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Sunday Shenanigans (last Sunday): Tour de France pics/le depart

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Sunday started early, what with my alarm going off at 4:15am.  Although I didn’t get an upper deck seat on the next day’s Air France flight back to LAX, I did get a coveted aisle seat.  I prefer the aisle on return flights when headed westbound since it tends to be all daylight and the masses in coach are a lot more restless.  It’s hard to get any rest so you might as well have easy access to the WC and walkabouts to the galley.


I went back to sleep and woke up well rested.  Good thing too because I me and my friend had work to do.  This would be the last day of the Tour de France and we had plans to watch the pelaton make its way to the Arc de Triomphe.


Through a connection, my friend got us a couple passes to watch the finale from the Prime Minister’s viewing area on the very top of the Arc.  Only thing is, I needed to score a jacket and tie.  As stated previously, I should’ve been travelling with both, but to quote Johnny Rotten, I’m a lazy sod.


I was a bit anxious about the task since Sundays in Europe typically mean nothing is open.  But we were in Paris and there were lots of stores open.  Just a matter of finding the right fit for my American made body (semi-frumpy, molded by a youth of Del Taco as opposed to frois gras and thumbnail-sized meals).


We walked like invaders, which is how I like to do it.  Stopping only for the most aggressive of cabbies (all of them) and for the occasional bottle of water.  No map-clutching Oklahoman or drifting Parisian got in our way. 


From Saint-Germaine we walked across the Seine to the jewish quarter where there were plenty of shops open.  One of which was a Fred Perry store that got the heavy end of my friend’s American Express card.  We were still on a high from seeing “Quadrophenia” so I’m now the proud owner of a Fred Perry that looks just like Jimmy’s in the movie. 


Down the street we went and a Sonny Crockett blue blazer situated nicely in a store window caught my eye.  I tried it on and the French sales gal saw me coming a mile away:  “It look nice wizz yours eyezzz.”  After nearly fainting, I was too anxious to focus on the ties with any merit, so I ended up with a picnic table look.  Or as they call it in France, ‘fashion.’  Sexual chocolate and me:




Back on the streets, we hustled back to the apartment to get ready for our Tour de France experience.  But not before my friend insisted I purchase some new prescription glasses.  He hates the pair(s) I have now, purchased as a set of three for $20 at Costco.  One of the world’s greater bargains.  What a racket sunglasses/prescription glasses are.  A little bit of plastic and some tackle and the higher end versions suddenly cost $250?  WTF!?  I told my friend my glasses were just fine, but he insisted.  He virtually pulled me into an eyeglass shop.  I was measured for a pair of some fancy brand and told to pick them up in a few days. 


While they were doing the paper work, I skipped across the street and purchased some French deodorant (insert oxymoron joke to your liking HERE.)


As we marched back to the apartment, I watched the women biking to and fro.  I love seeing the women of Paris on their bikes, straight up handling the traffic while paying the slightest of service to their dresses, parting with the breeze.  They care just enough but won’t let it define their day.  Never fussy.


Attractive, purpose-driven women, their outfits look like fashionable coincidences which probably cost next to nothing.  These women are Vogue magazine pictorials come to life as they navigate taxis and tourists and buses. 


If you want to study the art and purpose of the short dress, Paris is where to do it.  Femininity is not dead; in fact its more progressive step-sister is alive and well here.  Composure and delivery make the woman in this town.  Understatement is queen and Kim Kardashian need not apply. 


After a quick shower, I put on my newly constructed costume.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough.  The heat in the apartment was brutal.  You know why I hate weddings?  Because they are in summer and in the middle of the day.  You put on a tight, collared shirt and suit after a shower and get dressed in 85 degree heat.  Same situation here.  My shirt was soaked the moment I put it on and it choked me like a bad guy from an Indiana Jones movie.


We grabbed a taxi and headed to the Arc d’ Triomphe with a bitchy taxi driver who complained about the roads and this and that and so on.  We got tired of his act so asked him to pull over when the Arc was in near site, walking the rest of the way.


It was a tricky navigation.  We were told to find some tunnel but with all the crowd gathered, it was hidden from view.  We found it and got through the first security checkpoint.  I kept waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder to tell me I was not allowed, but it didn’t happen.  Finally, we were asked for our passes.  I nervously showed them and we were let through, past machine guns and – for Frenchies – intimidating looking military types. 


What was strange is that we were never asked for our I.D.s.  No passport check, no frisking, no nothing.  Excellent reverse psychology.  If I were a terrorist I would’ve bailed on any attack thinking that if it’s not that important since security is so relaxed.


We took a tiny elevator to the top floor of the Arc.  Again, light security.  It was odd to see the gift shop open for business.  There was a bar set-up and some really funky hors d’ouvres.  I tried a couple and wasn’t impressed.  I’ll take any number of frozen, processed stuff from Costco to go with those $20 glasses, merci very much.


