Buck 65 On Leaving Paris

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Rap troubadour Buck 65 recounts his years spent in Paris–and why he had to leave:

Paris. She didn’t want my money. She didn’t want my accent. She didn’t want my tears. She only wanted my songs.

Paris loves the artist being an artist. Paris raises her glass and sounds her bells. But there are always too many moments–even days on end–when the artist is the regular Métro passenger, he who waits in line at the grocery store, and whose bicycle is in need of repair.

Paris is the gorgeous ice-queen dragon lady. She’s the pathological liar with everything going for her. She knows she’s great, but is still desperate for attention and reassurance. She’s cold and emotionally overwrought. The legendary lover who can’t stand being touched.

I hate her for her resistance to new ideas and love her for her devotion to the old ones. I hate her for her intolerance and love her for her pride, even in her ugliness. I hate her airport.

Paris hates America for being exactly like her. She’ll never admit it. Paris ain’t takin’ no shit, and can’t take “yes” for an answer. Her favorite pastimes are protest and pop-culture consumption. On TV and in the movies she talks and talks, but on the street she won’t even look at you.

Paris gave us Serge Gainsbourg and took jazz from us. Paris offered us Les Rita Mitsouko and took Billy Crawford off our hands. Paris gave us cinema and mimes.

Paris wants us to know that she’s the most beautiful city in the world, has the best food, art, and fashion, is ultra-romantic, but doesn’t want us to visit her. Paris hates tourists–especially Yankees (and she can’t tell the difference between Canadians and Americans, unless you’re from Quebec, in which case she’ll laugh in your face because you talk funny).

What it comes down to, I believe, is that Paris has been built as a Shangri-La for French people. If you’re French, Paris is paradise. But it’s a very unwelcoming place for a visitor. I’m always amazed at how many stories I’ve heard of friends who’ve found themselves crying on a set of steps there somewhere, feeling incredibly alienated and lonesome.

It’s as common a sight as dog shit on the sidewalks. They should sell postcards with beautifully photographed images of Americans crying on the steps of the Sacré Coeur. In North America, we’re raised with the idea that individualism is a good thing, a strength. But Paris doesn’t want your opinions, your ideas, your beliefs, your look, or your spirit. She doesn’t want to be reminded that there’s another world outside the perfect little one she’s created for herself. If you enter, be French. And what can you say to that, really?

I understand why she does it. I get it. She’s protective. She resists Westernization and Americanization with everything she has. When the French voted “no” in the referendum for the European constitution a few years ago, I wasn’t surprised at all. The French don’t want to be European. They just want to be French. Paris refuses to give herself up, or to be destroyed. It took me a long time to fully understand that. And when I finally did, I left. I almost felt like apologizing to her as I was leaving.

So farewell, Paris. I tried. You make me jealous. I resent your beauty. I hate you for hating me, but I’ll always admire you from afar.