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Part One: From East to West 

It began with a very pleasant train ride to Brussels.  I listened to Wish You Were Here to kick off the trip, then switched to Enigma, which I listened to the rest of the time.  At the changeover in Brussels I got on the train to Paris and found an open seat in the jam-packed cabin.  I was immediately struck by how much English I heard around me.  Damned tourists were going to be everywhere.  A few minutes later a German woman came and told me she had the seat reserved.  I apologised because I hadn’t known.  Usually there are reservation slips but not on this train.  She told me that in order to get a seat on THESE trains you NEED a reservation.  So I went to one of the between compartments which was stuffed with luggage and got as comfortable as possible.  I listened to Voyageur and just as we were approaching Paris, as soon as the Eiffel tower came into view, Following the Sun played and I got all tingly. 

This tingly feeling was to happen quite often.  I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.  When you just feel like you’re in a deeply profound moment, that you’re being touched to the very soul.  There’s got to be a better word than “tingly feeling” but if there is, it’s not in the English language.  So I’ll make one up.  From now on I’ll refer to the feeling as Enigmal. 

So we arrived at the Paris Nord Station and I got off the train.  I noticed immediately that none of the signs were multi-lingual.  Everything was in French.  I needed to buy a Metro ticket and figure out how to get to Anvers where my hostel was, but the ticket machines were of no help.  I bought one at a counter with an English-speaking person, and went off to search for the line which would take me to Anvers.  I couldn’t find it on the map so I went searching for an Information desk.  There were desks about with the word “Accueil” on them, but I didn’t know what those were.  I was about to ask someone who clearly worked for the station but before I could say anything he pointed to an Accueil desk.  I went there and asked the black guy working there “Parlez vous Ingles?” and he said yes.  I asked him if there were any information desks around.  He asked me where I wanted to go.  So apparently “Accueil” means information.  I was learning already.

The guy was unbelievably helpful, even giving me a map and pointing me in the proper direction.  I journeyed off to the Metro platform, which despite being in the same station was a good 10 minute walk from where I was. 

So I got off at Anvers and stumbled around looking for Rue de Rodier for a long time, constantly checking my map and having no clue where I was.  Eventually I got my bearings and headed for the Woodstock Hostel.  From the outside it looked like a piece of shit, and from the inside it wasn’t much better.  But the receptionist guy was nice and I got in my room and headed for my first destination: Le Tour de Eifel. 

Part Deux: Following the Sun 

It wasn’t hard to find the tower.  After getting off at the stop I just followed the tourists.  The line was incredibly long to use the elevator, and as I stood there I heard a family of British people talking behind me about getting in one of the other lines to take the stairs.  I turned and asked them if it was possible to climb the stairs halfway and then switch to the lift.  They said it was and eventually they went on to do it.  But the line was moving at a comfortable pace so I stayed. 

It was a beautiful day, and everything around me was beautiful.  But I did what any man would naturally do while standing in line, and looked for beautiful women around me.  They were there in abundance.  I was both amused and annoyed by the fact that I was in such a beautiful city and still concentrating on the damned girls.  But try as I might I just couldn’t help myself. 

Eventually I reached the tower and rode the elevator mid-way, where you had to get off and wait in another line to get to the top.  While there I saw the British family again.  I asked them how long it took to climb the stairs to get there.  The guy seemed taken aback that I was talking to him, but he was friendly enough.  He asked his daughter if it had been a bad walk and she said yes.  I laughed and the line moved and that was the last I saw of him (until getting off the tower, but I didn’t talk to him then.) 

So I rode the lift to the very top of the tower and went out to the observation deck.  Immediately I began to feel very Enigmal.  I was tingling all over the fucking place, absolutely savouring every second of it.  I’d been there before, 8 years ago with my tour group, but then it was mostly overshadowed by the social atmosphere I was in, talking to the other kids instead of really appreciating what I was doing.  But there, looking down at the beautiful city of Paris on a beautiful day while the sun was on its way down, “Following the Sun” blaring in my head…it was just incredible.  It didn’t even feel real.  I’d woken up in my little bed in Frankfurt that morning.  I’d been incredibly anxious about going anywhere alone.  But there I was, all by myself, standing on top of the fucking Eiffel Tower.  I really can’t describe how great it felt.  It almost seemed like the highlight of my life.  It might just be the highlight of my time in Europe. 

So after doing the tower I took a walk around the area, then got back on the Metro to head for the Arc de Triumph.  There was a little museum inside about a couple of WWI photographers who used special photo techniques to make coloured pictures of the war.  So I looked at the photos of the French soldiers in their trenches and the ruins of cathedrals and stuff from other wars.  Then I headed to the top of the Arch and looked down at the Champs Elysees and the giant 7-avenue traffic circle below.  It was fun to just watch the cars as every moment there were at least ten very near-fender benders.  People clearly not knowing what they were doing.  Motorcyclists swerving through the cars while they got honked at.  Quite amusing. 

So I watched the sun continue to go down from the top of the Arch until I got hungry.  I went down the Champs Elysees, which if you’re not aware is like Main Street Paris, filled with shops, restaurants, and cinemas.  I spent a long time looking for a place to eat when I realised the only way I was going to be able to spend less than 10 Euro was to settle for McDonalds.  So I did that, and tried to figure out what to do that night.  I had no desire to drink but it didn’t look like there was much else to do.  So I figured since I was in France, why not check out a nice French film.  I went to one of the cinemas and saw that the only French movies looked really fucking horrible.  Gay comedies and whatnot.  I wanted a serious drama.  There was a film called “Man to Man” starring Joseph Feinnes which was a British/French film that had won some awards at the Berlin film festival.  I bought a ticket but the earliest showing time was three hours from then. 

So to kill three hours I walked down to the Seinne river and walked along while the sun set, reflecting off the water.  I got more Enigmal feelings and thought about you and how you’d always thought about walking along a river in a French city.  If only you could have been there. 

Finally it was time for the movie to begin, so I got back to the theatre, my feet now getting very tired, and went inside.  The guy stopped me and said something in French.  I gave him the standard “I have no fucking clue what you just said” look and he said in broken English that my ticket was for 7:30, not 10:00.  I expressed my disappointment but it apparently wasn’t a big deal because he just gave me another ticket and told me to come back in 15 minutes.  I used that time to find a bathroom, which is very tricky in Paris.  Usually you have to pay to piss, but I managed to sneak into one of the many McDonaldses and use their toilet. 

I still had ten minutes to go, and I killed it by standing around and smoking a cigarette.  I’d been smoking like a fiend all day.  There was just something about Paris that made me NEED cigarettes like never before.  Everyone around me was smoking.  It was like there were more smokers than non. 

