29 November, 2008

23 November, 2008

Journey to the Center of the Birthday

The night began with a great deal of deliberating.

Actually, I should start the story even earlier in the day when Greg and I picked up Stef on platform 5 at Gare du Nord. After saying how happy we were, hugged, got over how weird it was to see each other in Paris, and we were walking toward the metro, I told Stef, "You couldn't have timed your arrival in Paris any better; tonight we've been invited to an illegal party in the Parisian Catacombs."

But, when I told Stef that we had been invited to this party, what I really meant by that was my friend Emily had been invited to a party in the catacombs and that she had extended the invitation to us. So we (Stef, Greg, and Ciara) met up with Emily (and several more of our American friends, both mutual and otherwise) and her Frenchie friend outside a metro stop near a secret entrance into the catacombs. The Frenchie, who was familiar with these sorts of underground parties, told us to "Get ready to get wet." Surprisingly, only the people from Bellingham laughed at this unintentionally funny remark. Eventually we stopped laughing and began weighing the situation. The deal was that in order to get to the party inside the catacombs we had to trudge through small, cramped passageways that often had dirty water depths of around thigh high (a thigh for Ciara, a knee for me). None of us were dressed to get wet (maybe to party, but...), or were too enthusiastic about staying out past last metro, or hanging out in a cave with wet pants and socks. A few people from our group said that the night just wasn't for them and left. We said the same thing and began to leave. Fortunately my friend Andrew stopped us. He told us we were being [dumb] and what were we thinking, etc. So we decided to stick with it, and started walking toward the secret entrance.

About halfway there Ciara and Greg and Stef and I started being dumb again and decided to not go in. Let's just go drink in front of the Eiffel Tower, we said. That's a fun thing to do, we thought. You can only do it in Paris, justifying our cowardice. So we started walking back to the metro.

But then something changed. The crux of our argument was that even if it took 3 years for us to look back fondly on this adventure, it would still be worth it. Plus, even the idea that we were already regretting not going told us a great deal about the situation's potential. The four of us, even Scaredy-Cat Ciara, ran and caught up with our friends, had a sports ball roll up to our feet, stopped it with our foot, looked at our friends and said, "Let's do this thing," bought a bottle of whiskey, and fucking went for it.

First we had to walk through an abandoned train tunnel for nearly twenty minutes. It was dark. What made it especially creepy and like a scene from a nightmare was that it was pitch-black but also enclosed with a vanishing point; we had to keep walking further toward the darkness into a looming abyss.

Eventually our guide told us we had made it to the hole we were to climb into the earth from. This is when I stopped being nervous. All of a sudden there were several groups of young people, all smoking and drinking and laughing. Most important to me was their laughter. If they were having such a fantastic time before going inside the earth to get wet and cold, inside had to be a pretty special place.

Outside the Catacombs in The Cave of Darkness. Long legs = Birthday Boy.

We drank the whiskey. We did some other stuff. We climbed into the hole. Here are some pictures documenting the event:

Walking through the cavern.

Greg inside the Catacombs, taking a time out from the party.

This girl was explaining to me that it was also her birthday. Note even mid-conversation I'm n. 1.

This picture demonstrates the party's lighting well.

Other moments of note include:
  • A performance piece put on by three Frenchies. They tried to explain how we all have one foot in the grave even though we're indeed not dead. I think my favorite part about the performance was the part where I got to hang out with my friends in the Catacombs.
  • I was kissed by a very pretty Danish girl.
  • Ciara met a boy named Tank Top.
  • People loved us!
  • I turned 23 without noticing it right away (because we were using Stef's time judgement, and she was an hour behind on London time).
  • Some people sang me "Happy Birthday," but not everyone, which is how it should be. I don't care much for the idea of strangers telling me something they don't mean.
  • Greg talked to a lot of people and felt good about that.
  • The party was lit entirely by candles; the flash pictures from inside the catacombs make it look a lot different than it actually was.
  • No parents allowed.
  • People were dancing to a battery-powered boom box.
  • I've never seen Stef shine so brightly. At one point I questioned whether or not Jules Verne had written my birthday, and on cue Stef proclaimed, "Journey to the Center of the Birthday."

Stef, on fire.

We left wanting a little more (the only way to leave anywhere, really). Our coats were dirty. Our shoes would never be same. But then again, neither would our hearts. We walked back out of the Cave of Darkness just the four of us, no guide, no flashlight. We reached the city and were blown away by how sensitive our eyes were to light. Even our cornias had been transformed by the journey.

We got into a taxi cab and headed home, cementing my theory all perfect evenings in Paris end with a taxi ride.

The next morning, Greg and Stef and I brunched from 11-3 and my actual birthday began.

Ground Zero, best year of my life.

