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traffic jammin’ with Joe

If you’ve poked your head out the rolled-down window, trying to see who’s at the front of a long line of unmoving cars, I’ll tell you.  It’s probably me.

The world traffic jam report is out, aka « Global Traffic Scorecard » from Inrix.  Los Angeles, where I was born, is #1.  Paris, where I now live, is #9.  In all, I’ve lived in 5 of the world’s Top 10 most congested cities.  Apologies everybody.

Today is the 38th anniversary of the longest traffic jam in history, according to Scienceoholic.  Bumper-to-bumper cars stretched for 175 km from Lyon to Paris on February 16, 1980.  No, I wasn’t there 😉

On the eve of Parisian schools’ Winter vacations, where masses of people drive to the Alps to ski, let’s not try to break any records, people.  I’ll do my part by staying home!

Three of the most clogged cities feature prominently in my travel memoir French License.  Read a sample.  Buy the book.  Keep a copy in your glovebox just in case.

© 2018 Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved.



 

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Happy V-Day Héloïse and Abelard

Ah, love!  Such a wonderful feeling.  What wouldn’t we give up for love?

Well, I for one wouldn’t give up what Abélard did!  It was involuntary, but quite permanent.

The main reason why we know his story, nearly 1 000 years later this Valentine’s Day, is because of the love letters he and his beloved Héloïse sent to each other.  Circumstances split them up, hundreds of miles apart, each retrenching into a celibate life of the cloth.  But, man, them robes and habits never stopped their hearts from pounding for each other!  In repressive medieval times, they wrote passionately about their desires.  There’s such feeling in those texts, how they struggled with their vows to God, while acknowledging their carnal thoughts.  Ho, baby!  Theirs was the best-selling harlequin novelette of the 12th century.  Steamy!

What did Abélard lose?  I’ll let you in on his dirty little secret on my @VoiceMap tour of the Père Lachaise cemetery.  Download it here:

See funny pictures and text from our picnic together in The Chairfather book.

The passed have never been more alive!

Book a lunch date with the fallen famous NOW!

Or later…

Really, it doesn’t matter. Their agendas are quite open.

© 2018 Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved.



 

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February fun

Famille Fevrier tomb

After the deluge.  After the snowstorm.  The sun has come out, and Paris is as gorgeous as she ever was!

Time to explore.  A fine walk in the brisk air is what we need after a week of being shut in by the weather.  And I’ve got just the thing to entice you outdoors: I’ll guide you on my @VoiceMap tour of the Père Lachaise cemetery:

Coming soon…

See funny pictures and text from our picnic together in The Chairfather book.

The passed have never been more alive!

Book a lunch date with the fallen famous NOW!

Or later…

Really, it doesn’t matter. Their agendas are quite open.

© 2018 Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved.



 

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Happy B-day Visconti

Happy Birthday Louis Visconti.  No, not Luchino, the Italian movie director.  Not a painter, writer, composer or aviator either.  No, he’s not part of the royal family which ruled Milan, nor a member of the nobles who ruled Pisa.  Our guy was born in Italy, but left for France, where he became a citizen and built monuments in his new home.

No, this one is Louie Louie, aka Grave the great.  He designed a lot of the tombs at Père Lachaise, and one very famous one under the Invalides dome: Napoleon’s tomb.

I’ll guide you to his final resting place on my @VoiceMap tours of the Père Lachaise cemetery, and tell stories from his life.

Coming soon…

See funny pictures and text from our picnic together in The Chairfather book.

The passed have never been more alive!

Book a lunch date with the fallen famous NOW!

Or later…

Really, it doesn’t matter. Their agendas are quite open.

© 2018 Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved.



 

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the 5 kinds of tourists you meet at Père Lachaise

A caravan of lost souls.  I’m not talking about the permanent residents of Père Lachaise cemetery.  I’m referring to the tourists, the day-trippers who trip aimlessly throughout the park.  Is this the way they wanted to spend their precious vacation day?

Yet here they are, wide-eyed, dumbfounded and hopelessly far from their cherished celebrity.  You can categorize them by their level of distress, from greatest to least.  Here’s a look at the 5 kinds of tourists you meet at Père Lachaise:

The Wanderer

  “Hi, can you help me find Jim?”  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked this question.  It’s been asked of me in all four corners of the 44 hectare park.  It’s all I can do to hold back saying, “Buddy, you have no idea how far off you are.”  It doesn’t matter what country the person is from.  They just showed up at Père Lachaise and thought they could wander around the 70 000 sites and bump into Jim.  People are strange.
rating: zero tombstones

