Saturday Night in Paris (Digestif)

We stood out in the balmy evening air for a while, looking for cabs. “Buttresses! Get Liz!” someone called; I’d disclosed my flying buttress fetish while trying to get the perfect Notre Dame buttress shot earlier. Sadly, it was too dark to get the right shot. I don’t think I will photograph every French flying buttress in France, somehow.

Some of us got cabs, but a big bunch of us decided on the Metro. There was a metro station close, and we had Zoe with us, who travels to Paris for business, so, what could go wrong?

Plenty.

First: Paris doesn’t have so many sidewalk panhandlers as it has people who accost you on the Metro. Guy walks into the car with a battered guitar and portable tape player and amp. He turns it on. Hell ensues. I think the deal might be that we’re supposed to pay him to go somewhere else.

I am not aurally sensitive, but when confronted by loud-enough-for-distortion, recorded, tinny flamenco and out-of-tune guitar playing, a part of my soul dies. We endure it for two stops. On the third, the doors have already been open for a while when suddenly Zoe yells, “OFF! OFF! OFF!” and we all start pushing each other out of the door. Her voice has the timbre of drill sergeants. Our NCO legs obey before our minds can process. Part of me, fleetingly, thinks Zoe will not stand for the Flamenco Assault. I obey because of this as well. Good call, that woman.

In the mad stampede, Steph is stuck between the doors, which are trying to close. I am behind her, pulling the doors apart as hard as I can. Finally, we break free. Steph later has massive upper-arm bruising. I feel terrible, but I was trying to free her!

The platform is mercifully quiet in comparison, until Zoe looks up and starts laughing. “What, what? Was it the music?” we are all laughing.

“No! This isn’t our stop. This was my stop when I lived here,” she admits. “I panicked!”

No biggie, because the next train is six minutes away. That’s the thing about the Metro. It never takes long.

On the next train, we see Jane and her family. We are so raucous we don’t want to say hi in case we embarrass them. Zoe pretends to be a Metro Tour Expert, giving us made-up Metro facts. “The Chateau d’Eau Stop is named after a…house. Near a..some water.” This is possibly the best Public Transit Escapade ever. We giggle and say “OFF OFF OFF” at each other.

At the Gare Du Nord we reconnect with Jane and her family and begin the walk to the hotel. Almost immediately, we’re glad of Jane’s tall men, because a belligerent drunk starts following us. The neighbourhood around the Gare du Nord is not pleasant at night. Garbage builds up in corners and the sheltered spots reek of piss.

The drunk is not scary, just grubby. Any of us could take him out with a well-aimed punch, but he never gets in our faces. Just follows us, muttering. Jane’s towering husband and son walk between us and the drunk, who is muttering and hollering in turns, in French, about garbage and beer.

At one point, we have to stop for a traffic light. The drunk teeters along behind us and I think, Thank God, he’s lost interest. But he staggers up right beside Jane, who is beside me. She steps around me closer to her husband and I step closer to the drunk, to fill the space. I do not know why. To fill the gap? To become the first line against him? Was I spoiling for a drunk bilingual fight?

When we finally get back to the hotel, the drunk hassles the concierge for a while. He rattles the door. Finally he wanders away, without the police coming.

We disperse to our rooms, because Sunday is going to be long, and we’re exhausted.

Saturday Night In Paris (Dinner)

The entire night was too much, in so many ways. You know when you think you have a handle on a new place, and then everything goes sideways? Sometimes several ways? That was me.

We hung out at the Eiffel Tour for a while (you have to, really, don’t you?) and between the sun, sweat, other tourists, and trying for the best shots, we were exhausted. We made our way back to the hotel and got ourselves cleaned up. In our room, Zoe plugged in her hair straighteners and I put on eyeshadow and changed into my Paris Whore Shoes. “Are we ready?” she asked. “This is as good as it gets,” I replied. She laughed. “Let’s take Paris by storm!”

We found enough taxis to take us to the restaurant. This amused me. We could easily have taken the Metro right there. Maybe this is just me being Public Transit Girl, though, because I was happy to get in a cab with Jane, Andrew and Roy.

