This is what I did while I was en grève
When you live in France, spending a weekend in Paris is actually a pretty mundane, ordinary thing to do. Paris is so central to French life -- and to the entire French transportation network -- that going to Paris is kind of like a default weekend activity, basically the absence of thinking of something original to do.
Still, no matter how many hundred million times I go to Paris, I'm always happy to go back. I don't think I could ever get bored of it. I feel almost as at home there as I do here in Bordeaux.
By crazy coincidence, my husband's sister's new apartment is within a few blocks of my old Paris apartment (and also within a few blocks of the former apartment of a good friend of ours). As big as the city appears to be, I think everyone secretly lives within a three-block radius of this one random metro station in the fourteenth arrondissement. So during this past visit I got the fun of wandering up and down my old block and seeing the chocolate Easter fish in the window of the same bakery and chocolate shop where I used to get my croissants every morning years ago.
Chocolate fish are my favorite French Easter custom. Sure they have the usual chocolate bunnies and eggs like back home, but they also have this additional chocolate fish custom in honor of Lent. Now you may have heard that people like to give up chocolate for Lent. Well, it turns out that as long as the chocolate is in the shape of a fish, it counts as fish and not chocolate for Lent purposes.
Really. I'm not making this up.
Okay, I am making it up. I think it's more that -- Catholic as everybody is around here -- people don't really give stuff up for Lent.
The next item on the agenda Saturday morning -- after the chocolate fish and taking our leisurely coffee and croissant in a sidewalk cafe of course -- was to go hit the bookstores. Obviously they have bigger, more extensive English bookstores in Paris than we do in Bordeaux, so we started with my husband's favorite "The Village Voice."
I immediately thought to ask for Natalie R. Collins' book Wives and Sisters -- considering that if they had it in stock I'd win her book-sighting contest hands down. (Note this was before I bought it in Bordeaux.) Unfortunately, they didn't have it. Then I figured while I was at it I'd ask for P. G. Karamesines novel The Pictograph Murders since that's what I was reading at the time. They didn't have that one either. Man, it's hard to find Mormon literature in France! I'm starting to think I may be the only person in all of France who blogs about Mormon literature.
Next we went to the big bookstore of academic and university books so that my husband could visit his books. He found two of his three books in stock and a book by someone else quoting one of his theorems. So naturally he was very proud of himself for the rest of the day. I checked the computer books section for my Java book, but although I'd seen it in that store before, I wasn't too surprised that it wasn't there anymore. Such books have a very short shelf-life -- I'm surprised I'm still getting any royalties from it at all. Clearly it's time to get my butt in gear and write a new edition with all of the latest relevant technologies. If only I can persuade myself to stop wasting my time on this highly unprofitable new hobby of being a columnist/humorist/novelist and go back to being a Java guru...
All day Saturday and Sunday -- since the kids were off enjoying some alternate activity with their grandma -- we had nothing on the agenda except to wander the streets of Paris. The weather was cool, crisp, and sunny -- perfect for a stroll down the wide yet Sunday-morning-deserted side streets and then for a visit to view the sights and the tourists over by Notre Dame and the Seine.
Stopping to rest in another sidewalk cafe, I turned to my husband and exclaimed "Greatest city in the world!"
"No it isn't," he replied.
"Well, which city is better then?" I asked him, even though I knew full well that the answer was New York. When you've been married a certain number of years, it's very important to keep the magic of your running-joke-arguments alive.
Considering all the praise I've written about the Paris metro, you may be wondering if I got the opportunity to ride on it during this past visit. In fact I did, but not until right near the end when we were finally too tired to walk any more. I had suggested taking the metro a few times before that, but my husband kept pointing out that with the nice weather it would be more fun to walk above ground to see as much of Paris as possible. He was right of course, but I suspect he was maybe also jealous ever since I wrote that the metro is secretly my true love. It would probably be more of a secret if I hadn't written about it in my column/blog, but I guess it's too late to worry about it now.
Cutting across the quiet stone field of the Montparnasse cemetery one last time, we read some of the descriptions of some of Paris's most permanent residents and made a note of what accomplishments people liked to carve in stone as a final remembrance. Some listed professions or military decorations. We found one woman whose book was mentioned on her tomb, and saw that someone had placed a laminated page advertising the book on the lid of the author's sarcophagus, held down by some rocks. My husband thought this was fabulous and developed a whole theory about how cemeteries are the final yet-unexploited marketing frontier.
Wandering further, I concluded that I would have to be cremated one day because it seems somehow undignified to have one's life summed up in a few lines on a stone covering one's decomposing remains. My husband, however, insisted that he wanted to continue with this fine tradition.
"And I suppose you want me to have them carve in stone a list of all of your books?" I asked.
"Yes. With links to where people can buy them on the Internet!"
Not realistic to be sure, but perhaps a pleasant way to spend eternity.
Published in the Utah Valley Monitor April 12, 2006.