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11 May 2005

an impact indescribably solid


mission objectives:

20050511.01-A: locate and employ ground transport to landing zone.

DETAILS: ground transport departs at 0658 hours from bus station::ire:ennis. eta at lz: 0758 hours.

20050511.01-B: locate and employ air transport to location bravo victor alpha.

DETAILS: air transport departs at 1110 hours from SNN:shannon airport::ire:shannon. carrier: ryan air. flight no: fr132. eta at border: 1350 hours.

20050511.01-C: navigate the border.

DETAILS: intel is limited.

20050511.01-D: locate and employ ground transport to recon objective.

DETAILS: intel is limited.

0630:: reconone: reconone online and en route. over.

0630:: recon hq: received and acknowldedged. feed is clear. over.

0635:: reconone: the streets of ennis are empty. request permission to initiate secondary recon mission. over.

0635:: recon hq: negative, reconone. permission denied. over.

0636:: reconone: repeat. the streets are empty. environment is optimal for photographic recon. over.

0637:: recon hq: negative, reconone. negative. permission denied. you have limited time to reach ground transport. over.

0642:: reconone: initiating secondary recon. capturing and sending images. prepare to receive. over.

0642:: recon hq: that's a big negative, reconone. abort secondary mission. ground transport departs in 16 minutes. proceed immediately to ground transport. over.

0643:: reconone: images trasmitted. proceeding to ground transport. over.

0645:: reconone: i'm having a problem finding the correct route. gps is acquiring satellites. over.

0648:: reconone: satellites acquired. location confirmed. i'm been off course for the past seven minutes. rerouting. over.

0650:: reconone: request eta until ground transport departure. over.

0650:: recon hq: ground transport departs in 8 minutes as outlined in your mission details. over.

0650:: reconone: shit. i'm not going to make it.

0651:: recon hq: had to initiate that secondary recon mission, huh?

0652:: reconone: proceeding doubletime. request statistics for mission success if ground transport is missed. over.

0652:: recon hq: calculations complete. there is secondary ground transport in approximately 60 minutes. missions 20050511.01-B and 20050511.01-C have 89% success rate if primary ground transport is missed. over.

0653:: reconone: acknowledged. over.

0657:: reconone: i have a visual, but i don't think i'm going to make it. over.

0700:: reconone: arrived at ground transport. transport was delayed. i'm onboard. over.

0700:: recon hq: acknowledged. over.

0705:: reconone: ground transport has departed. i'm en route to lz. over.

0705:: recon hq: acknowledged. over.

0730:: reconone: i'm hungry. over.

0738:: reconone: a passenger just missed his stop and the bus let him off one half kilometer from the missed stop. over.

0738:: recon hq: thank you for the intel, reconone. please filter transmissions for relevance. over.

0739:: reconone: acknowledged. i'm still hungry. over.

0805:: reconone: ground transport has arrived at lz. mission 20050511.01-A is complete.

0805:: recon hq: acknowledged and confirmed. mission 20050511.01-A is complete. initiate mission 20050511.01-B.

0812:: reconone: check-in won't begin until 0915 hours. calculations indicate there is a +5% success rate for mission 20050511.01-C if i enhance my appearance before arriving at the border. i'm going to deviate from the original plan and shave, brush my hair, and apply the remainder of my deodorant in the shannon airport bathroom. initiate equipment replacement procedure for the deodorant. over.

0812:: recon hq: acknowledged. deviation noted. equipment replacement is in process. over.

0832:: reconone: i've identified two americans but am not engaging. over.

0907:: reconone: a queue has formed at the check-in desk. i'm in position zero three. over.

0907:: recon hq: acknowledged. over.

0920:: reconone: equipment checked. boarding pass acquired. position zero seven. boarding at 1040 hours. i picked up some intel from other passengers. there is readily available ground transport from location bravo victor alpha to the recon objective. price: thirteen euros. mission notes have been updated. request permission to locate and engage food. over.

0920:: recon hq: acknowledged. permission granted. over.

0927:: reconone: i've acquired 500ml of coke and 100g of maltesers. engaging. so good. proceeding to observation deck until boarding. over.

0950:: reconone: not much action up here. only two planes have interfaced with the runway so far. damn these maltesers are good. over.

1014:: reconone: i was in this airport exactly thirty-six days ago. over.

1020:: reconone: proceeding to security check. over.

1020:: recon hq: acknowledged, reconone. over.

1027:: reconone: i'm through the security check. no issues were encountered. proceeding to boarding area. over.

1037:: reconone: a large party of school boys just arrived in the boarding area. they're all wearing yellow sweaters. request statistics for finding an optimal window seat if this horde of kids boards before me. over.

