Monday, February 16, 2009
HOT FLASH FROM PARIS: La Ville d'Obama
As I was paying for Valentine's Day dinner at Le Chamarré (a Mauritian restaurant in gentrifying Montmartre), the server noted the Italian name on my VISA card and seemed confused. He looked at me, a little unsure of my nationality, and asked, "You must be from New York?"
I gave up a long time ago trying to explain to Europeans the location of my Midwestern home (a city of at least one million people). They know the coasts of the United States and seem to imagine the interior as a Great Desert, not unlike American pioneers did in the nineteenth century. So I've taken instead to saying I'm from Chicago. Normally, Parisians show a vague recognition of this city; they often associate it with gangsters like Al Capone. But this year, they link it immediately to our national pride and international hero. "Aaah," cooed the server (a somewhat flirtatious young man), "la ville d'Obama (Obama's city)!"
What a thrill of relief and happiness I felt. No need to explain that I hadn't voted for Obama's predecessor and didn't support the war; no need to clarify that I didn't have a "thing" against the French for not going with us to Iraq; no need to feel apologetic for my homeland. It's a good feeling. And it's been a long time coming.
Photo: Saint Valentine's Day bread in the window of Le Pain d'Epis, an artisanal boulangerie near our apartment in the 7th arrondissement