Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Raw Meat

I hated Paris the first time I visited. The second time occurred accidentally, just four weeks later on a night train from Rome.

My plan was to arrive in Paris in the morning and get on the next train to Bruges, but plans are usually a bad idea. The moment my train arrived in Paris, the conductor made the announcement that the transportation department was on strike for the next twenty-four hours (because workers fight for their rights in other countries); therefore, no trains would be coming in or out.

I was stranded. In Paris.

After setting up a night at a Best Western online, printing out the directions and map so that I could ask for help, then trudging through the sunny streets of Paris with my comically full backpack and flipping off the bastards who refused to help me when they recognized my terrible American accent tripping over their beautiful language, and yell/crying at a man at the American Express shop who HAD to help me, I found my bed for the night and promptly ate a $7 Toblerone from the mini bar.

Impressive sentence, eh?

The Toblerone would not be enough to satiate me, and I was in Paris, after all. I left the hotel, but not before I opened my window and hung my head out to look up and down the dirty streets, JUST LIKE THEY DO IN THE MOVIES.

I do not remember the name of the cafe, and even now, when I think about it, it seems too charming to have existed. When I entered and chose my table beside one of the servers in the back who was taking a break and eating, he, along with the other servers, all of whom were male (annnnnnnnnndattractive), took notice.

I was at the end of my journey. I had three days left (three crazy days), and it was probably obvious.

When the server beside me could no longer endure my furrowed brow as I pored over the menu, he cleared his throat, and I looked up.

"You should try the special, no?"

"What is the special?"

"I am having it, it is good."

(The dialogue may seem stilted, but you need to imagine me talking to a really hot guy in Paris. He was really hot.)

" it?"

He then tried to find the word for raw ground beef with the help of his colleagues. The special was raw ground beef, mashed potatoes, and something else I can't remember.

I respectfully, and charmingly, declined and settled, instead, on Tuna salad (which is not made with mayonnaise in France).

I forgot to bring my journal. The whole point was to sit in a cafe in Paris and write in my stupid diary, and I left it at the hotel. So, I asked a server if I could borrow a pen (because I forgot that too) and proceeded to write on my placemat:

Sitting in a cafe in Paris. Didn't intend to come back here, mais c'est la vie. I couldn't find a room online in Bruges. Tonight I am spending $96 to stay in a best western, and I get to take a bath. Feeling awkward sitting here alone across from an employee that speaks english. This cafe is run by cute boys. Expensive--maybe that's why. They tried to get me to order raw ground beef--what the guy across from me was eating. No. I sat in on a mass at Notre Dame tonight. The singing was beautiful. In French though (what the hell, Caroline). I wonder what is taking my salad so long. Should have brought my journal and a book--so as not to look lonely. I still hold that eating alone looks more pathetic than it actually is, and having something to read while eating alone looks less pathetic. Not enough people to watch without looking ridiculous. Where is my salad. I feel quite at peace--like I could sit in silence for a long time. Like I could close my eyes in the middle of a crowded street and not worry about anything. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Those Days You Just Remember

I decided to pay close attention to my day, three days ago, so as to write it down and share it with you, today, three days later. I decided before anything happened that day, before even getting out of bed.

My room was bright when NPR popped on and my brain clicked in. I was a little sweaty, too, which meant the temperature had jumped about ten degrees. I was going to ride my bike to work. I decided. 

It was a one bucket day. I work as a horticultural technician for a local company that puts plants in office buildings. It doesn't require a lot of pomp and circumstance. You don't need a degree to do it. You just have to care and want to care for plants. As cliché as it sounds, the plants do the rest. 

There's not a lot of money in it. Sometimes you have to let those things go and trust that you will do what you have to do to get by, and you will. 

Coffee, breakfast, helmet, supplies. Kiss my dog and chuckle at his pouting face, laying it on thick so that maybe I'll be persuaded to stay or, better yet, take him with me. 

Then I'm on the road, coasting the flat hills, avoiding the potholes. The 606 is mostly empty, and everything is in bloom, but I'm not allergic to it, for some reason. I can go as fast as I want...on my hot pink 1989 Schwinn Caliente ten speed. It is super sweet.

I'm heading closer to the city on Milwaukee Ave, and a tall, gorgeous blonde girl stalks angrily across the street ahead of me. She is yelling into her phone with a thick slovak accent, "Dude, I am so pissed right now," at ten a.m. 

Then I'm at the Merchandise Mart, and I'm at my first client, no idea what they do, but I've got to call outside of reception to be let in. The receptionist is a squat asian girl with the sunniest disposition, in a midwestern sort of way, which is complex I think. She speaks in one of those kid voices that normally make me want to punch walls, but it works for her. It's endearing. She always offers me a coke or something. Today she offers water because she can tell I've ridden my bike...because I'm sweating and still wearing my helmet. She cringes at how "hot" it is today. It's about 64.

Then I bounce from office to office, feeling, actually, literally, like a weird human kind of happiness that I'm not accustomed to. 

At another account, I show a dying plant to a different receptionist, a small hispanic girl, adorable, even more-so than I am, and I've got my hair in french braid pigtails. Because that's how I roll. 

