Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Paris Working, Part 3 (more horrific Oprah stuff)

Advice for those going on a pilgrimage:

Stay home.

And if you must go:

at least make a pilgrimage to someplace cushy like France. Paris is pretty plush next to Angkor Wat or even the Camino de Santiago (which I
used to think I wanted to walk)...but if your Higher Power figures out what you're up to, He or She or It or They are still going to start shoveling manure into the fan as fast as their divine Hands or heavenly minions can go...

It wasn't
that bad. It was actually good. patience was tried, and my insecurities confronted, and my limitations pushed, and...let me give you some examples.

Patience: bad weather makes me miss my connection the day I'm supposed to leave. So I have to leave a day late, and I'm scrambling on the phone with the airline and the hotel: "Heyyyy. Ugly American here. Can you, uh, hold my room for me? Greeeeeeaaaat." The day I do leave, I get to DC and find the flight to Europe and get on the plane and the plane just...sits there. Why? Well, for our safety, they have to fix the onboard PA system. Which isn't working. And is going to be working any minute, they keep telling us every 90 seconds...and how do they keep telling us this? Over the PA system.

It was like Kali wasn't even bothering to make up good reasons to try my patience any She said, "To hell with this
Matrix stuff, the play of my maya, we both know the game, you trust Me yet?" So I missed my connection in Munich and did end up trusting Her and even being grateful...for the delay, for the privilege of being a child of God, for a cup of mediocre German coffee...grateful, I guess, for being thrust helpless into Her arms, as weird as that sounds.

Insecurities: I don't like asking for help or, Goddess forbid, being presumptuous, and--I speak French on a sub-Borat level and since I was traveling alone and had to eat and stuff, I had to speak a lot of French. Every time you walk into a store or deal with someone in any capacity, you have to talk to them in a certain pre-set, polite manner or you aren't going to get what you want, and so I had to keep trying to squeeze out all these impossible vowel sounds and...contrary to the French stereotype, everyone I met (with two exceptions) was extremely nice and helpful and kind, sometimes to an extraordinary degree, like the woman in the shop at the Cluny Museum who turned the place upside down to help me find a gift... and who then apologized and offered me a discount when she had to sell me the display item...but she wouldn't have been that way had I not sucked it up, talked français, and acted like (tho not in an arrogant way) someone who deserved the whole Cluny Museum to come to a halt for him...

this lesson of acting like a person who deserves good stuff was impressed upon me mightily when I ate at Taillevent, where I could easily have felt as at home as a Dianic High Priestess at a Promise Keepers rally had I not acted like I belonged there. As I puffed on my after-dinner Cuban cigar, it occurred to me that in my life I had managed to feel ill-at-ease in places far slummier than this one, and that other times I'd felt perfectly at home in some of those same places... and that, in the immortal Twelve-Step slogan, if I was going to make the world my gourmet restaurant I was going to have to "Let it begin with me." (It was tough, dammit, but someone had to do it.) Tantrikas in India go to the cremation grounds and eat human flesh to overcome some of these feelings, and I'm really hoping Kali is going to let me slide with
canard cooked à point.

Limitations: I wore good walking shoes and tried to get enough sleep...but there came a time when my legs and feet hurt so bad, and I was so tired that I didn't know if I was speaking French or English or Spanish or pig Latin. Part of me was back in the USA, painfully, while part of me was in Paris, also painfully, too sore to walk, but standing was worse... a big part of me was loving Kali in Her guises as the Virgin of Paris, the Virgin of the Pillar, Isis and Nepthys in the Louvre, La Madeleine, La Dame and her Unicorn...

OK! I know you're thinking,
the wuss thinks he was weepin' by the rivers of %#@*ing Paris!!!! But no, Dear Reader...despite my angel-mania and Goddess-lunacy and propensity for seein' the future and past in comic books and wine bottles, I have a grip...on some kind of reality. Since I blessedly have not been asked by my Divine Mother to become a wandering mendicant or celibate novice, I have to surrender where I can find it, and you try walking six hours a day in not-yet-broken-in Vasques on cobblestones and up and down stairs and stairs and stairs and it's 80+ degrees in Paris and there's no air-conditioning anywhere and what's up with that &$#@!?!? and...well, I can't really complain. Really. Not at all.

The secret of this pilgrimage, I figured out surprisingly early on (for me) was, wherever you go, there you are. I could have stayed in my hotel room and watched the BBC and CNBC and been bored &$#@less; I could have dawdled in the Galeries Lafayette or the
passages, spending money on crap I didn't need or want; I could have haunted the Hard Rock Café and Harry's Bar and Shakespeare and Co. and felt like I'd never left home...but I was doing what I wanted to do and paying the price for my desires and so...not really hurting...for the diminution of leg pain would have meant one less church that day (and no one has heard of St. Anne's but it was so, so lovely)...or one less trip to Notre-Dame or the Cluny (and they sustained me)...or not walking down to that cheese shop on Boulevard St. Germain (and that would have been tragic)...


  1. sounds like fun - so when will you give the camino a go?

  2. I dunno, least I speak Spanish, but this time I'm bringing at least one I guess it'll have to be when I'm crazy enough to do it and can find someone else also crazy enough...

    thank you for reading...

  3. grigorss11:31 PM

    Advice for those going on a pilgrimage:

    Stay home.

    Thanks. I think I'll take your advice.

  4. I think you are on a constant pilgrimage, living in you are excused, my son.