Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Cyberspace to Paris - Final Chapter

From the Eiffel Tower

April 14, 1998

Andy and I woke up on time and were out the door headed to the airport as scheduled. I would have liked to talk to his father a while longer; he seemed very interesting.

Once we arrived at the airport, we had one final cup of coffee together and had our last conversation. We embraced one another and shared our last kiss before I boarded the plane. I turned back around one last time; I can still see him walking away.

Based on the way Andy interacted with me during this trip, I interpreted him as being very sincere towards me. He was attentive and sweet. All in all, I loved very moment we spent together, even when I went to the Louvre by myself. I wanted nothing more than to wake up every morning and see his jeans and tennis shoes on my bedroom floor. I don't know how Andy felt about me since I didn't go there with him.

Andy and I took different roads for our lives. His dreams and goals were different from mine. In retrospect, I had a wonderful adventure with him and believe that if I had the opportunity, I would do it all over again and again and again.

I have decided not to meet people over the internet anymore. The outcome can be too painful and I want this one adventure to be the last of its kind. I suspect that I will never experience anyone like him again.

There will always be a special place in my heart for him.

Kisses to you, my friend.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Cyberspace to Paris - Part 17 & 18

April 12, 1998

Andy and I walked from our hotel to the Eiffel Tower and decided we would climb it together before leaving Paris. Since Andy was averse to elevators (claustrophobia) we climbed only as high as we were allowed to climb.

It was very cold that afternoon. All the while that we were in line I kept thinking of ear muffs and warm gloves. We waited in that line for 1.5 hours waiting our turn to climb. Just 15 minutes before getting to the entrance a couple with a small child cut in line in front of us. We were completely stunned by this and since we couldn't tell what language they spoke didn't really know how to address it. It was really interesting how we talked about it later that evening from the hotel.

After climbing the tower, we sort of just wandered around the city. We didn't do a lot. It was cold and we were both tired. I was feeling depressed about the trip coming so close to an end. I was growing fond of Andy and didn't want to leave him and yet, I was also looking forward to just being home. Traveling does that to you after a while.

April 13, 1998

Andy and I had our last breakfast together in France this morning. We loaded up the car, closed out our bill and headed for Calais to catch the ferry to Dover.

The weather in Paris this morning was beautiful. The sun shone brightly and it was a sight I didn't see a lot as we seemed to find cloudes wherever we went. Then, about 45 minutes outside of Paris, we hit a snowstorm. Finally, we arrived in Calais and caught the ferry.

On the ferry we met a really nice couple. The conversation was interesting enough and it made the ride go by quickly. I think they were amused by our story. Like most English they seemed to want to know from what "class" Andy came. Once on shore, we immediately pulled into a petrol station for fuel. The odometer on Andy's car read 150300. We went 100 miles over our budget. Not bad.

Since we ran out of money, we had to stay the night at his father's house; I think it was just outside of London. I was able to meet his father, stepmother and adorable little half-sister. I liked all of them.

His father booted the girl out of her room for the night and let Andy and I share a blow up matter, I believe. I can't recall if it was a blow up or not but it was one mattress. Andy was really perplexed that his father would do this because as he said "what if we hadn't gotten along?". I guess he thought his father was being rather presumptuous. It was a pretty big mattress, so if needed, Andy and I could find our own space.

I was so tired, I fell asleep right away. I was so afraid to allow myself to feel any closer to Andy than I already felt. I didn't know how to even express what I was feeling and didn't know if Andy wanted to hear it, especially in his father's house.

I regretted that this was our last day together. I woke up in the night to find Andy turned on his side (away from me and toward a light), he was reading. I can still see his back. I didn't touch him, I didn't want him to know I was awake, I wish I could turn back the clock.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Cyberspace to Paris - Part 16

April 11th, 1998

I made a big mistake this morning. There were a lot of emotions going on inside of me and I had reached a point where I needed to spend some time alone. Coming to Paris from Houston is a big ordeal and it's not cheap. I had no idea when I would have another opportunity to be here.

Andy's claustrophobia and the limited bus schedule was restricting what I was going to be able to do in the city and I really really wanted to go to the Musee de Louvre; I had missed it the last time I came to Paris. There was no way to get there from our hotel without taking the below ground subway and he would not get on the subway.

I left Andy at the hotel and went to the Louvre. He was very angry at me for doing this. I think he thought I was punishing him. In my defense, prior to our trip, I had told him that I would come to a point in this trip where I would need some time alone. It is very much a part of my personality to take time in isolation to regroup.

I spent the morning in the Louvre. The works there were beautiful and I especially enjoyed the french paintings of the 17th - 19th centuries. Collet, Ingres, Boulangeais...there are so many to name. Unfortunately, I did not find any of Bouguereau's paintings there. He is my favorite artist.

I observed local artists coming into the museum with their sketch pads. They drew the sculptures and sketched some of the famous paintings that were displayed. The works were so beautiful and there is so much context within the paintings themselves. I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of what I saw that I was brought to tears.

When I returned to the hotel several hours later, it appears as though neither one of us were harboring any bad feelings towards one another. I was disappointed that he didn't leave the hotel. He was still upset with me but I apologized for the way I handled the morning and we talked it out a bit. He succeeded in helping me see that there were other ways I could have handled the situation.

I suggested that we count our money to see how much we had left. We decided we could splurge on one final meal. I picked out my leather skirt and a silk sweater. Andy picked out the jewelry and lipstick I would wear; then we headed out the door for an Italian restaurant.

I was wearing thigh high stockings with the rubber grips. For some reason, these stupid things would not grip my thighs, so halfway to the restaurant they started to slip down my legs. Andy and I had to continue to duck into coves along the buildings where I could attempt to pull the stockings back up. We finally found a restaurant where I rectified the problem.

It was at this point that I realized I was falling in love with Andy. I would be heading back to the states in about three days and I had nothing waiting for me.

