Loving and Leaving L.A., But Bonjour Paris!
Los Angeles is now a city of my past, having arrived back in Paris yesterday to one of the warmest and most beautiful days ever. Rather than go home, unpack, settle in, etc., etc., and crash for the night, I chose instead to organize quickly, start a load of laundry and head out the door to attend my monthly Paris Writers Group. I was only ten minutes late, even if a bit jetlagged.
The meetings, run by Mary Duncan, consist of about 25 writers, mostly Americans, who each share three minutes worth of information about their latest projects. Mary uses an old-fashioned hourglass to time each of us as we go into our discourses. The idea is to provide a support system for our endeavors. As Mary puts it on the website, “PWG meets monthly to discuss nuts and bolts issues such as literary agents, editors, writer’s block, private publishing, marketing, websites, blogs, platforms, ebooks and trends in the publishing industry.” No, we do not critique manuscripts, but we do share our experiences and learn a lot from one another.
I will likely be back to Los Angeles many times in my future as my daughter has the bug to live in La La Land…at least for a while. She’s smitten with the California lifestyle, the incessant sun as well as the sunny faces of her health and exercise-driven peers.
There’s a funny thing I’ve noticed during my travels and having lived in several places. When a group of people get together, they discuss the things that immediately affect them most. In New Orleans, the topic of choice is food. While dining out at one restaurant, everyone is talking about where their next meal is going to be. In Knoxville, Tennessee, the conversation around the table is gossip about everyone else who’s not at the table. In New York, they talk about their next travel destination or latest business development. In Paris, they talk about the most recent art exhibitions, the latest book readings and the newest bistrots. In L.A., they discuss diet, exercise and spiritualism.
That’s mostly what we talked about all week long, with the exception of some politics. Naturally, I ended up making excuses for why I care so little about exercise since I have 70 steps to my apartment and walk everywhere, without a single second of thought of going to a gym! I’ll leave that for my California buddies.
In the interest of spiritualism, Erica took us up to the Lake Shrine, a temple, a shrine, and a meditation garden — an oasis tucked away in the hills off Sunset Boulevard for meditation, prayer, and receiving the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda. It’s free and open to the public and home to a family of monks, open daily except Mondays and holidays. Paramahansa Yogananda “was an Indian yogi and guru who introduced millions of Indians and westerners to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his organization Yogoda Satsanga Society of India and Self-Realization Fellowship. His book, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” remains a spiritual masterpiece and was included in the 100 best spiritual books of the 21st century.” (Wikipedia.org)
For Angelenos who have been locked away in their cars and stuck in traffic for way too long, this can be the answer to your spiritual prayers. It was exactly that for a leisurely afternoon.
France was making the news while I was on the other side of the planet. French President Emmanuel Macron seriously tickled my sides this week with his little “faux pas” when thanking Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, for his warm welcome by himself and his “delicious wife,” Lucy. What followed was one of Australia’s leading newspapers depicting him on its front page as the amorous and narcissistic French skunk, a cartoon character who we all know and love, Pepé Le Pew. For those of us who grew up with Pepé, he “is constantly in search of love and appreciation. However, his offensive skunk odor and his aggressive pursuit of romance typically cause other characters to flee from him in fear.” (Wikipedia.org)
Is this our own M. Macron? We know in our hearts that he meant to say “delightful,” or “lovely” or “charming,” but instead he used a word that we might take to mean something quite different. The press reported, however, that Lucy was far from offended and in fact, was quite charmed by the adorable M. Macron. (I would have been, too!) See the video for yourself.
As was expected, I experienced the usual reverse culture shock this past week while visiting California. I thoroughly enjoyed the happy-to-serve-you attitude with all sales and wait staff everywhere I went and loved that I could make a dozen changes to my order and they were happy to oblige me. This is definitely less possible in France, particularly in Paris, although it’s way better than it used to be.
I loved that there are toilet seat covers in every restroom. My daughter thought this was particularly funny and asked me if I have been living under a rock. When will the French add this simple feature I wondered, although it IS a waste of paper. But, it sure is more pleasant.
I couldn’t get used to the huge portions of restaurant servings — always ordering more than I could eat without trying and feeling like I’d gained a pound or two as a result. I also found the fresh fruit less tasty than our French counterparts and was warned, seriously, against buying anything that wasn’t organic.
The lack of smokers is a real pleasure — in fact I can’t remember seeing a single person smoking a cigarette anywhere we went — smoking other kinds of herbs, definitely, but not tobacco! In fact, now that marijuana is legal in California, its pungent odor is traceable everywhere. It’s still not cool to hang out and smoke on the street, much like drinking on the street. Drivers can have marijuana in the car, but it must be in the trunk. Driving under the influence is still illegal and smoking in the car (or any kind of consumption of it) is still a no-no. We stopped at a dispensary and perused their offerings. The trick is to talk to a “budtender.” I love this new word — like a bartender, the budtenders can offer advice about their “weed.”
All I could say during the visit was, “Well, it’s a new world.”
When we moved to L.A. in 1987, we were coming from the hills of Tennessee. I wanted to be in the most progressive place on the face of the planet. L.A. is still that, and likely always will be. Paris is not that. In fact it could be just the opposite, where history is way more important than the newest idea, as it is in L.A. But, that’s okay — Paris is Paris and now that I’m back, I’m not ready to trade it, even for L.A.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
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