1038:: recon hq: calculations complete. there is a 97% probability that you will not be able to find optimal seating if the horde boards in front of you. over.

1038:: reconone: perfect. request permission to initiate secondary mission. over.

1038:: recon hq: permission denied. over.

1042:: reconone: the horde is boarding. blah. over.

1052:: reconone: those with position numbers zero through sixty four have been given clearance to board. boarding. over.

1058:: reconone: i'm onboard in optimal seat. i have defeated the statistics. over.

1107:: reconone: the pilot has just reported there will be a delay with the take-off. wish i had some more maltesers. over.

1125:: reconone: are you still there? over.

1125:: recon hq: yes, reconone. stay on target. over.

1128:: reconone: preparing for departure. communications blackout until arrival at location bravo victor alpha. over.

1128:: recon hq: acknowledged, reconone. over.

1352:: reconone: i'm on the ground. equipment has been retrieved. mission 20050511.01-B is complete. repeat, mission 20050511.01-B is complete. over.

1353:: recon hq: right on schedule, reconone. good work. confirm completion of mission 20050511.01-B. proceed immediately with mission 20050511.01-C. over.

1353:: reconone: proceeding with mission 20050511.01-C. over.

1355:: reconone: wow, that was easy. one question. one stamp. POW! i've successfully navigated the border. must be the clean close shave and tidy appearance. mission 20050511.01-C is complete. repeat, mission 20050511.01-C is complete. over.

1355:: recon hq: excellent. proceed with mission 20050511.01-D. find ground transport to the recon objective. over.

1355:: reconone: acknowledged. over.

1405:: reconone: i've successfully located ground transport and have used my language skills to purchase a ticket. i was so excited the ticket clerk understood my french that i almost forgot to pick up my ticket. boarding ground transport. eta at recon objective is 1510 hours.

1405:: recon hq: acknowledged. over.

1406:: reconone: some woman just asked if the free seat beside me was occupied. i wasn't able to interpret quickly enough and just smiled and nodded, indicating that she was clear to sit down. she realized i didn't understand and sat down. so much for the language skills. over.

1407:: recon hq: stay on target. over.

1408:: reconone: ground transport has departed. over.

1425:: reconone: gps is tracking progress. eta at recon objective in 30 minutes. over.

1425:: recon hq: acknowledged, reconone. over.

1517:: reconone: i've arrived at the recon objective. repeat, i've arrived at the recon objective. mission 20050511.01-D is complete. over.

1518:: recon hq: acknowledged and confirmed, reconone. we have your position at the recon objective. good work. over and out.

i was in paris. damn, check me out. now, had to find my hostel. track with the gps. there i am... and there's the hostel, about 3km away. my mind flashed with thoughts about my walk to the phantom hostel in edinburgh. i decided to get a cab. okay, third foreign language interaction of the day. found a cab stand quickly and got in.

'parlez-vous anglais?'

'uhhhh... un peu.'

i decided to go for it.

'je parle francais seulement un peu, mais j'essayerai. je vais a la rue andre gill.'

'andre gill, eh?'


'hmmm...' [looks in some gigantic street listing map] 'ah.'

we were on our way. cool. interesting area with lots of red glowing sex shops, yet sidewalks composed of the average city dweller. kids playing in the large median area and right across the street: POW! THE SEXODROME in overwhelming capital block neon. i saw a sign for my hotel. hotel andre gill. does one tip cab drivers in paris? apparently so. i told him to keep the change and i don't think he even said thank you. blah. so, into the hotel. the receptionist spoke english and i was in the room about five minutes later. seemed clean and well maintained, if a little cramped. the hotel had crammed three single beds in a room designed for one. i don't think i could tell you the color of the carpet. a walk across the room was less of a walk and more of a sideways shuffling. still, i had a bed for the night. i was in paris. what? you haven't checked me out yet? do it now.

relaxed just a bit in the room and read from the guidebook. ten minutes, a roommate: nathan from australia. nicest guy. talked for a bit. he was going out to find some food and i asked if i could join him. out on the street. he'd planned to hit 'mackers'. mackers? =mcdonald's. i told him i could do just about anything but mcdonald's. i was in paris and i wasn't going to start out, middle, or end with mcdonald's. we'd need to find something else. a little down the street, a shop selling assorted sandwiches and pastries. we went inside and ordered. ham and cheese, nothing special. first bite. whoa, that is good. another bite. _wow_, this is the best ham and cheese sandwich i've ever had. each bite delicious, this is going to end too quickly. that flaky soft crunchy fresh chewy white baguette bread was giganticly tasty and at that moment, for the first time on my trip, food became more than just sustenance. i was in france, and it was true, the french know pain. le pain.

