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 at Mon 16 May 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

15 May 2005

along a wall in a stone

i'd gotten in from the night before at 7:30am. the cleaning person woke me up at approximately 11am. my mind wasn't functioning at a capacity adequate to form a sentence explaining to him that i wanted to sleep longer. not in english and not in french. he said he wanted to clean and the grinding gears in my head could only come up with 'uh, maintenant?'. he said 'oui.' merde. he came in and started making the beds. i thought that by helping him with the sheets i could speed along his exit. at first he seemed startled that i was helping him; after he seemed happy. we finished with the beds and i thought about more sleep. then he brought in the vacuum cleaner. blah. time to wake up.

the night before nico and friends had told me about a performance that was taking place in one of the parks in paris. nico and i had loose plans to meet up around 1:30 near one of the metro stops. managed to make it at around the right time. called nico; he was just waking up. understandably. he said he'd meet me in the park. i had some time to kill and i was in a park, so i did park things although i wasn't particularly in a park mood. heard drums and checked them; african dancing in the grass. nico found me next to green water near the skateramp [kick] and we stumbled across anthony and elise.

an american in paris; dancing along a wall in a stone throughway, women through the window, laughing. grenouille internet connection to check movie times, failed. fingerprint sensor: americans. goodbyes to anthony and elise [with plans to see them on tuesday] and nico and i went to see 'last days'. first a drink at an outdoor cafe and a four euro bottle of coke with lemon. encroche les pieds. the movie was stirring. back to the hotel.

posted by paul at Sun 15 May 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

14 May 2005

the difference between

i walked out of the hotel this morning and it was raining lightly. weather has a profound impact on one's perception of a place. a raining city is always less inviting and i think it's hard to erase the first impression burned into your mind. despite the rain this morning, i was in a great mood. an incredible mood in fact. almost happy it was raining, walking around with my umbrella feeling very warm and sheltered from the wetness and smiling. i remember it clearly, observing other people experiencing the rain. the rain in spring in paris. i planned to go to the musée d'orsay today, but i walked slowly through the falling water which was keeping many people inside on this weekend day, enjoying the openness on the streets. step by step with no hurry.

ha. a raining weekend day in paris. blah. what was i thinking? of course everyone is going to go to the museum today. i exited the metro stop and saw a long queue twisting back on itself and twisting back on itself some more. a man at the top of the stairs leading out of the metro was selling umbrellas, without much success as most were already carrying one. a lone line of umbrellas, queued, in the rain, twisting. i guessed that they weren't much in a rain type of mood that day, and i was, so it took me no more than two twists of the queue to decide i'd go to the museum another day. i had more walking to do.

down along the seine. i saw two people without umbrellas who were very wet, the bottoms of their pants the heavy dragging sort of wetness.

i crossed over to the île de la cité and descended to the northwestern point and stood there for a long while watching the nearly empty tour boats slosh past. standing there just thinking about being there with the rain coming down.

then over to a walking bridge. i saw a girl carrying a black umbrella and a guide book walking slowly. wondered if she was enjoying herself as well. almost said hello. i stood and watched a long barge carrying sand travel underneath the bridge. narrow archways. thought about the catastrophe and wondered how quickly a barge could be stopped if the course were wrong. the captains must be very skilled and experienced. rain doesn't make for good pictures.

slowly the bottom of my pants became the heavy but not dragging sort of wetness. it was about three in the afternoon and i decided to return to the hotel. i'd sent vadim an email the day before letting him know i was in paris and asking if he and nico would want to hang out. i got off the metro stop near my hotel and went to the internet cafe to check my email. no response from vadim. i had nico's phone number... decided i'd give him a call a little later. i packed up after about 40 minutes and the man told me the price was four euros.

