Yes, we are back at home.
"Oh, it’s so nice to be back," said Maria.
We all enjoyed our sojourn around the United States. But some of us enjoyed it more than others. Maria likes to be home. Jules likes to be away from home. Henry doesn’t seem to care. And Edward doesn’t seem to know.
"Are we still in America?" he asked yesterday.
"You little dope," Jules answered. "We left America two days ago."
But there are nine hours of jet lag between Vancouver and Paris. We have come to admire visitors from California; the adjustment is not easy.
"Daddy! Come quick. Edward’s outside, wandering around in the dark!"
Maria woke us up last night. For a moment, we couldn’t remember where we were either. We had a flash: Edward was sleepwalking toward the rim of the Grand Canyon…or wandering the streets of Vancouver at 3 a.m.
When we came to, we looked out the window. There in the yard was a white quilt lit up like a lantern…moving slowly across the yard. It was as if we were being visited by extraterrestrials who came all the way from Mars in translucent bedcovers.
"What are you doing?"
"I’m just getting something out of the car…I can’t sleep."
"France is boring," said Henry, offering a counterpoint to Maria’s view.
What makes France boring is that its people are much less eager to experiment. In the Old World, people follow tradition more slavishly. That is what makes Europe so much more attractive, of course. People are more careful about what they build, what they do…and what they say.
"The Duboises aren’t coming to our party," Elizabeth explained. "They have never gotten over our snub."
What they never got over was a casual response made to an invitation. "No, we can’t come over right now…Bill has to work this evening…" Elizabeth had told them. But that was several years ago, before we realized how sensitive French social relations can be. Socializing is no casual matter, at least not in this part of rural France.
"We [Americans] are too busy," wrote Michael A. Ledeen, in his book of delusional praise, "to master the old rules of etiquette, and we are far more inclined to overlook boorish behavior than are members of more traditional societies. Even today, failure to address a member of the European, Latin American or Asian upper classes in precisely the proper way can end all hope of friendship or even a good working relationship."
Elizabeth, ever eager to improve us, has organized a large party. Tout Paris will be there. Except the Duboises. But the poor French are in for a shock: American country music. Your editor is going to perform his favorite Johnny Cash songs.
What makes America less boring is that people will do almost anything. They do not mind making fools of themselves, nor do they embarrass easily. America is delightful for its baroque exuberance…its inventive energy and its trashy casualness. These qualities do not make Americans superior; they are prone to the same errors, weaknesses and sins to which all flesh is heir. But it is more fun watching them.
Bill Bonner [send him mail] is the author, with Addison Wiggin, of Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving the Soft Depression of The 21st Century.