The Corner

Cheeseburger in Paris-dise

I was invited to a costume party last weekend that required each guest to come dressed as a celebrity. I figured Jimmy Buffett was a natural, both because he is my lifestyle role model, and because the “costume” can be reduced to wearing a Hawaiian shirt and chugging rum from the bottle, i.e., calling my normal party behavior a costume.

But it became clear that this was a fateful decision when I learned that Buffett was playing one show in Paris on the night before the party. I walked down to the venue to buy some paraphernalia for the costume, and naturally found myself drawn into the concert.

It was pretty slack and desultory at first, but about halfway through the show, the band went into a killer cover of “Southern Cross” — a song that could have been written for them — and then Monsieur Buffett proceeded to tear it up for the rest of the night.

One of the many great things about living here is the fun of having typically American experiences completely out-of-context. The annual late-September Buffet concert in Paris has become, like the seven-a-sides in Hong Kong, a ritual gathering point for expats for thousands of miles around. This created a hilarious Anglophone bubble in the middle of Paris. About the only French I heard came from Jimmy at the mic (who, having lived here years ago, still seems to have pretty passable French).

A surprising number of his songs reference the city. In fact, he closed the concert with a great acoustic version of “He Went to Paris,” which is a song that Bob Dylan cited as one of his favorite tunes by one of his favorite songwriters. Though not many of us here are living a Lost Generation literary life, it still felt very bonding.

Living in Europe has created for me a mostly pleasant sense of distance from a lot of the day-to-day of U.S. politics, hence my limited blogging over the past months. Or maybe it’s just that the warm summer breezes and French wines and cheeses have put my ambitions at bay.

Jim Manzi is CEO of Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), an applied artificial intelligence software company.


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