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December 9th, 2002

Paris to London...

I got up at 9, in time to have the complimentary hotel breakfast, which is served until 10. From there, I made my way to the post office -- "La Poste" -- passing right by it as the lady in the lobby of the hotel told me it was about a 20 minute walk. It was five minutes. After walking about 10 minutes, and not seeing it, I stopped and asked some people, "Ou se-trouve la poste?" They pointed me back the same way I'd come.

I walked on the opposite side of the street thinking perhaps it was on that side, even though I thought the lady in the lobby told me it was on the other side. So I walked on that side, looking on both. I was almost back to the hotel, and again, didn't see it. I stopped in a Kodak shop, and asked the three clerks in there, "Parlez-vous Anglais?"

"Yes," one replied, and pointed me to the post office across the street. I said okay, but still couldn't see it. He said, "It's behind where that truck is parked." I got across there, and I hope they weren't watching me in the window. I went into two buildings (a church and an office building) before I got the right one.

Once in, though, I did great. There was a little bit of a line, and I was practicing my brilliant French, so I could point to my post cards and say, "All to the United States" in my best French. The lady smiled when I said it, and immediately rattle something off in French that by the end I had processed the word "combien" and quickly thought, "Oh she's asking me how many post cards I have." I hadn't counted them so I replied, "Je ne sais pas." Yippee.

She gave me enough stamps for all of them, and as I left I asked her where the box was to deposit them. All in all, I did pretty good in there! I put the stamps (about $9 worth) on the fourteen cards, and slipped them in the box on the way out.

Back at the hotel, I showered and met everyone in the lobby at around 11:00. Me, Martin, Geert, and Dason left together for the metro. As we jumped on, Jacob popped on with us. We switched trains at the Chatalet station, and took the (light pink, as if there's not enough colors to go around that we need a light pink and a dark pink line), #4 train to "Le Grand Lignes" (the Eurostar). At the Gare du Nord, we exited, and went up to the Eurostar terminal, where we waited for the others to arrive.

After Iain arrived, and we while we were waiting for our departure back to London, Iain mentioned that his 15-month hold niece or nephew had recently been diagnosed with leukemia. Dason then told a story about a family he either knew or had read about with a little girl who had leukemia, had lost her hair due to the treatment, and was very upset about it. So, her family all got together, including her grandmother, and shaved their heads. They all came bald to visit her at the hospital. Iain cried, and several of us teared up. I love the free expression of gay men.

Also while waiting to leave, Martin mentioned playing Chicago again on the train. I said, "Count me in." Then, I went into my camera bag for a candy, and I saw my deck of cards in there. I pulled the deck out, and held it up to the guys, and said, "I even have a deck." And, lo and behold, what was on the front of the deck as the design? CHICAGO! How bizarre! I think Donna got me that deck at the Chicago airport years ago as she was passing through. Weird.

We did play Chicago on the train, two games going: Me, Martin, George and Daphe playing one, and Dason, Ghert, Markus, and Iain playing the other. With no champagne, and three days more on all of us, we were a quieter bunch on the return trip.

Back in London, the group broke up, with some heading directly home, and a subset of us heading to "The Stag," which is Michael's local hangout. Me, Michael, and Phil took a cab back to Michael and Nick's to drop off our bags. Iain, Markus, George and Steve went directly to the pub.

We joined them there -- a very cool little gay pub -- and it was nice to have a picture of where Michael spends his time with friends. Michael played many songs on the juke box -- all Eurovision songs -- and several of the guys sang along to several of the songs.

Michael and I were sort of guests-of-honor (I, as a goodbye from those who had gone on the weekend jaunt, and he, as the birthday boy), and people bought us drinks. I stopped after three drinks; Michael didn't.

After a little while, I noticed this smooth and light skinned black guy looking at me from a bar stool. When I looked back the third time, he mouthed, "What is your name?" I walked over to him and we talked for a while. His name was James, he was 19, and had dreams of falling for a man, and together, raising two sons. He was adamant about them being boys. He did not want girls.

After about 30 minutes, Phil came over to me, and said, "John, Michael is really pissed. I think you'd better take him home." I looked over, and he was really bad off. He was swaying a little from side to side.

I said goodbyes and good luck to James, went over and said goodbye to the group, and then grabbed Michael's arm as he got up. I pretty much had to steady him all the way home.

As I had hoped to get some fish and chips later, and we hadn't eaten, I told Michael as we passed by a Burger King on the walk back to his flat, "Michael, do you think I could just pop in there and get a sandwich and fries to go?" He said sure, and we went in. I had to borrow 5 pounds from him.

I left him holding on to a guard rail, and went up to the counter to order. After paying, I turned around to make sure he was still there, and my heart sunk, as he wasn't. Then, I saw that he had moved over to a table and sat down. Thank God.

I don't know how he got us home, but he did. I ate my meal, and he tried to hang while I finished it but couldn't. He said, "I'm going upstairs. Just come up when you're done."

"Do you think you could set the alarm for 8:30, so I won't miss the train back to the airport in the morning?" He assured me he would, but I was a little less than convinced.

I went upstairs, and after being in bed for a half hour, the alarm went off. It was 8:30 -- PM. I laughed.

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