Summer of France 6

Paris (again) for a day – Tuesday, August 6, 2002

Sleeper car

12:05am we were on the train standing in the end of the hallway in the open area near the bathroom. Actually, I was standing partly in the bathroom, holding my bass up and making room for the other five of us and our luggage mountain. The bathroom reeked like train bathrooms do. Like a thousand urinations had taken place in it and not a single one had ever been thoroughly flushed. For this reason I urged my traveling companions start moving luggage towards the sleeper car.

We had first-class reservations but ended up in a non-first-class compartment. That meant all six of us were in one sleeper car. It took about 15 minutes for the guys to get the luggage in the room, which was an amazing feat. Moe came back to help us out but there wasn’t much else he could do. There was luggage above in the luggage rack and luggage on the floor between the beds.

If you’ve ever been in a sleeper car, you know that the hallways are approximately shoulder width. Shoulder width if you’re thinner than I am. And the compartment itself is also pretty tiny. There were three beds on each side. Lower, middle, top. I was in the middle. There are two straps that run vertically from lower to middle to top bed to the roof of the compartment. I think they actually hold the beds up. Otherwise, you can fold the bed down and have more room. Each bed is about body width and comes equipped with a little fake-leather pillow cushion, a thin blanket that one could wriggle into like a sleeping bag and ear plugs to drown out all the train sounds. Also, just to provide a little context, when on your respective bed there isn’t enough vertical room to sit upright. There isn’t even enough room to do a decent stomach crunch. It’s a very cramped, claustrophobia-inducing situation and it isn’t meant for upright comfort so much as horizontal necessity.

As we all lay in our beds, a few things became obvious. We were all very tired. We were all still damp and viscous from our walk to the train station in the rain. We all stunk. And last but not least, the window wouldn’t open. I think Noah put it best when he calmly said, “If someone doesn’t open that window I’m going to die. Literally die.”

After some effort and a good bit of teamwork, Brandon and Noah managed to open the window. I’ve never been so happy to breathe and we all briefly worshiped them. Everyone fell asleep and of course it got too cold.

We woke up at the last stop, which was our destination in Paris and then took taxis to the Viator Hotel near the Gare de Lyon.

On the Streets of Paris Again

We checked into the hotel, two to a room, napped for about two hours, cleaned up and then went to the Les Halles area to go shopping. I walked to Sunside, a jazz club, which was closed and didn’t have anything happening that night. But I grabbed a flyer just in case.

We split up and eventually met, as planned, at/under the Eiffel Tower where we played hackey sack. I had satisfied my shoe shopping frustration earlier when I found the Timberland sandals in my size that I had been hunting for since Grenoble. They turned out to be perfect hackey sack shoes. I still stink at it, but it was a start. I also got a nice, new black cap. We took the metro back to Gare de Lyon and ate at an Italian restaurant.

Good food. French people, probably many European cultures, really take their time when they’re eating or socializing. People will sit in restaurants forever even after the meal having cheese, dessert, coffee, a smoke. If you want to get attitude from someone working in a French restaurant, rush them and ask for the check right after you finish your meal. They love that. It was one of the few snooty moments we experienced.

After dinner, I stopped by one of the tiny grocery stores you find in the city and picked up some fruit. Later I returned to the grocery store with Brandon and we had an adventure trying to ask for tape. He was looking for duct tape or something similar to tape up his bag, which had developed a hole. We did lots of pantomiming but were unsuccessful. I mentioned papier. Then when we were looking at glue trying to think of how to expand this concept to adhesive tape, the clerk figured it out. His two young sons had been running around bringing random things they thought matched our charades but it turns out to be “Scotch”.

We packed. Woke up the next morning and got taxis to the airport.

Traveling – Wednesday, August 7, 2002

The airport was a mess. There were multiple lines, each over an hour long, and no one knew which line was for which flight. It turns out that it really didn’t matter. About 20 minutes before the flight was taking off they rounded everyone up for that particular flight. I guess the lines were ultimately there to give the travelers something to complain about and keep them in a semi-orderly arrangement. It was mayhem in there.

But we got on board just fine with a minimum of sprinting this time, despite the fact that we had gotten there early and … well, what can you do, huh. It’s an airline.

At JFK we had to get our luggage from the baggage area and take it another area so it could be reloaded onto a domestic flight. I slept most of the time. From New York to SFO I sat next to a very nice and attractive young woman from Sausalito. I think that’s right. It’s near San Francisco but everytime I hear the name Sausalito I think of some place in the desert in southern California. She showed me a gadget she bought that was a language dictionary/translator. I had been looking for something like that before the trip but didn’t know what I was looking for. It had the main European languages. You type in a word then it shows you the French word and also a few useful sentences pertaining to that word. I’ve got to get one of those.

Anyway, she was a great traveling companion. No offense to my colleagues (I was traveling with just the singers minus Pia). I just happened to be sitting in a two seat configuration to one side of the group. She was a very cool, motivated, driven person who knew when it was time to sleep. A junior in high school who will probably have her pick of any college she chooses. I never did learn what her name was.

We arrived at the airport after spending too much time on a plane. The girlfriends/boyfriends of everyone in the group were there to meet them except Noah, whose girlfriend was also traveling at the time. We said our goodbyes and then began the return to normal life. I got a cab back to my apartment in Dismal City. Taking the cab was like a continuation of the adventure. Arriving at my apartment was the denouement.

Epilogue So that’s it. I felt like I spent a life time over there. I guess two and a half weeks is a long time to be away from home. I’ll have to do that again with friends and/or family. I’ve caught the travel bug. If anyone reading this has any travel notions in the future let me know. Maybe I’ll be financially solvent by then.

Thanks to anyone who has read all of this and made it this far. And thanks to Brandon, Pia, Janna, Noah, Kenny, Sadie, Roger, Walt, Moe, Herve and all the others for making this one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. And to my family who have been propping up my Bay Area totalitarian regime with vigorous funding from lucrative arms sales, making it possible for me to take this trip and still have a roof over my head when I returned.

Whew. Finally finished this thing. If I make any modifications or revisions I’ll demarcate it somehow so you know.

Take care and come back to my website soon to see when and where I’m gigging.

Peace and love.

-g

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