The Paris Cafés

La Favorite in le Marais, Paris.

La Favorite in le Marais, Paris.

I just uploaded a couple more pictures from my 2016 Paris trip, and I thought I’d add some extended comments.

La Favorite is a bistro type restaurant in the Marais district of Paris. It’s much like many other bistros that offer 24 hour service (“ouvgerte 24 heures”), and a varied breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. So although it’s not special in Paris, it’s very handy and close to the St. Paul Metro stop. Bistros and their associated sidewalk cafés are probably the best food values in the city. You can get the classic croque and croque monseiur along with other breakfast selections, and all for a pretty good price in an otherwise pricey city. And the food is largely very good, if not gourmet. I like them because they’re where I can experience the real feel of being a Parisian. La Favorite is especially bustling, with fast service, and no-nonsense waiters. I stayed at the nearby Hotel Jeanne d’Arc, and La Favorite was right around the corner when I grabbed breakfast before a day of walking, sightseeing and street photography. As you can see in the photo, it has a complete bar, another standard element of bistros and brasseries in Paris. The only better deal in dining out is to grab a croissant from one of the many boulangeries that are all over the more residential districts. Regardless of how you dine in Paris, find out what the locals prefer, and get a real French experience.

Dishes are generally quite good at most bistros and restaurants, with one caveat. The French don’t do steak very well. I’ve ordered steak at two or three bistros in Paris and elsewhere in France and the beef is generally tougher and more stringy than what most Americans are accustomed. Lamb, pork and fish dishes are by far better, and you usually won’t be disappointed. The French also tend to fail in their conception of the hamburger. I went to a small restaurant in the 2nd Arrondissement that was a self-styled American diner. The cheeseburger I ordered had a flavor I don’t usually associate with the USA’s favorite sandwich. The fries, of course were perfect (the French invented them, after all). But the problem with hamburgers isn’t universal, as I have had good ones in a couple of locations. Of course, I could have gone to McDonald’s for a burger (I didn’t), but I couldn’t see the point. My best advice is to eat and drink as the French do, and you’ll enjoy it much more.


Taking a break with an espresso.

Taking a break with an espresso.

The French word “café,” of course means “coffee.” And my personal favorite is espresso. Every café serves it, as either a single or double espresso. It’s hot, bitter and comes with sugar on the side and sometimes a piece of lemon peel to twist in. If you order un café, the default is espresso, although many waiters will recognize a non-French accent, and inquire if you mean an Americano (espresso with water added) or espresso. I usually just order un double-espresso, because it lasts longer (although if you’re outside in cooler weather, the beverage loses heat pretty rapidly.)

Stopping at a sidewalk café for an espresso is, for me, one of the simple pleasures of life in Paris. I feel that I blend with the city, and as a photographer, sitting outside is a great, unobtrusive vantage point from which to take photos of people passing by. Starbucks is everywhere, but I never go there for anything, because it’s an inauthentic experience.

Hope these thoughts on dining in Paris are helpful to you on your next visit.

Look what arrived Friday.


This is pretty much all I need to develop black and white film.  Except for a couple times in the 80s, I haven't done this since I was in college.  I was pretty good at it back then, and although the process is pretty simple, I expect there to be a learning curve. 

Why do this?  More to the point, why shoot film at all?  There is something to be said for working with film.  It slows down your process and makes one consider each exposure, since film, unlike pixels, isn't free.  And there IS a different look to film.  Generally, a film negative has a much higher resolution than most digital images.  Film also forces more precision in the shooting, because the image isn't immediately available.  One has to expose correctly from the start.  

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the adventure. 

Buying travel and photo accessories


It’s easy to go nuts on stuff you have to have in order to travel. This is especially true if you’re a photography nut, and I try to resist as much as possible. I'm going to Nice next month, and I'm taking two film cameras with me in addition to my regular digital on my trip to Nice next month. So I’ve gotten film (120 & 35mm), plus a third battery for the Canon digital and then I finally bit the bullet on the smaller Platypod. This is a device that serves the same function as a tripod, sort of , but it’s really a kind of plate with screws in it and a place to attach your camera. Good for long exposures and low angles especially, and it can be placed on a table top when I want it off the ground. It can also be strapped to a tree or other object, although I don’t think that’s a likely scenario for me. Picture above. It’s a little pricey for a flat piece of metal, but it seems to be a well thought-out design, so I think it should be useful. I got a ball-head tripod mount (the only way to attach the Platypod to a camera), and I hope the whole rig will support the DSLR with at least the smaller zoom lens. There’s a bigger version for larger cameras and big lenses.

