ENDANGERED SPECIES The French Is France undergoing a severe identity crisis? It appears that its Bordeaux-
swilling, chain-smoking, artisanal cheese-eating ways are under attack.
First comes word of their countrywide smoking ban, which takes effect in public places tomorrow and deprives France's flâneurs of their favorite accessory.
And, as the Gitanes-haze dissipates, there's today's report in the New York Times about the mall-ification of Paris's storied Champs-Elysees, where "McDo" now vies for space with megastores like Zara and Sephora, shutting out authentic French businesses and prompting local shopkeeper Serge Ghnassia to sniff, "High-class Parisians don't want to come to the Champs-Elysees. It's not prestigious; it's not pleasant. The people who come are very common, very ordinary, very cheap. They come for a kebab sandwich and a five-euro T-shirt."
Finally, as if commoners with sub-par gustatory standards infesting the historical heart of Paris weren't bad enough, there's news that the United States is set to overtake France as the world's largest wine consumer by 2010 as New World wine varietals and marketing tactics increasingly edge out traditional vineyards. In celebration of France's decline, Americans will chug that box of Franzia, switch on National Lampoon's European Vacation, and reach for another Freedom Fry.