sábado, 15 de septiembre de 2018

Searching for Scarlett (a unique journey through Paris)

 Dear Scarlett,
As much as I hate creepy fans, I felt compelled to share with you a peculiar visit to Paris with my family last summer. Before we get into the story, however, I believe it is crucial to provide some background.
My youngest son Mauricio (a high-functioning autistic kid) is a die-hard fan of yours, particularly your character Black Widow. Just to put things into perspective, he has tasked me with the steep mission of getting you to marry me, so he can have Scarlett as his stepmom and, among other things, enjoy the privilege of Black Widow picking him up from school on Fridays. Needless to say, that if somehow by some miracle I get even close to such a feat, the answer is already an unconditional yes to anything: spouse, friend, admirer, assistant, slave... whatever. As a compromise, I imagine that maybe you will find this little anecdote entertaining enough to concede my son meeting you in one of your public appearances in LA. I am sure that would be an event he will cherish for the rest of his life. We will be eternally grateful anyway for allowing us to visit Paris.
It is also important to note that Mauricio is not a big fan of travelling outside the United States because people don’t speak English and his cell phone has no coverage. He particularly dislikes Paris, the gypsies and how hard it is to find a McDonalds (or Subway) for his breakfast; he digs the croissants and the coffee though.
As outlandish as the following account might sound, this story is based on true events...
A family walks out a peaceful and pleasant trip in business class from London to Paris to face a huge immigration line. Mauricio lags behind visibly upset, talking to himself, self-absorbed in his headphones. He finally looks ahead and registers the line.
MAURICIO: Fuck!! I hate Paris!! Shit!!! This is going to take an hour... Oh God! No! Why did we leave
London? F#@@@...
Everybody looks at him, judging stares everywhere. I walk back to him to try to defuse the situation.
DAD: Hey buddy! Number four (signaling to lower the volume), number four.
Pointing to a gift shop.
DAD: Look! Black Widow is over there. Let’s check it out.
We both walk towards the store; the rest of the family stays in line. We both take our time browsing through all the Marvel Universe items. A Black Widow mug gets Mauricio’s attention.
DAD: Do you know who this is? MAURICIO (with a sigh of
That’s Black Widow, Dad. Scarlett Johansson.
boredom): DAD: Do you know where she lives? MAURICIO: Where?
DAD: In Paris. You see we are not really visiting Paris. We are here on a mission. We came here to
meet Scarlett, to check out her favorite spots in this city.
Mauricio’s face lights up, the mood changes dramatically.
MAURICIO (smiling):
Are you going to marry her?
DAD: Well... I have to meet her first, then we need to find a way to get her attention and I am talking about a big impression because she is now married to a very nice French man. It’s a process. For one thing, she doesn’t like spoiled kids that go around cursing and stuff...
MAURICIO: I hate French men!! Sorry, sorry... Ok, ok..
The crisis defuses, we complete the line in better spirits and he clears immigration saluting the officer like a Marine.
MAURICIO: Sir, yes, sir!
We arrive at our apartment on Rue de l'Isly, unload the bags, freshen up and walk out to take a first look at our neighborhood. First order of business: a croissant with coffee, or maybe a canelé in my case. Thank god for the English-French translator app in my phone...
Just around the corner we find a bakery called “Paul”. Wow! It’s amazing how such rude service can taste so good; definitely worth it. Canelé and an espresso, I would certainly write that down in the essentials list.
A nice stroll around the neighborhood and then back to the apartment to check in with Scarlett on her Facebook page.

