I was determined NOT to be impressed with Paris at first. Let me explain. By no means did I intend to turn a blind eye to the architectural beauty or the exquisite art that the glittering city offers. However, there is a difference between a universal consensus based on empirical experience and the acquiescence to a given assumption because enough people or seemingly “everyone” believed it. The power of the collective mass. Too often we give up our ability to decide in favor of what the collective mass or “everybody” thinks. What “everybody” thinks shapes reality and we unwittingly become followers even in our own lives, blind to our hearts and our intuition.
Yes, I could very well fall in love with Paris because it stirred something deep within me. Or because I was satisfied by the tantalizing layers of mille feulle, my favorite French pastry along with chou crème, a fancy word for cream puffs. But I did not want to be impressed by Paris before even getting there, merely because thousands of others sojourned there before me and “loved” it.
My friend Sebastien picked me up at the train station in his snazzy European car and picked up a traffic ticket on the way, which he endeavored to pay immediately since apparently the penalty doubles after a certain period of time. Sebastien was a pensive young corporate executive who always looked like an intellectual. I always imagined him with glasses, whether he actually sported spectacles or not. We met when he was working in upstate New York (Nyack, to be precise) through a mutual friend. He always seemed homesick for Paris. Now he was racing through avenues and winding through streets like there was no tomorrow.
We had lunch at in the Bastille area, a delectable plate of escargots and red wine, followed by a plateful of various fromages for dessert. The word cheese somehow seems derogatory when referring to the pasteurized French delicacies with the pungent smell and the thick, luscious textures that melt in the mouth. The food was amazing, but I was not in love yet. We chatted and Seb doesn’t think I am a real American since I love fromage, traveling, and food which maintained its integrity. I chose to think of that as a compliment.
Seb was living with his girlfriend Jocelyn and her son, Aimeric in Chantilly. At the mention of his partner’s son, my friend rolled his eyes emphatically. “He doesn’t go to school; he doesn’t work; he just hangs around the house.” He proceeded to explain that both Aimeric’s parents were prosperous and owned property in Paris. His father even owned planes. The boy just goes back and forth from one wealthy parent to another. Sebastien, a self-made man, had little regard for those whose fortunes were handed to them on a silver platter.
As we rolled into an elegant Spanish styled stucco home with large French doors, I was prepared to greet Jocelyn again. As well as her couch potato son.