So I got into the theatre and waited for the film to begin.  It wasn’t very crowded when I got there and sat in the back, but within ten minutes the tiny theatre filled up and some French family was sitting next to me.  Luckily they were nice and quiet during the film.  The previews came on, all in French, and I was very amused.  I don’t know why, but I love the French language, at least how it sounds.  I can’t understand a damn thing, but I love the sound of it, and I think it’s fun as hell to imitate.  I was always looking at signs and pronouncing them in my head, which was a constant source of amusement. 

I’d hoped the movie would be in French, as for some reason I desired to have no clue what was going on.  But alas, it was English with French subtitles.  Man to Man was the title.  I should have realised.  But anyway, it was a decent film.  I don’t think it was worthy of any awards.  Just a story of some 19th century British evolutionists who kidnapped a couple of Pygmees from Africa to put forth the theory that all men evolved from the savages.  Joe Feinnes was the main character, and at first he was just as racist as everyone but eventually when the Pygmees started communicating with him and showing their signs of intelligence he had a change of heart, and by the end of the film he was fighting against his friends to release them from the zoo where they were on public display and bring them back to Africa.  It was enjoyable, but it really didn’t have much to say other than, “Look how un-enlightened the people back in the 19th century were regarding race.” 

It was past midnight when the movie let out and I was tired as hell, so I headed back to the hostel and immediately went to bed.  There were a bunch of people drinking there but I didn’t even try to say hello.  I just went to sleep in my shitty room with a surprisingly comfortable bed.  It took me awhile to get to sleep though, as I had a lot on my mind and I’d forgotten to eat.  Also after everyone else had gone to sleep you could hear an American guy talking to some girls about stupid bullshit for a good thirty minutes, which really pissed me off.  I fucking hate Americans and how they constantly talk about stupid bullshit to people just to fucking hear themselves talk.

So anyway, that was all on my first day. 

Part Three: Mea Culpa 

I began the second day with the realisation that if I didn’t have a ticket to London the next day I might not get there.  So the first thing I did was head back to the Paris Nord Station to get a ticket.  I could only find ticket machines for the Metro, and the main train lines were nowhere to be found.  I went to an Accueil desk and asked the woman “Parlez vous Ingles?” and was surprised when she said “No.”  I shrugged and went back to the Accueil desk where I’d gotten the info on the previous day.  I asked the woman “Parlez vous Ingles?” and she said “No.”  I tried, “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” and she said “No.”  I was now officially pissed off.  These people worked at a fucking INFORMATION DESK in an INTERNATIONAL TRAIN STATION in the biggest tourist city in the whole of Europe, but if you didn’t speak French they couldn’t give you information!  But that’s just how the fucking Parisians are.  Not only do they not speak English, but if you ask them if they speak English, they give you an attitude.  The black guy from the previous day had just been an oasis in the desert. 

I knew the word for “tickets” from the signs though, so I said, “Billets?  International trains?”  And the woman pointed to the ceiling.  “Merci” I said, and went upstairs.  I found the desk where they sold the tickets and was pleasantly surprised to find they had multi-lingual desks.  I asked the woman about a ticket to London tomorrow, and was informed that even with my Eurail pass it was going to cost 75 Euros to get there.  I almost decided against it, as this was not in my budget.  But it was a split-second decision, and I knew that after coming this far I wasn’t going to let my funds get in the way of going to London, something I’ve been wanting to do my whole life, ever since my wee-little days when I used to watch Mary Poppins all the time.  So I bought a Billet and went on my way. 

First stop of the day was Notre Dame.  On the Metro to get there, a group of three Arab street musicians hopped on the train with a stereo-system on a wheelcart and some trumpets.  I hate when street musicians get on trains because you can’t escape them and they make you feel obliged to pay.  But this was even worse as they were playing horrible music.  Every time the train stopped I contemplated getting off and moving to another cart.  When they started playing “When The Saints Go Marching In” I got off immediately and moved to the next cart back.  But at the next station, they wheeled their stereo off and brought it back to the cart I was sitting in.  Luckily mine was the next stop, so I got off and walked towards the cathedral, making an extremely conscious effort to get that song out of my head, and Enigma back in. 

As for Notre Dame, I remember being much more inspired by it the first time I was there.  Now after seeing at least 10 other cathedrals I wasn’t too impressed.  It’s beautiful of course, but there are so much nicer cathedrals elsewhere in Europe, particularly in Köln and Prague.  The only reason this one was special is because it’s so famous.  I was there when they rang the bells for mass though, picturing dear old Quasimodo up there.  That was pretty cool. 

And I should mention one big difference between Paris when I was there 8 years ago and Paris today: and that’s the surprising lack of Gypsies.  They were all over the place back in 1997.  You couldn’t be in any touristy location without little gypsy girls walking up to you with one hand outstretched begging for money while the other held a sandwich.  But now I didn’t see a single one, and I’m wondering what happened. 

After Notre Dame I was getting a little hungry, and I knew I didn’t want fast food but I couldn’t go to a French restaurant because well…I’m not familiar with French food, I don’t speak French, it’s awkward going to any restaurant alone, etc.  But I did come across a Japanese restaurant and saw they had sushi on their menu.  I haven’t had sushi in ages, and this looked like a pretty good place.  I entered and immediately felt very weird, as I was the only customer there.  The only other people in the restaurant were the chef and his cute little Japanese waitress. 

In spite of my inability to speak French I was able to point to what I wanted on the menu, and the beautiful little Japanese woman ever so nicely took my order and catered to me like I was her master.  I used the chopsticks to eat, but apparently I was doing it wrong because she came over and brought me a fork after a few bites.  I politely thanked her but continued to eat with the chopsticks.  You’ll never get good if you don’t practice. 

The food was absolutely delicious, and when I was finished I thanked her by saying “Domo, that was excellent.”  She smiled, more amused by the word “excellent” than my use of Japanese, and brought me a dessert menu, but I declined to have anything.  When I asked for the check, she came and brought me a couple of pieces of candy and a tiny little cup with a clear liquid.  I made it clear I didn’t know what it was and she said something in French that I didn’t understand.  I realised that I know more Japanese than I do French, so I said, “Wakarimasen” which means “I don’t understand.”  I was quite proud of myself for that, as she understood me perfectly and explained in what little English she knew that it was tradition to drink some saké after every meal.  I sucked it down and made a curious expression at the taste, which she giggled at.  I left her a generous tip and went on my way. 

