Oscar Wilde said “When good Americans die, they go to Paris.” This pretty much sums up my obsession with the place. And my attitude towards work/reward the whole year through. Every cent, every freelance assignment, every delightful bauble I don’t buy, gets me closer to Paris. Someday, if I’m very very good, I will get to stay there forever. And by “good”, I mean “productive/lucrative”. Ah yes, Ye olde Protestant work ethic – here harnessed to power me through inherent laziness and poverty simply so that I can arrive at a place that is the living antithesis of the Protestant work ethic. (Or is that Venice? Elderly women in beautiful suits eating gelato and drinking wine at 10 am? Maybe Venice is where gluttonous Americans go when they die…)
A dinner guest recently asked the age-old question (from those who’ve never been there) “Why Paris”? I responded with a short, but melodramatic, tale. Last time we went to Paris, my husband and I bickered the whole way to the train. We rode in silence to O’Hare. We got there much too early; the plane left much too late. There were no decent restaurants in the terminal. We were *not* on an Air France flight, so the food and wine were awful. I got no sleep on the plane, and my movie choices were – shall we say? – less than compelling. I arrived looking like the victim of multiple muggings, with jet-lag so thick I wandered the barrel-like confines of CDG like a shell-shocked zombie. A particularly mean shellshocked zombie. We got on the train. I hated my husband, my suitcase, and my face – not necessarily in that order, but more of an endless loop of spite. My carry-on bag hurt my shoulder. My suitcase refused to roll properly. Fashionable and attractive people pointedly avoided my hideous visage. I felt like a leper, or the damned. Yes – the Damned. The Metro was an endless purgatory of platform gaps and stale sweat, and I was cursed to wander the subterranean morass of despair, lugging my sins (each link forged in Life, Scrooge!) behind me. The horror. The horror…
We reached yet another stop in yet another station, only this time, with the instinct that tells flocks of birds to take off en masse, I knew we would be heading up to the surface. Oh happy day! Only 900 steps to sweet, sweet freedom! Lugging. Stomping. Puffing. Suitcase getting heavier… arms pulling out of sockets… aaagony!!
And then I saw it: a patch of sky. The first beautiful roofline. The first windowbox! I could hear it! We’re so close!!! And then… YES. HERE WE ARE!!
It’s ALWAYS worth it. If I had to crawl there on my tongue, it would still be worth it. It never disappoints. It never seems to try. It just is. And it is, amazingly, the only place on this whole planet where I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. If it’s not happening in Paris? I don’t care about it. I’ll care about it later. But not now… because now, I’m just too happy to worry. And I’m only one quick shower away from Gewürztraminer in a little glass on the tiny cafe table in my favorite people-watching spot in the world – and I don’t need anything else.