Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's suggestion for the rich and desperate

Express Staff Writer

With Valentine's Day around the corner, it's only natural for many males of our species to have an adverse reaction to the overpowering pink bombardment into our everyday lives, signifying yet another mandatory round of gift giving rife with the opportunity to watch her face attempt to work up a smile as she opens one more failed attempt at romance.

While not every man falls into the self-delusional stereotype that believes a wall-sized Fathead poster of Reggie Bush (as seen on TV!) will put her libido into overdrive, there are certainly some common traits that our significant others should take note of in order to temper the disappointment.

Sure, we can handle flowers and dinner, but in the case that she thinks a trip to the jewelry store would be preferable, she should know that most of us still think that Public Enemy frontman and reality show star Flavor Flav's oversized clock necklace was indeed pretty cool. And if she turns her eye to a $400 pair of jeans, she should know that there's no way we're springing for something made of denim that costs more than every article in our closet combined.

Fortunately, we live in a place where a new pair of skins for backcountry skis or odor-resistant wool underwear can make a girl swoon.

But if these foolproof romantic items fail for some unlikely reason, or for a very likely reason considering my romantic sensibilities fall somewhat short of Pepé Le Pew's, everyone's favorite skunk with severe cardiac issues, my last suggestion is to look outside the valley. Well, outside.

More than once while traveling, I found myself surrounded by a vista more powerful than 1,000 Ben Affleck romantic comedies. Um, bad example.

However, these situations were always accompanied by a slightly depressed sensation, as a resplendent sunset cast my solitary shadow onto a pristine beach or as I awkwardly chuckled with a friend on how the view over Nice would be that much more enjoyable if he happened to be a beautiful tall blonde.

Nowhere was this feeling more appreciable than a warm spring night in Paris, standing on the imposing stone staircase of Sacré Cœur, taking in perhaps the most spectacular panorama in the world.

Even the approach to the century-old basilica is enough to make one want to propose to strangers—just be careful not to do so in the nearby red-light district of Pigalle. The illuminated church hovers above Montmartre, the highest point in the city, calling out like the golden arches of McDonald's to a starving man. The dark and narrow streets that lead toward this beacon invariably terminate in a near-vertical staircase that seems to plateau into emptiness.

My legs and lungs were burning by the final step, but the top of the hill is anything but empty. With the church at one end and a market square surrounded by cafes at the other, it's little surprise that Montmartre became the epicenter for early 20th-century artists such as Picasso and Modigliani, and American bohemians such as Langston Hughes.

Turn around, however, and the bustling surroundings quickly fade away, muted by the expanse of lights, stretching from the Louvre and Notre Dame to the east, and the Arc de Triomphe and, of course, the Eiffel Tower, to the west.

So there's the surefire solution to any Valentine's Day anxiety, all for the price of an airline ticket. And if you happen to pick up two extras, let me know—I finally have that beautiful tall blonde to share the view.

Jon Duval:

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