LEARN MORE ABOUT THE WILLS FAMILY THROUGH MARALYS' MEMOIRS: A CIRCUS WITHOUT ELEPHANTS AND A CLOWN IN THE TRUNK

Saturday, October 20, 2018

WHY ISN'T HE IN JAIL?




For years this man has hired immigrants at bargain wages to build his hotels,  and then refused to pay them what they had coming.

For those same years he secured the services of independent contractors for his projects—lighting specialists, cabinet makers—and then “discounted” their bills, knowing only he had the resources to fight back in court.

Not so long ago,  he lied about the values of home appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers, not only taking fraudulent discounts from tax assessors, but also cheating renters within his establishments.

Within all our memories he created a so-called “university,” presumably to make his students rich, promising hand-picked professors and the divulgence of fail-safe lessons, only to fail on every count—refusing to repay his victims—until the courts intervened.

According to the New York Times’ exhaustive research,  this man has cheated New York State and the Federal government out of untold millions in owed taxes, which he has escaped paying only because he and his henchmen are willing to scheme and maneuver and hide and outright lie to ensure he never pays what he owes. Is it any wonder he refuses to reveal his tax returns? .   

Even today he gets away with flaunting the foreign emoluments clause in the Constitution, enriching himself with Saudi Arabians and other non-Americans who patronize his Washington D.C. hotel.  We all know it; nobody backs him down. 

But, hey, as president, he’s already told several thousand lies to us—the public--all verified by fact-checkers.  Still, not one member among the Republicans in Congress seems willing to hold his feet to the fire—presumably because they fear alienating the voters who adore him—those dupes wearing the MAGA hats. Among Republican office-holders, selfishness prevails.  My job is more important than admitting our leader is a verified crook.

Men with lesser crimes  are currently behind bars, doing hard time.  

Why isn’t this man in Jail? 

Why--even in what is obviously an upside-down world—do we allow this person to continue serving as President?  




Sunday, October 14, 2018

MORE ABOUT THE FERAL CAT--THE DRAMA GOES ON




How was I to know, a few days ago, that our cat story was far from over? 

With the blog finished, I made some assumptions--none of which came true.

As readers of the first blog all know,  our attempt to entice the nearly wild cat out of our house with an open patio door and an outside dish of cat food, was more than a failure: instead we awoke suddenly to a house full of policemen. There they were in the hall outside our bedroom, waking us with their clunky boots and huge flashlights. I leaped out of bed and realized to my horror WE were under suspicion—and never mind that I was standing there in my nightie, and never mind my trying to explain about the cat. “We have to see your husband,” they said, and when I said he was still in bed, one of them repeated his demand and pushed right past me.  What!  Do you think I killed him?   

So much for any sleep that night. 

But the cat was still with us . . . and so was our determination to have him gone. But that second night, if anything, turned out worse. Once again we prepared the open-door, outside-food trick—and this time I did NOT accidentally touch the house alarm.

Instead, just as we went to bed, I saw through the hall window what I supposed was the cat eating from the food dish. Elated, I ran to the family room to close the door. 

No cat anywhere.  Instead, four huge raccoons were out there, circling our dishes,  eating the cat food.  “No!” I screamed at them.  “No!  No!”  The four beasts took off running.  Defeated, I brought in the wet and dry food—what was left of it.  To forestall their return, I cleaned up everything they’d spilled.  Clearly, night-time, open-door lures were useless.

The third night was the topper.  While Rob watched late-afternoon TV with the patio door open (in case “Rat Cat” just happened to go for a daytime stroll),  I glanced outside. A quick look told me, once again, the cat was out there. Again I raced to the family room—and there I saw, INSIDE our breakfast room, three raccoons circling the dish of cat food. I screamed, and two raccoons rushed outside. 

Not so the fourth one.  He stood in our breakfast room staring me down.  I could tell what he was thinking.  Are you going to stand there, blocking my way, or are you going to step back and let me escape?  Your call, Lady. 

I moved back three steps, and the animal rushed past me and toward the open door. With his cane, Rob gave him a swat on the behind as he darted outside.   

We were now down to limited solutions.  “I’ll have to get a HAVE A HEART trap,” I said.  But when the feed-store lady demonstrated the monstrous power of the trap, I brought it home with a heavy heart.  “You and I are not going to set this thing,”  I said.  “If we mess up, it’ll take off an arm.  Someone else will have to do it.”  

