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You Can’t Go Back

Just going about the normal business affairs, they (the sales people, clerks, etc.) still ask me “Where are you from?” when they hear my French spoken with a decidedly foreign accent, to which I reply, “Le Marais.”

It always gets a chuckle and leads to their next question which is, “But where do you come from originally?,” to which I reply, “Nouvelle Orléans.”

That always gets a big “Oh!” and then some remark about how much they love New Orleans or know someone who has been there or whatever…

There are a few cities in the States the French know lots about, New Orleans being one of them, but the others are, of course: New York, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami. New Orleans is the smallest (population-wise) of the lot, but seems to hold special appeal thanks to its French roots, amazing culinary talents and its history as the birthplace of jazz — and we all know how much the French love jazz.

I don’t think those French roots really had much to do with my own affinity for Paris and France, although there are a lot of us Louisianans living here, as there are Expats from all the other cities the French adore.

Friends from San Francisco were visiting over the Thanksgiving holidays who have “la maladie” for Paris we all have. They come as often as they can and can never get enough time in the city to do all they want to do during their one or two week vacation stays. The question I almost always get from people that this is “Would you ever move back to the States,” to which I reply, “No. I don’t see how it’s possible.”

Obviously, it would PHYSICALLY be possible to pack and move to anywhere, but EMOTIONALLY? CULTURALLY? POLITICALLY? MORALLY? No.

I warn all of you who think about living in France for any real length of time. You can’t GO BACK. ‘Going back’ is like returning to your youth when you had all your hair, your breasts hadn’t fallen and your biggest problem was passing your driving test…but having all the knowledge and experience you have now. It simply isn’t possible. If you could, you would see that youth a whole lot differently. (Remember the movie “Peggy Sue Got Married” from 1986? Peggy Sue faints at a Highschool reunion. When she wakes up she finds herself in her own past, just before she finished school.)

And so it is with getting a taste of life in France. France is so different emotionally, culturally, politically and morally, that once you’ve seen life through a different pair of glasses, you get a much better focus on what’s truth and what’s fiction.

My mother sends me clippings of articles about France because, she says, “You
don’t get the news there.” Living in Nouvelle Orléans her whole life (92 years), she doesn’t understand that we in France get ALL the news, from many different sources and points of view, instead of just one. Every year when I visit her she asks, “So, how many years have you lived in France now?” To which I reply how ever many years it’s been and then she asks jokingly, “So, I guess you’re not moving back, huh?”

Nope. Guess not.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
(Photo by Michael Honegger)

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