21 March 2011

Outtakes: Pastries in Brussels

Alas, I had to cut this from the book. When we were in Brussels, Lee wrote a guest post about my pastry problem. I'm not sure if he was feeling guilty (not that he should have) or just being the all-around good guy he is, but here's what happened the next morning:

Most mornings, I was the first to arise, but I move so slowly before breakfast that by the time I showered and got dressed and got my satchel ready for the day's explorations, Lee had already done the same, plus completed his daily reps of push-ups and stretches, and written a page or two of his work-in-progress, a space pirate opera.

This time, he hadn't waited around. Probably a wise move, I realized, given that my brain was starting up more slowly than usual. There turned out to be a second light show a half-hour or so after the first one, and shortly after that was done, a jazz band somewhere down the street struck up “The Girl From Impanema,” the horn section trying its best to drown out the rhythmically-challenged drummer in an epic battle of beats and noise. The clear losers were our ears and desire for sleep. So I had called in reinforcements as soon as the second show began, downing a couple of Tylenol PM pills and shoving some earplugs in until they practically tickled my tonsils. This appeared to have done the trick, perhaps too well. I stumbled to the bathroom, shooed the pigeons from the open window and slammed it shut, then stepped into the shower, letting the initial blast of ice water hit me full in the face.

When I emerged from the bathroom, Lee was sitting on his bed, writing. There was a yellow bakery bag on the desk a few feet away; the smell of fresh croissant perfumed the air. “Mornin',” he grinned. “I got something for you.”

“Feeding my addiction?”

“Might as well. Fighting it is clearly a lost cause.”

I have to confess to finding this very touching, but also a bit worrisome: Did I trust him—anyone—to select a pastry for me? It's a serious question. I have standards. Breaking bread together may be one of the most deeply-rooted symbols of friendship, but what if the bread turns out to be crap? A kind gesture turns into a deal-breaker, and then what do you do?

Still, when someone offers me a croissant, I will not turn it down, even if I will immediately start thinking of potential diversions, should I need to spit it out.

I needn't have worried. I should have known, by this point, to trust Lee. The croissant was hot and flaky and gooey and delicious. We planned our day as we ate, spilling crumbs all over the map.

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