I’m taking three cameras, in addition to the iPhone: the Canon t6i DSLR, a “new” late-sixties vintage Olympus 35 SP 35mm rangefinder (sweet little camera), and a 1950s Rolleicord twin-lens reflex. The Rollei was given to me by my grandfather, and I’m not sure why he parted with it, but he had sort of devolved to very simple point and shoot film cameras late in life, and maybe the Rollei was just more camera than he wanted. But it still works flawlessly, and I love it, even though I don’t use it as much as I would like.

Oh, I also got a new cable release that will work swell with the film cameras. I could probably buy another ten items to take with me, but I'm holding the line at this point.  

Dialing Facebook Down


Life is much less stressful since I’ve stopped following about ninety percent of my Facebook friends. The political acrimony has gotten so bad on that platform that it has ceased to be an interesting place. I stopped posting my own political opinions several months ago because even the mildest of opinions brought a herd of demanding, antagonistic, name-callers from the left. 

I’m also somewhat perplexed that a) so many people have so much time for venom, and b) I don't miss it much at all.  

Privacy issues aside, Facebook can be a colossal waste of time. Keeping up with all the kitty pictures, political diatribe, relationship statuses and pray-for-me posts takes time.  Lots of it.  And there's no actual reward for doing so.  No arguments are won, no prayers are answered, and knowing minute details about online friends has very little value.  Certainly not as much as spending actual physical time with them -- like, in the same room.  The online world can be wonderful, but it's not where your friends REALLY are.  

Looking back: Rainy evening in Paris



Rainy night in Paris, December 2015. This was a great evening for me. I’ve visited three times, twice for a full week. I love getting familiar with a city like this. This particular evening, it was pouring down rain and I had purchased an umbrella just across the street from this little café. It was below 40°F this particular evening but like a lot of Parisians, I preferred my espresso outside where I could watch people. I maintained my position here and took photo after photo; whatever came into the viewfinder. There is no better city for this than Paris. Or maybe New York. But in Paris, there’s espresso al fresco. #paris #parisjetaime #SPiCollective

IFTTT Instagram paris parisjetaime SPiCollective

Blessings in disguise: the flood of 2018

It’s been a heck of a week. On Wednesday, February 21, the Elkhart River started overflowing its banks. By 1:00 am Thursday morning it had crested at the highest level ever recorded and the edge of the river was touching my patio, about 50 feet from the normal riverbank. This meant that my basement flooded, but with pumping, we kept the level to around 2.5 feet in depth. I lost some items, but with the help of my daughter and son-in-law, a lot of things were saved.
The event is a blessing in disguise because it has forced the issue for me of clearing out a lot of the artifacts of my old life and allowing me to move more easily into a new one.

For years, even before my dear wife Michele died, I have been aware that we were somewhat trapped by our possessions. This event has made it necessary, and somewhat easier, to release those things to others, to the dump, to children, etc. I need the room and the freedom this has precipitated.

This week, a dumpster will arrive at the house and the beginnings of the great purge will begin. I think it will be a little difficult for me at times, but generally, I’m ready for it.

No, this isn’t the show you’re looking for.

So, I was sitting on the toilet in a stall at IUSB this morning, when a herd of little boys comes in and they start using the toilets. flushing repeatedly, playing with the water in the sinks, leaving them running, screwing up the towel dispenser, etc. They're kids from South Bend Schools there to see the Children's Theatre show (incidentally named for my late wife Michele), but there's not a responsible male in sight.

Pretty soon, one of them yanks open the door to my stall, I yell, and he shuts it quick. The kids start peeking in at me between the spaces in the door. Nice. Then one of them starts banging on my door like he's trying to get me to hurry up. Sheesh. The female teachers had just sent the kids on in without anyone to maintain order.

Eventually I came out and told Demarée and Neil King (Michele's successor) about it and we had a good laugh, but I think they were going to try to prevent this for subsequent days of the children's theatre. 

Talk about your sneaker peekers.

Birthdays and butt-dialing.


Today is Michele’s birthday. She would be 62 if she were still with us. When she died two years ago of cancer, she left a big hole in our family. After all this time (it seems like it was yesterday), I still miss her terribly, and there are many moments when I ask out loud why she had to leave us, and why won’t she come back. Silly, of course. She’s not coming back, and there are many things I wish I could say to her, to make her laugh, to ask forgiveness, to rededicate ourselves to each other and to our family.

The things she missed out on are many. Things she wouldn’t have missed for the world: the grandkids growing up, Paige’s first child, Paula and Dylan’s wedding. These and more have all happened without her. If there is something after death, I hope she can be with us in some way.

