Saturday, May 26, 2012

May in Paris

Greetings from Paris. It is another beautiful day in Paris where I find myself covering the French Open tennis tournament. This is my other job. The French Open starts tomorrow morning on the courts of Roland Garros. One of my favorite trivia questions is "who was Roland Garros?" You will be surprised. Guess before you google it and see how well you do.

 I am staying at a small hotel a block from the Tuilierries and around the corner from the Place Vendome in the heart of Paris. Wandering around this morning I discovered a parka for sale in a storefront, the price of which is equivalent to my extending my stay in Paris for another three weeks. Wonder who buys things like that? For a clue, I stood outside the entrance to the Westin Hotel to watch how the other half lives. One thing for certain, the other half smokes a lot -- at least they do in Paris. For the convenience of the wealthy tourists and locals in the area, there are conveniently placed receptacles on the sides of buildings that say: "Etienez votre cigarette." How handy! They also say, in English, "Take Your Pill." Hmmm.

I wandered by the Hotel Meurice. I stayed there once many years ago, but it now costs somewhat more than my roundtrip flight to stay there for a single day. But then, Smith Barney was kind enough to pay the bills back then. Here in socialist France, things are quite expensive. A soft drink will run about six euros in any of the establishments within a two block walk of here and it is best not to eat too often or you may not have enough money left to sightsee. A five day metro pass is a mere 31 euros, so getting around is cheap and you see lots of bicycles and motorscooters in use. But the cost of eating is so high, it is not surprising that are few overweight people on view. Not many older people either. Small wonder.

The local French papers say that Angela Merkel is close to a compromise with Francois Hollande regarding Euro-wide guarantees of sovereign debts in member countries. I would doubt that. But, if true, it simply extends the agony and postpones any real resolution of the Eurozone's problems, which is that the current debt levels are not payable. Extending them doesn't really get at the real issue. So more pain ahead for Europe.

I must appear an obvious tourist. The same pickpocket team singled me out twice yesterday in the Place Vendome. The trick is that one of the team appears to find a gold ring on the ground. They pick up the ring and ask if it is yours. Then, as you try it on at their request, another member of the team, finding you distracted, lifts your wallet neatly from your pocket. Since I had no interest in acquiring a ring or trying one on for size, the scheme did not work on me, but it is interesting that the same team tried this on me twice in one day.

Today, I have an exclusive interview with John Isner, 10th seeded (highest American seed) in the tournament. He is one of the few college grads on the tour. Wonder if he will hit a few with me after the interview?