For the next few weeks, Mik Awake: Unusually Tired will be going international. Starting…now.
So, not to brag or anything, because I know how much we like to exoticize the French and their lifestyle, and their cuisine, but I’m sitting here in a place called Le Conti in the St. Germain section (borough?) of Paris. If you're ever here again, their WiFi password is Romeo.
This whole city should have a "No Homo" logo projected onto it from outer space.
I’m eating a smoked salmon sandwich on hard bread. It is above average. I am drinking a 1664, which I didn’t realize was a French beer until an hour ago, and the streets in front of me (sigh) are narrow of width but probably wide with history. Folks seem to have an unhealthy love of motor scooters here. They also have this cool bike rental thing where you can pick up a bike from various parts of the city by putting money in a machine and dropping it off somewhere else. Genius. Although the distrustful New York side of me coupled with the bored suburban high schooler part of me wonders what would happen if you just never returned it. I guess the French trust each other more than we do. Or you have to have some kind of online account. Sorry. I didn’t think that I’d be thinking about this bike rental program so much.
Anyway, I haven’t addressed the elephant in Le Room. What the fuck am I doing in Paris on a Thursday afternoon? Answer: I’m killing a few hours before my flight to Addis Ababa, my final port of entry. (The subject of a post to come very soon.) I decided to venture out from Charles de Gualle, where my things are hopefully safely chilling in a locker manned by an Asian dude who seems to hate his job. (Dear Asian Dude, please don’t steal my grandmother’s cans of powdered Ensure.)
It’s funny, but I don’t know shit about Paris. I have this sinking feeling that I’m eating lunch right now in the kind of place that I’d never eat at in New York. Am I at the equivalent of some Upper East Side bistro? Am I at a Chelsea brasserie where they serve humorless food for humorless Parisian yuppies? One never knows unless one has lived in a place for long enough…or has cool Parisian friends who know the deal. I basically just saw the smartly advertised “WiFi” sign and hopped on a beige wicker chair of my own.
My flight to Paris from Atlanta was a bit delayed, which I never usually have a problem with, except this time, I happened to be sitting next to a dude was the spitting image of W. H. Auden, except with mechanic hands, a gruff smoker’s cough, and a worn-in NASCAR hat. As a matter of fact, I think it actually was Auden.
After Auden took his seat next to me, he pulled out an Arby’s chicken salad sandwich, apparently distrusting Delta’s promise of dinner, and just then an effeminate male flight attendant was approaching him with a duty free bag. I could see through the translucent plastic that inside was a carton of Marlboro Reds.
“Mr. Auden,” said the flight attendant.
“Yeah,” said Auden.
“Do you have your receipt for this duty free item you purchased?”
“What?” said Auden. For a second, I couldn’t tell if he was upset, annoyed, or hard of hearing. He reached for the bag. “No, I don’t have my receipt.”
The flight attendant pulled the bag back. “Then, I’m sorry I can’t give this to you without a receipt.”
Auden, though I couldn't see his leathery, wrinkle-wracked face, must have had chunks of chicken salad flying out of his mouth as he says, furiously, “Well how did you know that it was for me!”
The flight attendant turns on his heels and leaves in a huff, apparently to go talk it over with someone from the duty free department. That’s when Auden, out of nowhere, yells, “HEY!” Really loud and raspy, and as if to punctuate this, he drops half of his sandwich on the floor of the aisle. “Oh, that’s great,” he says as the flight attendant and most of the other people in the cabin begin to realize that our formerly sane, comfortable flight has been infiltrated by a deranged British poet.
This was only the beginning. After he finally got his cigarettes, and the flight attendant cattily returned his “Thanks” with a drawn out “Mmmmm-hmmmm….,” then came the grumbling to no one in particular about the long amount of time we were spending taxiing in the runway, waiting to take-off.
I’d be lying if I said his periodic comments (“Let us off the plane!”) didn’t rile me. Finally, we took off, and Auden settled down and (of course) finished both halves of his sandwich, even the fallen one.
A couple fitful hours of sleep and a few hours of reading later and voila! Here I am in this French café with wireless and a few Algerian dudes who are impressed by the speed of my typing. I’m about to put them on to Maino. Bye haters, and hello Addis.