nathan had already navigated the metro system. ticket machines. roll the roller, select your desired ticket, put in your coins out spits a small rectangular ticket and a slightly bigger receipt if you so elected, and i had. insert and then remove, and i was injected into the system that is the paris metropolitain. we'd get off at the concorde stop. walk a bit, sortie, and then [an enormous sweeping sound right to left with an underlying sustaining rumbling chord becoming louder and screaming as it approaches, reaching you before you expect it will, smashing you straight in your face with an impact indescribably solid]. place de la concorde, a giant roundabout. the egyptian obelisk, thousands of years old, a gift from egypt, in the center. the eiffel tower, the first time for me, in the background.

and i. was here. in paris. [static]

we'd planned to walk through the public gardens down to the louvre, but the entrance to the gardens did not behave appropriately as an entrance and we walked past it, across the seine. la seine. here it was, the river seine. before only a word on a page, now a watery muddy green river flowing right [THERE!] beneath me. we realized we'd missed the entrance and retraced our steps. i remembered learning about paris in french class in high school and as we walked towards the gardens i wished my very nice french teacher were right there to give a refresher. i tried to find the file in my head, but i stumbled into a room filled with only scraps of paper, torn, notes written neatly in pencil in my highschool handwriting, incomplete. i'd need to put them together like a jigsaw puzzle before they'd be useful. i started assembling the scraps as we walked.

the gardens, not altogether very impressive, a stretching level surface of tiny light brown sand, trees to the left and right. through an arch, and there beyond another roundabout the glass pyramid of the louvre. again, before only words, now [sound] right in front of me. we walked over to and stood in front of the pyramid and a guard came over to ask me [in english] what i had in my hand, not with a suspiciously authoritative tone, but with one interested and curious. i showed him my gps and the maps and he began asking me a question about the maps when a woman attempted to bypass his checkpoint and he had to deal with her.

we walked again towards the river. the eiffel tower in the distance and a long walk, but one filled with the sites and sounds of the city. me trying to absorb it all. navigating by sight, there above the city. closer and closer... a long walk down more light brown sand, trees cut into squares, and finally beneath the giant. and i was in paris, trying to absorb the whole scene: a snapshot taken with my eyes, printed with a white border and spread out on a table, then rolled up neatly and pushed lengthwise into my head. here it was, right there. [before] i'd thought how impressive could a large metal tower actually be, but standing beneath the four legs, [after] it was. it was that impressive. the fucking eiffel tower, right in front of me. it was early evening and there was time to ride to the top. i remembered nico and vadim had told me in scotland just to ride to the second level, that the view was just as impressive from there as from the very top. but how could we? there in paris and only go halfway, impossible. ten euro seventy to the top. inside the elevator, climbing up one of the massive legs. a stop at the first level, us to the second. everyone off.

[sound] spectacularly amazing view. the shadow of the tower ticking through the buildings below. nathan and i wondered about the black rising awkwardly from the white. how were the permits approved? we tried to find the name on some informational plaques, but it was not identified. forgotten. we spent about fifteen minutes on the second level, circling. amongst the others crowding for pictures. suicide jumpers, determined to die in style, detered by the metal cage. and then up to the top, another elevator... and up and up. enclosed and caged and crowded. the reality of the top of the eiffel tower is a crowded mass of people clamoring for photos, pushing in and about. once for entertaining dignitaries and still for television and radio antennas. nico and vadim had been right... despite the change in altitude, the view afforded by the top of the tower was not significantly better than that on the second level. we didn't spend long there, the view similar, the crowd different, and so we descended. i turned around to watch the the next elevator ascending. <--[avi movie file. BEWARE: large file: 4.9mb]

my morning in ireland. my afternoon in paris. i'd already been to the top of the eiffel tower. wow.

slight difficulties finding the metro station. we made our way back to the hotel and met our third roommate: rodrigo from... i tried to guess but he told us before i could finish... chile. the name sounds altogether different when pronounced by a chilean. if you are american, the name you just heard in your head is not this man's name. [g, g... wdyka... c?] we talked a bit and then decided to hit go out to a bar, an irish pub in paris, with a woman singing cover songs in english. i remember a nirvana song. rodrigo and i sat down and told nathan what we wanted and handed him money. he refused the money. when he came back to the table with the three drinks, he had an unsettled look on his face. i decided to give him my money despite his previous refusal. 'those three drinks cost 18 euro,' he said. i gave him another two euro.

0214:: reconone: what an incredible day. over and out.

posted by paul on Wed 11 May 2005 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)


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