Charles de Gaulle: just passing through...
Double shot: It isn't Starbucks. It IS Illy!
It’s a terrestrial and temporal purgatory. On the outskirts of Charlemagne’s hometown,* it’s somewhere between where you started and where you’re going. If you’re here, it’s a given that you’re just passing through. It's mere steps from the gates of hell when you’re late, stressed, sweating and irate, sideways from lack of sleep and jacked up on the instant coffee blues. In the best of times it’s fascinating. A gallery of humanity, a Babel of languages, a strange crossroads in perpetual fluorescent daytime, where you sleep with one eye open and on the clock.
Through security, running the cloying olfactory gauntlet of perfume, past the chocolate, designer boutiques, assorted knick knacks, and all the other forms of time-burning retail therapy for the edgy traveler, the Illy sign gleams like a red beacon. Café double and I’m good to go.
In their haste to seek fortune and freedom in the New World, Columbus and the Pilgrims forgot a few essentials. Valises packed with bold ambition, pioneering spirit and a Puritan ethic don’t leave much room for Old World nuance, structure and style. Or maybe they left those notions behind on purpose, thinking them decadent, too effete, contrary to the boldness their venture required. In any case, they forgot the wine. So I’m making like Columbus in reverse, seeking some of the spice that got left behind.
Like this coffee, for example. Instinctively, I’m set for that get-your-attention, slap-you-around, forty baritones singing fortissimo dark, dark, dark roast wake-up call like back home. Instead, what I get is a chorale, with the altos and tenors trading melodies, supported by the basses and the sopranos. Funny how nuance, depth and texture have a way of making you sip a little more slowly. Nice.
I find a trio of empty chairs near the gate, drop my bags and settle in with a tide of humanity and today’s paper’s installment of Sarkozy satire and scandal for entertainment. Three hours ‘til boarding...
*With apologies to James McMurtry.