Allez / Retour

It is the Winter of 1999. I am 29 years old and driving from Seattle, Washington to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and back again for the holidays. In my mind I anticipate that the 4,000 miles of endless highways of Eastern Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are nothing but a frozen wasteland. I am mostly right. Folks, this is the Siberia of America.

I am traveling with my best mate, the one and only Sebastian Vonkonrad. His name makes him sounds like a kraut, but Vonkonrad is actually from Wisconsin. Despite his midwestern roots he speaks with an accent somewhere between drunken Irish and hipster Scottish (ever since he saw the movie Trainspotting). I am kind of hoping he will give this up. Anyway Vonkonrad and I met in Paris at a Saint Etienne rock concert back in the early 1990's. We became fast friends and then somehow ended up as flatmates in Seattle.   I had no plans to fly home back east and he kindly asked me to join him. I guess he needed a ride as well. Vonkonrad fucking hates to fly.

I feel displaced. Despite my plans to relocate permanently to Europe, I have been living in Seattle now for 5 years. Why Europe?  I don't know. I just loved it from the moment I first saw it. You see, after one semester of French at local community college I won a scholarship to study French literature  at the Sorbonne in Paris. How? I just applied and won. I think no one else in New Jersey wanted to do it. In my senior year I chose to do my final project on the works of the novelist Gustave Flaubert. I graduated and then was forced to move back home. To New Jersey. It felt like shit because despite my diploma I couldn't get a job. I was fluent in French and had a fairly worthless albeit sentimental education. So I moved to Seattle and hoped for the best.

Seattle is a pretty good town for America— but it's no Paris. I can't believe I have already lived here for five years. Five years of delivering pizza while I look for something more appropriate to do. With a degree in French literature I can't imagine what the fuck that would be. Besides maybe delivering pizzas back in Paris. But I would need work papers for that. So I spend my free time writing music reviews for a small local paper no one reads. And hanging out with bands no one listens to. What else should a 28 year old do to pass the time?

I look down at the steering wheel. My car is not cool. It's not an Audi A4 like a I want, just a 1985 VW Jetta badly in need of some shocks. The collective spines of my traveling partner and I ache from the punishment. We expect to make the trip in 2 days, and it all seems plausible until we hit our first snowstorm 30 miles east of Bellevue. The highways are covered in deadly white powder. At first glance it reminds me of tons of cocaine lying around. I glance at my watch. It has been 18 hours since my last line. I look back at the snow. It still seems to my brain not to be composed of crystallized ice bits, but of Peruvian plant bits. Suddenly I realize that snow has never reminded me of anything before. I make a mental note to quit snorting lines until I can afford a Hollywood-style rehab for the eventual total mental breakdown.

We pass through Spokane. There is nothing very interesting here, just some miserable excuses for people and buildings. Right around Coeur d'Alene my aging tires start to lose traction. I waive a white full-size truck past me. He mistakes my politesse for the finger and cuts in front of me, slamming on his brakes. His truck starts spinning in circles off the road and into a ditch. I manage to swerve around him, nearly crashing into a little red compact. Vonkonrad screams.

As soon as I catch my breath, the guy in the white pick-up truck comes after us, passes us quickly, flips us the bird, and makes "fukyou fuckyou fuckyou" faces and screams obscenities. Vonkonrad and I continue on in disbelief, visibly shaken with the rush of narrowly avoided death. As the truck pulls away I notice the bumper sticker that reads "Never Forget Ruby Ridge". Oh Sweet Jesus what I am doing here? I need a latte and a xanax. We continue onwards through Idaho- upwards and downwards.

We finally make it to Idaho. It is a true Winter Wonderland. I soon realize that driving through Idaho in wintertime is somewhat akin to snowboarding. The main difference, of course, is that you are in a car. In time I get the hang of it, but not everyone is so skilled. Ahead of us is an accident and the police close down the mountain pass for the night.


I turn the Jetta around and we pull into the closest motel for the night. Next to the hotel there is a gas station. Vonkonrad buys a six-pack of Budweiser, complaining that they didn't have anything better. I grab a beer and roll a joint. We slowly drink our beers and watch Monday Night Football. Vonkonrad is excited because the Packers are playing Minnesota. Vonkonrad loves the Packers. Everyone from Wisconsin loves the Packers and hates the Vikings. I guess they don't realize it's basically the same place. I light the joint, inhale, and try to relax. I offer a hit to Vonkonrad and he declines.

The reefer blasts me off into hyperspace and I become passive and heavy lidded. I stare transfixed at the blurry images on the TV screen. Vonkonrad is already on his fourth beer and begins to 'interact' loudly with the TV, banging on the walls and yelling:





Despite his positive reinforcement, the Packers lose 20-24 to the Vikings and suddenly Vonkonrad is tired. The lights go off and I remain awake. I cannot sleep due to loneliness, ennui, anxiety, et cetera. I think about my love life. I have not been 'in love' for years. The girls I go out with do not satisfy my existential yearnings. None of them seem to have a clue. Normally, I want no more than drugs and naked romping. More recently, I crave classic beauty, meaningful conversation, and lots of snuggling on the couch. As I look in the future, I realize that only sixth sense communication and mutual positivistic adoration can satisfy my hungry soul. Everything else is bullshit.

