Postcard from Paris: Day 1

When I say it's a very big deal to come to Paris, I don't say it because I'm an idiot, I say it because where I come from people stay in their places. And this can't be understood, perhaps, unless you grew up in exactly the same way, in a town of 8,000 people and a family of seven in the middle of Wisconsin surrounded by dairy farms, where—when I was young, at least—nobody strayed too far. It wasn't done, it wasn't much considered, and if it was talked about, it was something impossibly foreign and unbelievably expensive and certainly too far away to actually be real. Maybe you would consider it a narrow worldview, but it was more a sense that things were fine as they were, where they were, of asking just enough from the world and respecting your boundaries. (It took me 20 years to get to Chicago, for example, and Chicago was 300 miles south via one major interstate highway.) The world beyond those boundaries was too big and too far away. Not that stepping outside them was discouraged, per se, but it certainly wasn't encouraged (to this day my parents' reaction is "Ack! Paris! Alone??! Aren't you scared!"). Of course I'm scared! That's why I'm doing it. So when I say it's a very big deal to come to Paris—as it was earlier to get to Chicago and then New York City and then London—I say it because as I sat in JFK alone Saturday night, after six months of planning and wildly enthusiastic anticipation, what every voice inside my head was telling me to do was go home.

But I didn't.