11 January 2007

Thoughts for today

Instant analysis of President Bush's speech outlining a new "strategy" for Iraq:

Hey it's one, two, three, what are we fightin' for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is chez Saddam.

And it's five, six, seven, open up the Pearly Gates,
Ain't got time to wonder why, whoopee! we're all goin' to die.

I recite this from memory. As you might realize, it is not original. Cheryl's comment on my last wall-signs topic — sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blocking out the scenery breaking my mind — brought it back to my broken mind.

Explain to me again what the difference is between a surge and an escalation...

* * * * *

The first and only black mayor of my home town in North Carolina died a couple of days ago at 83. He was elected mayor of Morehead City in 1993. According to the local newspaper, William Horton "ran on a platform of paving dirt streets in the black section of Morehead City."

It is incredible that there was and still is a "black section" in that town. And it is outrageous that the people who lived in that part of town had to live with dirt streets until the mid-1990s. Were all the streets in all other parts of town, even in poor white neighborhoods, paved? Yes, of course.

Such is life in the U.S. South, much as it pains me to say it.

* * * * *

Yesterday, we drove over to Tours to do some shopping chez Leroy-Merlin, which is a kind of Home Depot store here in France. We didn't actually go into the old city of Tours. All the stores where we shopped — Leroy-Merlin, a couple of garden centers, the Darty home-appliance/electronics store, and the Géant and Leclerc superstores (hypermarchés in French) — are on the periphery of the city. Everybody drives there and parks in big parking lots, just like in America.

The drivers were kind of out of control, I thought. Fact is that yesterday was the first day of the semi-annual sales — les soldes — in France, which is a pretty big deal. So a lot of people were out, and the pace was frenetic.

But what I realized is that our view of the frenetic pace and the crazy drivers is tinted by our having lived in the country for the past 3½ years. When we were near the Géant store/mall, we stopped at a red light at a big intersection. There were two lanes of at least 15 cars waiting to go through on the road perpendicular to the one we were on. "Look at all that traffic!" we both exclaimed. "How do people live like this?"

I saw a young woman wheeling around a traffic circle with a cell phone stuck to her ear. That's against the law in France, and she was driving like a bat out of hell. We parked at one store and walked a short block over to another store (nobody else was out walking, of course). As we crossed the entrance to a parking lot on foot, a young man driving a VW Golf came roaring in. I thought that he was aiming his car at me and that I was going to be run over. He was obviously late for something, and lost in the maze of streets and parking lots. He had that frustrated, wild-eyed look. It was hair-raising.

Whew! Life in the big city. You can have it!


  1. Well, quite an interesting post, life in the American South and life in rural France. I know that people who live in the country hate it when they come to Paris. To me, after being in the country for a few weeks, coming back to Paris is great. I love the hustle and bustle (almost never drive here though), the busy atmosphere, being able to visit all sorts of things. But then this is where I have lived all my life.
    Even going to anywhere in banlieue drives me crazy. To me, the country is great for a short time. But I always want to go home and home is Paris.

  2. Well, I lived 5 years or more in Paris, 5 in Washington, and almost 15 in San Francisco. I love cities too. It's the suburbs that are unpleasant, because they are full of cars and you can't really walk anywhere.

    I certainly don't hate going to Paris. Or being in Paris, to be more precise. The hard part is getting there, driving through the sprawl that surrounds the city.

    The same is true of Tours and most cities in the U.S. and in France. Problem is, most of the commerce now takes place in the suburbs, because people want to be able to drive and park in order to shop. It makes sense, but it is a lot of trouble compared to life in the country or in the city center (on foot).

  3. Right on with "chez Saddam," Ken! I don't know how much crap Bush thinks he can feed us and not choke us. I'm hoping the Congress will cut his purse strings.

    Last year a street in an unincorporated section of San Jose was finally paved. A man fought for it his whole life, and his widow took over the campaign and finally saw the resolution. Rest in peace, Mr. Horton.

  4. In addition to "surge" and "escalation," Condi Rice used a new one yesterday at Congressional hearings. She said she preferred "augmentation." Gabby


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