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The woman who screamed at me from the balcony apartment below…….

I’ve done it now.  I clean too much, or the wrong way, or maybe at all.   The balcony needed

a cleaning and it was nice weather so that is what I did.  I mopped it then filled the big watering

can out there with clean water and washed all the suds away.   It looked really nice.

And then I heard trickle trickle louder and louder as the water gained momentum and landed neatly and squarely somewhere below me.  I thought  “Uh Oh.  I hope she’s not home.”

She was.

And 5 minutes later as I was assessing the “damage” from my other bedroom balcony, thinking – it’s not bad – it ran off the ledge – I hear the doorbell.  I thought it was my imagination.  That it was my cell phone.  Then it went again and it was indeed the doorbell.

I thought, “I don’t have to answer it. I don’t speak french.”  Then, I said to myself, “Face it – just answer the damn door.”

Well, there, in all my anticipation was the crazed French woman,  wild blond hair and all berating me with a string of french obscenities from what I can gather.  She said something in a question, and I said, “Oui, “ cause What else was I gonna say – I was standing there with huge green gloves on and a mop in my right hand while she was pointing towards my balcony………

She kept going on with words.  I’m thinking -”How many French words does it really take to say, ‘You’ve ruined my balcony/plants/life and I think you’re stupid?!?!”   Really?  I could do it 11 or less, but she’s still standing there and I’m still listening to her go on and on.  I just say “Oui” again as she points to my balcony and my mop and I say “Je suis desole”  – and then she sarcasticly repeats my “Je suis desole” like what the hell is that going to do?  So she leaves in

a huff with me still standing there dumbfounded.

Then I brush my hair back into a ponytail, get out of my pj’s , grab slacks,top,  check my face – put some eyeliner on cause I’m not going down there to face her LOOKING like the cleaning lady I’m really not, and go to my computer. I put in “google translate: How to say,  “I do not know what I did exactly –

but whatever it was – I will clean it up.  “Je ne sais pas ce que j’ai fait!  MAIS, je vais le nettoyer!”

So, I go down the flight of stairs in the dark, with my mop and translation and ring her doorbell.  Her dog would have woken up the entire village.  No one answers.   I ring again.  And again. The dog is louder now.

After 6 rings I left.  I could have sworn I heard her say something to that dog!

Then I went down the elevator this time to talk to the Guardien (landlord) to tell him my plight.

I still had the mop in my hand.  But the elevator went to the basement and I met someone getting on the elevator and he asked me a question in French and I said to him, I”M sorry but I do not speak French. “ He continues  to ask me something so since he wasn’t understanding me I just blurted out – “THIS WOMAN- from below just chewed my ass because apparently my cleaning the balcony bothered her and I’m trying to find out how to apologise and clean up whatever it is that I did……”   and then my floor opened and I went out and I’m sure he thought………I’m not sure what he thought……but if you’re gonna keep talking to me in your French language after I’ve already told you (IN FRENCH) that I do not speak French, then you’re gonna get a whole lot of my language.

Anyway, the GUARDIAN helped – very sweet that little Vietnamese is……..and he saw my paper where I wrote down the words that I DON’T KNOW WHAT I DID (EXACTLY) BUT WHATEVER – I’M HERE TO CLEAN IT UP…….

He did some motions  indicating “the woman below you” and I did motions of “she was FURIOUS”  and then he smiled from ear to ear and  said – “not to worry” that he would take care of it.

Great!
Now I’m tempted to go back to my balcony and throw another bucket of water right over the last!

But

I

Won’t.