There was a young couple who lived in the same apartment community as myself. He was about to graduate from law school. Two days before this trip, he pulled me aside and told me that if Andy asked me to marry him to do it. He told me not to worry about anything, he would put together the legal matters for me once I returned. You had to understand their story in order to appreciate where he was coming from.

Cyberspace to Paris - Part 15

April 10th, 1998

This day is Good Friday. We got up, had breakfast and headed into Paris.

Since this was Easter Weekend and Good Friday was a holiday, Andy and I were greeted with very long lines, everywhere. We started first at the l'Arc the De Triomphe. Andy had this thing where he didn't want me to ask anyone to take our photos because he didn't want the French to know we were tourists. However, if the person we approached was Asian, then it would be ok to ask them to take our photo. Luckily, I found such a person at the L'arc and we had our photo taken at the top of the structure.

After this we wandered over to Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. We were really discouraged by the long lines. I told him about Feyrouz Deli, a Lebanese place, where I had my first shwarma sandwich 10 years ago. We decided to go there and eat. I thought I knew exactly where it was, but 10 years was a long time ago and it took us a couple of hours and a few beers to find it. But we did find it and I discovered it had grown to a full service restaurant. The food was outstanding and we had a great dinner.

I could tell that Andy's claustrophobia was bothering him on the subway and unfortunately, there was only one above ground line that ran. Fortunately it was the one that took us to the Eiffel Tower. Since this was Easter Weekend, the buses were on a very small schedule and many of them were not running. So, we were pretty much forced to use the subway. I could tell that this was going to restrict our movement in the city.

Cyberspace to Paris - Part 14

April 9th, 1998

Andy and I took breakfast downstairs in their kitchen. Mr. Nouri, always the perfect host, suggested I make a selection from his library of music to listen to while enjoying breakfast. I requested Vivaldi's Four Seasons. It is my favorite classical piece.

As we pulled out of the driveway, Mr. Nouri was taking his empty wine bottles to his trash can. He held them up to us and he said (In French) "When the bottle is empty, life is full. When the bottle is full, my life is empty" Mr. Nouri believes that wine is to be shared with friends.

We arrived at our hotel in Paris at 3:30 that afternoon. When checking into hotels and such in Paris it is customary to produce your passport. I'm not sure why this is. The day before, while touring the castles, Andy and I had stopped in Chinon to exchange the remainder of our travelers checks. The woman at the bank did not remember to give my passport back to me after verifying the authenticity of my signature. Luckily there was a division of that same bank just a block down the street from this hotel. I was able to get my passport sent to me and it arrived the next morning.

Up until our arrival in Paris, I had not given great consideration to the way I was feeling towards Andy. I'm a slow burner and I needed to process what I was learning before coming to a conclusion about him.

It was difficult at first because he was like a stranger to me. He also seemed nervous, as was I and I felt some self-imposed pressure to continue the feelings I had for him while we interacted on the internet. It took a day or so for me to overcome those feelings. In some cases I just decided to go with it in spite of what I was or wasn't feeling.

Here, in Paris, I felt a flood of emotions towards Andy. I don't know how much of that was complicated by the fact that we were in Paris, but I know that the feelings were quite strong.

We both decided we wanted to "start Paris" in the morning so we opted to stay in the hotel and eat picnic food and listen to music.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Cyberspace to Paris - Part 13

April 8th, 1998

Andy and I had no idea what we were going to do with this day when we woke up. Not to worrie, Mr. Nouri had already anticipated that. When we sat down for breakfast, he presented us with a map that highlighted a loop around the area with 6 sites (castles) for us to visit. We made all six of them that day.

When we returned, we were tired so we took a quick nap. After an hour we went downstairs in an effort to head out for dinner. Mr. Nouri had just opened a bottle of wine and indicated that he wanted Andy and me to sit and share it with him. His wife joined us as well but she didn't talk much. Mr. Nouri was somewhat chauvinist and didn't seem to want his wife to talk so she sort of would nod off during conversation. This made both of us uncomfortable.

By about 9:00 we were able to escape and find dinner. This was the best meal of our trip. We went to a place called L'Auberge St. Pierre. The host was so incredibly polite as were the waiters. Andy was so cute. He looked at me across the table and told me to select his meal and order for him. He wanted to see how well I knew him. I did well.

When we got back, we were hoping not to alert Mr. Nouri of our return because we knew he would want to talk. The clever man had one of those motion detecting lights on his drive way. There was no way of returning without anyone knowing. Sure enough, he was waiting up for us.

Down to his celler he went and produced one of the nicest brandies I've ever experienced. I want to say it was Napolean III. He was not approving of my choice to drink this as I think he believed there was a more appropriate drink for women that I should be enjoying. I'm not sure if he offered it to me or not but I opted for the brandy. We stayed up until close to 1:00 visiting with him. His english was limited so I had to translate for Andy. I don't think that Nouri had access to the internet so we weren't sure he understood how we knew one another. It didn't matter really.

This was probably the best day we had of the entire trip.

Tomorrow, we go to Paris!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Cyberspace to Paris - Part 12

April 7th, 1998

We had breakfast this morning at the hotel restaurant. We got a really charming table with a great view of the harbor. Shortly after being seated, a stately, elderly couple entered the dining room. Andy and I were the only ones there at the time. "Madame, Monsieur" they each said as they entered the room; I'm not sure they looked at us while acknowledging us. It's customary for the French to acknowledge the room upon entering and to bid farewell to everyone when exiting. It's just that the way they did it seemed very cool. Oh, and she had her small dog with her which she proceeded to feed at their table. Anyone surprised?

These next two days were really a lot of fun. We decided to travel West towards Paris about 150 miles and stay in Saumur.

So, along the Loire we went stopping once at Challone to take advantage of the market. There we bought fresh bread, cheese, meat and fruit. Then we found a picnic spot along the water and ate sandwiches and drank Orangina. I love Orangina but to me it tastes better in France than it does here.

