October 22nd, 2006

The last time I saw Neo…

…she was traveling.

Actually, for the entire past month I’ve been traveling far more than is my usual practice—so often I’ve practically lost count.

But this is the largest of my trips so far. Where am I? There’s a hint in the title of this post. Another hint is the time-stamp—why am I uploading this in what appears to be the wee hours of the morning?

Because, in fact, although it’s indeed morning here, the hours aren’t so very wee. Yes, gentle readers, your intrepid world-traveler and reporter extraordinaire, neo-neocon, is in Paris, the belly of the beast. Although Paris is more like Beauty, despite the fact that rain and clouds are predicted for much of my stay.

After a fairly rapid plane journey (and can somebody please tell me why it takes only a tiny bit longer to cross the six-hour time difference from the Eastern US to France than it takes to cross the continental US, which gives you a mere three-hour difference?) I reached the crowded Charles de Gaulle airport early in the morning on Sunday.

The initial theme of my Paris stay has been: stairs.

As we disembarked from the plane, it was announced that, to get to the main terminal, “you’re going to need to be able to climb a couple of stairs.” That didn’t daunt me, despite an extra-heavy carry-on—I can do stairs. But this turned out to be a full two and a half flights, up all the way rather than down. Call me a spoiled American if you wish (and the French might undoubtedly wish), but I wonder why it is that—despite France’s trailblazing history (“The first escalator installed for public use was at the Paris Exposition of 1900″), this century-old miracle doesn’t seem to have arrived yet to De Gaulle.

And then there’s the elevator, another relatively ancient invention. The one in the lovely and well-situated apartment where I’m staying (a friend’s kind hospitality) has a single flaw—it was broken when I arrived. Thus, the stair theme continued as I followed the sweating (and no doubt cursing, had I been able to understand French and/or read his mind) concierge up a full seven (count ‘em, sept) flights of stairs, he hauling my far-too-heavy suitcase and I lugging my far-too-heavy carry-on (blame the computer and all its accoutrements) behind.

I’ve only been here a day, and I’ve already had a good meal with convivial company, so don’t think I’m complaining. I’m not. And the elevator has now been repaired—a model of efficiency, relatively speaking. Efficient and energy-saving, also, are the hallway and stairway lights that are on timers, and helpfully turn themselves off when they decree I’ve had time enough to do whatever it is I might have been doing—such as climb the stairs faster—plunging me into darkness until I figure out where the tiny glowing light switch is.

My computer works, and it optimistically assumes I want to search Google in French (“Bienvenue dans Firefox 1.0, le nouveau navigateur facile à utiliser de Mozilla”) and to emigrate (“Do you want to miss your chance to live and work in the USA?”). I’ve successfully negotiated the Metro, although not without stopping several people for help. I managed to work my customary magical spell on gadgetry by unaccountably sending the cellphone I was kindly given into “lock” mode (I knew this because a picture of a key appeared on its screen and I could neither make nor receive calls for a while; the instructions to unlock it were—d’accord!—in French).

A wonderful anomaly—this one not without some charm—is the key. I’ve taken the liberty of photographing it next to an American quarter for scale:

My stay has been great so far (about twenty-four hours), and exciting. So, why am I here? Funny you should ask. I plan, of course, to sightsee (and maybe even shop), but it’s a working vacation: I’m doing some interviewing and plan to be writing. Details to emerge later.

21 Responses to “The last time I saw Neo…”

  1. Vanderleun Says:

    Bonjour, Neo. Ca va? Ca ba bien? Mais oui le cle is on the uncle of my aunt who works at the top of chez moi in the frog.

  2. goesh Says:

    I America, is water there you’ll give?
    This place where you am I going there?
    So much for my theory that you would be in exotic Spain. Frogville. Look out for muzzy youth burning cars! Order a hamburger and see if you get a fried egg on top of it. Oui?

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I can’t wait to read your follow-up articles detailing how the French are cowardly, obtuse, jealous, hypocritical, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

  4. Isaiah Hunahun Says:

    Charles de Gaulle airport — I loathe that structure.

    formerly known as Nyomythus

  5. goesh Says:

    Anonymous, we already know all that – why would Neo waste time repeating it?
    A veil on every frog woman, that’s my motto!

  6. ginger Says:

    My condolences Neo. Of all the wonderful European cities you’ve ended up there? Paris…..once a terrific destination. (but do make time to see Opera Garnier….fabulous!)

  7. mary Says:

    Paris? Great! It’s a great time to be there.

    The best museum in Paris (more human-scaled than the overwhelming Louvre), the Museum de l’Orangerie, was closed for six years and has recently (finally) reopened. I think the Jeu de Paume (nearby) is also open. If so, we’re talking wall-sized Monets, Impressionism by the ton, endless color – you’ve got to go! It’s at the place de concord.

