September 28, 2012

Gwen - Passing through Paris

Often, when Americans think of Paris they imagine a Hemingway flavored, Woody Allen directed figment that is loosely set in the twenties with highlights and overtones taken straight from pop culture and Disney. The interesting thing is that somehow, regardless of the reality of what lies before them, many American tourists come away from their trips with the impression that their delusion is true.

Something about Gwen’s personality afforded her her own view of Paris. Tall dirty gray Haussmann buildings with their decaying splendor hobnobbing with faceless gray post war buildings. Clusters of feral young men with predatory eyes. Pairs of painstakingly dressed women, rail thin and tiny. The smell of expensive perfumes and human waste.
Perhaps at heart not that different from any other big city, but with a French touch.

 People told her she was crazy when she announced she was breaking up with her fiancĂ©e, and just shook their heads when she decided to try and sell her house and go traveling. And yet, somehow here she is in Paris flipping burgers and steak-frites in a brasserie. Watching people take the top bun off of their burgers and eat the rest with a knife and fork, then clean their plates with the top bun, or worse yet leave it in their dishes. 
Yeah, some Parisians really do that.

She had come to France hoping to find a new life, hoping for food that would inspire her, but after several months she was coming to the conclusion that the French food scene wasn’t for her. While good French food undeniably exists, it seemed to her to be an elitist thing rife with snobbery. “Good food should be about good taste, not how much money you have.”

Over all, Gwen was disappointed. Paris was a place for people with money. The main way of spending time there seemed to be related with either the spending, or the acquisition of money… But her tastes were, if not simple, frugal. She spent what free time she had walking around Paris looking for a spark, something to set her soul alight. Her expenses were limited to food, the tiny room she was renting, and an occasional used book from Shakespeare and co. on the rive gauche. In a sense it was an ideal, but not hers. Her plan was to leave as soon as she had enough money put away for a ticket.

This wasn't the place she was looking for.