Down South, Days 5-10

With your cayenne lips still burning, you drive up the interstate. Family far behind, it’s easier to be at peace. Vacation becomes vacation, and New Orleans is a place to be at ease. The drive seemed longer when you were a kid, but it’s only three hours. You stop at the gas station your cousin insisted you go to, the one she goes to for fun. You kind of expect to make fun of it, but it really is quite the to-do. Employees get paid almost $20 an hour. No wonder it’s so clean. You wish every gas station in America was like this. The snack aisle is more fun than any memory of Disney you have.

Down South, Days 1-4

Going back to your Gulf Coast hometown after a long time is weird, a little uncomfortable, especially in the middle of a highly politicized pandemic. Things look the same; they look different. Buildings you grew up in became Panera Breads or are abandoned altogether. Your childhood home is still yellow but is covered in the green mold your mother pressure washed off every summer. There are more broken shells on the beach than you remember. It’s weird to be a Southerner who’s become a Northerner in so many ways.

Montreal

Montreal is a very clean city. More than that, it is a very approachable city. Even though my French is rusty, and Richie’s is nonexistent, we managed to get ourselves around without incident (except when Rich somehow knocked out an entire POS system by clicking on the wrong button at check-out). The food was great, the coffee was great, it wasn’t quite freezing. What more could one want?

Creeping Back into the Open

Let's get the cliché out of the way now: It's been a long year. Like, a really long year. As someone who is very comfortable at home, man was lockdown hard. About midway through it, I found myself restless and irritable and certain that nothing was never going to change. Anxiety attacks were making a more consistent appearance in my days. When I talked about it with my therapist, she asked me what I did throughout a typical year. After thinking about it for a minute, I said that I normally went on several domestic and one or two international vacations a year. In that time, I typically had a lot of revelations about myself and wrote a lot. So, in that light, the anxiety isn't fear so much as is claustrophobia. For the last year and a half, I've been trying to shed my skin but haven't had the room. Now, though, as the world begins to open to vaccinated people, it feels like it might be time to molt.

Paris (again): Day 7

I finally come to terms with my self-inflicted solitude over a tartlette citron (which I'm pretty sure that I'm supposed to eat with a fork, but there's none to be had, and I'm a dirty American tourist so who really cares) and five fresh manuscript pages. Both of them are so good that I say, "Fuck you" out loud. No one is around to be embarrassed. Something about that is freeing. And when I inevitably get lost without my GPS and wind up stomping up and down an avenue I can't pronounce with no one to witness both my failure and my triumph? There's something freeing about that, too.

Paris (again): Day 6

I start the day later than expected, but this is understandable when one considers the night full of fun and pho (another shout out to Victoria and her patience with me and my glorious introduction to picone beer). My hair is at peak fluffiness, I'm feeling strangely energized, I'm optimistic about what the day will bring. Then again, I feel this way a lot and sometimes wind up being nearly arrested, or lost on a train, or drop my food on the floor, or I'm accused of being a "snitch" by some rando on the street (I'm still highly offended by this bold claim. Mama didn't raise no snitch). Perhaps today really will be a good day. Or better yet: Today will be as good as I make it. Optimism is the secret to all good things in this life. Where better to be optimistic than in the City of Lights?

Paris (again): Day 5

I love it when things work out. A few days ago a German woman and I made tentative plans to travel to Versailles together, but I didn't think we would actually follow through because that's what people do in this day and age. This morning: I wake up far too early for a hostel breakfast so we won't have to fistfight our way through the tour group crowds when we get to the palace. The hope is to have an issue-free journey, unlike the last time where somebody had a meltdown in the metro and needed to call a Lyft (it's me, I was the baby. Sorry, Lisa). But with beautiful crisp weather like this, what could possibly go wrong?

Paris (again): Day 4

Today begins with success: waking up at a reasonable hour. While it takes a full thirty minutes to get out of bed, I still make it down to the lobby by 8. I go ahead and bite the bullet and buy breakfast (coffee, fresh orange juice, pain au chocolat, and as much bread and jam as I can eat), but only because I want to squirrel away some food to prevent myself from completely Hulking out later this afternoon. In hindsight, this may be the best decision I make all trip.

Paris (again): Day 3

The day again starts abnormally late, even after  several extra hours of sleep. I meet a German at breakfast, Victoria. She's a virology student in Vienna. We make tentative plans to go to Versailles together later this week. We'll see if it works out. Sometimes things don't go the way you think they're going to. For instance: My intention is to go to the Louvre this morning, but the line is so long that I say, "Fuck that" out loud and mosey  down to the Museum of Decorative Arts, which is uncrowded and quiet. Sometimes you have to change plans for the sake of sanity.

Paris (again): Day 2

One of the things they don't tell you about international travel: You should not drink most of a bottle of white wine after an 8-hour flight because you are very dehydrated and haven't eaten all day. But they don't tell you, so you drink the wine and go to bed then wake up a few hours later in so much pain that you have to squeeze your body out onto the hostel's bathroom balcony for some cold air. You get sick all night. You listen to meditation videos on YouTube to get some sleep. You don't wake up until 11 the next morning to drink your weight in water, orange juice, and coffee. You decide that's okay and get out of the lobby before you waste the rest of your first full day in Paris.