[in english]

me: 'but i've only been here 40 minutes.'

computer guy: 'one euro per 10 minutes.'

me: 'or four euros per hour according to the sign? so i could go back up and use the computer for another twenty minutes for the same price?'

computer guy: 'if you want.'

i felt he could have volunteered that information. he tried and failed, broken. guess i should always clarify before sitting down. all of these cafes have different ways of charging for internet service. i went back up and scanned the web for another twenty minutes.

how to call nico. none of the payphones accepted change, only phone cards [but where to buy a phone card?]. before i hit the hotel i swung by a mobile phone store to check out prices on prepaid sim cards. before i left on this trip, i'd intended to buy local sim cards in various countries so that i'd have a phone for emergencies and a way to call hostels which couldn't be booked on the internet. a sim card would also give me a stable french phone number so that i could be reached by my family and friends if necessary. above all, it was a stupid electrical gadget and would enable the full functionality of my treo and despite my best attempts i just couldn't resist. there, i've said it. so... how much. thirty five euros. [cringe]. thirty five euros? the man explained that twenty of that was for the card and the phone number and the remaining fifteen was airtime credit. he seemed honest. i could resist no longer.

back at the hostel i played around with my new toy. i tried calling the informational line to get my phone number. all in french. [sigh]. i should have known. the second i should have known today. after calling the same number and listening to the prerecorded message five or six times, i was finally able to translate the message and my phone number. i called nico; he answered and remembered me [yay]. he told me that he already had plans to meet up with some friends that evening but that i should join them. what a nice guy. we planned to meet up at one of the metro stops at around 8:30 that evening.

the shower. fairly small, but steaming hot. ah, i forgot. we didn't have a seat on our toilet. une siege. i told the gentleman at the front, who was a very nice and friendly sort... 'nous n'avons pas une siege pour notre toilette.' the first day he said he'd talk to the owners who would address the issue promptly. when the probably hadn't been corrected the second day and i told him we still didn't have a seat, he kindly said that there was another toilet on the first floor. i would guess that there hasn't been a seat on that toilet for at least six months.

some guidebook reading and then it was time to meet nico. the rain had stopped. metro -> metro -> metro, switching trains to arrive at the proper station, gare d'austerlitz. i was supposed to give him a call when i got there... the metro rides had taken longer than i'd expected and i was about fifteen minutes late. he answered and said he'd be right down. hmm... would i remember what he looked like? yes. i apologized for being late. no problem he said... he never gave his friends an arrival time because he was always late himself. more metro. much more metro.

in one of the metro stops a woman asked nico for some change. 'désolé.' AH. i logged that word into my french vocabulary.

finally at the last stop... some walking... and then arrival at benoit's house. very nice guy. i scanned his apartment and could tell immediately from the various technical books scattered about that he was a computer guy. we spoke briefly about my background and i learned he was currently unemployed and looking for a job in the technical field. after fifteen minutes or so, other guests began to arrive. i tried to absorb as much french as possible but usually was only able to pull out a few words from each sentence. at one point, benoit was speaking to nico and clearly said something along the lines of 'how much french does he understand? do you think he knows we're talking about him right now?' and then both stopped and looked at me. i hadn't been concentrating on their conversation but picked up what they'd said from context. i think, anyway. ha. this is exactly what i was looking for... i considered myself lucky to have been invited to this intimate little gathering of friends [merci nico et benoit!].

throughout the evening: accordian music streamed by an mp3 player running on linux. dancing. singing. a discussion about american politics and the war in iraq. a ricco-chet marker tattoo. the difference between france french and quebec french; example: radiohead. haribo. nico with glasses in the foreground. benoit against the far wall. elise a blur in red. anthony to her left.

the metro had stopped running. nico and i got a ride with anthony and elise to nico's apartment. portishead. god. we stayed up until the metro started running the next day at approximately 6:15. a zombie walk through the trees closely cut, to the metro, to the hotel, to sleep.

posted by paul at Sat 14 May 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

13 May 2005

and the best part, imagining

vendredi 13eme. today i visited le musée du louvre and saw priceless works of art.

art is a violently subjective subject. i thought the venus de milo and the mona lisa were beautiful, but not numbingly so, and if not for the fame and the hordes of swarming people i most likely would have stopped to look no longer than for any other piece in the museum which didn't immediately scream at me to come have a closer look. after i waited long enough to see each piece of art up close i stood back and watched the crowds of people, an entirely different but equally interesting exhibit.