Still, that afternoon I came up with a different plan . “Let’s get several family members to stand in the family room.  One of us will take a stick and beat his hiding places in the den. When he runs out, we’ll funnel him out the patio door.” 

Before the family could get there, Rob did indeed beat against several objects in the den, and suddenly the cat ran out—looking, as always, like an oversize rat. But he didn’t escape through the open door. Instead he disappeared. Later, Rob found him hiding in our small, utility bathroom. Quickly Rob closed the door. We practically cheered.  

When Dane and his girlfriend, Zhanina arrived, we planned our final move. With three of us standing in the utility porch, the fourth would roust the cat out of the bathroom, sending him out the back door.

That’s when a famous saying came to light.  The best-laid plans of mice and men . . . Slowly Dane entered the bathroom. But nothing happened.  Rob called out, “Poke him with my cane.  He’ll run out.”

Still silence from the bathroom.  Rob added, “You can pull him out with the other end.”  Dane didn’t reply, and we couldn’t tell what was going on.   

Then, from outside the room I heard Dane say, “Here, Kitty, here, Kitty.  Zhanina joined him.  The silence went on. Rob and I waited. Finally I gathered the cat was crouched behind the toilet, not moving.  “Will he bite?” asked Dane, and we said we didn’t think so. Eventually Dane picked him up, and the two came out. Then Zhanina took him in her arms.  “He’s trembling,” she said. She held him closer.

Instead of throwing him to the coyotes, the two young people stood there leaning over our animal, cuddling him.  Zhanina carried him outside, still in her arms.  All at once I saw him differently—a scared-stiff animal who had lived for six weeks in our house, eating only at night, afraid to ever be seen. 

“I’d like to keep him,” Dane said, and Zhanina agreed.  “We’ll give it a try,” they said. So Rob and I gave them everything the cat had come with—wet food, litter box, dry food.

Since from the start we never knew where this feral-cat story was headed, we now don’t know for sure how it will end.  All I can say is, those are the two kindest young people I’ve ever met.  With luck, our feral cat will think so, too.        

After they left, I began thinking about the kids, and how they handled the situation . . . and how because of them my attitude changed, and how in the end it was all for a simple reason: kindness is catching. 



Tuesday, October 9, 2018

MIDNIGHT DISASTER WITH A FERAL CAT





We should have seen this coming earlier--like weeks ago.  But who could have predicted a bad situation would simply keep getting worse?

It all started so routinely, and mostly because Rob is known to love cats.  As for me, I’m not nuts about them . . . but yes, we’ve had a few I actually loved.

When I speak of “a few,” that’s because cats love being outdoors, and over many years we’ve enjoyed seeing our half dozen different pets chasing across the lawn and up and down trees, dizzy with happiness.  The best ever was Pretty Boy, who was too quick and strong to succumb to predators; instead, loyal to us even in his last hours, he died prematurely, age eight, of kidney failure.

On the other hand, we’ve seen pathetic “indoor” cats sitting in window sills, staring longingly outward into a heaven they’re never allowed to enjoy. We “get it” about those cats and their owners; we’ve learned to our sorrow that the outdoors, here in Orange County, is a dangerous place for felines. Suffice it to say, we’ve lost at least three to coyotes.   

After Pretty Boy’s cute little successor stubbornly refused one night to come inside and we never saw him again, we vowed No more cats.

That should be the end of the story.  It isn’t. 

For a year, now, Tracy has been urging us on. “I saw this nice story about a lovable kitten. Dad needs another cat for his lap.” We kept explaining why this has worked out badly in the past and how we don’t expect a different ending. 

Still, she came up with something new. “One of Dane’s employees is moving to Vermont and needs a home for the family pet.”  In spite of protestations about clawed-up furniture, frequent trips, and coyotes, she persisted, “Your furniture is already clawed. He’s eight years old and mature. He’s house-broken. He won’t be a problem.”

Reluctantly we said okay. With that, the grateful owner arrived—with new cat carrier, sparkling litter box, a carton of wet canned food, a self-serve container filled with dry food.  And a huge, less-than-beautiful tabby. Vaguely, I remember a questionable history: an understated mention of cat-found-on streets, all by a prior owner . . .    