Someone at the office is attempting to "help" me by watering one of the Dracaena Lisas when I'm not there. The plant's tips are turning from yellow to brown very quickly. It wants to dry out, just like I've been doing for the past few months. 

I'm walking her through a few more plants that don't need the amount of attention they're getting, and she suddenly turns to face me, "Prince died." 

It doesn't register at first. Then, a man in a cubicle just ahead of us stands up and repeats, "Guys, prince died." 

Later, at another account that probably does stuff with lots of money (because I arrived at the same time as the company masseuse arrived) and computers, the handsome male receptionist stops me as I explain to him that I need a signature, "Girl, where you from?" 

"Oh, Memphis, Tennessee. Can you hear it?"

"Mmmm. Hmmm. My boyfriend, well, my Ex-boyfriend was from Tennessee, and some of his family was from Arkansas." 

"Oh, yuck. Arkansas." 

"I know, but they say it's beautiful."

"Oh, yeah, it actually is absolutely gorgeous in the Ozarks. Can you believe Prince died?"

"No. I don't acknowledge it."

Then I had lunch: Espresso, tiny Caprese salad, and a chocolate chip cookie. Water. Water. Water. 

The rest of the day goes smoothly. I've learned that some mascara, cute little earrings, and a smile goes a long way to making each receptionist love little me with my apron and pigtails. 

I pass an investment banker from a super fancy office full of plants that I visit every wednesday, and he smiles in recognition. I'm also already wearing my helmet for some reason. Why did I put my helmet on so early? 

Despite the fact that the temperature is incredible, I can still muster the rage to scream "SERIOUSLY?!?!" at the rich dude in the shiny Tesla barely missing me as he uses the bike lane to get around a slower car, but then it makes me laugh at myself. Cyclist outrage is one of my favorite parts of biking in the city. 

I'm leading the pack of rush hour peddlers up Milwaukee, and I stop at a red light. A biker from the peloton gives an annoyed grunt and pedals past me into traffic, where he loses his balance trying to stop for a car that almost hits him. There's a pause, and I can't resist saying with a smile, "Don't worry. You're still going to win."

Then, I involuntarily wink at him, like what used to happen when I waited tables. Only, when I waited tables, I'd kick out my hip along with the wink to make the customer feel the kind of comfort only southern charm can provide.

Talk to ya soon, frands!

I'm actually really glad I can't see myself when I wink. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Follow Your Bliss

I sang Don't Stop Believin' at a Karaoke bar in Athens, Georgia one winter, about ten percent of my life ago. I'm fairly certain I was there at the behest of a lady friend because of this fabulous Karoake DJ that was all the rage in the hipsterest town in GA.

I sang it alone, no backup of drunk friends leaning on my shoulders while we laughed like we didn't give a damn about anyone else in the room. It was a solo, a joyous, drunken solo from a woman who had just turned thirty, barely escaped an emotionally abusive relationship, and found herself in the exact place doing the exact thing she wanted to do.

Which was to sing Don't Stop Believin' at a bar in Athens, GA at around the coldest time of the year, solo.

I was drunk. I mean, I said it, but also, obviously. I killed my voice, along with the song. There was a crowd of college girls, stumbling over themselves at my feet, mascara running down their perfect faces as they sang along. The boys stood back, secretly enjoying every minute, but also terrified of what it would mean to have to get to know a woman like this and how it would take too many beers to even have the nerve to say something, much less run wide-eyed into the abyss with her.

Afterwards, exhausted and sweating, but inspired by my own achievement (to sing Don't Stop Believin' at a bar in Athens, Georgia as the bitter winds of winter swept lands much further north than GA), I accepted everyone's accolades as one drunk to another.

"You have balls bigger than my dad's!"

One girl shouted over and over until I made hazy eye-contact. Then, she leaned forward and fingered my collar.

"But seriously. Your balls are bigger than my dad's."

"When and how did you manage to see your dad's balls?"


Later, I fell asleep on some guy's couch with his dogs while he and the lady friend played records and smoked pot until the sun came up. Like hipster bitches.

This is from a different karaoke event, but the sentiment is the same. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Things I Do to Avoid Doing Things

I wrote this back in January when I was looking for a job.

Lie perfectly still, my mind racing.
Alter my mind.
Worry about my dog.
Worry about all the things I should be doing.
Worry about how slow the internet is running.
Feel self righteous for listening to the music I listen to (HAHAHA!).
Think about exercising.
Think about doing the plank challenge.
Think about dating.
Think about things I should write.
Think about how I think too much.
Spider Solitair
Be annoyed that boys just want to have sex.
Be annoyed that I’m annoyed about sex.
Wonder about medication.
Imagine myself doing things.
Laundry--it feels like you’re doing something, but a machine is doing all the work.

Things that are fun to do on days I'm stuck inside:
Paint my toenails.
Listen to a podcast and mess around in the kitchen.
Plank position

Things I’m afraid of doing:
Getting a job (mark this off the list, folks. I got one)
Getting an Illinois driver’s license (also mark this off the list. I got one of those too)
Trusting myself (um.....still working...)

Things I need to do:
Tend to Linus (feed, walk, massage, terrorize)
Trust myself.

Plank Position?

I took this picture with my toe.