Globalization: Everyone’s Eiffel Tower

I had no real interest in staying up in the Montemarte area. I got a “deal” on a hotel for 36€ a night which, in Paris is quite a good price despite the room being just a room with a single shared toilet and shower for the floor. Such are the costs of Parisian opulence. I travel high, live low.
It was cold, damned cold in Paris. The high was -1C and there was a windchill that dropped it to -6C. This was problematic as I had been in Spain, where just three days earlier before the cold really hit, it was 19C for the high, which, in San Francisco means that you go out to tan in Dolores Park. The temperature compounded the feeling of functionary traveling as I just didn’t want to do anything. Taking my hands out of my pockets meant cold hands. No hands meant no photographs and the cold overall meant little walking around.
Even still, I was staying in Montemarte and a stroll up to Sacre Coeur for the sake of fundamental tourism was needed, just to go see it despite having already seen it on my first trip to Paris seven years ago. I wish I hadn’t. Along any approach to to the hill, there were endless stores with every piece of crap souvenir you could think of and they were all the same. Eiffel this and J’adore that in any size you could want at the same price between all. Why do we need all this? Why can’t there just be one single government Crap Store in each district of any town in the world where you go to buy all the sweatshop-produced, globalized garbage that you want?
To add insult to injury, I found that as I tried to walk up the stairs, a fleet of West African guys where there waiting to make a bracelet with my name in it, just the same as in Accra, Ghana. As if having touristic products being mass produced wasn’t enough, now the tourism crap of one location is being exported to others. Although I have to admit that when I tried to pretend I couldn’t speak English or French with one of the guys who then asked me where I was from in three different language, I said Croatia (yes, I lied, I’m naughty.) Unabashed, he then proceeded to name off just about every famous Croat in history in an attempt to try and lure me in. That was amusing if nothing else and I was quite shocked he didn’t start speaking Croatian with me.
It all just came back to a question my grandmother put to me sometime back after I had returned from a lengthy trip when she asked, “Don’t you ever get homesick?” She’s a sweet lady and it was an honest question that is true for some people. But, I fail to see how it could ever be possible for an American to get homesick anywhere in the world. American corporations have seen to it that their brands are inherent to anywhere you go in the world. I suppose in some way this is the reason I’ve taking to going to Africa more these days as I enjoy the people in Africa tremendously and outside of Coca-Cola, you just don’t get immersed in multi-national advertising.
But back to Paris and Montemarte as I walked through the Sacre Coeur and I took not a single picture. I don’t have any particularly good pictures of this place from before and I respected the “no photos” sign inside as people actually do go there to worship. I’m sure it had a great deal to do with the cold, but this throng of tourists in the middle of December all taking crappy photos with their heads chopped off or running a video camera around the perimeter was just too much. Much like Julie Deply’s character in Three Days in Paris, I just didn’t want to take any photos. But, whereas she wanted to just immerse herself where she was and not put the camera between her and the experience, I just wanted to disconnect where I was. And at the risk of sounding like a forlorn digital asshole, I simply wanted to disconnect for a brief moment, separating from the crappy souvenir stands with their imported goods and the bracelet makers with their imported schtick. I just wanted to be alone, freezing my ass off in the cold and actually look at the situation thinking, “What a bunch of shit. Where is Paris in all of this?”
It turns out that Paris was waiting for me later in the day at the cemetery, la Cantine co-working space, and in the folded layers of butter in the crust a jet-black, blackberry tart that I savored after the last crêpe that I will have in Europe this year. But Sacre Coeur is an island in Paris, a dropoff point for tourists that is best left alone unless you have a reason to be at it. It is not alone in this and tourism has become as much a scourge as corporatism these days. And really, because of this, I leave this article with no links, picture, or anything else connecting it to anything else. There are better things out there and while we steadily work to link all of them together through imbalanced world trade, so many of them are just better left adrift, somewhere… over there, over charged, and over photographed.