A Paris, Dans Mes Rêves

I greatly miss the City of Light.  I miss being able to go to someone who is an expert in every piece of food you could desire.  I suppose it seems tedious to Americans, but I saw a great quaintness to the practice of going to la fromagerie for my cheese, la boulangerie for my bread, le magasin de fruit et légumes for my fruit and vegetables, le marchand de vins for my wine, et la pâtisserie for my sweets.  It’s those simple things that stay with me after I travel.  Of course, I remember La Tour Eiffel and La Notre Dame in all their gargantuan grace, but it is the little things that are nearly intangible and define a culture that left the greatest imprint on me.     

So, this is how I find myself in my small, private side yard, so reminiscent of a European patio that it convinced me to take the apartment, with a glass of Bordeaux in my hand, a plate of brie, a baguette, and a cigarette, so desperate to reconnect with my literary self reborn a year ago in Paris.  It was in Paris that I learned how to write without pressure.  To write for me.  My degree in English Literature forced me to always be writing for something or someone.  While I felt myself occasionally getting lost in my assignments, and at times finding pride in my words, I was mostly on a mission to complete an assignment, bank the grade, and get outside, or to a party.  

I would never dream of writing with a glass of wine for an assignment that needed to be turned in, but in Paris I learned that sipping and savoring a Bordeaux was a gateway to letting the words flow.  It was Paris that taught me discipline and creativity can coincide, that one does not have to squelch the other.  I learned to write nightly, with abandon, and yet the lack of care proffered superior writing.  Over a nice Bordeaux and my latest cheese trial, I found my inner self.  I am one who thrives in solitude and reflection, especially in the wee hours of the morning.  

I see the world in colors and swirls of movement, like a Monet painting in which everything bleeds together, and yet is one.  My words come from me in some combination of a flowing waltz and a pop and lock street dance, like halting hiccups in which I can see what I feel, and search for the letters to string together into words, into sentences, into meaning, for everyone else.  I hope I am succeeding.    

 

Cheers,

QuarterCentenarianAbroad

 

Humans and Paradoxical Parisians

There is a fundamental problem with all human beings, and that is that we always want more.  There are people that will tell you this is not a problem, and that it can only lead to further success in life, earning more money, or getting a raise and being able to buy that house that you want.  However, there is an equally as valid argument for why this is not healthy.

In order to feel contentment, one must not want for more.  Yet, once we achieve a goal, we often enjoy the feeling of triumph for a short time, and then we want more.  Take, for instance, my goal of getting to La Fromagerie et Le Boulangerie: I was trying to get there for a few days.  Once I did, I felt triumphant.  In my journal I even began my entry with, Je suis triomphante!  How proud I was!

Now, I am sitting in my apartment in Paris, fully funded, and yet I feel discontent.  The reason is that I did not hear from my Dutch friend who was coming into town, my cousin is tired from her school week and sleeping, and I hear people in the street having fun, and I have no one to play with!  Boo. Hoo.  Right?  I’m even disgusted with myself!

When I first arrived, it was enough to be in a Parisian apartment, on my own, with a glass of French wine and a baguette and brie.  Now, I have all those things, and the opportunity to write, but I want more! Well, frankly, I know the area is safe, and I could go out, and there are bars open, but I just do not feel up to it.  Perhaps that is where the real frustration comes in.  Not only that, I am disappointed that I do not have more conversational French in my repertoire after all of my French schooling.  I would stick out like a sore thumb, and when I first arrived in town, I was willing to take that, but now I am a bit spent.

A few days ago, I was, in my opinion, harshly judged in a cafe.  It was my second night, and everything was going so well.  I could tell I was in a safe area, and there is a cafe/bar that stays open in my area until 2 am.  I went there for a drink, and the waiters did not come to take my order.  After a few minutes, one came up and asked if I was waiting for someone, and I told him no.  Then, a few minutes later, another waiter came to take my order and I told him what I wanted.  Again, this man asked if I was waiting for someone.  I told him no.  Apparently it was strange for me to be drinking alone. Now, in the U.S. this is not common, but I surely do not think people would be this surprised.

Finally, I was served my drink, and because I was a bit uncomfortable, I was on my phone.  This is an affliction most Americans have, and at home is drives me insane.  So I was a bit miffed by my own hypocrisy.  However, there were only two other couples in the cafe and two men having a drink, so I didn’t think it was rude or offensive.  It was also the only time my family and I had been able to speak since I had arrived.

I noticed the waiters staring, and some mumbling, but I could not believe the cellphone would be that offensive.  I lowered it at times, and decided not to let them bother me, because I was a paying customer, and enjoying my time.  I ordered a second drink, and continued to enjoy the cafe, and message my family.

Now, anyone who has been in France knows that cafes take forever to give you your bill.  It is part of the charm and culture that there is a place that is not rushed, compared to our usual lives.  However, the waiter came before I had even finished my second drink, and in French said, “whenever you are ready” and left my check.

Even before I experienced this, my host had told me I would find the French paradoxical, (and for the record, she told me she did not think it sounded like I did enough to offend them).  At first, I did not know what she meant, but then my cousin told me a story about when she accidentally bumped into a woman on the subway with her bag.  She turned to apologize, and the woman yelled at her.  This apparently happened to my cousin’s friend as well.

I told my host that I finally understood what she meant.  On the one hand, Parisians can relax all day in a cafe, sip their wine, slowly eat their meal, and stroll on the street in a way that every New Yorker has forgotten, and yet, there are still some unwritten rules, and many ways that a tourist can bring a Parisian to quick anger.

As for the things I can control: I am here, in my apartment, relaxing with a bottle of Bordeaux, a ripe avocado, a baguette and some brie.  I know life is not really bad, and I am fortunate.  I am living in the here and the now, and my writing helped bring me back to a place of appreciation.

The adventure continues…