Mere hours after I silently sulk myself to sleep, perhaps as early as 6AM in the morning, Vonkonrad wakes me up. He is already dressed and raring to go. I get out of bed and stand up. The room seems impossibly cold. Vonkonrad probably turned off the heat before falling asleep. He is a polar bear at heart and likes to sleep in the sub-zeros. My toes crackle on the cement floor. I wonder if they will shatter. They don't. I slowly come to life, get dressed, and pile in the car.

Whenever I get up before 11:00 AM my first thoughts are all about McDonald's breakfast. Vonkonrad takes the helm of the Jetta and pulls into the drive-thru. I scream "TWO EGG MCMUFFINS NO MEAT" and within three minutes the meal is gone and I am getting sleepy. I try not to notice the beautiful pink dawn coming up around the snowy mountains. This is Idaho?  What? Really? Fucking Switzerland would blush. The landscape's indescribable beauty contrasts sharply with the architecture of the small towns alongside the highway. I gawk at the mountainous horizon for 15 seconds, trying to somehow save this image for later when I am more awake and in need of such inspiration. Then I gently fall back asleep with a deep feeling of peace as we roll towards Montana. Vonkonrad is a much faster and better driver than me.


Things stay pretty much the same for the next two days, just different towns and states that all look the same. Finally we arrive at Vonkonrad's house in Cedarburg, Wisconsin on a Thursday afternoon. The place is a Winter Palace, twice the size of a large home.

I say hello to Vonkonrad's parents. They welcome me to Wisconsin. I also greet Vonkonrad's younger brother, Mark. We had met previously in Paris. He looks the same- young and sporting a longish, rich-boy, 80's haircut. Mark and I go out into the snowy wilderness, looking for random chick action in small-town bars.

Vonkonrad doesn't come out with us because he is resting and saving himself for his 'true love' Sarah, scheduled to arrive the day before Christmas. Vonkonrad makes it very clear that my presence is not necessary when Sarah is around. I sympathize with his line of reasoning, so I plan to drive down to Chicago and visit my friend Milo, another friend from Paris. But I end up getting too drunk and then subsequently hungover to make the drive.

On Christmas Eve, Vonkonrad's Sarah arrives. Sarah is a Canadian from Calgary. 20 years old. 6 foot 1 inch tall. Long blonde hair and blue eyes. In short, she is perfection. To make her even more appealing, she is a singer/songwriter and not afraid to play her songs in front of other people. It boggles my mind just thinking about here.

If the planet was going to be blown up by an asteroid and humanity needed to send one person out into space to impress aliens so they would come and help us, it would be Sarah. Vonkonrad likes to think of her as his girlfriend, but she's not. She could never be anyone's girlfriend. I am not in love with her. I do love her though. The very concept of her just boggles the mind. The strangest part about her is that she is not just some stupid girl in a story. She is a real person. It pains the mind. I kissed her when we were all taking ecstasy in Seattle one night. Or more to the point she kissed me. It made me feel special. It also made me feel like I wasn't special enough to know her.

Anyway... that night at the local redneck bar in Wisconsin, I proceed to drink myself into a near coma with Mark and try to kiss the local girls. They let me kiss them but that's it. Maybe that's enough? Wisconsin love child, anyone? No, I didn't think so. Life is so weird with hormones and alcohol.

On Christmas Day, we eat brunch and then dinner with the Vonkonrad extended family. The adults drink Miller out of cans, eat, and discuss their family trees. The kids play with their toys and act civil. No one fights or swears. They provide a perfectly fine surrogate Christmas experience. I thoroughly enjoy myself.

Later that night, Vonkonrad's friend and occasional lover Leanne and her roommate Freda come up from Madison and want to see a movie. Vonkonrad has recently slept with Leanne and doesn't want her and Sarah talking, so I take them both out on a movie date. To start things off on a friendly note, I roll a joint and get the girls high on the way to the theater. It is a 10-movie multiplex. We see the Andy Kauffman film, Man on the Moon. Afterwards, we hang out at Vonkonrad's and drink beer and smoke. As time passes I wonder which one of them I am going to try to kiss before the end of the night.

Leanne is the kind of girl you look at and immediately want to get with. Nothing would be nasty with her. Licking her asshole would only be a pleasure. Why am I even thinking about this? The reason? Because she is at once so pure and innocent looking that these thoughts are the only possible outcome.

Freda is a Russian born emigre who grew up in Brooklyn. She is tall, has short blond hair, big blue eyes, pretty face with lots of make-up, carries herself well, and talks intelligently about literature and cinema. She is a pure Jewish intellectual. She probably thinks three times before she says or does anything.

I want Leanne badly but she talks incessantly of her 'noble' boyfriend Nigel and in truth she is a little backwoodsy and juvenile for me. Freda is not as attractive but definitely more worldly and smart. As Mick Jagger once said you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime you get what you need.

