After such a precarious time navigating the passport system... I did finally get to France --- in spite of the fact that Newark airport closed down for a while on Thursday, hence rendering the connection a bit complicated. But I did get to Paris. I arrived about 2 hours late - Friday around 2 pm at the hotel ... Sofitel near the Eiffel Tower. Liz had been in the hotel for a few days already for work and the place was beautiful.
We snacked (for 60 euro, which is like ... 80 dollars) in a cafe on place Trocodero, then proceeded to traverse the entire city on foot. All the way from the Eiffel tower, along la Seine, through Les Tulleries, and then onto Ile de la Cite, then into the latin quartier for dinner. And - in one of my proudest moemnts, I rode on a giant giant ferris wheel with Liz. No, I couldn't really open my eyes, but it was incredible.
We stayed out late, slept in, and in the early afternoon took a TGV to Dijon, the small city where we lived in 1996-97 for our Junior year abroad (see photo of the cute town street with all the flags at left). In Dijon, we shopped like mad ladies (surgical strike, as Liz called it), drank coffee and wine, walked around our old hang outs, and then dined on this amazing place that has been totally renovated since we lived there 10 years ago. It was there that we met 2 Yogoslavians who took us out dancing.
I must say that that night I heard the worst, but most ambitious and misplaced attempts to hook up... "Toi, tu es comme Brittany Spears! Tu es la fille de mes reves. Tu es comme Monica Lewinsky! ou... madonna!"
Monica Lewinsky? Um... no.
The next day, Liz and I had pain au chocolat and cafe in Dijon, then headed back to Paris on the TGV --- mais, "Pas de Service!" (No dining car and no table service! NO!) "Pas de Service?" "Non... ce n'est pas vrai!" Si. Malheureusement, c'etait vrai. We got back to Paris, had a yummy lunch in a bistro and tearfully parted ways.
We'll be back Liz. We'll be back again for sure.
After the 48 hours of coaching from Liz's good french (she continues to have opportunities to speak in french through her job)... I felt ready to navigate Paris on my own. Sure enough... Ce n'etait pas mal. Pas de tout. I found my way on the metro to the conference hotel in the 15ieme arrondissement, met up with Rosa and we went out for a fantastic round of catching up and drinking wine on Place Cambronne, near our hotel. At about 11 pm (french time), who do we find? Bethany and Claire - also Annenbergers... on their way home from a fun night. But without much prodding... we did convince them to stay and hang a bit. At 4 am we were finally rolling into bed.
We conferenced all day Monday and Tuesday (which included my presentationwhich went quite well). Monday night, Rosa, Claire and I headed out to prendre une verre dans un tout petit cafe pres de notre hotel (have a glass of wine - or a few - in a little cafe near our hotel). Il s'appelait "La Place." C'est la ou on a racontre Thomas - notre serveur mignon (That's where we met Thomas - our cute french waiter). Suffice it to say that at the end of a fun night, we asked Thomas if he would be working the next night (wed).
"bon... alors.... A demain?"
"Oui oui. A demain."
I dare say I don't recall having been able to successfully flirt in French when I lived there 10 years ago. It's funny. I probably had a larger vocabulary - but I don't think that I had such a strong sense of self or such a feeling of how little is at stake in these situations. There is literally nothing to lose.
So, the next night --- Thursday --- we were back at le cafe. Back at "La Place". and there was Thomas. It was about 10:30 pm -- but he wasn't off work until 2. So... we stayed. Good friends indeed, Claire, Rosa, and Bethany.
Perhaps the best part of it all was how brilliant it felt to be with these amazing ladies again - smart, funny women who have known each other for quite some time now --- 6 years of graduate school. And now, here we all were - all professors all over the place Colorado, the UK, Delaware. And when we start talking big ideas ... it's like a carnival ride. We riff and riff and it's like a drug. So much darned fun.
I digress. Back to our french waiter: Thomas finished work at 2 am and after some awkward beating around the bush - along with my knocking his tray over and breaking a wine glass on the floor beneath his feet (idiot!) I asked what he was up to and he asked if I'd like to walk a bit and maybe "prendre une verre" - have a glass of wine. The wine never happened. Neither did a kiss or anything remotely similar. Instead, it was simply 3 lovely hours joking, walking and talking French with this lovely young man. We walked under the Eiffel Tower, stood at the edge of the Pont d'Iena. Talked about families, friends, philosophies of life. It was only the second time he had been to the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
When I mentioned that Young was my married name, his eyes got big -- "married?" so, I told him in 2 sentences what my situation was. He said it was so "triste" very very "triste."
