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We'll always have Paris...or will we?

Another spot-on commentary from "Sundays with Mr. Curry:"

We'll Always Have Paris

Actually, I'm not so sure about that.  I mean, we probably will always have Paris; it's been through some pretty horrific times.  The first time we visited Place de la Concorde, the spectacularly beautiful square at the foot of the Champs Elysees, my Dad, the history professor, enhanced our impression of the place by pointing out that during the revolution, the French beheaded 17,000 of their countrymen right there, on the spot.  Yet the city stands.

Hitler wanted to burn it to the ground. Yet the city stands. 

So, if I had to bet, I'd bet on Paris lasting another thousand years.  The point is, if I never get back there, at least I saw it once.

And I'm so glad we had the opportunity to stay in an apartment in a neighborhood, rather than in some hotel near a tourist spot!  I'm not sure exactly what would constitute a 'tourist spot' simply because the whole place fits that description.  But I'm glad we lived in someone's home.  We got to experience, at least for a few days, what it might be like to live there. 

Even in ten short, jam packed days, we got a glimpse of a culture that is really very different from ours. 

For starters, it's very obvious to we Americans who take them for granted, that the city is much older than the automobile.  It's hard to realized just how auto-centric American culture is until you visit a place that old.  I suppose on the east coast, in cities like Boston, you see the same thing; narrow, twisty little streets with no parking because parking wasn't a concern back when the city was built.  Here in the midwest, our cities just scream "I was built for driving!!"  Wide streets, set out in a grid with residential areas separate from commercial districts because there's no need for a corner grocery store every few blocks when everyone drives. 

Just a cursory look at Paris shows you that here, things are different. Main avenues are straightish but the layout of the city has no more to do with a grid than a magic eye picture has to do with an eye chart.  Most of the streets are so narrow, you'd think twice before trying to navigate them in a Navigator or a mini van.

We think it's great when we live in a neighborhood that has a corner grocery, rather than having to drive to the nearest Super Target or Cub Foods but they have a produce stall, a bakery, a meat market and a cheese shop darn near every street.  Grocery shopping is clearly a daily event, given no more thought than our daily trek to the corner Starbucks.  It's a life style very different from ours.

It was fun but I have to admit, I prefer ours.  I'm sure it's only because it's what I'm used to but I like being able to buy all my things at one place.  I'm too busy to buy all my meals out, one item at a time.

My uncle, whose son owns the apartment we stayed at, had described some of the cultural differences to me but it was hard to understand until I got there.

We Americans are much, much busier than the Europeans.  We bite off more than we can chew every day.  When we eat out, we don't dawdle over our coffee.  Not only do we have things to do, the restaurant want to resell the table.  This is a personality trait of our culture.

Europeans believe in taking the time to smell the roses.

Americans believe in working hard to develop and grow the biggest, brightest roses the world has ever seen.

Claiming one culture is superior to the other is like claiming one type of personality is superior to another.  European 'culture' isn't even about 'smelling' the roses, it's aristocratic heritage actually makes it a 'I'll smell the roses while you peons spread manure' culture.  The only difference between now and pre-war Europe is now no one wants to spread the manure.  That's why their roses are all dying.

Meanwhile, here in America, we're slowly going from a culture which produces folks who get antsy on vacation and can't wait to get back to work, to a "you work and I'll eat" lifestyle.

When did we stop teaching our children the story of the Goose that lays golden eggs?  Because we're killing it.

How about the story of the Little Red Hen?

America used to be populated by little red hens but now, we're all fighting to be the other animals and apparently the plan is to attack the hen, steal her bread and eat it with a nice chicken dinner.

Remember the story of the Grasshopper and Ant?  In our new world, the federal government steps in, tells the ants that they are evil and greedy and open up the entire ant hill for the worthless grasshoppers.  You're a total sucker if you're an ant. 

Twice in the last century, Paris survived because America came to her rescue.  I don't know who or what will come to Paris' rescue if America ceases to be America.

So I'm really glad I went to Paris when I did.

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