Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Holiday Spritzer

It’s been drizzling snow all day here…that is to say, snow flurrying (if only my growing incapacity to speak English indicated a perfect fluency in French).  This combined with my sleepless nights of buzzing anticipation for my trip to Egypt, all too reminiscent of the Christmas Eve jitters, has put me in the holiday spirit.  Unfortunately, Paris as a city reeks of holiday blues. 
Whereas I’m doing snow dances for Snow-pocolypse, The Sequel, the French could not look more disgusted with the flurries.  The distilled looks of anger on their faces; their bent postures leaning into the ‘driving’ flakes; the disgruntled mutterings of, “This time last year…ten degrees warmer…” really puts a dent in the Christmas cheer. 
I visited the Netherlands two weekends past and found myself bicycling around (yes, bicycling—making progress on the psychological front [see the previous blog post]) a wonderland of sparkling decorations.  The Dutch evidently celebrate Christmas on December 5, so I caught the townsfolk nearly on the Eve of gift-giving, family receiving and feasting—in other words, at the apex of spirited, convivial anticipation.  Perhaps it was unfair of me to expect as much of Paris, particularly given the Dutch tradition of premature celebrations…  (Yet…in all honesty I am used to a full month of Christmas spirit between Thanksgiving weekend and New Year's Day)  At any rate, my soaring hopes for enticing store displays and quaint twinkling lights have been sourly let down.  I will say I can’t help but appreciate French frankness:

No commercial gimmicks here!  What you see is what you get:
a street for your spending (-and-regretting-come-bill-paying-time) pleasure
...but really…what is Christmas without Santa’s black-face elves, relics of colonial era racism:

This is not a scam: white Dutchman painted as black-servant-elves
circa Maastricht, Netherlands 2010

At any rate, what really sets me on edge, grinds my gears, takes some of the bubbles out of the bubbly, is the way in which the homeless people have flocked to the Paris metro stations since the cold hit.  There are hordes of them.  In some stations you will see four drunk, sleeping men in ratty sleeping bags per side of the tracks.  The gypsy women are dragging their kids to sit at their feet in the frigid entrance of the metros.  Others are posing with their puppies outside beneath awnings.  The people who give money seem all the more humble, all the more generous next to those who ignore the city’s homeless .  Moreover, in light of all of this misery, the rest of the Parisians still have the audacity to wander around with their faces all screwy like, “If only it weren’t snowing they would…”
                Anyway, this is a warning, for those visiting Paris in the next month or so: pack warm clothes, a change purse full of coins, and a song of prayer to send out for the winos in the tunnels.

3 comments:

  1. Hey little cousin. I didn't know you were blogging your time in france. This is fantastic. I have Friend coming to paris next week for the first time. Do you have any recommendations? Can you skype? I'd love to catch up to see howe you are doing. You staying with tommy for xmas? X maggie

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  2. Ok girls, the Dutch are really breaking bad now, I cannot stop laughing, I'm laughing harder than I've ever laughed. Try to imagine this. Claire, the bit about the French with their screwy faces, I can just see how real that is, and you know, everybody does that face sometime. Perfect. Counting the days til xmas. xo

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