samedi, février 03, 2007

07.02.03: Patience, Woody, Patience

I am in a Woody Allen movie. In fact, I've become Woody.

I have been observing for the last year how patient I am becoming. This is a forced response. I have attributed it to dealing with french people day in, day out. We don't always a share a common language. Patience, patience.

I imagine that there are multiple ways to learn a foreign language. A seemingly necessary evil is memorizing verb conjugations. Another aspect is actually talking to real people who (quite naturally) speak the foreign language you are trying to learn. This can be scary, intimidating, humorous, and sometimes enjoyable. A way to make take the edge off is to go to a structued environment where you sit in small groups with actual real-live french people and talk for 45 minutes in English -- ostensibly for them to learn english, but quite honestly I find it to be some of the more sane conversations I have here anyway, and then 45 minutes in french -- ostensibly to learn some french conversational skills, but actually a way to defend américain's honor in the face of several massively stupid international "gaffes" (le mot de la semaine this week on RFI, associated to M. Chirac and Iranian-awareness) by our gouvernement. The hour and a half for this exercise is acceptably banal, and perhaps a little educational. The shared lunch afterwards is actually the good reason to participate. At lunch I can manage an interesting conversation with one or two francophones, and honestly share some interesting perspectives.

So today, after the obligatory Bush-bash (or you don't get invited to lunch) we were walking up the street to a resto, when one of the elderly américaine participants asked me to wait for her while she managed her affaires. She said she knew where the resto was for lunch, which I didn't question. After I waited to accompany her, we walked around St-Germain des Pres several times while it became painfully obvious she had no fricking idea where the resto was to meet up with the others. So, I didn't get to have lunch with my frenchy friends today. I really thought I would kill her.

That's when I knew I had become Woody. Patience, patience. This time for an american in paris. Go figure.

She told me she met President Eisenhower when she was a young woman. Namedropper. In Paris, no less. She looks like Diane Keaton will look in another 10 years. She told me she was very attractive when she was young. These are the other things she told me: her father was abusive, her mother was an alcoholic until the day after her father died, her ex-husband, now deceased, was french, haute bourgeoisie, and non-communcative, she is much younger than my father (who is 77), and she loves living in Paris -- in fact, it was her destiny, fulfilled.

All this while I had a little pasta and a glass of vin rouge in a little Italian restaurant off Metro Odéon, on a brisk, sunny winter day. It really seemed like a Woody Allen movie. But a little less funny. But then, the character played by Woody in his movies doesn't see the humor either.