Thursday, May 31, 2007

Swedish fish

I’m somewhere above the Netherlands or Germany. On Norwegian flight forty-something something something, a 737-300. Just two-and-a-half hours of flight time to Stockholm Arlanda from Paris Orly. I’m comfortably seated in seat 12 E, claiming the truncated exit row as my own after being assigned a middle seat in the row behind me. The seat was given to me by the airport employee who I’m sure saw my US passport and decided to place me between two Swedish people with long legs: confine the Americain.

The French are nice folks. Even with my seat assignment, I still like them. And I still like their grande city. Six days in Paris, miles and miles of walking later, my vacation continues. I had a couple of good bites, but mostly mediocre meals with my friends Mark and Jesse, and Jesse’s mom Joanne, and her husband Randy. But with friends Caroline and Mike I had some better food. Fresh sardines on bread and some tuna, well cooked, the way I enjoy it. A cheesy pasta in quatre fromages. Several salads avec maïs et artichaud et fromage. And chocolate and a frangipane tarte. But I wasn’t feeling like much of a foodie on this trip for some reason. I didn’t consult the food guides or Gourmet magazine for recommendations in advance. I didn’t care if I explored the markets. I even got a bit bored at the Grand Epicerie de Paris, the massive store that claims to be the crème de la crème of grocers. Why was I in a food slump? Maybe it was Mike who said he was getting fat and old. He could pinch a millimeter and was nearly in tears. Perhaps it was Mark who was thrilled with his newly defined post-breakup torso. Or it was the surprise of bad cheese that Jesse and I selected at the local supermarket.

I also didn’t shop much. I tend to buy things when I’m on vacation, but this time I just bought some colorful underwear and some sweets. I didn’t feel like trying on clothes or shoes or looking at kitchen tools.

I went to a huge disco party which was overcrowded, oversaturated in secondhand smoke and overly loud, and then I got back to our apartment at three o’clock in the morning which seemed overly late. I caught the ‘all nighter’ a block from the club and was excited when I looked to the back of the crowded bus and saw a cluster of open seats. When I arrived to claim one as my own, it became clear why the bus riders were scattered: someone has vomited their mousse de canard, aubergines, cornichons, crème caramel, and plenty of vin blanc all over the floor. I said to myself, “I just won’t look down,” and claimed a seat, keeping my feet a few inches from the regurgitated stew of stomach acid and partly digested dinner.

I just wanted to rest in Paris. Maybe it’s old age? Brad tells me my voice in this e-journal sounds like an old man’s. This is where I announce that I think Brad is right.
I’m hopeful a few days in Stockholm will give me an injection of youth.

So back to the plane. Why does Norwegian fly nonstop between Paris and Stockholm? They list this flight in their magazine as one of their Warsaw-based flights. The menu is in English and Polish, with the note that if you pay for a snack item in euros, your change will be in zlotkys. To see if I’d get zlotkys, I just bought a bought a bag of potato chips for 1€50 - paprika flavored, make in Krakow – but got my change in Euros. Bummer. But even with all of this Polish, the pilot spoke Norwegian and English and the flight attendants conducted the safety demo in English only. It’s craziness.

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