Sunday, October 24, 2010

Paris: The Twelfth Week

The Three Graces
The Louvre
Aloha and bonjour my friends,

This is the last week of my stay in the city of lights and I will be a Canadian in exile for the winter months. Fortunately, I foresee a lot of travel and I will continue to write about other locations around the world as I prepare for me eventual return to Paris. I wish there was some way to just… stay, but I cannot. I do have a great many observations about tourist attractions that I have been holding back, so during my exile, I’ll be talking about the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, etc. so that you can be better acquainted with them should you visit yourselves. For now, please enjoy this week’s offering.

1. The sirens for police cars and ambulances here are all more or less the same. They sing a distinctive hypnotic two tone song that is easily identifiable. What I’ve noticed is that by adding a couple more notes to the cry of the sirens, one finds themselves humming the final Jeopardy! theme. I’m not sure about this, but if you are ever interrogated by the French police, it’s probably in your best interests to answer in the form of a question. “What is, it wasn’t me?”

2. I don’t know if there is a single kid in North America, who hasn’t read a comic book at one time or another but I’ve found that these are far less common in France. The French prefer graphic novels, which are essentially hard-cover comic books. The difference is that the French don’t stop reading them when they become adults as they are considered an art form here. A few graphic novels have made their way into American film, such as 300, Sin City and the Watchmen. To make my case, check out the 3rd floor of the Virgin Megastore on Champs Elisee. There you’ll find a graphic novel section larger than many bookstores.

3. I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the musical street entertainers. When you see a French film it is invariably scored with accordion music and I expected to hear an accordion wherever I went. So far I’ve heard a few, but not everywhere. Musical buskers are often found in subway tunnels of on the trains themselves. The accordion is a popular choice, but on one particular day I found a small orchestra out on the street playing for change. Naturally, I gave them some.

A street orchestra treats the crowd to some Vivaldi.  Nom!
4. French women don’t cut their hair. There seems to be some North American rule that after the age of 30, lesbian hair or a hockey-helmet bob is adequate for public viewing. Thankfully, the French have not adopted this unfortunate belief. A French woman on the go will manage her tresses by simply pulling them into a pony tail. She would not even think to cut it all off to save a little time on a workday. To this I say, “Vive la France!”

5. People have asked me if there are any zombies in Paris and I can understand why they would ask. You see, zombies and vampires are both undead humans but have quite different needs. Because of the vampire’s limited decomposition, they can enjoy bouts of lividity from drinking human blood alone. Zombies, in contrast, generally suffer from far greater amounts of rigor and decay which contributes to their general crapulence, hence their desire to consume human flesh, human brains being a particular favourite among them. In Paris, zombies don’t do very well. Like vampires they tend to be nocturnal hunters and as with any predator, fall prey to the competition. Vampires are highly intelligent and have no trouble keeping zombies from rising for long. Parisian vampire hunters here rarely get to see a zombie, but do take pleasure from making a kill if they can beat the vampires to a sighting.

6. I’ve been making an informal count of how many French cliché’s and stereotypes I have seen over the course of my stay and in 12 weeks I’ve witnessed the following:
  • Men wearing berets (military excluded): 1
  • Horizontal striped shirts: 100’s
  • Accordions: 8
  • Mimes: 0

7. What we call ballroom dancing in North America is just dancing here. I feel grossly inadequate to the task at the moment having learned to dance a little on several occasions, but never learned to master any form of dance. In addition to the language, I think it is about time to learn to dance.

8. The latest on the men’s fashion scene is really a personal observation in part. With little time left in my first leg in Paris, I had to try that shirt store again. This time, without having to suck in my gut (well maybe a little), I asked the lady to unwrap a size M ‘slim fit’ shirt for me. Oh I can tell you, my friends, that she hesitated. Those wrapped up shirts are a nightmare to rewrap for a customer that’s too fat… but… success!!! She unwrapped the shirt and it fit like it was made for me… I bought two. The brand is Nodus for anyone that is interested ( They are currently hanging next to my Lagerfelds.

9. I’m getting the sense that acquiring a legitimate visa for living in Paris might be more difficult than re-marrying. When I lived in the US, everyone had advice about one immigration lawyer or another and since being in Paris, I’ve solicited a little legal information but not a single referral; and this is after spending time among expats. Well, I’m not saying that it’s impossible that I might try marriage again, but I really think that I’d rather do that for some old fashioned reason like love and let a lawyer handle my immigration papers.

If I'm ever in a riot...
I hope I'm driving one of these!
10. I should probably mention the strikes. I’ve heard from concerned people from North America that think that France is aflame in unrest and violence. It is not. People here are upset about the proposed change in the retirement age. I can’t think of too many countries where such a change would pass without some extreme opposition. The sensational things that get onto TV, however, are hard to find. First there has to be a protest somewhere, which the police have to find and then the news trucks have to find the police. With these three things in place and if the news teams get lucky, then shit gets thrown, tear gas is launched and it makes for great TV. There is little or no chance for a bystander to find themselves in the middle of a riot. Rioters and news teams are there because they want to be.  The police are there because they have to be.

11. My last observation before commencing my exile, is one related to language. I have made some advances in my ability to speak French, though have a very long way to go before I will achieve any sort of fluency. Of course as a Canadian, I had been given every opportunity to learn French, but I loathed my French classes. One of the reasons for this was that when I was in French class, they would not let me be Robyn. In class, my name was quickly changed to Robert (pronounced Rho-bear). I was too young to be able to accept the change in stride and my teachers insisted that I must be Rho-bear. Sadly, I rebelled and remained unilingual. After learning some French on my own and arriving in Paris however, I thought I might introduce myself as the very French-sounding Rho-bah. Much to my relief, however, my first French guide explained that it is OK and even cute for me to be myself… Rho-been. With my name out of the way, I only have to master 500 verbs and 100,000 nouns. Thank you, Sophie!!

Thank you all so much for reading and commenting and liking and suggesting. I’ll be in a 12 week exile from Paris as I sort out a visa that will work for my return in the spring. In the mean time I have a great many untouched subjects to continue to write about, so please come back every now and then to see what else I have to share about the wonderful city.

With love - your friend,

P.S.  Please leave a comment, share, facebook, like... and let me know if you've been here.  Merci, thank you and mahalo.

1 comment:

  1. oh em gee, this looks soo legit. Real fancy, I love it.

    Let's see: #1 cracked me up totally. #4 shocked, me, really? No short hair on the women? #6 last bullet saddened me. I don't think I could leave if I didn't see just one. #7 Really? I prefer to just let er loose. #8 SNAP. Niiiice. #11 was cute. How you rebelled. Love it. And how adorable is Rhobeeen. Love it. Love your writing.