I think I’m getting done with Europe, since I’m less charmed with every passing port, explaining TODAY’S POST:
We spent the morning in Portofino, which is a seaside resort town. It’s charming, hot and humid. Nothing there piqued my interest, which allowed me to think about other things.
One thought is that, although Europeans smoke less than when I came to Europe in the 1980s and 1990s, they still smoke a whole heck of a lot compared to Americans. As a very libertarian person, I believe that if smokers want to throw away their money destroying their health, they should be allowed to do so. As someone who hates the smell, though, I cannot figure out why I should be made to suffer so greatly for their pleasure. This is one of those things where two individual freedoms come crashing into each other.
Another thought is that, while I was once charmed by Europe’s static quality, I now find it dull. Tradition is one thing; stultification another. Europeans seem particularly adept at progressing swiftly and stylishly in small things (awesome bathroom sink designs or small, high tech grocery stores, for example), but they also seem to have such a small field in which to play around when it comes to innovation and experimentation.
In cities where law, custom and tourist dollars dictate that buildings look now more or less as they did one hundred or two hundred years ago, you don’t get a sense of forward societal momentum. I understand, of course, they tourist money comes in if Europe looks like Europe, but that cash cow seems to have trapped the Europeans in an unending time warp.
Too much Europe, rather than charming me, apparently leaves me jaded — or maybe it’s just the heat cooking my brains.
My last thought is that ugly Americans aren’t just a cliche. Last night at dinner we found ourselves sitting next to the most boorish people I’ve ever seen on a cruise. I’ve met people before who lack refinement, but these people were like a bad stereotype. They were loud, obscene (with children right next to them), and rude. The irony was that one of the party looked just like Lord Byron, who was himself “mad, bad and dangerous to know” (although I’ll bet his manners were better than this obnoxious young man’s).
Fortunately, these people are the exception, not the rule. Most of the people whom we’ve met have varied from nice to delightful, whether American, Canadian, German, Dutch, or whatever other point of origin.