Notre Dame

Notre Dame


Back in 1988 I was busking my way through Europe. I was 28 years old and playing my guitar on the streets for passing change. I had left my job as a nipple salesman in El Cajon Ca. Yep, I sold PVC pipe nipples to irrigation supply warehouses. I was questioning my life and what I was doing. Did I really want to be a nipple salesman? I’d written some songs and I wanted to test my mettle. 


So I’d stride into some European town with a backpack and a guitar and I’d set up shop on some busy corner. I’d usually start in the late afternoons and make some cash and meet folks and then go out and drink copious amounts of whatever local beverage the bartenders were slinging. I’d drink until the bars shut down and then I’d usually end up at some after party passing the guitar around and singing lots of songs. 


I’d wake up at 2pm in some cheap hostel and rinse and repeat. 


Well, by the time I reached Paris I was in full swing. I was at the top of my busking game. I stayed in Paris for a couple weeks. All I did was busk and make some cash and then go out and drink it all away. It was fun and crazy and  kind of foggy. I did absolutely no traditional sightseeing. Went to no museums or anything. I mostly went to people’s parties at their houses. That’s how I saw the city. I didn’t speak French. I spoke Spanish pretty good. 


I didn’t really meet any of the folks at the hostel because I was living such weird hours. 


Finally on my last night I partied pretty heavily at the hostel. We drank lots of wine and sang old folk songs. I met a couple of other travelers and we all decided that the next morning we would share a taxi to the train station. We hopped in the cab at 9am and as we drove ahead a couple blocks they were talking about all the museums and famous places they visited in their short 4 day stint. They were super impressed that I’d been there for two weeks. All of a sudden we passed Notre Dame. It turns out it was only 5 blocks away from our hostel. Everyday when I left the hostel I’d immediately go underground and take the metro as the sun was setting. So I’d never walked in the direction of Notre Dame. For that matter, I’d never even heard of it. I thought it was an Irish college in Indiana. As we passed it in the taxi I looked up at Notre Dame in all its glory and I said “Wow, what the heck is that? It’s beautiful!”


They looked at me like the idiot I was and started laughing and said “That’s the best joke ever. How did you say it so seriously and with such conviction?” 


I said “I’m not kidding. What is it?”


“Uhhhh, It’s Notre Dame.”


Then we sat in silence for the rest of the trip in a cloud of awkward embarrassment. I don’t think they could even look me in the eye. 


This has been another installment of The Nipple Salesman Chronicles.

steve poltz