Sunday, September 10, 2006

Robb's Big Adventure

Find yourself a glass, smash some limes and mint together, add some rum, a bit of Sprite and top off with a splash champagne, kick off the shoes and relax. I have a feeling this is going to be one long story which all got kicked off in Paris. I was there to attend the party celebrating my friend Laura's 30th birthday...

I first met Laura at a work event in Madrid in April and immediately thought "this chick is cool." We kept in good contact and in June we saw each other again in Paris for work which ultimately culminated in having post work cocktails during which Laura spoke the line that for me will forever be etched in my memory... We were talking about life, love, work and all the things people discuss over drinks when she started talking about wanting to start her own business. I told her that was great and that it wasn't about money, it was about freedom and doing something you truly enjoy. She gazed at me through her crystallized Versace sunglasses and said these exact words to me: "Look at me Robb, I love money". I have often tried to use that line and make it my very own, and while Laura was merely stating fact, I can never carry it off without sounding like a pretentious prick.

So back to current day Paris... I fell in love the moment I stepped into Laura and Sebastian’s flat. They have a little puppy named Shouby and he stole my heart immediately, showering me with little puppy kisses and then sleeping on my lap, completely ignoring the calls of his owners. This seems to be a trend and I feel like I am becoming something of a dog whisperer. But our love was doomed from the start as little Shouby is moving to Mexico City and taking Laura and Sebastian with him, leaving me here all alone to find yet another little puppy to fill the Shouby shaped hole that will be left in my heart.

In addition to falling in love, I was also there to help set up and no sooner had I stepped of the metro at Pont de Neuilly than I was navigating the aisles of the Monoprix supermarket looking for scrumptious little things to nibble on. That place was amazing. In the Netherlands it is hard enough to find a decent mustard and in France, the shelves were crammed full of all sorts of exotic jams, foie gras, Nesquik, Fauchon chocolates, and it just went on and one. I was in heaven! Laura's superb attention to detail meant that everything was just perfect. The table in the main room was piled high with food and all the major dietary groups were represented; Sushi, blinis, foie gras and champagne. Every new guest meant another bouquet of flowers, each larger and more lavish than the last and soon all the vases were full and there was nowhere left to put them except the bidet. Aah, the ingenuity of the French. The party went on and on and occasionally a break was taken from the bubbles to join in group activities like shots of white tequila. I was happy to learn I could still suck a lime like a pro.

As the evening went on and the alcohol loosened people up, the inevitable relationship discussion come up. You know what I mean. There's always the one person (and you know who you are darling, but you looked fabulous showing just the right amount of cleavage and that's really all that counts) who asks your advice, tells you they totally agree with you, but just aren’t ready to take it at this time due to some reasonable sounding excuse (I don’t want to hurt him, the sex is too good, I’ll do that after the holidays) and then spend 2 hours justifying something that you really didn't care about in the first place which has nothing to do with your own life, forcing you to just nod and say “uh-huh” while all you can really think is get me another drink. Sorry, keep the line moving.

I was also staying with Laura and Sebastian and that meant I was at the party for the long haul, which is often times a horrific prospect. The laggards that never know when to leave, the people that have had one too many and are now fighting for bathroom space and then the occasional sordid display of unrequited lust. But I had such a good time at the party which did not have any of those last events that I could have kept going and going and reluctantly, like a three year old that keeps claiming they aren't tired, I was tucked into bed with my blankey, betrayed and deserted by Shouby who went to sleep with those that feed and walk him.

Normally I don't sleep in very late so imagine my surprise when I awoke and saw that it was after 1pm and I had a train to Brussels just before 4, with a ton of grocery shopping to do. Well, let me clarify that just a bit before anyone should get the wrong idea about me. I am not a fan of grocery shopping and not sure why it was invented in the first place. Someone had obviously had a very boring day when they invented that concept. I mean if God had wanted us to go grocery shopping, we would have all been born with pushcarts. The reason for the treason? I needed to make sure I was stocked up on the white chocolate covered Oreos which I didn't even know existed until about 24 hours before. I did a quick dash, gathering all kinds of jams and chocolates from Fauchon as well as enough Oreos to help me through a few DVDs from the second season of Desperate Housewives. Stocked up on all sorts of tasty treats, I made a mad dash to Gare du Nord, jumped on my train and settled in for the short journey to Brussels. Little did I know, my weekend was just getting started.

Another country, another set of fantastic adventures. The plan was to stay in Brussels for Saturday night, have some dinner with Nik and Marco, maybe a small brunch the next day and then get my little self and Marco on a train back home... The best laid plans of mice and men most often go awry, and these went awry in the best way. I had barely crossed the threshold to Nik's flat when he announced it was cocktail hour... A few limes, mint, cranberry, Bacardi Razz, a bit of soda and a splash of champagne later and we were on our way to weekend merriment. After having a few more invented cocktails, including one with mango and eating an entire tin of Mr. Wasabi nuts, it was time to go out and leave the mixing to the professionals.