When we arrived in Saumur, we found the tourist office where they had brochures listing bed and breakfasts in the area. Andy and I settled for the cheapest one, which was realy a chambre d'hote - basically a room someone "rents" from their house. Promptly we phoned for availability and directions.

This little chambre d'hote was absolutely charming, and so were the couple who owned it: Mr and Mrs. Nouri.

Our room was cozy. The first thing that one notices apon entering are the little mirrors scattered throughout. They had the little "Happiness is...." characters on them that were so popular in the 70's.

Then, there was the issue with the lights. The light switches didn't make sense. One outside switch would turn on the lights across the room and inside the bathroom. A separate switch turned on lights near the entrance of the room and other parts of the room. It was really sort of comical trying to determine what lights were connected with the multiple switches.

And finally the bathroom that was adjoin to the room; it was separated only by a curtain, no door. Andy and I felt we knew each other well enough to be able to work through this one. We were correct and we even enjoyed teasing each other about it.

After we put our bags away we went downstairs and sort of wandered through the their house. We discovered an endless music collection and an array of different gadgets and other things. We stepped into the kitchen and waited for Mr. Nouri to come talk to us.

He was really quite a character; an older man with a very big white mustache. He wore wooden shoes, like the ones you see from Holland. He had two pairs: one pair for inside and one for outside. His inside shoes were painted orange and had been painted 7 times. Neither Andy nor myself were sure if he meant 7 different times or 7 coats of paint. His outside shoes were painted black. He didn't mention how many times they had been painted.

He also owned the old property across the road where he was pounding out walls and discovering secret rooms.

That first day in Saumur, Mr. Nouri sent Andy and me into the local town to see the work of a local artist who specialized in illumination. He was really quite talented and knew everything there was to know about the subject. He was very cute, too.

Andy and I then headed back to the house, we showered and went out for crepes from one of the local eateries. Always a tasty treat.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cyberspace to Paris - Part 11

April 6, 1998

We were awakened by a knock at the door. The hotel brought us breakfast; we were not expecting that. So, we had breakfast in bed which was really really nice.

When I checked us out of the hotel, I noticed that they forgot to add the wine to our tab so I brought it up and paid it. Andy got mad at me for this. I just didn't feel right not paying for it. If we had driven off and I noticed, then I would have blown it off.

Off we went to Le Croisic, only 77 miles from Quiberon, another harbor town. I don't really recall the reason behind the places we decided to visit. It may just have been that when Andy and I laid out our itenerary, we took turns deciding where we would stay. Mont St. Michel was definitely my pick.

When we arrived we discovered our hotel was just off the water. The weather was slightly warmer but not by much and it was still very wet. We wandered up and down the coast for a while and window shopped. Later we found a bar where I had a demi-fraise. That, my friends, is a beer with a strawberry flavor added to it. A pinache is another similar drink but it is a beer mixed with their version of lemonade. Both are rather tasty. Andy drank his beer straight, like the respectable man that he was.

We noticed the people here did not seem happy. They didn't talk to one another and barely seemed to even acknowledge each other. Everyone seemed to have a dog as their companion. When we were ready to have dinner, we set out to find a restaurant with a decent selection of seafood; dictionary in hand. My vocabulary as it relates to seafood was limited. It seemed that all the restaurants had a sign indicating that they were pet friendly. "Your dog welcome here" is basically how it translated. It seemed so odd to me to come from such a happy place as Quiberon which was only 77 miles away to here where no one smiled.

The retaurant we ate at was called L'Atlantique. At first we were the only couple in the restaurant then after about 20 minutes another couple arrived. After they had been there only about 10 or 15 minutes they started to argue. She slapped him and then left him at the restaurant. Then she returned only about 15 minutes later with her dog! How sad. It seemed that these people could find companionship only from the canine variety.

When we went back to the hotel we hung out at the bar and stayed up late talking. I wish I remembered the things we talked about because we did a lot of it. Some of it personal, some just observations about life and our adventure.

The next two days would be the days that Andy and I decided we would just "wing it", so we didn't have a specific destination yet in mind. We did, however, know that we needed to be heading in the direction of Paris.

Cyberspace to Paris - Part 10

April 5, 1998

I didn't sleep well that night but we got up as planned, had breakfast (croissant and coffee) and headed South.

Our first stop was St. Malo where I bought stamps and post cards to send to friends back home reassuring them that indeed I was still alive and not hacked up in a million pieces. We found a little cafe where I wrote my cards while drinking down hot chocolate. Then we decided to walk around a little.

St. Malo is a very interesting little town. First of all it is surrounded by a concrete wall and throughout the town there is a lot of concrete; we didn't notice much green at all. The weather was very very cold and the concrete seemed to emphasize that. The laughter of the children and the friendly people around us seemed to take the edge off the cold.

I observed a very strong tie to WWII in this town. I think that when the Germans were retreating from U.S. they set the place on fire and just about destroyed it. I remember while in the cafe seeing a large photograph on the wall that was of a boat carrying U.S. soldiers back to a New York Harbor. It looked like it had been taken in the '40's. There seemed to be a strong appreciation here for the U.S. but I never really had a chance to ask anyone; it was just something I sensed. I regret that we didn't spend more time here.

We continued heading South to our destination: Quiberon. This is where I learned a couple of interesting things about Andy. The first thing was his claustrophobia. I may have already known this about him but this was the first time I was able to really observe it. Our hotel room was on an upper floor and our bags were too heavy to carry up the stairs. Andy's solution was to put the bags on the elevator, press the button of the appropriate floor, then run up the stairs to meet the bags. That was hard core.

This particular hotel was located in a suburban area. When we stood at our window, we could watch children playing soccer in the field below.

