Archive for October, 2015

The Unmet friend within

Scan 1962

It’s been particularly windy lately in The Windy City. For me as a bike rider, I have regarded wind as the enemy. Every morning I check the weather forecast and try to plan my ride around it.  Out of the north, south , east or west? MPH? Which direction will I suffer the most? Always wishing to start hard and end easy. There were days I abandoned the ride because I couldn’t psych myself up to battle the wind.

Today it was pretty damn windy. Not the worst but less than ideal. On the other hand it was the first warm day in awhile so I embarked on the journey. I left around 11:00 am and noticed there were not so many people out for such a beautiful Sunday. For a moment I entertained the thought that there were no runners on the path because of the Chicago Marathon. Immediately following that brilliant idea, I saw one, two three, four runners pass by.  Yep. Note to self: Not all runners are marathoners!

As I write this I am sitting in my yard and I will say that the wind is serious: whipping branches, leaves, table umbrellas and all renegade trash in the alley. By comparison, this morning was tame but none of these wind facts mattered because I was in an altered state. It was a crazy beautiful day, colors more vivid, water extra sparkly, and people reflecting the same joy I was feeling. I ditched my wind battle in body and in mind.

Suddenly the wind changed it’s attitude. No longer confrontational, it was instead loving. It circled me with invisible arms. stroked my hair, then messed it up mischievously! While the wind worked it’s magic on my senses, I began to have this thought. What if the key to happiness is letting go of judgement, impatience, and anger?  Sometimes I am like a giant walking clenched fist. As I move through life there’s always something in my way. If it’s not the wind it’s something else but the most vicious criticism is saved for myself. Why not relax and surrender? Is it possible to de-program a lifetime of bad behavior? Who would I be without those ugly things that lurk below the surface? A better friend, daughter, sister, artist? I don’t know for sure, but I want to meet that woman. The one who really only has love in her heart.

 

Push ups in Paris

Scan 1956

Today I will reach a long cartoon arm back in time to snatch a beloved story from the archives. Now that I’m back on this blog I want to keep the mojo flowing and I reckon a good old story never told before in writing will triumph over evil writers block! Okay, so come time travel with me: 🕓🕒🕑🕐🕛…………………………………………….

Yay, it’s 1987 and we’re in Paris! Check me out. I look pretty much the same (from far) accept 28 years younger and no giant purple 80’s glasses. I’m with Sue, standing in front of Notre Dame in the designated spot we’ve planned to meet Julie, who is there for the summer. Imagine that. Pre cell phone or email we had to pick a day and a time, months in advance and hope for the best. It’s springtime, the sun is shining and I’m wearing a long white dress. There she is! We can’t believe it worked. It’s all happening!

Julie has made friends with a big group of international students and that evening they take us to a restaurant on Ile St. Louis. It’s only my second time in Paris and I don’t know my way around yet. We meet them by the Metro stop Hôtel de Ville and snake our way down those twisty turny cobblestone streets, to a place called Nos ancetres les Gaulois. If I noticed the name of this restaurant on arrival, I surely forgot it when I stumbled out several hours later. It’s one of those medieval feast restaurants with many courses plus all you can drink from giant barrels of wine. Happily, it’s minus the King and serving wenches, one would find at the equivalent style joint in London. We’re in the larger group room in the basement. The walls resemble a cave with vines growing over them.

We are a mixed gang of Austrian, French, British and Americans sitting at a long table just opposite another table of already drunk and rowdy French people. There are several ceramic pitchers on the table and we take turns going to refill and then swill. Of course, there is some kind of drinking game where the penalty is….guess what? Chug that glug! It is all very sophisticated. The two French girls in our group, a bit more refined than the rest of us, appear to be scandalized.

There begins a singing competition starting with national anthems. The French drunkards ace it while we Americans begin with confidence, then stutter forgotten lyrics only to crash and burn. Now we move on to the solo performances.  Different people take turns singing and the most memorable song comes from the tall beautiful man from NYC. There is a basket of vegetables on the table. He grabs a cucumber (microphone) that someone has already carved into a penis and sings a perfect rendition of  “New York, New York”. Major applause. Better than the original!

I look across the table and I see my friend Sue, stealthily throwing pieces of bread at people when they’re not looking. She has morphed into an intoxicated 13-year-old. Cool! Then, oh no, is that me painting a stripe of Dijon mustard, top center of NY NY’s clean-cut Afro-textured hair? OMG, he’s rubbing his mustard head into Julie’s neck!!! There are no rules. It’s amazing. We are more than just a table full of drunkards. We are complete idiots but WTF? No one to judge us but the waiters….and maybe the two French girls.

There is another guy from NYC and he stands behind my chair and announces to the room in French: “This woman can do more push ups than any man in this room. Who will challenge her?” Uh oh. How does he know this obscure and unlikely fact about me? Was I bragging about it in between gulps of wine? Well anyway, three guys take the bait.  Everybody gets up and someone tries to clear the table for these crocked olympics. The waiters intervene: Absolutment, pas! Okay, on the floor.

Me first. I remember the adrenaline, heart pounding OMG I cannot believe I’m doing this feeling. The whole room is counting in french: “Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq…” Sue and Julie are standing up high on the benches flexing their muscles in body builder stance as they count, hoot and holler in support. I keep going and I think I have reached 60 before I collapse. Alas, losing my grip of french numbers, I have only done 50.

My first challenger does 40 before crumbling. The next guy manages 4 and the third one aborts mission altogether. I am victorious. The spectators pick me up and I’m paraded around the room in all my push up winning glory. Holy merde! Who is this American girl?

There is a Gerard Depardieu look-alike ( back in the 80’s he was really cute) and he REALLY wants to talk!  There is about 15 minutes of trying to have a conversation using a French-English travel dictionary. A little pantomime would have been more concise as he just wants to get, you know….naked.  Well even if he has a chance,  which he doesn’t, I am yanked away by my friends. Out on the late night streets of Paris, there are more crazy encounters with strangers before Julie, the french speaking, semi sober one, shoves us into a cab to our hotel.

In the morning, I feel like complete and total shit but I have the overwhelming realization that if I die today (from the hangover) I have had the most fun night of my entire life…thus far.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to access this kind of adventure in my daily life. Is it unrealistic? After all, vacation is vacation and home life is composed of routine and responsibility. Does routine kill adventure? Is this paragraph killing my story? This particular experience involved a lot of drinking but that was not it’s true spirit. It wasn’t the alcohol that created magic in this room full of strangers. We can’t plan it. It’s the synchronicity and flow that happens from having a totally new experience! Gotta break away. Take a step outside our norm. At the end of our lives what will we remember? For me it will be love and maybe push ups in Paris.