Friday, July 27, 2012

A Saturday in July, the 14th

The 99th Tour de France ended on the Champs-Elysées in Paris last Sunday, July 22nd, 2012. It is always exciting to watch the cyclists arriving near the Seine River and to get the first glimpse at the Eiffel Tower. Luckily it was a beautiful sunny day because when it is raining the cobblestones on the boulevard can be dangerous. I watched it all on my little TV in my kitchen and took some pictures (they are not very good though.)

As expected Bradley Wiggins (Wiggo) from London, England, was the winner of the Tour. There was not too much suspense because Wiggo has kept the yellow jersey for quite a while. The last day of the Tour was the 20th stage. It started that morning in Rambouillet and the only suspense was in finding out who would sprint on the Champs-Elysées and win the stage. Mark Cavendish from the Isle of Man in England was the winner of the stage. So England did very well in the Tour this year – actually this was an historical win as it was the first time the Tour was won by a subject of her Gracious Majesty. There were British flags en force in Paris. (photo courtesy below NBC.) Click on collage to enlarge then on each photo to biggify.

We have already heard that next year, for the 100th Tour de France, it will start in the island of Corsica, a French island in the Mediterranean Sea and will be there for three stages. The Tour has never been on Corsica Island yet. It will leave from the port of Porto-Vecchio on 29 June 2013 (on the bottom right hand corner of the island shown in the postcard below.) The next two stages will end in Bastia (upper right) and Ajaccio (on the left.) Then it will leave from Nice on the French Riviera. But we have to wait for over 11 months to watch it… sigh…

My last post published on July 13th had been pre-programmed because we had left earlier that week for Tennessee to visit our daughter and family. It was the birthday of our youngest grandson on July 13th. I made a cake – it was not very attractive and the birthday boy was not quite sure what he was supposed to do with it, nor the candle.

Once a piece of cake was given to him he did not wait for everyone to be served to eat his slice and finish it very quickly.

Here he is below the next day, on Saturday July 14th and also with his mommy, saying goodbye to us at the end of our stay.

Early on that Saturday of July 14th, I had watched the Tour de France live on TV. It was the 13th Stage which started in Saint Paul Trois-Châteaux, a small town in Provence. The French tourist site says that it is a very ancient fortified town. It has some Roman ruins and medieval remains of a 14th century ramparts and synagogue, a 12th century cathedral and church. Below are pictures of a street in the village, a lavender field nearby and the Tour de France leaving it.

Then about 3 hours later the Tour ended in Cap d’Agde which is one of the largest leisure ports on the French Mediterranean, near the town of Agde. Within the beach is a large family-style “naturist” resort with about 40,000 daily visitors during the high season. It is considered THE naturist destination. Nudity is mandatory on this beach but optional in the nudist area. The postcard on the top of my post is from the Cap d’Agde and below is the town and the cap (courtesy NBC Sport and newspaper La Dépêche.)

That Saturday, the 14th, my daughter was working, but my son-in-law, the grand children and my husband decided to go for a walk. The Tour for the 14th was ending, so I stopped watching TV.

Bike 163 (Courtesy Bicycle Clipart)

I opted to stay and look on my computer to see if I could find anything on the 14 of July celebration in Paris – Bastille Day. I found some articles on the French newspapers and some pictures (courtesy of FrenchNews.)

Then I looked on the Web and found US articles on Bastille Day, too. One article was fine but there were some comments below it. I know I should not have looked at them. Usually most of the comments about France are very negative – on any subject. But I did read them. Well – as usual they were not very nice. I know I should not have continued reading, but in a way I was like hypnotized. I thought that since 2003 French bashing had become less popular, but I was wrong – it is as strong as ever. When my husband came back, I showed him the comments but most of the worst ones had been deleted by the administrator of the site. Here was one “Q: What's the motto of the French Army? A: Stop, drop, and run!.” Here is another one: “The French don’t bathe – French women do not shave their bodies and can make braids out of their under arm hair.” I told him that I had read many comments which were a lot more offensive. He asked me if I knew why this was still so prevalent. So I read up about it – all week. I found many articles, blogs, columns, and pictures on this francophobia (Wikipedia says that this a term that refers to a “dislike or hatred” toward France, the People and Government of France and Francophonie.)