When today’s owner placed his pet on our cat tower, it appeared all was well.  The man petted him a few times—no response from the cat—and soon the animal ran under the nearest sofa and disappeared.

As of now, five weeks later, nobody has ever petted him again.  That’s because you can’t pet something you never see.  Well, not perfectly true.  Rob has had a few brief nocturnal sightings, and two different evenings I’ve seen him streaking down the hall to god-knows-where, resembling an oversize rat. Yet thanks to cat-lovers assuring us this strange situation will be temporary, each night for nearly forty nights we’ve dutifully provided wet food and cleaned the well-used cat box. And each morning the food is gone. 

At first we located two different hiding places (into which we couldn’t reach), and begged him to come out. That ended quickly. For now we can only guess where he’s been holed up, though we’ve supposed part of the time somewhere in our very neat guest bedroom.  We both now want him gone. We’ve tried closing off parts of the house, just to corner him, but no luck.  We even laboriously took apart a suspect cabinet.  He once resided there, we knew,  and thought he’d returned.  But no sign. 

Yesterday we discovered the ultimate in bad feline behavior: behind the bed in the guest bedroom were five piles of cat poo.  Both of us exploded.  “He’s out of here!”  I shouted, and Rob agreed.  Tracy tried to be helpful.  “Just put his food outside and leave the door open.”  Well, that wouldn’t work in the daytime, during which we’ve never seen our phantom resident. So last night Rob propped open the back patio door and I carried out two kinds of food. Worried that yet another wild animal might eat the food, or even come in, we left on the outside lights and prepared for bed.    

Here I made the ultimate bad move. From long habit, I set the house alarm. With that, the fireworks went off, reminding me a major door was wide open.  Hastily, I punched in the code, a phone call from the alarm company rang only once, and the key pad read, “Police call cancelled.”  Rob said, “Who was that call?” and I said, “It’s okay. It’s all okay.”  I believed what I said, and still nervous about our open door, at well past eleven we went to bed.

An hour later, just as I’d fallen sound asleep, Rob suddenly stirred. “What’s that noise? Somebody’s in the house.”  I was instantly awake. It was more than just noise.  Outside our bedroom a bright light was more or less jumping off the walls.  I leaped out of bed, ran past the doorway.  And there in our bedroom hall were three men—all with huge flashlights, all wearing green uniforms.

“Our hall is full of cops!”  I shouted back to Rob, still in bed. 

“What are you doing here?” I cried, thinking,  And how did you get in?  

“What is your name?”  one of them asked,  and I was so shaken I could barely get it out. 

I began trying to explain about the cat.  But disoriented as I was, the words made little sense, even to me.

Now sternly.  “What is your birth date?” What has that got to do with anything? I mumbled dates, then went on about the cat, and why the door was open, and how I’d cancelled the alarm setting, and how yes, the patio door was thrown wide, and if you look, you’ll see the dish out there with gravy morsels.    

“We need to see your husband.” 

“He’s still in bed,”  I said.

The man pushed past me.  “We need to see him.”  What?  Do you think I murdered him? Insistently, he kept going, on toward the bedroom, and shined his torch on Rob—who, in his night shirt, was now standing in the doorway. My husband, always wise in bad situations, greeted him nicely.  

I swear, I was finally making sense about the cat, but that gang of uniforms didn’t leave for at least twenty minutes.  Afterwards, we found they’d opened every closed door—a good many blocking off cat-free rooms--and left us wide-awake, jangled, and me with a full load of blame.  

And how has it all ended?   Well, so far it hasn’t ended. Last night, significantly past midnight, we brought in the cat food, closed a few additional doors, and decided the wicked creature must be in the den—the “overflow room,” so messy it was the one place we hadn’t thoroughly searched.     

Sure enough, after a much-too-late bedtime and a too-early wakeup, the tempting kitty tidbits were gone.  We’re both exhausted, but worse, we’re still in possession of the world’s spookiest, ugliest cat--which Rob now refers to as “the rat cat.”  We think we know which room he’s in. But hey, that’s only half the solution.  How do we get rid of him . . . short of setting a house fire? 

Anyway, I hear firemen are really good with cats.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

DESPICABLE TO THE CORE




And a crook, besides. 

This is the man we call President. 