When Taking a Taxi in Paris Saves Your Marriage Bigtime

TOO LATE FOR THE TRAIN TO TAKE YOU HOME

Ahhh, the evening has been crisp, cool, lively and we strolled for hours.  Then  we found a darling Bistro that wasn’t expensive and had been in that same location since 1902.  Belle Époque? No, later. Anyway, it’s a lovely and romantic evening and we’re starving.   Afterwards, we stroll  a bit more and there – just in front of you is the RER entrance (way below – in the sewers of the city),  almost exactly where you are standing!  (How lucky can we get?) as it’s only been a short walk down the tiny street and voilà!   This means that we will  get to Gare du Nord where our ever-present “Enghien Train” is waiting for us  – always.  EXCEPT  TONIGHT!!   We can hear the whirring sound as I hobble up the steps as fast as I can possibly go, my husband virtually lifting me by tangling my  elbow into his – and as I reach that last step, huffing like a steam engine – –  – it’s GONE – and – it’s the LAST train!! The very last.  You look to see if there might be any other possible way you could get close, to your home, to your BED, and you see the board turn over the times….. Yes, 4:00 in the morning!!!  The train to Enghien, not till 5.  It’s 11:30pm now on a Wednesday and you are so screwed.

So, you look around and see quite a few couples sitting there – untouched by this “no trains pheonoma “    and think ahhhhhh amour – it is lovely is it not?   They have each other close by, tight, with lovely smells of each other and it just doesn’t matter to them.  Not in the least.    I love my husband, but I am at the age where my body dictates to me that the BED is the next thing you want after a full day of walking, and a lovely romantic dinner with vin – it is just time to get in your car and go home!!! But alas, we have no car, and will not have one, ever,  here and – it’s trains or nothing to get you from point A to point B.  Just like that.  Your body dictates, “Your day is done.”  I do not want to sit in the wee hours of the morning smelling my husband in the train station.  I want to go home.   Now.   David knows this, but we ‘re on a budget here and the next budget step would be a BUS.   A bus from Gare du Nord to Enghien-les-bains.  We’re talking a bus that makes at least 30 stops just from one town to the next……not to mention the next 5 (FIVE) towns the driver would have to go through.  Oh, !! SO what to DO?   We do not take a bus, that is for sure.

We go out the front of Gare du Nord and find a taxi stand.  “To Enghien?” he says.  We say, “Yes, to Enghien!”   “It is 40 euros”  he says in almost perfect English.   Oh – I just walk away wanting to just go far far far away – from the sound of that and the thought of that.  David calls me back and he says “He’ll do it for 30”!

I’m thinking, “hmmm, I’ve always wanted to see what it would be like to go to from Paris’ North train station (Gare du Nord) to Enghien-les-Bains – it could be interesting”…….(not very)…..so we, out of a weak, tired, searching for sleep moment, DO IT.    Oh, Marti, Marti!!  DO not think about what this day has cost…..because you will not be in a good mood the rest of the night.  You have learned something extremely important tonight, I say to myself.  And that is,  that if you go to a movie, and then have dinner, like most French people do (late)  – you will have to carry schedules with you at all times so you know when you must LEAVE the restaurant to catch the metro, or RER to get your very last train back home and not spend a fortune taking a taxi!!!

That being said, the taxi driver was most interesting, spoke English, slammed the “suburbs” of Paris cause “people don’t walk there and drive everywhere” (which, for sure, hurts his business) and extolled the virtues of his wonderful Paris, although he, himself,  is  Lebanese.  Such a talkative feller.  He might have (almost) been worth the 40 EUROS it cost us to go home last night. Almost.

We got out of the taxi  in the cold darkness, smack in front of the apartment, which was a luxury,  in the wee hours of the morning.  We had to laugh and forget the cost. This time.

“The cool crisp white sheets felt mighty fine……..she got to her bed just in time to fall fast asleep….and dream a little dream of  never ever missing the Last Train to Enghien again.”    TRAIN SCHEDULES GIRL!!!

THE STUFF YOU BRING BACK FROM AMERICA

I live in France now.  When you live in France and you fly west, over the big blue ocean, you start dreaming of all the STUFF that you can buy over there for a third if not half of what you pay for it in Paris.  Forget that it’s stupid stuff and takes up major room in your suitcase, you NEED it and you will bring it back at all costs – and sometimes, if you are given the “That’ll be an extra $100 for your overweight piece of luggage” you still think you have saved a bunch of money by bringing all this crap back.  Now that being said, I didn’t bring tons of stuff back, I wasn’t  charged overweight, and brought just a few items like toothpaste, toilet paper (I’m in love with Charmin), makeup,  lots of English books, (including my Bible and devos- not stupid)  and many clothes.