I was not going to write about this on my blog as I had written part of a post on this before. It was toward the end of my post on St Pierre et Miquelon on September 4, 2009 – you can read it here. But then I remembered a post I read last June in a friend’s blog, Friko’s World, “Why Are So Many Of You So Much Better Off Than Me?” where she lamented, jokingly, the fact that most posts were positive, rosy, showing enchanting lives with no pessimism, sadness or angry feelings. So I thought I would write about this francophobia now. I am not looking for mean pictures to illustrate my post, so I’ll just show some paintings from Albert Marquet who was born in Bordeaux, France in 1875 and was a roommate of Matisse in art school in Paris.

Le Pont Neuf in Paris 1935 by Albert Marquet, French 1875-1947

There have been anti-French feelings here for a long time. At my first job in the early 1960s the president’s secretary disliked me immensely just because I was French. I came home many days in tears. Later, in the 1980s in the corporation I worked for in Georgia another employee there disliked me because of my origins. He would call me Frog, Miss Piggy and many names behind my back that I can’t repeat here. When in the 90s he lost his position because of personnel reduction he felt that it was my fault. He started to call my answering machine at night and leave dirty messages, calling me mean and ugly names. After a year the messages turned quite threatening. My boss said not to worry. I had one of the supervisors listen to them. He said if his wife received such threatening phone messages he would send them to the police. So I did. The Police said it was a crime to threaten someone over the telephone lines and listened to the messages. They told me they were concerned. They took care of it.

Festivities in Les Sable d’Olonne in 1933, Albert Marquet, French 1875-1947

During the Iraq War, I received nasty emails about France even though I am a citizen and live in the USA. Some papers were even stuck on walls close to my cubicle saying “First bomb Iraq, then France.” Once while driving my Pontiac which had a small French flag on the bumper, a guy in an elevated pick-up truck (the kind that sits high on huge tires) kept coming closer to my car into my lane until I was forced to drive into a ditch. Then he left giving me a dirty gesture while yelling to go back to my F*+%$ country. Luckily my car did not overturn and I was more mad than scared. I read then about a French woman in Houston who had lived there for decades whose house was vandalized with red paint saying “Go back to France” and another French man whose windshield was broken. I remember when Condoleezza Rice said “Punish France, ignore Germany, and pardon Russia.” Unfortunately these anti-French sentiments have survived and are still rampant. They have become mainstream.

Le Pont St Michel at Paris, Albert Marquet, French 1875-1947

Some people will say that these comments come only from bigoted, ignorant people, or people with slow brains, but they come for everywhere. As I was watching the Jon Steward show, which is very liberal, Jon Stewart said in answer to his guest: “Nobody likes the French. I think it’s a given – even enemies can agree …nobody likes the French”(Jon Stewart March 8, 2012 Comedy Central Show.) I was so surprised that I copied his words. Just last week Jay Leno made a joke about the American athletes at the upcoming Olympic Games: “We have American athletes in uniforms made in China, wearing French berets. I don’t know if we’re supposed to compete, ask for a loan or surrender.” –Jay Leno, July 16, 2012. Everyone laughed – it has become part of the pop-culture. On another talk show I heard the host talking about parties in Washington, DC, where Republicans and Democrats sit apart until someone says “have you heard the last good one about the dirty French” and, he said, everyone stops, listens and laugh. Everyone “Hah! Hah!” Just think if he had inserted the word “Jew, black, Italian, German or …” he would have been reprimanded for sure, but saying “dirty French” is quite OK and nobody minds.

Le Vieux Port de Marseille 1916-1918, Albert Marquet, French 1875-1947

I did find an interesting research by the Brookings Institute. This is a highly regarded non-partisan public policy organization “think tank” made of more than 300 scholars specializing in various fields. Their research on French-bashing concluded that there had been a persistent campaign of disinformation about France and this had come from the Bush Administration. I’ll quote some of this research here but you can read it at the site here.When it became clear that France was becoming a major hurdle in the run-up to the war, the parts of the Bush administration favorable to an early war and their allies increasingly used France both as a scapegoat….to discredit opposition to the war by branding it "French," hence unpatriotic. Bashing France, denouncing it as the active agent of anti-Americanism… was a way to incite patriotism and coerce the opposition, from the anti-war movement to Republican dissenters, into acquiescence.”