We arrived here early afternoon and the weather was slightly warmer here than it was at Mont St. Michel so we decided to walk into town and wander along the coast. Both of us were in the mood for pizza so we set out to find a decent place to eat pizza and decided we would have dinner there later in the evening. This is the second thing I learned about Andy. Andy had to see all the options before deciding where we could settle down to eat. I was ok with this because I noticed that he did eventually decide but it became a routine throughout our trip.

Once we knew where we would have dinner, we headed to the sea wall to take a stroll. We weren't aware that the sea was as angry as it was because not long after getting there, we were drenched by a wave. Soaking wet, we found a bar to hang out and dry. This was really nice because the bar itself slowly started to fill up with people, even young people and children. Andy and I felt like we had stumbled across the most happening place in the village and everyone seemed so happy here.

We left and overstuffed ourself on pizza. (Interestingly, they put a raw egg in the middle of the pizza). When we walked back to our hotel we were both still a little damp and we were cold. So we raced each other back to the hotel, the winner would get to use the tub first. I lost so while he bathed I went down to the lobby and got a bottle of wine and glasses.

We grabbed the blanket off the bed and tried to cover ourselves with it while sitting on our terrace with the wine but it was just too cold, so we decided to spend the rest of the evening inside drinking wine and talking. Andy and I had our first kiss.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cyberspace to Paris - Part 9

April 4, 1998

We woke up at 11:00 a.m. We had agreed previously that on this first day we would sleep in since I had been travelling non-stop since the morning of April 2.

Immediately we headed to the little island of Mont St. Michel. It was raining a bit and very cold and windy. I asked the parking attendant what time the tide would be coming in. There would be no high tide. Unbelievable! Apparently there is this special relationship between the earth and the moon that determines what our water will do. I forgot to consult with the moon when I made this trip. We really wanted to see that tide come in. We sat in the car and waited for the rain to stop before we walked across the bridge to the island.

Once passed the entrance, we found a little cafe where we quickly ducked in to get waffles and hot chocolate. Something happened at the table, I don't know what it was. Our souls found each other. And then, we started talking and laughing; suddenly we felt at ease with one another and we felt like we had known each other a while.

We headed up the steep climb to the church. We decided to go to the main area where the alter is. Apparently, it is believed that God's presence is just behind the alter. We observed two people who were lying on the cold brick floor, face down, arms spread apart and legs together. They were praying. That image for some reason stays with me.

I had been here 10 years ago and there was a statue of Michael slaying Satan. So Andy and I decided to go find him. On our way, we came across another couple who were looking for the same statue. She was French and he was German. It was really cute because Andy seemed to need to share with this German guy the story of us. Unfortunately, the German did not understand as much English as necessary to get the gist of our adventure. But it was cute watching Andy try.

We must have spent close to an hour looking for this statue. Every time inquired to anyone about it, they kept pointing up. They seemed to think I was referring to the statue that is on the very top of the church. Finally, I found someone who knew what I was referring to. It turns out he was in Paris. I think he was being cleaned up or something. No tide and no Michael. Still, Mont St. Michel is so absolutely gorgeous it's worth it to see it.

As we stood outside the church it rained and then became sunny intermittently. When it rained it was cold and windy and when the sun was shining it would be calm and quiet. I loved this visit to Mont St. Michel.

Andy and I headed back to our bungalow and decided to write in our journals. I decided to write about the events and things we were doing because those things I would forget and the memory of them would trigger the memory of what I was feeling. I don't think Andy understood this, he seemed to be more disappointed that I wasn't writing about my feelings. I think he may have been focusing on his impressions of me and perhaps even of the feelings that he was experiencing; I'll never know as we sort of just decided not to share our separate journals with one another.

Later that evening, we headed to a little offbeat town called Ponterson and we had crepes for dinner. We found a very small place and had a wonderful meal. It seemed to us that we stepped into a place that wasn't frequented by many tourists. It was obviously a family owned and operated eatery; and also very old fashioned. There was a very little area reserved as a bar. Only men were at the bar and a woman was back in the kitchen.

At first everyone was sort of cool towards us. After a while they warmed up to us; I think the fact that I spoke French and Andy tried to speak it helped us earn their acceptance. As we left, the entire restaurant bid us farewell.

Later in the evening, we walked out of our bungalow to see Mont St. Michel all lit up. We talked a lot and went back to our bungalow to sleep. We continued to talk and talk and laughed ourselves to sleep. Andy seemed to be reluctant to call it night, he seemed to really enjoy the conversation but I was just wiped out.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Cyberspace to Paris - Part 8

My flight landed at approximately 7:00 a.m. After going through customs, I had to make my way into a waiting area just before exiting the airport. There were rows of people standing in front of me as I walked along the exit path. Some people were holding signs inscribed with the names of people they were there to pick up. I knew Andy wouldn't be holding a sign; I think we decided against it, so I didn't pay much attention to them.

Andy approached me as I reached the end of the line.

I hugged him and told him I was glad to finally see him. I couldn't say "meet" because I felt as though I already met him. Then I asked him if he was nervous. He squished his nose and said "a little".

As for me, this guy standing in front of me was a complete stranger. The thing about meeting someone on line is that no matter how well you know each other from writing and talking on the phone, once you are in each other's presence, you take several steps back. Our souls had to find each other again. I knew I had to reacquaint myself to him and I knew it would take some time before I recognized the guy with whom I had grown so infatuated over the computer.

Together, we found his car and headed to Dover to catch the ferry to France. Before getting there, we stopped for a coffee and croissant in a little coffee shop. In hindsight, I think that Andy needed to reassure himself before proceding. I suspect his friends probably advised him to do make an assessment before we moved forward.

He was very nervous. I took a picture of him at this shop and the expression on his face, his smile, was forced. It was the only time during our entire trip that I saw this expression. He relaxed soon enough.

We agreed that we would split the expenses, so I started to log everything. The starting mileage on Andy's car was 149,100. It was 50 degrees outside.

