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Habeas Blogus

Book reviews, more for my memory than anything else.

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Location: Austin, Texas, United States

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Day 2, Dinner, then Back to the Ducks

In the restaurant we both speak French to the servers and to each other, at least for a while. I order a Pastis (I think it was Pernod), and she orders something more complicated. We decide to do the 25E formula each, and we’ll split each dish, finishing half and passing it over.

I have some trouble understanding the menu and Heather has to help me. I try not to let this be humiliating. I’m having exactly the same problem with this menu as I was with the one from the night before. Finally, we settle on Entrée, Plat, Dessert, and a bottle of provincial red wine.

The Entrées are amazing, one a duck confit (basically a duck loaf with bits of duck meat, duck fat, and carrot, bound with an amazing sauce). The other is a similar concoction with lamb. I like mine better than hers, but that may be because my duck was hot and her lamb was cold. I’m not quite used to cold meat, though it’s something I know I need to work on.

The Plats are mixed: mine was whitefish on a bed of rice with sauce, and honestly I could have made better myself without much trouble. Hers though... my god... hers was rare lamb shanks sliced 3/4’’ thick, and I wanted to eat that for the rest of the week. You could pull the meat from the bone with your lips and chew with your tongue. You never wanted it to be finished. I don’t even remember the sauce, because who needs it?

At this point Heather and I have covered the following in conversation: the pros and cons of marriage for both the man and the woman, the pros and cons of children and how she doesn’t want any, career vs travel and vacation, what we really want to do when we grow up, what we like in a partner, and how amazing it is to be an educated American, which allows one to appreciate good times like this. We toast, and I’m afraid I’m getting toasted.

Dessert is again mixed: my fondant au chocolat avec la creme anglaise is a bit much. The chocolate isn’t the quality or texture that I would imagine, though the crème anglaise is perfect. Heather has the calvados apple tart in phyllo pastry, and it blows my mind. It comes with handmade ice cream, and it crumples in your mouth as you taste the combination of brandy and cinnamon. There’s ginger in there too. And nutmeg. I like it more than Heather does.

At this point I think I’m babbling. Holy shit, alcohol just doesn’t work well for me. I’m not hammered, exactly, which is why I'm aware of the period where my level of conversation heads down. I start gossiping about some mutual friends and other folks. I go on about how Hemingway was the greatest American author ever and Heather strongly disagrees, bringing out the arguments much better than I can because she’s read a lot more. I can’t believe I never knew how smart she is, and I'll say that both drunk and sober. Suddenly, as she tells me she had wanted to go out but is feeling too tired now, I realize that I’ve let a real opportunity slip. She probably could have been a real friend to me had I not labeled her as “drunk make-out girl” nearly seven years ago. I’m an idiot. She’s got her whole life ahead of her and I’m, well--I need to walk her back to the hotel. She agrees to one drink in the hotel bar.

As we walk in the cold night I begin to sober up. We walk down streets between tall steel buildings and I feel like I’m in Chicago. There’s a highway in front of us, eight lanes with frontage roads, and I feel like I’m in Houston. Looming ahead of me is the Hotel Sofitel, dozens of stories high, and I feel like I’m in Dallas. We tear across the highway and the frontage roads and she asks if I’m okay getting back to Balard. She’s not even going to stop for a drink. That’s it, I’m not drinking any more on this trip. We hug goodbye and I walk back to Balard depressed. My head actually hangs low. I desparately need water.

Balard to Félix Faure is very quick, and the walk from Félix Faure, past the Citroen dealership, is even shorter. I enter the hostel and throw my notebook on the only remaining empty table. It’s 11:00.

Nima is still sitting at the bar. She’s making marks on a map. I leave my jacket and notebook on the table and head to her table.

“What are you still doing here?” I ask.

“Just trying to plan the day.”

“Hemingway tomorrow?”

“Yeah, sure. I’m just trying to see what else there is to do in Paris. I’m going to go up to bed now, mate. Did you have a good dinner?”

“Well, yeah, I guess. Dinner was good, I mean I think I may have--wait, you just wanted to hear it went fine, didn’t you?”

She smiles and winks. “I’m gonna head up to bed. Brecky tomorrow? We’ll meet?”

“Yeah.”

I sit back at my table and write:

Je suis un homme ennuyeux. I’m in the most romantic city in the world, and I’m alone. Je suis seul. Ban, voilà.

Such profundity. This is going nowhere quickly. Then I write down the details of the dinner, thinking I'm on to something interesting. That only lasts about a minute and a half. Then I feel morose again

Nobody here wants to listen to my bullshit unless I’m sober. I guess that makes sense, but it’s depressing. I thought I would be adopted by a bunch of Austrailians, but so far it’s only happened with a bitter old man whose young marriage is obviously falling apart.

I feel as if everything happening is something I predicted. And that somehow that means something, like when I’m confronted by disappointment, at least I can say I knew it was going to happen. Like it had to, otherwise the alternative is much worse.

I’m too serious... always have been. At least K knows she’s too serious and only rarely puts herself in a position where it’s an inconvenience.

It’s 11:15 pm and I feel like I’m at the Draught Horse [back in Austin]. Everyone around me speaking English and I’m drinking German beer.

I plan to pressure Alex to come here and do the things I can’t do--take a year off from college, travel here, get drunk under the Eiffel tower, hang out with French girls, work some ridiculous touristy job, and learn to enjoy life before it becomes routine.

I’m the libertine who doesn’t know how to live, the amant who doesn’t know how to seduce, the gourmand who doesn't know how to indulge. I...

The moment I begin the next paragraph three American girls walk in, looking confused. They get their room key and I invite them to my table. They come over and I get up, trying to let them have it so I can sit at the bar, but they insist I stay seated. We talk about our days and I tell them about La Douleur. I end up showing them Alex’s picture. Soon they talk about their fourth roommate--an old man (“No! He’s wayyy older than you!!”) who won’t stop talking about his mouse. "Where's my mouse? Have you seen my mouse? Non-living mouse?". Evidently he started to go through all their bags before they finally asked him to stop. They still don’t entirely know what he’s looking for, but they locked their stuff up in the common storage room. He also snores. Then we end up talking about Texas vs the world and George W, and that lasts far too long. I’m dying to hear the end of the story about their roommate, but the cutest one, the one in the middle, has to go to bed. They leave me with a smile.

I start to write again:

I’m surrounded by youth, and rather than be refreshing, it’s depressing. I have missed my chance, and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s all my fault, because I didn’t know who I was, nor did I understand just how big the world is.

I’m morose and in Paris. [My Nine-Inch-Nails-loving friend] Sean would be so proud. It’s like I live two lives: the life where I don’t care about politics and I wish I could be a citizen of the world, and I think Americans are ignorant and fat. Then there’s the other, where I belong in America and I believe 100% in its goodness, and I do my job and appreciate it and want more out of life.

A Marcus divided against himself will opt for stability. Every time.


Then two lovely Australian girls need a place to sit. Again, I start to stand up, intending (really) to go upstairs and turn in. Again, my new friends insist I stay. We talk about our days and I tell them about La Douleur. I end up showing them Alex’s picture. They want to talk about Texas vs. the rest of the world and George W, and that lasts far too long. At 2am the bartender rings the bell for last call and I head upstairs. My roommates are all in bed, and I take my shoes off very carefully, massaging my feet and promising them more, much more abuse in the coming days. I’m asleep within three minutes.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Jackk23 said...

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Tue Feb 27, 05:50:00 AM  

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