Part Four: Between Mind and Heart 

The next and last item on my list of must-sees was the Louvre.  I walked there and got myself a ticket and an audio-tour.  I’m sure you know what that is, but just in case you don’t it’s a little speaker with a number pad.  Some exhibits have numbers next to them and if you type them in, you can hear an explanation about whatever work of art you wish to appreciate. 

I spent a good 4 hours there, just wandering the halls.  I began with the French Sculptures from the Rennaissance which were all very awesome.  Lots of naked people.  Lots and lots of phalluses.  The female sculptures were all of heavier women though.  Except one which I fell in love with immediately, entitled L’Innocence.  A sculpture of a nude little girl sitting on a rock and looking…well, quite innocent.  I wanted to buy it and take it home with me, but yeah…that wasn’t happening.  I couldn’t even look at it for as long as I wanted, as I was afraid the people around me might start getting ideas and accusing me of appreciating more than just the artistic aspects of the sculpture. 

I wandered about for awhile through the Egyptian and Roman sculptures and got bored very quickly, as I’ve already seen thousands of exhibits just like them in other museums.  I wanted to look at some paintings but I had a hell of a time finding the lift to take me to the floor where they were.  But I got there eventually and spent lots and lots of time stopping at every painting that caught my eye and listening to the explanations if they were available. 

Soon enough I found myself back in the room with the Mona Lisa.  Just as crowded as I remember it from 8 years ago.  Everyone just wants to see that painting.  And they were all there snapping their damned pictures.  You couldn’t just look at the painting, as you were always in the way of somebody’s goddamned photograph.  I felt proud of myself that I refuse to be that kind of tourist.  I retain all of it in my mind and through words such as the ones I’m writing right now.  Pictures never capture the moment quite how you remember it anyway, and eventually the memories fade leaving you with only the picture, something artificial and lifeless.  But enough preaching about that. 

My favourite painting in the Louvre, as I discovered 8 years ago and rediscovered now, is The Crowning of Napoleon.  A gargantuan painting depicting the incident when Napoleon was going to crown the new princess but put the crown on his own head first to declare himself the emperor.  The painter was a goddamned genius.  You could tell that all of the people in the painting—and there were hundreds—had a story behind them.  They all had different expressions of their reaction.  You could just go from face to face and try to imagine what was happening in the mind of that person.  Amazing.  I also knew from my tour 8 years ago that the painter was later imprisoned, and while in captivity he made an exact replica of that painting FROM MEMORY which is now in the Palace of Versailles.  I saw it last time and the only indication that it’s a different painting is one of the women who wore a white dress in the original wears a pink dress in the replica.  But the fact that he was able to duplicate such an amazingly detailed painting purely from memory is nothing short of incredible to me. 

Anyway, the Louvre was awesome but it tired me greatly.  So much walking.  So much crowd-dodging.  So many paintings of Jesus and the Madonna.  At least 90% of the paintings were religious, and it got old after awhile.  There’s baby Jesus.  There’s Jesus on the cross.  There’s baby Jesus again.  There’s Jesus on the cross again.  Seriously, the artists clearly had merit but they were only painting the same fucking shit over and over again.  But nevertheless it was quite an experience. 

When I could no longer even lift the audio-tour to my ear, I left the museum and tried to figure out just what in the hell I was going to do next.  I walked out towards the Champs Elysees and it started lightly drizzling, which was very very nice.  I found a seat somewhere and took a little break to sit down, relax, feel the rain droplets on my face and appreciate the fact that I was in Paris. 

Once my energy was sufficiently regained I continued to walk towards the Champs Elysees and think about what I was going to do.  I knew I couldn’t handle another museum.  I was all museumed-out for one day.  And they were all closing soon anyway.  The only other options, it seemed, were to drink somewhere or see a movie.  I still had no desire to drink, so I figured I’d see another movie.  But when I got to the cinemas I couldn’t find anything that I had any desire to see.  Million Dollar Baby was playing everywhere but I didn’t feel that I needed to pay 10 Euros to see that again.  It would probably only piss me off now that I know it’s won best picture.  It was a good film, but didn’t deserve best picture. 

I continued walking until I reached the Arc de Triumph again at the end of the Champs Elysees, and out of the corner of my eye I saw that the last cinema on the road was playing Hotel Rwanda.  Jackpot, I thought, and I went to buy myself a ticket.  I had an hour and a half before it began, so I decided to go back to the hostel, urinate and get my stuff together, then come back and watch the film.  But I wasn’t paying close enough attention and I got on the wrong Metro, which took me back to the Eiffel tower stop.

From there I decided to walk back to the cinema, which should take about the right amount of time.  But as the streets in Paris are extremely confusing, I quickly got lost.  I started running out of time, and I was frantically moving along, checking my map whenever I came to an intersection, but not even being able to locate them on the map.  Finally I came to a group of French girls who were standing around smoking cigarettes. 

“Excuse moi,” I said.  “Parlez vous Ingles?” 

“Yes,” they said. 

“I am a lost American,” I said.  “Can you show me where I am on the map?” 

They kindly pointed out where I was.  I asked them what the quickest way to the Champs Elysees was, and they told me in amazingly perfect English exactly what to do.  “Merci boquoux” (I have no idea how to spell that) I said, and was on my way, arriving at the theatre just in time to catch the last couple of previews. 

This was a much bigger theatre, but there was only one elderly couple in there.  A few minutes later another couple came and out of the entire empty theatre chose to sit in my row.  For some reason even though they were all the way at the other end, this was more annoying than the previous night when I had to sit right next to people.  But I didn’t think I could get up and move.  What would they think?  But after twenty minutes when I realised that having that couple constantly in the corner of my eye was really detracting me from full enjoyment of the film, I got up and moved back a few rows. 

This was the third time I’ve seen Hotel Rwanda, and it was the best time.  It’s really an amazing film.  If you still haven’t seen it you should the first chance you get.  I was amazed at how it was still able to get to me after three times.  To hit me so hard and reduce me to tears so easily. 

When the film was over I walked out of the theatre and the old woman from the first couple there turned to me and made a comment about the film.  I would have loved to chat with her about it but she spoke French so I merely said, “I’m sorry, I’m an American” and at that instant I may as well have disappeared, as she turned and made a remark to her husband ceased to recognise my existence.  It didn’t bother me much though, as I’m sure I would hate Americans too if I was a Parisian.  In fact I’m American and I hate Americans.  So I have no problem with that. 

It was still light outside when I got out of the theatre and I knew I couldn’t just go to sleep.  But by then I’d decided that not only was I not going to drink that night, but I wasn’t going to drink at all for the whole trip.  No weed or alcohol for me.  That saké was the only alcohol I’d be drinking.  I was going completely straight-edge the whole time and I was rather enjoying it.  But what to do? 

