Day 14: Ex-pats, Moose Milk, & George Bush
06.01.2015 - 05.02.2015
Paris is an international city, much like New York. It's hard to find a native New Yorker in Manhattan and the same is somewhat true in Paris. I was invited by an American woman I met on a recent trip to Cuba to a Canadian levee to celebrate the New Year. She and her husband, who is Canadian, hosted the gathering at their apartment in Paris where they have lived for almost two years. The levee is a New Year tradition in Canada, he explained. So is slogging down some Moose Milk. Moose Milk is similar to eggnog. Neither have any eggs, both are milk-based and doused liberally with alcohol. In the case of Moose Milk (at least this version of it, there were at least three types of alcohol I saw being sloshed into the punch bowl: kahlua, Bailey's, and whiskey. No moose is harmed in the making of this drink.
The apartment has a corner view and a wrap-around terrace. On one side, there was a view of Notre Dame which is across the street. From the other terrace there is a view of the Seine (and a GIANT Coca Cola sign, but nothing is perfect).
The group of around 40 ex-pats were mostly American, but there was a couple from New Zealand, a woman who immigrated from India and works as a translator, and a couple from Argentina. The couple from New Zealand has lived here in Paris for thirty years. I also met three people from my home state of NJ and a woman from Pennsylvania. She left the US the day George Bush got re-elected and hasn't been back since. Which reminded me that the day he was re-elected I landed in Rome. On my taxi ride from the airport my driver asked me if I was American. Since Iraq was smoldering at the time and Americans were not beloved in Europe, I hesitated before I admitted I was. He turned and looked at me over his shoulder and said, "What is wrong with your people? Have they lost their minds electing this man again?" I had no appropriate response.
The conversations at the levee were lively and diverse. There was talk about the current terror situation in France, naturally, and of the disharmony world-wide. But there was also talk about food and travel; two of my favorite topics. I was encouraged to go to Sweden, particularly Stockholm in spring or summer. I was warned not to go in winter if I crave daylight since it is fleeting. Apparently, things there are so bad that there are huts scattered throughout the streets. Inside, you can sit on benches under lamps that simulate sunshine for those people, like me, who fall into seasonal slumps due to lack of daylight.
But terror is never far away in Paris. When I entered the apartment, there had been fifty or so Ukrainian protestors across the street. By the time I left, thirty huge police vans were sitting out front, sirens and lights blasting. The protesters were gone. I don't know if they were arrested or just fled. Since the attack at Charlie Hebdo, every time you hear sirens, people stop and look around. It reminds me of New York after 9/11. For a long, long time we all stopped and watched planes as they flew overhead. A plane over NYC was never going to be just a plane ever again.