Salle 18: La Venus de Milo et Un Grand Essaim des Personnes Ennuyantes.

Salle 43: La Jaconde et Un Autre Grand Essaim des Personnes Ennuyantes.

appréciez! i would estimate 80% of those mobbing the two celebrated women had a digital camera or camcorder. eighty percent. of those, approximately half were on a mission: [in the least amount of time possible] 01. find the best angle for the shot; 02. capture the image; 03. exit. the other half were on essentially the same mission but were taking their time. i saw people enter the room, push through the crowd, scan the sculpture or painting once up and down with their camcorder and then quickly exit the room. i don't think they even looked at the art with their own eyes... only through the viewfinder. as they walked away i imagined them taking out a pen and a checklist and putting a checkmark next to the appropriate item. been there. done that. have you seen the mona lisa? yes i have and i have a video to prove it. any time i want i can queue that shit right up and watch the mona lisa once up and down. want more? rewind and watch it again. up and down. instant art, whenever you want it. what, you don't believe me? oh, i'll bust that tape out, i will. don't make me. i will. don't make me. [long pause] hmm, can't find it. does this website documenting my trip count?

wow, listen to me. ignorant.art.neophyte deems himself qualified to criticize how others view artwork. okay, i take it all back. well, most of it.

for those pieces that drew me into and through the plane of the canvas or the marble, the enjoyment was being _there_. _right there_. in front of something blindingly amazing. looking at the lines up close. looking at _one particular line_. and the best part, imagining being in the same room while the artist created that one particular line. looking at one particular curve on a sculpture and imagining the artist carving that curve. [AH]. how gigantic. but to each his or her own and that's what makes things great.

random blathering about the louvre:

. the pyramid serves as the main entrance and exit and is effectively a large skylight for the giant louvre reception area.

. an entire wing of the egyptian exhibit was closed down when i was there. why are the egyptian exhibits so popular at museums? dead people.

. the louvre palace was built on the same site as a medieval castle. the foundations of the castle have been excavated and now exist as a museum exhibit. [wow] i had no idea. the official history of the louvre website. archaeology. [research]

. i came to the museum to look at the exhibits, but was very astounded by the building itself. the rooms are elaborately decorated and many of the rooms have beautiful paintings on the ceilings.

posted by paul at Fri 13 May 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

12 May 2005

about the ones still alive


my first paris morning. the leaves were damp and the air was thick and warm. a perfect day for the new city walk.

i chewed on another delicious ham and cheese baguette before walking down to the cimetiere montmartre, its entrance concealed beneath an overpass built after, the tops of the tombs almost touching, the steel built around the stone, too close i thought. i need explanation for those tombs above ground. what is the purpose of these structures? where are the bodies? do the tombs only hold the ashes or are the coffins buried beneath these structures? please, if you are informed, comment below.

she was striking, sparking thoughts about the ones still alive after, mourning, she looks so sad. usually graves don't sparkle like that, simply a name and a date. she was different.

mostly alone. the green trucks and the groundskeepers, some changing the bags from the many bins which interrupted scenes framed and then uncaptured, some in the same uniform, digging. in one case, where the ground was tiered i was able to walk on the tier next higher and look down below, into a deep grave, perhaps twelve feet below. i wish i had a picture, but in some situations, this being one, it's not appropriate to pull out a camera. in less than one thousand words: the sides of the hole as straight as possible [necessary in such close quarters], from ground level to approximately six feet down one side a slab of concrete [for support or division or a container of sorts?]. i leaned over. two men standing at the bottom [twelve feet] digging, placing dirt in a bin hanging from a machine lurking over the hole, it's engine churning, lifting and possibly ventilating [?]. the grave deep; i believe it's customary to bury the coffins one on top of each other in family plots. [?] research.

