Paris Travel Blog› entry 2 of 13 › view all entries
My penultimate day in a city that has provided me with more good times than I could have possibly anticipated. Paris is now permanently emblazoned on the favourite city category. The freedom that comes with solo traveling is truly once of its greatest enhancing aspects. I had intended on spending 3 or 4 days here. It’s now two weeks and I’m bidding her adieu. Now my sojourn was coming to a bittersweet end and realizing that despite a fortnight in Gay Paree, there remained many facets of the town that had as yet remained undiscovered. As is the case with many individuals who, thinking that there is limitless time to complete pre-established agendas, having said to oneself demain, demain, as the clock ticks louder, my feet begin to move faster as the departure date becomes imminent.
I decided to visit some of the more unsavory parts of Paris –its churches and red light districts. Sacre Coeur rises like a translucent white onion in a stew of fomented humanity. Its gleaming off-white spire produces an oblong, elongated shadow in which struggling anonymous artists spend their afternoons charcoal sketching, oil painting, drawing with pastels, or hawking their wares to affluent American tourists seeking to unearth the next Picasso or Lautrec, eager to bring home and hang on their rec room wall another endless vantage point of the great cathedral, impressing their hometown friends with their worldliness all the while bragging about their abilities to negotiate prices to the point where the starving artist, who was forced to part with his most recent chef d’ouevre, did so reluctantly since the price that the corpulent, bland, philistine couple from Anytown USA, had negotiated was so low that the cost of the paint was not even recouped. In a best case scenario, think these good will ambassadors of no taste, the artist will continue to starve, and in a moment of abject clarity, realizing the pointlessness and utter despair of his life he will hang himself from a lamp post on the bank of the Seine “That’ll drive the value of this painting up, won’t it Bill?” “You betcha’, Selma, maybe we could then sell it and buy one of those newfangled pro-jection Tee Vees. Wouldn’ that be grand?!”
I walked into the famous church and was immediately cloaked with that creeped out feeling I get whenever I walk into one of those “Christ Caverns”. I guess it stems back to my parochial school days; they managed to brainwash me quite well on the subject. In a similar vein, to this day, I get the same unsettling sensation watching a person eating a cold cut sandwich and then wash it down with a tall, cold glass of milk. Mrs. Wisebord, you must be very proud, wherever you are these days. In any event, I girded my loins, dipped my finger in the bowl of holy water at the entrance to the apse (great crossword answer, usually for 23 across), and drew a Star of David on my forehead prior to going in. The building was dark although a plethora of spindly white wax candles were ablaze at the numerous alters in the center of the nave (how do I know all these terms?) I still haven’t quite worked out how overpaying for a skinny taper will either absolve you of previous sins, or grant you wishes, but hey, who am I to question the motives and values of such an upstanding institution as the Catholic Church?
Leaving Mont Martre and heading off to meet John and Karen for once last dinner together, I notice a geeky looking individual heading my way. I think to myself “That guy looks like Douglas Schwartz”, but then again it can’t be; but then again again, who else in this world looks like that. Douglas is a year younger than I and grew up around the corner from me. Some people are annoying and grating by design – others just by the essence of their being. Douglas fits into the latter category. I have known him my entire life and can honestly state without any hesitation, that he has never done one bad thing to me. Nonetheless, he is the personification of fingernails on a blackboard. His mere existence is an affront to my sensibilities. He sees me. Dammit. All I can think of is that this chance piece of happenstance; this potential 30 second serendipitous encounter, could obliterate all the good of Paris in one fell swoop. I keep walking, right toward him, my gaze firmly affixed forward. He is within 20 feet and closing fast. I keep walking. We’re now 6 feet apart. I do not avert my gaze from the horizon ahead. We are now three feet apart. He’s coming in at me from 11 o’clock. I turn my head slightly to the left, lock on to his nerdy gaze, and say “Hello, Douglas”. I do not break stride, I do not look back; I keep staring forward and continue to stride - straight ahead with an affirmed purpose to my step. Half a block later when I sense that danger has passed, I dare to gaze back. He is standing dumbfounded in the middle of the street, unable to adequately process the events of the past few seconds. He is looking at me with a vacant and confused expression on his vapid countenance - one indicating, “This does not compute”. Fearing that I might turn to stone, or possibly Silly Putty if I continue to engage, I return myself to face front and continue on my merry way, having successfully dodged this drip once again.
I met up with my toker friends once last time for dinner and regaled them with my Dooglass (as we called him in taunting fashion since second grade). Following our meal we hopped aboard this hokey ‘bateau mouche”, which cruises the Seine after dark, lit up like a garish theater marquis, which just manages to successfully compete for tackiness honours with the rest of the bourgeois guests on board. Of course John, Karen and I were pretty ripped and had a grand ole time mocking everybody else on board that night. Stoned people do that a lot. As we circled Ile d’Orleans, with Notre Dame Cathedral awash in God’s personal array of floodlights, we kept imagining that we saw Quasimodo leering out the bell tower. Stoned people think they see things a lot, too. The boat docked, we went back to the hotel for a nightcap. I woke up for breakfast the next morning with 35 Francs in my pocket, shook hands goodbye with Karen, hugged john, and was on my way to the next adventure.