I’ve been many places and done many things, but buying a one-way ticket? I’ve only done that once. Twenty-two years ago, when I left Romania with a kid and two suitcases. The second time is now, as we start our long trip east.
We’ve been getting ready for weeks. We renewed our wills. I bought a couple of roll-ons big enough to hide a body. Steve blocked the mailbox. Paxil moved to Buffalo, where she spends her days sleeping on Tim’s keyboard and her nights keeping him awake.
Thursday was D-day. We got up at three for a nine-thirty flight. We drunk enough coffee to get the shakes. We weighed the luggage. Too heavy. Stuff for two months of traveling, still not enough. In went toothbrushes and Imodium. Out came my roller skates.
Then came the final uncluttering, to show the house. It went on the market the day we left. The carpets moved to the basement. The toaster hid in the cupboard. The toilet paper squeezed in a drawer. I can’t remember which. Between that, and packing the Imodium, I hope we don’t have diarrhea when we return.
On the way out, I looked at everything as if it was the last time. Turning leaves, old tombstones on Cemetery Road, horses grazing down the road, my friend the lake who gave me hope, solace and joy for many years. Whether calm, seething or frozen, it greeted me every morning. It hurt.
Then we got to the airport, and between looking for passports, taking off shoes and struggling with the internet, I forgot.
Fast forward 17 hours, pounds of lousy airline food and countless shots of life-sustaining bourbon. We’re in Paris where it’s still dark at 8am. We trip to our hotel near Place Pigalle, the Paris Red quarter. I drag my 70 pounds of luggage up sets of stairs, declining offers of help, afraid the helpers will run away with the Imodium. We make it. Barely.
That evening we walk around Place Pigalle, wondering at the revealing costumes, the two-headed dildoes, and the leather whips. Even the guitars are X-rated. We dine at a local bistro, drinking the house red and watching the ladies of the night marketing their goods.
“Where are you from?” the waiter asks. The question of my life. Nobody ever thinks I’m local, no matter how I strive to blend.
“New York State.”
“I know it well,” he says and pours us a complimentary rum drink.
Plattsburgh, if you’re listening, you’re well known in Paris.
As I’m taking pictures on the way back, I fall behind. I catch up to Steve negotiating with a business lady. Guess who has the money? The deal falls through.
Our four days in Paris were a blur. We walked until our feet wore off. We went to see old friends – the Orsay, the Louvre, Notre Dame. We made new friends – Michel, our Paris Greeters guide introduced us to the Palace of Shopping – Galleries Lafayette and the Palace of Money – Societe-Generale.
We ate. We drank wine – lots of wine. Read Poison, Emma will tell you all about it. We immersed ourselves in art – literally. We people watched.
Did I mention that we walked – a lot?
After much soul searching, I got a haircut. To a new life, a new do. I got rid of ten years of old hair to welcome the new, free me. No hair dye, no hair ties. Barely any hair.
Steve stewed at home, like a family waiting for the verdict in the surgery waiting room. He lit up when he saw me sans hair. To him, I looked Parisian.
That evening I ordered beef tartare. The waitress worried.
“You know it’s cold?”
“Of course she does. Don’t you see her haircut?”
Finally, a few tips, in case you stop by Paris.
- Entrée means appetizer.
- Escargots are snails. They are ugly, oily and smell like garlic.
- Pate de foie-gras is liver. Goose liver, but liver nevertheless.
- Beef tartare is raw.
- In France, garcon is a four-letter word. If you want your waiter, try monsieur.
- Restaurants are closed between 2PM and 7PM.
- If you want shopkeepers to smile, greet them as you step in.
- Water runs in the gutters to clean up the streets. It’s not a broken pipe.
- Convenience stores have wine, cheese, and crusty French bread. Buy a picnic. It’s cheaper than any restaurant and it comes with a view of the Louvre.
- French dog poop smells just the same as the American one. Avoid it.
For more Paris see my previous blogs. Like a bad penny, I keep returning here.
See you in Athens next week.