LA PERLE GRUISSANAISE - RESTAURANT REVIEW


This is what two dozen oysters, shrimp for three, and some odds and ends look like.
We wound our way through Gruissan on a gorgeous September Sunday, headed through the seaside town to the Med and La Perle. Friends had recommended La Perle to us as the place to go for seafood fresh off the boat. Cathey and Connie had yet to have their first R-Month oysters, so off we went.

The parking lot was full. This is not your typical restaurant where you find a table, read a menu, wait for the wait staff, and place your order. Instead, we joined a line snaking past tubs of fresh oysters for sale and tried to figure out how things worked.

As the line advances, you come to a chalkboard with prices and a guy who asks what you'd like. If you appear to be a newbie, he prompts you. We wanted a couple of dozen oysters, shrimp for three, and a few raw mussels to taste. Did we want lemon? Yes. Mayonnaise or aioli? Aioli. Wine? Yes, a liter of white. He gave us a numbered, handwritten stub that we took to a cashier. She asked if we'd been there before. No. Keep your stub. In about 15 minutes, you come back and pick up your food. We paid and were given our wine, a carafe of water, and a plastic garbage bag.

You can choose from tables and chairs indoors or picnic tables outside facing the water - the etang (bay), not the Med. We found a table under a little thatched umbrella. Connie and I went back inside and picked up six glasses - real glass, three plates, knives and forks and lots of paper napkins, and a bucket for the oyster and mussel shells only. The plastic bag would hold the rest of the trash. After a few minutes, I went back for the seafood, oysters on a bed of ice, opened and with the shells replaced so that they almost looked as if they hadn't been, good-sized pink shrimp scattered throughout, the mussels and lemon halves and a little jar of aioli on top.

La Perle reminded us of the seafood shacks with which we are familiar in Louisiana. Off the boat fresh. Sweet shrimp. Briny if not overly plump oysters. Raw mussels were a new taste, interesting but not in our wheelhouse.

61 euros and change for the lot. Just great. Next time we'll bring hot sauce.

Read more of my reviews HERE.

CHATEAU LES CARRASSES 2015 AUTUMN CRAFT MARKET

Just down the road from us is the Disneyesque Ch√Ęteau Les Carrasses. It's a hotel - and several rooms have their own lap pools. It's a restaurant, trying to be a gourmet stop and almost succeeding. And there are always events. On this late September Sunday, we attended the autumn craft market. Shiny, sweet smelling, hand-made crafty things to see and to buy. Worth a stroll for an hour or so on the way to the Med and seafood for lunch.















#21 - CLOCK BOMB, BOGUS SCIENCE, OFFICER DOWN


CLOCK BOMB
So the school in Texas thought that the Muslim kid had built a bomb? Did they isolate the device? Did they call the bomb squad? Did they evacuate the school? No. They stayed in the same room with the device while they waited for the cops. When the cops came, they didn't call the bomb squad. They transported the device in their car with the kid, unprotected, and they kept it in the station house unprotected. 
The school administration and the cops either knew that the device wasn't a bomb or, if they did think that it was a bomb, they are too stupid to have the responsibility to protect children.

BOGUS SCIENCE
Check out any discussion of global warming and the deniers are bound to make the case that there has been absolutely no warming for the past 18 years. Last year, they pointed out that there had been no warming for 17 years. Next year, they'll say that there has been no significant warming for 19 years. Get the picture? The deniers point to a single, outlying year.

Try this on for size. Ten years ago, your boss gives you a one-time, considerable bonus. Each year for the next nine years, you get a nice salary increase, but no bonus. Today, your salary is equal to the total compensation that you received ten years ago. Has your salary been increasing? Of course it has. Is global warming real? Of course it is.

OFFICER DOWN
The Officer Down Memorial Page (www.odmp.org) makes for interesting reading. The site chronicles the names of police officers who have died in the line of duty and the circumstances of their deaths. The deaths are listed by date and categorized by type - from gunfire to heart attack, from motorcycle accident to 9/11 related illness. 

As should be, the list also includes K9s. It is particularly disheartening to read that a major cause of K9 deaths is from heat exhaustion. One can only hope that's not from being left in enclosed vehicles for extended periods of time in extreme heat.

Let me be very clear. Being a cop is a tremendously difficult, dangerous job. Putting your life on the line daily on behalf of your fellow citizens is an admirable profession. What I'm about to point out is in no way meant to diminish the nobility of that calling.

