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16 May 2005

fifty meters underground, surrounded by normality


i woke up early this morning with plans to travel to versailles to see the palace, out of metro zone one. two euro sixty from the ticket machine; a small price to pay for the train. i occasionally had a twinge of guilt when using the ticket machine; i was in france and i shouldn't pass up an opportunity to interact with a french person even if it was just to purchase a ticket. here the twinge hit me again.

the yellow line on the map would take me to versailles; nathan had told me that multilevel trains ran on this line. three levels, an upper and a lower, and one in between. i walked up the concrete stairs to the platform and there in letters in green on an overhead sign, the destination clearly indicated. this seemed too easy.

waiting for the train, a group of tourists spoke english conspicuously in an australian accent. [avoid them; no offense intended towards australians in general, to the contrary i've found most to be extremely friendly, self-confident, genuine and fun people.]. loud conspicuous pointing tourists are just steps below dry white styrofoam rubbing together for me. the fact that i care disturbs me in a different way. the train roared in and it was true: three levels. i climbed the stairs to the upper level. the doors shut and the train departed. shortly thereafter i realized they were in the same car, and [in the vast wasteland of my mind, someone in silouhette far in the distance held up a block of white, the threat of the dryness and worse the sound enough to make me cringe] minus five, i can't think of something at that level.

i listened to them; how could i not with the volume. they were speaking negatively about some earlier interactions they'd had with french people. in france. on a french train. near french people on the french train in france. just so inappropriate, i wanted to run away. please, a little discretion. they were going to ver-sails [as well]. blah. i placed the people in a hole in my wasteland, zoning away, watching out the window, waiting for paris to end and some type of countryside to begin, but that never happened. the city continued, and somewhere in that continuation of the city, karma came back with a gigantic uppercut [!CRACK!], and the tourists speaking ill of the french got off at [THE WRONG STOP]. bah! [rewind just a minute] i heard them get up quickly amidst much wild shouting [ver-sails] and laughing... and as then were getting off i scrambled madly to find the name of the current stop [were they right? is this the correct stop? this didn't seem right...], and only after the train doors had shut did i see the name of the stop, certainly the wrong one. the train rolled on and i got off at the correct stop about ten minutes later, and i certainly did not have a small smile on my face as i did so because it's wrong to gain pleasure at the misfortunes of others, even if those others were behaving entirely inappropriately.

i followed the herd out of the train station, certain they were herding towards the palace. we are not americans.

i was right about the herd. and i saw the palace in the distance, not what i had expected on a high hill surrounded by green with a long magnificent entryway, but right in the midst of the rest of the buildings, surrounded by normality, not as spectacular as i'd imagined. it didn't grab me. i walked around feeling a bit tired and saw that the palace was closed on mondays. if i'd been grabbed and shaken i would have been more upset about this, but in some way it was a bit of a relief. [at the entraceway, another sign. i'm not familiar with the term 'vigipirate', but it sounds interesting.]

perhaps the gardens would be open, and they were, but all of the other 'i should have researched this before i got there' people were waiting in three long lines, and if my average line waiting attitude were at ground level, it was about fifty meters underground that day. i walked up to the entrance booths to see what was holding up the lines; there i became more interested in a young boy playing nearby with a chain that was hanging across a roadway that gave authorized vehicles access to the gardens. if mine were fifty meters below, his was certainly one hundred and at the mercy of his impatience, he ended up stepping on the chain and his weight was great enough to pull the chain from one of its support posts. the wood of the post actually split with a dramatic crunch, and many of the people in the line gave the low to high gradeschool 'ooooh' [you've done something bad and we're going to tell on you] sound. wasn't sure if the lines were comprised by a large percentage of americans or whether europeans also exhibited the 'ooooh' behavior. interesting.

i looked beyond the lines to the gardens that were within eyesight and didn't see anything truly amazing. mostly small shrubs. shrubbery. nothing grasping or gripping and as before with the palace, if i'd been grabbed, i'd have had no choice and a problem. but the gardens let me walk away without paying.

i wanted to give them another chance. i decided to walk the entire way around the back to see what i could see. track track to the back. POW! can you lose me? no. i will find you. try: fail. i'm there. RIGHT there behind you. [no versailles allowed]. i'm in the back of the gardens and i'm walking in... more grainy sand and tree lined roads.

a cross of water. riding bikes and jogging around the cross. begin walking in the grass, [incorrect?], back to the path. the cross, its length deceptive; i'm deceived and halfway around there is still another half to walk, in the light rain, under the cover of trees mostly but not always. a piercing pain at the top of the spine pokes me to adjust my pack at the end particularly overrun with waterplants. some type of skimming boat is clearing the plants. i arrive at the bottom of the garden hills. a border patrol, but no lines. stairs leading up to the palace, lined with sculptures. pretty but _still_ not calling me.

i was hungry. i mispronounced 'genes'... how could i especially after doing so well? i should have known better. and then right there, in my translator. blah. i should have checked. chocolate sorbet, water based, absolutely delicious as i walked away.

about to cross the road, i stopped to let a truck go in front of me, but didn't make eye contact, involved with the field across the road, the driver blew the horn, i looked up and the passenger smiled and waved.

back at the palace. a large expanse of tourist assembly line parking lot took away from any magic that the palace used to have, the trash bins overflowing, taking the shine away. maybe the monday closure. two euro sixty to get back to pigalle in paris. tired and drained, uncharged from the versailles visit.

i went out to a nearby cafe with ryan and dennis, two new american roommates [dennis: a tall chef from sacramento, california, who loved his job. i could sense an interest in music in him] [ryan: a confident doctor from ohio [there is not a vaccination for malaria because it's caused by a parasite.], his luggage lost to aer lingus, lived in ireland. he told us stories about how he'd amputated two penises. [CRINGE] another man died from severe leg infection; came into the hospital because he'd 'felt a little cold']. later we took a walk down the neon sex shop strip where men and women tried to seduce us into their clubs.


this was my last night at hotel andre gill. tomorrow i'd be staying at anthony's apartment.

posted by paul on Mon 16 May 2005 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)


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