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East and West

By From the July/August 2011 issue

Paris

Fort Vincennes, as we would say, is a gem showing several centuries of architecture. The oldest structures, surrounded by a moat, date from the 13th century; the most recent, adjacent the nearby Boulevard des Maréchaux, is a compound built in the 19th century and used mainly for record-keeping, I am told, but that could be a cover.

Located next to parks and sports facilities on Paris’s southeast corner, including a clay court tennis club that is itself a gem, it is difficult to imagine this is the political prison that once housed Diderot and Voltaire, among others. It was also a royal residence, and the fort with its high walls and towers were important in the defense of Paris against the Prussians, both in 1815 and 1870, while the exquisite high Gothic chapel inside the walls reminds us what the city stood for once.

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Midnight at the White House

By From the June 2011 issue

As the news began to leak on the night of May 1 that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, a crowd began to form just north of the White House, in Lafayette Park. By midnight, President Obama had confirmed the news on national television, and the spontaneous celebration had grown to several thousand people, filling up Pennsylvania Avenue and spilling out onto the neighboring streets.

The crowd comprised, mostly, undergraduate students from George Washington, Georgetown, and American Universities. They waved flags, climbed trees, danced around, and chanted and sang: the national anthem and "U-S-A! U-S-A!" were popular choices, but so was "F**k Osama!" (without the asterisks) and other edgy cheers. Nor was that the only rowdy aspect of the scene. It almost felt like a postgame victory riot at a big university, complete with kids shotgunning beers and hopping fences to climb statues.

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Back on the Mound

By From the December 2010 - January 2011 issue

Day four, the World Series. Giants up, two games to one over the Texas Rangers. We await the opening pitch. Here comes...here comes...a golf cart out of left field. Down step a couple of ex-presidents, both named Bush. Wearing a Rangers jacket, the 43rd president takes the mound, eyes the distance, hurls toward the plate -- a high one. Nolan Ryan's right there, sticks his glove up. He's got it!

Crowd goes, well, not exactly wild. More like enthusiastic, and a bit nostalgic. But you kind of intuit that George W. Bush, if not back on the international pitching mound he vacated nearly two years ago, plans to occupy a seat overlooking the action.

Oh, yeah, that was his dad, George H. W. Bush, out there with him in the golf cart: less spry than we used to know him, encumbered with a cane but looking sharp as a tack. And nearby in front-row seats-that was Barbara Bush, along with Laura of the same surname.

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