One of the first things that I discovered about Andy's car was that the window on my side would not roll down. He had broken the handle the day before and didn't have time to fix it. No big deal.

We had several hours of driving time ahead of us and we decided to take the most scenic route to our first destination: Mont St. Michel.

In France, unlike America, one can drive 90 mph. I was sort of ok with this but the scary part was the fact that once we came into France, we had to change the side of the road we drove on. Since I wasn't driving that shouldn't be a problem, right? Wrong. When Andy had to pass a vehicle, he would have to scoot my side of the car out a little to see if he could pass thus putting us (me first) in the path of possible oncoming traffic. That combined with the fast speed was pretty unnerving.

We crossed the bridge of Le Havre. We drove through the sweetest harbor towns: Deauville and Trouville.

And finally at 9:00 p.m. we arrived to Mont St. Michel. It was so beautiful all alone in the distance lit up in soft peach lights.

There are many things about this place that make it famous but my focus was on seeing the tide come in. I had been here before and missed the tides. We agreed to stay two nights here in order to catch the tides.

We dropped our bags and found a local restaurant. After we ate, we went back to the hotel, showered and crashed.

We actually had a bungalow here and thankfully, separate beds. We were on a really tight budget so we agreed that when necessary we would have to share a bed.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Cyberspace to Paris - Part 7

This story starts HERE

My concern was never about whether I was going to be safe. I had travelled to France twice before and of course I spoke the language, so I knew I would be ok. My biggest concern was that Andy would get cold feet and stand me up at the airport.

My sister gave me the number of some friends she knew in London just in case he backed out; and she made me promise her that if that happened I would go on to France as planned and have a wonderful time. So, I promised her I would.

My journal entries of the first day of my trip are as follows:

April 2, 1998 Hobby Airport - Houston

I was up at 4:00 a.m. Had strange dreams last night. I dreamt he wore glasses; square lenses with metal rims and that he was somewhat flighty. Not nearly as handsome as his photos but I was really enjoying myself nonetheless. Then the scene changed. I was following him in a car to the airport and lost him. I couldn't find him anywhere. Then suddenly, I woke up, looked at my clock and couldnt' return to sleep.

I am nervous; so much flying ahead of me, so I'm occupied with the flying. I hope I sleep on the plane to Gatwick. On verra.

9:45 Atlanta Georgia

The flight over was uneventful. The little cookies they passed out were tasty and the airline was very generous with them.

I'm still nervous. i'm mixed with feelings regarding my trip and my impending unemployment when I return.....very scary.

But what I would like to do within the next four hours is leave it all here in Atlanta. I'm not going to bring anything on this trip that I don't need.

Present mental state: Uncertainty due to my trip and my future. Good mood, vulnerable. Feeling apprehension, not focused.

I decided to wander around the airport a bit and see if I could locate some breakfast. After walking past so many gates, I stumbled across a Wendy's. Well if Wendy's has a spot here, then so must Burger King. After an inquiry, I discovered I was right and ventured to another concourse.

I met two really nice older ladies heading out to Florida for an antique show. They were carrying large jars of maple syrup with them.

April 2nd evening - Waiting to fly from Boston to Gatwick.

I remember the first time I road the Texas Cyclone at Astroworld. The intial, almost 90 degree drop was it's claim to fame. It is a simple old-fashioned wooden roller-coaster much like the one at Coney Island in New York.

I was so excited just thinking about riding it and wasn't the least big discouraged by the long 2-hour wait to get on the ride. This ride represented an act of bravery and maturity. It was speed, thrill and an intense adventure to the wide-eyed 12 year old that I was at the time.

When I sat in the car and the attendant strapped me in, a little tinge of apprehension set in but not to worry. I was fine. Then the train slowly pulled away from the loading platform and made the turn to approach its initial incline. It would be from this first hill that the ride would gain enough inertia to carry it through its entire tour.

The car jolted as the chain gripped us to pull us to the top. It was a crude clunky rhythmic sound and we jerked about as the string of cars began the ascent. The closer we got to the top of this incline, the more I began to wonder if this was such a great idea.

Suddenly, I felt so vulnerable in the high open air. I could see the top of the Astrodome for Christ's sake. There was such a wide gap between the safety bar and me; would the seat belt really hold me tightly enough? I want off this thing! But it's too late. I couldn't turn back, we were almost at the top and finally, I reached the pinnacle of my fear and panic.

That's almost how I feel right now. I'm about to board my final flight and it feels as though I am approaching the initial incline of this "roller coaster". But oh! it is such an adult roller coaster.

I am still so very excited by this ride.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Cyberspace to Paris - Part 6

Andy’s family owned a house in the Dordogne in France. Usually the house was empty save for the summer when tourists flood the area searching for a place to dwell while they enjoy the local vineyards. Unfortunately, his father had already leased it out so it wasn’t an option for us as a vacation spot. We decided it would be more fun if we just took a road trip through France, instead.

Both of us bought a map of France and tacked it up on our walls as we chartered out our path. Once we decided on a vacation spot, since I could read, write and speak French, it was decided that I would search for hotels over the internet and contact them via fax to inquire regarding price and availability. I would have to send out the faxes late in the evenings and would usually receive responses in the afternoon.

We decided I would fly into Gatwick early in the morning and he would pick me up in his car. Then, we would take the ferry across the channel and enter France through Calais.

We agreed that we would have each day set up with a hotel and that we would reserve two days without any plans. On those two days, we planned to just “wing it” and see where we landed, so to speak.

We decided that I would fly over on April 2nd and then fly back on the 14th. My itinerary started at Hobby Airport on Air Tran to Logan’s airport in Boston. I had to catch a connecting flight in Georgia. Then in Boston, I was to catch a flight on Virgin Atlantic to Gatwick.

My sister, Diane, was very excited about our trip. She put together a little care package for me that included a special cassette tape she put together of music by Luka Bloom and Christie Moore. She titled it Tea and the Emerald Isle. I made a music mix of my own as well. In addition, she bought me a couple of silk sweaters to wear and a journal to record my daily activities.

