I was detained for my final adieu to Israel, the Holy Land and my home for two and a half years. The place of my service…I was detained for three hours and all my luggage search through by twenty. I repeat. twenty. Israeli security officials.
It was so humiliating and I hadn’t eaten all day so I was weak in the knees, but I tried to remain calm and courteous and they kept staring at me. Finally, after three hours, they RETAINED MY TENNIS RAQUET. They would not let it fly on the plane with passengers, so get this…pearl…they were going to send it by the next Air France flight to my home address. Hmm. Doesn’t make much sense to me. They also would not let me fly with my laptop and camera…so I had to put them in a treasure chest/trunk that I traveled with, under my duvet.
At the end, the two girls who were closest to me and most polite aske me all kinds of questions and nearly hugged me and thanked me over and over again, saying i was the first person they’d subjected to this that hadn’t flipped out or yelled or insulted them. I really felt bad for them. and that teporarily made me happier. I suppose that’ll slow my ulcer, if I ever get one, to not have been angry.
Flight was sucky, as usual. I tried to talk to my neighbour who said “Africa’s done for. It’s their fault. They’re not as good as the Asians and slavery was their fault too.” I wasn’t very compassionate to this argument, and still, tried to be calm, but he simply said things like, “let me tell you” and “listen,” and this has happened again since I’ve been in Paris. It’s weird. People don’t want to gain from a conversaion…they just want to tell you how it is…
I had my first night in my little room, which looks like a Norwegian cabin room, all warm-wood paneled. I don’t have a very good feel for the place. I was craving bonding with someone, ANYONE, so a woman walked by in a canary-yellow tweed coat and CUSSED out this car who pulled out without looking and I looked to her and said “isn’t that right?” and she said “ABSOLUTELY people these days are TOTALLY nuts”. So I figured out that the best way to bond with Parisians is to bond, as usual, at the lowest common denominator, namely anger. That they can all do. Smiles kind of freak’em out.
The place is grey and rainy but full of beautiful things. I walked passed a saddle that took my breath away. I never thought I’d feel this way about a saddle, or an agenda, or a pair of boots, but seriously, things are BEAUTIFUL here. I’ve just never realized how well the French do luxury. It’s true true eye candy. Incredible storefronts, nice lighting.
Then I got out of the metro with my brother and we walk past this nasty store with a huge storefront display and an ominous sign hanging over that looked like it was done by a convict saying “samples of sewer rats caught in Les Halles around 1925” and about forty-two stuffed rats in various positions, most hanging from the ceiling in their original rat-traps. How gross and creepily fascinating. We spent a good four minutes staring at the layout which was really poorly done and Nic made me promise to come back and shoot it. I’d like to think I’m not dumb enough or am too busy to travel all the way to do it, but you never know…
I kept wondering why this city isn’t nearly as goose-bumply cream-curling, earth-shaking knee-weakening as London to me. Why are people so miserable. Why are they so ready to get mad? I’m more than happy to be disproved, and i’ll keep an open mind, but this place made me want to throw out my black coat and get strange colorful clothes that will make people forget to blink, and help break the monotony of this shared funeral of joy.
So far, today is what this has felt like…everyone just looks sad.
We just burried joy and humour today, Please come with no flowers and your cell phones on which you can do SMS messages to people you barely know. The more you ignore the dead the better. Come dressed in black or grey or brown, as usual, and bring your usual face.
Actually, I was in the stressful, hard parts of town where people are just smoking and having a “foamer” (glass of beer) in between teleconferences and badmouthing their supervisor, so I should wait to go to Montmartre (Amelie’s neighborhood) and see how things are.
Today the nicest human I met was a telemarketer who gave us directions.
And the funniest thing that happened was Nic trying to feed me nearly rotten cheese.
But I had an inkling on perhaps why people are like this, because four mothers I saw in the metro and on the streets verbally abused their kids, humiliating them in front of everyone. I was pretty shocked but then remembered this was exactly how it was for me in school so many years ago: that’s how you establish authority. One kid just had no idea what hit him, and was staring into the void. And then I thought…hmm. that maybe explains something. Also the economy sucks right now. They have 9 percent unemployment and 17,000 bankruptcies for last year alone.
But maybe I’m still looking at this through the lens of my traumatic security experience yesterday. Seriously. I came into Paris with my note from Israeli Security to show them (for what I have no idea) and the security guard laughed and said…”what..your raquet was solar powered?”
More from London tomorrow or in the next few days
I’m off to dinner.
No exclamations on this French keyboard. Surprised?