Just last night he publicly mocked assault victim Dr. Christine Ford—exactly like he mocked a disabled reporter, a few years earlier.   To our horror, his audience laughed, cheered, and clapped.  Who are these people? 

According to the New York Times, he and his father cheated the government of millions of dollars, the son accepted 413 million from the dad, and later claimed to be “a self-made man.”  Yet his base doesn’t care.  Who are these people? 

The New York Times investigated for a year and a half, examined literally thousands of documents, and made their conclusions--that he’s nothing but a con man--available to the entire country . . . enough to cause a popular uprising.  Yet among numerous states, not a ripple of protest. Who are these people?  

Our Senate leader, Mitch McConnell,  and more than half the United States Senators,  are willing to “go along” with a man  who lies, cheats, and is personally abhorrent. Who are these people?  

And when . . . when . . . will the rest of us demand a change of leadership? 


P.S. According to the New York Times 1700 (and counting) law professors across the United States have today sent a letter to the Senate stating that Judge Kavanaugh does not have the temperament to be a Supreme Court Justice. .

Thursday, September 27, 2018

CAUGHT IN PUBLIC WITH MY PANTS DOWN



Or that’s how it felt.

For 45 years I’ve given speeches--and not once did I come unprepared.  Right in front of me on the podium I invariably placed my notes, a few brief reminders in case I unexpectedly lost my way.  Sometimes I needed them,  sometimes not.

But last Saturday was wildly different. 

For starters, I was asked to be an additional speaker for my gifted student, Bob C., , who was being feted for his first published book. We were also to help as fundraisers  for the local library.

Since the audience would largely consist of Sixtyish readers, Bob and I had agreed in advance that I’d speak on the topic, “Turning Your Real-Life Experiences Into a Book.”  To both of us, my topic seemed obvious.  Clearly we’d be addressing a typical, mature, memoir-writing audience.  As usual, I’d provided detailed handouts for all those wannabe writers to follow along.   

Bob went first, and then it became my turn.  As always, I started with a brief, humorous story,  and after the laughter subsided, and almost as an afterthought,  I asked, “How many of you are writing, or expect to write, your memoir?” 

Dead silence.  And then one woman raised her hand.  I scanned the room, back and forth and into the far corners. But she was the only one. To my horror, my prepared talk had just become totally irrelevant. 

There I stood at the podium,  facing more than a hundred people, all giving me their undivided attention and each expecting me to give an inspiring,  half-hour talk.  And now, unexpectedly, I was caught in what is well-known to be one of life’s terrifying moments, being asked to speak before a crowd . . . but in my case with absolutely nothing to say. 

I noticed immediately that my mouth had dried up and my heart rate increased.  Will I even be able to say anything?  Out of a jumble of useless thoughts, I came up with an opening sentence:  “Well, I see we’ve got a roomful of readers, and almost no writers.”

A few people smiled and nodded.

“Well, I guess I’ll have to go in a different direction.”  Like, for instance, what?    

I plowed ahead.  “I noticed Bob mentioned that his favorite book was To Kill a Mockingbird.  Well, that’s also my favorite.”  Oh good, you’ve managed to say something.   From there I continued with little-known stories about Harper Lee,  and how, as a budding writer, I’d taken her book and my typewriter up into the hills near my home and sat in my car studying her words while I tried to figure out how to be a decent writer.       

From there I segued into my early writing attempts,  how, at age 12, I’d received two typewriters for Christmas, then on to endless rejections,  and finally into today’s wicked world of publishing.  I managed to quote—sort of—the famous editor at Simon and Schuster,  Michael Korda, who wrote the book, Another Life which detailed the decline of traditional publishing . . . now, sadly, turned into a bottom-line industry. From memory, I recited his bitter laments about today’s big-time editors: “God forbid that they should ever read a book.” 

Okay, you’ve recovered, just keep going. By now, the audience was clearly with me. Next I spoke about keeping my rejections in a ratty shoe box,  and how one day, when published, I’d dump them all out, because my image of myself as a published writer was always “When,”  but never “If.”  (When United Airlines finally gave me a check for $350, enough for a flight to Hawaii,  the rejected items numbered 129.) 

God, you seem to be doing okay!  I said some other things about writing. Finally as an illustration of the all-important beginnings to books, I read a few paragraphs from HIGHER THAN EAGLES.

