An American in Paris: Part 1

IMG_1117Aren’t I lucky? A trip to Paris where I have to leave on another holiday. I’m missing out on most of my Father’s Day when I should be home enjoying my wife and kids. But no, instead I get to spend 7 hours on a plane to Paris and 4 days at the Paris Air Show for work. Air travel is so much fun too. Philadelphia airport, aircraft maintenance, passenger arguments over seat assignments. The usual, really. It’s airplane travel in all is ugly monotonous glory.

Now, let me be honest. Part of me does love to travel. I love being in new places, seeing things I’ve never seen before, soaking in local culture, eating foods I’ll never try at home. I love all that shit and Paris is a pretty damn fine place to go. It is an amazing city that just exudes coolness. There’s a vibe about Paris that’s a lot like New York. It’s the shit, and it knows it. But first, I have to get there.

I watch the free movies on the flight, but I get a big kick out of the moving maps on international flights. I wish they’d use these on all flights. I enjoy seeing the route from Philadelphia to Paris as we’re moving and seeing where we are in relation to other cities. This map, though, has some weird shit identified. Maybe I just never noticed before but they have different parts of the Atlantic Ocean marked where there were famous shipwrecks. For example, just south of our route is where the Titanic sunk in 1912. I know this because they’re marking the spot on the map. Uhh, what the fuck? I don’t need to know that. It’s so arbitrary. Here’s some others that were marked along the way: Thresher,1963; Maury Seachannel; Porcupine Plain; Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone; Lusitania,1915; Colossus,1798. Strange, very strange.

We get to the Paris airport and begin the arduous process of getting to our hotel. It’s a nice, solid 4-iron from the middle of the fairway with a little tailwind from the airport, but it takes us 2 1/2 hours to get there via a combination of shuttles, trains and buses. I hate not having a car and being at the mercy of others. We finally got on the bus to the hotel, the driver drives by our hotel to drop people off at another hotel, and then he just sits there and doesn’t move. I can see the hotel from the bus window, but he won’t move because he says he’s waiting for someone. “Listen dude, they’re not here, drive us over to our hotel and come back.” Suddenly, he can’t speak English. I say “Fuck this”, grab my shit and walk across the street to the hotel and crash for a couple hours.

The guy I was traveling with and I decided to go for an afternoon stroll to the little village by our hotel. I love walking around little towns like this. They have so much character and are just so different from what we have in the U.S. We stopped at a little deli/bar/restaurant to get a drink. A beer later and I feel much better. It’s amazing how that works.

Now that I’m relaxed, I take a look at the surroundings, the locals, and just observe. A few things: First, lottery scratch-off tickets are not only popular in the States, but in France as well. I watched probably 20 different people come in grab a drink, buy multiple tickets, and start scratching away. Second, I was shocked and disappointed to look at the chalkboard menu and see “Hot Dog Sandwich” on it. When I think of French cuisine, an edible meat casing filled with by-products like lips and assholes, is not exactly what comes to mind. Maybe it tastes good, but I can’t imagine it is any better than Nathan’s. Third, and this is for Europe in general, everything is so old. The buildings, the interiors, the look and feel, just everything. We walked into a church on the corner that was built in 1570. I’m sure that’s normal for the French, but there is nothing that old back home. Nothing. Contrast that with Phoenix where nothing is older than 4 years and you see how it can fuck with your mind. Finally, I can’t speak French and hardly understand a thing they say to me, but they all understand English and that’s not fair. There’s an imbalance of linguistic power for us Americans in France. We can’t have a private conversation with the hopes that they won’t understand us, but they can. Damnit.

We headed back to the hotel bar and met up with a few of the people we’re working with. They’re mostly Europeans and all understand the language of social lubrication. We order a few beers, Grimbergen to be exact, from a bartender named Lolita. And she was young. Is Nabokov still alive? The British guy who was with us, polished his beer off faster than you can say “God Save the Queen”. They can drink; myth is reality.

As it got close to 9 o’clock, I began to struggle to stay awake. I wanted to be a good sport and talk to everyone, but I was tired, hungry, and cranky. I was thisclose to just grabbing a quick bite and go to bed, but ended up going out with a large group for dinner. I remember dinner from my previous trips here and they can be long affairs. I feared this. We walked to a Japanese restaurant. We’re in France and we go for Japanese. I want foie gras and instead I get miso soup. So be it. Admittedly, the meal was great, but I focused all of my efforts on staying awake. I fought it hard. I tried desperately to communicate telepathically with the group to wrap it up, but it didn’t translate apparently. We finally called it a night after 11. A short walk back to hotel, then sleep, glorious sleep. Day 2 coming up.

Categories: Travel

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