I made my way back towards the Seinne, thinking I would just walk along the river until the sun set, but then I got a better idea.  I turned and went back to the Champs Elysees Metro station and went back to the hostel. That American guy was there talking to two attractive French girls.  I might have stopped and tried to chat but I was having such a ball on my own and what I was planning I knew would be far more enjoyable than talking to that fucking American.  So with no more than a “Hello” I took my CD player and a couple of CDs, then went back to the Metro and got off at the Eiffel Tower.

Now it was night time, and the tower looked especially beautiful.  What I didn’t know was that the tower was equipped with about a million bright white lights which start to randomly blink for a duration of ten minutes starting on every hour.  I got out of the station at 10:00 and saw it exploding with these lights.  Those, in addition to the circling spotlights on top, the beams of which could be clearly discerned on that cloudy night, made for quite a visually stimulating experience. 

I went to the area across the river which is a pedestrian zone.  A big open area with steps, statues, and trees.  I found a nice little spot with a spectacular view of the tower, tossed on MCMCX A.D. by Enigma, and watched the tower and the people around it.

It was absolutely spectacular.  It was the experience of a lifetime.  Such a beautiful night.  Such a beautiful city.  I sat and smoked and watched the light beams circling, and the people walking by, and everything else there was to see.  It was like food for the soul, an extremely satisfying meal which made me feel so Enigmal I almost didn’t know how to handle it.  I was so happy to have been able to give myself this experience, as it was one of the most beautiful experiences I could imagine and it would only have been tainted had I been there with other people, especially the kind of people I don’t much care for.  But just sitting there looking at the tower and listening to music and feeling the night Paris air…oh, it was lovely. 

When the first CD ended I knew that the experience was worthy of a second CD.  What was that CD?  Why, Dark Side of the Moon, of course.  I put it on at 10:50, and at 11:00, just as the bells from “Time” had begun to chime, the tower exploded to life with all those lights again.  I’d never felt more Enigmal than at that moment.  Listening to “Time” and “The Great Gig In The Sky” while the tower put on it’s spectacular show…it was just the most breathtaking thing in the world.  I felt so completely satisfied and happy with my life.  The idea that it could be filled with experiences such as these, experiences manufactured by myself for my own deeply profound appreciation…how could I complain about the little things?  Everything was so perfect.  So beautiful. 

The lights stopped just as “Great Gig” reached its third section.  Synchronization at its finest.  When the CD ended, after several hundred more moments of Enigmality, I got up and went back to the hostel, limping the whole way as by now my legs were severely strained, and it brought me pain whenever I put down my right foot.  But this didn’t bother me at all, as I’d just had one of the greatest experiences of my life and it was worth every bit of effort I had to put into it. 

Part Five: Any Colour You Like 

I slept better that night than the previous evening, and headed for the train station.  My 2-day Metro ticket had expired so I had to buy a new one.  Unlike Frankfurt where you can just hop on any U-Bahn and hope not to get caught, in most cities there are turnstiles that won’t let you through until you stick your ticket in the machine.  So I got my ticket, went through the turnstile, and absent-mindedly tossed it in the trash thinking I would no longer need it.  I’d forgotten you also need the ticket when you get OFF the train, and when I got to the station I found I was forced to hop over the turnstile. 

In addition, I couldn’t get to the train tracks without going through turnstiles.  I found an Accueil desk and was lucky enough to find an English speaking woman.  I pointed to where I wanted to go, the other side of the room and asked how I was supposed to get over there.  She let me through one of the broken turnstiles and I was on my way.  It was a pain in the ass to find where my train was though, as it was a Eurostar train and I wasn’t familiar with those.  Unlike normal trains, these only go from England to mainland Europe, and are separated from the others.  I had to go through a security checkpoint and get my passport stamped and everything.  But I got on the train, took my seat, and had a very enjoyable ride through the north of France and into the chunnel.  Atom Heart Mother, Meddle, and Wish You Were Here were my musical accompaniment.  I’d figured it was perfect to have Enigma in my head all throughout France and Floyd in my head in England.  For most of the time in London I had Shine On You Crazy Diamond stuck in my head.  Couldn’t have been more perfect. 

We arrived in London, at the Waterloo station and I immediately got the sensation of arriving home.  Very weird because I’ve never been to England before, but just looking out at all the adverts in English, all the signs in English, all the announcements in English.  It was quite the severe juxtaposition to Paris, where English was scarcely found if anywhere. 

I found it quite easy to get my Subway ticket and ask people where I needed to go.  The English are incredibly friendly people.  They don’t mind at all if you stop them on the street and ask what street you’re on and how to get here or there.  It felt like true luxury to be able to actually talk to complete strangers without making an effort to communicate. 

I took “the tube” to the London Bridge station (on the Jubilee Line) and found St. Chrisopher’s Village, which was to become the most infamous hostel of all-time to me.  But I’ll get to that later.  This was a world apart from the Woodstock in Paris.  That was a tiny little operation whereas this was a huge commercial hostel, attached to a bar, a game-room downstairs, a hot-tob and sauna upstairs, and hundreds of beds.  I was put in a 6-bed dormitory.  When I got there I was already so exhausted that I could hardly bring myself to get out and explore, but I knew since I only had two days I really had to.  My legs were killing me but I had to carry on. 

I went back to the Waterloo station because it was close to the river and the Westminster Bridge.  I got a little lost but eventually I found the bridge and was taken aback when Big Ben appeared before me suddenly and out of the blue.  I don’t know why it surprised me, I just didn’t expect it to be right there.  I got very Enigmal for a second, as I’ve had a sentimental attachment to that clock for awhile.  When I was little and I asked my mother how anyone in the world knew what time it REALLY was, she told me that the one clock in the world that was always right was Big Ben in London.  It was many years before I realised this was a lie. 

But I saw it and synchronized my watch perfectly to it.  I found my way across the bridge, thinking I could go into the tower but realising when I got across that neither Big Ben nor Westminster Hall to which it was attached are open to the public.  I’d been seeing many tour busses along the way though, and as there was one stopped right across the river I thought I’d check it out.  It would be a good way to get a feel for the city and see the sights from the comfort of a seat. 

I bought myself a ticket and got on the bus.  If you ever go to London, I recommend The Big Bus Company for your tours.  You buy a ticket which is good for 24 hours and the bus takes you to every location of interest you could want, about an hour from start to finish.  Unlike other bus companies where you have to get an audio-tour, these busses all have a live British Guide to tell you about everything you’re seeing, chock full of delightful British humour.  But the best thing is that you can get off anywhere and get back on when the next bus came, which was about every 5 minutes, just riding from landmark to landmark and exploring whatever you wish. 

