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Published: July 25th 2015
July 18 Still in Paris
Yesterday, Robert (pronounced Ro-behr) and I took the motorcycles to a vacant parking lot near where he lives. It was only a few blocks from where the motorcycles are garaged so we pushed them to the lot while Robert explained the controls to me. I met Robert 10 years ago in Paris on a layover when I flew for AA as a copilot on 767s. Back then, he was 50 years old, and I was 42. We hung out and had some good adventures for about a year and half whenever I had flights to Paris. A couple years after that, I went to the captain seat on the DC-9, and only flew domestic routes. I hadn't seen him in 8 years until two nights ago when he was standing at the Bar Jardin (where I had first met him), drinking a Stella Artois and talking to girl half his age.
While we walked the bikes, I mentioned that the bike was a little bigger than the ones I had ridden years before. He asked me what kind I'd ridden, and I told him I didn't know but that they were smaller and that I had rented them on the island of Cozumel. He stopped pushing his bike and stared at me. "You mean a motor scooter?" he asked. His English has no accent, by the way. He learned to speak while he lived in the United States. I answered, "I guess." He shook his head, and said, "Well, my friend's sister used to ride this one, so I guess you can, too." I wasn't sure if he was making a joke or not. He does have a sense of humor. When we got to the vacant lot, it wasn't completely vacant. There were a half a dozen skate boarders racing around and jumping up and catching their boards and doing that stuff that skate boarders do. One end of the lot was sloped up, and the skate boarders congregated there. On each side of the lot were tall, shabby buildings with the typical graffiti written in black and red on the walls. There was a lady halfway out her window resting a drink on the sill and watching the goings-on in the neighborhood.
I was going to ask Robert what the graffiti meant but I ended up being too busy. And after I fell a couple times, and got scraped, I was too concerned about not killing myself to remember to ask about the graffiti. I kept using the brake control too quickly which made the bike stop so fast that the back wheel came off the ground, then both the bike and I fell sideways to the ground. It's not really a heavy bike so I wasn't hurt by the weight of it. To keep from getting hurt on the trip, Robert said I could borrow the leather pants and jacket of Michel (that's the owner of the bike - p.s. Michel is a guy's name) if I promised not to get in a serious crash. I promised not to get in a crash, but not because I wanted to use the jacket and pants. So after a couple of hours of amusing the skate boarders, we rode (not walked) the bikes back to the garage where the bikes are kept, then went to the Bar Jardin where Robert pulled out a map and went over the route. We're supposed to leave tomorrow. (I still haven't said I would go for sure, though.) I told him I needed to go to Charles de Gaulle airport to buy a ticket to get back to Paris (or London) from Amsterdam (and to get a refund on some ID-90s that I had purchased earlier for this France trip). He said we could stop by the airport on our trip. It was on the way. I took some pictures and will try to add them to this post later today.
July 20 Paris
Just a quick update. We were supposed to head out this morning. We were parked outside of Robert's flat making sure everything was tied down right. I said, " I guess we're all set then?" He answered, "Just about," and looked up at his building. As if on cue, an attractive, thin girl with long brown hair came out of the door of the building, down the stairs, and walked toward us. She stopped, glanced at me, then began a tirade in French aimed at Robert. Robert, who is about 6'2", just leaned against his bike with his arms folded and looked down at the girl. When she finished, he started to say something but, before he could complete a sentence, she took a step toward him and slapped him across the face. I flinched but Robert's expression never changed. She then turned away, and walked back into the building. He looked back up at the sky, then said to me to leave the bike here for now, and to meet him at the Bar Jardin in an hour. He followed her inside.
At the Bar Jardin, Robert told me that the girl was Marie. He'd dated her off and on for almost 10 years. She used to be a well paid model but when the jobs thinned out she gradually became addicted to heroin. He told me it wasn't as bad as it sounded. It happens a lot in Europe. He'd helped her get off of the stuff five years ago but now she was addicted to methadone. She was yelling at him because we were driving to Amsterdam, and she wanted a ride to Brussels where her family lives, and Robert had told her earlier this morning that he wouldn't take her. Robert told me he would have offered her a ride but there was paperwork involved in transporting methadone across the Belgium border, and he knew she wasn't going to do it. But in her tirade (according to Robert) she had insinuated that she might kill herself if he left her alone. Robert said it's not as bad as it sounds. She says this all the time, he added. But, after I left them, Robert agreed to drive her to Brussels on the back of his bike with her methadone but without the paperwork. He told me he'd known her a long time, and he didn't want to leave her alone. He owed it to her, he said, and that she'd be better off with her family. It's really none of my business so I didn't say anything. So now we're supposed to leave tomorrow morning. I still hope to get some pictures on the web before we leave. And I'm picking away at my France video.
