Wednesday, March 05, 2008


My nine-hour plane trip brought me to my mother's house.

1. My mother's house is in a land of palms and pines, live oaks and Spanish moss. Chirping cardinals and nuthatches at the bird feeder.

It is also a land of beige houses, manicured lawns, and signs that say "Speed Limit 17-1/2 MPH."

And leaf blowers.

I'd forgotten about leaf blowers. Paris now has a few automatic street sweepers, but mostly the streets are still swept by the "green men" who run the water in the gutters and sweep them clean with their green booms. Not much sound there.

My hero James Thurber once wrote in a short story about men with chainsaws cutting down trees to build insane asylums for people driven crazy by the sound of chainsaws cutting down trees.

I feel the same about leaf blowers. Can't we just rake?

2. I'd forgotten how easily strangers strike up conversations here in the US. In Paris when I'm by myself I'm accustomed to standing silently in line or on the metro and making my observations but not sharing them with anyone.

When I got off the plane in Atlanta and was waiting for luggage, when I was on the monorail in between terminals, when I was in line to rent a car, random PEOPLE WERE TALKING TO ME! It almost knocked me off my feet at first. Just lighthearted banter, but also sharing all the details of what they were planning for their vacation, where they worked. Just chit chat.

It's not better or worse; just very, very different.

3. I love being in the comfort zone of having temperature in Fahrenheit. I'm still working on feeling Celsius in my bones.

4. Stay tuned for updates on "bumper stickers you won't see in France, part 2."

5. Starbucks Wifi access is my new best friend. Please be patient as I try to keep up with comments and posts.


NWRMK said...

I understand completely the feeling of returning to stateside after extended living out of the country we were so strangers in our own land.

Going Like Sixty said...

I've never lived in a big city for comparison, but when we visited Paris, we were amazed at how quiet it was after 10 p.m.

No Harleys, no boom-thumper car speakers, no interstate high way six miles away with the roar of trucks.

It may not be that way in Paris suburbs, and it may be the same in most major cities. Who knows.

We also enjoyed the peace of being in a crowd and not having to listen or participate in mindless chatter.

BTW: I am a leaf-blower. It's electric, but still... guilty.

The Late Bloomer said...

I can TOTALLY relate to the surreal feeling of talking to strangers in a friendly way in the U.S. -- knocks me down every time! People smile at you, and you chit-chat with all kinds of people! It's of course superficial friendliness, and doesn't go any further, but it just makes you FEEL better and makes your day better -- you know what I mean?

Anyhoo, it's always refreshing to experience that all over again when back in the States. Admittedly, I sometimes miss it. But then there are times when I'm glad to be in my own bubble -- it's hard to find that right balance! But I'll guess I'll always be a true American at heart: the other night, when I ended up having a friendly conversation with a pharmacienne, it literally made my day! It had been so long since I'd had a friendly interaction in a pharmacie, and it just felt GOOD!

Chris Late said...


J'aime beaucoup ma souffleuse aux feuilles! Desolee!


smilnsigh said...

If I could, I would outlaw leaf blowers! -huge sighhhhhhhhh-

-chuckle- Yes, we do chat in line and etc., don't we. It makes the time go faster or something.

Bumper stickers! Eeeek. Happily, we don't...

Do what you have to do, and don't worry about blogging. Unless when it's a fun get-away, of course.


Polly-Vous Francais said...

I don't mind leaf blowers per se, just the noise. Today the air was sweet and still, not a breath of wind, and I walked along the marshes. Birds were singing. About half a mile away, a solitary leaf blower ruined the silence.

Paris has noisy morocycles on noisy streets; there are strict anti-noise laws in France which I can't go into from my perch at Starbucks USA.

Re: chit-chat with people. Madame Tabac in Paris (the formerly gruffy meanie) is now a real ally and buddy -- a post coming up about that, but I think it's similar to Late Bloomer's experience at her pharmacie. Once you've made the connection in France, it's permanent.

On the other hand, the barista at this Starbucks says "Here's your latte, darlin'.." to everyone who comes in. It's endearing... but maybe more temporary an affection.

Pamela Jane said...

From your Starbucks perch, will you play blog tag? I've tagged you, hoping to hear 7 idiosyncratic and random things about you as you ponder which side of the ocean feels more foreign/friendly :).

Unknown said...

Since you uploded that Paris movie I can't stop listening/ and watching it. That music is so sos so fantastic just creeps in to my ear.

blueVicar said...

I chatted with folks a LOT more in France than here in the USA...what's up with that? And you know how bad my French is...It was just easier for me there than here.

Meilleurs voeux!!

LDP said...

James Thurber is your hero? I like you already!

Panic in New York said...

My parents used to read James Thurber to us when we were little. They used to also play Jacques Brel for us, even the song about the whore house. It was in French so we didnt know until much later.

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

Ah yes, the banter...that's what I miss, the friendliness. Enjoy your time back in the States.

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