Why this blog?

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Remembrance of Francis Dubourg

I have lost a very dear friend.

Francis Dubourg, owner of La Cabane à Huîtres in Paris, passed away after a long battle with cancer on February 28th, 2015.

Francis was a larger-than-life character, a man with a booming voice, charming accent, and welcoming smile who made each patron of his tiny, 16-seat establishment feel at home. I discovered the Cabane in March, 2010, shortly after I arrived in Paris alone. I love the briny sea taste of raw oysters and found the Cabane à Huîtres in a Google search - surprising because Francis never owned a computer and never created a website. But patrons found him, and his business grew mostly on the basis of word-of-mouth.

The Cabane became a second home for me. I went there every week -- sometimes even twice in the same week -- usually at lunchtime with the other regulars, leaving the evenings for tourists. I knew most everyone by name - including Mr. Pons who at 96 years old attributed his longevity to eating oysters and never drinking water!
Francis with Mr. Pons
I celebrated my 60th birthday at the Cabane a Huitres. I invited several friends, including Eleanor Beardsley, NPR Paris correspondent who did a story about Dubourg's oysters. You can listen to that story here. The highlight of my birthday party was a 60-year-old bottle of wine that Francis opened for the occasion. It was still drinkable! You can see photos from my birthday celebration here.

My oyster obsession didn't stop at the Cabane in Paris; Francis invited me to come to Arcachon where I was lucky enough to visit the oyster beds and watch the Dubourg family at work. You can read more about that trip here.

I started dating while in Paris, and the litmus test for any potential partner was: did he like oysters? and did Francis approve? A couple of dates didn't pass the test. Patrice did. We celebrated Frédéric's birthday at the Cabane with friends, family, dozens of oysters and lots of champagne. Later Francis invited Patrice and me to visit the Arcachon oyster park again.
Francis' grandson Théo, son Frédéric, and Patrice
Francis loved the United States and he loved rock and roll music. He had a great baritone singing voice and sounded just like Elvis Presley whose songs he knew by heart. His idol, however, was Buddy Holly. He dreamed of following Route 66 and of visiting Lubbock, Texas to see Holly's birthplace and final resting place. Perhaps it's just as well he never made it - he might have been disappointed.

I miss Francis. He leaves behind his 92 year old mother, his wife of almost 50 years, Regine, his son Frédéric and two grandchildren. The Cabane à Huitres is not the same without him. I fear it will close for good, the end of an era.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cape Lookout

Portland provides wonderful access to both mountains and seaside. I decided to spend a day on the beach to get away from hot weather in Portland. Nobody told me that the Oregon coast can be COLD in June!

I did take a nice hike on along Cape Lookout - lots of beautiful trees with views of the ocean below - but no lighthouse at the end of the trail.
Tall trees, narrow trail and fog!
Glimpses of the shoreline underneath the fog
Sunset on Nye Beach

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Eagle Creek

I met Carole during a hike in Portland. She was born in France of an American mother and French father. We now get together on a regular basis to take hikes, sometimes speaking French as we go. Yesterday we hiked along the popular Eagle Creek in the Columbia Gorge. The hike is not recommended for dogs, small children or agoraphobics as the trail passes along exposed cliffs. The trail is also wet in spots thanks to water dripping from small springs in the rocks above.
If you're slightly afraid of heights, there is a cable in the narrow spots that you can cling to.
After only 2 miles, you can stop and rest or take a shower at Punchbowl Falls.



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Morels

Most mushroom hunting happens during the fall when the warm earth and late summer rains bring out tremendous varieties of mushrooms. However, there is one delicious type of mushroom that only fruits in the spring -- morels.

They are notoriously difficult to spot and are quite finicky. Some years Oregon boasts bumper crops of morels. But not this year. The winter and spring have been unusually dry, so spring mushrooms have been few and far between.  Furthermore, morels grow slowly, so if they have all been collected from an area, they might not return during this growing season.

However, morels like forest fires. And that's where we found them this weekend - at the base of partially burned conifer trees from last year's fire season.

After some intense searching, and with the aid of local experts, we did come up with enough for a tasty dinner.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Birthday present

I recently celebrated my 65th birthday. A momentous one! I am now the proud holder of a Medicare card. And as you have probably guessed by now, I don't mind at all. I've never felt better, or more alive. So I decided to take another big step and buy myself a very special birthday gift. . . . just to show that old dogs can learn new tricks!

I've been a PC user for 34 years. Yes! we bought our first IBM compatible in 1981 - back in the days of 5 1/4 inch floppy drives, 256 K of RAM, with CPM and DOS as the installed operating system . . . No color monitor, no hard drive, no network, no wifi; printers a pain to install -- you get the idea. There were no real applications, word processing was a joke, and there were certainly no digital photos to edit. No Windows, no mouse, no graphical user interface. Yes, back in the Dark Ages of computing. But I learned to use the cumbersome beast - especially after I went to work in 1985 selling computers in a dedicated computer store (do you remember those?) And so my knowledge grew as the industry evolved - later working for companies such as Adobe Systems and Sun Microsystems (I even used UNIX).

But now, after all this time, my Toshiba laptop is on its last legs - taking a full five minutes just to boot up.

So, after hesitating for almost a year, I went to the local Best Buy store and spoke to a young man who condescended to inform me of my computer options. "Sonny, (did I really call him that?!) I've been using a computer since before you were born. But now I'm ready for a change. I want to buy a Mac.

After acknowledging that indeed, he wasn't yet born when I bought my first computer, he went on to answer the questions I had regarding compatibility with my current files and applications. And several minutes later I walked out with my new MacBook Pro with Retina screen (awesome for editing photos).

So far, the experience has been even better than I imagined. Instant synchronization with my iPhone, no problem with document compatibility, and access to all of my photos on an external disk drive is a breeze. Great speakers for music. etc, etc. I love it!

And so I begin my 66th year starting fresh. New toys, a clean hard drive, a new start. Life is good.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cherry blossoms

Photographers waiting for the cherry blossoms to bloom along Portland's waterfront were caught by surprise when the trees reached their peak splendor three weeks early this year - just another reminder of this winter's crazy weather that saw an unusually dry and warm winter here in the Pacific northwest while the northeastern U.S. was battered by record amounts of snow and cold.

Anyway, we're not complaining as we contemplate a beautiful spring.
 
 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Newport Oregon

One of the things I enjoy most about living in Portland is that the ocean less than two hours away by car. With spring-like weather in the forecast, I made a return trip to the Sylvia Beach Hotel, a somewhat rickety wooden structure originally built in 1913. The rooms are unique, each decorated according to a theme surrounding a well known author. Prices include a delicious hot breakfast and the hotel also offers a fixed price four-course dinner served family style where single guests do not feel left out in a room full of couples. It was my second visit this past weekend. You can see the attraction, this was the view at dawn from my window:
The hotel is a book lovers haven, featuring books in every room along with a reading library. It's also the site of occasional writers' retreats. I went the first time fully intending to focus on writing, but warring notions caused me to spend more time out walking and shooting photographs. This time, although I took my notebook, I ended up spending more time exploring tide pools, the marina, and the Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
 
 
I took a tour of the historic Yaquina Head Lighthouse, tallest on the Oregon coast. First lit in 1873, it was converted to electricity in the 1930s. The four inch halogen bulb casts a light that can be seen 20 miles away, thanks to the refraction of the Fresnel lens made in Paris.
The three full-time original lightkeepers spent their days polishing, cleaning, and repairing, as well as tending gardens and livestock. The cast iron staircase had to be repainted every year!