Fast-forward to Fontaines and there we were, sitting in the window drinking the Fontaines cocktail, without having any clue what was in it except for the fact it contained a double shot of yum. We were soon joined by Karim and Alba and the party was just getting started. As man cannot unfortunately live on cocktails alone, it was soon time for dinner and we made our way to La Cantina, a fantasic Brazilian restaurants and immediately changed our drink order to Mojitos. La Cantina was a tastefully decorated place whose walls had been sponged into oblivion and upon which hung a gigantic paper maiche sun covered in glitter which overlooked our table and smiled across the retaurant to the paper maiche seahorse that was dangling from a hook in the ceiling. It was very Finding Nemo meets the high-school art project, but somehow it all seemed to work. Our waiter Caracas (not his real name, but he was from Venezuela and not knowing what else to call him and finding "hey you" to be a bit rude I dubbed him Caracas) was very funny. Why is it that when people go to a restaurant and they order, someone invariably asks the waiter "is that any good?" I mean what are they supposed to say? "You got some lousy ass taste in food, man?" So Nik, being who he is, was our designated stupid question person of the evening. I just ground my teeth, ordered and hoped for the best.

Feijoada was described a national dish... sausages, sauce, rice, etc. What came out of the kitchen was the Brazilian equivalent of beans and franks. This was the first time I was going to be staying with this particular friend, and I had ordered a pan full of black beans and sausages. I was not amused by the thought of flatulating all about the city, but had no choice other than to eat up.

After dinner it was off to the jazz bar L’Archiduc for Cosmos. The place was amazing… Very tiny and dominated by the covered grand piano inconveniently placed right smack in the center of the club. It reminded me a bit of an old bar in Balboa California named Bubbles. Nik, of course was doing his very best Julie McCoy impersonation making sure we were constantly on schedule and each new location brought new and exciting characters to our little group. At this stop we picked up Joe and Andreas and then headed immediately to la Belgica for Submarines where Alba decided to leave us stating that a street full of men looking for men wasn’t really the best use of her Dolce and Gabanna like looks.

Submarines are beer with a shot of Jenever in them... They are actually less tasty than they sound. No sooner had we put plastic cup to lip when we were approached by a Texan and a Canadian whose names we chose not to get. Texas was supposedly a casting assistant for reality TV shows which won her all sorts of respect and Canada just stood around looking stupid. Texas went on and on telling us how much she didn’t like Bush and we just kept look at her, begging her to leave with our eyes. Obviously I need to work on that look to make it more effective.

After a quick stop by Chez Mama where we left Joe to his own devices, Nik dragged us to Kafka for one last drink with some friends of his. Kafka is a dodgy bar in the middle of Brussels whose interior has been painted in a really horrible shade of beige, made worse by the layers of cigar and cigarette smoke that have been consistently applied over the years. In the men’s room there is a poster for the band ‘The Pine Box Boys’ which apparently play ‘uncut southern horrorbilly and American murder ballads.’ Fun stuff! Thi was the kind of place where a man could fall asleep on the toilet with his pants around his ankles and stay there for hours. We know this because there was a man doing just that.

You all know I am not one to name drop, but this is when and where we met SinĂ©ad O’Connor. Not the bald one that you are thinking of, but a voluptuous one with long hair that moved which sat atop a very pretty face upon which a mouth was attached that never stopped moving. We heard all about her past, her childhood, her drugs, her sexual escapades and all the other assorted details of her life, yet asked how she got engaged, we were informed she found that too personal to share. Go figure. I once asked her if she came with an ‘off’ switch and she stared at me icily without saying a word. It was chilly, but it worked for a few minutes. At precisely 3:30 am we were kicked out of the bar Belgian style. Turn up all the lights and put on execution-march music. A fitting end to the hour and a half Marco and I had just spent wishing to die.

In spite of being in bed very late, I was wide awake and ready to go at 8am. I decided to snoop a bit around Nik’s place and it was then that I found his dark skeleton. He had a full stack of ‘Marta Stewart Living’ magazines. I did a double take thinking this couldn’t be true, but as Nik started to make brunch of us, I realised he had been giving them a thorough reading. From brunch, it was onto the more important issues of the day… Cocktails… Marco, Nik, Joe and I wandered the streets of Brussels in search of the perfect Mojito which we finally found and after a bit more wandering discovered the missing piece from all of our lives… Raspberry Margaritas at L’ultime Atome Brasserie. They were amazing. Better than the milkshake which brings all the boys to the yard. Damn right, they’re better than yours.

Looking forward to doing it all again very soon!

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