I rode my bus to the end, enjoying the commentary by my 21-year-old tour guide who made fun of the other bus companies when we passed them and provided me with interesting little tidbits like how we were currently driving in the roundabout that Chevy Chase circled for hours and hour in National Lampoon’s European Vacation.  A lot of the commentary had to do with popular culture.  I saw the house where the Beatles all lived at one point, MI6 from the James Bond movies, etc.  And of course there were the amazing historical things like the hospital where Florence Nightingale started her nursing school, the House of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, and on and on.  Lots of people’s houses like Number 10 Downing Street where the Prime Minister lives, Margaret Thatcher’s house (which is in the same apartment complex as where Pete Townshend lives).  I rode the bus all the way to the end at Hyde Park, and got on another bus with another tour guide and rode further on until I reached the Tower of London.  I got off and saw that I was too late to get in as it closed at 5:00.  So I got back on the bus and went back to where I began, next to the Thames river. 

There was a giant ferris-wheel like thing called the London Eye which was apparently the only good way to get a good aerial view of the city.  So I stood on line for my ridiculously overpriced ticket and got on the giant wheel.  I believe it was 500 metres high or something, and took a good half-hour to go all the way around.  Looking down on the city of London only two days after looking down on Paris felt quite cool to me, although I must say that Paris is more aesthetically pleasing. 

They put about 20 people in every cart, which are all shaped like big eggs with clear windows and rails on all sides.  You can walk around and look in all directions during your “flight”.  Luckily I was able to concentrate mostly on the city because there was only one really attractive girl in my cart.  There was a decent-looking young girl, but I found the older girl more attractive and gave myself a pat on the back for that.  But that girl was French and there with her boyfriend, so there was nothing I could do.  The little girl had an older sister who was ugly, but who definitely seemed interested in me.  She was always looking at me when I looked in her direction, then looking away so as not to arouse suspicion.  Sorry bitch, but I do that often enough myself to know it when I see it.  Anyway, she was ugly so I didn’t say anything, but I was flattered that someone took an interest in me. 

I should mention that the people in London were not nearly as attractive on average as the people in Paris.  Paris is the most beautiful city in the world, and not just for the architecture.  There were beautiful women everyone, some all alone, some in twos, and sometimes there would just be SWARMS of them walking down the street.  This did a little number on the sexual side of my brain.  Even worse was the fact that Paris, such a romantic city, was crawling with happy couples doing romantic things.  Finally add the strange fact that lots of families came there with their little girls, and you can imagine the minor level of torture I went through.  Luckily I was having too good a time to let myself be bothered by it.  And in London because there was such a lack of beautiful babes it was not a problem at all. 

So after the London Eye the sun was going down and I walked along the Thames for awhile, finally taking a seat at a bench and look at the sun reflecting off Big Ben and the river.  Wishing you were there.  Wondering what we’d be doing if you were.  But in spite of this and in spite of my extreme exhaustion I was still having a great time. 

Part Six: Wot’s…Uh The Deal? 

We’re approaching the craziest part of my story, but there are still a few more things to go.  After sitting at the Thames for awhile I began to get hungry, so I went back to the hostel to get something to eat at the attached bar.  As I ate I noticed just how annoying the other people there were.  It was mostly stupid Americans of the frat-boy variety, travelling in their frat-boy groups and talking about drinking.  I heard one guy walk by me telling his friend in a very grave, serious tone how he “just wanted to get completely smashed.” 

And even at 7:30, which is when I ate, people were beginning to do just that.  I ate my meal alone in silence, happy that I’d decided to go straight-edge for the trip.  I wouldn’t want to drink with these kind of assholes anyway.  Nor would I want to meet them or talk to them or even make eye contact. 

But now night was falling and I was faced with the same old dilemma of what to do now that no tourist attractions were accessible.  I went to the ladies at the front desk of the hostel and asked them if there was anything to do for fun in the city if you didn’t want to drink.  “No,” was the immediate answer, “Everyone just drinks all the time.” 

I laughed and said how it certainly seemed that way, but she went on to say that I could either see a show or a movie.  I nodded, realising that if I didn’t want to drink I was doomed to watching films every night.  Luckily, I enjoy films, so I asked them where the cinemas were and they told me how to get to Picadally Circus in the centre of town.

I made it there and saw that it was the Broadway of Europe.  There were Threatres everywhere, showing everything from Guys and Dolls to Death of a Salesmen to Les Miserables.  I personally love the show Les Miserables and was quite tempted to see it but it was late and the show had already begun anyway. 

I had a hard time finding a regular movie theatre though, and by the time I found one everything was sold out but Constantine.  They were playing good stuff like The Assassination of Richard Nixon and whatnot but I could only get in to see Constantine.  I figured it was worth seeing even if it sucked, so I bought a ticket and got inside to find I was about 20 minutes late.  Not that it mattered, as the events of the beginning were referred to over and over again for awhile.  I was a little confused as to who this John Constantine was but it wasn’t too complicated and I was able to figure out the whole plot very quickly.  The movie was entertaining, although Keanu Reeves was at his absolute worst.  I didn’t think it could get worse, but apparently his “talent” knows know depths.  But since I wasn’t expecting anything brilliant, I enjoyed the movie, piece of crap though it was.  It could have been much worse. 

I left the theatre extremely exhausted and went back to the hostel, which was now jam-packed with loud drunken partying tourists.  The Euro-pop music blasting all around me, I fought through the crowds to the stairs and made my way to my room.  There were only two people there when I arrived.  A guy who had given me a map earlier when I first checked into the room, and a girl who was lying on the top of my bunk-bed.  She was beautiful though, and as I went to sleep beneath her I thought this would be the closest I’d ever come to sleeping with a beautiful woman. 

A little while later as I was falling asleep, I noticed some extra weight on my mattress.  I turned over and blinked twice, as there was this girl, completely nude, lying on top of me.   

“What?” I began to ask. 

“Shh…” she said.  “I want you.  Now.” 

“Excuse me?” I asked. 

“Go on,” she said.  “You can have me.” 

“I’m sorry,” I said, convinced this was some sort of trick.  “I don’t think I can.” 

“Why not?” she said.  “You know you want me.” 

“Of course I do,” I said.  “That’s the point, isn’t it?  You know I can’t resist.” 

“Then why are you resisting?” she asked. 

“Am I?” I said.  And with that, she leaned over and kissed me and I was helpless.  Ever so quietly did she take off my clothes and ravish me with her body… 

Okay so none of that actually happened.  I just imagined it before going to sleep, but I rather enjoyed the fantasy and decided I would write it down.  So there it is.  What ACTUALLY happened is of a completely different nature, though not less unbelievable.

