Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Paper—what a waste. Save trees. I try, but I do miss reading newspapers and magazines.

When I travel, I plunge into the world of print again. At airport lounges, I pick up every free publication out there and I spend many hours in flight reading and dirtying my hands with newsprint.

I read, this time, about the French. And how they think too much. To the point where Sarkozy tells them: think less, do more.

I wonder if thought is antithetical to enthusiastic action. I worry about that, given my propensity to drift away, away into idle thought, you know, in the way of an immigrant, who finds now both sides of the ocean perplexing.

For example, I am standing with my suitcase at the RER (commuter train) station, waiting to get on the train that would take me to the Paris airport and suddenly, I hear it – the Polish language. It’s easy to hear Polish in and around Notre Dame cathedral, but there, at the Luxembourg station – it is a jolt. Two men, talking. Decently dressed men. Every other word from their mouth is the standard Polish curse word, in the same way that I hear the word “like” out of the mouths of teens here. Though -- Like, I talked to her and like, she like, didn’t even, like, hear me – is a lot more pleasant to hear than: kurwa (whore), he came up to me and kurwa (whore), he kurwa (whore) told me that he wasn’t kurwa (whore) going to kurwa (whore) go after all. Kurwa (whore).

As I go about booking my winter flight to Poland now, I can't help but think how lucky are the tourists who come to Poland and don’t speak the language. Because they don’t have to hear this kind of common discourse when they are out and about.

And then of course I feel guilty for thinking negatively, in the way that only a Pole can feel guilty. Guilt, pity, despair -- these are national traits and we are especially good at manifesting them.

Then, I remembered a photo that I took on my last day in Paris. Here, it’s this one:

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It’s not especially noteworthy and that’s why I never posted it. But it depicts a scene, with man, a dog, a paper, a cup of espresso and a croissant. And I think – is there a better way to start a morning?

Today, walking home, I noticed a dog tied to a post outside a gas station. The gas station sold food and so dogs weren’t allowed inside. Unhappy dog. Go to France, pooch. You can watch your owner sip an espresso while you admire the chick-dogs that walk by.

Finally, still on my walk home, I pass Madison’s shrimp truck. It rolls up here every now and then to sell shrimp (and other seafood, upon occasion) from the Gulf. I am fussy about shrimp. But you know, as one of the vendors reaches for a handful, I can't help thinking that you could not easily find such nice plump crustaceans at good prices elsewhere. Not even in France.

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So my thoughts are all over the place. Perhaps they lack the sexy existential qualities of French thought, but I swear, when I took a brief stroll outside my office at lunchtime and I came across these guys, down by the Union, I thought: why am I not a duck? (…whose biggest worry appears to be whether to plunge from the stoop into the water?)

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