It probably goes without saying: tweaked out Pennsyltuckian buskers are not the only creatures working the nighttime alleyways of Paris. The above photo shows a counterfeit 10 spot (there is no watermark, the number 10 is the wrong color, and if you look at the white border around the edge you’ll see that the width is irregular from side to side and top to bottom) used to bilk me out of 8 Euro in hard earned tips. I say “hard-earned” because the folks on the streets of Paris last night were largely apathetic to my Yankee Doodle warbling, ham-handed strumming, and foot tambourine-ing. This was exactly what I expected from the city of light, or would expect from The Big Apple or any of the mega bullmoose metropolitan icons. Paris sneered at my antics as if to say, “We had Victor Hugo and Napoleon Bonaparte; take that hillbilly shit to Wichita or something.”
The dearth of tips (one CD sale and a generous 5 spot rescued me from taking in a single digit hat) probably explains why I wasn’t inclined to analyze a strange woman’s request for 8 Euros change of a 10 so she could tip me 2 bucks. It was a shitty night and I had taken a 3rd degree ass whomping on the price of my train ticket to Paris after the bus company wouldn’t let me pay the driver with cash in the pre-dawn chill of Rennes- I wanted that 2 bucks.
By the time the bill forgery was discovered this afternoon, I’d had a couple beers and a long, beautiful night of oblivious sleep and was able to laugh and enjoy having been grifted. Last night, zombified with fatigue and sleep deprivation and grouchified by lack of audience appreciation, it wouldn’t have been such a knee-slapper. My goal for this journey is to live and move entirely off of what I make busking, or as nearly as possible. The reality, though, is that if I want to enjoy myself and see as much as my time abroad allows, I’m gonna have to take a vicious rabbit punch to my anemic bank account from time to time. Paris- like most big cities- was happy to slap me upside the wallet.
I am invariably repelled by posts or narratives wherein the writer bitches and vents about a litany of petty gripes, so I want to make clear that this isn’t one of those. Travel is a spin of the looking glass to get a different view; it’s a vigorous stirring of the stewpot of personal existence. It’s therefore unavoidable that in travel as in all of life the negative polarities are going to exert some influence, and to some degree your yin is gonna get yanged around a little. If you can’t embrace this inevitability, you may as well stay home with your door bolted until the fates bust in with their ass kicking boots on.
No, I ain’t complaining. This is a happy story, because as always, hilarity, wonder, the beauty of place, and the goodness of people outshone petty financial troubles and sucker punches to my pride. I got to absorb Paris’ legendary romance, her unmatched architecture, her gargoyles (which chill my bones and thrill my soul in a very similar way to the pack of howling gray wolves I once heard from my tent in the deep woods of northern Minnesota). I also enjoyed the sort of kind hospitality that perpetually affirms my faith in the generosity of the human spirit (Dana, Clem, Richard, if any of you are reading, thanks for being road angels to me).
This morning I had a lovely time playing at an open air market in the Paris suburb of Houilles, earning enough money to pay for my bus ticket out of France. Listen here yall: France is beautiful, and don’t ever tell me French people are unfriendly without first protecting your nether regions. The folks here showed me such kindness as you’d be lucky to find anywhere in the world. Of course, a few of them are assholes. I guess they’re a lot like Americans that way.
I’m typing this report on the bus that is taking me off to the next merry-go-round, and I have a feeling that arriving there at 11 on Saturday night is gonna make for one f $&@ed up ride. To borrow a lyric from my friend, the amazing Nathan Rivera, “I won’t say where it is I’m going; I’ll tell you that I’m going there soon.”