Thanks for the Memories
American-style service never ceases to give me a wake-up jolt after living in France for so long where “service” is sometimes a dirty word. In the land where making money is a despicable vocation, getting good customer service is not the norm on the whole. One must earn it by being very respectful and creating a relationship with those who provide it, not by spending your hard-earned bucks. It’s one reason I return to the same restaurants and shops in Paris where I know I will be treated as “une amie” (a friend) and not “une étrangère” (a stranger). That alone counts more than my money.
My 10 days in New Orleans and Los Angeles reminded me of how friendly Americans are; casual and no-nonsense when it comes to accommodating just about any whim. They do it with big smiles, but of course, everyone is smiling back, too. Sometimes I think that if I were serving the French, who are naturally pretty grumpy, I’d be grumpy, too. We, optimistic Americans, who see the glass as half-full, are still trying to understand why the French take such great pleasure in their own unhappiness and seeing the glass as half-empty. This isn’t a joke — one-third of the French daily take anti-depressants, sleeping pills or other psychotropic drug. (Source: France’s National Drug Safety Agency, ANSM).
This isn’t a complaint — just an observation. New Orleans and Los Angeles both have one thing in common that helps their moods, too: weather. Sunshine makes a difference to one’s attitude toward life. I fortunately saw plenty of that while I was visiting the two cities and had to prepare myself for going back to “Gray Paree.”
One thing I’ve loved about living in urbanity, particularly in a place where public transportation is a high priority, is the unnecessary ownership/use of a car. In New Orleans or Los Angeles, you aren’t getting far without one. You spend most of your time getting in the car, going to where you need to go, finding a place to park, getting out of your car, doing what you need to do, getting back in your car only to start the whole process over again. If you have several errands to run, then this is the exercise you’re getting. I prefer not living in such a bubble and it’s one reason I don’t see moving back to this kind of lifestyle.
We did go car shopping for my daughter who now needs wheels after living in New York with only a Metro pass. We test drove a new Honda Insight. The new cars are beyond my comprehensive. They think for you. If a car in front of you stops too short, the car will automatically brake for you. Seriously? It’s also well equipped with cup holders — the reason people choose one car over another. (You might like this article about the history of cup holders!)
While in Los Angeles, I did walk two long blocks to a really nice café where I could work on my computer (but only at certain tables and not on weekends, to which I scoffed!), eat and meet with clients. The food was excellent, the service as friendly as it gets and the atmosphere casual and pleasant. Walking along a real sidewalk in front of beautiful old Spanish-style L.A. homes was a treat, but lonely. I passed one gardner and less than a handful of other people walking their dogs during the dozen trips I made to and from the café. Shame…it could be such a pleasant place to take in the sunshine and beautiful foliage.
One evening we went to a movie. That’s what one does in L.A.: go to a movie. The Grove is nearby, making it easy. This is Americana at the epitome of its consumerism. Once you’ve parked your car in the massive lot, hopefully remembering which level and on which aisle it is installed, you enter a quasi-re-creation of a European village in the form of shops, restaurants and cinemas. It was a weird experience to someone who lives in the real thing. That just tells me that Americana aspires to be more like Europe; while Europe aspires to be more like America in so many ways.
As a seriously touristy thing to do, we took a walk along Santa Monica Pier, snaking our way through the teens and families, but stopping to take a ride on the carousel. Erica and I chose the black stallions on which we could ride like the wind to feel like little kids, carefree and simple-minded. (I couldn’t remember the last time I’d ridden on a carousel, can you?) We also had our photos taken in a booth — the kind one must do at an amusement park, just for the amusement of it!
One afternoon we visited the Annenberg Space for Photography at 2000 Avenue of the Stars in Century City where The National Geographic Photo Ark is on exhibition — photos by Joel Sartore, that “reflect an effort to document every species living in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries in order to motivate action through education.” (The exhibition on till January 13, 2019). It was there we had the photo op of taking a self portrait with a critically endangered Sumatran tiger, à la Joel Sartore. (Virtually, but not for real, of course.)
It had been a while since I’d been there, so we made a stop at the Fahey Klein Gallery to see what artists were showing and what was for sale on their walls. The gallery represents one of the best collection of artists in the industry and while living in L.A., I had been one of its customers. The photos on the walls in the offices alone make me drool. I swooned over the photo of “Lisa Fonssagrives in Turban, New York 1940” by Horst P. Horst.
Erica’s magician buddies allowed us entry to the Magic Castle one evening. The attire is highly restricted at such an establishment — I was just on the edge of respectability in a black dress, jacket and boots. The Clubhouse itself is an L.A. wonder — built in 1909 as a private home for Rollin Lane and his wife, Katherine. Lawyer, banker and real estate investor, he greatly influenced the growth of Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley. Once named “Holly Chateau,” it was a center of socialite activity until the couple passed away. During World War II, it was divided into a multi-family residence with a maze of small apartments until Milt Larsen came along. His father, William W. Larsen Sr., was a renowned magician and had long dreamed of building an elegant private clubhouse for magicians. Milt and his brother, also an accomplished magician, made that possible. With the help of generous friends, restored the mansion to what it is today and opened the doors as the home to the Academy of Magical Arts, Inc. in January of 1963.
The Castle was standing room only, but we managed to see three shows during the evening: Erik Tait, Chad Long and Michael Mirth. We questioned why there aren’t more women magicians, but were told that they are on the rise in the industry! Mostly slight-of-hand, the shows still promise to stump you. Watching very closely didn’t offer up any clues — these guys are pure professionals and pure genius, not mention very, very funny.
I went to use the restroom while the rest of our entourage got seats in the theater to see Michael Mirth perform. When I finally entered, the entire theater of people applauded and sent an escort to take me to my seat, to which I bowed in appreciation. It seemed like the appropriate thing to do — obviously Mr. Mirth had held up starting his show just for me! What an honor!
Thanksgiving Day was exactly what it should be: a table surrounded by friends and family, filled with way too much food including a beautiful way-too-big turkey, a serious chowing down of all of it, the playing of a party game and watching a bad comedy on Netflix.
Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?
By the time you read this, I’ll be back in Paris. Thanks to Thanksgiving…for the memories.
A few announcements:
Here’s a great chance to downsize — donate your unwanted goods to the AAWE (Association of American Women in Europe) Winter Festival & Bazaar:
Saturday, December 1, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
65 Quai d’Orsay, 75007 Paris, France
To make your donation, contact Rosemary Cheylus at [email protected]
Combine the movie, Paris Noir, and jazz with Ursuline Kairson, for a perfect evening in the City of Light!
See the documentary “PARIS NOIR: African Americans in the City of Light” at 6 p.m. Saturday, December 1st, followed by a jazz concert with Ursuline Kairson and her Quartet, at Lou Pascalou, 14, rue des Panoyaux, 75020 Paris.
You can also see the documentary on Vimeo for a small rental fee.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(with Erica and a Virtual Sumatran Tiger)