The Charmin is such a luxury. Without going in to detail, I use it for the obvious as well as blowing my nose.  I love the feel of it.  It beats the pink stuff here, which is all I can afford, because the white stuff is just too expensive. The pink is – ug – well, it’s not soft at all!  Love love  CHARMIN!

There are certain items in your life that bring you comfort and happiness and it’s interesting phenomena as to why these things are important. Just last night I was really wanting my flexible spatula that I use to pick up,  ever so gently,  fried eggs.   The apartment kitchen only has a very nice, stainless, and inflexible spatula, and I don’t like it.  I also love saran wrap.  But dare I bring the industrial size with me that belongs in restaurant kitchens?  I don’t think so. So, I bought just one roll at Wal-Mart and threw out the box.  (There’s a stainless serrated holder for foil and saran wrap,in my apartment kitchen,  so that’s a plus).Since I cook quite a bit, there are things that need to be wrapped well, and plastic wrap is my favorite thing to use for such purposes!

My clothes were really special.  After seeing the prices of clothes in the shops in Enghien, not to mention Paris, I decided I’d hit Nordstrom’s and Macy’s once I arrived in Saint Louis, thinking that the prices would look like Wal-Mart after living here.  And I was right, especially the sale racks, so I stocked up on some wonderful sale items even before Christmas.  Such good quality and inexpensive skirts, tops, sweaters, and eureka,  was I happy!!  Then I bought some pencils at  The Body Shop and became disappointed in them, so I may be relegated to buying others here and I’d rather not as they are so very expensive for just one eyebrow pencil.(Although I just read L’Oréal owns Body Shop.)  Hmmm.   There are things I miss, especially services, which I cannot even begin to enjoy here….like my hair cuts and color, pedicures and having my eyebrows done.  Where the heck am I going to get my eyebrows done without paying like 50 thousand euros?  And the pedicures?!  Where are the little Vietnamese places that soak your feet in warm water with real cut lemons, then massage your legs for half an hour while you sit on a chair that KNEADS your spine gloriously, and  then places hot towels on your legs after the massage and then paints your toes bright red? (And all for under 20 dollars).  WHERE?!?!  Oh mon dieu, there is just no way. And MUSIC! and TALK RADIO!  Oh, the radio stations?  I’ve listened to nothing but classical music since I’ve been here, and  talk radio is, of course, all in FRENCH, and it just doesn’t compute.  It lulls me to sleep. I could have downloaded more of my music on iTunes, but there never seemed to be enough time while in my little home in St Louis.     On the go, here, there and everywhere.  So, I’m back to listening to an aria in German from this station that always plays German artists.  I’m used to it now, but I do miss my particular music.  I could turn on the TV but once again, it’s not computing. And the Mousline with Fiber ad? Really now, a “Sound of Music themed family ” with all of them, including the children, singing something in French about the benefits of fiber in their cereal…..?? Well, I think that’s what it is about.

We have learned to live without what we had in America, and to put it mildly, it’s just more SIMPLE.  Simple is good.  You see what is important besides the stuff you were attached to back in America, and I have to stay, we are spoiled and are addicted to a lot of STUFF.

The couple I work for, they will be leaving in a few months to return to America, to the North East.  They have a small baby and have expounded on the vast differences in the prices of baby items in Paris and how they are so tres cher that many who live here actually get on the EURO-STAR, get off in London and buy their baby things, especially the high-end items as bouncy seats, car seats, and strollers and bring back to France.  The Euro-star is not cheap travel by any means, so that ‘s how much a savings it is.  And in America?  “Practically free, they’re so cheap!!!    One stroller here in France, a good stroller, not the highest end, is 600 euros ($780).    That same stroller is less than $150.00 in the states.   Babies, are very expensive to raise here.   You don’t even want to know the price of baby shoes.