Andy was very nervous about telling his father. They went out for dinner and Andy told him that he was going to take this road trip with me. His father asked him how we met. Andy’s response was that we hadn’t actually met, yet. It was an awkward moment.

After Andy recounted the story of us, his father’s response was really sweet. He basically said that when he was Andy’s age, he would have done the same thing. Then he gave Andy his version of the appropriate care package. It included a roadmap of France, a bottle opener, two cups, two plates and flat ware. How sweet was that?

This was my second time to meet someone in real life that I had met over the internet. So my friends had already given me the “he could be an ax-murderer” lecture the first time. This time, they just wished me well and hoped I had a good time. Andy, however, was getting the “she could be an ax murderer” lecture from his friends. I said “yeah, I’m flying all the way to England just to murder you”.

Finally, we had everything ready and done. It was time to begin the trip

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Cyberspace to Paris - Part 5

During the week that followed, Andy and I spent every spare moment we had getting to know one another. We struggled getting an internet phone program to work so that we could actually talk to one another and failed miserably.

Determined to be able to engage in real dialog, we opted for the telephone. I made the first call since it was cheaper to call overseas from the U.S. than vice versa.

When I first heard his voice, I was slightly surprised as I thought it would have been deeper. I was neither disappointed nor delighted about it. It was just one of those things I observed and noted to myself as an unexpected.

Prior to this phone call, Andy and I had commented many times on our ability to engage in very fun and interesting conversation. It seemed to just flow between us. I had often wondered if we were able to do this because we felt safe in the anonymous world of the interenet.

What I discovered while Andy and I were connected in live conversation was that we fell right into that same type dialog without ever skipping a beat. We talked about everything we could think of and then some. We just seemed to click.

I learned that he lived alone with his two boys, Boris and Yannick....two 6-month old kittens that he had gallantly rescued from the SPCA and named after the famous tennis players they reminded him of. This meant that I was conversing with a fellow cat lover.

I also learned that he had been married eight years and was recently divorced. The positive side of this, aside from his availability, was that his previous wife was American. It underscored Andy's openness to the qualities an American can bring into his life.

He had already sent me a photo of himself playing tennis on a court in the Dordogne. His dark sweaty hair was kept in check by a sweatband and he had a look of concentration on his face as he waited for his opponent to play the ball. I pulled up the photograph while we spoke and began to study it very closely.

From it, I saw a regular guy; meaning someone who really looked and acted normal. And the conversation I was engaging in with him enforced this perception I had developed from observing the photo. I felt like a school girl talking to him and I loved it.

After an hour of gabbing and laughing and flirting with one another, we reluctantly ended our conversation and reconvened the computer.

It was obvious at this point that this wasn't enough, we weren't satisfied. Phone calls are nice, engaging in conversation over the computer is nice but we wanted to know if we could carry on this way in person.

I don't recall how it came about but I do remember making the statement that I perceived a vacation to Europe on the horizon. He picked up on that immediately and said April would be a good month (only a month or two away). Things at work were pretty unsettling for me and I had no idea where I would be from one day to the next, though I knew my days there were numbered. So, a trip to Europe wasn't that far fetched an idea. I began to entertain the idea and Andy, true to form, fueled it.

Originally I had just planned on coming to England to visit him. As we discussed the possibility of my even coming over, it turned into a vacation both of us would take to France.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cyberspace to Paris - Part 4

If you have stumbled into this story for the first time, start HERE.

Ah, I loved it. A man that enjoys the process as much as reaching the final destination. So I stretched my imagination and allowed the vision to begin.

“We are sitting next to each other on a train bound for a small provincial town near Nice” I begin. “We have a car to ourselves but it isn’t a private car. We have a bottle of wine and two paper cups to drink from. Since it’s not really night time but more like dusk and it’s a summer evening, we are drinking a chilled Pinot Grigio.”

“Who brought the wine? Are we together or did we meet by chance on the train?” He queried.

“We met on the boat over the channel and by chance chose the same car. You bought the wine on the ferry in an attempt to rid yourself of your coins and I happened to have a few paper cups with me."

Andy picked up on my vision and began to contribute his perspective.

“The conversation is starting to flow and we are smiling and being attentive towards each other.”

"I am beginning to notice little things about you, like the way the light plays on your hair and your eyes. And the funny little thing you do with your nose and the way your muscles show through your shirt.”

“And the way your eyes sparkle when I say something that makes you smile” he continued. “And the thin laughter lines that appear on your face when you do so”

“Yes, those laughter lines are very thin, and almost invisible, right?”

“That’s right, but alluring just the same”

“Of course. You’re stretched out and your legs are crossed at the ankles and your hands are crossed behind your head. You’re very relaxed and at ease with yourself and your surroundings.”

“But every so often I lean towards you when you are speaking. I begin to notice how you have turned yourself ever so slightly towards me and how you pen your lips as you sip the wine. You see me watching you.”

“I am nervous and giddy. We have been talking about silly, fun stuff while drinking wine from paper cups. I’m observing your hands, like the little hairs on your fingers..” Playfully, I interject, “I see that you are not an ape.”

“I notice that you are contemplating the strands of hair that have loosely fallen across my forehead and I push my hands through it. We both laugh at this and I think to myself that I wish that she had done that.”

“I feel robbed and I think to myself, ‘is his hair soft or thick?’”

“or both”

“Suddenly, the train makes a jerky move and we are thrown from our positions. I fall towards you. One of your hands reaches to your side as you balance yourself against the window of the train.”

“And the other reaches out to stop you from falling. As you are pushed towards me and we come closer together I catch the scent of your perfume. Then, as your head comes against my face, I can smell the sweetness of your hair.”