I had just about fallen asleep when two more people entered the room, a drunken American couple.  The guy laid down and began to snore more loudly than I’d ever heard a person snore in my life.  I lost any chance I had of falling asleep.  I just lay there with my eyes wide open in extreme frustration, hoping the sound would eventually stop or die down, but it kept up, at its maximum intensity.  Snore after snore after loud annoying snore. 

I tried burying my head under my pillow and blanket but I could still hear it and found I had a hard time breathing.  So I fashioned some ear-muffs out of a pair of socks and a T-shirt that I tied around my head.  That was quite helpful.  I lied back down and noticed soon that the snoring had stopped.  I took off the ear-muffs and looked across the room to catch a glimpse of the snoring guy, who had just woken up and was now getting out of bed.  I knew that if I was going to get any sleep I would have to get there soon, so I closed my eyes and lied down facing the wall. 

A couple of seconds later I noticed my bed shake, and then a strange wet feeling on the back of my pillow.  I turned around and was struck with absolute horror as I saw what was happening.  The snoring guy had gotten up to use the bathroom, but he hadn’t made it.  There before me was a dick, smack in the middle of urination, being aimed straight at my head. 

“WHAT THE FUCK!!!!” I yelled, leaping out of bed.  “What the fuck!!!!” it was all I could say.  I’m sure I woke everyone else up but nobody said anything.  The guy didn’t even respond.  He just kept on pissing, all over my pillow, my jacket, and my backpack with all my stuff in it, getting it nice and soaked.  “Well that’s just fucking great!” I said, having no fucking idea what to make of this new development or what to do about it.  “Thanks buddy, that’s just fucking great!”  The guy didn’t respond.  He just shook out the last drops and crashed himself back down into what had been my bed, now soaked in his own urine. 

I stood there for a moment trying to make sense of this.  Was that real?  Did that actually happen?  Was I awake?  Of course I was awake.  Of course it actually happened.  This was real.  Too real.  There was only one thing I could do.  Still in my pyjamas I grabbed my urine-soaked coat and back-pack and went downstairs to the loud booming party.  I found the first guy who worked there and told him what had happened.  He laughed and took me to the reception desk, where he told one of the guys there to take care of my situation. 

I explained what happened and the guy rolled his eyes.  He gave me as much sympathy as he could express and told me it would be handled.  He took me back upstairs and into the room, where I pointed out the guy now lying comfortably on my bed, sleeping next to a puddle of his own urine.  The hostel worker went to him and told him to get up, but he was unresponsive.  He said it again.  Then again.  And again.  Finally the pissing guy started to respond. 

“Get up, we’re going,” the worker said.  “Get up, it’s time to go.” 

“Yeah, time to go,” said the pissing guy, still half-asleep. 

“Seriously, you need to get up,” the worker said.  “You need to come downstairs.” 

“Yeah, downstairs,” said the pisser. 

Finally the worker shoved him.  “Get up.  And come downstairs.  Now.” 

Consciousness hit the pisser immediately.  He opened his eyes and looked around with a look of the utmost confusion.  He clearly had no clue where he was or what was happening.  He asked what was going on. 

“You peed over this gentlemen’s stuff,” said the worker. 

“No,” he said.  “I didn’t do that.” 

I pointed to the stain on the bed sheet beside his head.  “That’s your urine,” I said. 

He looked at it and jumped with shock.  “No,” he said again. 

“Put on some clothes and come downstairs,” the worker said.  “And bring the linen from the bed with you.” 

He slowly got up and found some clothes, while the worker and I went out in the hallway.  I asked him if this had ever happened before, and he said, “Unfortunately yes.  It’s bound to happen in a place like this.  But I have to admit it doesn’t happen to everyone.” 

“Well at least I’ve got a story to tell,” I said, and he concurred. 

So eventually the pisser came out of the room with the bed linen and we went downstairs.  The worker asked me if I wanted to do my laundry now or tomorrow and I said I might as well do it now because I was awake.  He made the pisser pay for my laundry and gave me some detergent bars.  Then he put me in a smaller, better room free of charge and led me to the laundry room.  The pisser apologised to me.  I said it was okay, he obviously didn’t know what he was doing.  Then he gave me 20 pounds, which I ungracefully accepted.

As the worker led us upstairs I bid farewell to the pisser who apologised one last time and I told him not to worry about it.  I know how I felt, but I can’t imagine how embarrassed he must have been.  Not that I forgive him or anything.  He was a drunken bastard and no doubt about it.  But at least he showed remorse. 

So I went to the laundry room, which was on the roof of the building next to the outdoor hot tub where a bunch of drunken French people were carrying on.  I put my clothes in the wash and went out to smoke a much-needed cigarette.  I stayed on the roof there for several hours as it took awhile for my wash to be done.  The French people left and soon I was joined by a lone girl who came to use the hot tub.  “How are you doing?” she asked me. 

“It’s been a strange, strange night,” I said. 

“Well I guess every night here is strange,” she said. 

“Yeah, but I’ve had one of the strangest nights of my life,” I said.  She gave me curious look.  “I got pissed on,” I said.  “I was trying to get to sleep when I felt some wetness, I turned around there was this guy pissing all over my bed and my stuff.  Now I’m just here to do my laundry.” 

Needless to say, she got a huge kick out of the story and laughed very very hard.  “I can’t believe that,” she kept saying.  “I can’t believe someone pissed on you.  I’m sorry for laughing, I just…” 

“No don’t apologise,” I said, “It is quite hilarious.” 

Anyway, she got in the hot-tub and we talked for awhile.  She had a cute face but a heavy body so I was able to talk to her comfortably.  I’m always able to talk really well with girls I’m not attracted to.  I found out her name was Summer and she lived in Washington State where she went to the most liberal school there.  She was head of the drama department and her professors decided instead of spending her last semester there they would let her travel around Europe and pretend that was education.  London was her first stop.  We talked for a long time, as long as it took my laundry to be finished.  It was a pleasant little conversation.  Nothing too intense, as she was “half-drunk” and clearly not the philosophical type.  We talked about what it was like to be an American in Europe and how our President sucks and how our laws regarding drugs and alcohol were ridiculously harsh and caused more problems than they solved and basically had a nice little bitching session.  Occasionally some drunken asshole would stumble up about to use the hot tub but she had a strange way of getting them to go away.  “Maybe you should take him to his room first,” and things like that.  One group of people asked her if they could join her, which she had no objection to, but then asked her if she minded if they got naked, and without simply saying “no” made it clear to them that she certainly did mind.  They went away and didn’t come back. 