Le Louvre et Pont Neuf – 1906, Albert Marquet, French 1875-1947

Well after all, it was the commissary in the Congress of the United States where Freedom Fries were born. To this day Fox News repeats many of the old untrue allegations that were “leaked” to them by “anonymous sources.” But people watching TV think they are true and so they are kept alive. There is no objectivity or fairness anymore when it involved France, at least by the majority here.

La Rochelle 1920, Albert Marquet, French 1875-1947

I did find out too that the French minority in the US is one of the smallest. France has been one of the few major European countries to have not undergone widespread immigration to the USA resulting in no lobby to satisfy or minority to pander to and no American constituency overseeing their interests. So now French-bashing is considered fashionable – people don’t notice it and children are growing knowing that these feelings are commonplace.

Les Bateaux Bleus dans le Port de St Luz, Albert Marquet, French 1875-1947

My husband has accompanied me to France many times and we spoke only in English. We never encountered any unpleasantness or rudeness – but I did here. It really pains, hurts and saddens me because I love this country and wish the hostility against France would stop. But I don’t think it will, if ever. It was so easy to find material on this - I typed “French bashing” in Big search and immediately received 6,110,000 results! So it has been a depressing week – time to breathe some fresh sea air and needed oxygen.

Rocky-Point Sunset, Alexander Dzigurski II, American born 1968

I did hear French spoken though two weeks ago – it was the first time since May 2011. It was the French movie “The Intouchables.” It is written after a true story about a quadriplegic aristocrat who was injured in a paragliding accident and a young man from the projects. It has won several awards.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The 14 of July, the Tour de France and Olympic Games history

Those who have been reading my blog for a while have already seen my post on the 14 of July, which is a National Holiday in France. In Anglophone countries it is called “Bastille Day” but I don’t remember hearing it called Le Jour de la Bastille in France, it is always “le Quatorze (14) Juillet.” You can see my earlier post below –

Recollection: 14th July Fete Nationale and interesting history - July 2009 here

Below is the traditional bouquet showing the French tricolor, blue red and white, painted by Vincent Van Gogh in 1887 (Dutch painter, 1853-1890.)

Vase avec bleuets et coquelicots, 1887, Van Gogh

Again this year, France will celebrate Bastille Day which, as I mentioned before, is the commemoration of the storming of the Bastille prison on 14 July 1789. This was more a symbolic gesture than the deliverance of the prisoners since there were only from 7 to 11 prisoners there at the time. It was a fight against oppression, the end of the monarchy and transfer of power to the people. The starving people of Paris revolted not only against the King, but also against the powerful and wealthy Church, the taxes levied by the Church and all the privileges the Church clergy had. They rebelled against high unemployment, taxes and inflation. French King, Louis XVI went about bankrupt helping the Americans rebels win their independence from England and had incurred massive debts. So, in a strange way the American Independence could have been instrumental in bringing about the French revolution.

The celebration starts the evening of July the 13th with parades, walking bands and balls in the streets. On the 14th there is usually a parade down the Champs-Elysées in Paris and great fireworks everywhere.

It is a happy time, just like the 4th of July in the US. French flags can be seen in the streets and on some houses, which is an unusual site. Flags are not as prominently shown in Europe as they are in the US. I am not sure why. It could be that people there think that too much national pride can result in the type of nationalism (believing other countries are inferior) which brought so many devastating and bloody wars to their countries for centuries. Too much flag-waving makes them a bit uneasy I believe.

Le 14 Juillet painting by Roland Dubuc, French 1924-1998

Last year when we were in Vienna, Austria, I had a hard time finding an Austrian flag – finally found one on top of the palace. It was the same in Malta – I don’t recall whether I ever found one. In Bordighera, Italy, I walked all over town and finally found one small Italian flag at the police station. But along the route of the Tour de France many flags can be seen – from a variety of countries. Below from top left is the flag of Belgium next to the flag of the USA, then the French flag next to the flag from Luxembourg (almost the same as the French.)

