Strange New Respect

As I gather strength for the long posts on weighty matters, let me just get a few minor observations about my grande voyage out of the way.
  • First, I have a strange new respect for the French. They're the only people left in Europe who still smoke! Even the Italians, whom I thought would surely be the last to cave to health fanaticism, have "no smoking" signs up everywhere. Espresso without a cigarette? It was just sad. I don't even smoke, but I find public smoking controls to be an important indicator of civic freedom --or lack thereof. And the instant you land in Paris, you suddenly realize that smokers have been conspicuous by their absence from every other landscape. They're everywhere: the subway, the restaurants. As long as they're still smoking, I have to believe there's hope for the French.

  • Now, I'll admit that I'm just cheesed with the Italians right now because Al-Italia made my return home so utterly miserable (first they forced me into an unnecessary flight to Paris; then they boarded and de-planed the Milan-Paris leg three times before getting their act together, causing me to miss my Paris-DC connection). But once I'd resigned myself to not seeing my family for another 24 hours and fled the dingy airport hotel where they put me up, everyone in France was so friendly. Nothing like the surly anti-Americans I remember from my college travelling days. For the first time in my life I was relieved to be out of Italy and in France. (I lived two years in Italy.)

  • The UN compound in Jerusalem is on the "Mount of Evil Counsel," where the Pharisees & Scribes met to plot Christ's death. No comment.