This is the view I had while street dancing at Stravinsky Fountain in Paris.
When I was a seventeen year old freshman in college sitting in a computer lab I was flanked by an South Indian looking kid to my left and an East Asian looking kid to my right. No big deal. We start getting to work on our assignments, busily typing away, our heads alternating between our lab sheets and our computer monitors. All of the sudden they look up and make eye contact with each other from either side of my peripheral vision. They start speaking to each other in fluent French. It seems overly simple now but the experience kind of broke reality for a young isolated mind from working class Jersey. For the first time, I was not only brought face to face with people from Francophone countries, but also the notion that these places are ethnically diverse. I think everyone experiences some form of these reality breaking experiences in their young adult lives. They accumulate and we carry them with us because they alter the way we perceive the world. Since that time in the lab nearly twenty years ago I’ve steadily collected more and more experiences like this but as time wears on they become harder to find.
I’m in Paris now, a bit older and better traveled. I’m spending my time walking in the medieval street grid. The buildings reveal ancient masonry where the paint is chipped away. I’ve passed a thousand similar looking cafes and I wonder if they are anything like the ones that Hemingway wrote about. Slight cultural details creep up and stand out to me. Coffee is actually espresso and is usually reserved for after meals. Wine at lunch is a staple. Restaurants close early. There are few convenience stores. Owners don’t clean up after their dogs. But most of all, this place, for all its urbanity, lacks the sense of crushing urgency typical of your standard metropolis. Seeing that a place can have both of these opposing traits is quite a mind kick. I still have a few unscripted days left here before setting off to Asia. I’ll see what trouble I can get myself into between now and then. Au revoir for now.
P.S. I would like to thank the French people for taking pity on my pitiful French and responding to me in English more often than not.