February 14, 2010

Go Greek Or Go… To Paris

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Last week I walked out of the metro and had to cut through the Pere-Lachaise cemetery to get to my friend’s apartment. It’s a winding labyrinth of mossy graves and cobblestoned paths, possessing an eerie calm that seems to permeate the air itself, bringing a silky serenity to the graves of Jimmy Morrison, Wild Oscar and Freddy Chopin. It was drizzling twilight by the time I got to Pete’s place, and I looked out from his balcony to see Paris half-shrouded in fog and mist, all the postcard landmarks shimmering like ghosts in the sinking sun. I’ve been surrounded by these surreal images of gorgeous urbanity for a month now, and there’s one question that keeps coming back … What are all my super sick frat dogs doing right now?

After being removed from Cornell’s social scene for a long enough period, you start to realize what there is to miss. College, as we all know, is ridiculous. It’s the only time where throwing on Green Man at mixers is acceptable and drunkenly encouraged while you spend the rest of your waking hours in a library. I love it — always have and probably will for the rest of my time here, but sometimes Cornell’s weekend routines really just seem like glorified play dates. When’s the last time you ventured off-campus and away from Collegetown for a night of something different? We’re entirely too comfortable with a predictable sequence of events that, while outrageous fun, doesn’t leave much wiggle room. Repeating the same scenes in apartment pre-games and bar bathrooms provides safe, consistent entertainment and really our only social outlet as we stumble around Ithaca — long stretches of highway separating us from any city. The ensuing bubble creates a high-school atmosphere that breeds many of the same relationships we learned to rise above when the first pubes started to show. I thought we were past this.

That being said, a part of me misses that security, knowing what I’ll see on a disgustingly dependable basis. But for the time being, the terror of the unknown that presents itself on these froggy French streets is keeping any homesickness at bay. There are no frat wars in Paris, and I doubt there ever will be. The city is divided up into 20 districts, each with a distinctly different personality. It’s a lot like Disney World. But the absence of a tangible set of social codes and guidelines leaves the city wide open, forcing whatever intimidation and meekness left in you from Ithaca out into the Parisian skies to wither and die in the sculpted faces of France’s femme fatales.

I’ve become thoroughly convinced that every woman in France is out to make me miserable. As a friend of mine said recently, I fall in love at least once every time I ride the metro. The time and effort the typical froggy puts into their outfit and presentation for the day is astounding and totally worth it. The absurd furs I see every day on the street are usually rocked by old French women who leave you with no doubt as to their baller status. It’s like hanging out with old white versions of Frank Lucas, chinchilla and all. There’s something French women have that I’ve started calling the Flounce. When they walk, there’s a slight bob that draws just enough attention to rip my heart in half as they pass by me, apparently unaware of the damage caused. Eye contact on the street is a big no-no here — as, I’m told, a fleeting glance carries the same implications as asking how much a polar bear weighs.

While nothing could ever replace Hulu, sweatpants and peanut butter, I’m getting used to the style de vie over here. They might not win any wars, but the French can eat and drink you under the table. Reports of anti-American sentiment are exaggerated, as Obama’s image litters everything from gossip pages to billboards. Cornell will still be there when I come back (minus the arts I hear… seriously, wtf?) with a fresh crop of pimpled freshman and newly minted frat stars. But having the opportunity to move outside of Cayuga’s waters has already proven itself invaluable. Too much of a good thing leaves you satisfied and apathetic, unwilling or unable to break away from the torpor monotony produces, regardless of how great it is.

Original Author: Graham Corrigan