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Wednesday, the 23rd of February it snowed in Paris and it stuck! This is wonderful! If you live in Minnesota or North Dakota and are currently suffering from a combination of cabin fever and strained back muscles from shoveling this glorious white stuff, you may not agree. But you’re wrong. Snow is wonderful, and when it falls on Paris and sticks, it’s a miracle. A miracle that only happens every two or three years.
As soon as I woke up and looked out my window and saw not only that a good 3 inches had fallen in the night, but that it was still snowing, huge, feathery flakes, I got dressed and filled my favorite pipe with my favorite tobacco.
Outside, I turned my face up to let the snow cover me, to watch it’s dizzying fall. A good thing, because this way I was only vaguely aware of the strange looks I was getting. This is Paris. French people take snow as a personal affront, as if it were an American invention. While I was smiling and even laughing, walking around my white-blanketed neighborhood, I saw only glum faces. Even French kids weren’t enjoying it. The little ones were afraid of it and the bigger ones seemed afraid of slipping and falling on it, thus being undignified. Yes, this is Paris.
Now, I hate to give comfort and ammunition to the Bush administration, Marge Simpson, and other French bashers, but there were actually people with umbrellas. In the Snow! And a lot of them. Not just three or four little old ladies, but men, young women, young men! In their defense, I have to admit that in Paris, when something falls out of the sky, it’s usually either rain, or pigeon shit, or fallout from Chernobyl. So there may well be a reflex action to open that umbrella. But come on, guys (or gars), this is snow! Even you can tell the difference.
Anyway, they could tell I was an American right away. I scraped the snow from cars to make snowballs. It was good packing snow. They say the Eskimos have 137 different words for snow. But you only need two: good packing snow and not good packing snow. This was the real thing. Of course the problem was that I was still in Paris. You can’t throw snowballs at people you don’t know in Paris. I’ve done it in America, and it was cool. I’ve thrown snowballs at strangers in London, and they just threw them back. It was fun. But in Paris. . . .
They don’t really have a word for “fun” in French. It’s a concept that doesn’t exist here. Sometimes they use the English word, as in : “C’est très fun!” But do they really know what it means? Well, that’s a whole other discussion. Anyway, I had to be content to throw my snowballs at trees, and the green litter baskets that are everywhere. They make good targets. Not too big, not to small. And I did pretty well. Sidearm, I pulled to the right (I’m a southpaw) and overhand I was low. Late release. Better than premature. But I got better. By the end of my walk I was nailing those litter baskets, and hitting the trees just where I wanted. I’ll be ready for spring training. And I thought, maybe that’s why the French don’t enjoy snow: they don’t play baseball; they play soccer. It’s no fun to kick snow. Not even for a snow fan like me.
After about an hour of this, and feeling pretty damned good, I went over to my ex-wife’s apartment to see my kids (who are teenagers). But despite their advanced ages, I still went out on their terrace and made them a rather pathetic looking snowman out of what was left of this rather pathetic Paris snow.
It was a good day, February 23rd. One to mark on the calendar while we wait for the next snowfall.