"Mais, vous n'avez pas d'enfants?" (But, you didn't have any kids?)
"Si. J'ai un fils. Baxter."
Later on, when we jokingly discussed how he could come to the states to visit, I told him I'd take him to see all the Philly tourist spots that I never visit - just like he never visits the Eiffel Tower. He said he'd rather sit on my porch, have a little wine, and play with me and Baxter.
Boy was his English terrible. Thank God I spent lots of time drinking in bars and speaking French back in 96-97. I knew it was good for something.
So, at 5 am he caught a bus. An hour long busride back to the 19ieme arrondissement to his apartment awaited him, but he wasn't complaining. What a sweet and wonderful night.
I went to bed at 5:30 and was up at 7:30 to get to the airport to come home. it's now almost 9 pm US time (3 am french time) and I'm stuck in Newark and have been since I missed my 3 pm connection to NH. I wont get to NH for another 3 hours...
But now? It's all good. I get to go home and see Baxter.
[Above: from Sash and Dee's wedding: September 2004. At Left: Mike at Penn circa 1987. From Roberta. At Right... the Goldthwaites, Rocks, and Youngs in NH 2004. Just 3 years ago. I was preggers with Baxter.]
So...FedEx is on its way with passport on board the truck to... my house in...New Jersey.
And I'm currently in New Hampshire
As Liz used to say, "f*ck a duck! "
But, thanks to Susan Murphy, who spent time on the phone with FedEx… I think I might STILL be able to go to freaking france. She arranged for the package to be left at my house with no signature. She's going to pick it up now and have it overnighted UPS to my parents house in Hebron, NH. Still leaving me about 24 hours to spare.
In the meantime, I woke up this morning in the middle of the most amazing dream about mike. I've only had like 2 vivid dreams of healthy mike since his death. This was the best.
I was leaving a baseball game or a show or something ... and I was standing outside some room that looked like a coat check. I think it was the coat check at the Mask and Wig club, where Heather and Matt got married. I peeked in the room and behind a couple of people there was Mike.
Content, arms folded in front of him. Navy windbreaker draped over his arm, wearing his olive green button down shirt - sleeves rolled up. Watch on his wrist. With his lil' brown structure vest on. Khakis and wingtip shoes. He even had on his leather fanny pack - ahem... man-purse. It was Mike circa 2001, for sure.
He gave me a little smile and did a little Mike wave and tucked his hair behind his ear. It reminded me of how he would greet Jen Childs after an 1812 show out in the lobby of the Adrienne.
We hugged and smooshed sooo hard. I could feel him in my arms. I just squeezed and squeezed. He didn't know he'd been gone. I barely spoke to him. But he looked right in my eyes. Then, we stopped hugging and Kevin came in. They joked and "shanked" each other in the gut - a fake stabbing gesture that they did to each other for years. Kevin put mike in a headlock and Mike pretended to punch him in the gut - at which point Kevin faked an enormous injury. Mike was laughing so hard. His eyes sparkled and his head was thrown back.
Then I woke up. I spent the next half hour trying to go back there again.
I love you so much, Mike.
He called today to tell me that after 5 days, he had finally been successful and had been given the FedEx tracking number for my passport. He said it was scheduled to ship out to me (in NH) later today.
So... tonight, I entered the tracking # and..... would you believe it?
"Estimated Delivery Date: July 17, 2007 by 3:00 pm"
I could have the passport with 48 hours still left to spare before takeoff. Then again -- it might still not get here in time... but I'm a lot more optimistic than I was yesterday.
After the past six days chasing after a very energetic Baxter and imagining how it's going to be without his mama to help, I wonder if Mimi and Poppy are going to sabotage the FedEx delivery: "Sorry Danna, The passport never showed up. Looks like you'll just have to stay here and watch Baxter. Oh Well.."
We're up here in beautiful New Hampshire for the next 4 weeks. (And, to all you criminals reading the blog, I have housesitters and a security system, so don't bother.) My dad (Poppy) flew down on Tuesday just to make the car trek with Bax and me on Wednesday. 8 hours. We did it. With a mini DVD player. But... We did it.
As most of you know, the year anniversary of Mike's death is soon approaching. The fact that so many of you have already sent cards and thoughtful emails means so much. Sometimes I wonder if only my world is totally whacky in the absence of mike - but just seeing how many people are painfully aware of the anniversary that we're facing once again reminds me that I'm not alone. July 18th was the date, but the entire week prior was utter hell. Being away from home helps a little and hurts a little. I feel disconnected, but I also feel a little more calm than I might feel sitting on the same front porch where I smoked and drank my way through last summer. The plan for the 18th is for my dad and I to hike little Sugarloaf Mountain overlooking Newfound Lake. This is the spot where I want my ashes spread when I die - and Mike knew that for years. I have taken a small amount of Mike's ashes with me up here to NH and at 11:20 am on the 18th, I'll drop them over the side of the cliff where I hope to be someday.
