I’m leaving Paris in a few hours. It’s been a fun week. I’ve given lectures and talked to lots of people. The Parisians have a very high quality of life. Gorgeous architecture, food and wine, and thousands of cafés where beautiful people are trying to pick each other up. (In fact, even middle-aged people here look really good. Sexy even. I guess it’s because the French have such a lot of extramarital affairs. They can’t let themselves go. Well, good for them).
But since it’s June, North European and American tourists have already started their invasion. Sweaty-looking people in T-shirts, covering big bellies, always carrying water bottles. No surprise real Parisians flee the city in the summer!
What I hear about French academia is less impressive. Making a career here seems not to be about being smart and publishing a lot. Rather it’s who you know. The universities have a small fraction of full-time professors and endless cadres of part-time teachers. The part-time teachers teach, but above all they spend their time kissing the full-time professors’ asses. Not my idea of a good time. In fact, that pretty much rules out France for me. I don’t kiss ass very well.
Happily it turns out I can still speak French, although I keep on calling the currency “francs,” to everyone’s amusement.
Yet Paris still leaves me with a strange feeling — memories of the early 90s when I lived here for a while and my life was filled with a million possibilities. I’m not actually nostalgic for that time. Instead it’s purely a vicarious sensation. Today I relive the excitement and despair of that boy as though I was reading about him in a novel. Life always takes on a path, that’s nothing to complain about. I’m very happy with mine.
I bought some chocolate in the end, and some goat’s cheese and wine, but above all I bought French manga posters. A lot more fun than stupid Monet waterlilies. I hope they will make acceptable presents.