So these nice people are going to the land of plenty, where everyone has a car and no one walks anywhere any more, except to the mall, to buy more stuff to put in their big houses with the big closets.  It is all well and good and sometimes, you come to a place in your life where stuff matters more than other things. Or, it takes the place of other things.  It is comforting and is pleasing to know that your hard-earned money goes very far in certain countries.  I wish them well and think how it’s such a juxtaposition that they are leaving here to go there ,  and we left to come here for very different reasons.   They have incredible and stable careers,  both are on sabbatical with the baby and do not have to work and want to enjoy the glories of easy living and a life of plenty.    We have no jobs (in America) and came here to work and leave our STUFF behind.

I have so little now in the way of possessions.  Even after bringing back a few things that make me feel happy and secure, if I had to, it could all be put in carry on luggage and taken out of here – just as I came.  My legs carry me to places I could have only dreamed about and my visuals are many, varied, stunning, and thought-provoking.  Intricate and beautiful architecture,  the 16th century church which I see from my balcony,  historical treasures,  a virtual United Nations riding the trains, even the shop windows in Enghien.  Don’t the shop windows make me sad because I cannot afford their luxuries?  Not really, because there is such beauty  in the way in which their contents are arranged that even looking is a joy.

Yeah, the stuff you bring back from America, from anywhere,  is sometimes more out of habit, then of need.  It combines with nostalgia and comfort those things that we think we can’t live without.  They are sometimes small and insignificant and  sometimes large and necessary.   It’s what makes one shop successful and one storefront empty and bare.  It’s the immigrant  with the beautiful smile selling Adidas in the north side of Paris and it’s the  woman sitting on a cardboard box in the metro with her hand out so she can feed her kid.   It’s all things.   It’s what makes the world go ’round.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ”  Matthew 6: 19-21

THE CACKLING WOMAN AT THE PARTY DOWNSTAIRS

Saturday night.  Night for parties.  In my apartment building. I wasn’t invited but I went vicariously anyway.  How could I not?  The laughter was so loud that it prompted me to open my sliding balcony door and peek over the side to see exactly what was so funny.  Ofcourse I wouldn’t understand why they were laughing because i don’t understand French jokes, or french anything for that matter, but it was fun to listen to, for an hour or so. After that, it became quite annoying.   I mean really.  At one point, the woman who was cackling was so taken with her laughter that she had to cross her legs in order not to pee (I presume) because that’s all I could see from my vantage point above and from my balcony.  No heads, only waist down – and that’s where she kept crossing her thighs hard, which I’ve had to do to keep from peeing when I sneeze.  But she wasn’t sneezing, she was cackling.  Good, I thought, someone over 40…….no one under 40 has to cross their legs when they sneeze, I dare say. I closed the patio door and the laughter came straight up from below….I mean honestly – what could have been so funny?   I turned the radio louder to drown her out as it was really irritating by now.

Then, it settled down a bit and I went out on the balcony to check on them.  Were they dead drunk, dead, awake, what?  The madame had the kitchen window wide open and was flicking her cigarette butts out into a tiny ceramic planter while she washed the dishes.  Her hands were so red that it must have been really hot water.  I thought, “I’m going to be a voyeur now and see how French people wash their dishes to see if I can learn anything”.  But it was virtually the same as what I do…fill the sink with water, squirt some soap in, swish the sponge around on the dishes, first the top of the plate, then the bottom of the plate – oh okay, boring, they do it like “us”…….with the exception of the cigarette while washing….that was tricky.  How did she not get the cigarette wet?  The cackling woman must have passed out.  I didn’t hear her anymore.

What does it take to get shoes repaired around here?!?

When is a Cordonnerie NOT a Cordonneire?   Cordonnerie in French means “shoe repairer”.    That is what is right down the street and around the corner next to my little grocer.