on the way out, i saw a cat in the distance look carefully around before jumping through a hole in a tomb; the hole just high enough to make it a difficult entry for her. i walked over and peered through the grating. an old wicker chair, very worn, and behind it, kittens crying beneath their mother. she looked up at me with wide wondering eyes, confused that i'd been able to find her after she'd taken such care to be stealthy, and asked how long i was going to stand there gawking. i apologized for the intrusion, complimented her on her choice of accomodation, and walked on out of the cemetary.

i decided i wanted the impact from the day before all over again. metro. concorde. [SMASH!] i hadn't had time to fully investigate the obelisk the day before and so i spent some time examining each side. modern day hieroglyphs described how it was brought to paris and pulled onto its pedestal. the stone, _so_ perfectly carved, symmetric, the flying wasps. something seemed right about this photo.

down the champs elysees, the long stretch of road which links the place de la concorde with the place charles de gaulle. lined with shops of all sorts, there i saw this futuresque bike, one of many i'd seen. others had two wheels in the back close together.

further, in the distance... rising out of the the world's largest traffic roundabout, the arc de triomphe.

more impressive (and older) pictures of the arc de triomphe:

courtesy of the us national records and archive administration:

photo 01
photo 02

courtesy of the truman presidential museum and library:

photo 03

amazing, and again i desperately tried to assemble the scraps of papers that are my high school french class memories of the arc de triomphe. right in front of me, larger than the words in the books, surrounded by a swirling vortex of cars. saw some people walking beneath... hmm, how the hell to get over there. i contemplated a mad dash across the vortex. no way, there had to be a tunnel. found it quickly [or maybe not] and down into the underground complex which also tied into the metro. seven euros to visit the arc de triomphe. seven euros. blah. i decided against it. back into the metro station, i decided to purchase a two day metro pass so i could wander freely. successful foreign language interaction. pass in hand: i was armed for massive citywide reconnaissance.

next destination: the catacombs. what's better than a crypt? a catacombs. THE catacombs. les catacombes. i found the location in my guide book and was en route. first train. second train. out and wandering the streets. after a few doublebacks i found the entrance. [internal scream: no!]. a sign indicated the catacombs wouldn't be opening until the first week of june. the internal scream died down quickly as i made tentative plans to return to paris to see the halls of bone.

next destination: place de la bastille, the location of the bastille prison, destroyed at the beginning of the french revolution on 14 july 1789. then a walk down to notre dame, rising from the seine on the ile de la cite. i grabbed a baguette from a shop directly opposite the cathedral [against the recommendation of the guide book] and ate it sitting beneath the stone. my mind assembled one of the paper jigsaw puzzles [click] which reminded me to check for the flying buttresses. i walked around to the front entrance... examining the beautiful intricately carved stonework, including the gargoyles, each unique and terrifying, and a man holding his own head, i assume saint john the baptist. those with bags were not permitted to enter; i'd come back another day without my bag to see the insides.

after a walk to the pantheon, i took the metro back to the hotel where i found nathan. we decided to walk up the hill to the basilique du sacre coeur. as we were talking in front of the amazing view of the city, the sun having departed, two high school girls approached us and asked us to take their picture. they revealed shortly after that they had heard us speaking english and wanted to practice. they were from belgium on a trip with their french class. had only studied english for four years yet they spoke almost perfectly. they explained that they'd grown up with american television with belgian subtitles. in belgium, bart simpson doesn't say 'eat my shorts'. i wish i remembered their translation. the girls were studying french, english, flemish, and german, in addition to their native belgian. foreign language is not stressed nearly as much as it should be in america; this angered me. anger might be a level too strong for my feeling; i felt somewhere between upset and angry, but closest to angry.

nathan and i decided to visit the eiffel tower before calling it a night. metro and then a walk. the yellow lights steady. the white beams rotating. later white sparkling, this only still but my movie requires a rotation before i post it. one of those 'wow, i can't believe i'm here right now' feelings.

a great ending to a very long and wonderful day.

posted by paul at Thu 12 May 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (7)

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 at Wed 11 May 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)