We get out of a stinky cab driven by an angry beast in the middle of a pandemonium of street vendors, beggars, fortune tellers and tourists lined up in a huge line to get into an ugly, rusty iron structure: Eiffel Tower. This is definitely not Scarlett’s kind of place, I have to come up with something. Too late...
MAURICIO: I hate this place! What is that smell? Where is Scarlett?
DAD: (pointing to a boat in the Seine River)
Well, Scarlett doesn’t really hang out here, but she loves to look at the tower riding on that boat. This is a very famous (and romantic) building. Like it or not, you are going to end up bringing your girlfriend here to kiss her.
MAURICIO: Dad!! But I don’t have a girlfriend, girls are complicated.
DAD: Indeed. Complicated and fascinating. Ok. Picture time!
After a quick and intense photo session, we move on towards the Seine. It’s a beautiful day, perfect for a boat tour. Two hundred euros later we are on the boat, cruising down the Seine (not a cheap activity). It is incredible, it feels like you walked into a moving Renoir, the buildings, the parks, the church, the French Assembly, the famous bridge with the keylocks, the sculptures; and the tower, it looks so beautiful from here. A breathtaking experience. Mauricio is calmly enjoying the ride...
Dinnertime, unbelievable pizzas at Chez Leon, a true Italian experience and right by the apartment. Facebook duty, time to report back to Scarlett and check out what she is doing. Oh, no! She is at an event in Chicago receiving an award, only for a couple of days though (we hope).
MAURICIO: When are we going to meet Scarlett?
DAD: Soon, my son. Tomorrow we are going to visit her favorite place to walk Rose. And we are
going to eat at one of her favorite restaurants.
MAURICIO: (with a big smile)
Really, Dad? How are you going to get her attention?
DAD: I am working on that. I am thinking that we need to tell her about the family’s chateau in
Bordeaux, maybe she likes that...
MAURICIO: Are we going to bring her to Bordeaux with us?
DAD: No, no, no (I wish it was that easy). We have to get to know her first, we need to check with
Jean Marc, one step at a time...
MAURICIO: But this is going to take too long.
DAD: It has been a long day, my son. Time to sleep, we will continue this conversation tomorrow.
Good night, my boy.
MAURICIO: Good night, Dad.

God bless Uber!!!! We finally managed to have a nice ride to our destination. Believe me, if you are visiting Paris, Uber is the way to go, but be careful: if you mess up the pickup location, they will wait for five minutes and then just charge you and leave. Montmartre is really something. The stone-paved streets, I can so easily see those fascinating vampires Armand and Louis walking down these streets, the never-ending cozy cafes, the colorful stores; well, it is kind of dangerous too (Mauricio is killing me with the souvenirs), the restaurants, wow! There is a reason for the inflated egos here in Paris. Time to make the lunch move...
DAD: Look! Scarlett’s favorite Creperie. Let’s go...
MAURICIO: (while he shows me a letter opener knife)
Dad! But I need this for my collection, to open my letters.
DAD: What if Scarlett is there?
Mauricio runs to the Creperie and we enjoy some fantastic crepes while discussing what Scarlett would order. I put some salt on Mauricio’s ear.
DAD: And now my absolute favorite, a bite of some tasty ears...
MAURICIO: (with a big smile on his face)
No! That is too weird. What would Scarlett say?
DAD: I don’t know, maybe she likes your ears too.
Lunch is over, moving on with the tour. What is going on with Paris and black cats? Why do they fit so well? Why are they so present? There is definitely something perfectly fitting about Montmartre, black cats and Scarlett (oh, God, this is so weird I... am turning into a stalker). We walk by Café Le Progres— this is exactly what I need, espresso and a canelé.
Evening sets in, I can’t help thinking about Toulouse-Lautrec, I am sure he was hanging out at this bar a couple of centuries ago with his girlfriends. Some funny-looking gypsies are approaching, cue to exit this place. Uber, hurry up...
Back at the apartment, Facebook duty and now some cheese and crackers before bedtime, Wallace & Gromit style. “Cheeeeeese” (my Wallace impersonation goes on), Mauricio enjoys the show and the crackers. Lights out.
Wow! So many Ultron robots to destroy, they are everywhere! Oh, my god! They are getting too close, Hulk on the right smashing them away, Iron Man up there and Black Widow on the corner (there is something about Scarlett in that suit) ... This is so cool, but a little too much for me. I take my virtual reality glasses off.
Mauricio is still deep in the experience, I don’t think I have ever seen him so happy. This Marvel exhibit is just amazing. I was expecting a cheesy collection of posters and a big gift shop, but this is unbelievable: real props for all the main characters, Vision’s chamber, Captain America’s shield, his original suit, blood samples from Hulk, Black Widow’s suit, Thor’s hammer and the backlit panels with so much information; it is almost too much to take in. Mauricio is blissfully running from one hero stand to the next one. He now seems pretty focused on trying to lift Thor’s hammer—that will keep him occupied for a while; I am taking a break.
After a wonderful afternoon at the Marvel Exhibit, we stroll around a breathtaking – and quite modern – square at La Défense (Paris Business District). We stop for some ice cream, I can’t remember the name of the place. Oh well, one of the great traits of this city is that you can consistently enjoy rude service and fantastic food anywhere. It’s remarkable.
MAURICIO: I like Paris, Dad. Let’s stay here until we find Scarlett.
DAD: Well, we still have a couple of days.
MAURICIO: But I like Paris now, Dad. They have good ice cream and Marvel stuff.
DAD: What about your family in Bordeaux? Don’t you want to meet Jean Marc and talk to him
about Scarlett? Mauricio hesitates...
MAURICIO: When are you going to meet Scarlett, Dad? It is taking too long. You have to get
her attention.
DAD: Working on it, son.
Mauricio spends some time enacting action scenes with the super heroes he recently acquired. I get to be Hulk while he makes a phone video.
After two failed Uber attempts, we manage to get on our way back home. It is a lot more confusing to establish a pickup address around here and calling the driver is not an option, at least not for me. We need to check if Scarlett is back from Chicago.

