Paris Trip 2012

Day 1 - 9/14/2012 & 9/15/2012

12:52 PM - Off to Paris!

I really should give up drinking coffee. I get so impatient waiting. While it is too early, I must move.

On the F train to the airport, a woman wearing a Niqab is working on a laptop. There is a young girl in plaid pants with a tattoo of a pig on her left forearm. The pig's trumpet-shaped snout is charming. I am thinking about how the experience of moving changes the perception of time. How an hour feels quicker when physically in motion, even if sitting on a train. It is if the movement itself is an analog for elapsing time.

I change from the A to the the Airtrain. At Howard Beach, it runs alongside an idyllic tidal creek called Hawtree. A fishing bird dives for food. I have a deep desire to fish the creek. If I lived here I would roam these banks every day.

The plane, operated by Aer Lingus out of Ireland, whose shamrock logo is strangely warped, is huge and full. My knees are pinned by the seat ahead of me. 7 hours to go. I worry how my body will suffer from the world of small people. I read The Complete Angler by Izaak Walton until my eyes tire. Thankfully, there are movies. I watch Salmon Fishing in Yemen, a predictable, forgettable movie and Cabin in the Woods, a quirky movie by Josh Whedon. I can't sleep and endure the hours grimly.

At last, Dublin. 5:00 am. I am so tired. It is too dark to see anything outside the plane or the airport. I feel a thrill thinking on my Irish heritage and try to imagine the O'Carrolls living in this country so long ago. The airport is staffed by 7 people. It is quiet, all metal and glass and well-lit. I haven't spoken to anybody since I left Brooklyn. There is a 2 hour wait for the plane to Paris.

This time I have an exit row with 2 empty seats. A young American named Alan, tall and fresh-faced, moves from his cramped seat up front into my row. We chat. He has been to Paris before and offers unrequested advice, such as, to use the back entrance to the Louvre (there isn't one) and beware of pickpockets and bed-bugs. At the airport, I meet his wife. She has married a child.

7:20 am. Paris! I stumble about with jet lag. Anna sent me a ticket for the RER B train but it hadn't arrived by the time I left. I'm next in line at the ticket machine when an American woman taps me on the shoulder and asks if I want a ticket. She had bought it thinking she would have time to go into Paris but didn't. I thank her profusely.

All of the corridors leading to the train are closed. I don't understand - is it my jet-lag?, am I stupid? - and ask 2 harried young women what is happening. Because of maintenance, the trains are not running directly to the airport. There is a huge queue waiting to be shuttled to the next train station, Mitry-Claye. When my turn comes, I board a packed bus not really knowing where I am headed. 20 minutes later, we arrive. The town and station looks like a military base used by UNIT on the old Doctor Who show. I am tired and stink but grateful to be on the train.

The trees and shrubs have waxy leaves characteristic of dry environments like the Mediterranean and I am impressed by the large fields outside the airport. The wheels of the RER B have a unique sound, like muffled, clinking glass. I read, "...they say that God enjoys himself only by a contemplation of his own infiniteness, eternity, power, and goodness, and the like..." Such a strange concept. But indeed, what would a god, outside time, do? The universe runs itself. Does he have hobbies in his retirement?

The houses along the route have tile roofs. We pass Vert Galant station, the nickname of King Louis IV. I see beehives at Sevran Livry. At last, after nearly an hour, I arrive at Denfert-Rochereau station. I climb the stairs and stand for a moment on the streets of Paris. This place is a tangled mess. I bumble around trying to find Ave. Renee de Coty. It was only after I realize that the street signs were on the houses, not on poles, that I found it. I am now oriented and on my way!.

I meet Anna at her apartment, where I am staying. It is great to see her again after almost 20 years. The apartment is small, but beautiful, a place long lived-in. She shows me the idiosyncrasies of the place - a garbage chute (we need more chutes in our lives) - and we make plans to meet later. We are going to take Lucy, her four-footed companion for the next 2 weeks for her walk. She advises me not to sleep, then leaves.

I stay awake as long as possible but I succumb. After an hour nap, I wake, refreshed, shower, then walk the mile or so to meet Anna and Lucy. We take her to the Eiffel Tower so she can play in the dog park. The French don't neuter their dogs, nor are many walked on leases. Lucy had a blast playing with the others. A giant mastiff oversees the games, frequently checking on the others, but not getting involved with chasing the tennis ball or wrestling.

As the sun sinks, we sit on the lawn, talk, and wait for the sparkling lights of the tower. The lawn is filled with people. They eat and drink. After dark, the tower is illuminated. Every so often, it is set afire with a sparkling light show. We leave for dinner, then arrange to meet the next day at Napoleon's tomb, the glittering dome that captured my attention on our walk to the park. I go home to sleep, utterly exhausted.

My Plane to Dublin

RER-B Ticket from Anna - I still haven't opened it

Denfert-Rochereau, My Home Metro Stop

My New Friend Lucy - at the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower at Dark

The View from the Apartment