Some may find my raps about "cafe life" boring. For that matter, some
may find the whole concept of cafe life boring, and that's their right.
But I find it fascinating, and as nice a way to pass my time on this
rock as any I've found.

Bouncing back and forth between Paris and Leiden as I do -- but spending
a lot of time in cafes in both places -- I have the opportunity to
"compare and contrast," to see what the similarities and the differences
might be. The similarities are about what you'd expect, people sitting
outside on a pleasant day, enjoying a pleasant drink or a coffee and
chatting with friends. The differences are less obvious, at first
glance.

But if you look closer, you'll find differences. In the Netherlands, for
example, I have found on my last few trips back here that people seem to
*appreciate* their cafe life more. In Paris, people tend to take cafe
life for granted, as if it were their "right," ranking right up there
with "liberté, égalité, et fraternité." In the
Netherlands...not so much, largely because of the weather.

Paris can be gray and overcast much of the winter, but in most years,
one can kick back in a sidewalk cafe pretty much half of the year in
comfort. Here it rains more, is more overcast even when it's not
raining, and summer lasts for maybe a couple of months. So when it's a
*really* nice day like today, people bolt from their houses and spend
the day either on their boats (as described in an earlier rap), or in
the many parks, or at a cafe/bar/pub like this one, Bad Habits.

And, possibly because it's a more rare experience for them, they
*appreciate* it more. Looking around this cafe, I see far more happy and
laughing faces than I tend to see in Paris. Go figure.

I suspect that one of the reasons is that the people of the Netherlands
-- or at least the people of Leiden -- are less impressed by wealth and
the trappings of wealth than the French. In Paris, many people tend to
play "dress up" when they go out to cafes, as if in their inexpensive
neighborhood cafes they're somehow trying to emulate the rich people in
their expensive and far more trendy cafes along the Boulevard St.
Germain or the Champs d'Élysées. Here, not so much.

I get the feeling that Leiden is more like Santa Fe, in that even the
wealthy people choose a cafe for its vibe and its level of comfort, not
for its "see and be seen" factor. This allows them to relax more, and
just enjoy the cafe, without feeling any need to put on airs or try to
be perceived as something other than who they already are, not who they
aspire to be, or aspire to be perceived as being. That's my theory,
anyway. Of course, that theory could be bullshit, and it could just be
that I've picked a cafe full of happy people today.

At any rate, I'm one of them. I expect I will be when I return to Paris
tomorrow morning as well. I'll be living in an entirely new quartier,
with all-new faces and all-new cafes. And in fact, that quartier is
pretty upscale, so some of the faces will be of the "upscale" variety I
described earlier. I just can't wait to see whether they're having as
much fun being rich as the people around me in Bad Habits seem to be
having being middle class.



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