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Doing the French Mistake?

April 6, 2008

It could be that 18 months in Italy have substantially altered my expectations, but I have just found Parisian clerks and shopkeepers to be pleasant, helpful even. No, really, one walks into a store and someone says, “Bonjour.” At the counter, after realizing I’ve exhausted all of my three French phrases, they smile and find some way to conduct the transaction. Remember, it’s not uncommon to walk into an Italian shop and find no one, maybe overhear conversation in the back room, but be left with the feeling that they just don’t care if they sell anything, ever. The French waitress who said our chocolat chaud et pâtisseries were going to take a looong time barely registered on our rude-o-meter, but our friends who live in Paris were dismayed by her demeanor. True, she brought the wrong size drinks, but the bill reflected that. And it took only half as long as she had threatened. It was a chilly, drizzly day and we had tucked ourselves under the awning. She probably would have preferred to remain inside. In her position, so would I.

But, yes… gay Paris! The Tower has taken up sparkling again, there is art and inspiration for art everywhere, women go about in (reasonably) comfortable shoes. Le pain et les chocolats sont fantastiques. Even in a quiet little park there was an inspiring cat. It was thoroughly grey and rounded. Maybe there was more cat on its frame than needed be, but its lines were beautiful. It was so friendly so as to make photography difficult, constantly approaching the camera and playing with the wrist cord. It caused Craig to think that, perhaps, Chutney Wordsworth has been trying to emulate the drawings I’ve been doing, very linear. He’s trying to be string-and-stick cat. I must draw this round grey Parisian cat and maybe my own little grey cat will attempt to become more three dimensional.

Then there is the transit system. Uncle John is right in that even the natives must carry guides. But that is no disparagement. The system is just so complex that to be most efficient carrying the maps is essential. Joe has even attached a little magnifying glass to his booklet for times of suboptimal illumination. Speedy, convenient, efficient, and economical: what’s not to love? Yeah, sure, it’s a subway and sometimes smells like it. But it takes my fond memories of San Francisco’s Muni/BART system and sends them packing. As much as I love my City by the Bay, the City of Light has caught my eye. Nay, she’s turning my head.

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