As an incoming high-school freshman, I weighed 170 pounds. Sixteen years later, I weighed somewhere slightly north of 315. That’s a gain of 145. So, with much respect to the late great Allan Sherman, I would like to explain how it came to pass that I got fat:

In 1947, author and certified intellectual Simone de Beauvoir left Paris to travel America for four months.She chronicled the experience in her long-unpublished book L’Amerique au jour de jour (America Day by Day, University of California Press) making both critical and gushing observations on American culture that are remarkable in the way they still apply, as though she either had uncanny foresight or else the country has, in fact, shifted very little since the first years after the Second World War.

She points out:“Tourism has a privileged character in America:it doesn’t cut you off from the country it’s revealing to you; on the contrary, it’s a way of entering it.”This she says leaving Las Vegas , the city that has become a truer portal into the American psyche every year since de Beauvoir first visited.Sadly, she never laid eyes on Paris Las Vegas, where she could have experienced the acute ironic thrill of sitting down at a caféin the shadow of the Eiffel Tower beside eight lanes of traffic and a row of swaying palm trees.

We’d been out of the country for five years and now there was grocery shopping to be done.We planned on eating out of a poorly-bolted kitchen area in a rented campervan for the next three months and needed to shove off with the whole thing stocked.I’d been anticipating these travels ever since abandoning my home turf.But at the return, I found myself itching to roam the aisles of an American suburban supermarket.It was the first of several minor homecomings.I suggested we get up at 2 AM for a glimpse of the illuminated Open 24 hours sign with a cashier still sitting beside a register waiting for commerce to continue, just to prove that such visions existed.