Jean-Philippe is excited about his coming year in New York. This city is fertile ground for his work. On our walk back through the thoroughfare of Williamsburg, we both felt completely foreign from the rest of the crowd. But I've always felt that being a foreigner has its advantages. I can always appreciate things about a place without having to commit myself entirely to it. I can be more or less at home in France, England, Vietnam or America without ever being a real citizen of any country.
Memorial Weekend has always marked the official start of the summer here in the US, and like clockwork, the wet and cold spring weather we had been having for weeks disappeared just as the holiday started. So on Friday night, we New Yorkers were treated to our first beautiful summer night. The temperature was perfectly mild, the air not yet humid and the mosquitoes still not out in full force. I had dinner alfresco with Jean-Philippe and Corinne in an Italian restaurant in a quiet corner of Williamsburg. We talked through the night and had to drag ourselves out of the restaurant when we noticed that the tables had all emptied around us. It struck me how Jean-Philippe has managed to remain so quintessentially French and so worldly at the same time, being a celebrated figure of French fashionable society while retaining a critical eye of its denizens. He said he grew up in the atmosphere of a dreamed up past, the literary Parisian past of Proust that had long faded, but he is one of the most modern French men I know. This duality is what makes him such an interesting person. He constantly navigates that precarious fulcrum between past and present, something that France as a nation has not found a way to do properly. His children are growing up in a completely different France. This new generation is more ostentatious with money, and the comfortable bourgeois youth of Paris feels threatened by their more deprived and volatile counterpart from the banlieue. This tension is visibly felt, and as Jean-Philippe observes, has created a more violent culture among even the very young, affecting his 11 year-old son and his friends.