Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   Eiffel Tower
Thursday, January 24 2002

setting: Paris, France

Our sleep schedules were in such a mangled state that we woke up at one or two in the morning and couldn't get back to sleep. What was more, we were hungry. The molten fromage, which had been sitting like an anchor in our stomachs since we went to sleep last night, had long since vanished without a trace, leaving a void that we interpreted as hunger. So we went out onto Rue St. Germain and patronized a little crêpe place staffed by a jolly trio of Italians. In the somewhat bitchy social climate of France, their joviality stood out dramatically. Before she'd said anything, they'd already taken a shine to Gretchen, saying (in Italian) "excuse me, beautiful" as they slid a garbage can past her out onto the street. Somehow we all got to talking in a mixture of three different languages as our fromage-drenched crêpes were prepared. On their encouragement, I bought a huge 20 ounce can of some European beer that was eight point something percent alcohol.
Since our arrival in France, the weather had been about as good as one can expect for January. Temperatures never fell below the 40s and often reached up into the 50s, and there had even been some sun. We sat in a doorway along Rue St. Germain and ate our crêpes and I drank my beer. As we did so, some random young French Dan Re!tman appeared out of nowhere to caution me (in French) that I shouldn't drink my beer in public, that doing so was a crime. I nodded my head in agreement and, when he was gone, kept on drinking. I'd always thought New York was a lawless city, but Paris appeared even more so, and it seemed unlikely that the teenage policemen cruising around in their tiny little deedoo-deedoo-deedoo Citröens were going to enforce a public drinking statute on the likes of me.
The police were interested in the goings on at a nearby vendor of frites, mobbed as it was by a wide queue of late-night drunks. Gretchen had seen several people walk past munching on these fries and suddenly had a hankering for some, but all she had to do was get a good look at the grill, a place where jambon, oeuf, fromage, and pommes de terre all comingled and miscegenated in wanton French abandon. Then she lost all interest.

Live karaoke at Pub St. Germain.

We were still wide awake, so we ducked into a bar called Pub St. Germain and found our way to the basement. A live band was playing down there on a little stage before a small but crowded lounge room audience. The song was Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know," and the woman singing it clearly didn't speak English as a first language. A few songs later, it became clear that what was happening was a form of live karaoke, because the only changes made to the band between songs was the singer. In keeping with French musical tastes, the music was entirely American rock and roll.
Looking over the drink menu, we decided to order the Scorpion, an enormous 25 Euro beverage served in a fishbowl, garnished with a smoking volcanic island of dry ice.

The Scorpion.

Once we got out of bed sometime late this morning, Gretchen immediately ran downstairs and ordered us another day in the room, sort of in the manner of someone who has had fun on hit of ecstasy and so buys another at 4am. At 70 euros per night, a hit of our room was, of course, far more expensive than a hit of ecstasy, but it was also worth a lot more to us. Mind you, Hôtel Nesle wasn't dramatically quieter than Hôtel Practic had been. But our room was much more elegant and as for the mattress, there was no comparison.

The Eiffel Tower.

Gretchen and I had lunch this morning at a brasserie, and, in hopes of getting some protein from some non-fromage source, I ordered a "club sandwich," knowing full well it contained jambon. What I didn't know was that it also contained oeuf: three regularly-spaced eggs. I almost lost my merde; remember, I have a deep-seated and completely irrational aversion to eggs. Normally, of course, I know when to expect eggs and what to order to avoid them. But who knew I had to worry about them showing up in a club sandwich? Meanwhile, of course, Gretchen was horrified by the sight of my ingesting a huge slab of jambon. I'd never eaten ham in front of her before, but we were in France and my options were limited.
Later we rode the metro to the Eiffel Tower and then climbed it as far as we could on foot. Unlike a conventional building, the Eiffel Tower is mostly an outdoor structure. Grass grows underneath it, and the stairway isn't protected from the elements. This made our climb somewhat less than entirely pleasant, as a light rain was falling at the time.
There are two main levels on the Eiffel Tower, and these levels have a number of indoor spaces featuring gift shops, restaurants, and even (at least at one time) a skating rink. The lower of these two levels surrounds a circular void rising up from the ground, while the higher level is a solid square of real estate. Above this higher level, the tower is nothing more than a spire. The only way up to the very top is by elevator, which costs three euros per ticket. We had the misfortune of riding the elevator with a group of very loud Americans and a number of fairly loud Germans (relatively few people on the tower are actually French). The Americans in particular were the sort who, along with George W. Bush, give us Yanks something of a bad reputation in Europe. They were laughing so loud about something one of them had said that they were actually hurting my ears. You can imagine how this sort of thing goes over in Paris, a place that prides itself on leisurely subtlety.
When we came down from the Eiffel Tower, we rode the special trolley-elevator that goes up and down one of the tower's legs. From the Eiffel Tower, we walked up through the embassy district to the Arc de Triomphe, and then down the glamorous Champs Elysées, stopping along the way for a café crème. We made it all the way through the Jardin des Tuilleries to the Louvre, and we even went inside the Louvre pyramid, though it was too late in the day to have a look at the museum.

Our experience with fondue last night had been the final nail in the coffin containing our interest in French dinner cuisine. Even one more puddle of melted butter, even one more volcanic flow of molten fromage, and even the hint of jambon (for Gretchen) or unexpected dollops of oeuf (for me) might have left lasting psychological scars. So tonight Gretchen went out and got us Indian take away from a place called Chez Gandhi. I cannot describe how wonderful it was to eat something containing beans and substantial spices!

View a gallery of pictures from this adventure.

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