Just then, ready to read briefly from another book and then stop,  I felt the M.C. closing in at my side.  Clearly, he was shutting my down . . . me who twenty minutes earlier, imagined I’d been struck dumb.

The outcome was everything an author could wish for: a few congratulations about how I’d recovered my mo-jo,  then readers enthusiastically buying 23 books. 

Best of all was my private assessment of what had happened.  After that descent into hell, you managed to think on your feet.  In my own eyes, I’d suddenly become years younger.    


Sunday, September 16, 2018

HOW BAD EDITS CAN MAKE A GOOD PIECE CLUNKY





HOW BAD EDITS CAN MAKE A GOOD PIECE CLUNKY


Yesterday--Saturday, September 15--my letter was printed in the Los Angeles Times.  The letter was in response to an op-ed by Jonah Goldberg, some 4  days earlier.  I was happy to see it there . . . until I read the actual, revised text.   


My Original Letter to L.A. Times: 


It’s always good to have Jonah Goldberg flirt with the Democratic position--even when it's "more or less."  As Goldberg laments the lack of adherence to tradition and rules from President Trump, he seeks some kind of "equivalency" with Obama and his administration. He seems to forget that in the eight years of the Obama presidency there was not one hint of scandal. When Obama broke with tradition, it was only because the Republican Congress thwarted his every move. Yet in two years, President Trump has inspired so many scandals we can't keep track of them all.   Goldberg can't accept that between these two there is no equivalency.   


Maralys Wills.  (address and phone number included.)   



Los Angeles Times Version: 


It’s always good to have Goldberg flirt with the Democratic position, even when it’s “more or less.” As he laments Trumps’s disregard of tradition and rules, he seeks some kind of equivalency with the behavior of the current president’s predecessor.

Goldberg seems to forget that in the eight years of the Obama presidency, there was not one hint of scandal. When Obama broke with tradition, it was only because the Republicans in Congress thwarted his every move.

Yet in not even two years, President Trump has been in so many scandals that we can’t keep track of them all. Goldberg can’t accept that between these two, there nothing close to an equivalency.   (they left out an “is.” )



(Here’s an example of how edits, good and bad, can change a piece.  I’ve underlined the Times’  changes.  The Time’s second line is an improvement.  All changes after that make it worse, even awkward.  A good example for all you writers—and just readers--to see.) 



My new romance,  "Wait for the Wind" is now available on Amazon.  Or you can buy it directly from me, autographed, through an email: Maralys@Cox.net. 


Monday, August 20, 2018

HIGH AND MIGHTY IN NICE, FRANCE





Years ago, Americans were anathema to Parisians . . . which they let us know with cranky stares, by pretending they didn’t grasp English, or by deliberately fouling up whatever we asked of them. Back in the day, they were so chilly to us Yankees they frosted up our attitudes, making us eager to leave and resolved never to return.      

The few times Rob and I went, we got out of Paris as fast as possible. Trouble is, we never ventured into the friendlier parts of the country.

Years later, along came our various grown kids who’d become world travelers. Among them we heard nothing but enthusiasm. “Mom and Dad, you’d like Paris now, and the   countryside is great—the people super friendly. You gotta go. Plus you never get a bad meal in France.”

Thus it finally happened. After granddaughter Jamie did the research, Tracy booked a villa in Nice—with photos that convinced us now is the time.

But first we had to get there—meaning coping with one of the several European airports from hell—Charles de Gaulle in Paris. Since Rob is now 91, and I’m right behind him, we agreed, “Who cares about pride? Let's sign up for wheelchairs!" Which we desperately needed—not only for those miles-long, madly confusing corridors, but also for avoiding long no-chair waits in endless lines.  Which may be the single benefit of being . . . well, old. 

Two wheelchairs marked “Wills” waited at plane’s exit—and we were pushed by a tall, handsome man from Cambodia (complete with charming smile), and a Parisian woman. As they rushed us down corridors, they chatted nonstop--in French--and clearly knew all the tricks of the airport. Sometimes, at first, they even talked to US. For that matter, we began noticing that all the airport personnel were busy talking pretty much all the time.

We spent at least an hour with those two, and before long the four of us were fast friends. The woman opened her phone--“my daughters,” she said, pointing--and the man stood by looking pleasant. At the end, when they saw us off to a distant section of the airport . . .  “There’s your van,” they said—the lady leaned close and kissed both my cheeks. For me, that hour was one of the trip’s highlights.   

