Saturday, October 16, 2004

An American in Paris: Theresa Applies For Federal Write-In Ballot

Hi Claysie,

Your appreciation of Woody Allen Friday was seamless (WCBE's "It's Movie Time"). I loved John's quip, "we're still doing that," in response to your description of Farrow's attempts to escape 1930's Depression in America.

I'm anxious as hell waiting to see if Bush is gonna get his can kicked back to Crawford. I just mailed off my absentee ballot and can only hope it will be counted. Since I hadn't received my official absentee ballot from Ohio yet, I had the option to send what's called a Federal Write-in ballot, which Democrats Abroad distributed one evening last week by setting up shop for a couple of hours in a little café called Coffee Parisien in the Saint-Germain-des-Près area (our neighborhood!). I'd never been there, but the place is obviously an American expat/student hangout. Its walls are covered with photos of John F. Kennedy, its espresso machine whirs behind a John Kerry / John Edwards bumper sticker proudly plastered on its front-side, and the menu includes plenty of typical American fare -- including a bottle of Heinz 57 on every table.

What I thought would be a quick and uneventful ballot pick-up became a small but significant moment in my experience as an American expat in Paris. As I pushed my way past the American crowds lined up to get these prized ballots, it was impossible to ignore the national French TV news reporters struggling to film the event in such close quarters, or the BBC Radio journalist braving the din to tape interviews with the Americans in line. Fame, I'm happy to say, eluded me. The reporters seemed to be going for people who waited in groups (which appeared to make up most of the line -- Americans tend to travel in groups); I was there alone. It was probably for the better that I was not distracted by a companion, or by 20 seconds of sound-bite fame, during the two hours that I waited there. Left to my own thoughts and free to fully take in the scene, I was struck by the feeling that I was participating in something much bigger than what I had imagined before entering the café. The classic romantic idea of the American living in Paris in historical times -- it still resonates; it is undeniably relevant today. For that moment, I was shaken out of my usual blasé attitude about living here. For that moment, I sensed the kind of magic and romance that we vicariously discover in the Paris of famous literary Americans -- like the Paris of Hemingway and Stein. Except here I wasn't reading it; I was living it. It was palpable.

Theresa Kuta de Belder,
Le Plessis-Robinson, France

Copyright by Theresa Kuta de Belder