paris ended all too quickly. wook and i left our etap hotel room around 8:30am (paris time) and headed for de gaulle airport. we bought our last pain du chocolat and washed it down with a bottle of orangina as we rode the RER. as with any memorable trip that has to end, leaving paris had a tinge of sadness. it not only signaled the end of our stay in europe, but for myself, it marked the end of my last spring break trip to anywhere. daytona (FL), washington dc, boston, and paris. not a bad collection of cities during a four-year span.
back in america, at JFK, the first thing i noticed on television was a commercial for the NFL. “awesome. american!” i noted, not only happy to see the familiar NFL logo on the screen, but also a bit proud that i actually work for them. taking the cab back to columbia, we honed in on the radio news – child molester this, kidnapper that, manhunt, rape, killer – good old sensational american journalism; no more of that educational BBC World (the version of BBC shown in France) crap with their sophisticated accents and enlightening news. who wants that?
for the last time, we also did our best japanese tourist impressions, a string of familiar japanese words and companies said in fob accent: “oneska kawasaki fujiyama yamaha nintendo” and so on. we realized, as proudly american as we were in paris, most people in france would probably have grouped us with the numerous japanese tourists that swarmed the area.
a lasting impression i had from paris was from our meeting with elsa, a french girl we met up with on our last full day there. elsa had been in australia two years ago with tammy, a friend of ours from back home. tammy had contacted elsa and told her to meet up with us. wook and i got to the montparnesse tower, where elsa worked as an intern, just in time to meet elsa. we decided to drink at The Financier pub, a dingy Irish spot near the tower, and tried our best to communicate with each other. elsa was pretty good at english, although she struggled a few times for some words. wook and i tried some french with her, but our pronunciation butchered most attempts. elsa did note, however, that our grammar – mainly our verb conjugations – was solid.
what i gathered from talking to elsa, and later her friend jean who joined us, was that the french outlook on life, at least from their own perspective, was a bit skeptical and sometimes bitter (but not so much in an american whiny way). from an american standpoint, i couldn’t disagree – they seemed to be limited in social mobility with their crazy taxes and strict educational system, and their choices in jobs seemed narrower as well. but there were admirable things about the french mindset, at least from what elsa and jean told us – their independence from religion, their worldliness, and their awareness of politics. i liked how elsa, in criticizing bush, was also critical of the french response, noting that it was as much a “pride” issue on the part of france as it was a moral or strategic one. jean was a very upbeat fellow who proudly told us that he never went to college but was a “self-made man” as an IT guy for a french company. he was also an avid traveler and seemed less embittered than elsa. they both dressed in all black, which i thought was a very gothic look, but elsa laughed when i mentioned this (probably a bit offended at the remark, too) and said it was just professional attire. sensible and cool – those two words came to my mind after our meeting with our french friends.
our last full meal was at cafe moderne, which served as the backup after our failed attempt at alain ducasse’s aux lyonnais without a reservation (duh!). we were not late for finkel and big lou this time, so everything was in good spirits. cafe moderne was very new york in that the decor was sleek and “modern” and the menu offered that same fusion type deal we see in trendy new york restaurants. in one respect, it was probably not the place to go in a city like paris, with its deep restaurant culture and all, but on the other hand, it was comforting and relaxing to be in such a familiar environment. plus, the waiter spoke english pretty well. our meal included foie gras (again), crayfish tempura, pumpkin soup, sea bass, roasted beef, lamb, and some thai-curry flavored pork. we also had two bottles of wine, one of which was an excellent 1998 red wine that was mistakenly given to us by the waiter; we had ordered a 20 euro bottle of red wine, but were given a 43 euro bottle, so the waiter just charged us 20 euros when we pointed out the error on the check (l’addition).
hopefully big lou and finkel are having a good time in barcelona, which was their next destination.
back in new york, life resumes. i have this general feeling of dread as i attempt to piece together some sort of history thesis draft, but i know it must be done. last night, hours after arriving in america, i took a stroll out to kim’s after a long overdue workout at the gym and rented Before Sunset. i had watched the movie in the summer, but fell asleep for a part of it. i thought, having visited paris (i even went to the shakespeare & co. bookstore), i would find the film more interesting. i had to admit that paris looked better on screen, with the bright sunlight and lush greenery of its parks, but it was heartwarming to be reminded that just a day before, we had walked the same streets and breathed the same air. perhaps we should have taken a boat ride on the seine.
i wake up early and make it to 280 park ave. by 9am. it’s nice to breathe in new york again and to be in the middle of the bustle as everyone spearheads to office cubicles. i receive a warm greeting at the office and give a brief summary of my vacation. my boss surprises me with a letter; i open it up; it’s from the commissioner. we refer to him around the office jokingly as “PT,” as if he’s the friendly boss looking over us, but it’s actually an honor of sorts to receive a personal letter from him. it’s a thank you note regarding the playbook intranet site, and he commends me for having juggled my school work with contributions at the NFL. he also wishes me luck on the rest of my studies and my start at Lehman Brothers. i take a moment to think about how this letter was crafted – did someone write up a draft for him to skim and then sign, or does he know me by now? i remember during the summer he met with all the interns and i shook his hand and made him laugh by referring to my individual role as “my boss’s shadow.” i heard PT has a photographic memory. anyway, it was nice to get a note of gratitude and encouragement from high above – i think it’s good business practice, to keep employees motivated by positive enforcements.
well, it’s almost lunchtime – there’s a mountain of work to do, both here at the NFL and for school. in some ways, i find this environment more relaxing and comfortable, whereas travelling and the mission to have fun was a bit stressful and tiring. but then again, a mix of both always helps to make each side enjoyable. i am such a fortune cookie.
happy st. patrick’s day. if you know me, you probably know which song is being played in my mind right now.