But every time I go in there for a repair, it is met with “NON”.   David had some work to be done on his Mephisto’s and it seemed like a simple repair, but they didn’t have either the laces, or the machine in which to repair those shoes.  So, he still wears them and looks like the true pauvre professeur.  I asked today if they had heel taps to keep  my boot heels from wearing down as I wear them a lot.  “NON” – came the response.  He was washing his outdoor window when I walked by to ask him and to show him what I needed.   I repeated the question because I could not believe that he was telling me “NON’ again. I mean really, what is this store used for? Is it a FRONT for something else?  I said – in very poor french – Que faites-vous ici?  or ”  what are you doing in here” or something to that effect . Obviously I did not get an answer.  I continued walking – and scratching my head.  Where am I going to find a CORDONNEIRE that wants to repair my shoes?!?

Arriving in Enghien after Christmas Vacation in Saint Louis

The photo at the top (if you can see it) is Enghien-les-bains, our little village. (You might have to actually click on the blue lettering of the title of this piece.) Anyway,  It’s a lovely spa town and really came into its own at the turn of the century. I will share a link of it at the end of this story. It’s also connected to Montmorency, which is our actual address and that has even more wonderful and very interesting history.

When I arrived after my Saint Louis vacation it was a balmy, breezy, overcast morning and very quiet in Paris.

While putting on my socks after a really good sleep up front,   in this speeding fuselage, with way  too much wine with dinner,  I looked at the GPS and saw  7:20am. I searched out my village, from the window,  though impossible, because it was dark.  But every morning – from my little bedroom, I hear the sound of the airbus and wonder if it’s USAirways or not.  This is a peculiarity of one born in the airline business.  We tend to listen, watch, even crane our necks to see what is flying above us, even if it means stepping out into on-coming traffic while  gazing above.  It’s a disease.   So, now I know, that at around 7:20 or – 7:40  approximately, my airline, the one I’m officially retired from,  is making its way over  Enghien, jet engines soaring – as we are in the direct line of Charles de Gaulle airport.  It’s due east of our apartment.

Good landing, windy, a bit hard with nose wheel though.  That big round Terminal 1- comes into view – the circular lights streaming round and round.

I love  coming into that terminal early in the morning…..the stores, the clerks, getting ready for the day, the L’Occitane, the gift shops, perfumeries, all so still, quiet, waiting for the onslaught of people making their way through in a few hours and jamming the corridors, grabbing last-minute souvenirs.

They gave me a special customs pass to get into and out of customs quickly. I felt like a diplomat.  What fun was this!?!   There was only one other gentleman ahead of me and then it was my turn, and an official puts my card into the stall (like a train ticket) and off I go to the customs window. It’s just me and this guy. I’m thinking where are the other 296 persons behind us? Or in front of us? It’s so unimaginable to be going through customs so quickly and just TWO of us!!  Went forever around that circle, knowing it so well as I lived there one entire day , in 2000 while David flew by taxi back to the city to get a new passport!  I had inadvertently “washed” it in the  gite washing machine, and of course the airport officials  wouldn’t accept it!  A whole other story!  Saw signs to baggage – went there, so quickly,  – and then the signs to the tram/shuttle where I would go to the Roissypole to get the RER. As I got down and off the elevator – there was my honey waiting there for me!! It was majorly fun to see him!!!! A big huge hug!!!!

 

Saint Louis has a HOLD on me……..

Okay, Not meeting my husband in Paris afterall,  not riding the train back to my cute little apartment,  not feeling the cold damp air, whispering fun stories to my husband on the RER,  no unpacking the two huge suitcases in the apt and filling it with all our meaningful STUFF, no baguette with brie in the morning.

And I was 1 hour and 40 minutes early!!. So I (mistakingly ) thought it should be enough time to do all that ticket counter/security junk.  Wrong.