The 99th Tour de France started this year on Saturday 30th June in Liège, Belgium and will end in Paris, on the Champs-Elysées on Sunday, July 22th. It will have covered a distance of 3,497 kms or 2,172.94 miles. I have written several posts on the Tour de France and its history, such as -

What is the Tour de France, July 2009 here
At the bottom of my post on Song of France and Ohio State University, July 2010 here
Tour de France in Alps - Galibier, July 2011 here

bike 102 (Courtesy Bicycle Clipart)

The route of the Tour changes every year. For 19 years now it has started in another country like Belgium, England, Italy, etc. Every other year it switches from a clockwise to counter-clockwise direction around France. It winds across flatland to high mountain tops in the Pyrénées and the Alps. Below is the route for this year.

The race is watched by millions of international fans on the roads and on TV. It really is an international event. Where can you find live sports that include members of many nations in the same teams and, in addition, a sport that can be seen every year free of charge, day after day, for three weeks? For example Sylvain Chavanel of France is in the same team as Levi Leipheimer of the USA, and Ryder Hesjedal of Canada is in the same team as Tyler Farrar of the USA, Robbie Hunter of South Africa and Johan Vansummeren of Belgium. So this is why there are so many fans waving a variety of flags. Below on the left is Yukiya Arashiro of Japan, then top right is Cadel Evans from Australia (who won the Tour in 2011) followed by Mark Cavendish from the Isle of Man, England, a sprinter who so far has won 21Tour de France stages and Peter Sagan of Slovakia who, as I am writing, has already won three stages on the tour this year.

Watching the Tour de France is like taking a trip there as helicopters hovering over the cyclists also show views of the surrounding landscape and monuments. We saw the cathedral of Rouen as well as picturesque villages, streams and castles. My photos are not too clear as I snapped them from my TV.

I have listened to TV commentators talk about all the cyclists both on US and French television. French fans would obviously be happy if a French cyclist won a stage (day-long segment of the Tour) on the 14th of July since it is a holiday and they can go and watch it live or on the television, but foreign cyclists are cheered just the same along the route. I was happy when Lance Armstrong won the Tour and am pleased to see a young American or French win a yellow, white, green or polka dot jersey, but all the men on the Tour are great fearless athletes. Right now my favorites to be the 2012 Tour winner are Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, Brad Wiggins of the UK or Cadel Evans of Australia – the country has nothing to do with it – may the best man win. I was also very excited when a young cyclist, Chris Froome, born in Kenya and a UK citizen, unexpectedly won a stage. The young Fredrik Kessiakoff from Sweden is also showing much promise.

To see the Belgians cheering the German cyclists, the Swiss cheering the Swedish cyclist and the French cheering whoever rides by make me so happy. It is so unlike the Olympic Games we watch in the US. In 1996 the Summer Olympic Games were in Atlanta. My husband and I were fortunate to buy some tickets to watch the men cycling competition. I remember it well. It was a warm and sunny day. There were different types of cyclist competition - time trials, pursuit and race. Below is one of the postcards I purchased.

All the seats in the velodrome were taken – the place was packed. When the competition was about 1 hour from being finished many spectators left. I mean a lot of them. I was quite surprised and asked my husband if he knew what was happening. He replied that the last US cyclist has been eliminated so that spectators were not interested in watching the rest of the game without any American cyclist in it. I was totally dumbfounded.

We stayed to the end. By then you could almost count the spectators. I remember the gold winner was an Italian, the silver was a Canadian and the bronze was Stuart O’Grady of Australia but there were a handful applauding at the award ceremony. I felt ashamed really as these were guests here and we were not showing them much courtesy or respect. I thought then that it was because Atlanta was not a very cosmopolitan town; however I was saddened because there had been thousands of volunteers who had worked tirelessly for the games to ensure everyone’s pleasure.

These were the “Centennial” Olympic Games, the modern games that French aristocrat Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded in France and which first took place in Athens in 1896.

The history of the Olympic Games is a long one. The games started in Greece around 776 BC but then declined in importance and ended around 390 AD. The games were started again, in a fashion, between 1796 and 1798 in revolutionary France and called “L'Olympiade de la République.” Then other European countries held similar Olympic Games festivals. But in the 1890s, at a French Federation of Sports convention, French Baron Pierre de Coubertin suggested that a modern version of the Olympic Games should be established. He organized an Olympic Congress at the Sorbonne University in Paris in 1894 to re-establish the games. Over 2000 people came, including some from the USA, UK, Jamaica, Sweden and New Zealand. They voted to modernize the games and the first Olympic Games took place in Athens in 1896. Below are stamps in honor of Pierre de Coubertin.

