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Author: JoeStartAuthor

5 rings in 2 cities

I was born in L.A., and now I live in Paris.  So, I’ve been following the Olympic committee deliberations with great interest.  When both were virtually guaranteed to each play host, I was pleased to not have to play favorites.  I remember the disappointment around me when London won over Paris for the 2012 games, which turned into negative sniping at the organisers and unfounded accusations of cheating on the part of the Brits.  The self-esteem of Parisians took a beating that day, as did their honor.

This time, Parisians should be happy.  They really WILL host the Olympics.  But the way it’s been awarded has sucked all the enthusiasm out of it.  First, there was the acknowledgement that there will be two winners, diffusing excitement for any one city.  Second, Paris decided to publicly state that they’re only interested if they can go first.  Yet another gaffe by Mayor Hidalgo, painting the city into a corner.  She really likes ultimatums.  If she’s re-elected in 2020 (representing a party that scarcely exists anymore), she wants to bask in the glory of the ceremony.  And Third, now we have to wait until September for the official announcement, when everybody knows already what the committee will say.  There’s no Wow, no Ta-Da, no Voilà.

Personally, I’m glad for two reasons.  2024 marks the 100-year anniversary of the last Olympic games in Paris, the ‘Chariots of Fire’ games.  (Did you notice I posted this at 19:24 Paris-time?  I’m a magician!)  It’s fitting that Paris will show off all that’s new, and all thats been preserved from that time.  The earlier date is also fitting because Paris is ready.  Paris has BEEN ready for awhile.  Only slight infrastructure improvements are needed.  Facilities, housing and transportation are in good working order.  In chapter 6 of French License, I state some numbers concerning the amazing capacity Paris has for accomodating passengers and tourists.  It’s high season here now, and you never feel stifled walking along the avenues, the parks, the sights.  All those people are absorbed very smartly.

L.A., on the other hand, could use a bit more time, so 2028 sounds right to me.  I’m thrilled about the new stadium for the Rams, and now it doesn’t need to be rushed.  I’m happy to see the rail network grow, but it’s still inadequate, and underused.  Plus, the fact that 11 years and several elections separate us from the L.A. games, there’s less temptation for politicians to use the win for their personal gain. There’s a real chance for planners to work on the things which are going to make a real difference for Angelinos in the long run.

Planning is what’s needed in L.A. because I don’t see the same scenario playing itself out as with the 1984 games.  I remember back then everyone panicking about traffic gridlock because of all the visitors, with no viable way to move around except by the freeways.  So, the locals scheduled a mass exodus.  Meanwhile, Russia and the Eastern bloc countries didn’t come, drastically reducing foreign tourists.  The result was the smoothest traffic in L.A. in years, and the most profitable games, as the USA swept most competitions, keeping visitors from Ohio sticking around and spending more dollars.  That won’t happen again, and today’s Games are at least twice as big.  L.A. needs massive investment, communication and coordination.  2028 should give them that time.

On a lighter note, my francophone friends will ‘amuse themselves’ at this food guide I found at a Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles:

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Chapter 41 teaser

The last chapter of French License is entitled ‘Back to the Starting Line.’  Ten years have gone by since I began my quest for a driver’s license in Paris.  Was all the effort worth it?  Did I succeed?

When you read the book to find out, you’ll see that surprises are in store.  Things didn’t turn out like I planned.  The world has changed dramatically.  I write about my transformation in the modern context.  A decade is half a generation.  I discover that more than a generation now separates me from the adolescents who are now of license-ready age.  How are we different?

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Chapter 42 teaser

Paris hates cars.  This bonus chapter of French License diverges from my personal story and touches on a societal phenomenon, that of punishing car owners for every sin under the sun.  Nowhere is this trend more prevalent than in Paris.  The capital is riddled with land mines blowing up in driver’s faces everywhere they go.  A license plate is an invitation to a firing squad, with the mayor shouting your death knell.

You think I’m exaggerating?  Read this chapter to discover the facts.

Further reading for residents: 40 millions d’automobilistes

Update August 29- things are getting hotter under the mayor’s throne…

Everybody is incensed at the mayor.  Hidalgo has arbitrarily done a land grab of streets and lanes, taking them away from cars, without consulting citizens, businesses that need to have goods delivered, commuters, or even the police who worry about being slowed down, or completely cutoff from coming to the aid of people.  Her way of doing things has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.  A book will be released this week detailing her actions and reactions: Notre-Drame de Paris, by Airy Routier and Nadia Le Brun.  No wonder Airy Routier is against her.  Hidalgo is anti-car, and ‘routier’ means ‘truck driver.’



Back to school in France coincides with the Rentrée littéraire, which is when most new books are released.  It’s a vibrant period with events, signings, speeches and readers go wild with purchases, discovering new writers.  In that spirit, I’m beginning a countdown to the rentrée.

There are about as many chapters in French License as there are days ’til then.  So, each day, I’ll give you a peek into the contents of a chapter.  This should help new readers discover the book.  The sample only covers the first 5% of the book, the set-up.  More of the juicy bits happen in the middle, then building to a climax at the end.  The 42 chapters cover a decade of foibles.  The countdown hors d’oeuvres should help you decide if you’d like a feast of French License on your table.


Thank you!

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meet Bleu

Yawn… “Bonjour, my name iz Bleu, or Blue to you anglophones.  But I am not an English bulldog, I am a French bouledogue.  Or, I will be when I grow up.  At ze moment, I am vehry fatigued from reading French License.  So, I go bed now.  Meyhbe next time I show you what I learn.”


from ridiculous to ambitious

First France, now UK, and soon Germany.  All have set a date of 2040 for the transition to no-emissions vehicles.  France fell off their rocker with an outright ban.  The UK’s approach is more moderate.  At least the Brits realised that banning makes current cars worthless, new gas/diesel cars unsellable, and threatens the jobs of nearly a million workers in their country alone.  The new goals are still incredibly ambitious, and will require the concerted efforts of many groups.

read story on

An interesting sidebar to the UK’s announcement is that they want to do away with speed bumps, which provoke severe braking, releasing fine particles into the air.  Road works have scattered bumps all over France, in copious quantities, and gradients to knock your socks off, or at least your bumper and muffler.  This is covered comically in Chapter 26 of French License.


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Frontier Land

They are not long, the days of wine and roses.  Neither are the days of immunity when driving in France with foreign plates.  France claims that twelve countries now exchange information when they catch someone with out-of-country license plates on a moving violation.  Governments will send a notice over the border, in the language of the vehicle’s registration document.

No word yet on how effective this is, because the local authorities don’t get involved where the car is registered.  Clearly France has the most to gain from this exchange.  France has more radars than any country in Europe, the severest penalties for speeding, and a centrally situated land that neighbors must enter or cross to reach vacation and delivery destinations.  Auto taxes and penalties represent a whopping 17% of the total income of the French government.  They want visitors to add to that figure.

The list of tattle-tale territories includes Austria, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Switzerland.  Notably missing are states on the French frontier, including Britain, Monaco, and Andorra.

Chapters 15 and 42 of French License cover radar cameras in Europe and France’s pecuniary roads.

link in French:


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New book cover

I’m pleased to announce that French License now has a book cover by a professional.  Finally the outside is as slick and funny as the inside:


I ran a contest with 99designs, received 30 different proposals, and settled on this one.  Thanks to all who voted to help me in my deliberations.

They also do company logos, banners, presentations and such.  If you’d like to run your own design contest, use this link:

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