I have a lover and her name is Paris.
I left Ukraine last Monday respectful of the time I'd spent there. Respectful of the people I'd met and personal life-lessons I'd learned in my interactions with them. I considered these things respectfully, but not mournfully, because I knew I had a ticket with Paris, France printed on the front.
"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."
I lived 3 days of a lifetime in Paris. I loved it. I wrote in my journal every night at the hotel and began invariably with, "Today, I loved Paris." It wasn't the tourist sights of the city--it was the feeling. For some reason I was so perfectly primed for the trip. I had read two books while in Ukraine that praised Paris as the center of the thinking world (Count of Monte Cristo, The Last Man), but I loved it for its charm.
If I had a favorite hour while there, it was the hour spent drinking and eating soup at a street cafe on a Paris street. We had a rule amoung the three of us (I traveled with 2 friends) only to engage in intellectual conversation while seated at the cafe. We observed the French doing so and wanted to feel intellectually French for the evening. 5 minutes into our dining experience we caved after turning conversation to sports and the pending free agent status of Lebron James.
We obviously visited the Eiffel Tower, the exteriors of the Louvre, Notre Dame, Arch of Triumph, the Pantheon, the Tuleries Garden, Palace at Versailles (and its gardens), and ate paninis on the walls overhanging the Seine River. Could the history and art of Paris not make the city enchanting?
What effect did Paris have on me? One--I fell in love with every girl I saw and even cooed over a couple kissing. Two--I am still writing sappy prose about the city. Three--I can use the phrase, "I believe in magic" and not feel cheesy or even inaccurate. Four--it made me really despise the way we live our lives here across the Atlantic.
Indeed, I was feeling so good about life that I could tell the joke, "Hey guys look at all these ants, do you think they call then Frants here?" and not need think twice about whether it was funny.
I ate croissants for breakfast and even managed to buy an eclair on my way to the airport this past Thursday (which I ate in front of all the business class patrons waiting in their 'early boarding' line). Touching down in SLC felt like cracking open the door of the lunar lander on the surface of the moon. I peered around unrecognizably at the familiar landscape. Life is most certainly different here--perhaps less lively and more stagnant.
Will I ever be the same, Sir Hemingway? In spite of Provo, I sure hope not.