Every so often I find myself missing the most random parts of the Northwest. I miss running in at Point Defiance when I need to work out, I miss cheap ethnic food when I need to satisfy a craving, I miss affordable Starbucks coffee when I’m feeling stingy but needing a caffeine buzz, and I miss my family and friends whenever I think about them. Those things aren’t random though, and they certainly weren’t unexpected.
No, the weird moments are when I catch myself daydreaming in class and stop to consider the bizarre subject of the fantasy. I’m not ignoring my teacher to fantasize hot dates with sexy French men – I’m picturing myself driving up South 38th Street (T-Town).
I actually have a lot of these daydreams, but it wasn’t until a few days ago that I took the time to think and figure out why. Of course I miss Proctor (T), but Paris is filled with cute streets with coffee shops, Italian restaurants and toy stores. I miss the U District (Sea-Town) too, but there are college students and homeless people all over Paris. I miss Ruston Way (T), but the quais of the Seine are perfectly acceptable substitutes.
What I really miss (and really never expected to) are the things that are impossible to find substitutes for in Paris. South 38th Street, for example. It’s ugly, it’s trafficky, it’s strip mall-y – and there’s nothing like it in all of Europe.
One of the first things you start to learn living in Paris (and never really stop learning) is where and how to satisfy your material needs. One-stop shopping doesn’t really exist here (the closest exception being the Monoprix), and different districts have sprung up around the city as different types of businesses cluster near each other to rob each other of as much business as possible.
Rue Saint-Honoré is great if I need to stock up on expensive labels and do come celebrity stalking. The Champs Elysées is perfect if it’s a Sunday and it’s one of the three sole areas open for business in Paris. Any street is good for a boulangerie (bakery), boucherie (butcher shop), fromagerie (cheese shop) or cave aux vins (wine shop). Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière is where to buy furs of any kind, rue des Rosiers is falafel central, and rue Condorcet is where to get hooked up with a professional camera (or corresponding equipment).
Any street in Paris can be useful depending on what I’m looking for – unless what I happen to be looking for is a place to drive through a car wash, donate some clothes to Goodwill, eat lunch at Arby’s, stock up on discount sporting equipment (Big 5), get a tattoo (Tsunami Tattoo) and buy oversized boxes of Cheerios and a year’s supply of paper towels (Costco) in one fell swoop.
I mean, I don’t generally ever have a need to do all of those things at once – even when I’m in Tacoma with a car and access to them, but it’s nice to know that I could if I wanted to.
And what if I need to get my nails done, overeat at a pizza buffet, trespass in Tacoma’s speculated mafia hang-out (El Toro, you know it), get my tires changed and buy really scary Chinese food for one dollar? What will I do? There’s no equivalent of Pearl Street (T) – and definitely nothing here that scares me quite as much as the “Wok on in” sign at Sars Marketplace.
Plus, sometimes a girl just really needs to see those weird light-up blue plastic sculptures on the Glass Bridge (T) to feel properly at home. Sure I can gaze at the glass pyramides of the Louvre – but sometimes the only pointed structure I want to see is the hideous metal (yet somehow quilted-looking) hot shop of the Glass Museum (T).
If I had made a list of things I was positive I wouldn’t miss before I left home – most of the ones I miss the most now would have been on it. I’m sure it’ll be the same for Paris when I leave – everything I hate now but that makes Paris what it is: The horribly-planned streets and resulting horrible traffic, the ridiculous amount of red tape required to accomplish anything, the irresistible and always regrettable temptation to buy (absolutely disgusting) euro-a-bottle wine.
There are only two things that I can say with certainty that I won’t miss about this city: The pee smell that pervades every sidewalk of the city and the dog poop that coats them. Although, I never expected to miss the Tacoma Aroma before they cleaned up the tideflats either. It’s not that I really miss smelling it, of course – it’s just…Tacoma).
•• P.S. I really miss driving a CAARRRRRR!!!
••• I love hearing authentic French-speakers pronounce rue Sainte Anne. It’s one street over from my building and it sounds like poetry. Ohh I can’t get over how much I love it! It sounds like no two other words could ever go together as well as these two. When I was here in high school my host mother Bernadette told me of a previous exchange student they’d met who had loved the word for stars. Les étoiles. It’s my Sainte Anne.