Freda lights up a cigarette. In the back of my mind I feel strange about hitting on her. I fantasize that Freda has a big crush on Leanne. Perhaps one that she is not willing to come to terms with. So what? I figure. Who wouldn't? Leanne is a young college girl with a steady boyfriend, good skin, and a body custom built for sex. In short, I have no chance with her. So I decide that Freda is the lucky one. I love smart girls who smoke anyway. It has got to be one of the sexiest things going.

We talk until the wee hours of the morning. I decide to play it mellow and retire to sleep. Vonkonrad has a legendary Boxing Day fondue dinner party planned for the next day. I hug and kiss the girls goodnight and get some rest. I feel high and alive. The girls drive home drunk and high after a final cigarette. This is not a problem because in Wisconsin there is nothing to hit except snow. Nothing it seems, can go wrong in the world.


I awake the next day incredulous. I am as sick as a dead dog with its intestines pulled out. I cannot stand up. I am all feverish and achy. Shit. This will blow my chances with Freda, I think. I decide to save all my strength for her. I literally do not move until 6 PM when the party starts and then I take some codeines. Is there some ulterior motive? I feel I have to meet her.

When Leanne and Freda arrive, I am a well-medicated ghost. I manage to serve us some drinks and start a conversation. Within two hours, Freda invites me to visit her in London. I immediately accept. She doesn't seem to realize yet that I will actually go. Any excuse to go to London for a week or two I will take. We plan a side trip to Casablanca as well. Neither of us has ever been to Morocco. It all seems quite cool and romantic. Just thinking about getting out of America gives me incredible serotonin wavy rushes.

We smoke and drink and laugh. The pills are my only link to reality. Without them, I would be flat on my back with my Wisconsin wintertime flu. Finally my codeine buzz wears off and I simply must get back to bed. This fever is making me too weak to fuck.

I awake the next morning at 4:30 AM freezing ass cold and hungover. I go around the house collecting blankets and piling them on top of me. I pop my remaining Tylenol 3's. Finally I am warm. I lie awake and ponder my life even though I feel closer to my death.

I find out later in morning that Vonkonrad and Marc are both as sick as I am. Does misery really love company? You bet it does.


Days pass. Sarah goes home to resume training for the Olympics. We plan to meet up with her in Calgary for a large New Years party. To help us recover, the three of us drink orange juice and watch a lot of TV. My body temperature alternates between hot and cold. Sometimes I go to sleep freezing and wake up in a pool of sweat. I ponder death in Wisconsin and it seems impossible. I have this mystical feeling that I will die in Paris.

Finally Mark's fever breaks and this gives me hope. Mine breaks the next day. Vonkonrad is still sick. He can't make the drive to Calgary. It's a disappointment. Calgary is beautiful in the middle of Winter.

We spend New Year's Eve with a teenaged friend of Vonkonrad's. There are a bunch of kids looking for ecstasy pills and such. They are only in high school. I wonder how fucked up I would be by now if I had taken ecstasy in high school. Despite the kids' enthusiasm, I have no desire to party or drink and no desire to even be outside my bed at all. The millennium is depressing. I'm 28 and haven't been published yet. I am a fucking pizza delivery boy. I crack open the champagne at 11:30 PM and gulp it down straight from the bottle. I get evil stares from everyone present, especially Vonkonrad.

"Aye dae ya buftie boy.... nae cunt drinks the fookin' champagne before midnight on Noo Yares Ave!".

Oh Jesus. Enough with the Irvine Welsh skag talk please.


When Vonkonrad is finally recovered from his illness, we drive back to Seattle hitting every snowstorm and stopping for every football game. It takes us three days again. For many hours in the valleys of South Dakota and Montana the wind blows so hard against us that the Jetta tops out at only 55 mph. All things considered, I am glad to be back in the relative warmth of the Pacific Northwest.

Back in Seattle I hang out with my drug buddies and go drinking, clubbing and raving. We do lots of cocaine, amphetamine, ecstasy, GHB, ketamine, marijuana, and of course alcohol. Sometimes all at the same time. It's fun and all, but at the same time I feel I am getting too old for this shit and my body doesn't recover very well. I somehow manage to drag myself to work every evening. I even manage to finish a few short stories.

I email Freda almost every day. We plan our trip to Casablanca but then decide to go to Paris instead. This makes me happy because I have spent four years there and still think about it every day. I know my way around Paris like the back of my penis. I think I  have been to every decent dive bar, boite de nuit, pub, museum, and cafe in the fucking city.


In March, Vonkonrad's Sarah flips her van in an accident. She is in a coma for two weeks and then dies. I cry for days. Vonkonrad cries for weeks. The mood around the house is somber. Re-evaluation time. What am I doing with my life? I miss her dearly. We all will forever.

I look at myself in the mirror and study the image. Do I love myself? No, because I am fat and worthless. I am wasting my precious gift of life. To rectify this I buy a pair of Speedo goggles and join the local YMCA. I literally swim my ass off. After two weeks it's a daily regime of two miles per day.

I was up to 190 pounds but as I work out daily I close in on 170. Now my tummy doesn't protrude further than my chest. The exercise is healing me, and I feel I am getting better both emotionally and physically. I use less and less cocaine and more and more mushrooms with the occasional hit of ecstasy. Finally, I am healthy again. I now have everything except a girl to love. I feel like such the lonesome loser looking for the queen of hearts in the so-called Emerald City.


