Paris: Ehhhhh

20 Nov

Ah, Paris, The City of Lights, or Love…it’s a city in France, that much I know.  I’ve been there too.  Not for very long and not for any meaningful purpose but I was there.  I can look people in their eye’s and tell them, “I have been to Paris.”  How many people can do that?  Millions you say? Well then…allow me to differentiate myself from these hoards of part-time Parisians.

I arrived in Paris from Dublin via Ryan-air.  Ryan-air, for anyone who hasn’t been to Europe, is basically the cheapest most terrifying way to get around the continent.  Granted, I tend to lean towards being a huge pussy when it comes to flying in general, but Ryan-air brought a new sense of immediate danger to the experience.  The prices alone are enough to strike fear into the heart of any amateur traveler.  How can they afford to fly an airplane with these prices?  What are they skipping out on to make this happen?  Is there a pilot?  Is he over 18?  The flight went off without incident, however, besides the landing where the plane’s wings alternated attempts at clipping the runway before the pilot leveled the bird out last minute and spared our lives.

I had a connect in Paris.  A friend of a friend’s little brother.  He was from Ghana and his father was somehow involved in Politics enough to allow the son to live in an expensive part of Paris and go to school at a prestigious University.  I’m not going to lie, I found Paris to be prosaic.  The invention of the postcard and internet ruined many of the popular sights for me, and cities typically are fighting an uphill battle to begin with.  I thrive off desolation or at least remoteness.  I saw what needed to be seen; the Parthenon, Notre Dame and the Eiffel tower’s light show (actually very impressive) then made my way to find Sasha—the African politician’s son.

He lived in a ritzy part of Paris in an apartment the size of the office in which I am currently farting.  Tiny, is my point.  No wider than a queen sized bed and maybe 12 feet deep, the entire apartment would have made a cramped mud room.  I am not one to judge a man by his habitation though, and anyways, Sasha was in the process of rolling a colossal joint when I cautiously knocked on the door.  I was with Hodge and Joe still and when we saw the weed, we celebrated like we were not  going to be spending 3 days in Amsterdam in the immediate future.  Sasha added some tobacco to the mix to make the joint formally a spliff, something I had little experience in.  Elation was wide spread.

We smoked the spliff and talked.  I grilled Sasha about growing up in Africa.  I was especially intrigued because I had really only read and heard stories about the worst that Africa has to offer in terms of living conditions.  I had never heard a tale of a cushy, African existence such as Sasha’s.  He was very humble and attempted to leave any blatant symbols of wealth out of his stories, but I coaxed him into spilling the beans about what other children thought of his fancy go-kart and other socio-economic questions that were burning their way out of my skull.

Conversation began to wane, as it is so apt to do so, we sat as if huddled around a campfire and passed the joint around as a strange reality show flickered on Sasha’s 18” television.   It appeared to be a dating show in which unattractive city-dwelling women moved out into the country to try and win the heart of either;  an apathetic  and charmingly awkward farmer or, a stoic, miserable bastard—who also happened to be a farmer.  I hated Paris, and apparently so did the middle aged women who inhabited the dirty, snobbish city.  No one on the show would be allowed on any television series produced in the States.  These contestants were far more human than what the American public lusts for.

Eventually, contently stoned we took to the streets to grab some food and wine and experience Paris as a group.  I am not a wine enthusiast but I was willing to try, I was willing to get drunk.  We spent most of the day walking along the river, drinking and eating and talking.  I bought a postcard of a 1920’s model showing her bare ass and sent it to a friend of mine, took a couple pictures of old buildings and tried to feel some connection with this famous city.  I was struggling.  As the evening wore on, we upgraded our booze of choice to whiskey.

We were a distance away from the ritzy neighborhood Sasha was staying in.  At—and I have no idea why as I wrote little in my journal about it—an Armenian owned pizza shop in a rough-looking part of Paris.  Hodge had managed to ration his bath salt in such a way that he had some remaining on him. He kept the bag in his pocket on the flight from Dublin to Paris using the rationale that if it had been bought legally in Ireland, surely one could not be punished for transporting it across borders.  In hindsight, Hodge probably got pretty lucky.  Being a generous individual, he had provided each of us a little bump and the nasty chemicals had our brains firing electric pulses faster than our mouths could interpret.  We were all discussing France’s legal attitude towards Marijuana when we noticed Sasha was having a hard time keeping his eyes open.   Being responsible young adults, we giggled and hustled out into the streets to get the shlub home.

As we rode the last line of the subway before we were to get off at Sasha’s stop, he rolled his eyes to his head and said, “You will not make it back, everything’s dead in five minutes.”

