. I hope that you will forgive me after watching my pictures.

Alain

PS: If you can provide me with the missing results, I will be happy to update my blog.

Socialism

Socialism has become the new bugaboo of American politics, just as communism was in the aftermath of WWII.
Soon, when elections campaigns will start in earnest, some so-called “socialists” will be accused of Anti-American activities.

The West is well aware of the evils (and excesses) of communism, but not so much of the “abomination” of socialism. If you asked any American to define it, he would be at loss to clearly explain that “abomination”.

Socialism is “A political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.”

 A socialist regime is not my cup of tea. I do not believe that a company started by some enterprising individual should be owned by anybody else. On the other hand, I firmly believe that a percentage of the profits generated by this company should be shared with its employees. And it does not sound right to me that only shareholders benefit from the company’s success. Money from the rich going exclusively to the rich? There is a bad smell to this.

Especially relevant is the fact that the gap between the poor and the well-off grows steadily… and dangerously. In the present conditions the poor won’t ever reach a safe plateau allowing them to live decently.

In many countries worldwide, the economy seems to be out of whack. The salary gap between the wealthy and the poor is too wide and keeps growing. This is something that needs to be reassessed and corrected.

 Unfortunately, the system is rigged. If the minimum wage is raised, businesses will jack up their prices accordingly, negating the raise. The unqualified worker will remain in the same lousy, precarious, resentful position. This bitterness and prolonged simmering resentment usually lead to upheaval. When you have nothing to lose, you are ripe for any violent confrontation.

I am not an economist, but I am convinced that something could be done to level the playing field. People are not violent by nature. There is a reason for their discontent, and I would say that 80% of the time, the reason is money, moola, dinero or whatever you call it.

If nothing is done to resolve this state of affairs, soon or later popular anger will explode and will result (like in France) in chaos and enormous damages.

Therefore,

Socialism no, but social justice yes.

Alain