An American in Paris / by Brian Beck

We’re making lots of friends in Paris.  Since we’ve arrived, I can’t stop singing songs from Les Miserables around our flat.  The neighbors enjoy my singing voice very much.  Madam Hollande, the woman next door, complimented my voice this morning in the hallway.  She made full eye contact and said “votre voix est mauvais.”  I’m not accustomed to accepting praise, least of all being called magnificent, so I blushed a bit and thanked her politely.  She held my gaze with such intense tenacity that I think she was trying to seduce me, notwithstanding my marital status.  I’ve heard that French women are often agreeable to les affaires.

The attractive young woman at the boulangerie on the way the lycee where the children are enrolled is similarly attracted to me.  It must be that an American man in Paris is so exotic that I bring to mind the romantic days of Hemingway and Fitzgerald.  Or perhaps the days when dashing American men in uniform performed public service on the streets of Pigalle.  Yesterday morning, I ordered two sandwiches and a drink (doux sandwich avec un poisson).  She was so impressed that my French had advanced so much this past week that she looked startled at first.  She quickly regained her composure however, smiled and offered to add cheese to my sandwich for free, “vous avez le cervau d’un sandwich au fromage”.  Pretty soon I suspect we’ll be on a first name basis.

So far, all the shopping we’ve done has been for Quimby.  She thinks I should do some shopping for myself and has suggested that I should try some pink trousers with a green neckerchief for a classic French look.   I’m worried that if I’m out late at night by myself photographing under bridges and in dark alleyways, I may be misunderstood (if you know what I mean).  She says that if I find myself mistaken, I should simply yell, “J’aime les hommes”, which means, “I am a man.”  Indeed.  I love the way she takes care of me when we’re in France.

The French people are extremely gracious as well.  Last night at dinner, they seated us in a special room in the basement.  They said it was their cave, which translates to “the place where they store wine”.  It was a bit stuffy and smelled slightly of damp newspaper but fortunately all of the other couples in the cave were either American or English so we had a fantastic time.  Serendipitously, we all ordered the chicken.  The waitress very helpfully explained that their chicken was putain, which is a young poulet, or chicken.  She found us to be very funny, so we left her a large tip.

Anyway, all is well here.  Some find the French people to be tres difficile, but I disagree.  As long as you try to speak French to them slowly and in a clear voice, they are actually quite nice.  Bon soir.