Fortunately for our spirits, we did not take much heed to the man’s words.  He was shitfaced, who knew what he was actually trying to say. It also sounded very morbid which displeased me and drove me further to ignore the statement all-together.  So, we walked him up to his tiny place and laid him down in his tiny bed before making our way back into the dark, piss-scented subway.

At least we tried to get back into the dark, piss-scented subway.  Sure enough, in the ten minutes it took us to get Sasha situated, the clock has struck midnight and all forms of public transportation were now dead for the night.  The four of us had been staying with a host-family in a suburb outside of Paris—again cashing in on free, albeit inconvenient accommodations–so walking out of the city would have been a day’s journey. Basically, we could try to find a cab and pay out our asses for a ride, we could spend the night walking (at least making some kind of progress) or we could wait it out for Six hours until the subways opened up again in the morning.  Without much hesitation we settled on the latter.

Not wanting to awake Sasha, and not wanting to cram four people into an apartment that was uncomfortable for two, we started aimlessly strolling the empty streets of Paris.  It was especially deserted, like an apocalyptic zombie flick.  Somehow the idea of heading to “Sin Island” was floated to the group and remarkably it received tremendous support from everyone but me.

Here is how Sin Island had been described to me earlier in the day by Hodge’s little brother who was acting as our tour guide of Paris: Sin Island is a narrow island in the River Seine that stretches a couple miles or so.  At one end is a contemptible replica of the Statue of Liberty which, in a hilarious twist of what I imagine might be irony, was given to the French by America.

We see your huge statue and raise you the same statue except smaller.

On the other end was a park or some bullshit that I never saw.  The most important aspect of the description of “Sin Island” was that it was primarily populated by homosexual heroin users looking to shoot up and have some freaky, outdoor gay sex.  With all that said, I found myself feeling a bit like a coward for not wanting to head that way at One in the morning.

“Dude, they’re heroin addicts, I’m sure you could outrun any of’em if things got weird,” said one companion.

“Come on, Man.  It’s my birthday.  You didn’t fly a thousand miles to just see tourist sites, did you?” Said another.

Again, I had no idea what the motivation of my friends was in this situation.  None are homosexual and none do heroin, but for whatever reason the combination of the two seemed irresistible to them.  They had somehow challenged my manliness by automatically assuming it was fear of the unknown—rather than a general uneasiness   towards ambling down an island known for hard drugs and gay sex—that kept me from experiencing the single most spectacularlyadventurous  time of my life . Like jumping out of a helicopter into the Grand Canyon on ecstacy except the helicopter was a dirty stone stairwell, the Grand Canyon was a dark island with the shadiest description I had ever heard in my life and the ecstacy was Nothing. They tapped into my pride as a wannabe-explorer and after a meek struggle I found myself descending a graffiti-riddled, cement staircase down below a bridge…to Sin Island.

Immediately upon descending into the grimy darkness, we ran into a group of teenagers hanging out around a park bench.  Seeing both sexes mingling amongst the group and no needles in our immediate view, we approached the shady clan.  As it would turn out these French youths were about as pleasant and inviting as could possibly be asked for.  They passed around another joint mixed with tobacco and we passed around some of the whiskey that still remained.  Wine was eventually added to the mix and the once polite, hesitant conversations unfurled into philosophical and political debates, lectures and reaffirmations.

I was incredibly impressed by their knowledge of American government.  We were not at a ritzy boarding school or conference for gifted European students, we were on Sin Island at—now approaching–Three in the morning, smoking pot under a bridge and yet one young woman was telling me how it was unfair to hate President Bush because he “was merely a puppet of Dick Cheney.”  I was patting myself on the back for being able to tell her the last name of the President of France and she was rattling off in-depth political theories that 90% of American ADULTS are not capable of formulating.  She would go on to explain how Dick Cheney was truly pulling the strings and thus deserved the ire of the entire planet.  I responded by reciting a lyric from the Moulin Rouge song that was popular a couple years prior to my trip that included a cheesey stream of French words.  This made her laugh but I died a little inside.  Stupid, stupid fucking Americans.

The group meandered off to play frisbee at a park at the other end of the island.  Seeing as the subways would be open in a couple more hours and our energy reserves were near depletion we declined the invitation to join them and headed back to Sasha’s apartment to ruin his night.  The three of us slept on the floor, huddled together like rodents, as I pondered the blossoming realization of my own ignorance.

Later on I would find out it was called Seine Island, as in the River Seine.  Apparently the heroin and sex were merely a couple unpleasant aspects of an otherwise youthful and almost charming after-hours haunt.

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