Alps log: day 21

I say goodbye to Rosario and Lucas, trying to express as much gratitude and love as is possible at 7 am. Morning flight to Geneva. I have 24 hours in this city.

Geneva. A machine at the arrival gate spits out a free train ticket, to go from the airport to the city. Once in the city, guests of any hotel, hostel, or guesthouse are, by law, given a free transport card to be used throughout the city’s bus, tramway/light-rail, or train system. I feel welcome. I grab a tourist map from the hostel and plot my 24 hrs.

First, Red Cross Museum. A guidebook description suggested there would be photographs from war time, depicting humanitarian efforts, but it’s more like art inspired by Red Cross history and principles. 11 exhibitions, contained on a single floor. Takes an hour to explore. The place comes across as a love letter to the Red Cross. Probably not worth visiting. Still though, it inspires me. If I had a child, I would send them to volunteer for Red Cross. It would be good for their character and integrity. It’s all part of my plan. Though I am still 59 steps away from having children1, I have a detailed child-rearing plan worked out. I won’t elaborate on it, but you can assume a good amount of character building and woodlands is involved. Believe me, everyone’s got such a plan, and more or less, it’s a direct inversion of their own childhood.

I tour the Old City, up a few cobblestones streets, past the Cathedral, into a bland restaurant across from the Pallas du Justice (court house). I swear I see Kofi Annan strolling down the street, but no one believes me. No sign of Moon.

Souvenir shopping on the main shopping street. 3 lbs worth of Swiss chocolate in as many bizarre flavors as I can find. Swiss army knife. Sigg water bottle. The citizens of Geneva are worthy of a good people watching session. Many women, many double takes. I estimate this is the effect of spending weeks in the mountains, surrounded entirely by mountain men and climbers. I get anthropological about my gawking: one may categorize American women as either 1) Fat, with varying levels of comfort, or 2) Skinny. Some women here seem to exist in an entirely different category of Just-Right. They have shape not quite volumptous. Their skin is also noticably blemish-free, but I may be vulnerable to the ruse of cosmetics.

Dinner at the restaurant Les 5 Portes based on a great tip from the hostel reception. I sit alone, outside, on a balmy night. Waiter brings the menu; it’s a giant chalk easel, leaned against another table, for my use. Can’t read a word of it, so I trust his recommendation for Lamb shank. Delicious. I eat, write, and flirt with a new habit: sitting with one’s legs crossed. I am cosmopolitan by inches.

The couple next to me weighs communism against socialism. I google the difference.

Thought: other people’s children. Angelic miracles or relentless growing machines that highlight your own advancing age (“He’s eight years old already!?”)?

I stretch my legs and walk the streets. It’s a Thursday night with few lively parties or active discoteques. I walk guided by a vague sense of direction and a tourist map. I stumble upon Geneva’s “ethnic block”, highlighted by a spate of döner kebab joints on one side and streetwalkers on the other. My pace is now brisk. I reach the waterfront, witness the thumping music of the hotel bars, and turn for home. I walk a dark alleyway shortcut home, a path I would never otherwise attempt.

Bed time. I walk into my dorm room at the City Hostel, and the two Frenchmen are deep in conversation. The room smells ripely of manhood. I crack the window and make overt preparations for bedtime: large brushing motions, loud yawning, flinging of bed covers. They accommodate me by moving their conversation to across their bunkbeds. The French, i have concluded, in some ways, are the Chinese of the West. At a glance: nationalistically self-centered, xenophobic, rude to strangers, strong food culture.

9am morning flight to Newark. Blow the last of my Swiss francs on airport chocolate. And that’s it for me.

So long, Europe.

  1. on purpose []

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