London to Paris

We could have skipped London. Linda had a sinus infection which prevented much extended exploration around the city, which was in the grip of unseasonably cold weather. I went out by myself for beef and ale pie and beer, and though I tried to get a pie to go, there was poor communication, even though the waitress and I spoke the same language. It seems that there are regulations about which restaurants can sell food to go and which cannot.

"I ordered two of them, to take out," I explained, when she presented the bill. There was only one pie on it.

I had put my credit card on the table, thinking I was just sitting down to wait for my order. Later I realized she was just going along with eccentric behavior. "Do you want to pay now?"

"Yes," I said, thinking it was a normal procedure I was engaged in.

But it was not a normal procedure. She was humoring me, as I sat sucking down a pint of beer and waiting for the food in the styrofoam containers, so familiar to stateside diners. Once she realized what I was asking for she said, "That's not allowed."

"I'm sorry," I explained, "in the states we're used to being able to get food to go from just about any restaurant. I didn't realize it was regulated in London."

"Well it is," she said, "so you'll have to sit here in this little dining room with me, love."

"You don't mind if I fantasize then?"

"Not at all love," she said with a teasing smile. "I've seen blokes like you before, though by the time they're as old as you they're usually over it."

"I'm a Clintonian Democrat, darling. My poor wife is in the hotel room expecting me to come back with a beef pie, and here I am flirting with you. It makes me recall that old Roger Miller song, 'Dang me, dang me, they ought to take a rope and hang me ..'"

"If we all got what we deserve, love, we'd starve to death."

Before I left she explained to me that there was no point in putting a tip on the credit card, as the government would take it all. "Tip in cash, love," she said. "Otherwise it's a wasted sentiment."

I came home late with some fish and chips from a take out place. Linda was a sad creature, her pain seeping out through her voice and her expression and casting a blue pall over the hotel room which clashed crazily with the blackish brown walls. The hotel room itself was so silly it feels like shooting ducks in a barrel to make fun of it. There are places in the world where the rule of form following function reverses itself, with disastrous consequences. The Trafalgar is one of those places. It's almost irresistible to trash it.

Excuse me. Somebody just knocked at the door here at the Paris Hilton to deliver a robe. Earlier they delivered champagne and chocolates. Such nice people, the French. They take care of the Hilton Diamond Club members with special perks. I am not a member, but Linda is, and since I travel with her I get treated in a manner to which I could become accustomed, I suppose, but of which I am wary. I am a fraud, and should really be staying in a little pension in another part of town, not here by the Eiffel Tower, being pampered like a Lord.

But this has always been my lot. I remember once doing a magazine article on the best hotel rooms in the west, and staying in the Presidential Suite at the Hotel Utah and being thankful for the complimentary fruit basket I was so broke, and then moving to the Composer's Suite at a top LA hotel, I now forget the name of it, and having a limo and driver but no money. Money has surrounded me for years, but it was never my money.

Still, I have a sense of how ridiculous money can be in its materialized incarnation, and never has it appeared more silly than at the Trafalgar Hotel. There was an electric kettle for heating water for tea, and yet there was no surface where it could be set down and plugged in. It had to be put on the floor so that it's under-hung cord could plug into the big grounded socket. And the bathroom sink was square, like a cardboard box that had been enameled. It didn't drain properly of course, and was appallingly impractical. There was no outlet in the bathroom to plug in the hair dryer.

When I wrote an email to my friend Arnold, who is from London, he wrote back, "the disco is a quaint remnant of the Arab sheiks in the seventies. I hope you forgive the Baron on this one."

What he meant by "the Baron" I have no idea, unless there is a Baron Hilton. It did give me some idea of why we have a cultural clash with the Arabs, though. (By God I looked it up and there is a Baron Hilton.)

We stayed in that hole for three days, and all I can say is that I hope the Baron picked it up at a distressed property sale for a song. Even following the real estate maxim, "location, location, location," the advantage of Trafalgar Square can't save that one. The reference to "the disco" is to the fact that the lobby of the hotel is an actual disco, so that there is a feeling of intruding on the tomb of Maurice Gibb when one goes down to where the lobby should be, but is not.

But I am drifting away from Linda's medical problem, which was addressed by a slightly built, bald little doctor who showed up at the door and said accusingly, "I'm illegally parked." He fussed into the room and complained that his assistant only spoke Spanish and had told him the problem was a yeast infection when it was in fact a sinus infection, even though the person on the phone was clearly Indian and not Spanish. He scurried around like a nervous rat for five minutes, getting five bucks worth of medicine out of his case and selling it for fifty, on top of the hundred pounds he charged for coming by, and then turned away from Linda toward me.

"How do you intend to pay me?" he asked.

"I'm not going to, you whiny little fuck," I said. Did I really? Of course not. In my ego manifestation I am too concerned with doing my part of keep civilization patched up and struggling along. I just said, "I believe she gave your office a credit card number," directing him back to Linda.

He turned back on her and said that he preferred cash.

"Of course you prefer cash, just like everybody else in this country trying to dodge the taxman while enjoying free medical care and strolling into the National Museum without having to pay a two pence."

No, she didn't really say that. She is much too nice to say that except in my shadow rich narratives. She said, "I'm afraid I don't have that much cash. You'll have to take the credit card." He was not pleased and his nervous little hands scratched out the numbers on a form and made her sign it before he scurried out through the door to rescue his car from the red zone.

"What an obnoxious little man."

"I'm never traveling without antibiotics again, goddamnit. This is ridiculous."

"Indeed it is. Robbery is legal for doctors."

We lay in bed and listened to Bill Bailey's humor on the BBC for a couple of hours, which made everything a lot better. His dvd, "Part Troll," is a prize if you can get hold of it. It's mostly available from the UK only. Bailey is one of the funniest people in the english speaking world.

Today we slid smoothly out of London on the Euro Star to Paris, and into the Paris Hilton. I know what you're thinking; Paris Hilton the international bimbo. But this hotel is first class, with a proper lobby and restaurant, and no weird shit in the design. There is even a balcony with a door that opens onto it, and free porn on the television. Who could ask for anything more?

The antibiotics seem to be kicking in, so that by tomorrow I'm hoping Linda is feeling well enough to join me on the streets of Paris. But if she just can't make it, I imagine I'll find happiness in the arms of a Parisian fashion model in a small cafe on the left bank.

The key word here is "imagine ..."

Posted: Sat - March 18, 2006 at 03:13 PM