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.
- on purpose [↩]