Next, Airfrance to Nice. Soon we spotted the rest of our family—Tracy and Paul, Jamie, Mike, and baby Eva, plus Dane and Zhanina. “We all found each other!” we exclaimed. Then came the ultimate surprise—the road to our villa.  The route was straight up, a lane hardly wider than a bicycle path, with barely room for one car and spiced with at least four radical hairpin turns.  (I never could have driven it, because to drive you have to remember to breathe). At last, near the top of the mountain, the path dumped us in the villa’s carport.     

(Because our 7-seater van couldn’t accommodate everyone, Rob and I calculated later that Mike must have driven that harrowing road no fewer than 20 times.)

The second surprise was the villa itself. We kept saying, “Wow!” because we’d just entered an imposing, artistically decorated great room with huge windows overlooking, in one direction, the garden with swimming pool, and in the other, the Mediterranean Sea, outlined by millions of red-tiled Nice-ian roofs.    

For awhile Rob and I just stood there, awed by the room and its incredible views.  “I can’t believe this!” I said.  It turned out the rest of the villa was just as magnificent—two oversize baths, two king-bedded rooms and one kids’ room—the latter logically assigned to Rob and me.  (Not since our honeymoon days have the two of us slept with elbows in each others’ faces.  But we got used to it).

To our further surprise, in the amply-furnished kitchen, the owner reminded us to look in the oven, where she’d left us two roasted chickens for our first-night’s meal.

Only as I got used to the living room did I notice a kind of metal fireman’s pole—with triangular steps rounding the pole and poking out in every direction, leading to a loft above the kitchen. Up there was a bed for a fourth couple.  The steps looked so dangerous that nobody—certainly not Rob or I—were willing to climb them to satisfy any lingering curiosity. Only Dane and Zhanina were willing—and baby-free enough to be capable—of climbing the pole to get a night’s sleep.  As it turned out, a fourth couple was limited to two choices—the narrow living room couch or the spooky round and round trek to the loft.        

From the start, we were captivated by baby Eva (who, at three months, sported a full head of dark, seemingly-coiffed hair, plus a sweet smile), by great meals cooked up mostly by Paul and Jamie, by family card games, by some TV—in English—and by hours spent on the veranda gazing in wonder at the endless view.     

We soon learned that the villa’s pool had an interesting feature. It was a jet pool—meaning you could press a button and set in motion a sideways current.  Within the current the swimmer could stroke full out, yet remain in one place. Fascinated, we watched as Tracy stroked and stroked, yet never made any progress.

Rob and I left the villa only once—to sit on shaded, oceanside benches where we spent a few hours watching a parade of scantily-clad swimmers . . . in general noticeably thinner than their American counterparts.   

I lie.  Each of us took a separate trip with other family members to the nearby grocery store. In my case, for long moments I stood in that French store frozen, not knowing where anything was, but worse, unable to read the words on any containers.  If I’d been willing to search, I might have found the milk and eggs. As it was, utterly baffled, I barely moved down the aisles. Also, I was leery of my shopping cart. The red carts were small, three-wheeled and tippy, meaning I quickly got into a dangerous lean which could have sent the cart crashing to the floor.    

The week went by quickly and beautifully. After lots of minutes spent gazing into Eva’s eyes, of watching Tracy spend hours bouncing on a huge green ball trying to get the baby to doze off, of long sessions watching excellent family ping-pong, of devouring tasty American meals, of some truly competitive card games, of numerous crazy attempts to achieve a “family picture,” it was time—one morning at six a.m.--to leave. 

The trip home was not arduous, but in the end, curiously gruesome—meaning we were “up” for some 27 hours.  We did find a miracle wheelchair pusher in Dallas, who managed to maneuver TWO wheelchairs with one set of hands.  But thanks to Rob’s malfunctioning business-class cubicle on American Airlines,  and my inability to nod off  . . . and after a two-hour storm delay in Dallas, we arrived home zonked.

The best part was finding granddaughter Kelly and her son Oliver, waiting for us at John Wayne airport.

Would we do it again?  You bet. But only if the owner agreed to furnish the third bedroom with a queen bed.  And by the way, if our weird-tasting meals on the home-from-Paris portion of the trip were typical of French cooking, I can attest that the country’s cuisine is greatly overrated.