Monday, October 20, 2014

Paris Journal VI: Raiders of the Lost Generation

Paris was once populated by a Lost Generation of expatriate Americans known for their talent, wit and sometimes genius. Woody Allen humorously addressed this era of the 20’s in Midnight in Paris. Today that Lost Generation has multiplied and their great great great grandchildren—in other words, Americans, are everywhere. Having propagated almost biblically, the descendants of the Lost Generation have become like a plague of locusts. You can’t go anywhere in Paris without seeing Americans and just when you think you’ve located a bona fide Frenchman, who talks the talk and walks the walk, even he or she can turn out to be an American dressed up as Frenchmen. You learn not be fooled by Francophiles in berets, who can rattle off esoteric Metro stops like Michel-Ange- Molitor and have no trouble cherching for the rue du Cherche-Midi. Though the onslaught of Americans is welcomed for the economic bounty they represent, they’re looked at suspiciously and even disdainfully by many Parisians precisely because even those with affectations fundamentally lack the Gallic charm, the holy grail that many Americans come to Paris for in the first place. When a Frenchman comes to New York, he or she is generally treated like royally due to the way they embody what is deemed to be a superior culture. But the achievements of the Lost Generation of Hemingways and Fitzageralds have long been forgotten and it’s the image of the ugly American with his or her profound lack of savoir faire—the tourist loaded down with guide books, time sensitive tickets to the latest blockbuster art show at the Grand Palais and naturally their Zagat’s--that’s prevailed. In a sense it’s unfair. Why should enthusiastic Americans be penalized while the French are rewarded for being what they are?

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