Friday, March 10, 2006

He Loves Seattle! I Mean He Really LOVES Seattle!

Evidently, in France he goes simply by his initials, BHL and he is loved and astronomically famous. I am talking about Bernard-Henri Levy. He wrote a book about America after driving across our country and though he claims to like the United States, he was rather judgmental and shallow in his observations. Naturally, as a good Frenchman, he thinks Americans are obese and it goes on from there. The book is titled, "American Vertigo". Garrison Keillor, who I like and admire, hated it and so stated:

Thanks, pal. I don't imagine France collapsing anytime soon either. Thanks for coming. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. For your next book, tell us about those riots in France, the cars burning in the suburbs of Paris. What was that all about? Were fat people involved?

I have not read "American Vertigo" and I haven't yet decided if I will or not though I am curious. At the moment, I am a little--ok, a lot--mad at France because we have paid $7000 for my son to study and receive credits at a French university this semester. But, the students have been on strike and no classes have yet been held; it is beginning to look like this semester will be a bust. Needless to say, I am quite unhappy about the situation.

Anyway, if I did read "American Vertigo", I'd jump to the parts about Seattle and probably Montana without reading the rest. My favorite magazine, "Washington Law and Politics", reprinted BHL's writings about Seattle so maybe I don't need to read the book. Ok, I won't buy it but I might just find it in the library and discover for myself what all of the fuss is about.

"Seattle Mon Amour" [tr. Seattle my Love] by BHL in WLP made me laugh out loud. I mean, I like Seattle and cannot imagine living anywhere else at this point in my life but oh my.... BHL really loves Seattle. "Seattle Mon Amour" first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly and then made it into the book. You cannot access the article in either the Atlantic Monthly or in WLP but because of the magic of the internet, I did find "Seattle Mon Amour" printed in a Seattle website. http://www.seattlest.com/archives/2005/05/09/a_frenchman_loves_seattle.php

Confused? Yea, me, too but I will take the quotes from the website. Enjoy! This is a popular (in France) Frenchman's view of Seattle:

Nothing is more striking about Seattle than the moment of arrival.
I loved the city itself, of course.
I loved that feeling of wide-openness on the Sound, the current of brisk air that touches you despite the summer heat.....
[Yes, arrival in Seattle by airplane or car on I-90 or I-5 is spectacular.]

I loved Seattle's delicate, sun-speckled docks. Its pulsing, heterogeneous marketplace, where highly specialized bookstores, shops selling collectible posters, myriad bars, are all wedged between two shimmering fish markets.... [What? He doesn't mention coffee? Not even once?]

During the day I loved the breeze that rises from the water as if to widen the streets, and in the evening the summer mist, wispy, a little gray, which stops, mysteriously, at the waterfront.... [True, true]

I loved the city's hills and its interminable steps, the floating bridge over Lake Washington, the boats leaving for Alaska or Panama.... [True, true]

I loved those "boulevards without movement or commerce" around First Avenue, and I loved the "drunkenness of a big capital" that soars over Capitol Hill and its sidewalks inlaid with bronze dance steps.... [Ok, I didn't get this one. I mean, I have danced along the bronze feet on Capitol Hill but boulevards without movement? Does he mean we don't jaywalk??]

I loved the air of freedom, of nonconformism, that reigns over the economic capital of this state... [True, unless you are a republican]

In Redmond I visited that city-within-a-city, surrounded by pine trees, green lawns, little lakes, that is the headquarters of Microsoft. I met some of the engineers, from Mexico, France, and India, who are inventing the language and social fabric of the future. And here, too, I loved the feeling of imagination, youth, chic and atypical bohemian-ness, irreverence, cosmopolitanism, civilization, intelligence, that this strange group of people radiated. [Microsofties=Work-a-holics, believe me. This is why they retire as soon as they make their fortune.]

I visited the Boeing factories. I spent half a day in a landscape of girders and giant winches worthy of a larger-than-life Fernand Léger; of mini-buildings inside cavernous hangars; of walls of monitors, monstrous pipes and chrome caterpillars, immense jetways, colossal scaffolding, open bellies and steel guts, fuselages and armor plates, where occurs that miracle of high technology that is the assembling of a new plane. And I loved the fact that the officiants at this miracle, on whose shoulders rests a responsibility made twice as pressing by security issues and terrorist threats, looked like hippies with ponytails as they worked coolly to a Rolling Stones riff. [Ok, he came to my neighborhood. Yep, I see all these folks leaving work and causing traffic jams at 2:45 PM. Probably Rolling Stones in the car, too.]

I loved, on the corner of First Avenue and Virginia Street, the bistro Le Pichet, whose sign says in French that it's "a bar during the day and a café at night" and serves "regional specialties all day." [This cracked me up because it is a French restaurant run by French people--nothing Seattle about it. We go there to get our French fix. Why not mention Wild Ginger or some place very Seattle.]

I liked absolutely everything about Seattle.
If I had to choose an American city to live in—if I had to pick a place, and only one, where I had the feeling in America of rediscovering my lost bearings—it would be here, in Seattle.
[Well, me too, this is why we are here.]

If I had to choose one moment in this discovery—if I had to say what the instant was when everything was settled and, in the blink of an eye, the genius of the place was revealed to me—it would be the moment when,.....

I saw, floating like a torch between two motionless clouds, in a dark-pink sky entirely new to me, the tip of a skyscraper, the Space Needle,...... [Ah yes, the genius of the Space Needle--a skyscraper?? Ok. LOL!]

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Like I said, BHL LOVES Seattle. He really loves it. And he even loved the "blob" EMP built by Paul Allen at the bottom of the Space Needle. And, in my opinion, it is hard to love or even like.