Finding a Bit of Home in the Heart of Paris

french dog wine baguete beretI was hoping this Starbucks had been “Parisified” enough not to remind us of home. No such luck. It had recently opened as Paris’s first Starbucks and seemed like the most crowded place in town. The youngsters behind the counter – no doubt recent grads of StarbucksUniversity – were exploding with gusto. I mean it was dripping all over the place. If I ever thought Parisians should act more like Americans, coming here cured that.

We were met by a smiling young barista. To say his expression was maniacal would be an understatement. “Where are you from?” he sang.

“Los Angeles area”

His enthusiasm level dropped a notch.

“California” a co-worker confirmed.

“CALIFORNIA!” His enthusiasm returned. “I want to visit California. There is lots of sunshine, no?”

“Yes – and swimming pools – movie stars. ”

He stared at me blankly. “What is your name?” he asked, with his felt pen resting on a paper cup.

* * *

Alex and I snagged two vacant stools at the window bar looking out at the active street.

“Can we find an Internet café?” he asked.

My ears started to burn. ”Do you think you could get through one day without the Internet?”

He sighed and looked out the window. I cursed myself for jumping on him. I explained that I understood how he wanted to connect with home, but I worried it was keeping him from having a great time here. He seemed receptive to my words. He even smiled. Then I realized he was watching something behind me. He was trying to contain his laughter as he instructed me to slowly look to my left. As I did, a stubby, well dressed woman made her way past us. She dragged a clearly obstinate wire-haired terrier along the floor behind her, as if dust mopping. It was a hilarious sight.

“To the dogs of Paris.”  I said, raising my cup. He obliged with minimal effort then looked out the window just as a young couple walk by. Their banter was loud enough to hear through the window.

“All these people are happy,” he sighed, “They live here – with all their friends.” He looked back at me. “This trip is too long.”

“This is one of the most popular cities in the world Alex.” I nodded toward the street. “Most of them are probably visiting – like us.”

“I’d enjoy it more if it was a regular vacation, a shorter vacation.”

His words hit a nerve. It did seem like a vacation. We’d soon approach the three-week mark on this trip. That is the longest I’ve ever been away from home. My inner psyche was expecting to return home and it was unsettling to think we’d only begun.

“What would make you happy?”

He stared at the plastic cup between his hands. “I’m sick of all the museums and cathedrals”.

We’d spent the entire day before at the Louvre and I thought he was somewhat enjoying it. I was about to ask him his favorite part when the sound of blasting horns snagged our attention. Outside the window, we saw an elderly man in the middle of the intersection. He wore a bright yellow jacket and his frail legs slowly navigated toward the sidewalk, holding up traffic all the while. Alex burst into laughter, nearly spitting out his frappicino. I handed him a napkin. “Do you think his family bought him that jacket so drivers could see him better?”

“Probably.” He wiped his chin. His eyes remained on the man, who’d safely reached the curb.

“C’mon. Let’s go find an internet café.”

NEXT: Floating My Fears Away

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