The prototype for the Olympic flag was conceived by Pierre de Coubertin and made under his direction by the Paris department store “Le Bon Marché.” It was presented the first time on 17 June 1914 to the French President of France – Raymond Poincaré.

After founding the modernized Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin became the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC.) The “Comité International Olympique” (IOC) is based now in Lausanne, Switzerland. Pierre de Coubertin, president of this committee, moved it there before the First World War so it would be in a neutral territory. To this day Pierre de Coubertin’s ideological stamp is still bearing on the Olympic Games which is the reason why French is the official language of the games (without de Coubertin’s vision, hard work and dedication. the games may not have ever become popular again.) English is also spoken at the games. Below is a French book called “The Fabulous History of the Olympic Games” by Robert Parienté and Guy Lagorce.

Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937) was an educator, humanitarian and historian. (His grandfather had served under Napoléon Bonaparte.) Pierre dreamed of renewing the antique tradition of the games – “cette œuvre grandiose et bienfaisante : le rétablissement des Jeux Olympiques” (this majestic and beneficent masterpiece: the restoration of the Olympic Games) (de Coubertin.) He felt that “Olympism” was tightly joined to Culture. He also felt that it should be an ideal on fair play, gentlemanly amateurism and goodwill among all countries. Here he is below in a 1996 postcard.

But when I watched other Olympic Games on television I saw that the US cameras were most usually pointed toward the Americans to the exclusion of the others. Many American flags would be waved on the screen behind the athletes – and spectators in the US would shout “USA-USA.” I read that the Olympic authorities formally complained in the Salt Lake City games that the American televisions were too chauvinistic. They would not show a good competition if no American athlete was included, or at least, not for long. I read an article from Europe asking at the time if ABC or NBC (can’t remember which) realized that non-Americans were also competing at the Olympics and had also trained vigorously. The Olympic charter stipulates that the Olympic Games are about competition between athletes, not competitions between countries. Here is a map showing all the countries in the 2012 games. I know that American people are ultra sensitive about comments on their country and rarely say anything negative, but I am speaking honestly.

People here should be proud of their athletes – they win many medals that they deserve. But we also should be sensitive to other international athletes. National differences should be set aside during the games. Cheering is good but not the misguided über-nationalism and patriotic fervor that we have seen here during the last few games. It is disgraceful. The Independent newspaper in London said that there was "something sickening, even menacing," about the rhythmic chanting of "USA! USA!" at the games and the newspaper concluded "America is interested only in itself and cares only for itself." I was so happy to see thousands of people in Paris cheering Cadel Evans of Australia last year at the end of the Tour de France. I hope that the Olympic Games in London will show interest in all the athletes and that the American television channels will prove that in the US we can admire and cheer athletes from other countries, too.

Mohammad Ali holding the Olympic Torch at the Atlanta 1996 Centennial Games (author unknown)

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”

- Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937) founder of the modern Olympic Games


Note: Blogger Break - Post pre-programmed –

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Island Queen in Memphis, Tennessee

Last May I wrote a post about our cruising down the Mississippi River in New Orleans on the steamboat “Natchez” – see post here.I also explained a bit about riverboats and posted some vintage postcards. When we visited our daughter a week or so ago in Memphis we saw the Mississippi River again. We found out that there was, as in New Orleans, a sightseeing cruise on a riverboat on the Mississippi River in Memphis. So on that sunny Saturday we drove to the levee and to the Memphis Queen Riverboats.

Click on picture to enlarge

First we parked on the cobblestone levee. We were surprised that this was the parking area – these cobblestones looked ancient.

Later I found out that most river cities had cobblestone landings. Paving with cobblestones allowed easier loading and unloading on riverboats. But now all these cobblestone landings have disappeared, except the landing in Memphis which is ancient, indeed. Between the late 1860s and 1890s (they had stopped work during the Civil War) immigrant workers built the Memphis landing with stones quarried in Illinois. The Memphis cobblestone landing has such a cultural significance that in 1979 is was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

From the late 1860s, this cobblestone landing helped Memphis become the largest cotton and hardwood market in the world. Numerous mules were used to unload the ships and take the products up the cobblestones to the warehouses. Below are some vintage postcards showing cotton on the levee.

