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The Paris Diet

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

Back in June of last year, I got this crazy obsession to spend a month in Paris.  In those foggy days in my little apartment at the beach in San Diego, this obsession seemed to totally take over my life for like, I don’t know, 72 hours.  Maybe that doesn’t seem like too long but it was as I was TOTALLY obsessing.  Also I didn’t have a lot of money in the bank, and that made me obsess even more.

Well, enough about obsessing.  Whatever happened in that 72 hours, I managed to find an apartment for 1000 euros for the month, and I managed to convince myself (with the help of quite a few other people, who also obsess a lot about Paris, I have a feeling) that I could live here, for 25 euros per day after rent.

Well, now I am here.  For a month!  And the rent is paid. Now I have to stick to the rest, but I already kind of blew it.

I got here yesterday.  The only snafus of the day were at the airport – I needed to get a crapload of euros (like 800) to pay for my apartment when I got here, and the first ATM I went to was first shut down, then opened back up a few minutes later, then said my card(s) were no good.  So I checked with an info guy and he directed me to an ATM in another terminal.  En route I had a fairly comical interaction which was indeed so comical, I’m not completely sure I would even consider it a snafu.  I was pushing my cart with my stuff on there, and there was a sort of cart “accident” in front of me, so I slowed down but the guy in front of me, who was one of the ones in the cart accident, backed up and grazed his heel on my cart.  He about had a meltdown there.  He was going on like I had severed an artery or something… seriously, he could not have felt anything unless he was one of those glass people like that dude in Amelie.  Anyway after that 5 seconds of fuss I was at the other ATM and got the money and got a cab and then voila, I was here.

Once I got here, and got into my little attic apartment in the Bastille area, I went out for lunch then supplies.  This is where I sort of blew my budget, on my very first day.  Actually, after spending 45 euros on a taxi and then 1000 on the apartment, I was kind of like “what the hell I just won’t count day one.”  So I went out and spent 20 euros on some substandard Thai food and crap wine and then another 75 euros but on a lot of food and 4 bottles of wine.  It doesn’t count, plus it is going to make the next few days way easier!  After this though, it is all about the budget.

In the late afternoon, after unpacking all my goodies, I took a short nap and then walked down to the Seine and the Notre Dame.  There weren’t that many people in front of Notre Dame, but there sure were a lot of youngsters drinking down on the quai.  Which brings me to this: there are a lot of youngsters drinking in public in general.  Now, I am not against public drinking, in fact I am a serious advocate of it.  As long as those involved are nice about it and don’t litter.  Or sit in the way of folks from the neighborhood who are out for a walk, especially if you are going to play quarters with a couple of 12-packs of Kronenburg.   I was crossing a bridge over the canal that leads up to the Place de la Bastille to get back home, and there are these concrete post thingies coming up at either end, and some kid is passing me with his beer and then proceeds to deposit his empty bottle, right there on the post.  Dude.  Can you not find one of the gazillion garbage cans the city of Paris has put all over the friggen place?  This is one of the moments when I really truly wish I was born with the language gene. (If someone can please tell me, how to say “Pick up that bottle and put it in the garbage, young whippersnapper!” that would be great.  (Only, if you are going to suggest a comparable French word for whippersnapper, please don’t mess with me and give me word that would get me in trouble with the whippersnapper and/or the police.)

The Place de la Bastille was a little nutty too.  Heck, I thought all the partying I saw there before was due to the Techno parade that I went to twice there.  Wrong!

I love my street though and there is everything you could possibly want or need within a five minute walk.  And the only thing I can hear, even though the crazy Place de la Bastille is right up the street, are the birds singing.

Today I got a bit of a late start (normal for me) and had no real plan, but it being a beautiful day, and a Saturday, I headed out to the Parc Villette. Got on the subway, and of course some weirdo sits next to me.  He starts poking me and I just shake my head.  He pokes me again.  I shake my head again.  He pokes me again.  Asks me if I speak French.  No, I say.  Espanol?  No, Italian.  Heh.  That shut him up.  (By the way I don’t really speak Italian.) Then he pokes a woman standing in front of us.  I think he asked her for the time, because she sort of smiled and pointed at her wrist a la “dude, you have a watch.” But he poked her again so she told him the time, then he got up and left.  Me and her exchanged a shrug, the “what a weirdo” shrug which, thankfully, is kind of universal.  My first full day in Paris, and already I have the What a Weirdo Shrug Exchange with a local.  Awesome!

There is not much green space in Parc Villette, but a lot of museums and an exhibition hall and a merry go round.  It is big, a canal runs through it, and it was packed with families enjoying the warm weather with their kids.  As it is everywhere, it was fun to watch the little kids run and play.  The rock venue the Zenith is there; and there were a lot of young girls sitting in a long line waiting to get the spot on the rail for this evening’s show.  I had no idea who it was so went to see if I could hear what appeared to be a sound check.  But it was Sting singing King of Pain and there is no way, no how these girls are lining up for Sting.  Turns out it is Enrique Iglesias. Also, that was not a sound check.  Unless Mr. Iglesias is covering a Sting song, something I highly doubt.

I took the metro back to Oberkampf, then walked all the way back up the Canal St. Martin.  The whole canal was lined with people hanging out, talking, playing music, eating, drinking.  I even saw four chicks playing an accordian and three wind instruments.  I walked and walked, back towards the Bastille, sort of having a race with a tourist canal boat.  I’d be way in front, but then I would stop to look at something, and the boat would catch up.  Then I was in front, then I stopped to buy an orange.  Then the boat was in front.  As you can see, traveling with me is a thrill a minute.  I did learn that when the tourist boat on the Canal St. Martin has to be lowered in those lock thingys, it makes the most cool refreshing breeze.  Kind of like walking into a cave.

Once home, I had a real bee in my bonnet to go out and have some wine by a canal like everyone else in Paris seemed to be doing.  So I got some Burgundy and some potato chips and headed down to that canal that goes to the Bastille from the Seine, which is decidedly more upscale than the Canal St. Martin but a lot closer to my apartment.  There, I spent the late afternoon writing, reading, and drinking red wine while the sun set over the rooftops across the canal.  Well, I say reading but what I was really doing was watching people walk by, or drink on their yacht, or reveling in the fact that I could drink Burgundy out of a glass while the cops drove by.

Now I am back in my apartment, where I will eat Alsatian sausage, mashed potatoes and some sauteed tomatoes.  This is actually most likely my meal for the next three nights.  Before you think I am unhappy about this, or that I am crazy to come to Paris and not eat all those fine restaurant meals, know that this is the way I want it to be.  If you could have a month in Paris and eat sausage at home, or a week in Paris and eat out all the time, what would you choose?  I know some would say the week; but for me, it is all about The Month.  And I am so lucky, and I know that.  Lucky.