I could blame it all on Jan 2nd being the day EVERYONE returns to their homebase. Or, it could be from the stupidty of that guy that caused a breech in Security somewhere this weekend, which then in turn caused the TSA agents to be extra slow and cautious. Yeah, I  could so blame them, because it took everyone incredibly  long to get through security, after being in an already 45 minute line at Ticket Counter because they were x-raying a lot of bodies and doing the “pat down”,  moi included.  I mean, really, what? Why?  So it’s all their fault. But it’s not. It’s mine and mine alone, I suppose.  My passport and ticket and upgrade were all in my hand which I shoved into the little red and green Christmas bag when my flight was announced in security as the “final boarding call”.  I did what the French people do, and  said, “I’m on that flight they just announced may I go ahead of you?” Which I was sure would be looked upon, from the Americans in my midst,  as horrendous and ofcourse they wouldn’t let me through, but I was surprised and they actually made way for me, and then the person behind me, and then the person behind them. (All going to PHL.)   Whew. No ugliness, I was so relieved.  But then after tearing off my boots, placing my Mac in the bin, the small carryon, my satchel, which had the little Christmas bag stuffed in it along with the passport and the ticket  – It was another 10 minutes AFTER those things were put on the belt that I finally was able to get “body screened” and then had to wait for the results of THAT, and I’m thinking….”I’m practically naked……I have a simple turtleneck, stretch slacks, socks, underwear, no belts, no metal, no underwire bra, no barretts, no  nothing, just my skin under this and it took so long for the body scan to produce the results that I was “a- okay”.    I kept looking at my stuff over on the other belt because it had been sitting towards the end for quite sometime with a whole lot of other stuff piling up behind it.    It all looked to be there, but it was still far away.  Finally, yes, FINALLY, they “released “ me and I dashed over to the belt to retrieve my stachel, my boots, my small carryon and looked up and down for “something else” but didn’t see it and I don’t know why I didn’t think “CHRISTMAS BAG”, but I didn’t and off I went. And I do mean OFF…….as in running.  If any of you know me, it might be obvious already that I do not run.  My knees are shot, I am lucky to do all the walking I do , especially steps, without so much as a cane.  The Agent made the announcement at the gate that the flight was closing in 3 minutes.  When I hear this I am all the way at the other end and start to run.  But I can’t run. So it was sort of a hobble and my heart started racing and I was breathing like an asmatic, and thought, “there is just no way, as my computer bag kept falling off my back……along with my coat because the computer bag was dragging it off of me.”  When I arrived at Gate 17,  Nancy, the sweet agent dashed my seat in my hand and off I went down the jet way.  When I got to my seat, I started coughing uncontrollably and was still gasping for air.  The water helped, but I just could not control the coughing and would cough into my down coat so I didn’t piss everyone off.   When I looked down to make sure my phone was off, I looked for my little Christmas bag with my passport and ticket and  – well, it wasn’t there, and it was too late to get off the plane as they were pushing back.

Oh Mon Dieu!!!!!
The coughing was really bad now and I coughed and sputtered and cried all at the same time.  My fate was clear…….I was not going to Paris today either and I would have to fly back to Saint Louis and hopefully retrieve my passport, unless someone else picked up that little bag, (which if that was the case,  is another huge security breach!)

This is the SECOND time that I’ve tried now to get to Paris in 3 days.  David had to leave without me on United the other day cause flights were full.  (We’re always on standby for all you non-airline people who don’t know this about the way we travel.)

But, hey, these non-rev passes are my only BENEFIT after 19 years, so hey,

you just roll with the punches, I suppose………

So, dear reader, THAT is where I am now……God only knows what is really going to happen next.

Well, looking at the bright side – I’ll be in a lot of cafes and bars today all day – and I’ll collect all the free napkins to put in my satchel – cause once you’re in EUROPE, you need a lot of free stuff like – NAPKINS!!!

Life is such an adventure, and so many times I wish that it were not.

Okay. You will not believe how this ended…………………………….

As I was getting ready to step aboard my USAirways flight back to Saint Louis.……….up walks  Susan, the Flight Attendant from my STL-PHL

flight  and she is  – holding – HOLDING the LITTLE GREEN CHRISTMAS BAG with my PASSPORT, my F/C UPGRADE, my Life…..so to speak…and

I almost fainted.

I  am now  very visibly drunk (forgive me God)……..and now am sitting resolutely in a white rocking chair looking at the sky and the concrete of massive parking garages in Philadelphia Airport waiting for my check-in time at the gate for my flight to Paris.

 

My life is SO not boring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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