Freda seems okay with the idea of traveling to Paris and sharing a room with a stranger, so I assume she is pretty cool. I am not really expecting anything romantic with her. I have a strange feeling something wonderful is going to happen. When my travel date of March 27th arrives, I wake up and pack, throwing whatever is clean into an old suitcase and grabbing my ragged passport.

I arrive in London and Freda does not meet my plane so I take a bus to Oxford Street. Her place is beautiful. We hug and kiss and go out to a bar. For the next couple hours we talk and converse naturally, intelligently, and easily. We are perfectly at ease with each other. It feels strange to be in London. It has been many years for me. The pints of bitter go down easily and we walk around Trafalgar Square and look at the morons paying to feed the pigeons. That night we eat out Indian and plan our week in Paris.

Freda lives in a big student housing flat at 59, Green Street in Westminster. Rumor has it that the Beatles once lived in this exact flat. Freda has 6 female roommates, many of whom I make fast friends with. Most of them are obese Americans, but one is a cutey, a Russian born Austrian citizen named Oriel.

Oriel is easily the most beautiful girl in the house. She is lying on the couch wearing sunglasses to mask the hangover on her cute face. I want her immediately. She takes off her sunglasses. Her eyes are the same as mine, almost black. She has the soul of an Artist. She is the kind of girl that boys want simply to upset and girls are mean to because they can't understand her at all.

I don't know what approach to take with her, so I pretend to be really stupid. This amuses her and piques her interest. She even calls me stupid in French, "t'es bete mon cheri." We talk briefly about Paris and Saint Petersburg.

Freda and I smoke some reefer before leaving the apartment for the EuroStar train to Paris. I brought an 8th ounce over on the plane from Seattle. It is some of the strongest pot I have ever smoked. We are both totally stifled by the powerful narcotic effects of the drug and become totally paranoid in the Underground. Set and setting, anyone?

Freda tells me she has to sit down. She sets herself down on the cold floor of the tube station and I wonder if she is trying to ditch me. Should I leave? No, I decide that would be rash. I sit right next to her and try to calm her down. Am I stifling her? What am I on about? What should I do? Am I going insane? What is the paranoia! Why now?

Freda finally comes down enough to move and we get to the Eurostar terminal with 5 minutes to spare. We show our tickets, hop aboard the train, and try to find our places. We are both still sky high. The seats are overly cramped, like they were ergonomically designed for starving Somali children. I attempt to wedge my human-sized body into the seat, put my Discman on, and read the latest issue of Loaded Magazine.

As we travel under the Chunnel I pay attention only when the train screeches to a complete halt. My ears can sense an incredible pressure. Suddenly it hits me that we're under the ocean. It's the opposite feeling of being in a plane, I reason.

Suddenly everything goes black and we sit in silence. I crack jokes about watery death from above for ten minutes and then suddenly we begin to move again. Twenty minutes later we are out of the tunnel and officially in France, the best country in the world. As we pull into Paris, I start to feel nauseous and excited, like I'm coming up on an ecstasy pill.


We arrive at Gare du Nord at 11:00 PM and take the Metro to Saint Michel to seek out lodging at the Beat Hotel. Since my last visit it has gone from 2 stars to 4 stars. It is now 1500 FF per night. What are the odds? We find another hotel close by and stay there. It is only available for one night.

Freda and I get changed and we go out for drinks at a Belgian bar I used to frequent during my student days. The bartender still recognizes me after 7 years. He says hello, pours me a pint of Abbaye de Leffe, and asks Freda what she wants. She orders the same. We climb the spiraling stairs and sit down.

The walls of the bar are bare stone and decorated with promotional posters from Italian versions of 70's horror movies. On the tinny sound system blares cheesy 80's music Other than that, this is a typical pub in Saint Michel, where every building is 400 years old. You can tell really old buildings by the narrow hallways, low ceilings, and small rooms. We are in the heart of Paris, la rive gauche. Notre Dame, the Seine, and the Quartier Latin surround us and nestle us. I am back in the womb. Even the thought of ever willingly leaving this quartier again is inconceivable.

After three more pints of Leffe, an exceptionally delicious and very strong elixir, we head to Polly Magoo, one of the seedier bars in Paris. We pay 20 FF for the beers and glancing at the clock it says 3AM. The bar will not close for three hours. I have spent many nights here trying to pick up girls. This is the first time I ever brought one with me. The drink prices are the same as when I lived here six years ago, but now the Franc has depreciated 30%. This makes everything appear really cheap. I want to stay all night and get silly with the bohemians that pour in and out of the place like cheap wine.

I start talking to a crazy politics major with a green afro. Freda runs to the bathroom and pukes. She has had a few too many Leffes. They go down like water but are actually 8% alcohol. Her face is as green as my new mate's afro, so we head back to the hotel. As I lay in bed I am eager to pass out. I hear Freda worshipping the porcelain goddess. I pass out drunk before she comes back. So much for romance!


