La pluie et les parapluies

After two years at the fabulous University of Puget Sound, I’ve come to call the beautiful Pacific Northwest my home, at least one of them. And why not? Its beautiful land, full of trees, mountains, water and fabulous people. Washington state is a great place to both be educated and live. At the same time, it does rain a lot. For the most part, I’ve come to terms with that. In Washington, c’est interdit (it is forbidden) to use an umbrella. You may walk around Tacoma or Seattle in the pour rain and witness a sea of colorful Gore-Tex, eVent, H2no, HyVent or more. For you know gear-dorks, a lot of outdoorsy rain jackets. What you won’t see are umbrellas. My past Cultural Anthropology professor, a fashionable man who moved North from warmer climates spoke of the judgement he received when he initially used his umbrella. It runs deep, and has sunk into my veins as well.

Now back to Paris. Take a gander at the painting below.

Caillebotte – Rainy Day in Paris

Gustave Caillebotte is one of my favorite painters. More or less part of the Impressionist milieu, he was unique in that he had money, so painting was more of a hobby than a career for him. Whether or not his unique style was a reflection of that or not I cannot say, but while his paintings give a similar feeling of the instantaneous glance of modern life to works of the other Impressionists, his style more refined and “complete.”

In the painting above, a depiction of the area in the 17th arrondissement of Paris near the Gare St. Lazare, we see nobleman, possibly flaneurs, strolling on a rainy day.  There’s plenty of analysis to be done on this painting but I’m focusing on the fact that one must try hard to see the Parisiens without umbrellas. Everyone uses them here.

I’m at a bit of dilemma. I’ve upped my appearance since being here in Paris, wearing fancier clothes on day to day basis, and the rain poses a threat to this level of formality. The umbrella is the obvious solution that allows nice clothes and a comfortable dry day, but I can’t seem to shake my distaste for umbrellas. At the same time, there’s nothing quite like dressing up nicely and throwing my Marmot raincoat on over everything else. To add to this all, I recently (read,this morning) got an internship at a fancy, contemporary art gallery (more information to come). In short, its not a place for wayward backpackers in old hiking gear.

I’m reminded of the old maxim, taught by my American History professor Dr. Hanson, “my compromise is your sell-out.” That is to say, to give in to one side is to relinquish another. Do I let my fashion disappear and wear the rain jacket, or turn my back on Washington for the time being and buy a street umbrella (they are cheaper than breakfast). Only time will tell.

The issue gets to rest for now, I head out to Grenoble tomorrow morning, with forecasts of sunny skys and promises of mountains (AKA zero fucks about all the Patagonia I can throw onto my body without worrying about Parisien snobbery). Also look forward to more on the internship (I start Wednesday) and maybe a resolution to the umbrella issue (though with my indecisiveness, it doesn’t seem likely).

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