I thought it was fitting that while Michael went to work, I would pack up the baby and go visit Victor Hugo‘s house. Paris had come together much more for me now that we’d wandered around it for a few weeks. The house was just a 20 minute walk from our flat. The day was beautiful, sunny and cool, and I discovered that the Maison de Victor Hugo was in Place des Vosges, which is where I brought the baby to play in the sandbox one of our first days in Paris. I love this part of the city, it’s like a little hidden gem that whisks you back to the 18th century just behind bustling streets filled with Victoria’s Secrets and Gaps.
When I came into the square…and I know it sounds cornball…it made me tear up again. ! Somehow the fate of our little family is now linked to Victor Hugo, who walked in and out of Place des Vosges many days of his life. And here we are in his park on our way to go look at his house to see how he lived his life. This, the day after we find out Michael will take the reins of a show based on his work. Eeeeeeek! It’s too good…
Les Mis is on my kindle now. I haven’t read it in years, and with Paris fresh in my mind I’m really looking forward to a deeper understanding of it than I’ve ever had before. My French history is not up to snuff, I was hoping to brush up on it a little bit this trip, but the baby was the thing. Maybe next time when he’s older. On this day, I sat in a beautiful cafe and had a lovely lunch with a glass of rose from Provence just to bring it all full circle. Then we went up to the house.
This view was the first thing Mr. Hugo took in upon walking into his future home.
From this, he turned to the owner and said, I’ll take it. I’m not sure he would have said that if he’d only seen my photograph of this view.
There were no photographs allowed throughout the rest of the quietly well appointed house…and I’m not really adept in describing what I SEE—but I can tell you it reminded me very much of our former 1890s, NYC brownstone. I can just hear our former landlady now saying, ‘Synchronicity, Kids.’
On the topic of the old brownstone, our last evening in Paris was then spent with our old upstairs neighbor’s sister. If you knew our old upstairs neighbor, you would think, ‘Wha? How did that happen?’
But since you probably don’t, I will bring you up to speed so then you can ask yourself, ‘Wha? How did that happen?’
Our former upstairs neighbor, who for the sake of anonymity, I will call Mr. T, claimed to be an ‘entertainment lawyer’ at some point in his life but I think he turned that title into entertained lawyer or entertaining lawyer. I’m not entirely sure. I never really believed anything he ever told me. He has a stoma (I’m guessing because he smoked too much??) so he talks by placing his hand on his throat (to cover the air hole in his neck) to produce a rough, raspy voice similar to that of a very masculine Marge Simpson. Consequently, he always, always wears a bandana around his neck. In his heyday he ‘worked’ with the likes of John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Slash, Roger Waters, Steven Tyler…the list goes on.
For the record, I was terribly fond of him. He is a total blow hard and always told me how good I looked. This was nice to hear when I was postpartum and hadn’t slept or exercised in 3 months and had eaten nothing but Oreos. He won me over. He also regaled us with stories that I thought were absolute nonsense. My favorite was when we saw him place a giant cardboard box in the recycling and he told us Slash (yeah, right) had just sent him a large, flat screen TV (this was in the days before everyone and their mom had a big flat screen TV. It still had a certain cache to it, if you will).
(Slash is a very famous guitarist.)
A year later Michael and I attended the opening night party of Spamalot at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas (doesn’t that sound fancy?). Rumor had it, somewhere in the giant ballroom lurked none other than Slash.
‘Darn it,’ I said to Michael, ‘if only we could meet him and ask him if he really knows Mr. T!’ Ha Ha Ha. It didn’t happen.
As the evening drew to a close and Michael and I walked back to our hotel room, there, in the distance, waaaaaaaaay in front of us, drifted the tell-tale top hat of Mr. Slash himself. I quickened my step. As we arrived at the elevator banks, Slash and his wife had just stepped into the first car and as the doors closed I thought…’uggg…we missed our chance!!!’ But then a miracle happened.
Slash held the doors for us.
We slipped into the elevator and my brain lost its ability to form sentences. Here was our chance, it was just the four of us in here!…just us!…and I had no voice, I couldn’t do it! Come on Michael…save this sinking ship! Michael did no such thing and instead we both sat in that elevator thinking the same thoughts with the same goofy/demented smiles on our faces. We must have looked like a couple of lunatics. The elevator reached our floor and I stepped out, thoroughly disappointed in the future O’Donnells as a united front. We were engaged now, if we couldn’t handle this together, what could we handle? Now we would never know if Mr. T. was a big fat liar or not.
Slash and his wife stepped out on our floor too. (!!!) We could still do it…there was still hope! They walked slowly behind us and I could feel my heart beat in my chest…come on kid…just turn around and ask him…just do it for crying out loud!! Then…just as I mustered up the nerve, we hit a T junction. Slash went to the right as we turned to the left.
Crestfallen, I admitted defeat when I heard a soft voice say, ‘Slash!! No! Come on! Our room is this way!’ Slash’s wife actually calls him Slash.
OK. Well, that was it. Clearly the Universe was trying to tell me something. Michael shot me a look as if to say…’don’t you dare bother him,’ but it was too late! When the Universe gives you not one, not two, but THREE opportunities to ask Slash a question you had better do it.
‘Um, excuse me?’ squeaked out Cindy Loo Who, who apparently replaced my adult voice, ‘I’m sorry to bother you.’
Slash honestly looked like he was going to punch me. In fact, he’d probably turned the wrong way at the T junction on purpose just to get away from our creepy moon faces. Before he could call security I blurted out, ‘Do you know Mr. T.?’
He stopped for a second and his whole disposition changed, his face melted into a big, slashy smile. ‘Yeah, I know Mr. T.’
Michael jumped in at this point, explaining the TV, how we thought he was a liar, etc., etc. And then his wife asked, ‘Who’s Mr. T?’
Slash replied…’You know, Jack’s friend, the one who’s always like’…and at this point he reached his hand up to cover his throat and in his best masculine sounding Marge Simpson voice said, ‘Hey Slash what’s going on dude?’
Until the birth of my son, this may have been the single greatest moment of my life.
So now that you know a little more about our former upstairs neighbor, I can tell you I ran into him at Fairway the day before we left for France and he told me he wanted to give my email to his sister who is really cool. She worked in finance, married a man who used to run the International Monetary Fund (not Strauss-Kahn), they lived in Paris, etc., etc.
Long story short we met her for a cocktail at a lounge that sits outside the Louvre facing the Pyramids. She was fantastic. When she emailed me she said, ‘I’m Mr. T’s sister. I don’t admit that to just anyone.’
Our little family went to dinner after that, but oddly, I wasn’t feeling very well. In fact, I couldn’t eat my supper…oh, but I’m sure I’d feel much better in the morning…
Michael shot one last view of our street.