I loaded up my Rick Steve’s backpack (a sure sign you are traveller and not a tourist) and walked from my apartment in the center of Paris to the metro at Hotel de Ville. As I trudged down Veille du Temple with my walking stick, safari hat and snakebite kit dangling from my belt, I ponder my next adventure. I’m off to Africa. I feel like an adventurer, but a stylish adventurer as I was also carrying my man-bag loaded down with treats. I take a small break after a block, it’s important to not overdo it on your first day. Swigging from my water bottle, I swallow a salt tablet and I look out over the terrain. As I mop my brow with my new bandana, I hear my wife Kelly yell from the window. “Did you take all the toilet paper?" I quickly gather my things and stagger down the street. Kelly is fleet of foot and I won’t be stopped, not this early in my journey.
“Africa!” I say out-loud to know one in particular. The local tribesmen of the 4th arrondisement stare at me as if to ask “Where is that dapper fellow with the practical backpack, excellent man-bag and perfectly coiffed hair off to? “ They seem to snicker with respect. “I’m off to AFRICA suckas!” I respond with my slight wobble from an over-packed bag and a lower back that’s already beginning to ache. Rue de Rivoli is just another block away and then to the metro station. Discouragement begins to descend upon me, as it must have for Dr Livingston. “I will keep my spirits up.” I say aloud to some German tourists who have that ‘what might have been’ look that they always get when they visit Paris.
”A new continent!” I say to bolster my sagging spirit. “ The dark continent. Dark because…well…because there are a lot of dark people there or because it is shady or something.” My thoughts are interrupted by the pang of hunger, the candy bar I ate a few minutes ago isn’t going to cut it. There is a fruit stand at the next block where I can replenish my supplies and perhaps throw out some of these candy wrappers. Finally, after 10 minutes, I have made it to the metro station. My back is drench in the sweat of a good, honest trek. A well-deserved rest can be had on the train, unless one of those old ladies try to steal my seat.
I take a breather before I descend into the Hotel de Ville metro station- the next leg of my journey. I sip some water slowly and wipe my mouth with the back of my sleeve. I swallow another a salt tablet even though my wedding band seems unusually tight and the laces of my sneakers are straining. The sun is beating down on me- it must be at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit but it easily feels like 60 . I eat some jerky; the salt will do me good. Wiping the grit and chocolate that has accumulated on my face and neck from the hike, I reflect on the 10 minute journey thus far, the changes I have seen in myself and the people that I have met. I smile at the thought of that nomadic tribe of people that sit on the corners with “J’ai Faim.” written on cardboard. It seems to me that if they were really “famous” they wouldn’t need money from me but I try not to judge. I note all of this in my Moleskin notebook. It occurs to me that other than the “famous” people I haven’t really been paying attention to anyone else, but I did catch my own reflection in the Melchior window so I wrote a quick Haiku to myself, which I wont share here. Let’s just say it was good, real good.
I descend down the Metro steps. Longing for the comfort of the two old women that are always sitting there with their belongings, piles of day old bread and their “I am famous” signs. "Aren't we all" I say to myself, shaking my head and smiling as though my observation actually meant something.