There are many things to do in Paris. Many things people do in Paris not fully dressed. One of the best things to do in Paris is to eat cookies not fully dressed. These cookies have chocolate on the top but underneath are just butter. It’s butter and chocolate. Outside the sun is bright and cars are going by. There is much driving in Paris. If you attempt to drive a car into Paris and then return it to, say, an office of Europcar, you may find, first, that driving all the way out to the airport named for Charles de Gaulle might not be the best way. You might want to return it at the office of Europcar located at 60 rue Diderot right there in Paris not far from where you are planning to eat cookies in your underwear once all this is taken care of, the moving of the car, the surrendering of the car to its owners who you wish would just act a tad more grateful when they receive it for after all you have gone to the trouble of returning it. So you might find that the offices at 60 Diderot actually can’t take the car for reasons having to do with the fact that this is their last day of operation, ever. No problem. Standing at the desk, having already … well, never mind about that, never mind about how I almost saw a tear come to the eye of the sad receptionist who could not receive my car because an aura of office-death hung in the air (there must be a French phrase for that) but I have to tell you about the narrow crevice through which I squeezed the hybrid Yaris in order to go up three floors of a mysterious and quiet garage only to find that you can’t return the Yaris here, you have to go to 193 some other rue near the Gare de Lyon. Which it turns out having arrived at last night you could have just dropped the car off at the Europcar location last night and not driven it all around Paris all night before serendipitously finding a parking spot right outside your hotel except that you’re carrying your wife’s luggage too, so that wouldn’t have worked, actually, since she’s gone off to Innsbruck to see Aunt Marianna … (why the italics? Have you ever found that you start off with italics for some reason of emphasis you can’t even remember anymore and then just keep going like a terribly acute yawn or a fit of laughing and you just have to eventually stop the italics and go bold until even that get ridiculous and finally finally finally you’re back to roman? Ever happen to you? And furthermore where is that close parenthesis? Can I just close it here? I guess so))))) (more parens for emphasis!!!))) Anyway so the other place at 193 rue something-or-other near Gare de Lyon where the lady at 60 rue Diderot told me to return the car because, so sad, so very very sad! their office was closing forever tomorrow!!! just wasn’t at all visible from the street so I went in their parking garage and there was Avis and there was Budget and maybe one or two others but no Europcar. So then I couldn’t just drive out of their parking garage but had to pay for parking even though I didn’t park because it was a parking garage and the only way out was to exit as if you had parked there.
My wife, Norma, says I don’t lose my cool easily and I seem to accept the conditions of Parisian driving with preternatural calm. This is true. I am just an observer in these transactions. I myself observe myself observing how very calm I am when coming to understand that there is no place to put the car I am returning to Europcar. Then I get lost. I come out of the wrong garage at the wrong exit and am suddenly flying down some Parisian street in a squadron of motorcycles and scooters and that takes some time to find a place to pull over and I find somehow I’m way over by the Seine, which is a lovely river and no one should speak ill of it but it’s just not helping right now because the Yaris has to go back to its owner. So then I think OK let’s reroute with the help of the map person inside the iPhone and we make a new route which I am following until we turn down this street and there’s a garbage truck in the middle of the street collecting garbage. So that took about one inning. One of those innings where they have to dust the ball off a lot and lo0k at some replays. About that period of time basically. And then I come around again and sure enough I’m at 193 what’s-that-street-called and there’s no green Europcar sign. So then I realize that they’ve hidden it. Perhaps there is some shame involved, or just shyness. But shyness does not seem very French. Perhaps Europcar is not French. Perhaps it’s Belgian and has a complex. It is located like a cosmetics store might be located, up some stairs, down a concourse, or maybe like a toy store but not a place into which one must drive because the product of the place is a car which one must drive on streets and cannot bring into the building like a set of Legos or a compact. Anyway I think I get the picture. It’s like this for a reason. Oh, and by the way, before this happened I wandered into the Europcar location at the first place and found an office and there were like two people there, in offices, looking at spreadsheets. One of them spoke “a bit” of English. Merci.
Well, anyway, then I thought, having found the second Euopcar office at 193 what’s-its-street/rue/bd I realized I really shouldn’t leave the car with its flashers going right out on the street there in a not-parking place. So I drove it into the parking garage to park it while I transact my simple but urgent business upstairs. And what do I find in this parking garage? It’s the Europcar place. They keep that a secret but if you go and park your car, not looking for the rental return, you will find the Europcar rental return. You have to just not be looking for it. You have to be already so driven to distraction that you’re willing to park it in a garage and pay good euros for the privilege and basically have reached such a state of sublime gallic shrugnicity that you really don’t even care if it … which if you are paying attention is exactly the shape that enlightenment takes, i.e. reaching a point of such frustration that you really don’t give a shit and then Buddha appears and offers you some nice chocolate cookies and doesn’t even mention that you’re in your underwear.
And you’re not even having other coincidental thoughts such as …
did you remember to fill up the tank. Which you didn’t because in deciding not to drive all the way out to CDG you were so filled with a sense of wonder at the possibility of delivering the car right in Paris, just a few blocks away!!! that all sense went out of you.
So the car is delivered. And then riding the 1 Metro from Gare de Lyon to the Chateau Vincennes was a cinch. Except for just a couple of things right in the station related to buying the ticket. A lot of tourists must come straight to Paris from pig farms. They don’t know how to put coins in a machine to get a ticket for the Metro. But I have amazing patience and used the time to contemplate exactly how I would slide my coins in, and in what order.
So here is this thought I had:
I must not be a genius. That was my thought. Because if I were a genius I would think all these things through really quickly and I would use game theory and attack the problem from several angles simultaneously and I would draw on all the patterns of human thought and action I have observed over my many years and I would see very quickly, before we even drove to Paris, that if I really think hard about this, we will realize that Norma doesn’t have to take a train to Paris from Champtocé-sur-Loire because I’m driving to Paris anyway! Now, there was a lot of planning that went into this trip and circumstances changed and we just didn’t evaluate all the ways that the changing circumstances created new opportunities. That must be what generals and billionaires and despots do. They must be always always always thinking about every little changed circumstance and how it gives them an advantage. I just don’t pay that much attention. If I were a genius I’d probably never end up going Doh! and slapping my forehead when we do things like fail to realize until the last day of the retreat, until I’m practically ready to deliver Norma up to the train station at Angers, that she doesn’t need to take a train to Paris because I’m driving there anyway! (Originally I was going to stay in Champtocé-sur-Loire for a few days to write while she went to Innsbruck. And then I realized that Festival America was taking place in Paris and wouldn’t that be cool?)
So registering for that was a whole other thing involving my not being able to speak good French. They’re honoring American and Canadian authors and stuff, but I don’t think the main thing they’re interested in is the fact that they all wrote really good in English. It’s more all stuff read in translation. Maybe some of the translations are better in French. Anyway, I got the tickets after returning the rental car (only 15 euros for all three days!) and was walking back to my hotel room where the band downstairs in the bar was playing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” last night which I enjoyed very much before lugging my two huge suitcases up three flights of stairs (room trois cent trois, and what, monsieur, is this thing you are calling an “elevator”?) … after which, all of that, today, a few moments ago, I luxuriated in a very powerful stream of hot shower water for more time in the shower than one would spend in San Francisco’s drought, and then I found the cookies. We had packed a bag with all the leftover food from the chateau and there in the bag were Sablés nappés; Chocolate noir. Pur beurre.
I just happened to be in my underwear.
That’s how travel happens.
I’ll let you know if any really bright authors say any really dumb things.