Scantron is that grading system used on standardized tests. The student fills in the appropriate circle on a card that corresponds to the correct answer on the test paper. The card is machine read and saves oodles of time spent on manual grading. When I was a kid, we didn’t call it Scantron (which is a brand name), because the technology was fairly new, but students today all seem to know what it means. They also don’t like this kind of test very much.

As an adjunct “professor” with not a ton of time for grading, Scantron is a godsend. But it’s limited to grading multiple choice and/or True/False questions. If I really want to test a student’s knowledge, I have to add some short answer or open-answer type questions, which takes me back to manual grading of some questions.

Many students are pretty good at guessing on multiple choice tests, but are terrible at pulling up knowledge from nowhere or doing any kind of analysis, much less writing it in any coherent fashion. Even at the college level, most students a poor writers, have little knowledge of history or current news. Which brings up a host of other questions I could discuss, but will leave for another time.

I accidentally butt-dialed Deirdre (Dede) Lovejoy this morning. Dede is a professional actress of some note (The Wire, Lucky Guy, Bones), and the daughter of Marcia Fulmer. She called back. I awkwardly told her it was accidental, and let it go at that.

Accidentally calling someone from your pocket, or butt-dialling, is a completely cell phone phenomenon. It’s not the equivalent of the land-line era “wrong number,” because it’s actually a RIGHT number. Just dialed at the wrong time. What’s the protocol for this issue? Mine is this: If the recipient’s phone has only rung once, I hang up in hopes they will not have gotten a ring at their end, or if they have, they’ll know that one ring indicates it was a mistake. If it’s rung more than once, I will stay on the line and then apologize for accidentally dialing someone.

For some reason, on the iPhone, I’m particularly prone to this. It’s a touch-screen thing. It never happened with physical buttons on a phone. Sometimes progress simply presents us with a new set of problems. 


Noted and read an article from the U.K. with headline "Loneliness is as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes a day." Read the article to see if I am "lonely." Apparently not. Most of the time. But what does it mean that I checked?

March Gallery Show

I'm going to have a gallery show of my photos in March of 2018.  Between 15 and 20 images, some yet to be created I'm guessing.  It will be in my hometown, Elkhart, Indiana, at the Elkhart Art League. I'll have more info as the time approaches. 

End of May

Jim Pickley
Jazz Pianist

You know you're getting older when certain things start happening (no, this isn't one of those joke posts).  One of the most distressing is the increasing frequency of deaths among those with whom you went to high school.  Many of you know I lost my wife two years ago.  It still hurts.  One of my closest friends died exactly seven weeks later.  That still hurts too.  

People you're close to become part of your routine,  They're your "go to" people when you want to talk, laugh or joke about something that happened during the day.  They're a safe haven where you don't really have to worry about whether your shirt has a spot on it or you forgot to shave.  It's all ok with them.  I don't really have that kind of closeness at the moment. I have good friends; people I like a lot, but there's still that hole to be filled.   

Today we found out that Jim Pickley, a high school friend, my co-drum major for the Elkhart High School Band, and brilliant jazz pianist, died from cancer.  He started posting about his condition on Facebook a while back, with the last post being April 30.  He was already in hospice care, and said the pain was pretty bad.  We knew what was coming, but it doesn't make it any less sad.  Jim was a wonderful jazz player, who probably deserved more renown than he ever got, but jazz has always been a largely anonymous endeavor.  I was impressed with his ability when we were both in high school as well as when we both attended the Smith-Walbridge drum major camp during the summer of 1970.  He started banging out wonderful music on the camp's out-of-tune piano, and that's when I realized I would never play as well as he did.  But envy turned pretty quickly to admiration, partly because Jim was such a nice guy you couldn't help but like him.  Rest in peace, Jim. 

Photo Weekend

This weekend I attended a workshop with the interesting, energetic street photographer Valerie Jardin.  It was my first time meeting her, and she was just like she is on her terrific podcast, Hit the Streets with Valerie Jardin.  The weather was not too cooperative with constant rain the first day, but Valerie had a number of dryer alternatives, including visits to the Guthrie Theatre, a farmers' market, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and arts district.  No shortage of interesting backdrops or people.  

Street photography is an interesting sub-genre of photography that has become more popular in recent years with the advent of smaller, quieter digital cameras that produce professional results.  I was actually the Luddite of the bunch with my Canon DSLR, while most of the class were using one or another of the newer Fujifilm mirrorless cameras (Valerie is an official Fujifilm X photographer.) . But it didn't much matter when it came to results.    I learned a lot and enjoyed the weekend.  Will see Valerie again at the Out of Chicago conference in June in Chicago.  

Here's a gallery of some of my better shots from this weekend.