The next day, we awake and find a new hotel a couple blocks away called Hotel Saint Andre des Arts. I reserve a room for two days and we head off towards the Musee d'Orsay. I have been here several times, but never has it seemed so brilliant. D'Orsay is located inside a renovated train station and is truly the perfect venue for an Art Museum. It's well beyond words.

Incroyable! Magnifique! Chouette! Charmant! Encore!

Inside await many Van Goghs, Monets, Manets, Toulouse Lautrec's, etc. Freda and I gaze at nearly all of them. The temporary exhibit is a photo archive from the Prussian wars of 1870's. Almost all the people photographed are dead and in caskets. It's downright creepy and contrasts sharply with all the beautiful naked pubescent boy and girl statues lying around the exhibit. Why do I find these statues erotic? Is it my Greek blood? No, my guess is that I'm a pervert or something. But so were the artists who crafted them, so at least I am in good company.

After the museum, we rendez-vous with some old acquaintances of mine still lingering in Paris at the AMEX cafe This is my old university haunt, and still the cheapest bar in Paris. Afterwards we down some pints at a nearby Irish pub. My old friend Erika is plump but fine and I cannot rip the thought out of my mind about sticking my dick in her pussy. What is it about sex and alcohol? All I really want to do is fuck the girl silly. 

All this is too much for me and do I steer us towards a old fondue restaurant in Saint-Germain. The food is cheap and very good and we all gorge ourselves on cheese and lots of white wine. The conversation is as first-rate as the food and we discuss Art, religion, philosophy, expatriate life in Europe, etc.

I order more wine and the girls drink beer. The bill for all this is only 300 francs. Afterwards, we head out to Chameleon, a late-night rocker bar to drink more. Overdressed French boys try in vain to hit on Freda and Erika. The girls laugh and we make fun of them. I sway back and forth drunk and trying to remain interesting. Finally at 4:30 AM, fatigue sets in and we all head off to bed. I ask Erika if I can 'walk her home', but she is too drunk and asks me to help her get a cab. The problem with bars open all night is that you get really drunk after a while.


The next day I awake hungover and even feel a cold coming on. I immediately decide that this is an impossibility. Nothing is going to ruin my weekend in Paris. I make up my mind to completely ignore these germs seeking to destroy my fun.

Freda sleeps late so I get up and walk around the Quartier Saint-Germain. So many memories lingering everywhere of friends and lovers, drunken and drug-addled nights of debauchery, afternoons spent reading in cafes. I feel old and sentimental for the first time in my life. I now know for sure (as if there were any doubt) that I will live the majority of my life in this city of light. Paris sparkles more brilliantly on a rainy day than the jewel-encrusted Maltese falcon in the Casablanca sunlight. 

My throat is burning so I step into a pharmacy to get some medication.

"J'ai mal a la gorge", I say. I still got it.

The mademoiselle smiles and hands me two small boxes, one of them says suppositoires on them. I look at the suppositories and smile.

"Pourquoi?" I ask her, genuinely intrigued. 

She smiles at my na�vet� and assures me the body is in harmony and balance with itself and that this is a scientifically acceptable way to treat a sore throat. I pay the 60 francs and go back to the hotel room, skeptical. Freda has showered and dressed. We are both hungry and decide to go eat. Before we leave I go into the bathroom, pull my pants down, and stick the medicine up my ass.

We walk around Saint-German for an hour, window shopping some of the small artist studios. Freda is looking for a souvenir to bring back to London. Me, I don't want to bring anything back, except a huge Bruegel poster and maybe some nice panoramic shots for my website. For whatever reason, my sore throat is not bothering me. 

We decide to dine in a North African couscous restaurant that seems elegant. I get the vegetarian menu for 80 francs and order a bottle of Tunisian rose. The tables are small, round, thin, and plated with what appears to be gold. You can't ever criticize the level of service in France. Everything is perfect. After dining we hang around smoking cigarettes until we finish off the bottle of wine.

For the rest of the afternoon we decide to head towards Montmartre to scope out the basilica of Sacre Coeur. We get more film and batteries to take pictures. The weather has reverted to gray skies and it starts to rain. We take cover in the square under the tarps looking at the street artists' works. Some are serious and others are just painting caricatures or famous scenes like Pont Neuf and Le Moulin Rouge.

Freda wants to buy, but the nice ones are over 2,000 francs so we stroll around the tourist shops finally happening upon a small art store with decent prices. Freda falls in love with a few paintings and I head down the street to an Irish pub to quaff a few pints of Guinness. Eventually she joins up with me and my drinking habit. Freda is not a daytime drinker like me. She orders a coke and we discuss what to do with the rest of our day.

The poor girl hasn't been sleeping well and she is tired, but she still wants to go to Pere Lachaise and see Jim Morrison's grave. It's been seven years since I have been there but I still remember the Metro stop and so we are off. It closes as soon as we get there despite the fact there are still 2 hours of light. 

How can a cemetery close? And why is it protected by a 20 foot stone wall? The only entrance is a large iron gate, which is shut and chained. All this security makes me wonder. Are they trying to keep the living out or the dead in?

