03 September, 2006

By the Seine, part 2

This is the other thing I wrote sitting by the Seine in Paris a little more than a week ago now.

I have discovered that to happily explore Paris alone I must just do whatever strikes my fancy. Want to take a photo of that street sign? Who cares if it makes me look touristy! Want to look through the skirts in that little shop? They can't shoot me for not buying things. If I don't indulge my whims I end up just wandering aimlessly feeling vaguely dissatisfied by something I can't even remember. Alone, the only reason not to do exactly as I please is a lingering fear of looking stupid, which I apparently do not consider a sufficient excuse for not taking a peek into that tiny used book store.

So I do things. This morning I decided I wanted jam with my yogurt (which is pretty much like butter, except more sour), and remained undeterred by the fact that the little épicerie next to the apartment was closed at 8am, when I went out. I ended up wandering for rather a while, because I was trying to avoid going down any stairs (pretty much impossible in Montmartre, I can now report), but I did eventually find a store, where I bought a jar of Bonne Maman strawberry jam.

Mostly what I seem to want to do is take pictures of things and ask people questions. I have started a collection of pedagogic street signs ("Rue Lamarck. 1744-1829. Naturaliste," etc), and have a large number of photos of the Notre-Dame cathedral. This afternoon, while scouring a book on diabetes for necessary vocabulary (la diabète. l'hypoglycémie. une pompe à insuline.) I asked a random customer how you say the Greek letter beta in French ("béta," he said).

Everyone seems able to tell I'm American just by looking at me (although not, as demonstrated last night, by speaking to me). In the interests of getting people to STOP SPEAKING ENGLISH TO ME, DAMN IT I have started trying to figure out what the visible differences between myself and the Parisians are. I cannot seem to master the look of blank indifference common to most of the people here, probably as a result of being too darn interested in things (edit: apparently being slightly sleep-deprived will accomplish the desired effect...), but I have noticed that French women can layer like nobody's business. They all seem to be wearing a sweater and a coat, or at least to have a sweater in a color complimenting their outift tied around their waist. To facilitate my assimilation into French culture I am now off to buy a teal scarf to drape carelessly about my neck.

(Something I noticed while sitting there: The steps have been here long enough for a small stalagmite to start forming underneath a drip. Paris is so cool.)


Anonymous boo said...

You know it's the hair. so-cal hair is a dead giveaway. love you anyway.

7:35 AM  

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