Whenever I mentioned to many of my friends in the USA or Europe that I was moving to Luxembourg, they immediately stated, “Luxembourg is the most boring city of Western Europe.”
Actually nearby Brussels won the prix d’or d’ennui in most competitions followed tightly by Zurich and Warsaw. Birmingham has supposedly given all three a run for the money with the added detraction as the most unromantic city in the EEU. I’ve actually had a good time in Bruxelles on several occasions in different decades. I don’t know Zurich or Warsaw, but they are not on the top of my ‘must see’ list or even in the middle and nothing short of $2000 could get me to visit Birmingham, England’s Venice of the North.
I can only say that during the last three months in Luxembourg I have not made a single friend from local population. The people are well-mannered to tourists, but they have embraced the Germanic coldness of half their make-up instead of Gallic warmth, so I was happy to meet the new American ambassador. Bob was my age. We shared similar tastes in books and he loved art.
“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” He asked at the US Chamber of Commerce Turkey Dinner.
“Nothing.” I had no plans. Madame l’Ambassador was visiting her oldest daughter in Paris. I was on my own.
“Not any more. You’re with us this Thanksgiving.”
I thanked him for the invitation and showed up on time with a Paris Guidebook as a gift. His wife and he were planning a trip to the City of Light for the New Year. The guards confiscated my iPad, but allowed me to enter the embassy with my camera and telephone. Bob was waiting at the entrance. His guests were his daughter and her boyfriend, a niece, the Marine contingent, several couples working at the station, and assorted other invitees. The food was a classic holiday offering of turkey and all the fixings.
“Sorry about the paper plates, but I don’t feel like washing dishes.” Bob apologized before the meal. At least we had real silverware. I ate to my heart’s content and drank a little more wine than I would have, if Madame l’Ambassador was present. As a teetotaler her appreciation of a good buzz are limited to the effects of a bar of chocolate.
Bob and I were having a talk about Obama’s chances in 2012. Both of us were supporters of the president. He had spoken with ‘Barack’ earlier in the day. I was duly impressed by his proximity to the POTUS and toasted the president with a plastic cup of California chardonnay.
“You know from the first time I saw you I thought you looked like someone.”
“Really?” Not many people have said this, although once at Max’s Kansas City two kids from the Student Teachers came up to my table to tell me that they were playing PSYCHOTIC BREAKDOWN, which was a New York Dolls song. They had obviously mistaken me for David Johansson, but that wasn’t the case with the US ambassador.
“Has anyone ever said that you look like Al Franken?”
“Al Franken?” I was slightly horrified by the suggestion that I resembled the comedian and now senator from Minnesota. “No.”
“You have the same hair.”
“A full head of hair and glasses.” But Al Franken was older than me by a whole year and totally more successful than me. I was supposed to be an outlaw and Bob thought I resembled a US senator. I took it as a compliment, but when Madame l’Ambassador heard the story upon her return from Paris, she go a good laugh.
More a chortle.
“Al Franken, you.”
More laughter and most of it derisive.
It is definitely time to get a haircut.
Who knows who I look like with short hair.
A slightly younger Barney Frank?