“I can feel your chin on my head and my nose is in your chest. There is a faint smell of cologne that was applied early that morning; it’s mixed with your own natural fragrance and gives off a very masculine and musky smell”

“As the train steadies itself, I bring my other arm up to your head and turn your face towards me as I hold you firmly. I find no resistance.”

“Realizing the position, I’m in, I try to move. Abut your arms are tight about me and won’t let me pull away. I don’t fight it as I like where I am and I continue to allow the rhythm of the train and the smell of the cologne to pull me into its spell”

I look deeply into your eyes to try to get some sense of the situation without revealing my own feelings. I observe the slight quiver of your lips”

“I focus on the shape of your mouth, the curve of your lower lip and the firmness of your chin. You have a confident look about you and I wonder what it would be like to kiss you. I guess you were as curious as I but not quite as bold as you responded to my gaze and brushed your lips over mine, gently and softly.”

And so it was; our first cyber kiss. One can rest assured that neither Andy nor I were satisfied to end things there and that we stayed true to form as we pushed the fantasy to a wonderful and heated climactic ending. We continued to build the experience one paragraph upon another and within the continuing text revealed our sweet, playful and romantic personalities.

“Go to sleep, Andy” I finished, “thank you for a wonderful train ride through France. May the night-time fairies bless you with a sweet sleep”.

“Thank you for sharing it with me, GFT. Sleep well, too. And when you do, have sweet dreams.”

We both disconnected our computers from the internet. I slept soundly and sweetly that night thinking about this new person I allowed to touch my life. And more than anything, I enjoyed the unselfish trusting way tat both of us opened up to each other and allowed ourselves to contribute to a wonderful adventure.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cyberspace to Paris - Part 3

I was delighted to see him that night and came to learn that the period of silence between us was merely computer problems that Andy was having that prevented him from being able to connect. So, eager to help my sister make new friends, I introduced Andy to Diane.

The nice thing about introducing him to my sister is that through the dialog that transpired between the three of us, I was able to see another side of Andy. It was like taking a step back and observing a little; and on the same token granted him the same opportunity about me. What I observed most was a consistency in his playful, quick-witted character.

Diane was very excited about her new outlet through chat on the internet and was persistent about playfully conversing with Andy and myself. She was giddy and talkative which fostered an animated environment for Andy and I to volley our flirtatious phrases. Her frequent interruptions to our private conversations helped to fuel our desire to be alone with one another even more.

Soon after we recommenced our online communication, GFT introduced me to her sister who was just getting into the whole net expereince; and we partook in some three-way online chats together. I enjoyed these very much and always found them entertaining; however, a part of me was beginning to feel I wanted GFT to myself. An element of frustratration developed when we started chatting alone and then were joined by her sister. Our conversations were beginning to ride the roller-coaster of sexual flirtation; and I felt we were both keen to explore this side of our net relationship in more detail in spite of an element of nervousness on both our parts.

Finally, Diane's exuberance began to fade and she exchanged her computer for sleep leaving Andy and me alone to continue without her.

I was keenly aware at this point how attracted I was to him and how open I felt I could be. If we were in a room together physically, I would have wanted him to kiss me. So, I envisioned it in my mind and tried to connect with how I would feel if indeed we were alone in a room together. Giddy, light-headed, and nervous would be an accurate description.

So, playfully, I said to him that I anticipated an adventure. Seeking clarification or perhaps it was an effort to force me to reveal my thougths he asked me what type of adventure I was anticipating.

"It starts with a kiss", I said. "I think our lips just brush. Yes, that is how it begins."

"A kiss is a strange place to start" he stated, then asked, "how did we get there?"

Monday, October 16, 2006

Cyberspace to Paris - Part 2

5rb "I don't recall all of my first impressions of Andy from our initial conversation but there are a few words that come to mind. First, I found tim to be extremely self-confident. It was through his wit and his quick unpretentious responses to my questions and merrymaking that made his self-confidence seem so apparent to me. And secondly, I determined him to be down-to-earth and very laid back; a quality I can admire as it meant that he didn't take life so seriously.

In addition to being attracted to his laid back personality, I was also intimidated by it. It highlighted my own intense and serious demanor; something I am aware can be a turn-off for a lot of people as it can be tedious at times. I was able to to keep the conversation light at the beginning but after two consecutive days of conversing with Andy, my intensity surfaced. An outside factor obligated Andy to abruptly end our conversation and I immediately interpreted his departure as a desire on his part to just end our conversation. After a day or two of not hearing from him, I thought perhaps he had decided to avoid me altogether.

My sister was in the process of arranging her internet connection about the same time period that I met Andy. She and I had been sending each other e-mails to and from work as I tried to help her get connected to ICQ an dintroduce her to other chat programs where the two of us could play. After about a week of tweaking and detailed intstruction, Diane was finally becoming a novice to the world of chat and web-surfing.

Andy once again surfaced just as Diane and I began developing our own routine."

Andy: "Over the following week or so that GFT and I intermittently communicated, she started to talk about a man she was pursuing. I was not sure how to take this new line in conversation. On the one hand it suggested to me that she was quite happy to talk about personal things in her life with me; and I took this very much as a compliment. However, there was also a suggestion that this line of conversation was possibly trying to tell me that her heart was set on someone; and therefore, she was not looking for love over the net.

Although I was in some sense looking for romance on the net, I did not see this as a problem in our continuing communication because the logical side of my mind was telling me it was an unlikely event since she lived 6000 miles away. Really, what were the chances?

At this point, my computer decided to break down, much to my chagrin, as I was really getting into ICQ as a communication forum. I had begun to build up quite a list of female contacts and had set about exploring the flirtatious side of ICQ.

When I finally got back online a week or so later, GFT was not necessarily the first person I would have particularly expected to pay much attention to my absence. I had the impression she was consumed by her own world at that time and busy with pursuing her male quarry. Therefore, when I checked my e-mail and found various messages from GFT asking if I was ignoring her, I was somewhat surprised but pleasantly so. No one can deny, whoever they are, it is always nice to be missed.

