The Great American Tourist...Revisited

I discovered during the past five days that I have a problem.  This should come as no surprise to most people, but I’ve noticed that the minute I am in front of a group or I have an audience, I lose all sense of normal social conduct.  When did it become OK to dance like Fred Astaire in the middle of a busy street?  And when it is ever permitted to belt out “A Whole New World” while passersby stare at you with disbelief?  Apparently all I need is a camera pointed my way and the one-man-clown show begins.

The past few days I had the opportunity to film shots around the city for a top secret project.  Or at least I think it’s top secret.  The project had me giving speeches in front of famous monuments and interviewing people, like my new best friend at a local bakery – photos to come.

But the real show started when the cameraman forgot to stop the recording process and I would let loose.

Remember when we were all kids and we’d want to stage puppet shows or perform songs in front of the camera?  Apparently that didn’t work itself out of my system by age 25.  I’m looking forward to the blooper reel already.  There was one moment singing Audrey Hepburn’s classic lines rhyming Jean-Paul Sartre and Montmartre in the film Funny Face.  Then there were some off-color jokes about baguettes and their various shapes and sizes.  I think there was even a two minute close-up of me eating cotton candy because, well, I could do it and the camera was still rolling.

The point is, in the middle of Paris, I was acting a fool.  Normally, I’d feel timid to kick back and let the world know that, hey, I’m not from here.  But during the filming, I didn’t care.  I felt like my little audience, the production team and their two cameras, justified my actions.  It was OK to act silly because I had an audience to entertain.  And, be it with me or at me, they laughed.  I was a tourist in Paris getting my picture taken and you know what, it felt good.

Falling in love with Paris isn’t very hard to do.  Seeing it with those innocent eyes that a young 18-year-old Bryan saw on his first trip to Paris after high school, now that’s an experience that you can’t always recapture.  Living in a place, especially one as iconic and cosmopolitan as Paris, it’s easy to fall into a rut and a routine and to shun the tourists.  Don’t look at them, don’t talk to them, and don’t be with them.  Unless they are paying me to give them a tour, these visitors are nonexistent to the real Parisians.

This weekend, I re-experienced Paris through those eyes.  While dancing in front of the camera, running up various stair cases, and getting yelled at by the police for, well, certain accidents, I got back a bit of that excitement that my relationship with Paris might have been lacking.  It’s fun to act a fool from time to time and to appreciate the fact that, at the end of the day, no one in this city really cares if you’re singing or doing a monologue in the middle of a street – in fact, a tourist will probably just take a picture and tag you as “Parisian weirdo.”

I’m OK with that.