TRAVEL

December 13

Apart from the friendly, helpful messages I receive from Postcard readers (which I wrote about last time), I get corrections and negative responses. When I misspell something, people point it out. I should be perfect, but I'm not, especially in these Postcards, which are meant to be casual and off the cuff. (My writing for newspaper publication is more closely scrutinized. Believe me, when I make a mistake in those, I get called on the carpet for it, deservedly.)

I've had to wrestle more with the negative comments. Some take me to task for saying what they consider to be mean things about France and the French, assuming I'm a Francophobe. Far from it. I'm just a little tired of all the lush love letters to France I read and try to make my contributions on the subject more balanced. It's simply true that body odor is more common on the Mètro than on the London Tube or New York subways.

But what can I make of the vitriolic comments -- that I'm an imbecile and hardly as good as Adam Gopnik, author of that splendid book "Paris to the Moon"? One reader sends regular, long, well-reasoned messages taking umbrage at one of my Paris observations or another. These prompted another Postcard respondent to suspect that her criticisms were plants, written by me to keep the juices flowing on the website.

I could shrug off such messages as virtual flak from people who just don't like me or wish they had my job. Both are partly true, but I think the vitriol really stems from the fact that people are passionate about this quintessentially beautiful and transforming city. Those who have been touched by it feel a sense of proprietorship and a need to assert their superior knowledge of it.

My aim is to remain a naïf, able to be amazed and, occasionally, revolted by Paris. It's the difference between a wide-eyed tourist and a jejune, know-it-all expat. Give me the tourist any day; as long as I stay here, that's what I'll be.

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