    Don’t miss the Morroccan restaurants. Most of the cafes are excellent, but the one really terrible cafe I stopped at (cassoulet made with hot dogs and baked beans – ugh) was empty around dinnertime. So, if no one in the neighborhood goes in there, it’s probably a sign of something.

  8. Fausta Says:

    Have a wonderful trip! The first time I went to Paris it was this time of year and it was beautiful.

  9. harry Says:

    Be sure to avoid them ethnically unidentifiable car burning “youths”. The Fwench police apparently cant get a gasp on the problem.

    Be sure though, to visit some of their more redeeming centers of Fwench culture.

    Of course Im referring to Euro-Disney and McDonalds.

  10. tommy Says:

    As we disembarked from the plane, it was announced that, to get to the main terminal, “you’re going to need to be able to climb a couple of stairs.”

    It was better for a bit, then the terminal collapsed, I don’t mind the stairs anywhere as much as I mind the bus ride to/from the terminal and the airplane remote parking.

  11. Robert Schwartz Says:

    “can somebody please tell me why it takes only a tiny bit longer to cross the six-hour time difference from the Eastern US to France than it takes to cross the continental US, which gives you a mere three-hour difference?”

    2 Reasons.

    First. Time zones are based on Longitude. Each time zone occupies 15 degrees of longitude (360/24) Because the lines of longitude intersect at the north and south poles, the distance between them, and thus the size of the time zones depends upon the distance from the poles. At the equator, each time zone is 1,000 miles wide, at the poles it is 0.

    Europe is mostly to the north of the US. Boston is at 42 degrees north Latitude and LA is at 34, but Paris is at 48. Thus when you go from the US to Europe, you are flying through smaller time zones.

    The Eastern states of the US are roughly 75 degrees of longitude from England (Greenwich, near London, is by convention 0 degrees longitude) Boston is 72, NY 74, Philly 75, DC 77. This translates to a 5 hour time difference.

    However, Paris, which is only 2 degrees east of London, is by French law, one hour of time earlier than London. Another illustration of French bloody mindedness. Lord, they are worthless lot.

  12. neoneoconned Says:

    “Paris, the belly of the beast” I think we can be certain that all this travel will not be broadening your mind. What will ever make you change from this childish dualistic world view you have developed?

  13. meander Says:

    Well, how cool for you, doing the world traveller thing. Can’t wait for your daily postings…you have such a readable and delightful style of casual commentary. And, of course, your more meaty subjects are always devoured enthusiastically by this reader so I’m looking forward to your heavy topics also.

  14. Danny Lemieux Says:

    For a simpler explanation of your time-zone conundrum, neo-neo: you traveled to France by flying closer to the North Pole. It takes a lot less time to fly around the world when you fly around the Pole than if you try to fly around the Equator. But, then, we in Chicago have always recognized that it is Poland, not Paris, that marks the center of the universe :-).

  15. Cappy Says:

    Good idea. Enjoy it now, before burkas are required.

  16. neo-neocon Says:

    Thanks, all, and thanks for the time zone explanations.

    As for my old buddy neoneoconned–I believe you are an excellent example of a failure to understand my particular brand of humor. Of course, it’s not the only thing you fail to understand.

  17. benning Says:

    Sounds like you are in the right frame of mind! You could just as easily be peeved beyond imagining. Have fun! We look forward to your travelogue!

  18. harry Says:

    “Of course, it’s not the only thing you fail to understand.”

    Get’m Neo!

  19. Mark Says:

    Neo, the time zone explanations help; you can fly around the north pole very quickly. But give some thought to the jet stream, which flows from West to East and can be especially helpful in the winter, depending on your direction and how quickly (or slowly) you want to arrive somewhere. Mark
    P.S. If you have time for Chartres Cathedral, take the tour with Professor Malcolm Miller.

  20. neoneoconned Says:

    hmmmm i am sure that you do think of it as humour. Meanwhile in the real world it is just a collection of sniggering bigotries you share with your good buddies. Why not tell us something that has changed your mind in all this travelling?

    “if it weren’t for the French language and the beautiful old buildings, one could be in Anytown, USA.” maybe this could make you start to think about why US cultural and military imperialism is resented in so many parts of the world.

    Yankee go home as all this travelling is only a search for confirmation of your deep seated assumption that the USA is better than everywhere else.

  21. WEVS1 Says:

    “Charles de Gaulle airport — I loathe that structure.”

    Yes, CDG is one of the worst airports in the developed world.

    “maybe this could make you start to think about why US cultural and military imperialism is resented in so many parts of the world.”

    Actually, most young people are not only hungry for U.S. “cultural imperialism” they imitate it, even those who claim to hate the U.S. Witness European hip-hop.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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