Three weeks later, I went back to see Eddie. It was a Saturday - a day that I could take my time, get lost, have a coffee, think about this story.
I wondered what I would find in the warm, dimly lit shop. The last time had been so shockingly strange. Would I discover a hidden illness behind Eddie's thick black glasses? Would I be chased away by the red haired woman without further explanation? Or would I find out a dark history between the two, haunting and sad, putting everything in a harsh and unkind light?
By missing an exit I ended up a good twenty blocks south of the store, the land of hipsters nowhere to be seen. My car turned and screeched through the hot neighborhood, passing yard sales, kids with hoses and a block party. People were out in force. Unlike my street, where the big, shady porches go unused even in the dead of summer, the little concrete stoops were filled down here, women chatting in pale, stretched tank tops and men's skin glistening in the sun. These people were poor; it showed in the cheap sheets that hung out to dry over their banisters and the clunky bikes being ridden by the children. Yet they made the best of a hot summer's day, breathing life into dirty streets and turning houses into homes.
Finally I pulled up across the street from the coin shop. It was closed.
I remembered the black mail box and sent my eyes to searching for it when they fell up two familiar faces: Eddie and the red haired woman. Without hesitating I crossed the street, slightly nervous what the encounter would bring.
I had imagined us inside. I was going to tell Eddie about a wonderful CD of French crooners I had thought he should add to his collection. I was going to ask about the woman. This was nothing like my vivid imagination had played out.
"Hello, do you remember me?" I was standing next to them, joined by an unremarkable second man next to an equally unremarkable car, which they were loading.
Eddie squinted, blinking in the sun.
"I owe you six dollars," I ventured.
His face broke into a grin and he opened up his hands to the sky, "Oh there is a God!"
"You thought I had forgotten?" I said, smiling. The two beside him turned to notice. "I didn't, I remembered. I was hoping you were open though, I only have a twenty."
The woman, this time with her hair pulled back, looked somehow smaller: tame. She smiled at me, clearly not remembering what I had seen pass between her and Eddie but the fact that I owed money and had come to call.
"I think I have some change, let's see," she said jovially, opening the car door for her purse.
"Normally we're open on Saturday's," said Eddie, "But we're going to a graduation today."
He was searching through his wallet. "I wasn't sure you would come back. See, I did that for someone else too and they didn't come back."
The second man asked "Are you the one with the little girl?"
"No, she lives right there," said the woman, pointing a few doors to our left. She turned to me, "We live up there, the one with the green bay window."
"Oh nice!" I replied.
"Here you go, fourteen dollars," said Eddie, handing me five neat bills. "And what was your name?"
I stuck out my hand again, a replay of three weeks before. "Juliet," I said.
I shook his hand and turned to the red haired woman, who was now leaning against the car smiling.
"And you are...?"
"Lynn," she said accepting my handshake. "Ow! Juliet! That hurt!"
She laughed and waved her hand in mock pain.
"I have a firm handshake, sorry about that." The third man did not offer up an introduction.
"You're coming down for First Friday, right?" asked Lynn.
"I think so, yeah."
We closed up the conversation with the normal pleasantries and literally parted ways - they towards some unknown destination and I to the nearby corner thrift. We were all smiling. Nobody left feeling lighter or heavier. No deep dark secrets were revealed. It was just another meeting of acquaintances on the side of the street. Lynn and Eddie are two basically normal people who live above their coin shop.
I went down the street to get a coffee, searching for a new mystery. Fresh inspiration was needed.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Three weeks later, I went back to see Eddie. It was a Saturday - a day that I could take my time, get lost, have a coffee, think about this story.
Monday, June 20, 2011
Last weekend I bought an elliptical. The boy and I discussed it and decided that an at home gym machine could be just the ticket for two people who like to stay home (and one who's allergies have been making her miserable).
This is sort of a big deal for me because it means I have to exercise now. Our apartment is big enough, but not so big that we can put this behemoth of a machine in another room, thus I go to sleep and wake to the vision of mechanical torture looming over me. Guilt is what that translates into. Guilt that I would buy a machine, take it apart and smash it into the back of the Saturn, heave it up two flights of stairs on my own and reassemble it - only to never use it? I hardly think so.
Though this weekend did not break in The Elliptical. No, after said heaving up two flights of stairs (and a near back strain), I started my Saturday by helping my brother-in-law do yard work. Since we're having the wedding at their place, I am obviously on summer yard duty. This weekend consisted of laying mulch and picking up sticks and logs - and they had already done most of the hard stuff! Needless to say I sweat off any calorie acquired during the week and stretched muscles I had forgotten I had; this I deemed enough exercise for the weekend.
The hard work was followed by some hard shopping with three beautiful girls and a debit card burning a hole in my pocket. Somehow I managed to only walk away with two pairs of slacks, a skirt, some hair do-dads from Claires and a few hard to resist items from the le Crueset outlet.
I covet my new fire engine red spoon rest.
