• It makes waiters happy when you linger over food.
• Overall, the men here seem very confident, almost arrogant. There’s a lack of hesitance that I find startling. As a woman walking alone on the street, they look you up and down, ask you to go for coffee at the slightest provocation (like say, accidental eye contact), and all of them talk about romance. The cab driver, “Paris is for romance!” The shop owner, “Are you married? Paris is for romantic!” The waiter sets my paté down, and indicates that the chef has arranged two half-slices of baguette in the shape of a heart, “We are so romantic!” he jokes. Then he sets down an extra set of silverware, and says, “It might be too much food for one” and raises his eyebrows.
– At the airport, there are defibrillators on the walls. Is this true at home, and I’ve just never noticed it?
– Instead of sweeping, a woman drives a golf cart with a giant push broom attached to the front.
– The apartment keys are huge, like old-timey jail keys in a cartoon.
– My pillow case is open at either end, instead of being sewn shut on one side.
– In the shower, I have about four minutes to shave before the water goes icy and goose bumps make it impossible.
You feel ill in a foreign country and fumble your way to a public restroom. You close the door, hook your purse on the back, and attend to the matter at hand. You are perched on the toilet in a large windowless room when the light blinks out.
Ah. Motion sensor.
I finally make it home from Paris Bastille Day celebrations at 3 a.m., having been trapped in a huge crowd at the Eiffel tower.
I’m woken at 10 a.m. by vuvuzelas. The American bar across the street from my apartment is hosting an American theme party. I watch them out the window as they arrive and laugh at each other’s costumes. There’s a small group of men in overalls with no shirts, one of them is wearing a new Giants baseball cap — my home team. There is a single black man, he has a pick lodged in his hair. They scream and honk when cars drive by, the cars honk back. Everyone cheers. More men arrive in Hawaiian shirts and straw hats.
The women show up wearing workout sneakers, low-cut T-shirts and shorts, or shirts with slogans printed on them. They have fake tattoos drawn on their upper arms, large flower fascinators in their hair. All of them are carrying things — multiple plastic bags, huge purses, messenger bags with the straps worn cross body, and an inexplicable giant SpongeBob doll. Two more women arrive with huge cameras around their necks and begin snapping, so the Parisians gamely pose by removing cell phones from their bags and taking selfies.
Another car drives by and honks. They cheer.
A few hours later, the men begin to do push ups in the alley, sitting on each other’s backs. Then one of them overturns a keg and tries to run on top of it like it’s a barrel. While his friends hold him up on either side, they shout traditional American sayings like:
AH, fuck me!
That game was RIGGED!
They also imitate American tourists imitating French people:
VIVE LA FRANCE! VIVE LA FRANCE!
There’s a detail out of place of course — every one of them is smoking. And smoking. And then having a cigarette afterward. I watch their increasingly athletic efforts until someone arrives with a bull horn. The noise grows frantic, and a man’s voice shouts “THREE, TWO, ONE!” The whole group takes off on a sprint around the block, kegs hefted over their heads.
It has been quite a while and they haven’t returned. I would assume they surrendered the effort, but that would be tasteless.
Viva la France.
My dear friend Helen Jane was one of the first professional bloggers. She designed the web site right here, and she’s been living in Napa for nearly a decade. I’m always asking her where to go and what to do when friends are in town, so she wrote up a Go Travel for us on Napa Valley, California. Go have a look.
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