Tuesday, July 12, 2016

What a Difference a Day Makes

I'd have been fine, but I broke the seal.

Stay with me here.

I've spent my 48 hours at home focused and solo, despite Paris still very much occupying my mind, a fact not helped by comments from readers about their own undying affection for the City of Light.

Not surprisingly, the first song I needed to hear when I got home was Joni Mitchell's "Free Man in Paris" and it's been pretty much on repeat in the car, stirring up thoughts about how different experiencing Paris must have been in 1974 when she wrote the song than my recent adventures.

And as I allow all that to work itself out of my brain and pores, I turned my attention to home and hearth with laundry, vigorous house cleaning (ahem, even baseboards...at least a few of them) and gardening (Lowes times two in one afternoon, oh, my).

My little world returned to an orderly and attractive comfort zone, I could today focus on earning a living: editing, scheduling interviews and studying notes. I made appointments, I registered, I waited in lines.

The way I see it, it was the walk that weakened me.

Three blocks from home and I spot a friend for the first time since he moved to the neighborhood. We spend 15 minutes catching up in front of Saison, a breakfast sandwich cooling in its see-through container as we chat.

Less than a block away, I hear a friendly if accusatory, "Hey, stranger!" from a neighborhood acquaintance when I walk by the open door of his restoration business. I pause to explain my absence and he shares that a good friend of his left yesterday for Paris.

"We traded her for you, I guess," he jokes.

Walking away, it occurs to me that these are the first real conversations I've had since I got back. I've been existing completely in a vacuum, righting my world, processing my trip and decompressing alone.

Very much not my usual style.

But the seeds had been planted and in no time, I'm thinking it's already been entirely too long (hello, two whole days) since I've had the pleasure of company and conversation. I thought I was fine keeping to myself, at least right up until I started running into people I wanted to talk to.

Naturally, I did what any phone-hating person short on friendly contact would do: call up a friend and suggest getting together tonight.

"And do what?" he inquires, half whiny 8-year old and half curious about my purpose. I'm honest, saying all I'm looking for is some chatter after my self-imposed isolation.

Luckily, he bites. Grateful, I arrive with show and tell.

When I suggest My Noodle & Bar, he says it's the girlfriend's new favorite place. The July exodus of the city means it's not even a challenge to find a Monument Avenue parking space. I want a tiki booth, he wants the bar with backless stools and we compromise on a banquette for them with a comfy chair for me.

Meanwhile, playing overhead is the soundtrack to much younger days for two dancing fools at the table: "Good Times," "Ring My Bell," "Stayin' Alive" and a couple of worthy Al Green songs for slow dance grinding.

Did they see us coming or what?

Even without music to break a platform shoe by (unfortunately, she said, they were from legendary Grace Street boutique Sunny Day), the meal unfolded appealingly with a special of noodle-covered shrimp flash fried before plates of garlic beef, broccoli with chicken and ginger beef occupied our attention.

Of course I wanted to hear all about their Corolla trip last week (his boogie board stood sentry at the front door of his house) and they were a bit curious about my French outing. When it was my turn in the spotlight, I answered questions, shared stories and teased out their own long-ago Parisian experiences.

Chances are, I blathered like an idiot after my time in solitary confinement.

Since the meal took no time, we kept the social intercourse going at his house with my show and tell collection. A copy of Paul McCartney's set list on this current tour. The new Anderson Gallery retrospective book, chock full of pictures of most of her art professors from the '70s, long before I arrived here.

Now I know that the friendly artist I met in 2000 as an older man was once referred to by his students as the "Italian stallion" for his bed-hopping antics.

And while I'd brought a dozen or so albums from my vinyl collection - carefully chosen to include some I knew she'd flip for and others straight up his alley - the one that had him swooning and most envious (because he didn't own a copy) was Badfinger's "Straight Up."

For him, it had been one of those "everybody-owns-it-so-I didn't-have-to-but-I-still-heard-it a-million-times" records, so tonight was the first time he'd heard it in 40 years. It held up, we agreed.

High art form British power pop circa 1971, mostly produced by Todd Rundgren, with a  few songs produced by George Harrison on uber-hip Apple Records. All that and "Baby Blue," "Day After Day," "It's Over," in other words, classic stuff for Beatles fans still smarting from the band's breakup at the turn of the decade.

All of which, as you might imagine, we discussed in earnest.

My fault, entirely. If I hadn't crossed the street, I wouldn't have seen my friend the new neighbor and I wouldn't have endangered my self-imposed isolation.

Now that I have, there's no going back. No matter what.

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