Unpacking

When you travel, the last song you heard before you left town plays over and over in your head.  Until you return home to log serious time with your car stereo, you’re stuck with this song — or really just the same two or three lines of it — for days on end.  Not even twelve hours of sleep breaks the streak.  So you hear “you’re the hottest @#%$#%$ in this place” no matter where you go, or what you do.  When you look up from your coffee and see a gorgeous transvestite in Roman Empire style sandals and hair down to his butt, it kind of makes sense.  When you’re jogging the perimeter of the Jardin du Luxembourg, it pumps you up.  When you’re pushing through a crowd at the Louvre in eighty-five degree heat, it takes on a literal meaning.  But what happens when you’re trying to admire Monet’s Le Train dans la Neige, or light a candle in a chapel of Cathedral St. Sulpice?  There’s nothing you can do.  The more you resist, the harder it fights back.  So you go with it.  You let it become your anthem.  But you never hear it playing outside your head.  Never in a taxi or in a store.  Not even an elevator music version, although that’s hard to imagine.  You begin to plan how to purge it from your mind when you return home.  To fully expunge it, you will play it once on your car stereo, as loud as you can stand it.  Then you’ll pick another catchy tune, one you already know by heart, and play it two or three times, until you hear it in your head. You will sing every word.  And when you can sing it a cappella, the exorcism will be complete.  You will awake the next morning, turn the dial to the station in your head, and breathe a sigh of relief when the anthem is no longer playing.  A year later, you’ll hear it at a party.  You’ll think how it reminds you of your trip to Paris.  You’ll go home, rummage through photos and ticket stubs.  You’ll spend a few happy moments sifting through memories of Monet’s Le Train dans la Neige, the chapel at St. Sulpice, the Louvre, and the transvestite in Roman empire style sandals.  You’ll begin planning your next trip.  At the top of your packing list, you’ll write: iPod and earphones.

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