Suddenly Freda is tired and wants to nap. So do I. My cold isn't getting any better and so we return and hit the sack. Freda arises after a quick five winks to shave her legs. We head out for our last Parisian dinner at an excellent nearby Indian restaurant. Freda confesses her childhood secrets and we talk of the pleasures of the senses. Since we have been somewhat intimate the whole day except for my drunken attempt to fuck and this is our last night, I ask her if she wants to do it, to have sex. She says, "no, sorry, I just can't sleep with any boys I like or respect" and I feel stupid for assuming she was shaving her legs so they would feel smooth against mine. Was that a fucking compliment or a gently put-down?

No doubt the two of us are bummed, so we curl up and go to sleep. Before passing out I consider that I have no current lovers on either side of the Atlantic. No sex and no love. The girls I like don't like me, and the ones that like me I don't like them. Am I repressing latent homosexuality? I tried to sleep with guys before. It's just so god fucking awful... even before it gets started. No, the Seattle dating scene sucks. Or maybe a mixture of the two. It all makes me so depressed to live without love. 


While I sleep I dream of Sarah. She has been dead for one month. Or has she? I have a conversation with her. But no, I am not dreaming. I am awake. I ask her how she is. She tells me the accident was painful but that it ended quickly. She says that she is okay. I thank her for talking to me. Then I ask her if I will ever find love. She says yes. I ask her when. She says soon. I look over at Freda. She is sound asleep. I reckon it's not her. I am nervous and feel slightly insane so I go have a wank and a cigarette in the bathroom and get back to sleep.

The next day I awake and am still sick and its only 8:00AM. I decide to get some breakfast and hunt down that Bruegel poster. I talk to the concierge in the lobby. He compliments me on my hairstyle, telling me I look like Robert Smith. I am not Goth but I take it as a compliment anyway. I always feel like a rock star when I am in Paris. I don't know why. I am somewhat nerdy otherwise.

I buy the latest NME at a kiosk and head off for breakfast. I find a nice spot on Boulevard Saint-Michel and sit by the window. I order the Parisian breakfast, which includes fresh orange juice, a croissant, a pre-jellied tartine, and a caf� au l�it. It's all very yummy and well worth the 42 francs.

I start reading an article about Britain lowering the legal classification of marijuana and ecstasy. I wonder if it will ever happen. I can imagine what will happen. Probably thousands of totally wrecked e-tarded morons roaming the streets blaring techno music. Blasted-off techno rave neophytes everywhere losing their excess brain cells and body fat fucking and dancing for days! 

I return to the hotel. Freda looks frazzled but ready to go. We stop at an art deco cr�perie restaurant for lunch before the train. I get a banana nutella crepe and Freda gets hers with orange liqueur and cinnamon. Then we head to the Gare du Nord train station and back under the Chunnel.

Adieu Paris!


Upon returning to London, I hang out in the living room and drink beer. Oriel is again prowling around the living room looking cute. I offer her a beer and she declines. She religiously watches German MTV. We talk and I can't help but smile when I hear her accent complimented by her the sight of her beautiful face and skin. But her eyes are what attracts me the most. They are black as onyx. Girl, where have you been all my life?

Freda invites me out to dinner and I reluctantly leave Oriel to go eat Japanese. We meet up with a few of her friends: Dina, Margaret, and Graham. After dinner we go to a large Irish pub for more drinks. Freda is tired and we head home. Margaret is lame and I ignore her totally. Graham is thankfully in the mood to go out. I am glad too because I hate staying in when I'm on vacation. Before we leave, I ask Oriel if she wants to go out and she looks unsure of herself. At the last moment she looks at me and says 'Yes'.

In the car I am overcome with desire to taste her lips and I awkwardly grab her hair, attempting to cuddle her. She asks me what I am doing and I say something really cheesy like, "I want you."

Oriel looks away and my heart sinks into my big toe. I decide to leave the pretty thing alone for a couple minutes and talk to Graham. He is a rich boy from New England and we have nothing in common so we bullshit about money and computers.

Graham says he is a database programmer but I find this hard to believe. Being from Seattle, I know enough geeks to spot a coder when I see one. Graham is no coder. He is a silver spoon fed white bread cracker whose only job is counting his inheritance and buying Porsches with it. He owns two of them, both late models, with one on either side of the Atlantic. I tell him I like German cars as well. I don't mention that mine is a '85 VW. 

The point is that true coders are always geeky, and Graham looks like a million dollars in his fashionable labels. He attempts to hit on Olga and asks questions about her favorite ice cream flavor and such nonsense. It doesn't work and I almost laugh out loud. As the night wears on, I catch her big black onyx eyes pleading with me for signs of rescue. I play it mellow, acting like I don't care if she lives or dies. It's certainly not true, but I learned the hard way that's the only way to act if you want to get laid. My clothes are not helping me. I am wearing ripped Fubu jeans and Airwalks. This is not the London style. But I am more of a coder than Graham and also a better lover. Oriel must think so too. She follows me around the club and we dance. She swoons like she needs a kiss, and I plant one on her lips when the song ends. She doesn't offer me any tongue.

It's Sunday, a lame club night in London, so after two overpriced drinks we head back to Graham's well-equipped pad. He's got a fridge full of alcohol and a huge Hi-definition TV with a DVD player. I cringe when he starts showing off his collection of Gucci and Prada clothes. I can't understand all his attention to materialism. What remains interesting is his divine sense of dry humor. With a dead mother, an indifferent father, and a large inheritance at his command, how could he not have a great sense of humor? 

