Saturday, January 28, 2006

Parisites Like Us

While moving into my new environs in North Beach, I was lucky enough to uncover an old journal I thought was lost forever, documenting my backpacking trip through Europe in August-September of 2002 with Noah Barish, Andreas Baer, and Bret Ballou. Since I haven't really done anything besides headhunt like a madman since the last entry, I offer, instead of an update, a window on the not-so-distant yet heretofore ignored past.

...Typically, I slept in the latest, then we embarked for Montmartre, Sacre-Coeur, and a lengthy period of Waiting For Ballou in front of Gare du Nord. So much about this country disgusts me, namely the hygiene, constant smoking, pay toilets, Eurotrash bedecked in black shrink-wrap T-shirts, and at the same time there is a sense of culture, or at least history. As Andreas said at Notre Dame, “So much stuff happened here”, which is quickly becoming the in-joke of the entire trip.

...We headed for the Tour Eiffel, storm clouds gathering ominously. Once there, we were caught in a downpour so emphatic the whole street was like looking through an aquarium.

…From the prix fixe menu, I selected potage de legumes (a lot like Mom’s, surprisingly), lapin a la moutarde, and tartes aux abrigots. After dinner, we sat down to red wine on the stone wall, drinking the night away like real Bohemians in the red glow of passing riverboat lights.

…Stefan, I thought, shuddering. I still can’t believe his grinning, sinister presence has been extinguished. We progressed slowly out of the hostel, making a few stops on the way into Paris proper.

…The Louvre is far too massive to form a cohesive impression of it, So I consider it bit by bit. The Italian masters are all well and good, but you can only look at so many creepy babies and swooning Virgin Mary’s before they all start looking the same. Noah and Andreas removed their shoes in the mass confusion of the Mona Lisa room, and shuffled around successfully in vagabond style, like young Ulysses, before being busted by the museum’s gendarmerie…We made a forced march to Room 77 to observe my favorite painting, Gericault’s “The Raft of the Medusa”, where I posed with dying histrionics for latest in a long series of photos mimicking the attitude of the painting in the background.

The most important event of the day was that Andreas and I committed to sitting on at least one bench in each room of the museum. At times, mainly around the home décor exhibits, this activity superseded our appreciation of the art itself. I fell a few rooms behind and had to frantically catch up to Andreas, sweeping through each room and swooping low over the bench like an eagle catching fish, just long enough for my buttocks to touch down on the cushions. And that, friends, is my defining moment in the world’s greatest museum.

…We passed a million brasseries before finally deciding we’d found one authentic enough for a last night in Paris. Andreas made his own way, opting for a hot dog over Parisian fare. He also eschewed the sleeper car, the cheap bastard. I was privileged to observe this exchange:

Andreas: “Uhhhh….Merci! Merci! Je would like, um, (gestures frantically to the hot dogs).”
Vendor: “Un hot-dog?”
Andreas: “Yes! Oon hot-dog!”

I might be the world’s worst ambassador for America, but I get respect from the waiters here.

…The sleeper car consists of six beds, factory-farm style. Thankfully, only Bret, Noah, and me inside. After much internal debate, I opted for the bottom bunk, which I had not been assigned. After an all-too-brief chapter of Kavalier & Clay, we popped the lights, and I fell asleep surprisingly fast, bathed in the noise of the rails, the sleepcase Mom had sewed so dutifully, and my own nakedness. Pillow surprisingly ample for train issue.


Post a Comment

<< Home