Okay, in case you already read this post, I had to change the name of Robert's (ex) girlfriend if I'm going to mention her heroin history. I guess I should have known better to begin with. Robert said if I just changed her name, it would be fine. He said he knows that my website is not mainstream so I could still use his name. But he said it could hurt 'Marie's' reputation. And also, now, no face pictures of Marie. Okay.
July 21 Brussels
Well, we made it to Brussels. I was a little concerned about the border crossing with Marie's stuff and all, but it turned out the border crossing was a non-event. We weren't on the main highway because I didn't want to drive in traffic, and when we hit Belgium, we were waved through. We didn't even stop. So now it's late Saturday and we're at Marie's brother's flat. The four of us are heading out to a bar in a little while, and right now I'm busy updating this on some bootleg wifi that a tenant has in one of the other flats. I've taken some pictures but the strength on this signal is less than 1 megabyte so I can't wait that long to get the pics uploaded. Anyway, Marie hadn't talked to me the whole trip. She acted like I was taking Robert away from her or something, or maybe she hates Americans. It wasn't even my idea to drive this motorcycle to Amsterdam. By the way, I'm riding like a pro now. No crashes.
Back to Marie. So I was trying to finish my latest France video while everyone was visiting and speaking in French, and Marie walked over and started looking at my computer screen, and saw that I was trying to add songs. Then she asked me in broken English (I didn't even know she could speak English until now), how I'm getting songs from my computer. I told her I have 3,500 songs on my computer, and the next thing I know she was sitting next to me wanting me to show her all my songs. She wanted to hear so many songs that I didn't think I would ever get back to my video. Then I had an idea. I got my IPOD from my suitcase and showed her how to use it, and she walked away smiling, and I almost finished my video. But now I have to write this.
Later that evening
It's two a.m. but I won't be able to update this until tomorrow night if we make it to Amsterdam. Right now, I'm back at the apartment siphoning wifi. Man, I don't know what happened tonight but, as good looking as Marie is, she is definitely crazy. We were sitting at the bar, and Marie told Robert that she wanted to go to Amsterdam with us. At this point, we were just finishing our second beers so everyone was pretty much sober. Robert kind of laughed when she said that, and he just said, "no." Her brother, who was sitting on the other side of Robert, told her she should stay with him for a couple of weeks. She then said to Robert that she wasn't asking him (Robert). She said she wanted to go with Paul. I had been staring across the room at a poster of an old Pink Floyd Brussels concert, and I was not really paying attention to their conversation. But I remember thinking to myself, who is Paul? Then it dawned on me that she was talking about me. What? I turned to look at Robert and Marie, and they were both staring at me. "Me?" I asked. She said, "yes, you, why not you?" Almost a statement instead of a question. I looked at Robert, who just shook his head, and told her she was going to stay with her brother. She turned to me while she sat on her bar stool and said, 'you don't want me to come with you?" Man, this was getting ridiculous. Robert just said, "let's go," and took her hand and walked her outside. Her brother and I followed them. We got into his Fiat and drove home and nobody said anything. I'll update you tomorrow. And I hope to have the France video done and online in Amsterdam. Without Marie (and her methadone).