When she got out of the tub and my laundry was done we continued to talk.  I heard some people out in the halls talking their loud drunken talk.  “I kept asking this girl to dance and she kept rejecting the fuck out of me!” I heard one guy say.  I thought this was the most amusing line I could have heard, picturing this drunken fuck trying to come on to this girl who was clearly not interested and him being too fucking fucked and stupid to get the message.  Good for that girl, whoever she was. 

So anyway, Summer and I finished our conversation and I got my laundry together, got to my new 4-bed room where I was overjoyed to notice nobody snoring, and quickly got to sleep, knowing that I now had the story of a lifetime, and wondering what everyone’s reaction would be. 

Part Seven: A Great Day For Freedom 

I awoke the next morning when the others in my room got up.  Nice people.  Two of them Americans and one from Ottowa, Canada, who was also travelling alone.  I told him the pissing story as soon as I got up to explain my presence in the room, and he got a kick out of it as anyone naturally would.  So lucky was I, to be pissed on.  The perfect way to introduce yourself.  “Hi, I’m Kyle.  I got pissed on last night.”  It will immediately endear you to anyone. 

I went through the motions of shitting and showering and soon I was on my way.  I meant to take the subway to Piccadilly and look for theatre tickets, as I knew I didn’t want to see a movie again and seeing a show would be the perfect way to end the trip.  But I walked absent-mindedly, missed the subway station, and eventually ended up at London Bridge, which just happened to be one of the stops of the Big Bus Company.  This particular stop, by the way, was at a spike which had been on the original tower of London, the spike which bore the head of William Wallis.  Fucking awesome. 

So anyway I took a seat and smoked a cigarette waiting for the next bus to come, as the first one had pulled away too quickly.  At each of the stops, the Big Bus Company has an employee to help people on and off and sell tickets.  I noticed the woman at this stop smiling at me, and I felt drawn to her.  She was middle-aged and ugly but had a very friendly face.  I asked her about my ticket and if it was possible to get it extended to last the rest of the day.  She said I’d have to buy a whole new ticket but she’d cut me a little break.  So I got a 3-pound discount, paying 15 instead of 18.  No big whoop, but I appreciated the gesture.  She also sold me a fast-track ticket to the Tower of London, which was to be my first destination, so I wouldn’t have to wait in a queue. 

Then she started with the small talk.  Asking where I was from and what I was doing in London.  I told her I was an exchange student studying in Frankfurt and she asked me what I studied.  When I told her it was philosophy she got excited and asked me what my thoughts were on the meaning of life.  This was still fairly early in the morning, and while I was overjoyed to find someone who actually wanted to hear my thoughts on life, I couldn’t really manage to get into it.  She asked me if I thought everything was meaningless and scientific or whether there was something spiritual behind the world.  I told her I thought it was a strange mixture of both. 

She went on to talk about all her opinions.  How she thought the root of Christianity was good but the religious interpretations got the messages all mixed up and it became a source of evil.  How the Eastern religions are more about self-denial and the Western religions focus on individual experience.  That there IS good and evil in the world but you can’t blame people when they do evil because you don’t know what led them to do it.  How Muslims are not necessarily bad people but the root of the Islam religion is evil.  I found it difficult to disagree with what she was saying.  She talked about death and how she thinks it’s different for everybody but that we definitely do go on after we die.  That the world is too complicated for us to ever fully understand it.  I told her I believe that we’re not supposed to understand it, and she brought up Richard Bach’s Jonothan Livingston Seagull and said how she thinks we’re here to learn lessons.  Basically she had a very optimistic outlook on things, and while her philosophy certainly lacked the level of theory behind those of the great ones, it was a relatively enlightened way to look at the world. 

She also said some strange things like how she can feel auras and that emotions had a certain smell.  She told me that Love has a smell.  I thought that was a nice idea.  She said she can usually tell all she needs to know about a person immediately, which made me feel great as she seemed to have singled me out and plunged into a deep conversation out of nowhere.  I’d just happened to be at that bus stop at that time and for some reason the next bus took about 10 minutes to arrive so we really seemed to cover everything.  When the next bus did come and I asked her for her name, she told me it was Laura and that it was nice to meet me and she’d enjoyed our talk.  As I boarded the bus my mind was boggled by the circumstances of my life.  One night I’m getting pissed on and the next I’m having an incredibly deep conversation with a complete stranger. 

But now that there was a nice experience between me and the pissing episode I was able to feel that Enigmal feeling again and get all that good food for the soul.  I got off the bus at the Tower of London and got right inside with my fast-track ticket.  I found a tour given by one of Her Majesty’s Royal Guards who live inside the Tower of London and followed it to the end.  The guy was old and as stereotypically British as it gets, but he was also hilarious.  “I want you all to direct your attention to that building with the statues over there.  Can you see it?  Does everyone see that building?  I don’t hear an answer.  Yes?  Okay. Good.  Well you can forget about the building because it has absolutely nothing to do with our tour.”  Jokes of that nature.  He also spent a lot of time making fun of Americans, which I appreciated very much. 

So he showed us all of the significant parts of the Tower of London.  Where all the famous people were held prisoner.  Where Henry XVIII greeted Anne Boleyn on their wedding day and the spot just around the corner where he had her executed.  The tour ended in the chapel where she and 8 other British royals remain buried to this day.  It was quite awesome.  Quite. 

After the tour I went to see the crown jewels.  No big whoop.  They were beautiful yes, but I found it hard to get too excited over shiny plates and crowns.  Though the swords I do confess were rather awesome. 

Then I saw there was a Royal Fusiliers Museum in the tower, and of course I just HAD to go.  So I read all about the Fusiliers from the 1800s all the way through WWII and the Italian campaign which Roger Waters’ father had been a part of.  Of course the most interesting section of the museum were the WWI exhibits.  Seeing the pictures and reading the letters of soldiers and descriptions of those conditions just gave me chills.  I was the only person in the museum who was actually on the verge of tears.  I also learned a lot about the important battles and things that might interest you, but forgot all of it the moment I walked out of the museum. 

I left the tower to go get some lunch, but on my way I came across a place which sold theatre tickets.  I asked if there were any seats available for that evening’s show of Les Miserables.  It turns out there was an orchestra seat available for the low low price of 45 pounds.  (Sarcasm).  I had exactly 43 pounds, but I also had a 5 Euro note which he accepted to make up the difference.  I was quite excited about the fact that I was going to see the show.  It had…coincidentally, been 8 years since I saw it on Broadway on a 7th grade class field trip.  I don’t know what your opinion of the show is if you’re even familiar with it, but my affinity for it is probably similar to your affinity to Phantom of the Opera.  So if you can imagine how you might feel if you held a ticket to see Phantom in London, you’ll know exactly how I felt once I got that ticket. 

