Sunday, May 5, 2002  
 

Now that it's all said and done, it's a good time to reflect on what's fabulous about Paris, and what makes me want to throw day-old baguettes through a cathedral window. I thought i'd make a list of the things i'll miss and thing's i won't. Ending of course with the things i won't miss since i am going back for better or worse and one should always feel like she's made the right decision even if it is horribly awfully wrong.

A petit disclaimer: The things below aren't the big real reasons why i've decided to bail. For a more serious explanation of my inability to stay put you might want to peruse the archives or read this post. What follows are the details that make up a person's day in this place or that place. And i've often thought that from Paris and New York i could fashion the perfect city. But really for me, the people matter most -- the friends i've made and the one's waiting to be made. Most of those kids seem to be in New York, and i just miss them terribly.

Onward.

++ Things I'll Miss ++

The Cheese, The Bread, The Wine, The Coffee
Yes, all these are so superb here that each deserves its own entry. In fact each specific cheese, bread, wine, and cafe should have its own, especially Tomme de Savoie and Cote de Rhone. But that would get tiresome, because the point is to *eat*. Oh to eat here is always a pleasure. The worst days always have three bright spots: breakfast, lunch and dinner. And this is available in all price ranges. Always. It's hard to order a bad meal, or pick out a crappy wine, though i have played the odds enough for it to have happened to me once or twice. And there's the bread. Why is it that we don't have bread this good in the States? With the wine and the cheese, i can understand; maybe we just don't have the right raw materials. But i think we got plenty of grain. And it can't be expensive to produce. In fact bread here is way cheaper than in the States. It's like we make crappy bread on purpose. I mean white bread? That's not food, that's like a joke.


Socialism
Yeah i came in with the snickering attitude of an American who bought into all the rah rah talk about low unemployment, high GDP, and whatnot. But then i got violently ill here without any insurance, and a doctor came to my house in the middle of the night with 10 minutes notice and made it better. And i didn't have to so much as give him my name, much less fill out the book of forms you have to do in triplicate just to get a doctor to say hello to you in the States. And then there are the subsidized lunch tickets that i get for meals in any restaurant every work day. And half my metro cards are reimbursed. There's the mandated three month severance if you get laid off, and then 36 months of unemployment! And the 5 weeks vacation. And that no one eats lunch at their desk, ever. You know this whole Most Powerful Nation thing is kind of a scam. It makes about 100 people really fucking ecstatic. The French may be onto something. Sure they get the 1000 MHz processor a month and a half later than we do, but they're all making it home with plenty of time to eat dinner and play a nice game of scrabble with the tots. Me, i'd trade it all for health insurance, 5 weeks vacation, and job security in less than a second.

UGC Carte Illimite
A little blue card: 16 Euros a month, unlimited movies, anytime, all the time.

Café Culture
When you have nothing to do and don't feel like being in your apartment,
you order a coffee, take out a long Russian novel, and you've got your aftrenoon. The difference between cafés here and in LA or NYC is that there is that there's nothing hip or arty about it. Sitting with a coffee is truly for the masses. It seems every place with decent coffee here has some sort of edge or angle. Retro decor, collection of vintage dentist chairs, obscure set of nose hair trimmers, whatver. I admit i'm easily impressed at first, but more often than not i find it all so oppressive. I'd rather drink my joe next to the lady with the loafers on.

Public Space
Paris is full of fountains, and sculpture gardens and plain old squares with benches that are designed for general public use. Sit around, chat with your friends, think about the absurdity of life, do whatever. It's free, no one gives you funny looks, and no one asks you to move along (even between the hours of dusk and dawn, ahem).

No Open Container Laws
This is just common sense. Why polite folks are not allowed to drink whatever they chose in public is beyond me. Pre Guiliani this was ok in NYC too, but, that's a whole other list.

Tip and Tax Included in the Price
No surprises when the bill arrives, and splitting the bill is a cinch. Leaving early and paying correctly is also possible. Sometimes friends visit from the States and ask, "Don't you feel bad about not tipping?" I remind them that I *am* tipping -- it's in the price. And waiters here aren't scrounging up couch change to pay for a flu shot (See "Socialism" above). They make a decent living and have good benefits.

The Pronoun, "One"
It's sooo handy. As in, "One can never find a cab on Sundays". In English it sounds so retarded and snotty, but in French it's normal.

++ Things I'll Not Miss ++

The Ridiculous Shop Hours
Anything you may want to buy or pay someone to do is pretty much unavailable for anyone here who has a job. Nothing is ever open on Sunday. Half the restaurants are closed. Everything shuts on the dot at 7pm on weekdays, so unless you race out of work precisely at 6 forget it. No dry cleaning, no haircut, no groceries, no really fabulous sandals that you've rationalized because of that unexpected tax refund. Naturally this means all the shopping areas are zoos on Saturdays. Ever been to Macy's on the day after Thanksgiving? That's what it's like every single Saturday of the year at every department store or shopping district in Paris. On the bright side, this has helped immensely with my saving-money plan.

The Dog Shit
It's disgusting and it's everywhere and no one ever picks it up. Yuck.

The UnAirconditioned Metros
August, at rush hour, in a country where "Lasts For 3 Days!" is printed on the deodorant sticks. Yuck.

The Metros Don't Run All Night
They are closed between 1am and 5am, leaving you these options: 1. Take off from the party/bar/friend's house in time to catch the last train home. 2. Take your chances finding (and paying for) a taxi. 3. Suck it up and party till 5am, then take the first train home and try not to hate yourself too much the next day. Nothing will ever beat the subways running all night long in NYC.

The Collective Taste in Music
I'm sure this one is all my fault for not being able to find the cool night spots, but really, it's bad. Nonstop cheese. The first party i went to here was torture, and i thought it was just a fluke. Not so. At any given time I swear Rod Stewart is playing somewhere on the radio dial.

The Concept of Meetings
They never ever start on time, and they last for about 8 times longer than necessary, and nothing ever gets accomplished. But maybe that's just where i work.

Queuing Up and/or the Idea of Personal Space
When i come into Charles De Gaulle Airport from New York it's always funny how the Americans and the French make their nationalities known immediately in front of Passport Control. The Americans are the ones in the friendly orderly line. The French are the ones in the heaving riotous mosh pit. And then when there are somewhat defined lines, like for the boulangerie or the cinema, you can bet the person behind me is continually bumping into me or actually breathing on my neck. Is it really helpful to nudge someone constantly for 10 minutes?


Coffee To Go
For those of us who need to consolidate our morning activities in order to squeeze out as much sleep as possible, sipping coffee on the train in the AM is a no-brainer. Yet for some reason, coffee only comes in porcelain here, never paper. I've had to adjust myself to waiting until i'm at work to have my caffeine. Ouch.

Cat-Calling and Leering as a Part-Time Job
It's relentless, it's creepy and it really does make me want to throw things and hurt people. I'm happy to be leaving as the summer approaches. I forgot about how getting anywhere as a woman alone in any sort of summer clothing is a routine of teeth gritting, unsubtle brush offs, and anger management. There's looks, comments and those weird annoying hissing noises here too, but generally people aren't following you home on the bus. And once you tell someone that you under no condition would you ever want to have anything to do with them ever in a near yell, they usually go away. Arg.


So now that i'm back in Brooklyn, the narrow Paris sidewalks in my memory are already starting to have less dog shit and more friendly smiles. But nothing beats spring in the city though, and i'm not really looking any further than that right now.




The last one : : No Sleep till...
The next one : : Death and the Hard Drive

   

 
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