Posted By Caulimovirus on April 7, 2008
“Notes From A Moleskin”
.: It’s been a while since I promised part nine of my trip to Europe. Dedicated readers will recall I spent the early part of August first in London then in Paris. My meanderings in the former are well-documented; less so for the latter.
.: One nice habit I picked up during the French portion of the trip was note-taking. I wrote rough drafts of the London posts at night and uploaded final versions in the morning. In Paris, I bought a small moleskin pocketbook to keep record as things happened instead of trying to remember them all at once. It’s a practice I keep to this day, but it unfortunately reinforced my proclivity for not completing assignments after taking rudimentary notes.
.: I’ve burned through four moleskins since my August trip, and now we’ve just said our goodbyes to the beginning of April. When I searched my desk for a fresh pocketbook, I found the original that I hadn’t touched since France. Fancy struck and I decided to finally give my faithful readers at least a glimmer of what might have been had I continued the series in a more timely manner.
.: The only roadblocks are a limited memory and a confusing notation. I’m sure I could at one time understand a note that read “‘Frayed rope shaped like rollercoaster’ – Neal Stephenson,” but I’m afraid any ability to decipher this code has long since atrophied. I do hope you’ll forgive me for condensing a week-long excursion to a single post when I was able to tease out eight posts for an equally long interval in London.
.: I can only assume these notes were taken in chronological order, as I see no point for me to have written them haphazardly. Nevertheless, as there is no overarching narrative to which I need adhere, it makes no difference in which order I present them. Let’s start with some helpful advice:
Don’t look directly at the according players or they’ll make you pay.
.: Did you know if somebody pays attention to you when you perform music in a public place, you can be an obnoxious turd and demand money for your unsolicited services? Did you know if you don’t want to be hassled by no-talent subway gypsies you have to keep your gaze unflinchingly straight and never once let loose an expression that could be confused for enjoyment? If you didn’t, you might find yourself flustered, annoyed, and five Euros lighter.
Asking “Where are the toilets?” in French is useless.
.: Oscar taught me how to say OÃ¹ sont les toilettes?, but he neglected to mention what deuxiÃ¨me niveau, trois salles de bas, sur la droite means. The kind employee who gave the directions probably expected me to leave upon receiving them, but I had no idea what he said. I sheepishly asked again in English, and he responded in kind. I suppose the gesture is not entirely useless. I hear the French are much friendlier when you at least attempt their language before you use English. To that end, a more apt translation for OÃ¹ sont les toilettes? is “Okay, I tried.”
Lanes are democratic constructs.
.: Riding in cabs taught me interesting facts about Parisian culture. One is that French cabbies can and do both read and drive, and the other is that road lanes are one notch bellow suggestion, as ignorable as an elementary school hall monitor is to a trespassing middle schooler. I also looked forward to driving on the right side of the road once more, but nearly all streets in Paris are one-way, so the effect was lost.
“Pharamacie, where they sell drugs, and Parapharmacie, where they sell magic.”
.: Cheap, affordable health care awaits every citizen of France on nearly every street corner. Pointless, ineffective pseudoscience, on the other hand, awaits every citizen on every other street corner. I forget the logos which distinguish one from the other, but knowing the difference can help prevent you from purchasing overpriced sugar water.
“Fun Fact, Cody: this post office is privatized, so you can threaten to kill the employees and it won’t be a federal offense.”
.: Sometimes a knowledgeable guide is the most important thing to bring with you.
Indian music sounds like two songs competing for the same radio frequency.
.: This, I’m afraid, is a fact.
Wonderful view of the wing.
.: The flight home had me seated next to a window which for the duration of the flight overlooked the riveted steel wing of the aircraft. I mentioned this to Oscar, and he suggested instead of transparent windows they should just install “pull-down frowny faces.”
Holy water splashdown.
.: I’ve criticized religions before, but one response I often receive goes something like, “Why can’t you just leave other people’s beliefs alone if they aren’t harming anyone else?” One could reasonably ascribe holy water and other similar sacraments the status of harmless belief, but only if one’s baggage didn’t arrive before a large canister of holy water burst on the baggage claim conveyor.
Airport Customs – making rubber stamping come alive!
.: Oscar shared with me the secret for smuggling goods past customs agents: you lie. They asked questions and accepted any answer we gave them. No, I do not have any alcoholic beverages or illegal substances on me or my baggage, but oops! I accidentally carried over some unregistered livestock. Thank god you asked.
Wonderful service at IHOP.
.: Fresh off the plane, Oscar, his sister, and I went to an IHOP by the airport, where we ordered water, with ice, which was refilled whenever we ran low. It was the best service we’d had in two weeks.