On loving and loathing two cities with undeniable passion.
November 26th, 2014
New York for me always possessed a certain kind of possibility. It was the city of dreamers, doers, and winners. Sky was the limit. Ambition was king. Rags to riches was an entirely plausible storyline, practically the story of the city. You could go anywhere, do anything, as long as you dared and dreamed (and paid, of course, with your time, energy, and if you stayed long enough, your soul). It was about being the best, at everything - money, power, love and fame, and everything in between. New York was about achieving, and winning. And that made me love it with an undeniable passion.
But I also loathed New York beyond any comprehension. The achieving for the sake of achieving. The relentless competition because of ego. The sheer stupidity in the concept called "sleep is for the weak" (when will New Yorkers realize they're stupider when they don't sleep?). The shameless self-promotion. The incessant need to be positive about everything. And politically correct about everything. The façade of happiness, the façade of a great job with a great pay in a great city. But actually you hate your job but it looks too good on paper. Your friends seem more interested in your network than you. You pay more rent that you can afford for a bed in a shared apartment. And your savings is dwindling to a dangerously low level (but you tell yourself at least you're living on the edge, unlike some poor soul outside New York City). And yes, you were also becoming despicably snobby, not for anything exceptional though, just for the fact that you lived in, and somehow therefore are from this city. But even yet, miraculously, all the façade, glitter and energy, end up making you believe, even if it's just for a moment, that your life here had and always will be amazing. That despite the stench, rats, superficial people, and cut throat competition, there was absolutely nothing in the world that you wanted more than to be living and breathing New York.
In Paris, it's quite the opposite. Paris is the city for lovers, dreamers (not quite the same type of dreamers as above), writers, intellectuals, and once in a while, that fashion blogger or celebrity. It's the city where you can randomly walk into a café in which Hemingway had once wrote novels. It's a city of museums and monuments, of books stores and café au laits. Working is universally loathed. Working to live is for the poor. Needless to say, the educated and the wealthy have no need to suffer to make money. Instead they travel, indulge in learning, or yes, become engineers, the pioneers of tomorrow's technology. And even if you are not the educated nor wealthy, you still travel, ponder and philosophize because you would never be so uneducated to prefer material goods over culture. And friends - friends are everything. Life is to be enjoyed. And I love all that about this city.
But at the same time, I loath Paris with that same burning passion. Nothing is open on Sundays (because good God it's actually forbidden to work), so good luck finding something to eat. That intellectual air of curiosity? Well it's more like a prolonged "f*ck you". Don't expect to be entertained by Parisians. They are not interested in you. Don't be offended, nor are they interested in anyone beyond their social circles. There's no such thing as niceties. Please refrain from smiling in public because it makes you look either stupid, crazy, or both (so does being politically correct). Be prepared to wait in line. For everything. It's better to attempt bad French than to begin a sentence in English, otherwise you shall be reminded (and not very politely) that this is a French speaking country. Oh, and remember, no matter how long you have lived here, you are not, nor will you ever be, Parisian. And yet, despite the wait (and I mean really, waiting so long that you no longer have energy to sustain anger), the rudeness, and all that horendous rain, you still somehow can't help but appreciate, and maybe even a little envy, the beauty, brains and oh, savoir vivre of those despicable Parisians. :p