Dora the Explorer

  This person has only one thing more than the Wanderer: “I’m the Map, I’m the Map, I’m the Map…” and it gets them nowhere.  You see, for a map to work, you also need markers in the physical world.  You know, like signs, landmarks, distinguishable objects.  Père Lachaise hardly has any of these things that people are used to.  Are you a fan of Geocaching?  Most adults don’t like to play hide-and-seek, but that’s exactly what Dora plays at Père Lachaise because she doesn’t have the right tools.
  First off, more than half the signs are missing.  Many of the ones which remain are pointed in the wrong direction, making you think path A is really path B.  To top it off, a lot of the paths change their name while still heading in the same way.
  A huge problem-creator is that Père Lachaise isn’t organized like a city, with storefronts on the avenues.  Instead, it’s carved into ‘divisions’ which are the plots of land in-between the avenues.  These divisions all have different shapes and sizes, and each one of the divisions contains thousands of graves.  A paper map will get Dora fustratingly close to the site she wants to see, but it will remain out of reach almost all of the time.  She’ll probably bump haphazardly into Wilde or Colette.  There’s no way she’s finding Piaf, Modigliani, Chopin, Morrison or hundreds more that will miss her gaze as she turns her paper uselessly before her nose.
rating: 1 tombstone

The Bookworm

  This person not only has a map, they have a book, containing pictures of the graves and information about the departed.  Well, I guess they could play the match game, where they look at the photo, then glance around them to see if anything looks like the picture.  In French the game is called “Qui Est-Ce?”  This isn’t child’s play.  It’s an exercise in futility.
  Heck, even I wrote a book about Père Lachaise, called “The Chairfather.”  I carry no illusions that the book will help anybody find the sites; it won’t.  It’s a comedic recollection for folks who are familiar with the place, and a tongue-in-cheek text for fans who already know the life stories of the stars.  The Chairfather photo book does have pictures of four dozen tombs, but the photo will only help you distinguish the right one if you’re practically on top of it.
  At least the Bookworm has the stories.  But they might as well read them in the Jardin de Luxembourg, for all the good the book does them in getting to the tombs.  They’ll remain forever far from the people in the tales.
rating: 3 tombstones

The Geek

  “There’s an App for that.”  Uh, no.  Google Maps?  Useless at Père Lachaise.  What about any of the four with ‘Lachaise’ in the title in the iOS App Store?  They all have the same flaw: total reliance on GPS.  Also, they’re not all in the same category, spreading across Entertainment, Reference, Travel and Navigation. This means they don’t all have the ambition of getting you to the sites.  You’re on your own.
  The best Père Lachaise navigation App I’ve found is called “Super Lachaise” and it was developed by a guy I used to work with in Paris.  I use it myself when I want to find a site that’s not among the 50 on my own tours.  It gets me near the right tomb about half the time.  Why only a 50% success rate, for somebody who’s been all over Père Lachaise at least a hundred times?  It’s that civil GPS systems are still woefully inaccurate for this purpose.
  An example.  Let’s be generous and say your phone’s GPS gets you within 10 meters (or 30 feet) of your target.  That puts you in a space of 314 square meters (A=pi*r2).  Do you know how many graves you can have within 314 square meters at Père Lachaise?  ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY.  1 – 5 – 0.  No App will get you close enough.  Only a trusted voice can take you the last several steps to your rendez-vous.
rating: 6 tombstones

The Pack Rat

  This person thought ahead, and reserved a guided tour.  They joined the pack and followed an expert.  They are guaranteed to see at least a dozen of the sites, and hear fascinating stories about the people underground.  They won’t get to choose which people they’ll visit, nor what day or time it starts.  They’ll pay a pretty penny for the privilege, about €20 per hour.  But it will be worth it.
rating: 12 tombstones

There is a better way…

What can you do if a guide isn’t available when you want them, or in the language you speak?  What if you have very limited time, less than an hour?  What if you have just a handful of specific sites you want to get to, right away, at 9:30 a.m. before you need to check out of your hotel and catch your flight?

There is a better way, and the folks @VoiceMap have found it.  It’s more than an App.  In addition to GPS, they record the voice of expert guides.  The expert’s voice takes you those last 10 meters, so you’re never lost.  The tour starts right when you want, no waiting for a guide, and you proceed at your own pace.

But that’s just the beginning of the journey.  While you’re at each site, a story unfolds in your ears.  A narrator speaks while the live-action movie passes before your eyes.  It’s an immersive experience unlike any other, personal and intimate. It will make your time at Père Lachaise unforgettable!

A VoiceMap tour costs a fraction of the price of a guide.  Don’t waste your precious vacation days like the 5 profiles above.  Get right to where you want to go, in carefree style.  Listen to The Chairfather.

rating: 50 tombstones

(this is the number of sites The Chairfather will guide you to in under 3 hours)

 

I’ll guide you to final resting places on my VoiceMap tours of the Père Lachaise cemetery, and recite stories from the lives of these notable personalities.

© Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved. © 2018



 

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s dnem rozhdeniya princess Strogonoff

888

Happy Birthday princesse Démidoff-Strogonoff.  You’re one kooky lady, if the stories about your tomb are to be believed.  Your death date has three number 8’s in it, which for some is a sign that the underworld is near.  I thought it was three 6’s that was the sign of the devil.  Three sevens are good.  But three eights are now also bad?

Which reminds me, do you know why 6 was afraid of 7?  Because 789.

The Chinese seem to like 888.  Were you Chinese, princess?  No, you were from Russia.

You were also very, very rich, and very lonely.  You didn’t want to spend eternity alone, so you devised a way to use your assets so you could have company.  If folks want to know what your macabre plan was, they can join my tour.

I’ll guide you to her final resting place on my VoiceMap tours of the Père Lachaise cemetery, and recite stories from her life.

Coming soon…

See funny pictures and text from our picnic together in The Chairfather book.

The passed have never been more alive!

Book a lunch date with the fallen famous NOW!

Or later…

Really, it doesn’t matter. Their agendas are quite open.

 

© 2018 Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved.



 

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on this day… Dragon felled

201 years ago today, a Dragon died.  No, not that kind of dragon.  This doesn’t concern the last season of Game of Thrones.

“Oooh, did he play for the Barcelona Dragons of the NFL Europe?  I guessed it, right?  I knew it because this is Super Bowl Sunday.”

All will be revealed when you go on my tour.  How’s that for a teaser?  A pretty sneaky one.  A pretty snarky one.

I’ll guide you to his final resting place on my VoiceMap tours of the Père Lachaise cemetery, and tell stories from his life.

Coming soon…

See funny pictures and text from our picnic together in The Chairfather book.

The passed have never been more alive!

Book a lunch date with the fallen famous NOW!

Or later…

Really, it doesn’t matter. Their agendas are quite open.

© 2018 Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved.



 

Leave a Comment

Happy B-day Gertrude Stein

Happy Birthday, Gertrude.  Even if you didn’t love Oakland, Oakland still loves you.  The city doesn’t hold grudges, and doesn’t need anyone’s approval to feel good about itself.  So we celebrate one who snubbed Oak-town.  Too bad, you woulda felt right at home in today’s East Bay.

You may not be widely seen, nor read, but because of you so many of our most beloved painters and writers were.  So, thanks, Gertrude!

I’ll guide you to her final resting place on my VoiceMap tours of the Père Lachaise cemetery, and recite stories from her life.

Coming soon…

See funny pictures and text from our picnic together in The Chairfather book.

The passed have never been more alive!

Book a lunch date with the fallen famous NOW!

Or later…

Really, it doesn’t matter. Their agendas are quite open.

 

© 2018 Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved.



 

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Happy B-day Félix Faure

Happy Birthday to a former President of the Republic.  Not because he was a great guy.  He wasn’t, presiding over the Dreyfus affaire. Georges Clemenceau said of Faure, “He wanted to be César; he ended up being Pompei.”  Only with the spelling ‘pompé’ it has a whole other meaning!

Faure was pumped too much, and it was his undoing, and our laugh riot.  What a way to go!  If he did nothing else, he gave his public a final story which blew them away!

That’s a good site more than we’ll remember Flanby for!

Coming soon…

I’ll guide you to his final resting place on my VoiceMap tours of the Père Lachaise cemetery, and recite stories from his life.  See funny pictures and text from our picnic together in The Chairfather book.

The passed have never been more alive!

Book a lunch date with the fallen famous NOW!

Or later…

Really, it doesn’t matter. Their agendas are quite open.

 

© 2018 Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved.



 

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Happy B-day Colette

Happy Birthday Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette.  Before Mickey Mantle, she was the most famous switch-hitter.  She was also the original cat lady, so crazy about felines she said:

“Time spent with a cat is never wasted.”

So, in her honor, here’s a kooky cat video…

I found this review of The Vagabond which describes her first-person writing style quite nicely:

Colette has more punch than Proust

For more of her quotes, checkout Writers Write.

Coming soon…

I’ll guide you to her final resting place on my VoiceMap tours of the Père Lachaise cemetery, and recite stories from her life.  See funny pictures and text from our picnic together in The Chairfather book.

The passed have never been more alive!

Book a lunch date with the fallen famous NOW!

Or later…

Really, it doesn’t matter. Their agendas are quite open.

 

© 2018 Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved.



 

Leave a Comment