Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


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Stephen Fry continues to be wonderful, highlight America

As an expat, one of the things I love are reading and seeing accounts of other expats in the places I’ve been. Part of the pleasure is in how much or little I relate to someone else’s experience; sometimes it’s surprising to learn that an altercation with the locals is universal while other, seemingly mundane situations are unique to me.

The flip-side of this is how foreigners understand the US. My parents fall into this group which is probably why it’s taken me so long to enjoy the large collection of such insights. After all, stories about how weird America and those who inhabit it are were a common occurrence in my house. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been away so long (seven years and counting) that I’m far enough away to see that yes, those people are nuts and that I was a fool for not seeing it sooner.

Here’s what Stephen Fry had to say about experiencing a college football game for his 2008 BBC docuseries, “Stephen Fry in America”

I really don’t know if anything sums up America better. It’s simultaneously preposterous, incredibly laughable, impressive, charming, ridiculous, expensive, overpopulated, wonderful. American.

You can watch the whole thing online or just the part I’m referencing below.

I can’t wait to see what he says about where I grew up.

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Saved by Stephen Fry

Pangloss, Candide‘s teacher, may have posited that I live in the “best of all possible worlds” because my world has Stephen Fry in it. Fry is the best at just about everything, but this week, he and his punnery pulled me out of my funk.

I’m watching “Stephen Fry in America,” a 2008 BBC documentary series that’s a companion to the book of the same name (which I’ll read later). In it, Fry travels across the great United States in a modified (for US driving) London taxi cab and explores what each state has to offer.

The first episode is set in New England, as geography and history dictate it must be, so it was simultaneously rough and reassuring to see so many familiar places. The scene that saved me is when he’s driving through Newport, Rhode Island and says, “This is the dead center of town,” indicating out the window.

Stephen Fry approaching the center of Newport, RI.

Stephen Fry approaching the center of Newport, RI.

Stephen Fry giving global positioning commentary.

Stephen Fry giving global positioning commentary.

Of course, he’s passing a cemetery, which he realizes moments later and starts cracking up. Because it really is the Dead Center. It may sound macabre, but it was delightful and was the first time I’ve laughed in ages. Thank Leibniz for Stephen Fry.

Stephen Fry tickled by his own (inadvertent) wit.

Stephen Fry tickled by his own (inadvertent) wit.

UPDATE: An email I got today prompted me to dig through my In Case of Emergency bookmarks folder to send something to a friend who is down. And lo! More Stephen Fry goodness.