But then I was out of money and still hungry so I had to get to an ATM.  I put in my card and tried to take out 50 pounds, but I’m told I have insufficient funds.  30 pounds?  Insufficient funds.  Uh oh.  I’d had $600 in my account when I left.  It was ALL GONE already?  I began to get worried.  I would have to call my parents and ask them to put more money in the bank IMMEDIATELY and that I wouldn’t be able to eat until they did.  I went off searching for a phone, trying to calm myself down.  They would understand.  This was a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me.  Of course they’d give me more money.  And it’s not like I was spending it unwisely.  I hadn’t bought a single drop of alcohol or a single souvenir.  Not even a postcard.  All of my money was spent only on necessities and entry into places of interest. 

But by the time I found a phone there was another ATM, and I decided to try my card for the Frankfurt bank account.  It had never worked before, but by the grace of God it worked this time, and I got 30 fresh pounds with which to spend the rest of my time in England.  I would only need to buy food.  Which I did.  I ate some food and got back on the Big Bus, preparing for the end of my journey. 

Part Eight:  Wish You Were Here 

The next few hours were spent frantically hopping on and off of the Big Bus, giving myself my own short private walking tours of Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and the like.  The last place I got off was Picaddily Circus, as I intended to figure out where the theatre was that the show would be at.  Once I found it and figured out how to get there from the Subway, I headed back to the hostel. 

I still had about two hours to kill, so I went back to my bed and started reading the book I brought along which needs to be read for class tomorrow and I still haven’t finished.  Lying in a bed was probably not the best idea, as I soon fell asleep and was woken up only by the Canadian guy entering the room.  I got up and we had a short little talk about what we were up to and where we were headed.  He was going to Amsterdam and I told him all I have to tell about that.  And Berlin.  And Paris.  Turns out I’m a wealth of information about major European cities. 

So I bid farewell to him and went down to have some dinner.  I ate and headed back to Picadilly (I love that name for some reason.  At first I hated it but it grew on me really fast and now I love it.  So British.  Picadilly Circus.  Anyway….)  I arrived at the theatre dressed in jeans and a very flamboyant Dark Side of the Moon T-Shirt, definitely the most underdressed bastard in the theatre, although I didn’t feel so bad as there were a few others wearing jeans.  And I didn’t have to put up with too many snooty looks from British theatre-goers. 

My seat was only three rows from the back, which I thought would suck at first, especially when a really tall guy sat in front of me.  But he wasn’t directly in front and the stage was higher than I realised, so when the show began I could pretty much see everything.  And the show was spectacular.  At first I thought I’d made a mistake, as it seemed to open rather weakly.  Jean Valjean wasn’t even singing most of his lines, he was just kind of talking them.  I later realised he was just saving his voice. 

Anyway, I won’t bore you with the details of the show, but it was filled with Enigmal moments.  So many incredibly moving numbers.  I haven’t even listened to the music for the show in well over a year, so it was like I was rediscovering it in the best way possible.  I’d seen it on Broadway but bought the recording for the original London cast.  I’d always preferred the London version because their accents made it better.  When I realised I actually had the chance to SEE the London version I couldn’t resist.  So I’d bought a ticket and was providing myself with that incredible experience. 

And I was moved to tears, naturally.  There were too many people around for me to actually cry, but my eyes certainly got soaked quite a bit.  After one particularly sad number in which Valjean finally broadcast his amazingly beautiful voice, the applause lasted for at least a minute.  I was happy to keep applauding.  When the show had finally ended, I was overjoyed to give a standing ovation, as it was well worth it.  20 years and still the show was doing fantastic, everyone seemed to be giving it their all through the entire performance.  It was truly brilliant.  I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect end to my journey than seeing a show in London which takes place in Paris. 

After the show I took the tube back to the hostel.  There was one changeover at Waterloo station and I absent-mindedly took an escalator upstairs when I should have just walked across to the other line.  When I made it back down the escalator and started walking towards the Jubilee line, I heard some very familiar music playing around the corner out of the way of my path.  I recognised it immediately.  There was a street musician playing Wish You Were Here.  He’d just started, and it sounded really good.  The acoustics of the station were perfect. 

So I went out of my way and saw the guy.  Just a young black man strumming away, and when he saw me coming up to him with my Pink Floyd shirt on and coin in my hand, he smiled.  I generously dropped a 2-pound coin into his guitar case and started walking away.  But I was struck by how coincidental it was that this guy just happened to be playing that song at that time.  The most perfect time for that song ever.  All of the factors that had to go into my being there at that moment, including spacing out and taking an escalator when I wasn’t supposed to. 

So I turned around and leaned against the wall opposite him, listening to him play the rest of the song.  I got really into it, as he was fucking fantastic.  When he started to sing he knew all the words, and his deep scratchy voice just sounded so beautiful at that moment.  He noticed me watching and smiled again and got really into it, putting his heart and soul into the music.  I felt so Enigmal.  You might be able to imagine, but you might not.  That song seemed to be the theme for the whole trip.  What ran through my mind in those moments was how great it was to be alone but how great it would also be to share these experiences.  To share them with someone whom I know damned well would appreciate them. 

When he reached the chorus I sang along with him.  “How I wish…how I wish you were here.  We’re just two lost souls swimming in fish-bowl year after year.”  People walked by and gave us weird looks but I didn’t care.  I was having a moment.  A truly special moment.  Bonding with this incredible street musician.  People walked by and looked at us but not one of the bastards gave him any money.  When the song was finished I walked back up to him and emptied all of my change into his guitar case. 

“It’s a classic song,” he said to me.  “Pink Floyd, I love it.” 

“It’s a GREAT song,” I said.  “Thank you very much.  Thank you.” 

He waved goodbye to me and I took off, extremely happy about that last experience.  Wish You Were Hear bursting through my mind.  I felt on top of the world.  I even sang out loud to myself all the way back to the hostel, not giving a shit who looked at me strange or what they thought. 

And that was the end of the trip.  I had a short night’s sleep and spent the next day riding trains for well over 12 hours total.  But I certainly had the best time I think I’ve ever had in my life.  And though I’m still extremely exhausted to the point where I can hardly walk, I know that all of it, even spending all of my money and getting pissed on, all of it doesn’t matter when compared to the experiences I had.  As much as life can get me down sometimes and as shitty as the world can be, I can’t help but delight in the fact that such experiences are possible.  That I was able to give myself these experiences.  And that I have been able to share them with you.