Six weeks ago, I ordered the entire DVD collection of “The Monkees” TV show to cure my son of his Power Ranger addiction. I’ll explain.
First, a disclaimer: If you’re a parent who doesn’t allow TV, that’s terrific. But this isn’t the blog for you. Kindly go read something else.
We have Netflix, a lovely digital-distribution service that is a godsend for parents of small children. Netflix, in its brilliance, has amassed a huge collection of kids’ TV shows available for on-demand streaming. And around mid-July, I stopped caring how much TV my kid watched. Oh, give me a break. It was a long 12 weeks.
I’ve been keeping a mental list of the things I loved about Paris, things I wish we had here, or that would be possible to integrate into our lives here. I will do another list, of things I like better about the U.S. But before I do that I need to actually have a list. Two things is not a list.
Ten Things I Like Better About Paris (in no particular order):
French pharmacies. Oh, mon Dieu. If only the Walgreens could be like this! Fancy French hair products (Renee Furterer, Kerastase), skin care products (La Roche-Posay, Vichy, Caudalie) and cosmetics (T LeClerc). I bought some of their famous pressed powder, after asking the pharmacist what I could do about the redness in my face. She said, gently: “I do not think you have so much red. But this product, this will help you if your face gets a little greasy, no?” This is not to say that these products are not available in the U.S., or any cheaper in France. In fact, they weren’t, at all. But I love that you can buy a Mason Pearson brush and then, in an intimate environment (most Parisian pharmacies are cozy spaces), ask the pharmacist for advice about your psoriasis. Not that French women probably get psoriasis.
People read paperbacks. Steve and I rode the Métro a lot, which was a great place to observe “real Parisians” (and tourists). And I saw lots and lots of people reading books. Real paperback books. I actually wondered if maybe Amazon’s empire didn’t extend to France, but yes, indeed, there are French books available for Kindle. And I own a Kindle. It just pleased me to see people reading actual books.
… but I don’t want to. I want to sit here, with my dog snoring behind me, and type on the computer.
It’s strange to be home. Home feels unfamiliar, actually. Steve left at 8:15, to take my parents to the airport, as I was walking Bini over to meet up with the walk pool. I offered to walk the kids, but my neighbor told me to go home and “rest.” I’d slept 11 hours, and it was 5:00 p.m., Paris time, but I appreciated the sentiment.
As I walked down the sidewalk back to my house, kicking wet red leaves, I felt a stab of intense sadness. After being in a big, dense, lively city for a week (and on a big, dense plane for 11 hours), I was suddenly quite alone.
I went to class at Bar Method, just to be around people, and that may have been a mistake. Jet-lagged + tough workout = Dazed. Now I’m surrounded by mounds of laundry and stacks of mail. All of the things I was going to deal with post-Paris are coming due now.
Still, despite my melancholy (an unofficial side effect of jet lag), I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. That neither plane crashed. That we didn’t get killed in a freak Metro accident. That I have friends who took Bini for play dates and to soccer practice and kept things normal for him. That we were able to go and have a wonderful time in a beautiful, vibrant city while people we trusted took care of our little boy. That’s a huge gift. Also, my mom cleaned out my pantry. My dad fixed things around the house. I’m not sure how best to thank them.
Before we get going with this little river-non-voyage tale, I want to say a few things, in our defense.
Steve and I are not “ugly Americans.” At least, I don’t think so. I mean, look at that picture, up there. We’re adorable. And also, we took seriously the reputation that Americans have in Paris, of being loud, of being demanding. We’ve traveled a fair bit, and we’ve seen this reputation in action. So here, we took extra care to “do as the natives do.” We said “bonjour” or “bonsoir” at every establishment we entered. I conversed in French every opportunity that I could, because I’d been told that the French appreciate that. And if I couldn’t, I’d resort to “Parlez-vous l’anglais?” and earnest hand gestures, always with plenty of “s’il vous plaits” and “mercis.” In other words, we tried really hard. And everyone, without exception, has been extremely pleasant.
I remember traveling in Spain by myself, and calling my dad a couple of time because I was lonely. During one conversation, I told him about the gypsies that tended to congregate around major tourist sights. At the Seville Cathedral, I even saw a guy with a monkey, dancing to a street organ.
“Stay away from them,” my dad almost yelled. “Do you hear me? They’re thieves, all of them. Stay away from them!”
My dad lived in Milan for a few months, when the Italian government requested his help with upgrading their national air traffic system. He contends that most people didn’t get to work until 10, and they took off from noon to 3 p.m., so it was impossible to have meetings, but that’s an aside.
My dad gets animated about a lot of things, but he was worried about his baby daughter, knocking around Spain by herself and possibly being overwhelmed by a band of gypsies. It was a legitimate fear.
What was interesting to me then, and still is now, is that the gypsies have long been a reviled population. Hitler exterminated them during World War II. They were persecuted in Eastern Europe — women were forcibly sterilized in Czechoslovakia starting in the mid-1970s. In July 2008, Italian beachgoers seemed indifferent to the bodies of two dead Roma girls laid out in front of them.