From Paris to La La Land on 9-11
It is impossible to pass this day without acknowledging what happened about 9 a.m. in New York City, when the whole world watched the twin towers take a tumble and thousands of innocent Americans lost their lives.
I was in Paris that day and with utter awe, shock and disbelief, watched on CNN the second tower turn to rubble. It’s an unforgettable moment in our history that changed the course of history like no other single event. Americans virtually stopped traveling for a while for fear of terrorist attack. Security at airports was stepped up so that no one now passes the gates without a search for anything that could potentially become a weapon. We went to war with those we think are our enemies, but we don’t really know who the enemies are — at least not in this kind of war. And fear has set in — bad.
When we traveled by plane from Paris to Los Angeles last Friday, the last drop of salve in a small metal tin in my purse was confiscated. No creams, gels or liquids now allowed on board. Then we landed in a warm, breezy Los Angeles, the tall palms welcoming us as we headed to a city we once called home.
Along the way we watched a man being cuffed by police on the curb and we knew we had arrived in “La La Land.” At 10 p.m. after almost 24 hours of traveling, we ordered pancakes and eggs at a Big Boy diner taking in Americana at its best and preparing for what was to come — re-entry into our own culture.
After 12 years of living on the other side of the pond, with occasional visits to the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” I still experience a kind of culture shock, different with each visit depending on what I encounter.
This trip was meant as a reunion with old friends the week prior to the Living and Investing in France Conference in San Diego this coming weekend. A couple dozen of our closest friends gathered Saturday night at a sprawling, unassuming and elegant home in the Brentwood hills to say hello after years apart and taste on the French cheeses I had brought all those miles. (Yes, it is legal to bring in cheese, as long as it is vacuum-packed!) Many of the friendships were made in France — Americans who have spent time in our foreign world and know what it’s like to have a foot in each. Some were from many years prior to our leaving with relationships that have remained as if we had never left.
Most of these Americans live in big, beautiful homes, with each room almost as spacious as our entire Paris apartment. Their kitchens are equipped with more than they could ever use. Their newest Whirlpool washer and dryer are as tall as a ten-year-old and needing a room of their own. They enjoy swimming pools, hot tubs, TV’s in every room, large, powerful vehicles and a standard of living that can be very seductive.
And all the while, they are envious of the life we have in France. This is the enigma that is tough to “get my head around” with each visit to my native land.Stuck in traffic on the “405” headed to the San Fernando Valley, I realized that I suddenly felt really alone in this bubble we call a car. Here we travel from point to point in our “little bubbles” — our homes, our offices, our markets — communing only with those we choose.
I never feel alone in Paris, never. Perhaps it’s a lifestyle more relative to New York City, where life is on the street, and in smaller spaces, where one never stops communing with those we choose…and don’t choose.
What would you choose?
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]
P.S. Commune with us folks who have a foot in each world by practicing your French (or English) at Parler Parlor. September 23rd we celebrate La Rentrée with American Hot Dogs and on October 3rd, we move to a new location! See http://www.parlerparlor.com for more details.