The 2nd part of the plan involves my boarding an airplane bound for Paris on July 19th to spend a long weekend with Liz and to attend a conference and present a paper early next week - returning to NH on July 25 (Mimi and Poppy would be on Bax duty). Problem is, after 13 weeks, my passport has yet to arrive. I've expedited it three times, have my senators' offices on the case, have called etc etc... no dice. I did find out that I will get a travel voucher for the cost of the airline tickets in the event that I need to cancel (even if I cancel day of)... but it is sort of a bummer. Not hugely devastating - particularly given where I was one year ago... but sort of a disappointment. The way I'm trying to think of it is that I either get a week in Paris to play and drink wine with my best friend from college and friends from grad school OR I get an additional week here in the mountains to watch my beautiful boy bond with his grandparents and develop an affection for the amazing place that I call home. Either way is pretty nice, really.
This morning, Bax and Mimi and I were playing with some toys and Bax found a big horse and a tiny horse, "This is the mommy. This is the baby. Where's the daddy?" he asked.
"Where do you think he is?" Asked mimi.
"He's in heaven," Bax replied without paying much attention.
Mimi's eyebrows lifted and I started to roll my eyes at her. "Mom.... You know we tell him that Daddy's on the moon... We don't talk about heaven or hell..." (refer to previous posts regarding Mike and Danna's hyper-secularism)
"Danna," my mom interrupted, incredulously, "I swear to you, I have never discussed heaven with him."
"Bax," I touched his arm, "Where did you learn about heaven?"
"Daddy told me."
"Daddy told you." I replied.
"Yeah," he turned back to the playhouse as if to say --- 'lady! leave me alone! let me play!'
"Where's daddy?" I asked.
Bax appeared to sigh as though I was as dumb as a bucket of rocks, and complete with an emphatic hand gesture he stated: "He's. In. Heaven."
"Who told you that?"
"Daddy told me that."
"Where was daddy when he told you that?"
"Right here!" He struggled to put a toy in the window of the playhouse... "The girl's too big. She doesn't fit." New subject...As though nothing weird was happening.
My mom and I just looked at each other. Mom made a gesture with her hand to me like, "Danna... enough..." She was right. Bax was getting annoyed.
To those of you who have inquired about contributing money to Baxter’s fund:
I have set up a UTMA (Uniform Transfers to Minors Account) which will transfer to Baxter when he is no longer a minor. The account is managed by my fantastic financial advisor, Mark Mensack.
Contributions to Bax’s account can be made out to Baxter Young and sent to my financial advisor:
Mark D. Mensack
Janney Montgomery Scott LLC
6000 Sagemore Dr., Suite 6201
Marlton, NJ 08053
[More info - UTMA, A Uniform Transfers to Minors Account: The UTMA is a type of custodial account. The child is the account owner, but the parent (or other adult) is named as custodian. The custodian controls the account until the child is no longer a minor. At that point, the custodial relationship ends and the child controls the account.]
Finally, I got a lovely note from Mike's neurosurgeon, Dr. David Andrews at Jefferson. He's planning on attending the Comedy Show at World Cafe Live. That warms my heart a lot. And yes, I know - all too well, in fact - that somebody might... you know... flatline or have hydrocephalus or an aneurism - hence forcing him to miss this show - but such is life.
Reserve your tix HERE (Tix are $15 each): http://tickets.worldcafelive.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=2010
Show is Sunday, August 26th
Doors open at 6 pm, Show starts at 7:30
Contributions can be sent to:
The Mike Young Fund
Jefferson University Hospital
925 Chestnut St. Suite 110
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Also, for a brief article about last year's event from the Jefferson Hospital Newsletter... peek here:
Sunday, August 26th!
Doors open at 6 pm, Show starts at 7:30.
Tix are $15 each --- all proceeds benefit Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience.
Over 350 people attended last year's event and it was an amazing success. This year's promises to be even BETTER!
Improv, Sketch, and Musical Comedy Festival to benefit Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience
MC DonDon Montrey
Bad Hair Sketch
Rowan and Hastings
Karen Getz's Suburban Lovesong
Tongue & Groove Improv
For more Info, See the Show Website Here!