You know it's going to weird a day when it starts lying in bed with your wife standing over you, and in the same slightly panicked voice she uses when injured or sick, she says, "I need your help."
Uh-oh. Things have been going pretty smoothly in Paris lately, and I've been trying not to let the other-shoe scenarios intrude too much in my thoughts. But I was raised Lutheran-- the other shoe is always gonna drop.
Swallow hard, focus. "What's going on?"
"I can't get out of my shoe."
Squint-- think real hard (it's literally now 15 seconds after waking), and... laugh. OK, not super high on the Supportive Spouse Index, but c'mon. Who saw that coming?
Not being able to get out one's shoe isn't a really confidence-inspiring way to start one's day. She'd gotten up early to ride the trainer, something we just don't do. Anymore. Time was, years ago, when we were new to racing and optimistic about our potentials, that we'd be up before 5.00 AM and on the trainer in the basement many days a week Jan-Mar, to get an hour of work in before the long commute to work. We proved pretty conclusively in those years that such diligence didn't matter. So when Funny Girl got up at 6.15 to get on The Beast this morning, I could only be glad that "early" here in Paris means more than an hour more sleep than "regular" in Philly for the previous 8 years of our lives.
Turns out the ratchet on her right cycling shoe was stuck and just needed a bigger, clumsier set of fingers to release it. Sprung from her captivity, she went about getting ready for work, and I, now awake, amused, and relieved it was something so simple, went about smearing particularly perfectly ripe, particularly smelly and oozy Brie de Meau on pain forainois for her sandwiches. I don't really know that that's what the bread is called. I only know that's (roughly) how it's pronounced, because every item at our bakery except that small, heavily seeded loaf has a sign on it. I looked in the dictionary, figuring it was a variant of four, or oven, but I couldn't find a word that should sound like "foreign." Foreignwah. Four-reine-roi (oven-queen-king)? No clue. Forain is a "stand." No earthly idea how that relates to this whole wheat/rye bread with sunflower seeds baked in and covered with sesame seeds that shoot all over my apartment when I slice it. I'll have to ask Madame Gantier someday, when there's no line, how to spell it. Her opinion of me can't drop much lower, so she'll no doubt get a kick out of that, 4 months after we've been getting 2-3 of them per week.
We've both had our revelations in Paris, and the seeded loaf is one of Funny Girl's. I tried to get her interested in Kayser's excellent baguette aux cereals when we first moved here, but she said, "I like seeds on my bread, not in my bread." And so it was, until that first loaf of foreignwah, the perfect bread for sandwiches of sheep cheese. Or nutty alpine cow cheese. Or chevre. Or prosciutto (pork, or cinghiale, or duck, for matter). And just recently, she was waxing poetic about the very baguette aux cereals she'd poo-poo'd 11 months ago, the inside all substantial and light and airy at the same time, rich with flax and sesame seeds, with a super-crackly crust impossibly loaded with more of the same plus sunflower seeds (my favorite part). Lord, that's good. How I'll cope without those breads (or the cheeses we schmear between them) when we get back home, I'm afraid to contemplate. There's getting to be a long list of such items. Swell-- something new to worry about.
Anyway, the day did indeed turn out to be weird.
Not long after Funny Girl set off for the salt mines, I, inspired by the clear blue (if damned cold) skies and for-the-first-time-in-a-week dry roads, put together a new exploratory bike route masterpiece and got suited up to head out. I don't much mind either the cold or the wet, but because ice + steep = injury, I don't like both at the same time. So I'd scrapped riding my cobbled/speed-humped (surely the name of a doggie dating service, somewhere)/hilly-and-twisty routes yesterday to play it safe. Because the circulation in my extremities is nearly non-existent nowadays, Funny Girl sweetly brought a package of 16 pairs of toe warmers back from the States on her last visit. And though they don't guarantee my feet won't be morgue-white/blue at the end of a ride, they improve the odds substantially enough that I stuck those bad boys to the bottoms of my socks before putting on shoes and heavy shoe-covers. Grab the bike, call the elevator, get down to the lobby, and ... waaa?? In the 45 seconds it took to get from the 6th floor to the ground floor, it had gone from nice day to white-out. Huge heavy flakes pouring down. Son of a...
I thought about just going back upstairs. But I'd used one of my precious pairs of toe-warmers, so there was nothing to do but suck it up and ride. Besides, riding in the snow can be a blast. Well, that thought lasted about 6 seconds. It was freaking cold, and the big flakes melted on my face and just accentuated the cold wind created by riding (not to mention the stiff wind blowing of its own volition). It was snowing so hard that I couldn't see and nearly rear-ended a parked construction vehicle on my way out of town. I realize that to the folks in the mid-atlantic, who are getting slammed with their second big-ass storm in 5 days right now, big enough to close Funny Girl's headquarters for the first time in 8 years, a little snow squall wouldn't seem like much. But you see, I'm a wuss. I missed 'cross season, and so what tiny little bit of toughness I once had was lost. Use it or lose it.
The snow was accumulating fast, covering the ice from the last several days and making me think that going out and hitting the roller-coaster roads, including a signed 23% hill we found last weekend, I'd targeted earlier in my sunny living room would be a bad idea. After all, it was almost exactly a year ago that my stupid human tricks mountain bike episode put me in the ER. With a trip to Italy around the corner, I wasn't eager to risk it. So I decided I'd do 1 lap at the hamster track for giggles and then head home where I could feel smug for getting out. Thing is, after a lap I was having way too much fun to cut it short. Yeah, my face and hands were completely frozen (my toes, eh-- cold but still had sensation), yeah my cassette was completely packed with snow making shifting impossible, and yeah, my wheels were snow-packed and rubbing against ice blocks wedged in the brakes. But it was the best ride I've had at Longchamp since I've been here. Riding fresh snow, looking at the tracks I made the previous lap on each subsequent one, like an early morning on the mountain when skiing. There were 2 other people out riding, which shocked me, and we were all smiling and laughing as we made our normally-boring rounds. Good times. It stopped snowing after a few laps, and it was just quiet, solitary fun.
The ride back home was a bit sketchy, over the slippery frozen cobbles through Porte d'Auteuil. I stopped at Kayser to buy a fresh baguette aux cereals for my lunch, and by the time I came back out, it was sunny again, and the traffic had melted most of the snow on Av Mozart.
From there it was just progressively weird life-in-Paris. From the normal-- a woman walking down the street while I was stopped at a light who was body-checked into a shop window by an older woman who suddenly decided she wanted to occupy that space, or an old man patiently waiting for his mangey little dog to finish crapping literally on the stoop of a shop door, leaving it there for somebody else to take care of-- to the odder: later in the day, a group of about 20 really little kids (not much taller than my knees) with 2 teachers got on the metro train car I was standing in, and with pole/railing space limited, one of the little buggers wrapped one of my legs with both arms to keep upright, repeatedly wiping his runny nose all over my jeans (thanks, kid), and finally, in the Concorde metro station after extracting myself from that snotty embrace, I was walking towards the exit when an armed guard, about 5-feet tall with shaved head and space-age sunglasses, backed quickly out of the ticket office and ran straight into me, pulling his gun from his holster with his latex-gloved hand (so he doesn't leave prints??) and pointing it at me (Dude! Breathe... s'il vous plait-- put.the.gun.back.) before pushing me out of the way so his bigger, more hairy colleague carrying a big sack of money could make his way out of the underground. Texas? Yeah, that'd be normal. Paris? First for me.
So yep, definitely a weird day. Can't wait to see what happens tomorrow.