France...just the facts madame

Feature, April 1990

Imagine 2,068,000 Parisians crammed into 105 km (not including 11 km of bones that lie under Paris in the catacombs) with 500,000 or so dogs (4760 dogs per km).  This means you have about a 1 in 4 chance that a Parisian you hear complaining about graffiti is a dog owner.  And this dog owner will be ignorant of the fact that although 4,000,000F go annually to cleaning up graffiti, 34,000,000F are spent cleaning up the canine land mines laid all over town.  20 metric tons of dog truffles daily.  Some of it is sucked up by those green vacuum cleaner-equipped motorcycles, some of it swept into gutters by the 12,000 branch brooms and 30,000 plastic branch brooms, and then washed out of sight, out of mind down many of Paris' 18,000 sewer drains.  Instead, wouldn't it be interesting to each day pick out 20 different dog owners and leave a metric ton on each of their doorsteps.  It would take 68 years to reward each dog owner- not a likely prospect.

There are 143,600 kids be¬tween the ages of 0 - 14 which means there are 3,5 dogs for every kid to cuddle- or kick.  There are 440,000 trees in Paris, which means there's less than 1 tree (.88) for each dog.  No wonder arbortorial casualties are high.  No wonder you see all those empty patches along the boulevard where once stood a proud shade tree.  

If society were organized differently every Parisian could go to a park, fence off 18 m of green space for himself.  A New Yorker or Roman would have to be con¬tent with 9 m.  Although a Manhattanite would have to be content with 3.3 m of space and some of that not necessarily very green; just enough for an ice chest, a chaise lounge and a border of brambles to keep out intruders.  A Chicagoan could grow a profitable cash crop on his 99 m.  She might even install a pool or buy a riding mower.

In France 2.8 people get into every car, making for a jolly ride.  In America (1.8 people per car) the driver has to be content with 80% of a passenger:  Someone who's neither all there mentally or physically, someone probably playing with the power windows (40% of all new U.S. cars) rather than listening to how much you paid for your last parking ticket (240F).

In Paris 8.7% of the available apartments are kept strategically vacant despite the fact that there are an estimated 100,000 homeless in France plus 19,000 clochards, many of whom live in Paris' streets dodging 76.6 cm of annual rain.

Not need to worry about the rain in Paris ruining your hair-do though, since there are nearly 2.1 coiffeurs per 1,000 citizens.  Don't you ever wonder if you might not be the only person who doesn't have a regular coiffure appointment?

We must drink 3.5 liters of water daily.  Americans drink more soda than anyone, nearly 1/2 a liter daily, or 151.7L per year.  Many Americans, in fact a majority now, drink more soda than water. A combination of advertising, sugar addiction and pollution concerns are at play here.  The French prefer their wine, drinking nearly 1/4 liter every day (.21) every day, drinking more wine than anyone in the world (78.4 L. annually). Too bad it's not an Olympic event. The Italians are a close second with 73.2 L., Russians have other things to drink and come in 22nd with 13 L. Brits drink only 9.9 L. and are 25th worldwide. Americans drink only 9.2 L. yearly. Does this include wine coolers which are a little like Hi-C plus cheap wine? Remember Tango which was Tang plus cheap vodka? The French also lead the world in consumption of pure alcohol (ie. 9 bottles of 11.5% alcohol wine = about 1 bottle of pure alcohol), 13.2 L. annually, while Luxembourg is 2nd, W. Germany 7th with 10.5 : America's 7.6 L. is  21st (30% of U.S. adults claim to be teetotalers). Britons drink only 7.1 L. and come in 23rd.

Not that there is a direct link between drinking and service efficiency, but the ranking of postal service quality in EEC countries places France at 10th out of 12, ahead of only the notorious Italian postal service and Spain!

94% of Americans believe in God and most believe, as Jerry Falwell declared, that America is the planet's most religious country. 77% believe in heaven and 76% of these believers naturally think they belong in heaven. 22,358 homicides just happened to happen in America in 1985, 59% by gun. That's 8.3 per 100,000 citizens. France is 90% Catholic (try naming your kid Dweezil LeClerc) and has around 2,413 annual homicides (4.0 per 100,000) New York City had 1,814 murders in 1980 (23.3 per 100,000) and that rate is not even in the top 5 among U.S. cities! Paris plus the banlieue had 306 homicides in ‘85 a rate of less than 5 per 100,000, nearly 1/5 the rate of NYC.

369 people have committed suicide off the Eiffel Tower in its 100 years of existence. Two managed to survive somehow. The Paris Metro-RER has to deal with 183 suicides annually. An unsuccessful suicide costs the French citizens a mere 5,310 F. Maybe he'll get it right next time. The cost to society of a successful suicide (as an inducement?) is 2,047,058 F! (These 2 oddest facts can be verified in Quid 1989). Let's play nihilism Loto! And not to forget dogs, of which there are 8,800,000 in France; suicides of pet dogs are not unheard of. In fact they sometimes just let themselves die after their masters die.

There are 40,000 artists in France, 50,000! of them near Notre Dame and Montmartre (the 50,000 figure is meant as a joke and is not a typo). There are 6,000 writers (journalists are not writers the way commuters are not necessarily fit for 24 hours of Le Mans) but there are 557,094 military personnel playing war games in France. There are only 2,379 annual conscientious objectors.

Each Francais donates 2,627 ($417) annually toward the military, while each American gives $926 to its military. This fact varies anywhere from $700 to $1,000 depending on the source. Brazil $12. Canada $248. U.S. aid to El Salvador since 1980 has averaged $681 per minute! in 1 1/2 hours of this kind of spending the U.S. Govt. could fund the rebuilding of a gutted Bronx tenement ($54,000) to house some of those SRO families or those without domicile.

The average person in France spends 330F. in cinemas annually (10 films). The most Van Gogh ever made on a painting in his lifetime was 100 F. The auctioned price of  ‘The Irises' in 1988 was 305,000,000 F. The most Gauguin ever made on a painting in his lifetime was 160F. The price of his ‘Still Life With Apples' fetched 1,040,000 F in 1957. Modigliani never got more than 100F plus a bottle of wine while his painting ‘La Belle Romaine' in 1987 sold for 41,000.000 F. The average price of a Paris graffiti artist's canvas, as sold in galleries in 1987, was 4000F.

Sources: Petit Larousse, 1989, Committee for Creative Non-Violence, Salvation Army of France, Paris Magazine, CIA World ‘Fact' Book, World Almanac, NEA Inc. Actuel, Harpers, Espace Verts et Urbanisme-Centre de Recherche d'Urbanisme de la Proprete de Paris-Marie de Paris, plus my own arithmetic.

 Bart Plantenga, who is a poet-performance artist, can be heard weekly on his radio program ‘Wreck This Mess,' Radio Libertaire, 89.4, Tues. 4:30-6 pm. He will be presenting work with Mark Boswell, John Noonan and Sifichi April 6, 8 pm at the Cannibal Pierce Gallery and Bookshop, 7, rue Samson St. Denis, metro Porte de Paris, tel: 48.09.94.59.


 


 

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