20 November, 2008


I can say that without exceptions, my twenty third year is the most death defying, dirty, slightly illegal, and memorable year I've had yet. I won't go into the details, but please allow me to say this: I got so wet tonight.

19 November, 2008

Today I saw this dog.

He was loving the big city life! Drinking cigarette puddles, letting his hair poof out, probably just got done chasing a cat around, and more likely than not upped on goof balls -- and why not! The dog's just looking for a good time in Paris. Who isn't?

17 November, 2008

"There's Never Any Time!" -- Jessie Spano

Blogging has taken a back seat to applying for higher education. There's just no time to write about anything interesting or otherwise these days.

But, Ciara and I went to the Louvre last Friday. It was the first time I had been back since the summer of 2007. If you ever stumble into the Louvre, I highly recommend skipping out on the bull shit and heading straight to the Northern Renaissance wing. Look how together they had it back then.

Jesus and the Marys + John the Evangelical.

Easily the coolest crucifix I've seen.


And then these things happened a while ago:

On a beach about a month ago I did yoga for the first time.

Ciara doing her best Belle and Sebastian album cover impression.

Favorite festival poster to date.

This was the night Barack Obama was elected President of the USA.

11 November, 2008

Unexpected Points Awarded to America

Well, over here in Europe we all live under rocks, and my messenger pigeon did not arrive until this morning bearing for me the news that Barack Obama was elected by the citizens of the United States of America to be their 44th President. It is my understanding that this is rather historic: Never before in the history of the United States (or world?) has their been a Marxist-Socialist-Muslim-Terrorist in the oval office, nor has there ever been a Marxist-Socialist-Muslim-Terrorist ever, in general, in existence.

Big week for first evers, I guess...

At any rate, this article from The New Yorker is probably the most interesting article I've read concerning the upcoming Obama presidency. Here's a teaser to whet your appetite:

The real problem with partisanship, Obama believes, is that it’s no longer pragmatic. After decades of bruising fights in Washington, it has become incompatible with effective government. “I believe any attempt by Democrats to pursue a more sharply partisan and ideological strategy misapprehends the moment we’re in,” he writes in “Hope.” “I am convinced that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. For it’s precisely the pursuit of ideological purity, the rigid orthodoxy and the sheer predictability of our current political debate, that keeps us from finding new ways to meet the challenges we face as a country.”

I'm jealous of everyone in America who got to go and celebrate in the streets after the election was called for Obama. My favorite anecdote I've heard is from Bellingham via the Dear Tracy Reilly. While running through the streets she yelled to a police officer blocking off the traffic, "Thanks!" To which he replied, "You're welcome! I'm just glad to see everyone so happy!"

Even the police get it. What sort of America am I going to be coming home to?

The answer: Clearly a much more adorable one.

04 November, 2008


After a perfectly terrible voting performance in 2008, I finally managed to make my voice heard. I just got back from the post office where I dropped off my voter's ballot. What I like about this election is that I got to vote for a candidate I believe in and share ideas, values, and hopes with. I like that the future seems near, and that it's optimistic despite the obvious difficult circumstances at hand.

Before going to the post office, I made this neat lapel pin:

Heads up to my Uncle Jim (the Original Uncle J!): I hereby declare my Presidential vote as a foil to yours, and I dedicate it to all of our political discussions over the past four years that I treasure and value endlessly. Also, I wrote you in for the Whatcom County Auditor. I hope you don't mind.

Tonight I'm going to the Democrat's Abroad party. With any luck at all it will become a victory party.

To pre-funk for this evening I'm going to go watch W., which I assume I won't enjoy.

Earlier today I encountered one of the most bedazzling women I have ever seen. She smiled and winked at me and said, "Bonjour, monsieur." I thought I'd die. Her eyes were more like fishbowls than eyeballs, and her freckles were everywhere.


Update! Turns out I didn't see W. Turns out it's 129 minutes long. Turns out I hate Oliver Stone. Turns out Barack Obama is the President-elect.

Go! Vote! C'mon!

Run, comrades!
The Old World is creeping in!

Further! Vote! and Hope!

Young Americans.

01 November, 2008

through line: my dear mom

I was completely in the dark on the topic, but as it turns out my mother has a cult-following in Europe. At least among the demographic of those likely to graffiti a name onto a wall.

Pula, Croatia. August, 2007

Edinburgh, Scotland. October, 2008.

It's a strange through line with my traveling, to have my mom keep popping up in written form in various alleyways. Maybe all of those times I told her she's the best Mom in the World I was actually onto something, and in reality she actually is recognized as the champion. And maybe, just maybe, she has hooligan mom fans scattered across Europe who defiantly write her name onto walls to make her that much more immortal.

Dear Mom,

Congratulations. You did it!