It's that time of year I have come to dread. For most of the world, the long, dreary march through Winter is nearing its end and the verdant days of Spring lie just on the horizon. Soon, the snow will melt, the birds will chirp, the flowers will bloom. Petite princesses in pastel dresses will romp through grassy fields in search of decorated Easter eggs.
While the rest of the world is packing away their winter coats and wooly Uggs, I will be bundled in a hideous Arctic Squall Parka, staring up at my gutters, willing the icicles to melt. (Don't laugh, icicle watching is a favorite pasttime here in Anchorage. In fact, it's even a competitive event at Fur Rondy, an annual festival to mark the beginning of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race. I am told icicle mind melting is one of the training exercises performed by the Iditarod Mushers to help them improve their concentration skills.)
Anchorage in the Spring
So, while the rest of the world dashes between the raindrops of April's showers and inhales the sweet scent of May's flowers, I will be making snowmen and chiseling hoar frost from my brow.
It's enough to drive any sun-worshiping woman to the bottle (Again, I must ask that you refrain from laughing at my blatant attempt at melodrama as, sadly, Alaska has one of the highest alcoholism rates in the country)
So what do I do keep myself from turning pea green with envy as I look at photos of my friends in their new Burberry wellies or pastel pink loafers? Like Dorothy clicking the heels of her fabulous ruby slippers in an attempt to escape Oz, I close my eyes and think of somewhere else.
Inevitably, my thoughts turn to Paris. (I say inevitably because whenever I am stressed or blue or in need of an escape, I think of Paris. Don't you?)
The Cabbage Blossoms
I imagine strolling past the tender, tulips blooming in the Tuileries. I envision flowerboxes filled with geraniums hanging from charming wrought iron balconies on the ÎledelaCité. I think of a beautiful bunch of cabbage blossoms I once saw in a silver bucket outside a little shop in the Marais.
But more than anything, I think of the bistros.
I imagine myself (snappily outfited in a fabulous pink dress, impossibly high heels, and fashionable Audrey Hepburn-esque black sunglasses) at my favorite bistro. I am seated at one of the little marble topped tables situated on the sidewalk in front of the bistro. At my feet is Molly, my schnoodle, and over my head is a cheerful, wide green awning.
Table at my favorite bistro
The waiter arrives and I say in flawless, fluent French, "Je voudrais commander une salade composée et un verre de vin blanc, s'il vous plait."
(In my fantasties, I speak in flawless, fluent French. In reality, there are only a few French phrases I can utter without sounding tres horrible. In fact, if I could butcher meat as neatly as I do the French language, Anthony Bourdain would be my best friend and I would rule Le Halles.)
Then, I sit back and devour the marvelous, moveable feast that is Paris.
The panoply of Parisians, with their scarves artfully knotted about their necks, walk briskly and with such purpose I find myself wondering about their lives. Who are these people? Where do they work? What moves them? A simple Parisian (if one could ever characterize a Parisian by such a term) in a pasmina piques my fertile imagination in a way an Alaskan in snowbibs and parka never could.
I remember one Parisian, in paricular. It was a cool day in March. The morning had been clear and sunny, but by mid-day a thick blanket of clouds rolled in, blanketing the city in gray and dropping the temperature several degrees.
I was sitting at an outdoor cafe, holding a mug of hot chocolate between my hands, delighting in its warmth and the sweet-spicy scented tendrils of steam tickling my nose, when I noticed him.
An elderly man in jaunty cap and toting a straw market bag, paused in his journey and observed me. I quickly took note of his features: piercing gaze, jaunty cap, clipped moustache, bag filled with produce, lips lifted slightly in humor or disdain (I could not tell, at first).
We locked gazes and I realized, at once, we were kindred spirits. Monsieur Jaunty Cap was a fellow participant in the pastime of people watching. Suddenly, I wondered what he thought about me. "Who is this brash young American woman to be staring at people in such a familiar manner? And why is she sitting outside when there are perfectly warm seats to be had inside? Strange, these Americans." My lips pulled back in a self-concious smile, but his gargoyle-like expression remained chiseled into his face. His piercing gaze did not falter. I lifted my chin slightly and raised an eyebrow, mimicing an expression I had witnessed on the faces of countless cool, collected Parisians. He smiled then. A mischievous little grin that caused his eyes to twinkle and sketched his character with finer strokes than I ever could have imagined. He touched the brim of his hat with two fingers, hoisted his bag onto his shoulder, and he was gone. Leaving me to my March musings. And so, as the rest of the world is piroutteing through puddles and preparing for summer, I will be putting on my parka and pondering Paris.