So, our relationship was rekindled, and with renewed vigor on my part.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

From Cyberspace to Paris, GFT 's and Andy's Transatlantic Rendzvous

I was reading a post on Queue's blog where he wrote about a possible real world meeting with someone he met online. I commented on a few meetings that I had; as a result I have decided to share my second online rendezvous with anyone who stumbles across my blog.

Before I begin, I would like to give you a little background information. The year was 1998, it was probably the worst year of my life; I was 38. I was going through some difficult times at work because I was trying to break out of my career as a secretary. God forbid a woman work her way up from being a secretary but a man can become president of a company starting off as a clerk in the mailroom. But that's a whole other story. My handle was "5rb"

Andy was studying Computer Science in Bath England. He was 30 something and recently divorced. He loved to play baseball and drink beer at the local pubs. His handle was "Andy"

The story itelf is actually very easy to share because Andy and I created a "journal" to record the event. One of us would write a section then e-mail it to the other to finish. Then, when we actually arrived we kept our own separate journals. In the end, we sort of decided not to share our separate journal entries.

Here begins the tale. I actually started the story.

"So secretive, can I unlock the door" was the message that came through my ICQ chat program. It was from Andy. I remember that at that particular time, I was researching information on the Indian culture. There was a guy that had been pursuing me from India and I was trying to learn as much as possible about his culture before allowing myslef to get tangled with him.

Normally, I don't respond to random chatters and usually ignore requests for chat since they all seem the same. I perceive these strangers as lonely people seeking admittance into my world hoping that somehow I can fill the empty gap in their lives. But am I really that much different? Afterall, I left myself available to receive these random messages. I assume that it was the lack of info on my bio that made me "mysterious".

From an initial message, one can easily detect a lack of creativity on the part of the initiator. "m/f age?" is usually a typical beginning. From there you can easily predict the next series of quesions and dialog. "What color is your hair, your eyes? What are you wearing? Do you like cybersex, I'm horny, etc." So, by this time I lose interest in the dialog and regret ever having allowed the intruder into my world.

But Andy's opening message was different. It implied mystery and begged for an adventure. It was an invitation or perhaps a request for permission to explore.

I saw a man here who perceived me as a mystery -- femme fatale. I sensed an intelligent, perceptive man seeking an intriguing, mysterious equally intelligent female with whom to engage oneself in fun, playful dialog.

All that from a message, you might ask? Ok, so I embellish a little - but truth be known, I wasn't that far off the mark.

And so having no idea where this path might lead me, I responded to Andy's one line with a chat request and allowed our adventure to unfold.

Andy's portion

The beauty of ICQ as a method for meeting women is the fact that any rejection one may suffer is relatively painless in comparison to the extrovert world of face-to-face meeting. One can afford to be more daring in one's choice of words and language when trying to initiate a conversation. This in turn has the effect that one finds oneself saying the "right" thing.

I did not give much thought to writing my first note to 5rb "so secretive can I unlock the door". Reading her brief biography gave little away but I took the word mysterious as an invitation.

Her immediate chat request came across to me as an invitation to try a few keys. However her first remarks gave me the impression that although it was OK to try various keys, they needed to at least have a similar pattern.

As well, I sensed a woman who was comfortable talking about herself in a fairly open and perceptive manner; a woman who thought carefully about the questions she asked, which was a refreshing change. She had an intensity about her that while being quite tiring also provided a greater depth of interest.


Tune in later for more.......

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A match made in heaven

A couple of Saturdays ago I was searching and searching for an Icee. It's so hard to know where to find them, these days. When I was a child, 7-Eleven was the place to go. I think I went to three different convenient stores before I hit pay dirt. I love Icees.

I love Whoppers, too. Thankfully, I can still get away with eating them but I'm sure the day is just around the corner when I'll have to really cut back on them. Anyway, I went to Burger King this afternoon for a Whopper and guess what they have just added to their menu?

Yep, you got it, Icees! I can get an Icee and a Whopper in one place.

Ah, yes, Life is Good.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Culture Week

Well, I had a really nice dose of "culture" this week.

First it started on Wednesday with a lecture by E. O. Wilson.

I have a close friend named Bill and anyone who ever gets into a conversation with him will discover, usually within the first 20 minutes of dialog, that Bill is a Harvard Grad. He did his undergrad work there, then went on to Florida get his PhD in BioChemistry, then on to A&M to pursue his medical degree. Wilson was one of his professors way back when and since has become Bill's number one hero.

Wilson is embarking on an interesting endeavor. To begin, his number one passion and concern is the welfare and condition of the earth's environment. He feels there is an urgent need to stop what we've done this far and begin preserving what's left. His solution is unique and somewhat controversial. He is applealing to the evangelical leaders of the world to help him spread the word. His means is through his latest book titled "The Creation". The book opens up as an open letter to an anonymous pastor and moves on from there.

Then on Thursday, I went to see the Opera Rigoletto at Opera in the Heights at Lambert Hall with my friend, John. Apparently, Opera singers who are not yet ready for the large opera houses, such as Wortham or the Met, need opportunities to perform and better their voices for the big events. It's equivalent to the minor leagues. So, to meet this need, opera houses, like Opera in the Heights, provide these opportunities. It is my understanding that these opera houses exist all over Europe. The performance was OUTSTANDING! It was my first time to see Rigoletto. Thankfully I knew the story because the projector was broken and we were unable to read the translation.

Finally, on Friday, I went to see the ballet Dracula. The music was composed by Franz Liszt. I'm not a ballet fan but I really enjoyed this ballet very much. The costumes were fabulous, especially the cape worn by dracula himself. When he turned his back to the audience and raised his arms, his cape took on the form of moth wings and gave off a powerful sense of control and "thirst" for power. And the stage affects were fabulous. Even if you are not ballet fans, this one is well worth the time to see.