Finally it is time to go, and so I walk Oriel home by the arm. I can feel something growing in my pants. As soon as we get home we go into the living room and make out while we watch an old black and white Truffaut film noir. I think there is nothing more romantic than this, an American in love with a Russian in London. I continue to drink Guinness from its tall black can and smoke cigarettes. Oriel gets up and goes upstairs for a minute. I run to the bathroom and use mouthwash. We kiss again and she grimaces.

"I can't kiss you like that," she says. Drink some more beer and smoke another cigarette right now or I will never kiss you again. Her accent, with slight hints of Russian, German and French, drive me wild. My balls are swelling and starting to hurt. I crack open another beer and smoke a cigarette. We are back at it again. I tell her Satan himself couldn't get me on the plane tomorrow. I tell her I will change my departure date as soon as I wake up.

Oriel doesn't believe me. She says, "When I wake up you will be gone."

I tell her not to let me sleep alone but she is cynical and heads upstairs. I tell her if she goes upstairs that I am coming after her. I suddenly realize how creepy this sounds and decide to finish my beer and go to sleep on the couch.

The next morning I awake and call the airport. I ask to change my reservation. The woman on the phone cannot find it. She then informs me that my flight does not leave until Wednesday. Oh boy! Two more days in London!

I tell Freda the good news and she looks at me as if I were stupid.

"How can you not even know when you leave?" she asks me quizzically.

"I guess I got shorted in the brains arena," I answer.

"What?" she responds.

"I fucked up," I say. My thoughts are of Oriel and her kisses. I could give a shit if Freda died at this point.

It is only 9:00 AM and I can't sleep any more, so I pop Billy Madison in the VCR and watch the entire film. Adam Sandler is like a funny Jerry Lewis. By the end of the picture my hangover is sorted and so I tiptoe upstairs to kiss my love good morning. Oriel doesn't believe me when I say that I am not leaving. I get the impression that I am happier about this than she is. Oh well. Maybe she doesn't feel the same way. My mind, however, is already made up about her.

I casually invite her to shower with me, but she laughs and urges me away. I shower alone and get dressed. I try to kiss her before class but she doesn't seem interested. I make plans to meet her at her school at 4:30 PM for coffee. I spend the early afternoon in the Tate Museum. The place is immense and filled with some of the greatest works I have ever seen. There is a special �7.00 exhibit on the Pre-Raphaelites. I dutifully pay the entrance fee and have a gander. 

The exhibit is well worth the money, and is liberally stocked with Turners and Ruskins and other great British painters. Why are some people so much more talented than others? Sometimes you need not look longer than 2 seconds to realize the genius in a particular work. Other times you wonder what anybody ever saw in it. Different strokes for different folks. 

At 3:30 PM, I walk across London to the American Intercontinental University (AIU) to meet up with Oriel. I pass Buckingham Palace along the way. I fantasize that the queen is inside doing herself with the royal scepter. Charles is videotaping it secretly from the bathroom to use as evidence should the crown never come his way. Lady Di is getting fucked by a unicorn in heaven while William and Henry are busy sucking each other off. I fucking hate royalty. If I can't be king then no one should be.


I greet Oriel and she tells me we must go home immediately. I figure it must be some strange sexual thing so I oblige. But no, she is tired from our late night make out session and wants to go home and relax. Oriel seems to love TV as much as I love English ale. Jerry Springer is on, but I'm not paying attention. I lie on the couch, holding her close to me and sipping a Boddingtons. Eventually, she goes upstairs to nap. I cannot sleep due to the excitement and so I tune in to the program and realize that my prejudices against Jerry were all valid. The guy is a brainless moron with less taste and social grace than chronic acidic diarrhea.

At 7:00 PM, Oriel and I are about to go to dinner, when Freda pulls me into her room. She looks upset and closes the door. I don't quite understand what's about to happen, but it doesn't seem good.

"How could you?" Freda asks me.

"How could I what?"

Now I realize. In an apartment of six girls, news travels faster than corresponding quantum particles at a spooky distance. And it is often misconstrued and distorted. Freda is feeling slighted by my attention to Oriel. But we're buds, no? I try to explain that it is not a slight because I am deeply in love with Oriel and this is not just a cheap male poontang operation.

Freda doesn't seem to understand. She tells me she is going to kill me in my sleep. All the more reason to sleep with Oriel, I think. Another one of the girls tells me Freda is PMS-ing hard and I will have to take all this with a grain of salt. I think about the situation. My life has been threatened. I don't care. I grab Olga and rush out the door.

We escape to a sushi bar in Soho where we gorge ourselves on raw fish and sake. Oriel makes it understood that she doesn't quite yet trust my motives. Perhaps she wants to take it slow? That sounds okay to me. Why not?

We go see the film American Beauty. I believe we are the only two people never to have seen this film. Afterwards we want to go for a drink but all the pubs are closed. This is one of the shittier things about London. The pubs shut at 11:00 PM. In Paris bars close when all the clients either leave or pass out. Is this London or Disneyland? 

