Wet snow everywhere, below zero, police dogs sniffing for bombs – that’s what I returned to. Needless to say, I miss Paris already. Although it was foggy when I left, damp and cold, I fell in love with the city. It’s just so beautiful. I made new friends, met someone who means the world and now it’s back into the habit at a place that’s never allowed me to be myself. In Paris though, I felt at home. The lights, the food, the language. I flirted wherever I went and it felt so good, that’s all I say. Don’t even try to press me for details. Found new passions and rekindled old ones, saw l’Opéra at night and lost my heart to the architecture of a city that seems composed rather than built, every detail an homage to a culture of elegance and beauty. George Clooney then on a poster at Charles de Gaulle, bidding me farewell with a cup of coffee that barely touched his lips while his smile surely made mine spread. A Maracons shop right next to him, trying to seduce me into spending the last of my money on sweets as colorful as Paris itself.
Off to Paris tomorrow. 20+ years since I’ve last been. So much has changed, it feels weird. And yet I’m thrilled. Thrilled to see the city, meet new people, speak French again and pay my respects to someone who’s taught me more in recent months than I was able to teach myself. It’s wonderful really how others can open our hearts like that. Like the last time I went to Paris. I was an exchange student who was sent to a suburb to stay with a Persian family with five kids. They were the kindest host family I ever had: warmhearted, welcoming and hospitable like no one else – and I have plenty of wonderful experiences staying with families in so many different countries. That family still stands out and it breaks my heart that we lost touch as I grew up. Returning to Paris now reminds me of the weeks I spent with them. It was another January, icy cold. The streets sprinkled with snow like powdered sugar, the trees naked, traffic tough. I still remember riding on a tow truck after our car broke down one too many times in the middle of a busy tunnel. We never made it to Versailles that day, our desired destination, but I didn’t mind. Instead I saw a city I would otherwise never have seen. Side streets filled with people working in shops far away from tourist mainstream. That was the Paris I fell in love with, the sightseeing before and after only bored me. So what will I find now that I won’t have enough time to roam the streets I’d like to revisit? Now that the Europe I came to love as a child has changed so much? I don’t know and that’s the beauty of it. Last year has taught me to keep my eyes open and accept what’s coming. So whatever you have up your sleeve for me this time, Paris, please be kind to me like you were the last time we met. You’re a fond memory, even though I didn’t always admit it.
Hail outside today and storm. I sit on my sofa and watch Game of Thrones. The appeal of it escapes me, which makes me sad. I don’t know why. Is there a law that I should like what has been hyped? I rarely do. Battlestar was one of the few and that one never really went mainstream, so what’s the problem now? Why am I so astonished that I don’t see what so many others like? I’ve always appreciated finding gems of my own, so why is this different? Because it’s January, I suppose. The days are short, my schedule busy and I long for new worlds to explore. And I like to discuss what I loved about a twist or a turn of events. It’s so much easier with something everybody seems to know. And yet, as soon as I express my interest in GoT’s appeal, friends reveal their own indifference or their bewilderment about the attention it draws. It’s funny really how a simple question can change the perception of things like that. All unimportant really and yet so diverting. I’ll always be a pop culture nerd, I guess. Just roll your eyes, that’s okay. I’m used to it. And you know what, I don’t care. Because when it rains outside like it does today and everything is cold and damp and dark, there’s nothing greater than to curl up on the couch with a cast of characters who invites me to laugh and suffer and cry while I enjoy my chocolate and my wine. It’s simple pleasures like that that keep me going and help me forget the bleakness every winter brings in the absence of snow. And that’s how I intend to last till spring, other pleasures included but I like to keep those to myself.
So this is how it starts, my year. Two days of Italian food, French wine and a swift shopping trip to spend the money I don’t have after Christmas. It’s the same every year. Over-indulgence in December, sobering up in January. Only this year I have a hard time cutting back on my spending although I know I’ll make less. But that’s compensation for you, psychology 101: the weather is cold outside and I’ve rarely seen the sun. At least I have my writing, triggered by my muse. I’m surprised she’s still with me though, I rarely sleep these days. I’m glad she isn’t as moody as I tend to be this winter. Hibernating is what I should do or finally book that flight to LA. It’s a lot less chilly there and I miss the place, miss the friends I barely see. But then that requires the kind of money I should safe. Besides, I’ve rarely seen my friends here. So maybe a month off will do me good. Being at home, reading, catching up on shows I’ve missed in recent years. I must admit, I’d prefer doing that in SoCal, where the sun is likely to shine more often than where I am. Where I know I’d go for a walk every day, where I do not bump into police officers frisking people in the metro, patrolling the streets that used to feel safe only a short few years ago. That’s why I’m so feisty, I guess, today. The spectacle of three dark-haired youngsters, surrounded by officers whose hands were glued to their firearms, ready to protect themselves at any minute, it left me strangely affected on the boys’ behalf and ours. My heart was torn as my train left the station, my mind helpless. But it was then that I realized, I’m not yet completely jaded.