A Year in the Merde, Muck and Mire
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Wednesday, August 9, 2006
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Dear Parler Paris Reader,
It had been sitting on the table for weeks, but yesterday I threw it in my bag, took a seat on the Métro and started reading. Everyone says it’s hilarious, and so, here I go, reading ONE MORE BOOK ABOUT LIVING IN PARIS. Even me, who lives and breathes the City of Light, who pounds out random contemplations on an almost daily basis about what it’s like to avoid the inevitable cultural collide, can’t help but read ONE MORE BOOK ABOUT LIVING IN PARIS. Don’t we ever get tired of it?
The answer is no. Especially when it’s just so hilariously funny…and so amazingly true.
Stephen Clarke’s “A Year in the Merde,” while written from a British point of view (you know the two countries are still warring, even if historians say the Hundred Years’ War ended in 1453, it really NEVER did!), is simply one crack-up, chuckle, giggle, grin, guffaw, hee-haw, and howl to the next. I’m sure the other riders were wondering just what was making my face do such contortions, but I guess they could see the word “MERDE” in red, white and blue boldly printed on the cover, so perhaps they had a clue.
Clarke’s character, Paul West, who they call “Pol Wess” and who they immortalized on business cards as “Paul Vest,” is greeted in Paris at “La Rentrée” — the true beginning of the year according to the French calendar…the first Monday in September. In the U.S., we call that day “Labor Day” and no one works that day (big fallacy, right?). In France, this is the first day back at work from their long summer vacations and much to Paul’s surprise, found everyone, and I mean everyone, on the Champs-Elysées, kissing! (This is not mutually exclusive to men kissing women, you understand. Men kiss men, women kiss women and the cheeks are flying back and forth like mad.)
For Americans, Paul West gives us insight into the British culture, too. It’s a big help, because if you’re living in Paris, then a) you’re going to meet a lot of Brits and b) you’re likely to travel to London fairly often on the fast and inexpensive Eurostar.
One thing we discovered is that while we (the British and the Americans) sort of speak the same language, we don’t really; and while we sort of look fairly similar, we aren’t at all the same. The British are as different to Americans as the Italians are to the French. One good thing is that the British act as a sort of bridge between the French and American culture…Anglo-Saxon Europeans who live isolated on an island off the continent, who tend to behave as insular as Americans do, but have a more daily relationship with other cultures.
Anyway, “merde” is a term that pops up in Clarke’s story on a regular basis, not only because it peppers the sidewalks, but because it so perfectly describes what it’s like to live and work in a city that is a virtual mine field, from doggy poop, surly waiters, sexy women or you-name-it.
The French year is coming to a close soon, just about the same time New Orleans celebrates its first year after Hurricane Katrina, also in stuck in the “merde,” and what I’d also call the “muck and mire.” I can’t help but think of how we’re going to start off our new year to reduce the amount of doggy poop, cross the cultural divide and fix the problems of the world.
A la prochaine…
P.S. To get your copy of “A Year in the Merde,” visit /parlerparis/books/booksaboutfrance.html
P.P.S. A special congratulations to Parler Paris Special Conference Coordinator Schuyler Hoffman who will be moving this month to New Orleans to take a post with Antoine’s Restaurant as Event Planning Manager and open a B and B on Rampart Street in the Faubourg Marigny! (Don’t worry, he will still be with us in San Diego for the Living and Investing in France Conference September 16 and 17! For more information, visit /frenchproperty/conference/LIF_SD_2006/LIF_SD_2006_home.html
To access the complete Community Calendar, you now have two choices:
1. Click here for the online version with hot links to your favorite sites:
2. Click here for a printer-friendly text version:
We gladly run announcements for non-profit organizations. If you wish your community announcement to appear, please provide the text in ENGLISH just as you’d like it to appear and send it to Lynda Sydney: Calendar@ParlerParis.com
We reserve the right to edit as necessary. We cannot promise it will be run if the information is provided in French or if the format is unacceptable. Please use the following listings as your format guide.
Thank you, Adrian
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This week in French Property Insider…
Learn how to buy property in France. French Property Insider is an e-mail newsletter from the editors of Parler Paris. Learn all the insights, recommendations, and discoveries about buying and investing in real estate in Paris and France that French Property Insider readers get every week.
Excerpt from the Writers Insider Guide to Paris
In reference to the Left Bank at the end of the last century, Edmund White writes in The Flâneur, “No, there’s no denying that Saint-Germain is no longer Intelligence Central for the whole world as it once claimed to be… It’s sort of as though a beatnik brat has grown up to be an elegant and rather brainless matron.” As his quick words claim, the Paris of now barely resembles the Paris of then. You won’t find a 15-dollar-a-month hotel these days, nor even a one-dollar cup of coffee. And although Saint-Germain has just put out a new bi-lingual magazine called Six about the arty goings-on in the neighborhood, Sartre is dead, no resistant movement is whispering among the tea cups, and Hemingway’s Left Bank cafés have become tourist traps…for more about historic, literary Paris, see the guide….
Novelists, journalists, poets, dreamers and doers…discover the writing life in Paris. It is possible, click here to find out how…
ANNUAL RENTREE PARTY SEPTEMBER 23, 2006
Parler Parlor French-English Conversation Group
* Rent the personal Marais apartment of Adrian Leeds
* “Le Provençal” Studio: Now Available!
Located in a very charming and quiet 18th-century building in the heart of Le Marais, this sunny studio is perfect for one or two seeking ultimate Parisian calm, flavored with the beautiful colors of Provence.
Pictures and more details available here: /parlerparis/apartments/rentals/provencal.html
Parler Paris Apartments
The next gathering is September 5, 2006
Because Adrian will be traveling to San Diego for the Living and Investing in France Conference the second week in September, the next Après Midi will be September 5th instead of September 12th.
So mark your calendars to be sure not to miss it! See /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for more details.
“A Year in the Merde, Muck and Mire”
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