After some time inside, we crept up a narrow staircase to the deck of the Arc de Triomphe.  As said by Barry Levinson, I think it was, in Mel Brooks’ film “High Anxiety,” “We’re pretty high up.  Can’t get much higher than this…”


The view outside was spectacular.  All of Paris there for the taking and with nary a tourist to fight for space with, except for yours truly. 


There were more military folk around, standing with headphones and other equipment at the rounded top of the Arc.  But where was the Prime Minister whom I doubt I’d recognize if I saw him?


Well, he wasn’t there.  You think he’s going to climb to the top of the Arc in this heat?  Hell no.  This was simply ‘his’ viewing area.  A wank for people who want to feel important, and I have to tell you, it worked beautifully.  The lack of crowd made it easy and my friend was relieved to not have to do any small talk with anyone as an exchange for the view.  Pictures write louder than words, so enjoy:









What a day.  We watched 6 of the 10 laps circle the Arc then snuck out to avoid the crowds.  We paused for a lap at ground level and watched the bikes fly by.  It was extremely bitchen’.  I’m still grateful for the experience.


That night, I packed up for my return home.  Typically, after any length of time away from home, you’re ready to get back.  To have your own bed, shower, remote, ‘fridge, porn, etc.  But I was sad to go.  I wanted to stay.  The term is probably ‘wanderlust,’ and I had/have a case of it.


The next morning, Monday, traffic was terrible.  About two hours to get to Charles de Gaulle. 


I waited for most of the people to board, as is my custom, then entered the A380 for LAX.  My aisle seat sat there, empty, waiting for me as requested.  I unpacked my headphones and book and sat down.  I wait until the last minute to buckle up.  I most have tilted the universe against me because my private hell happened next:


“Pardon messier,” said the steward.  Here we go, I thought.  “No parlez,” I told him, as if that would solve the forthcoming.


“Very well.  The gentleman next to you is travelling with his wife but she is seated on the other side of the plane.  It would be personally appreciated if you could possibly move so the two could sit together.”


I asked about the person sitting next to the wife, and why couldn’t that person move?

“Unfortunately, messier, nobody wants to move, so you are my last hope.  If you agree to this, I will personally see to it that anything you need for the flight is tended to.”


I paused.  The dude was eyeballing me.  He’s done this 100 times so he knows how to make it work. 


“Is there anything in Premium economy, upstairs, for me?”


“I’m sorry messier, but we are a full flight.  Of course, you do not have an obligation to move, but it would be a huge favor to me.”


Any self-respecting man would’ve told this dude to get lost.  And I nearly did.  I was more pissed at the wimp sitting next to me for not manning up and asking me himself.  I told the steward that it was weird now, and that if I said ‘no’ than I would be sitting next to the wimp sitting next to me the entire flight giving me the gas face.


“Of course, messier, I understand…”


I thought about the fortune this trip had given me.  Versailles, free lodging at a prime apartment, VIP Tour d’ France.  I had had a pretty solid week.


And I also thought about what would be the deciding factor in all of this:  When my wife and I flew to Spain to get married, my wife wondered to me if there were any window seats we might move to so she could have a better flight.  I told her the flight looked pretty full but I would ask.  I got up from my seat and the man behind me said, “Here.  She can have my seat.”


The seat next to him was empty so it was perfect.  It was the actor Ernie Hudson from “Ghostbusters,” which gave my wife even more delight.  What a bro-move on his behalf.   A true gentleman who didn’t make a big deal about it.  No discussion, just action.  That was nearly seven years ago and I have thought of that gesture often.


All this went through my mind in a few seconds time, the Frenchy steward giving me puppy dog eyes. 


“Okay…I’ll move,” I finally said.


“Merci, messier,” the steward said.  “There’s one other thing…”


“I know.  It’s a middle seat,” I saved him the trouble.  How could it not be?


“Yes.  As I said, I will see to it that you have anything you need,” he said.


“Can you give me an extra 10-inches?” I said, not sure if he would understand the double entendre


I move seats, the wimp next to me pretending not to understand English or what was going on.  He just smiled.  I would too.  A-hole!


I stuffed myself between my two new friends, seated next to the galley.  Frenchy steward didn’t tell me I’d be next to the kitchen area with its constantly slamming metal cabinets.  I let Freddie Mercury Flight Attendant know that the galley adjacent seating was a sucker punch, just in case I really did need something mid-flight, like a klonopin injection.  But what the hell are you really going to get in coach on a transatlantic flight?  An extra f’ing pillow?


I made the best of it.  The dude with the window seat sized me up.  An Indian who moved to the U.S. with his parents as a four-year old.  He loves it here.  He asked, “So what did they offer to make you move?”


