Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Running past

When I ask the man standing outside the McDonalds somewhere in Paris I'm breathing heavy as I say, "Bonsior monsieur, ou est Montemarte?" And he looks at me, pausing for a second trying to figure out what he's seeing and what he's hearing because not only is my French humorously atrocious, I'm wearing only my long sleeve Superman blue Under Armor shirt, running shorts, my iPhone strapped to my arm and the Nikes with laces so bright green that they're even blinding as the sun disappears over Paris. As he speaks quickly I focus on the steam of his breath and while I'm not sure what he's saying it's clear by the way he's speaking that I'm not even close. All I can do is run the direction he pointed and ask another person once I feel significantly disoriented which is why my five mile run today ended up being eight miles.

I've seen the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower but only at a pace of around 8.35 minutes/mile. I'm sure the men and women standing in line to see the sites as I run by would tell me "Hey, stop, this is what you come to Paris to see, take a minute, take a photo."But I just wind my way around the line and turn down the next block embracing the feeling that something is creeping up behind me. Headed straight for me and imminently about to run me over and it feels good because unlike going blind, getting old, losing a love or having cancer this thing is big and it's spewing black exhaust and just before the impact, as I feel the vibration, as it nears I feel the heat from it's engine and  slide on to the sidewalk and watch it grind it's way past me.

I run past everything beautiful and significant all the while having no idea what it is or where I am. Each run I become more lost than I already am in this city.  I stride past statues and fountains that  most likely have a plaque and a spot in a guidebook. I look at them for a moment and say, "wow, beautiful" or , "no idea what that is but sure looks cool." And I just keep running, winding my way down streets with no apparent direction in mind. Allowing the only thing that dictates where I turn is if I don't have to stop for traffic. My runs look like the movement of a pinball. I revel in running straight through the middle of the roundabout while the cars make circles and the statue of the man and the horse look down and say, "don't you want to know why we're here hanging out in the middle of this roundabout?" But I don't want to know. I want run right past all of the history and the present. I run in the street with scooters weaving around me bouce back to the sidewalk when it's clear for a moment bounce back to the road through the middle of stopped traffic at the Rue de-something-I-don't-know. I whisper, "Bonsior mademosoille" to the beautiful women in their scarves and their boots. I nod at the old ladies with their fur hats as they shuffle to the side of the crosswalk. 

Inevitabley somehow I find my way to the Seine. A mild wake sloshes in between the ancient walls. I'm not sure why I get there but the part of me that reads into things thinks it's something to do with finding my way back to the sea but the part of me that says the part of me that reads into things is an idiot knows that the reality is it's a big river and it's hard to miss. I run along each side crossing back and forth over the bridges. This is where I see the other few people in Paris who like to run. They're here  because you don't have to dodge the city, risk collision with motor vehicle or human being and it's relaxing. I watch the water that one day will make it's way to the ocean and one day even farther away will find it's way into another river or into a lake or ice. And while for the other runners it's relaxing for me it's more comfortable dodging the city. There is a comfort in running lost, there are no wrong turns because there isn't any destination. And here my mind can't even catch up with me, it can't direct me where to go or where to turn so I head back into the city and say to the Seine, "Au revoir."

On the way back I pass every cafe in Paris that looks positively Parisan and here the same young women sit at these cafes  and smoke skinny cigarettes and look at me as I pass. The guy with the oysters that smell like St. George Island watches me from his post selling "Fruits de Mer." The woman in one of the boulangeries stops rearranging shiny croissants for a moment and lifts an eyebrow. I sense that I'm lost and I keep running. The sun is going down but only my hands realize how cold I am. I can only stop from time to time to ask someone I don't understand to give me directions I won't understand. Eventually I find my way to the only street I know, Boulevard de Clichy, home of the Moulin Rouge, La Chat Noir and once home to Picasso and Edgar Degas. From here it's only two blocks and even though I know where I am I run right past my turn.


  1. You may have inspired me to run tomorrow... for the fist time in months. We will see - I'll report back :)