motherfucking versailles

It’s become clear throughout this trip that France hates disabled people. Nothing has been easy and very few of the French have helpful (on the boat – they were all largely other nationalities, and therefore, actually helpful). We’ve had an easier time getting around third world countries than France. They may not have the infrastructure in the Dominican or Jamaica, but what they do have are good people who don’t treat the disabled as humans unworthy of effort, and who jump in to help, without hesitation.

Unworthy of effort sums up France’s attitude toward the disabled in total. The Palace of Versailles was a perfect example. We were supposed to have a wheelchair for my daughter, but here’s the rub. We get there, and there are three football fields worth of cobblestones to cross first. And a massive garden on the other side, filled with gravel.

And you know what we’re told? You can only use the wheelchair in the Palace.

So… it takes us almost the entire time the rest of the group is in the Gardens just to reach the entrance and once we’re inside, we’re separated from her walker and then rolled through some beat-up staging area where they leave us to wait for our guide… at the top of a staircase.

Eventually, we get sorted and we, along with a crushing amount of other humanity, tour this ridiculous monument to ego and entitlement. At the end, the elevator is broken, so we’re run around to a different part of the building near the gardens, where we do manage to get down, but then… we’re trying to leave and they won’t let us take the wheelchair out. Keep in mind, we don’t have my daughter’s walker anymore. It’s in some security office at the other entrance. The guide offers to go get it and tells us to go with the wheelchair, after talking to some of the security guards. She disappears to find the walker and we start. We get about twenty feet before guards start rushing us, screaming at my daughter to get out of the wheelchair. I’m trying to explain, in English and in my broken French, that she can’t walk, and that’s when the security incident starts.

It doesn’t have anything to do with us, but it does involve security and men with machines guns screaming and shoving everyone out of the garden area, while the guard dealing with tries to pull my daughter out of the chair. She finally decides, at the last second, with a police car bearing down on us, to allow me to push her to the side. More men with machine guns are yelling at us to leave, but also to get out of the chair and we’re screaming back, she can’t walk, and anyway, long story short, another security guard finally shows up with our walker and after being threatened, pulled, screamed at and intimidated with guns, we’re “allowed” to return to our bus (across three football fields of cobblestones with a walker) again.

I mean, seriously, France. What the fuck kind of help is that for the disabled? Fuck you and your bullshit palace. I can see why the peasants came to burn it down.

Target: 1300 words
Written: 2297 words, novel: Father Lightning


I don’t know if it’s because it was a long weekend or what, but man, that Paris train station is insane. Thank god we had a young Gina Gershon lookalike to guide us through it (seriously, spitting image, accent and everything).

Returning to Paris after almost thirty years is weird. Feels like a totally different life; all I really remember is pastries, Jim Morrison’s grave and the crushing exhaustion of actually taking the stairs at the Eiffel Tower.

Not this time. Elevator all the way.

Target: 1300 words
Written: 417 words, novel: Father Lightning


Okay, this was pretty cool. I even ate fish for the first time in a long time (thankfully, a mild cod). They did try to kill my by serving me kalamari, which wasn’t great, but there’s something about being on the water that always soothes me. Arcachon is cute. I imagine it’s terribly expensive to live in or visit. Some of those houses in the peninsula were gorgeous.

Almost done with the cruise portion. Onto Paris tomorrow.

Target: 1300 words
Written: 122 words, novel: Father Lightning


I’m choosing to focus on the wonderful wines of Medoc and the nice meal at Chateau Kirwan, and not the previous night’s unpleasantness with that waiter and his crude, enabling boss. Suffice it to say, he’s an unpleasant little fellow and I’m sure would have made a fabulous Nazi in his era. Looking into his eyes, it’s not hard to imagine him grinning sadistically over the torture of his fellow citizens, or the extermination of an entire race.

But that’s probably overstating the case; it was just the feeling I got looking at him – like a serial killer waiting to happen. That his boss tried to play it off like his waiter’s repeated and intentional neglect of us was no big deal, while simultaneously making very aggressive and unfunny jokes at our expense, and getting the only waiter who actually did want to help us in trouble for doing exactly that, only made it worse. Not the experience we were hoping for with that, but it’s been the only truly unpleasant portion of the journey aboard the ship thusfar.

Medoc was beautiful and its wines delicious. Dinner was quite nice, and my waistline is starting to rebel; assuming this continues for another few days, I may have to buy an extra seat on the plane.

Target: 1300 words
Written: 2956 words, novel: Father Lightning

bourg and blaye

I’m trying not to fault the little towns of France for their lack of accessibility, but man, France is behind the times in accessibility. Yes, I know you love your little stairways and your cobblestones, but really, can you not sacrifice one tiny little stretch to make pavement for someone in a walker or a wheelchair? One itty bitty little ramp?

This is 2023. It’s time to grow up.

Target: 1300 words
Written: 1391 words, novel: Father Lightning

st emilion

Okay, St-Emilion was pretty cool. My daughter didn’t get to sit on the magic pregnancy bench, because it was in the lower village and well, as we’re discovering, France makes minimal effort at making things accessible to the disabled. Still, good wine, and there was some kind of mural for financing armageddon?

I’m not entirely certain what all that was about, but my wife and daughter did light a candle for their recently deceased mother/grandmother there. She wasn’t a practicing Catholic anymore, due to yet another local scandal involving a sick priest and children, which directly affected close friends of hers, but I believe she still took some comfort in belief. At least, I hope so, given the terrible number Alzheimer’s brought on her.

Hey, Catholics, maybe if you rethought that whole marriage/sex thing, you wouldn’t have so many fucked up perverts in your midst.

Just a thought.

Target: 1300 words
Written: 147 words, novel: Father Lightning

wine country

I’ll admit. I’m not a wine snob. I’d like to be, but I don’t think it’s really possible. I’m not patient enough to catch all the scents in a nose or all the bouquet as it hits the tongue. (And those aren’t even the right words to describe that, I think).

That said, I do enjoy a good wine, and the Sauternes we had today at Cadillac were terrific. That second one, the licorice, I believe they called it, was phenomenal.

Target: 1300 words
Written: 173 words, novel: Father Lightning


What a long day that is, flying from Toronto to Bordeaux. That said, we’re on the boat, we’re eating and we’ve got wine. I have a feeling this is going to be a good week. Bordeaux is cute, but man, open season on pedestrians by bikers, joggers and other e-vehicles.

Target: 1300 words
Written: 2394 words, novel: Father Lightning

la franchia

Wine country. Here we come. Nothing like spending a week in the French countryside, sipping deep reds and local fare, enjoying the history and beauty of the region. (Not that I’ve ever done this before, except for a brief half day stop in Grenoble once as an ungrateful teen boy more interested in trying to get sexy with his fellow exchange students or getting loaded.)

Still. This world is beautiful, and there is wonder, even in a war zone.

Here’s hoping we’re not walking into one.

Target: 1300 words
Written: 141 words, novel: Father Lightning