I had to close my eyes for parts of the cab ride. I think I know where the edges of vehicles are? Not like the cabbie did! Neither have I ever been aware of the flow of traffic like he was. I guess maybe it’s just driving for a living in another city, but wow. I listened as best I could. The driver came from Cuba when he was eight. Paris was the best thing that could have happened to him,and Cuba was a distant dream. Even with my broken French understanding, I saw how lucky this guy was.

The cabbie dropped us off as close as he could to the restaurant, which was still a little walk away: Paris is wide avenues, but also the smallest side streets. The restaurant was in one of these tiny lanes. Cobblestones? Check. Heavy hardwood door frames? Check. The Parisians of Myth? Check.

The Parisians of Myth lingered about in the hardwood door frames, waiting for tables to restaurants so chic that they didn’t even have names advertised. They had glasses of wine dangling negligently in their hands, these Parisians, and they were tall and dark and lean, male and female. They wore beautifully fitted and draped clothes that were worth more than my…well, anything I own. They reeked of ‘Paris’, the myth. Every confidence I thought I had mastered evaporated. It was like looking at Fae.

Edging our way past the Parisians of Myth, Jane, Roy, Andrew and I got ourselves into the restaurant. There were about 20 of us, all lined up at a table along the wall. I was close to the front window of the restaurant, between Rhian and Louise.

The food was also so over-the-top Paris-the Myth. Louise and I sat side by side with our six-inch dish starters of ravioli. The plates looked tiny. The cheese sauce was some kind of mild blue cheese and some pecorino, I think. Whatever it was, it was too delicious to leave and too rich to eat all of. We ate all of it. We were defeated, and picked at our mains (Moroccan chicken and cous cous for me) and chocolate lava cake for dessert. Louise and I, feeling guilty but full-to-bursting couldn’t finish the later courses.

We left the restaurant way too full and ready for bed. And yet, it’s Paris. There’s more to come.

Mortality II: Life’s Too Short.

Derek K Miller died yesterday. His last post is a lesson on how to live life and how to accept that life ends.

I was not a friend of Derek’s; more an admirer. He spearheaded the hilarious 432 newspaper at UBC in the mid-nineties. He played in bands I went to see in tiny venues where the carpets smelled unspeakably awful. He taught me some of the first things I learned solidly about taking good photographs.

Today on Facebook, I have not been astonished by how many people’s lives he touched; rather, I’m humbled to have been a part of such a diverse group. My heart goes out to his friends and his family.

Go and hug the people you love. Make them mac and cheese. Read them a story. Forgive them their annoying habits. Life’s too short, people.

Tomorrow, I will blog A Saturday Night in Real Paris. Tonight, I’ll remember a remarkable man.

Mortality.

Eric and I spent a lot of the day in Emergency today.

When he woke this morning, he commented about a little twinge in his chest that had mostly gone before he went to work.

He was back a little after noon because he was too dizzy to climb ladders. Off to the walk-in clinic, who sent us to Emergency.

Three hours later, a doctor pronounced him ‘fine’ and prescribed a B vitamin for being run down.

In that three hours, I aged about fifty years.

I am best at coping. I am good in a crisis. If an emergency arises, I most often pull some kind of miracle out of my ass and The Show Goes Onnnnn! I Do Something. It’s kind of my trademark move.

I am not good at waiting where they won’t let me come in with him and no one is telling me anything and there is nothing but the smell of antiseptic and under that illness and there is nothing for me to do but sit and worry until I notice I am shaking, which is a pretty good indicator that I’m close to shocky but the best thing is not to bug the staff but go out into the sun. but what if Eric comes back and has vital information and I’m not there? If he has to stay in for observation, how fast can I cook dinner and get back so he doesn’t have to eat hospital food, which is subcontracted out to the lowest bidder and what the fuck is in the chili anyway and can I please stop shaking now because I can’t read the article about Golden Age Dating in Senior Living magazine.

He is on the couch beside me now. I’m almost done crying.

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