Saturday, June 27, 2009


My grandfather was Lt. Col Edwin J. Ostberg. During WWII, he served as the 1st Battalion commander of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

I have always wanted to retrace his steps during the war, and this was going to be the year.

After spending several days in Paris, we rented a black Volkswagen Passat and drove the 200 kilometers out to Normandy, France.

Every year, in early June, people travel from across the globe to celebrate the success of the D-Day invasion. This year was somewhat special since it was the 65th anniversary.

Leading up to June 6th, many of the smaller towns have their own celebrations and commemorations. The Disney Land of these small towns in Sainte-Mère-Église. It was one of the first towns to be liberated in the allied invasion. Tourism now supports much of Sainte-Mère-Église’s economy, and it is filled with many small museums and World War II-related antique shops.

The village was a pivotal point in Operation Overlord, because it sits on one of the main routes to the Normandy landing beaches. It was imperative that the town be taken quickly, and held, to prevent the Germans from counter attacking once the invasion had begun.

The great responsibility of holding this town was left to the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions of the US army.

One of Sainte-Mère-Église’s main attractions is its centrally located church. It sits in the middle of a large town square. Paratrooper John Steele made the church famous when his parachute got tangled up on the church spire. German soldiers still occupied the town, so he hung there all night pretending to be dead until his men could cut him down. In memory of that story, a dummy paratrooper still hangs from the church spire.

The town center erupts with celebration each June and the air is filled with laughter and liquor fueled singing. At least one out of every two people walking the streets was dressed in period uniforms.

I don’t have too many pictures from this town, since my left hand was often occupied by a grilled sausage and my right hand with a French beer.

One of the great things I experienced here was the C-47 plane that circled the town. Every now and then the pilot would unexpectedly fly right over the town about 200 feet off the ground. You could never see it coming, and as a result I was only able to get this picture on a banked approach.

When a plane that size flies right over your head, it is really an amazing experience. During my entire trip to retrace my grandfather’s footsteps, and all of the commemorative services that I attended, I found that I rarely got emotional. However, every time that giant plane buzzed us my eyes would fill with tears.

Next stop … La Fière Bridge and Chef du Pont.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, June 26, 2009

Happy Meal


Advertising agency seeking to fill the position of Creative Director.

If you are going to go this direction, you need to be:

A) David Droga and B) In another country ... like England

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Musee d'Orsay

While I was still in Paris I was able to sneak in a very quick visit to the Musee d'Orsay. If you have spent some time in the museums of Paris, you know that a quick visit to any of them will only scratch the surface of what they have to offer you.

I zoomed from room to room, and tried to soak in as much as I could.

As I began my brief visit, I entered one small darkened room and found that it contained the provocative work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Of the ten to twelve paintings there, it was this one of a young girl fixing her hair that jumped out at me. I was careful not to use a flash, but a slight reflection seemed unavoidable due to the odd lighting of the room.

I found Toulouse-Lautrec's tendency to let large sections of the natural brown canvas show through to be extraordinary. Many painters feel a need to smother the canvas with paint. Lautrec often included only what was absolutely essential to what he saw in his mind.

Lautrec was also known for his bold use of colors, but many of his paintings here at the museum were dominated by a unique green. I can only imagine this must have been one of his go-to colors. Both his love of green and his habit of sparing sections of the canvas can be clearly seen in this painting entitled "Jane Avril dansant" (1892).

The next few rooms contained work from many of the most notable Impressionist painters. Impressionism has never really been my cup of tea, but my love of the sea made me gravitate towards this one.

"Man at the Sail" was painted by Théo van Rysselberghe in 1892.

As I wandered through the next few rooms, the harsh brush strokes seem to soften. In a large, well-lit room hung this portrait of a beautiful woman.

For the life of me, I cannot remember the artist, but I will make this challenge. I will send a Wolves Den T-shirt to the first person who can tell me the painting title and artist's name.

In a small connecting room was this painting by Paul Gauguin. It is entitled "The Seine at the Pont d'Iena" (1875)

What struck me about this painting was that this very same image was lodged in my own mind. Much of Paris has not changed much since Gauguin was alive.

Unlike many other global cities, Paris strictly maintains much of its classic architecture. To illustrate this, I went back and took this photo (above) from where Gauguin might have painted his picture over 100 years ago.

As the museum began to close, and my time ran out there, I found myself in a central room containing the work of Vincent Van Gogh.

Most people think of Vincent as, "that guy that cut his own ear off", but some historians now believe that his ear might have been severed in a knife fight with the aforementioned Paul Gauguin. The fight, it is believed, was over a prostitute.

In the middle of this room, completely devoted to him, hangs the smaller of two almost identical surviving paintings of Van Gogh's very modest bedroom.

It is simply entitled "La chambre de Van Gogh à Arles" (1889).

At the center of the large perpendicular walls, the museum choose to display two of Van Gogh's self portraits. They seem to stare across the room at one another.

These represent only two of the 43 self portraits that Vincent painted in his short lifetime. However, these two paintings are among the most famous and often reproduced.

The smaller of the two was painted in the autumn of 1887. At that time, Van Gogh was staying in Paris.

Almost dwarfed by its very thick frame, it has a striking appearance to it. Its quick, sharp, linear brush strokes stand in stark contrast to its larger brother hanging on the bang opposite wall.

This larger portrait (above) was painted in 1889 while Van Gogh was staying at a mental hospital in Saint Rémy. He had checked himself in due to a lifelong fight with mental illness.

Unlike the smaller portrait, this one is made up of the swirled brush strokes that characterize much of Van Gogh's work in his last few years. This very same swirled brush stroke style can be found in one of his most famous paintings, Starry Night Over the Rhone" (1889).

If you stand very close to this painting, and look deep into the eyes, you can see an incredible depth of loneliness in his face. One can only imagine how completely alone he must have felt as he painted this. Just two years later, he would sadly take his own life.

As you can see from this picture (below), one of the great things about the Musee d'orsay is that you can stand inches away from these paintings and drink them in.

Unlike many of the museums found in the United States, the French have a very trusting attitude towards their artwork. When possible, they make these priceless pieces of art approachable ... quite literally.

As the museum closed, I remained alone in this Van Gogh room. Although there were cameras located in various corners, I could have very easily defaced or destroyed a half dozen of the most famous paintings of all time. There was not a living soul within 1000 feet of me. I love it when that that level of trust and maturity can exist.

The five to ten minutes that I spent in that room, completely alone with those paintings, was one of the best moments that I had in Paris.

Although, there have been isolated incidents where very famous paintings have been attacked by museum visitors, it would truly be a shame if all artwork was kept out of reach and behind thick plates of glass like the Mona Lisa.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Le Chat de Paris

I met up with this very large tom cat near a small group of house boats parked on the side of the Seine River. The sun was starting to set and he seemed to be in a lazy, but playful mood.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, June 01, 2009

Paris de Nuit

Labels: , , , ,

Au Louvre

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Les Chiens de Paris

Labels: , , , , ,

Les Enfants de Paris

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Dans Paris

The weather is very nice here.

Blue sky as far as the eye can see.

Labels: , , ,