Sunday did nothing - not one notable thing (unless you include hand washing clothes, which I do not) - but somewhere between le Crueset and my sister's I got the decorating bug. We had talked about my burning desire for what I call "A Big Girl Bed" and she suggested I make one. A half an hour's Google search and I had decided - it would be done.
I opted for the simplest, sturdiest looking design: doors. Craigslist offered up a set of two in exactly the right size for free. Nothing complicated here, just lightweight, stained closet doors. They hadn't been damaged by lots of attached hardware and so I took care of that with a quick trip to my local big-box construction supply store. I attached two large hinges (one at the top, one at the bottom) to hold it together and two smaller, strictly decorative ones. When I finished I simply leaned it against the wall behind the bed. On a more ambitious day I will get out the drill and affix the thing to the bed frame, but for now it is sturdy enough. I was done with the project in fifteen minutes.
For my last splurge, I got a temporary bedspread to replace the one Sister L had given and Boo Radley had rightly wrecked. It's not fancy, but for thirty dollars (I got it at Ross!) I came away with an 8 piece set that will be perfect in a future guest bedroom.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
I know I've mentioned it before, somewhere. I'd go back to the old blog list, but likely it's not worth back linking. So here it is:
Fact: The best cure for writer's block is baking.
For me, anyway. Sylvia Path was at it to, if we believe anything that Gwenyth Paltrow portrayed in that film. Though some days I am just as troubled as poor Sylvia, for the most part I prefer to use to oven expressly for baking things.
Tonight I went for a chocolate cake. The intended outcome was a white chocolate mousse cake, to replicate the one that our local diner makes and The Boy and I have become addicted to. We're having it at our wedding, it is that good. HOWEVER, I did not have the milk for the white chocolate mousse (nor the proper quality white chocolate, which I discovered later in the double boiler) and if you've ever made mousse - and I haven't - you know you need milk.
In lieu of what I really wanted I made a devils food chocolate cake (with a tablespoon of cinnamon to take it up a notch) with white chocolate frosting and strawberries on top.
(Strawberries are there because Oh! how fruit covers a multitude of icing sins.)
Not to toot my own horn or anything but isn't it adorable?
Figuring out how to cut it into 20 slices and transport it to work for tomorrow will be slightly less adorable. Perhaps I should add cake tupperware to my wedding registry?
And for the record, yes, this counts as writing.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
One of the things I loved (but never wanted to admit) about living in Paris was the simple fact that it made me special. Not just that it made me feel special, but I was - in a way - regarded as so. I wasn't only special in France (“Oh, you’re American.”) but I was special stateside as well (“Oh, you live in Paris!”). Not only would people I used to know find my geographic placement awesome, in the traditional sense of the word, people I had never met found me interesting. I was an expat. People thought that was so damn cool.
Have I talked about this already? Have I endlessly bored you about my need to be paid attention to? Have I whined on this until you’ve wanted to slap me silly? I can’t recall. I guess I will do it again.
The Boy has been across the pond for two weeks now. It already feels like forever. I haven’t spent my time well, aside from constructing the puzzle
watching several NCIS marathons, and pouring through my new Barbara Kingsolver book. I’ve had four bad allergy attacks, went grocery shopping once, spent 100 dollars on various Health and Beauty items, and left my house outside of the purpose of going to work exactly three times.
In short, I have done quite literally nothing of note. When I lived in Paris the simple act of walking down the street was story-worthy. Everything I saw was inspiring. Each encounter I had seemed touched by the charm that lives and breathes in the City. I had things to talk about, things to write about, things to see.
And now I have returned to Philadelphia. Once again I am just another person on the street, going through the tolls, checking out at the grocery store, buying cat litter from Costco. I don't sound different from anyone else; I don't look different. I am just another number, searching for a story.
I guess you could say I am suffering from a little disenchantment - how does one go from living in such an amazing city back to a "normal" life? Who am I now, if I am no longer the identity I held so dearly?
Today, in a moment of boredom at work, I googled myself. I have enmassed quite an internet footprint, actually. Most websites reference a certain 15 seconds of fame, the back links long since eaten by today's news. One site teased publicity for a children's book I claimed I was going to write but never did. (Again, the link was no longer valid.)
On page eight or nine, I found a link to blog that reviewed my blog. Blog reviewers, who'da thunk it. The gentleman said nothing but flattering, lovely things, telling my story and sharing his favorite blogs. And there he put it into words:
"Although the blog starts way back in April 2007, for me it all starts getting interesting in September 2008 when Juliet moves to France."
But I am not there anymore. Thus, no longer interesting. Isn't that what the equation would look like?
Self pity aside, I have writer's block. Which - as a funny side note - I read about today in a blog where someone adequately described writers block as what it really is: Procrastination. And I said to myself "What am I procrastinating for?" Which prompted me to look for blogs on motivation where I read the next truth that one "needs to be excited by their writing", which I am clearly not. And why not?
Oh, the black hole that is the internet.