Memphis was a major riverboat port where the ships would stop and tie up at the foot of the cobblestone landing, as shown in the old photos and postcard below.

These cobblestones have been in continued used for over 150 years with little maintenance, it would seem. However, I read in The Memphis Daily News that a $6 million restoration project has been approved. The cobblestones will be restored with walkable pathways, a plaza, a fountain, and a ramp for launching canoes and kayaks. Memphis history is tied to the river and its port as can be seen by the Memphis City Seal on the top of this post - it includes a riverboat. We entered the Island Queen, the riverboat for the 90 minutes sightseeing cruise – postcard below.

We walked upstairs as it was such a lovely day and sat on deck in the sun.

A guide, called a “riverlorian,” greeted the visitors and started giving information on the history of the Mississippi. The Mississippi River is the second longest river in the United States and the largest by volume. The guide told us that the Chippewa Indians called the Mississippi Meze-Zebe, the Ottawas called it the Missis-Sepi and the Kickapoo called it Mechas-Sepua - they all translate into “Great River” or “Large River.”

He also gave us the history of Memphis and explained the reason for the flags on a hill we passed by – the city had been under the control of the flags of Spain, France, North Carolina, the Confederate States and the United States. He told us about the yellow fever epidemic of 1878. About half of the 47,000 residents of Memphis (25,000) fled the city and more than 5,000 died. There were 120,000 cases of yellow fever in the Mississippi Valley with 20,000 deaths. The epidemic bankrupted Memphis. As our riverlorian talked we went under bridges and saw the monorail going to the Mud Island River Park.

There is much history associated with the Mississippi River – books have been written on it. It has helped commerce but it has been a grave for many. The guide told us about Tom Lee. Late on May 8, 1925, Tom Lee was on the river and witnessed the ship M.E.Norman capsize about 15 miles from Memphis. Tom could not swim but still rescued 32 people with five trips to shore. He worked until night saving these people (only 23 died.) To honor this hero money was raised to purchase a house for Lee and his wife. After he died a park was named after him along the river and a bronze sculpture was erected in the park.

Photo of Tom Lee and statue by artist David Alan Clark (courtesy The Memphis Flyer)

The guide told us about another tragedy – and added it had been the worst maritime disaster in American history. This terrible event was not well reported because it occurred on April 27, 1865. The media did not cover it much as it happened only 13 days after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The steamship was named the Sultana and had made many trips on the Mississippi River. The ship left New Orleans on April 21, 1865 with passengers and goods, and even though boiler leaks were discovered in Vicksburg (and hastily repaired) it proceeded to board 2,000 more. With close to 2,400 passengers the ship was grossly overloaded. These were Union soldiers going home after the Civil War. Below is a picture of the Sultana taken just before its sinking. (Courtesy Library of Congress.)

The Sultana stopped at 1:00 pm in Memphis for further repair then left, but about 7 miles downriver, three boilers burst creating a tremendous explosion, burning passengers and blasting them into the water. It is believed that as many as 1,800 passengers died – making it a worst tragedy than the Titanic sinking which happened 47 years later when 1,500 passengers were lost – but the story of the Sultana is still not well known. As our riverlorian was talking, the sky was getting darker.

My daughter said a storm was approaching but I replied that the weather forecast had given a 100% chance of sun all day. After hearing about all these deaths in the river I was not looking forward to a heavy storm. But, unfortunately, suddenly it started to rain, and it was a downpour. Passengers quickly left our deck and there was a melee to get down to the covered second deck. We went, too. The rain was pouring from the port side so all the passengers were huddled on the starboard side.

As the storm intensified more passengers kept coming and I have to admit, for a moment, I thought the boat could capsize as it was so overloaded on one side – it was not a pleasant idea. I tried to take pictures of the water then I placed my cameras back in my bag so they would not get wet.

My daughter took pictures with her cell phone. She later gave them to me. As you can see below the visibility was very poor. I certainly could understand how it must have felt to be thrown into the river….

Our riverlorian kept talking, but I could not hear him well. But then we came out of the storm and as we approached the riverfront, everything looked calm and pretty again.

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