July 22 Amsterdam Evening
We made it to Amsterdam today with no problems. Yes, Marie came with us. She seems to always get her way. In spite of her methadone (which I don't think she's injected this whole trip) and her cigarette smoking (everyone smokes here, including Robert), she kind of grows on you. She's like a spoiled, little girl; only she's 37 years old. She rode on the back of Robert's bike, not mine. I think what she said about going with me instead of Robert last night was just for Robert's benefit, although they don't really strike me as a couple, at least not on this trip anyway. It rained just a little today. (I read England is getting a ton of it.) It hasn't really rained a lot since yesterday morning when we left Paris, which was a little funny because I had to stop at the airport outside of Paris to buy a ticket to get from Amsterdam to Paris on Air France (through the AA ticket office). Inside the airport, the AA ticket office was just a counter inside a room that housed several airlines' ticket counters. It was raining outside, and we were all wet, so we left the bikes outside and all three of us went into the ticket office. I set my helmet on the counter, and asked to purchase the ticket, as water dripped from my hair, face, leather jacket and leather pants. Robert and Marie were standing behind me with their leather dripping, as well. (And Robert has hair almost down to his shoulders.)
There was no problem buying the ticket. After a little longer than normal stare at us, she started punching the keyboard of the computer. The last time I bought a ticket there, I only had to show them my AA retired ID. This time, for some inexplicable reason, she asked for ID, passport and drivers license, all the while comparing the pictures in those documents to my face. I didn't argue. I just produced them, posed for her, bought my ticket, and we were on our way. I may actually fly back from Amsterdam the day after tomorrow (Tuesday). The flights aren't oversold then. Tomorrow, Robert has to ride back to Paris to begin an assignment on Tuesday.
July 23 Amsterdam Evening
Robert left this morning early in the rain. He had to go through Brussels to get to Paris, but Marie didn't want to get up early and ride back in the rain, so she's still here. We're in Michel's flat (that's the guy who owns the motorcycle I rode). He's still out of town. Marie said she was going to take the bus later today. I had been thinking of riding to a beach town nearby today for my last little adventure, and, of course, she wanted to come along. So the sky cleared up around 10 am, and we rode to a town called Noordwiijk. The sky was cloudy, and the temperature was about 70 degrees, but it was nice to walk around on a beach for the first time this trip. Neither of us could understand the language, but the waiter at a little restaurant spoke French so Marie did the ordering. (I can order food if I have to, but when I'm with someone who actually speaks the language...forget about it.) So we had a nice day and came back to the flat where I'm writing this.
I don't know when I can upload it. I have to wake up early to catch the Amsterdam to Paris flight. Maybe I can find some wifi at one of the airports. If not, I'll have to upload it when I get back to NH. In any case, I'll be gone when you read this; I'll be either over the Atlantic or getting ready to sleep for a week in my own bed. Marie is going to get up after me and walk to the bus station. I took a lot of pictures, but I didn't download them onto my computer, and now I have to wait. I'll tell you why. The last two days, whenever I'm on the computer, Marie would light up a cigarette, and tell me that I write too much, that I need to throw away the computer and live more. She would say this as she blew smoke in my direction (not quite directly at me) because she would always
light up a cigarette when I went on the computer (even before Robert left). She knows I hate cigarette smoke.
That's one of the unpleasant experiences of France and other European countries; the perpetual cigarette smoke. Even at sidewalk cafes, just as you thought you'd positioned yourself for smoke avoidance, someone would light up, and the wind would shift, and voila, how about a little smoke with that croissant. But back to the camera. Marie didn't do it on purpose, but I was standing at the window of the flat trying to shoot a parting video of the rooftops and she came over and tugged on my elbow, and caught me by surprise, and the camera fell about four feet to the wooden floor and the batteries spilled out. The plastic cover that holds the batteries in was now broken and wouldn't stay shut. I looked at it, and I think it's a big design flaw. As much as I like this camera (and will probably buy another), my cheap, old Fuji fell on the ground about 20 times and never broke. Oh well, they don't make them like they used to, I guess. The card that holds the pics is still good, but I need to either buy a card reader or another camera when I get back to the U.S. in order to download them. Tonight Marie asked me if I was coming back to Paris, and I said, yes. But I didn't know when. She told me that I would not be back. I laughed and said I would. She then wanted to borrow my IPOD, until I returned. I laughed again, and said, no. (And realized I was beginning to sound like Robert.)
So, anyway, this trip was great, but once again I was too active. I felt tired at least half of the time. And I changed hotels and cities even more than I did the last trip. Next time I do this, I'm definitely going to stay in one city the whole time. Maybe Paris. Or maybe I'll rent one of those little cabin cruisers I saw in Carcassonne and travel through the canals. Or maybe ride a motorcycle all the way to Greece. Or maybe.....
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