Sorry, Paris

I received an e-mail from my homie C earlier today filling me in on odds and ends she thought I should hear about. One odd/end was the fact that she knew someone who knew someone who was doing PHD work in Paris the same time I was and who, apparently, was also "hating" being here. I immediately felt like a schmuck reading that e-mail, thinking about how 80% of what I've told people about back home has been negative, about my constant complaining and chickenshit avoidance of stressful situations. I'm not crazy about returning home with the reputation of being the guy who got to go to Paris on someone else's dime and spent the whole time bitching, although that's certainly the case.

So here's an open letter to Paris expressing my feelings:

Ma Chere Paris,

I'm writing to apologize for my behavior over the last few months. It's not like an obscure graduate student from a random state university could really besmirch your reputation, but I still wanted to make sure that we understood one another.

First and foremost, you've been more than welcoming during my time here. Parisians, while curt and businesslike, are also polite, civil, and very professional. No one has been openly rude during my entire stay, and I want you to know that I appreciate it. In particular, everyone has been very understanding with my French, tolerating the mispoken word or the mangled phrase and making it clear that the important thing is communication, not perfect grammar.

The thing is, it doesn't matter that I'm here, in the Ile de France, versus anywhere else on the planet. I'm essentially a "local" - I like to hole up in a place and surround myself with familiar things. There's no way I can do that here or anywhere else outside of the United States; I'm too much an American, too much given to the blundering, overly generous, naive and bright-eyed kind of attitude that marks us off from Europeans. And I miss my wife too much; you have to know that the major reason I've been unhappy here is that she and I spend almost all of our time together, and that we like it that way. I can't be away from her for more than a few weeks and keep it together.

There's another issue. I don't blame you for this so much as I blame...well, as we academics call it, "late capitalism." You're too expensive for me, Paris. All of the ex-pat love stories about Paris, all of the literature from the 20s - 40s, the happy memories of my parents' generation travelling through in the 60s, even the generation of academics who earned their degrees in the 80s, they all experienced a Paris with a weak currency, with cheap housing, with restaurants and bistros and cafés that you could afford to eat at every day. You and I both know that that's completely impossible now. By my calculations, it costs TWELVE TIMES as much to eat out as it does to stay in, and I'm talking about a modest café meal! You really leave me no choice but to camp out in my (expensive) apartment and have pasta fourteen times per week. Again, it's not your "fault" in so many words, it's just a neutral fact that makes it tough to be here.

I don't want to ramble at you, so I'll cut this short. Thank you for your beautiful architecture, for the way the light looks different here than anywhere else I've ever seen, for the bridges and the happy dogs on walks and the efficiency of the metro. Thank you for your smartly-dressed citizens, for the helpful staff at the BNF, for the 2-euro Vieux Papes wine.

Thanks for everything, Paris, but I want to go home.

Bien Cordialement,


noncoupable said...

You need to go somewhere else in France. Seriously. Couchsurfing.com and last minute train deals. The only reason I don't 100% hate Taiwan comes in large part to the few days I spent OUTSIDE Taipei, which to me is hypercapitalist cement hell on earth.

Beetlegirl said...

We want you home too, sweetie. But first, I get to come play in Paris too. Only a few more weeks to go, and then we will be back to having shared adventures. Love to you, and hugs from Pesto too (it is her birthday tomorrow, so anticipate a taller bunny upon your return).

Adva Ahava said...

I had trouble in Paris too. And I felt like a jerk because I had trouble, but...homesickness happens. Especially when one's loved ones are at home. We look forward to your return. *hugs*