I hope everyone’s holidays have been safe and joyful.
Paris has been quiet, with our 8pm to 6 am curfew still firmly in place. (Apparently, we just dodged being thrown into a third lockdown as infection rates have plateaued at about 12,000 to 15,000 cases per day. Still too high, but not rising…yet.)
I continue to study French, write, and work on various film and music projects, holed up in our 4th arrondissement apartment here. Christmas was an uneventful event. My wife and I mutually declined to exchange gifts, having little need for more material possessions. American friends here in the city remained isolated, sending best wishes via texts. French friends had left for the country.
Mommy Dearest continues her isolation, leaving her Southern California abode only once in about 125 days to get her hair cut. The kind and thoughtful owner of the salon cleared the place out for an hour one morning to accommodate Mummy, who retains her clear preference for staying alive and outlasting the pandemic. She remains even-tempered and optimistic that things will get better, if slowly.
A Zoom conversation with friends in the states brought less cheery emotions to the forefront. Exhausted and exasperated, a few of them were in tears. The isolation and disruption of the pandemic has touched all of them, with family members infected and professional colleagues in intensive care. These revelations, ironically, came in the same conversation in which they confided that they had attended weddings, hosted a houseful of extended family members on Christmas eve, that they were planning on having their grandchildren visit them in the coming days, and that they had traveled (with apparently about 84 million other Americans) over the holidays to visit loved ones.
I was surprised, but not shocked. I was saddened, but not entirely sympathetic. My wife and I have been sitting in an apartment for most of 2020. We’ve spent months in lockdown, only going out to buy groceries, exercise for 1 hour per day outside and within 1 kilometer of our residence. We’ve been required much of that time to fill out and carry an ‘attestation’ form which documents where we are going, when we left, and where we live. Police patrols roaming the neighborhood and stationed on bridges have frequently stopped us and asked us to produce these papers. And we have willingly complied.
We have not left the city of Paris since we returned from the states on November 20, 2019. Cafes have been closed. Museums are shuttered. Hotels sit vacant. Streets are empty at odd times.
We’ve worn masks. We’ve washed our hands. We’ve rarely seen friends, save the infrequent on-the-street encounter to exchange a quick word, bump elbows, and be on our way. An exception has been an elderly friend with lung issues who we purchase groceries for. When my I arrive, he opens the door, opens the windows, and brews me a cup of coffee. We sit across the living room from each other, huddled in the cold but fresh air, and chat for a few minutes. He tries to give me money for the groceries. I try to refuse. We argue, then laugh. Then I bid him farewell until next time. And I have been the only person he’s seen for weeks at a time during this mess.
We’re all paying a price and toeing the line here, and France is still struggling with this virus. So how I am supposed to be sympathetic when people suffer due to a lack of common sense and self discipline? I care about my friends, but I can’t comprehend their thought processes. Weddings? Flying around the country? Exposing loved ones?
It’s a pandemic. There’s enough risks just conducting your daily lives. No need to wave a red flag at the virus by being reckless.
But I kept my mouth shut. I truly hope for the best, for everybody, everywhere. I am, however, starting to feel more French as each day passes. A recent conversation with a South American expat here in Paris brought this subject to the forefront. “There is a different spirt here,” she said, quite accurately. I could only nod, and think about my future as an American.
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Our erstwhile correspondent David found an interesting article on the French nobility…and the modern-day organization that endeavors to help them out when times are tough. You can enjoy a quick read on that HERE.
As archaic as the ideas of noble or aristocratic class sound today, especially in the United States, the values that they espouse remain remarkably sound, and probably eerily familiar to the ones I advocate on this blog and in The Old Money Book.
I had heard one aristo sum up the ‘noble obligation’ as simply setting an example and keeping his country safe for democracy. Another armchair anthropologist commented once that Americans have an obsession with celebrities because they lack a visible, titled (or entitled) nobility or aristocracy that is engaged in, yes, setting an example and shining a light on important causes or issues.
Of course, most of the coverage ‘royals’ get in the media today is what I refer to as ‘cheap ink’: a prince walks his dog in the park and the newspaper takes up a half page to run a full color series of photos and a 1000 word piece on the sighting. It’s a space-filler and lowest common denominator brain-sugar gossip for the masses.
A better use of the privileged position was one taken by the late Princess Diana, who shined a light on the AIDS epidemic and landmines, to name just two issues. Of course, calling attention to a problem is not solving it, but it’s a start. It opens a door, certainly. It make people think, hopefully.
And the next time the issue is raised, perhaps by an activist or a politician, people will consider or reconsider, and progress will be on the table, ready to be negotiated.
So let’s hold on to our nobility in whatever form it takes, and more importantly, let’s hold onto our noble ideals.
Happy New Year.