Friday, December 01, 2006

A Few Thoughts

Just some small observations from Paris....

1) For a while I have been intrigued by a store I pass on my evening dog walks. The sign has an American flag on it; the name of the store appears to be Nixon; and apparently the "nouvelle collection" is in. What could this store possibly sell? Corruption American-style, updated for the Bush era? And who's buying?

I finally passed it again during the day, when I could look in the window and see...piles of jeans. This makes sense. I guess.

2) I did a little house cleaning the other day and came across some American coins, which had been in my pocket when I got off the plane. I was delighted to find that the coins looked so strange to me! They're all so thin and light, and the quarter is so big! So after 20+ years of handling American money, it only takes two months for it to seem alien.

3) It is amazing how important facial expressions become when one only marginally understands the language being spoken. And, more interesting, how much more I notice minute changes in facial expressions that I don't think I even registered before. When I am out walking the dog, I get asked for directions fairly often, which makes sense. Today someone driving a van stopped to ask me for a street; I didn't understand what he was saying, so he repeated himself, and then in the tiny time lapse between him repeating his question and me understanding what he was asking, I could see by his facial expression that he was about to give up and ask someone else. I am happy to say that I both knew where the street was and was able to tell him.

4) Finally, walking the dog is an interesting experience here. People look at us very intently, and I am not sure why. Often, someone passing will take a long look at him, and then look at me in what seems like a strange way. These often feel like dirty looks, although that might be a cultural thing. Is it because of the prong collar he wears, which may look cruel but is actually much more humane than the choke collar, causes Leo no pain, and is the only way I can control him (he weighs 90 pounds) when he sees another dog and starts lunging and barking? Is it because people are sick of the dog mess all over the streets here and therefore a little bit hostile toward people walking their dogs?

Speaking of the mess, it is interesting to see how people react to me picking up after the dog, something I have never seen anyone else do here. Again with the strange, intent stares. Once I saw a whole group of people in a restaurant looking out at me. On another occasion someone drove by, turned around, drove by again, and stopped his motorcycle to thank me for picking up after the dog. But, in general, people look at me like an alien, which I find strange because 1) the law here requires that you pick up after the dog, and the fines for not doing it are really high-- something like 400 euros and 2) you'd think people would appreciate that I don't leave the mess lying around and that their facial expressions would register this positive feeling-- but they don't.
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