04 November 2008

Walking past the American Dream

Four long years ago it was election night 2004 in Paris. I had fedexed my absentee ballot and was walking around Opéra with my Norwegian friend and my Egyptian friend. As we passed the American Dream Bar, a line out the door and audibly packed with people and big screen election play-by-play, I declined my Egyptian friend’s repeated requests to enter the madness. The closest I’d ever come to setting foot in that nightmare of a place, was the tacky radio ads where a female voice spoke French in a hideously exaggerated American accent, boasting nightly shows and drink specials.

Fascinated with the notion of a (at least somewhat) functioning democracy, perhaps she had lured me to Opéra under false pretenses, intent on bringing me to the American Dream – Bar, I might add. For complete immersion in my culture, I mean she was always up for new experiences.. she couldn’t vote, but she sure could watch, in a bar where she couldn’t drink, but again could watch and enjoy a coca light in the boisterous American Dream. But I said pass, and we kept walking down the side street rue Daunou, that particular commotion avoided, yet not quite sure if this evening would end in hope or disgrace.

The election was on in full force, even the basic channels had it, which was all I had. Broadcasting live from the States, the election craze couldn’t really be escaped, and even if I turned the télé off (which of course I didn’t) I had my friends (the non Americans) texting me all night, did u vote? what will happen? (as if I had some inside scoop), alors, impatiente? as the night got later and later, and the situation darker and darker.

And thus in the late hours of election night in Paris, things were just getting underway at home, and I fell asleep to voices on the TV, boasting in French, of the American dream, and hours later awoke, to the American nightmare, and the text messages started again, but this time they wanted answers.

Though politically it’s been a long four years, I can still feel that night, the incessant ringing of my phone, the anxious air about the streets, the desire for something more, something better, and the presence of those friends who, today, sit further from me, but just as close, still in Paris, back in Cairo, Oslo... but always with me quand meme. It’s nice to have certain dates that serve as markers for comparison, that trigger memories and moments, snapshots of evenings, that bring you back, show you where you are today, and push you to be what you thought you’d already be by now.

((no I never took a picture of it, but found a photo on travelstripes.com))

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