Oriel leads me to a 'bent' convenience mart where we buy beer illegally. When we arrive home we go up to her bedroom and talk. For some reason I am not feeling so romantic and having a hard time with it. It's just that Oriel is a rare bird, and more than that she speaks her soul. Proud and sad, delicate and subtle. Oh my God, this is not lust this is love. I am in love! I need to be inside her. Okay maybe it is lust. I don't know. But it feels like an important dictum from God.

I go for broke and Oriel tells me there is no way she is fucking me after knowing me for 2 days. She then kicks me out of her bedroom and sends me downstairs. I oblige and sleep soundly for 5 hours, awakening with a severe hangover and the desire to see Oriel again. I go upstairs and kiss her. I invite her into the shower again but she looks at me as if I'm daft and starts getting ready to go to school. 

Disappointed but understanding, I spend the morning with Freda at the British Museum. Her period is over and now everything is forgiven. Besides, Freda must shoot a whole roll of film for her photography class in the afternoon. No time to hold a grudge. The museum is not to my taste, and we snap photos of almost everything in the museum. The place is massively well built with huge halls and high ceilings. The collection is quite impressive. In this building lie hundred ton chunks of Ancient stone artifacts. A sizeable portion of Greece and Egypt is in this building. I wonder to myself if the British are ever going to wake up and realize that this stuff could not possibly belong to them. If there were justice in the world, The UN would mandate turning the newly emptied British Museum into a rave club and pill factory.

Later that afternoon, I again lounge about the girls' apartment doing fuck all watching TV. My only immediate goal is to spend more time with Oriel before I leave. I cannot wait for her to get home, so I go buy a sandwich and some Boddington's to calm myself. True, It may only be half past noon, but Oriel seems to like me best drunk anyway so I figure why not. When she comes home, she does her best to show me that she couldn't give a flying fuck about me but I can see through her. She is at least intrigued. She doesn't join me for a beer but sits on the other side of the room pretending to watch TV. Finally she comes to my side and caresses me and we talk for a few hours until it's time to go out.

Tonight is "bar night" and every single girl in the house, even the totally fat and lame ones, go out. Oriel is afraid that she will be ostracized from her household for 'stealing' me from Freda and I find this hard to believe. At 29, I have no more insight into the female psyche then when I was 8. All I know for certain about girls is that things are generally much better with them than without them. I feel tired so I munch a few psilocybin cyanescens I had brought along in case of emergency and head out the door. 

The bar is typically English. The place has the illusion of being tiny until you see the stairwell to the basement. Downstairs there is a snooker table, a dance floor and another bar. The girls all get the Ladies Night �2.99 all-you-can-drink wine special. To me, there is nothing special about cheap wine except the hangover it gives you. I opt for the Guinness. The girls get drunk and talk together and walk around looking sexy and trying to pick up boys. There is a lone deejay spinning vinyl in the corner, smoothly blending Britpop and techno. The hallucinogenic fungi makes the lights start dancing in my head.

I somehow end up to playing a game of billiards. There are 7 tiny yellow balls, 7 tiny red balls, a tiny black ball, and a tiny white cue ball. I think I have this game sussed. One guy hits the yellows, and one guy hits the reds. Apparently each player gets two shots and I don't figure this out until midway through the game. The lads 'down the pub' don't seem too intent on filling me in. But eventually they come around and we discuss life in Seattle. They are interested because it is a city 8,000 miles away. To them it seems an exotic rock town. God, if they only knew how lame it was compared to London.

I am better at billiards than the other guy, but I lose the game by missing an easy 8-ball shot. I don't care because Oriel walks over to console me. She grabs me around the waist and shoves her tongue into my mouth. Consolation prize. The combined effects of her love and the mushrooms propel me into my personal heaven. The kiss sends my brain into ecstasy. We go to the corner of the pub and make out. 

Oriel's body temperature steadily rises and soon she suggests that we either go to the bathroom and fuck or go home and fuck. Either way I figure I win. I lead her towards the door. We go straight up to her bedroom and the next thing I know we are naked and I am happy for the first time in a long while. Oriel's body is like a great work of art. Her breasts stand at attention and her pussy tastes delicious like a fine wine. 

The next morning I awake up with Oriel in my arms. We kiss and suddenly I realize I must leave in 1 hour. 

I take a shower. Oriel dons a sexy black Japanese outfit and I have a very difficult time exiting the building. She clings to me and tells me she loves me. I tell her I love her and I will return in 45 days to spend the summer with her. I hope it is not a lie. When I board the plane I get teary and think of nothing but this tale of two cities and how I met my first true love. As the plane takes off I sigh. I am going to back to America, back to Hell. 

I pray to my guardian angel. Sarah, this is the one, right? Please?! I really think this is it? Don't you?  


Sarah doesn't respond. She must be busy helping Vonkonrad jack off. Good for her. I watch out the plane window as Europe fades away. I suddenly realize I've done it again. I've left Europe. It's the biggest fuck up you can do as a person. I feel as empty as a newly finished bottle of wine.

I go numb. I might as well be dead as alive and on this plane heading back to America. Fucking anything but that.