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Marek's recent post (forwarded by Curtis) was such a classic example of
finding the extraordinary in the ordinary that it (and discovering that
this cafe I'm sitting in has free WiFi) has tempted me to write
something about *my* ordinary life. I'm currently in a very nice cafe in
the Butte aux Cailles near where I work, a fun "village within a city"
that is being referred to in tourist publications as "the new
Montmartre." It's a fun area, full of ordinary Parisians living their
lives as if they were extraordinary.

And why the fuck not? Believer or non-believer, so-called "spiritual" or
"non-spiritual," NONE of us knows fersure whether there is any life
after this one, so why not enjoy this one as if it were the only one
possible *to* enjoy? To do otherwise seems folly to me.

It seems that way to a lot of Parisians as well. They might actually be
Christians or of some other persuasion that believes that there is an
afterlife, but that's...uh...after life. And the afterlife's very
existence is a matter of belief, not fact. This life -- here and now --
is fact. One can either use it or lose it.

I consider myself fortunate these last few days since I arrived in Paris
to be sharing them with folks who prefer to use them rather than lose
them. At work, I'm surrounded by an American guy and a Brit guy in their
fifties, and a couple of French interns who are in their early twenties.
It makes for an interesting dynamic. The women are model-thin and
lovely, but rather than fritter away *all* of their todays on
frivolities, they enrolled in a university course to teach them about
Information Architecture, and now they're working for one of the leading
computer companies in the world, and digging it. Both are incredibly
bright and motivated, and best of all, they laugh a lot. So do the two
older guys, so I'm fortunate in my "work crew."

My "playtime crew" is just as diverse, but on the whole just as happy.
I've seen none of the classic Parisian depression on this trip so far,
only joie de vivre. In this cafe there are tables of French people
discussing art or sports or literature or TV personalities or
philosophy, the common denominator amongst all of them is that they seem
to all be having a good time. Being French, they don't overdrink,
meaning that I cannot detect a drunk person in the joint. They just sip
at their wines and their beers and enjoy them, not chug them for the
purpose (like the Brits) of getting drunk and losing their inhibitions.
My take on that is that the French simply have fewer inhibitions to
lose, so they can enjoy their beverages for the taste, and not treat
them as a drug, or a means to an end.

The crowd is also ethnically diverse. There are North Africans here, and
Chinese (Butte aux Cailles being next door to one of Paris' Chinatowns)
and Vietnamese and Arabs and even a few French-bread French. And they
don't seem to have any problem with all of them being French. I see that
in the Netherlands as well, but here it's more laid back, as if
tolerance were not just politically correct, but Just How Things Are
Done.

Me, right now I'm the guy in the corner sitting at a small table and
typing on his laptop. When I finish this post I'll close up the computer
and join in some of the conversations, my French coming back to me far
more rapidly than I imagined. Interestingly, I find myself *thinking* in
French most of the time, and having to internally translate back to
English. Go figure. That hasn't happened for me yet in Dutch.

As for other differences between Paris and the Netherlands, I would have
to say that the primary one that strikes me is a difference in the
comfort that French people seem to have with their sexuality. In the
Netherlands, people may be liberal, but they kinda "pull it in." People
rarely catch your eye and hold it flirtingly there; instead they tend to
open up only after some period of "getting to know you." Here, things
are more open and immediate. Spring is not really here yet, but it's
coming, and people can feel it, and seem to be already responding to the
increased pheromone count in the air. As an example, this was the first
poster I saw on my first walk around town.

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Anyway, I'm enjoying myself. Sorry to say that to those on this forum
who were hoping that I wouldn't. And you *all* know that there are a few
here who fall into that category. Fuck 'em. How are *they* spending
their ordinary here-and-now days and nights? What can *they* find to
write about them?


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