• Joshua Dopkowski

Drinking Wine and Eating Octopus In Front of a School

The title says it all.

Me, eating grilled octopus in the street

I remember drinking Beer on a quiet street overlooking the Hudson River and the illuminated George Washington Bridge, only to be stopped by NYPD and given a citation. It wasn’t enough to just give us a ticket, they had to send us to court. As is typical in New York, we waited nearly four hours watching as one person after another approached a podium that was bolted into the floor, and pled their case with the judge regarding offenses as innocuous as public urination and improper disposal of a cigarette butt. Just because my buddy and I wanted to enjoy a beer on a beautiful summer night, far away from anyone else, we were treated like criminals and subjected to spending hours of our lives in a dingy lower Manhattan courtroom, rife with shady characters and nauseating fluorescent lighting. One county clerk explained to us that the actual deterrent wasn’t the $80 fine, but rather the arduous experience of having to deal with the NYC legal system.

I didn’t learn my lesson.

Fast forward 17 years later and I’m drinking rosé and eating octopus in front of a school for young children. My accomplices were other parents. It wasn’t enough though to be drinking in broad daylight in front an elementary school, oh no, we were hungry also. A friend of mine requested that I retrieve some food, and so I went into the nearest restaurant and ordered grilled octopus to go. I walked in with my wine, waited with my wine, and ordered right after sipping my wine. This was not a wine that I had bought in the restaurant. 

All of this was perfectly okay, and not a single person raised an eyebrow. In fact, there were dozens of other parents drinking in front of the school, and many were drinking inside of it! The school actually provided beer for €2.50 a cup.

How is this possible? What happened that allowed for such a drastically different experience?

Well as most of you reading already know, I live in France, where this type of thing is perfectly okay and is the norm. Here, this is what people do, while in the USA this behavior would have likely put me in the back of a squad car.

While the freedom was liberating, as freedom tends to be, the food and rosé were also delicious. 


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