In 2014, 47 officers - and that includes ATF agents and others, by the way - were killed by gunfire. Not accidental shootings. Accidents are listed separately. So far this year, 24 have been killed by gunfire. Extrapolating through the end of the year, that's 32 deaths, a decrease of about 30% against last year. In 2010, 68 were killed by gunfire. 47 again in 2009. 41 in 2008. 67 in 2007. 51 in 2006.

My point? The 24 hour news cycle has convinced us that there is a war on police when police deaths by gunfire are actually as low as they have been in many years. Why does the media manipulate us like this? Why do we allow the media to manipulate us like this?

HANDICAPPING THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION - SEPTEMBER 2015

DEMOCRATS
Hillary gets one more month. Maybe just one. Have you folks in the States heard of Jeremy Corbyn? If you are into Bernie, check it out. Is it a good thing? I don't know. But it just may be a thing after all.

There is one change to my predictions from the previous two months. Bernie has sucked up all of the air available for Elizabeth Warren at the Leftest end of the spectrum. Biden, at least for the time being, takes her spot. I don't think he'll run. Is there enough fire in the belly? We'll see.

September, 2015
Favorite: Hillary Clinton
Long Shot: Bernie Sanders
Wild Card: Joe Biden
Prediction: Hillary Clinton

July, 2015
Favorite: Hillary Clinton
Long Shot: Bernie Sanders
Wild Card: Elizabeth Warren
Prediction: Hillary Clinton

REPUBLICANS
No changes from last month. I still find it difficult to believe that The Donald has the legs to last through the entire primary season. He's just too easily distracted. And we see some of the same interesting polling beginning to take shape on the Republican side as we saw during the last Presidential cycle. The Doctor is threatening The Donald. Could it possibly be that the Flavor of the Month Syndrome is setting in?

Huckabee? Well, like Santorum the last time, Huckabee is making a determined, all-out bid for the Christian fundamentalists. They are still a numerous slice of the base, they darn near led Santorum past Romney at the end, and therefore they are still a powerful force to be reckoned with.

And Jeb still has the name and the money and I don't see Kasich or Walker making the case that they are the stronger candidate. Maybe. We'll see.

September, 2015
Favorite: Jeb Bush
Long Shot: Mike Huckabee
Wild Card: Kasich and Walker Lead the Pack 
Prediction: Jeb Bush

July, 2015
Favorite: Jeb Bush
Long Shot: Rick Santorum / Mike Huckabee
Wild Card: Any Current/Former Republican Governor/Senator Not Named Christie or Perry
Prediction: Jeb Bush

#20 - NETANYAHU WINS, FIORINA'S LOOKS, PERRY QUITS

NETANYAHU WINS
Iran's nuclear program, assuming that it was ever intended to culminate in the creation of a nuclear weapon, has been set back years. For the first time, Iran will allow itself to be limited by the international community on what it can and cannot do. Good work, Bibi. Now, quit bitching and get on with partnering with a Palestinian Arab state on the West Bank and Gaza. (It's all in your perspective, ain't it?)



FIORINA'S LOOKS
I don't give a flying frack what Carly sees when she looks in the mirror unless it's her reflection telling her that failing at HP does not qualify her for the Presidency.


PERRY QUITS
The conventional wisdom is that Perry was forced to quit because Trump has sucked all of the oxygen out of the Republican primaries. I don't buy it. Perry quit because even the troglodytes who now make up the Republican base realized that putting on horn-rimmed glasses did not increase Perry's IQ.

I'm no anthropologist, but I use the term troglodyte judiciously. There's polling:
49% of Republicans do not believe in evolution and 13% are not sure
66% of Republicans do not believe in global warming and 10% are not sure.
71% of Republicans do not believe Obama was born in the US or are not sure. (Of course, he was.)
40% of Republicans agree that Ted Cruz was born in the US. (Of course, he wasn't)

But forget facts. Let's look at attitudes:
57% of Republicans favor establishing Christianity as the national religion and 13% are not sure. 
54% of Republicans say that, “deep down,” Obama is a Muslim.
70% of Republicans say Obama doesn’t love America.
20% of Republicans believe that Obama is the Anti-Christ.

Calling them troglodytes may be too generous a description.

#`19 - RALLY AGAINST DEAL WITH IRAN, MUSLIM BARTENDER



RALLY AGAINST DEAL WITH IRAN
Trump, Cruz, and Palin held a rally today to denounce to Iran deal negotiated by the 5+1 countries.




MUSLIM BARTENDER
Given my Russian Jewish heritage, I am more than sympathetic to claims of religious persecution. To this day I bear scars on my knuckles, the result of schoolyard brawls in defense of my tribe.

