|Reading with the itsy bitsy Eiffel in the distant horizon|
I just cruised by the marker that reads, "You have now lived six months in England."
Why they spend tax money to build these markers, I honestly don't know.
Since moving here, I've been so conscious of how quickly some things flashbang by, while other moments are just rubbery as you wade through. One of my first jolts of "Hey, I think I could make it here" was my second British Saturday, when a perfectly jowl-lickin' bowl of beef noodle soup was gruffly thrust under my face, as some dude kept handpulling ridiculous amounts of more long white carbs. And in the months since, I've been back after visiting museums like it's a sacrament, or I'm just kinda comforted by the knowledge that it's there at the heart of Leicester Square, first little totem, light, or whatever, of home. I'm more bothered than I should be that I can no longer flop down at Noodle Bar on Cranbourn Street. It's been closed due to a serious mice infection.
I realize I've just written an ode to a vermin-encrusted noodle shack, and shared that with you all, but everyone relax, we're just going to go with it, yeah?
|Temporal hiccup, but the French followed us back to London in the form of la Cie Carabosse and their fire festival.|
|My only job here was to eat roast pork sandwiches and drink beer.|
Life here is ridiculous, and I'm guilty about being obsessive in jotting down everything in my little black Moleskine knockoff (thanks Bebe Sweetbriar). At the end of every day, I'm trying to grab at every shiny salient memory that floats to me, and often times, I'm jotting down insane details about something a woman said to us on a train, some way the rocks sounded washing out over each other, but I can't recall anything in the periphery.
After feeding me pseudo-Indian and a choco-red wine cake, Dharmender divebombs me into Dalston, the hipster heart of Hackney borough. The gay clubs are all named things like Vogue Fabrics or Dalston Superstore. But don't worry, the names have never been physically printed upon any signage.
The people in the know just kinda all know the party happens on Tuesdays and in the basement of an antique store. I wasn't particularly dressed for gyrating, so we take the cement stairs two at a time, popping out into the dappled sunlight of a rooftop garden DJ set, sitting on big factory spools and little toddler chairs.
|Nobody told me to wear my hipster dancing face.|
I'm shown a flat that has the cool bones of what used to be a massive bible-printing factory, and now it's packed with Celtic and Indian art, antlers everywhere.
Um, I'm just going to curl up here in the corner and stay.
|Tower of London's rivers of blood to commemorate WW1|
And then Chris flies in on a jetplane from SFO and survives the trek from Heathrow to show up at 3 am. We had a quick interaction where we exchange hugs, mumble where pillows are, and then throw ourselves into bed. I spend a day marveling at how strange it is to have one of your best friends suddenly teleport to London.
Chris and I meet up after I pop out of work for a Southwark Payhouse musical I won tickets for (my fourth win, I don't know who else is in the lottery), and we find out it's Brits doing a damn good job playing American bros in the Vietnam War. There is a touch too much Jersey and they can't disguise the British way of inflecting F-bombs so that it's "fockin." But there is a lot of gratuitous wardrobe changes, and we feel like we're being trolled.
|And the set is actually a giant golden gate bridge opening up to the audience.|
We have a canteen dinner subsidised by the Malaysian embassy, swing by a Sikh temple and leave with a nugget of karah parshad, semolina halvah made with thirds of flour, butter, and sugar. The daily diabetes meter hadn't been met yet, so Dharma brings us through the rough-and-tumble gangbanger side of Shepherd's Bush (I often think about how dangerous the States feels compared to the threats here), and we down some chocolate torte and Irish tea.
Lincoln arrives the next evening, the background scenery shifts and swings, we wake up at 4 am to trundle to St. Pancras. The Eurostar is sleek in a way that I imagine the 1980s to be, and the quiet Indian mother with her two kids in the same seat quartet with me keeps silently passing me snack food as we watch the French countryside wake up. #universeprovides
The XX had excellent timing here, and some quiet and delicate electronica random-tumbled at me.
I miss the other ferret, and I'm in the Chunnel, David pointing out to me that it's the largest underwater tunnel on the planet.
And then we're in Paris.
|The Seine with its deep fast currents|
We hop on a bus, broadcasting apparently so loud and clear we're from the US that a French woman loudly whines in French about how the Americans take up too much space with their bags. And before we even unload in the flat, I've traded some Monopoly euro-money for a sizeable wedge of apricot flan.
|Tarte aux abricots, I can respect your thick badass self.|
Perched on the 8th floor on one of the few hills in the city, we work our way downhill towards Le Marais, catching up with Tristan, and I'm just marveling at every endless balcony.
|Our first introduction to how formal French gardens are obsessed with lines. And conical shrubs. So many cones.|
|Yeah, Paris is just like I imagined. And it's comforting while still gorgeous.|
And then we are in front of Notre Dame. Copper green machine-men climb the church buttresses while we take a butch picture out on the paved foundations of the original town village.
|Chris doing a double take from the frontal view.|
|No diplomatic maritime incidents in ToyBoatLand while we were present.|
Baguettes are legally required to be a certain length and price in Paris, and Tristan has to gently guide us forward as we are inclined to slow to a gaping stop in front of each bakery and bread shop.
Naptime in a 13th century colliseum tucked behind some buildings was amazing, and we're slumped like harpies on the terraced stoneas we comment on some cubby guy in aquamarine pastel pants practicing for what's probably the world championship of lawn bowling.
Lunch was takeout from a Lebanese nook, toasty garlicky chicken wraps smeared with just enough sauce. Then more walking through little streets, little turns. And then goat cheese stuffed into tiny plump peppers.
Faces squinted from walls, and streets arched slowly over the Seine, while the best ice cream in Paris was met with apathy.
|Outside the Shakespeare and Company bookshop|
We squeal with manly delight upon finding slow wifi in a park with just the one intended cathedral tower before resting up in a Scottish pub that I wilfully believed into being "clearly so clearly Irish."
We're sleep deprived so the two IPA pints give me a buzz that seeps across my head as we walk through the Jardin de Luxembourg, square trees, toy sailboats crisscrossing a giant fountain surrounded by flowers. There's a quick exhibition of overly earnest art about gender and water use in Benin.
I'm fascinated as usual by our first French supermarket experience at Monoprix, everything so foreign and yet easily slotted into where it would fit in your daily life to have chestnut paste or piping fresh crepes readily available. Lincoln casually overdoses himself on cheap chocolate and little gummies shaped like Coke bottles and then rolled in more sugar.
It's hard to believe that we're not just in a recreation of Paris, and once we've gotten past that, we're already imagining the city folding across its median, buildings stacking neatly upside down.
|I have no sense of the significance of our setting, which is clearly just a French parking lot.|
|Synagogue in Le Marais|
Either way, there are no bears to be seen, and the two of us make an order for drink that defaults to the cheapest beer in the house. We're red and orange from little lamps as we catch up, and yes, I'll have another one of those.
I break the sacred vow about not working on holiday but it's not because small angry people are jumping on my shoulder, so I finish up an OECD complaint at 1 am while watching the Eiffel Tower sputter and sparkle in the quiet dark.
Five minutes later, the light show ends and I'm already wrapped in a blanket on my corner futon.
First day in Paris, not so shabby.
More adventures soon.
|Too sleep-deprived for blue steel.|