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2nd April
2009
written by spike

Woke in: Paris, France

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I forgot to mention, we decided yesterday to stay in Paris for a few extra days by skipping Spain altogether. The reasoning is that it’s unusually beautiful weather here and utterly abysmal in Spain. Plus we wouldn’t be in Spain long enough to enjoy anything (48 hours). So we’re eating our Barcelona EasyJet tickets and continuing to try to properly pronounce “fête”.

Early in the day we caught the Museé d’Orsay with works from Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Rodin, and countless other Impressionists and modern works. The crux is we’re learning over and over you cannot appreciate art until you’ve experienced it in person. The thick globs of paint, petit brush strokes, the delicate colors, the presentation, even the context… it’s all lost in books and on the Internet. This is not to sound snobby, but that’s just how it is. It’s like appreciating automobiles without ever driving one. And sometimes you even find out your favorites aren’t all they were cracked up to be.

Today is Torkelson’s last full day (he has to get back to watching hedge funds go belly up) so we went out for fancy drinks in the evening - no dive pub tonight! At a swanky little covered outdoor bar with lounge singer wandering the tables something caught our eye on the menu. Absinthe. Of course true absinthe is regulated, but we wanted to enjoy the fully-French flaming sugar cubes, fancy slotted spoons, and that deep, lasting burn in your chest. This is existentialism at its best.

At the bar we met an American in Paris from Illinois whom her French friends described as a “French-soul”. Despite this we shared an American moment and as her Illinois accent slowly returned she helped us understand a number of French cultural aspects. I’m going to share the results of our questioning for a few paragraphs, and keep in mind this is a girl that over the past year has assimilated to a point where we didn’t even recognize her as American until she stated it. Like totally, bra.

So politics and language… Apparently Obama truly has deeply turned around the overall American reputation (in Paris at least). They even find Obama to be a hero of sorts: a lower-socioeconomic, black man risen to the top of world power. (Oddly France has an invisible class system that could inhibit that.) French do think Americans are stupid in general, but when they meet one that knows anything about anything they are extremely charmed. They can even be intimidated. Additionally, just as we find their French accents cute or even sensual, they love our American accents in a similar way.

In terms of the fairer sex, while French women are generally cold at first (as the reputation goes) they warm up quickly and are the ones to ask for phone numbers and take charge at the start. Girls have their work cut out for them. And there is no “wait 4 days to call” or any Swingers or The Game-type rules of attraction. Guys don’t automatically pay. Text messaging is huge, of course, and generally takes the place of phone conversations. Constant… short… interactions.

Finally, our American casual touching (an arm or leg) is shocking to the French because it means you’re slutty. Paradoxically if you go on 3 dates you are officially dating whether it is acknowledged or not, even if you don’t like the person. But if you do, at this point you initiate publicly sucking face anywhere and everywhere possible. I can vouch for this point. Your average trip on the metro is like watching a mother bird feed its young… except it’s a man and woman.

And that is France.

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