Then there's the case of the airline stewardess who converted to Islam and refused to serve alcoholic beverages. The airline tried to accommodate her by requiring other stewardesses on her flights to serve booze for her. But then one of those stewardesses complained about the extra work and the Muslim was put on unpaid leave.

I feel a lawsuit coming on.

Next? Christian Scientist pharmacist who refuses to prescribe drugs? Amish DMV clerk who refuses to register motorized vehicles? Hindu deli worker who refuses to serve beef? Jewish health inspector who refuses to license restaurants that serve pork? The possibilities are endless...

#18 - SCALIA AND YOGA, ASHLEY MADISON




SCALIA AND YOGA
It begins with a guy named Scalia who says that the Constitution is a dead document.

"If you somehow adopt a philosophy that the Constitution itself is not static, but rather, it morphs from age to age to say whatever it ought to say — which is probably whatever the people would want it to say — you've eliminated the whole purpose of a constitution. And that's essentially what the 'living constitution' leaves you with."

 What about precedents that Scalia believes are wrongly decided?


"I just say, 'Let's cut it out. Go back to the good, old dead Constitution'."

Clear as crystal, correct?

So you tell me. How do we get to the point that corporations are people if we begin with the good, old dead Constitution? And even if we accept that corporations are people based on corporate law precedent, where does the Constitution so much as imply that money equals speech? Apparently, it does. At least, Scalia believes that it does. But it doesn't end there. No.

Corporations have deeply held religious beliefs. At least, closely held corporations do. (Did you know that six Justices are Catholic?) Enter Hobby Lobby. A good, Christian corporation that opposes abortion. (A Catholic corporation, perhaps?) Let's exempt them from the healthcare legislation that is supposed to be universal. That's what's meant by freedom of religion, isn't it?


Are you getting the picture? Do you agree that the dead Constitution is one hell of a flexible cadaver? Maybe for the past 230 years or so, the Constitution has been practicing yoga.


At least, that's what Kim Davis hopes.




ASHLEY MADISON
I am reminded of the hack that resulted in nude photos of starlets popping up all over the internet. There's nothing inherently illegal about having an Ashley Madison account. The illegality is the hack that makes the names of account holders public. So it's a privacy issue, right? The account holders are the aggrieved parties. Right?


I don't buy it. Yes, you have a perfect right to be naughty and stupid. But if you decide to be naughty and stupid on the internet, people who are naughty and smart are going to enjoy exposing you. It's a given. If you refuse to blame yourself for being naughty and stupid, you can't blame them for being naughty and smart.


LES JARDINS DE BAGES - RESTAURANT REVIEW

Bages is a pretty little touristy village on the etang (salt-water bay) south of the city of Narbonne. There's a fantastic view of the Narbonne cathedral several kilometers across the etang from a lookout point at the top of the village near the village's little church. During high season, Bages is a hopping place but at other times it's a quiet, peaceful town with pretty facades to stroll past and a fine restaurant or two in which to pass a relaxed luncheon. One of those restaurants is Les Jardins de Bages just across from the cafe Les Beaux Artes, another fine choice, by the way.

We sat outside under the shade of a tree heavy with ripening olives. We had no reservations for our Sunday luncheon but it was the very end August, the high season was virtually finished, so there was no problem being seated. Service was crisp, timely, and helpful. There were four menus, starting at 18 euros for your choice of two plates (starter, main, or dessert) and going up from there. Seafood was featured as was to be expected so near the Med.

My three table mates started with the fish soup. Not as hearty and thick as some but still tasty and satisfactory. I had a quiche with goat cheese melted atop and a bit of a side salad. All good. For our mains, two tajines with chicken and one with seafood - served hot in their clay dishes. I had marinated chicken with a bit of ratatouille and a potato mash on the side. Again all good, well-portioned fare. One cheese plate at the finish had a nice assortment. My one scoop of strawberry ice cream (all out of chocolate) had iced up a bit, so not the freshest best.

With a bottle of local rose, the total tab for lunch for four came to 90 euros. That's right in line given that the food was good and that Bages is clearly a tourist village that can charge tourist prices.With that in mind, Les Jardins de Bages is a good choice for a lazy lunch in the shade of an olive tree.

Read more of my reviews HERE.


A TASTE OF LOCAL CULTURAL EVENTS: COST OF LIVING IN FRANCE #4

In the USofA, we lived in the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton metropolitan area. The State Theater in Easton brought in class acts like Preservat...