MAURICIO (squinting): It’s so small, Dad, it’s so small...
DAD: Sometimes great things come in very small sizes, son. But you are right, I can barely see this.
I continue to try to squeeze through the crowd to get closer to the Mona Lisa painting displayed at the Louvre. There are a lot of people, security guards and a very thick pane of glass in the way. I lift Mauricio a little.
DAD: Look at her smile, son, you see? Is she smiling? Or not? Look at her hands...
MAURICIO: It’s so small, Dad, it’s so small.
DAD: Ok. Let’s go for something bigger...
We get out of the crowd towards the Greek Neo-Classic sculptures, an impressive collection. We stop in front of Marcellus.
MAURICIO (smiling): His balls are showing.
DAD: Well, these are the balls of a very important man, the nephew of a Roman Emperor.
By the way, I remember a little kid that used go around on his scooter completely naked wearing only a helmet. There were some balls showing there too.
DAD (looking at Diego): Do you remember that?
DIEGO (shaking his head): Stop it, Dad. You are gross.
DAD (smiling): How about a sculpture of Mauricio naked on his scooter right here, by Marcellus...
Diego laughs out loud.
Mauricio runs in the direction of the lobby.
MAURICIO: Cheesecakes!
The chase begins, but surprisingly enough, we easily catch up to him. He is standing in front of a display case, fascinated with a selection of cheesecakes. He is very calmly going through all the options.
DAD (looking at Diego): Isn’t it amazing how much time he can spend watching those cheesecakes?
Standing still, without running around?
DIEGO: Yes, incredible. We should have a cheesecake map of Paris.
Mauricio enjoys his cheesecake, jumps around a little and we continue to see the mummies. The turbo tour continues, and finally Mauricio stops to look at a painting: Liberty leading the people by Delacroix, an impressive, large-format painting. I use my two-minute chance to provide some context, and now it is time to leave.
DAD: McDonalds time!
Mauricio happily jumps up and down as we navigate towards the exit. In the middle of Paris and I have to settle for these overpriced, tasteless, frozen burgers and also pay extra for each ketchup packet; dinner will be my revenge...
DAD: What was your favorite part of the visit, Mauricio?
MAURICIO: Cheesecake.
DAD: Everything is awesome!
DIEGO/MAURICIO: Everything is awesome!
We continue our way out with the Lego Movie tune, McDonalds and then Facebook duty to report back to Scarlett on our adventures.

After leaving behind those fascinatingly ugly gargoyles of Notre Dame, we head toward the Champs- Élysées on bike taxis—a little fleet of them because also with us is a cousin living in Nantes and her vivacious two-year-old daughter (a true pleasure that also provides a nice little break from struggling to communicate with sign language and phone translators). The ride is pretty intense and continues to get more intense as we approach the Arc of Triumph. Our little niece doesn’t have enough fingers to point at all the action. After a few close calls with some angry French drivers and passing by the Louis Vuitton headquarters (among other fashion icons), we stop at a café; there is no way we are getting into that Arc of Triumph roundabout riding these bike taxis.
After enjoying another canelé with coffee (and cheesecake for Mauricio, of course), we take another taxi to the Latin Quarter. We split up and start searching for mothers and strollers with our Marvel walkie- talkies handy.
DAD: John Connor, any updates? Over...
MAURICIO: John Connor here... Uh... Where is Scarlett? Over...
DAD: Stroller at three o-clock. Approaching target, over...
MAURICIO (running): Dad! Wait for me! Dad!
I approach a blonde young woman pushing a stroller with a baby. It’s obviously not Scarlett and Rose.
DAD: Abort! Abort!
Mauricio suddenly stops and steps right into some fresh dog poop.
We all start running away from Mauricio while he chases us around the park. We then continue to boulevard Saint Marcel and walk around the area. After a while, dusk is upon us and the time comes to continue our journey.
DAD: Time to pack and pick up our rental car.
Next stop: Chateau Faugas ( www.chateaufaugas.com ) , Bordeaux and the French Riviera...
MAURICIO: What about Scarlett?
DAD: The search will go on, my son, but that is a whole new story...