Just back from Eutopia, I’m having a hard time adjusting to life in a country where mojito is now a gum flavor and cheese is a security risk.

But getting off the island made me really understand why passports have gotten tougher to come by and why the dollar is now worth a fistful of pesos. It keeps Americans from being exposed to for-the-people government, of which my favorite example was in the village in Languedoc where we stayed with a friend who said any resident giving a party can borrow municipal chairs and tables for nothing more than a $300 deposit. Her uncle had done just that for a political fete, and it was almost surreal to sit in the courtyard of her centuries-old family compound and watch as two hunky firemen drove in afterward and efficiently loaded everything onto a truck to return to City Hall without expecting even a tip — talk about tax dollars at work. The irony is that the same friend had informed me, when I asked what her family did for Bastille Day: “We’re aristocrats. We don’t celebrate.” Now I wonder if it will take 200-some years for equality let alone liberte to come to this country. Meantime, we maybe should all stock up on brioche.