“Nothing,” I told him.  “Somebody once did the same thing for me and my wife. It was time to pay it back.”  I tried not to cry.


He wasn’t impressed.  I could see that he was occupied reading the word SUCKER stamped on my forehead.  He was a cool dude.  La Palma represent.  Was on the final leg of a trip from Bombay where he goes once a month as a structural engineer.  He was flying on klonopin and heaven knows what else.


We talked Indian food and drugs.  I asked him how often he got diarrhea in India.  “All the time,” he explained.  He maintains it by eating in his hotel as often as possible.  If his company changes hotels for him, he will not stay at said hotel until he inspects the kitchen personally.   Smart dude.


The drinks cart came around and Lil’ India ordered a double gin and tonic.  Oh oh.

The dude with the aisle seat was the opposite of Lil’ India.  Tomas is a straight-laced attorney from Germany on his way to Santa Barbara for a wedding.  He studied law in the UK and is preparing for exams which will allow him to clerk for Germany’s high court.  Hair cut WWII short and the collared shirt was tucked in the entire flight.  We made quite the set in our row of three.  You know that big gathering for Thanksgiving at your aunt’s house and all the weirdos no one knows sit at the table off in the corner?  Well, Happy Thanksgiving, Air France flight #0065!!!


I asked Lil’ India how in thee F he tolerated a Bombay-Paris-LAX run.  Simple.  Air France gives you free booze in coach and he stocks up on klonopin and anti-diahrrea meds while in India.  He showed me his travel kit:  Bose headphone case which was also stuffed with said klonopin and who knows what other drugs. 


He was thrilled that the klonopin is something like 80 rupees in India.  “That’s less than a dollar!”


I actually was impressed.  He saw my middle seat bummerness setting in.  “Here take this.  You can have it.  I have tons.”


He offered me a sheet of 10 klonis.  “No thanks,” I said.  I don’t trust it.  How do you know it’s safe.”


“Because I take it all the time. (you don’t say)  And I’ve never flown without it. (you don’t say).”


I still begged off, but I was tempted.  About three hours into the flight that all changed.  “So, about that klonopin…”


Lil’ India saw it coming.  He whipped-out his go-pack faster than a flasher at the Pussycat Theater.


I took a klonopin much to Lil’ India’s satisfaction.  I felt better within about 20 minutes or so.  It was a slow build but oh! what a magnificent home it was building for me.  My own little wonderland of rainbows and Indians.


By the time I landed, I could’ve stayed on that plane another few hours.  I don’t remember the ride to my car.  I chilled out for a while at my friend’s house.  I’m not real hot on DUI business.


Once I got home, my cat happy as hell to see me, I turned on the TV thinking I’d just get things ready for when the Angel game came on.  I missed watching them despite their play.  Baseball is baseball and there’s not a lot of it in France.


I slouched on the couch.


Four hours later, I woke up to a dark house with the windows open.  It was 9:15pm and “The Batchelor/ette” (I lose track) was on blast for anyone to see as they walked by my house.  How embarrassing!  The cat looked up at me, perplexed.  She was embarrassed for me.


That klonopin kicked my arse.  I felt good about giving up that middle seat.  I made new friends and scored some kloni. 


I’ve got some in my own go-pack now.  I can’t wait to go back to anywhere.  Wish I woulda got Lil’ India’s address to send him a thank you note.  Maybe one day he’ll give up his seat.  Nahhh…that’s for suckers.



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Always a good read. And as always, you managed to put in that one little bit about your late wife that always leaves me on the verge of tears. She was one lucky woman.


I have flown into/out of CDG, but I haven't really had to deal with the crowds. Both flights were British Airways Commuter. The flight over from Cardiff was on a Embraer Regional Jet that had maybe 30 people on it, and the return was on a Beechcraft turboprop that was like Ron White's proverbial "pack of gum with eight people on it." I believe that it actually seated 20 or so, but it was the smallest plane I've ever been on. Far cry from your A380. How was the '380, BTW?


Nice Sonny Crockett jacket.

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I like the A380, but a middle seat is a middle seat and that will always suck.  As with the new 747, the 380 has a massive upside:  a USB port in the seatback, so you can keep your goodies charged while in flight.  Not surprisingly, I have the pilot of "Miami Vice" on my iphone, so I watched bits of it on both legs of the journey.


It's a big ass plane, and one of these days I'm going to sit on the upper level which I'm told is good because there are far fewer coach seats.  Most of it is Business class and Premium economy.  So with the lesser amount of people, there's less commotion.


The 380 also has bigger windows which helps you feel less confined.  And there's a good 8-inch or so gap between the right arm rest and the window, so you get some extra room there.  The pressurization of the cabin is also a bonus.  They play a mind trick to make you feel like you're flying at a lower altitude than you really are which helps with the jet lag.

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