Monday, July 27, 2009

Blogging in the Here and Now

I’m spending the rest of the summer in France and I have to say that this stay will be a well earned respite.

Although I’ve been here many times (… the wife’s maternal homeland), I’m still awestruck by the sheer mass of stone and iron that is Paris and also, from what appears to an Americans eye, the simply tremendous investment made in the more typical structures in the countryside.

It seems the French have never known clapboard on wood frame construction or ever met a single asphalt shingle.

Each and every home and building seems as though it had been either painstakingly carved into place or, for the half-timbered medieval towns and other olden relics, assembled by the ancients and then meticulously preserved ever since.

This obviously all comes at great cost but the quality of the product is without question.

So this has me wondering…

Clearly, we think shorter term in the United States.

Why invest in a slate roof for a home you may only intend on living in for 5 years? Why build a stone foundation when cement is cheaper and simpler to install and maintain?

This is just simple sensible cost-benefit analysis and it appears that in France they have no notion of it.

Of course, this is not exactly a fair comparison as I’m talking about two totally different societies.

Americans clearly put a practical priority on immediate “return on investment” as well as a higher value on mobility, both geographic and social.

It’s an “aspirational” process whereby the thoughts of our own “American Dream” form the basis for our actions in the here and now… always a step away from a move to a better job, a better home, a better area… better days.

Possibly the French are not as concerned… they appear to simply live in the here and now.

My wife reminds me that even in Paris, many boutiques are closed for two hours a noontime.

I noticed a sign in the window of a brasserie declaring that the proprietor is away but will return to reopen the establishment in late August.

No doubt the actual output of the French economy is below potential.

But… you only live once!