Thursday, January 8, 2009

Paris Day 1 - she sick woman very is

I cannot make souffles under these conditions

When the flight attendant gets on the PA to ask for a doctor or EMT because a passenger is ill, you imagine something fairly dramatic is going on elsewhere on the plane - the old guy in 25c is clutching his arm, half keeled over into the pasta primavera of the adjacent woman. In this case they meant but did not say that the passenger was ill in a very specific sense - he had gone berserk, threatened other passengers and made an attempt on the cockpit door before being overpowered by the flight crew and handcuffed for the two hours it took to get to the nearest airport, which was in Iceland. I had to ask three flight attendants to get the real story behind our impromptu stopover - most of them were sticking to the bullshit they'd fed us over the PA. The one I talked to last gave me the goods and confirmed my suspicion - based on how said passenger was helped, by his armpits, off the plane - that he'd had a wee bit too much to drink. "He was probably on some kind of medication and the alcohol made him lose it," said my source, who seconded my feeling that if our party animal could fly in handcuffs for two hours he probably could have made it another two to Frankfurt, thereby preventing me from having to recalculate my fucking carbon offset. He probably felt really on top of things right up until the moment they cuffed him. I'm not saying that because I've ever done anything remotely like this. Just - forget it.

Still life with oranges and exposed beams

Riveted as I should have been by the drama, I was mostly concerned with whether I was going to miss my connection and get stuck in G-d-awful Frankfurt. Thanks to ice storms in Amsterdam, my connecting flight was also late and I just made it, having run through an airport that seemed, at the time, possibly bigger than the city it serves. The plane fishtailed a bit as we descended into Charles de Gaulle but landed in the usual way. So weird to see France under a few inches of snow - much like the apparition of snowcapped mountains above the Anderson Valley I drove through in late November. The last time I landed in Paris, Air France had misplaced my suitcase and so I spent a week living out of my backpack carry-on (the suitcase arrived in San Francisco an hour before I did). This time my bag was nearly first off the carousel...minutes later I was on a shuttle train...minutes after that I was on the RER to Gare du Nord, and 40 minutes later I was being shown my room here at the Centre Internationale d'Acueille et d'Echanges des Recollets. I have unpacked, showered, shot the first clip of a daily video series ("90 variations: La Création du Monde") I've been brooding over the last few days and just figured out on the plane, in between reviewing two French chapters and getting through 60 pages of Anna Karenina and chatting with the big cute apparently straight guys on either side of me and dreaming Tylenol PM dreams; also I went shopping, made myself such dinner as is possible with two electric burners, a sink and a fridge, and am now doing battle with a powerful urge to sleep. It's the only reason I'm blogging - the alternative is walking around Paris in sub-zero temperatures (OK, sub-zero Celsius, but...). I feel like I've experienced at least a few absurd things worth recording - oh yes, the first music I heard in Paris, piped in over the RER sound system: Beat It. Music on the train, which sounded live though I didn't see the accordioniste or chanteuse: La Vie En Rose. Two flight attendants SF-Frankfurt promised me free drinks because of my Obama t-shirt. Somehow I never got one - they were too busy wining and restraining the flight psycho. When other people get more attention than I do, I die a little.

Historical plaque about the Recollets - nice to see St. Francis mentioned since Messiaen got me this residency - is the bird design a St. Francis reference? Tomorrow I will translate this.

I love my studio. Exposed gnarled massive off-kilter beams surrounded by an Ikea-minimalist renovation. The walls slope as though it were a Mansard roof but it's older than Mansard - in any case I'm on the top floor of four and overlook the Rue Faubourg-St. Martin to the west, the Rue des Recollets to the south, and if I stand at the window and look north I have a comprehensive view of the Gare de L'Est, which puts to shame most state buildings in the United States. It's actually amazing how tired I am right now. Maybe it would be less painful to walk.

Our courtyard, facing the Rue Faubourg St. Martin.

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Blogger Dugaldo said...

If it helps a little, in the resurrection of that little bit of you that died when that man went berserk, I liked your post.

January 8, 2009 1:53 PM  
Blogger Paul Festa said...

It helps so much even the jetlag doesn't hurt anymore.

January 9, 2009 11:28 AM  
Blogger Andy said...

I have to admit this is the FIRST blog that I really read, let alone posting a comment. Riveting and hilarious! Exactly the antidote I needed after grueling tech discussions for 2 hours straight. Thanks for sharing and I'll keep living vicariously while tethered to my desk. :)

January 9, 2009 3:33 PM  
Blogger quetzlcloth said...

Utterly horrifying. Though I suppose you're supposed to go through a series of trials when fleeing the Homeland(tm). I think 12 is the conventional number, so watch out.

January 9, 2009 4:01 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

Salut Pauli !
FYI, that's not a bird on the sign, it's a stylized version of the ship in the official shield of the city of Paris, the motto of which is "Fluctuat nec mergitur" (literally, "She floats but doesn't sink"--which, fortunately, turned out to also be the motto of the plane you were on).

January 9, 2009 5:41 PM  
Blogger Paul Festa said...

Andy - thanks for the props. QC - the balance of my trials, and then some, undoubtedly await me in revising a certain novel-in-progress you may remember. Marty - are you telling me that after 6 years of Messiaen I'm seeing birds that aren't there?

January 10, 2009 4:05 PM  

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