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What you learn in Paris 

Suicidal zombie-ant cannibalism and other things of importance

I didn't know ants could become zombies, but evidently it's possible. This is according to Eddie, who has been talking about zombie ants all day. I personally think we have better things to converse about, because here we are in Paris, and that right there is a pretty good icebreaker if you ask me. We could spend hours talking about the now-famous Internet cafe where the terrorists planned their attack on the World Trade Center. I could spend a day bitching about that fact alone, plus the fact that I keep having to give good money – American money that is worth something in actual America – to the French so they can use it as canine Kotex considering what the U.S. dollar is worth over here these days.

But Eddie won't let me bitch about that. When he's not telling me about the zombie ants, he's telling me to just spend the money. "How many times are you going to be in Paris and able to buy French bread?" he asks.

"I can get French bread at the quickie mart attached to the gas station down the street from my house," I say.

"But this is French French bread," he says, and then he's back on the subject of ants.

Evidently, scientists recently discovered bacteria that, when an ant ingests it, causes the ant to climb a blade of grass and hang itself from the end. This makes it easy for rabbits to ingest the ants, then a snail ingests the rabbit droppings and spits out the infected tissue, which another ant in turn eats, and thus begins the never-ending cycle of suicide zombie-ant cannibalism that is "really so fascinating," says Eddie in his pristine Euro-mutt accent.

I keep trying to impress on him that the suicidal zombie ants have no importance to humanity; it's just a cycle that involves ants, rabbits and a snail, and unless there is the cure to colorectal cancer in that snail spit, I don't see how it matters one pinch of rabbit shit that there exists a bacteria that creates ant zombies.

"Of course it's important," Eddie argues. "You would not believe how it matters, what it means. It's a cycle. We're all connected ..." and on he went with one of his patented pontifications about the meaning of life. These long-winded orations are very typical of Eddie and mark why I find him so reliably maddening. I would have rolled my eyes right then, but we were on the top of L'Arc de Triomphe and I was busy being staggered by the scenery.

I've probably been to Paris 500 times, courtesy of my hallowed history as a former airline scullery plebe, but I have to admit I'd yet to come here to this particular spot. Initially I'd scoffed at going to the top of the Arc, because this destination just seemed so expected. But once I was here it was hard to stay hardened. Jesus God, I thought, it's damn beautiful from up here. The sky was as clear as the eyes of a child, and the city lights glowed beneath us like a million beaded evening gowns laying at our feet.

Sometimes I regret having always been woefully unmotivated regarding tourism, because truthfully I'd have been happy just hanging out at the flea market, but luckily I was not here for myself but for Eddie and my sister Kim, who is married to him. Today is their wedding anniversary, and they came to Paris to celebrate. I agreed to come along as a fourth wheel for my niece's sake.

So I gamely followed Kim's and Eddie's itinerary, behaving myself, and only once or twice did I duck into a shoe store to clutch a pair of boots and wail, "But I gotta!" as those two held hands and made romantic googy all over each other. My sister had said it was only fitting that I come since I'd been there the night they met, a fact for which I feel guilty taking credit considering I was flat-ass drunk at the time and Kim needed help to carry me home. That was when we lived in Zurich, and I guess it's saying something that Eddie didn't kill us both and steal our wallets. Instead he stole my sister's heart and nobody was more surprised than I was when she never took it back.

Because if you were to ask me at the time, I would not have thought this man was supposed to be important. My sister was young and on the cusp of all the wondrous rest of her life, I thought, and surely Eddie would just be one in a marching army that would pass through her affections before she settled down. But I was wrong. I think it's important to note I am usually wrong about stuff like this.

Today the three of us, plus a fourth now, are way up high at the top of the L'Arc de Triomphe, and below, the tiny cars and the tiny people and even the tiny Internet cafes of Paris churn around us in an achingly beautiful miasma of matter, importance and meaning. "You would not believe," Eddie keeps saying about the suicidal-zombie ants, "how we're all connected."

Hollis Gillespie authored two top-selling memoirs and founded the Shocking Real-Life Writing Academy (www.hollisgillespie.com).

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