Before leaving the apartment, I checked in via Facebook with various and sundry, tactfully avoiding those who would engage in chit-chatty, instant message conversations. Even so, I was online longer than planned and left in a rush. Rushing is always poison, particularly for me. Besides which, because of jet lag and the time difference, I hadn't established a meditation routine yet. In short, I was out of the Flow, which is a dangerous place to be. It was bitter cold, with a raw, aggressive wind - unusually severe conditions for Paris these days - as I hurried along the Avenue du Maine toward the restaurant, in my wonderful MBT's (remind me to tell you about these amazing shoes, which heal all manner of foot ailments, especially those resulting from "dancer's feet" or ridiculously high arches!) With no warning, I stepped into a pit, tripped and found myself hurtling through space, my reading glasses ejecting themselves from their comfortable nest on top of my head and landing a safe distance away, while I continued air-borne, catapulting through the ether, eventually reaching earth, smashing-pumpkin style, behind them. There was no way to avoid hitting the pavement, so I accepted my destiny without resistance and landed painfully on all fours, wrenching my ankle, scraping my knee in several places, putting a hole in the knee of my favorite, cashmere slacks and rendering moot my dignity.
A sweet woman rushed up to ask if I was okay. Struggling to my feet and dusting myself off, I reassured her that I was. "Ah, it's treacherous," the lady said, indicating the sidewalk behind me. I followed her gaze, searching for the jagged maw that had grabbed my foot and hurtled me to the pavement. "Yes," I agreed, studying the visibly smooth and unblemished surface that had been my literal downfall. I muttered an embarrassed "Thank you," and scurried away, reminding myself to be more present in my body, which wasn't difficult to do with my newly acquired limp.
The decor of the restaurant was original Art Nouveau, the menu, traditional French. The waiter recommended pumpkin soup with foie gras as a starter, and the day's special, Blanquette de Veau, as a main course. Smiling indulgently, I explained that I would be having neither the foie gras, nor the veal, as I was almost completely vegetarian. I then placed my order: beef, marrow bones, followed by kidneys in mustard sauce, medium rare, with a half bottle of St. Emilion to wash it all down.
The portions were enormous. I managed 2 out of 3 of the marrow bones and less than half the kidneys. At one point, the Maitre D' came over and asked if I wanted more mustard sauce for the kidneys. Before I could answer, the waiter, alarmed, put the kibosh on such a nonsensical idea. "No! She can hardly eat what she has! You can't give her more sauce!"
The Maitre D' was winding up for a heated rebuttal, but before they could come to blows, I asked for my check. Then, for the first time in my 30-plus years of experience with France and the French, the waiter offered to wrap up my dinner to go! I was so stunned by this frankly American gesture, that it was impossible to protest. If this ever happens again, I'll definitely try harder. It would be inaccurate to say that what the waiter placed in front of me was the size of a large microwave. It was more like a small toaster-oven, really, in the form of a casserole dish or loaf pan. This awkward container was made out of hard plastic, mummified in many layers of plastic wrap. Of course, it was not in a bag - how could it be? They don't make bags that big.
After paying my bill, I left the chic restaurant holding my leftovers, which looked more like a potluck offering for a church social somewhere in Indiana. As I stepped out into the frigid cold, I said a small prayer that I would find a hungry, homeless person between the restaurant and the movie theatre. I crossed the street and there she was, sitting on the icy pavement, collecting coins in a paper coffee cup. As respectfully as I could, I said, "Excuse me, but are you hungry? This is my dinner - it's veal kidneys with mashed potatoes in mustard sauce. It's really quite good." She gave me a sweet smile as she took hold of the still warm container.