This first time I visited Paris, France, when I was fourteen, was absolutely incredible. That trip checked off a lot of firsts for me; my first time out of the country, my first time on an airplane, and perhaps most memorable of all, my first time performing on the streets of a big city. I didn’t travel to France with the intention of working, in fact I’m sure immigration would have not let me into the country without the proper paperwork, but it was a spur of the moment thing, something I promise you was not at all preconceived.
The first night in France, after dinner, we walked along the dark cobbled streets of Paris in the Spring air, Brian, my dad’s friend, led us down to the banks of the river Seine, that runs through the city where a wonderful surprise was waiting, a ping pong table. I absolutely loved the “sport” of table tennis, and was thrilled to see that there were several lining the river, where I could show off my talents and possibly be discovered by the French Olympic Ping Pong team and I’d never have to leave. It was pretty late and “we” (the others), were ready to get back to the house, plus we didn’t have any paddles or balls to play with so it was decided that we could get some the next day and then return to play.
When we returned to the park in the daytime it was just as beautiful as it was in the moonlight; the picture of perfection in the form of a ping pong table sitting just a few feet from the glistening river that was lapping lazily against the banks in the morning sunshine. I really wish I knew where to find the journal I kept on this trip because as I’m writing this I can’t remember some of the crucial details, like who won at table tennis. I’m sure it was probably me, most likely because the mature adults let the kid win, but it would be nice to have some proof nonetheless. I became so confident in my ping pong skills, and so enamored with the Parisian street performers that I put my hat on the ground, and tried my hand at making some money by impressing the passerby with my “tricks”, which probably only amounted to continuously hitting the ball into the air without letting it touch the ground. Whatever tricks I performed, they were obviously deemed unworthy of a tip by the Frenchmen who barely gave me a second glance as they walked by. The truth is I didn’t make any money, a complete failure compared to all the great performers who have stood along the side of that same river over the years, swindling hard working people out of their hard earned cash. Since I actually didn’t get anything for my work I’m not sure if that’s considered illegal or not, and the same can be said for me being fourteen, but regardless of whether or not I was breaking some kind of international law by working without the proper paperwork, it is one of the greatest memories I have of the trip.