I feel as though I am starting from scratch, here. I have about two readers who loyally come back to check on me and the rest... The rest I left in France. So where do I go now? What is exciting me in my life, enough to write about? What - oh the eternal burning question! - am I evolving into now?
Thus I leave you, thoroughly rivetted, I am sure. In next weeks episode, we will discuss the bordel* that is my apartment since the boy has gone, and whether or not I am getting fat, wrinkly and gray haired. I know you all simply cannot wait.
*Bordel in the French sense (a big hot mess) NOT the english sense (brothel).
Monday, June 6, 2011
This weekend before my allergies attacked me and I found myself quarantined indoors, I stopped by the neighborhood yard sales. I brought home two computer speakers, a record player console, speakers to go with it (that need new adapter cables in order to make sound) and one 500 piece jigsaw puzzle, circa 1967.
I am dubious as to whether or not all 500 pieces remain in the box after 44 years of storage and at least one good assembly, but I am determined to spend my summer finding out for sure.
Boo Radley offers no comment.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Tonight, after a hard, long nap, I decided to take my lonely body out of the house. The Boy has only been back in France for a day and already I am finding it hard to fill the hours.
I went to Fishtown, home of tattooed hipsters on bikes, vintage shops and art studios. One art studio in particular is the second home of a friend from college and the only real reason I would head in that direction. I needed a familiar face, even if said familiar face has been a particular let down as a friend since I've been back in the city.
He was there and we made small talk, trying to remember the things we had in common and coming up rather short. I connected with his friend - a pretty blonde girl with a radiant smile whom I lament is moving shortly to the opposite side of the country. At a loss for what to do next, I wandered.
Even though the point of the evening were the arts and crafts lining the street, my eyes wandered dreamily towards a window filled with antique china, their delicate blue lace patterns and petite pink flowers scattered across an old sheet. Beside it, a coin shop.
I entered, only slightly perturbed by the two girls looking through old vinyl records and making loud commentary on each.
"What's this one? There's not even a name," said one, holding up a plastic sleeve with cover art that very clearly showed The Rolling Stones in caricature.
I squeezed passed their presence to a box filled with small prints, mostly from the Color Printing Headquarters, depicting advertisements and certificates and old magazine pages. Behind two glass counters a tall old man in square glasses clicked on a trumpety swing song.
I thumbed through a few more and before choosing one in bright reds and yellow that said "Eat More Bananas" and went up to the counter with my purchase. The song changed to one by Serge Gainsborough.
The old man was singing along.
"Tres bon choix," I said, remarking that he might know some French.
"Tres bien, indeed," he replied, smiling.
"Do you have a card machine?" I asked. I don't carry cash for a reason, and yet when breaking my own spending rules, it can become very inconvenient.
"No, we don't we can't afford it. But there is an ATM down the street."
"Oh... No thanks," I replied, embarrassed. The amount of money in my account would not support an ATM transaction, only a 6 dollar print.
"Do you live around here? You could bring it tomorrow."
"Oh, no I don't. But it's okay really!"
"No, it's not," He replied warmly. "Listen, there is a black mail box next door. Just drop it off when you can."
"Really?" I said, pondering whether or not I would be back in the neighborhood. But I liked this little old man. Something about his funny little coin store was comforting. Perhaps I could come back around. "Okay, show me the mailbox, will you?"
Quickly, he zipped out from behind the counter and brushed passed the two girls pouring over the vinyl, all but grabbing me by the wrist to come along. Outside on the street, he showed me.
"It's right here."
"Okay. Well, thank you!" I stuck out my hand to shake his. It was warm and soft in the way that old skin is when it hasn't had much work to do for a long time. "I'm Juliet."
Just as he was about to tell me his name, a woman swooped up beside us, frowning.
"I'm going to the sandwich shop, do you want a hoagie?"
The old man fell dead silent, eyes plummeting to the ground. His body stiffened and his arms clamped firmly to his sides. Though he was probably six foot two, he suddenly looked small, like a child being punished.
"Have you eaten today?" She snapped at him. Her curly hair framed a face of around fifty and her scowl aged her another ten years at least.
"What have you eaten? Have you eaten anything?"
The old man, suddenly mute and unsmiling, shook his head quickly. He did not look up.
"I'm sorry, did I interrupt something?" The woman began to say, coldly. At this the old man shoved past us both, eyes still glued to the ground and hurried back to his store.
I looked at the woman, shocked, trying to comprehend what had just happened.
"Didn't he look like he was about to have a conversation with you?" She said. "That was really weird, wasn't it?"
"Yeah..." My eyes were passed her at the door of coin shop where the old man had disappeared.
Just as quickly she made off towards the store, no further explanation given as to what had just passed between the three of us.
In my hand I was still holding the print, "Eat More Bananas" blaring up at me in a puffy gold serif font. What just happened? Who was that woman, was the little old man alright? On the spot I decided I had to return to that mail box to leave him his six dollars, for all the trouble I had seemingly cause him. But I didn't even know who to address it to.
"Wait, what's his name?!" I called after the woman.
I barely made it out as she ran away. I was left standing on the street alone.