Extra-Doux au Lait d’Avoine
May 6, 2010, 3:36 am
Filed under: voyageur

Saurkraut pierogies. God bless multiculturalism for opening the windows of dumpling variety so very wide.

Last week I was in the pharmacy looking for shampoo. For whatever reason, the intended bottle wasn’t working. The smell was off and there was too much selection without differentiation. Long? Dry? Extra body? Wandering commenced. It was a wandering sort of night anyways. I wandered to the natural section in an attempt to get away from pervasive fake musk smells. There, boxed, it was sitting. The shampoo from Paris.

I opened the bottle and smelled it and was transported back to the cosy hostel I’d been referred to by a lovely bilingual Aboriginal boy from Montreal who was wandering through Africa, “tell them I sent you,” he grinned. The first response on mentioning him was “you didn’t sleep with him, did you?!”

(he was beautiful, but our relationship was platonic. I had welcomed him into my second home, so he had referred me to his, the highest compliment between our kind)

The hostel was in a sleepy arrondissement. I arrived with no Euros, no toiletries, no maps and no plans. Within the first night, I determined the cheapest thing to drink at the bar was red wine (2 Euros) and there was a store around the corner where I could find necessary soap and shampoo.

The women in the store were lovely with my poor French and legitimately spoke no English. They delighted that “je viens du Canada” and gave me a bunch of free samples with my ordinary packet of purchases. I took the bag back to a constricting shower I’m reasonably sure no person over 150 lbs could fit in and scrubbed away six months.

Smelling that shampoo the other day reminded me of the Senegalese refugee and his Dutchie girlfriend, eating tins of halva and dolmas with strangers, the Aussie girl I would later meet up with again to do mushrooms in Amsterdam, Le Big Mac with the Eastern European expat, the way the light looks in winter in the Musee d’Orsay, running through Père Lachaise in a collective search for Oscar Wilde, and Greg. Greg voted Republican and had paid for his trip with a summer of caddying at his local country club, a sort of hands on work that he found to be a badge of honour, giving away a lot about his station in life. Despite these two things, he had an unvarnished earnestness I was fascinated with, and our interactions had a charming honesty that struck a chord where others failed in a city where it’s a blind shame to go and never kiss anyone.

I bought a bottle and am regularly revisiting both my French girl hair (très Jolie) and memories of that city.


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