I always knew a lot of things.
Over life most of them had become obviously wrong, not true, or en Francais, faux.
The major remaining tenet of not being right had managed to nonetheless continue into my middle life.
That tenet was that I really didn’t like France, the French, and denied that there might be a French culture at all, or a way of living that might be French (as opposed to good old red blooded ‘Merican “culture” – deep fried turkeys and such).
In the waning days of the Twentieth Century a close friend of my wife’s and mine had put together a ten day trip to Paris for her students at a Spokane Community College where she was a professor.
The trip was open to anybody that wanted to hitch a ride.
I sensed that Mysti would want to go and my anti-French muscles all contracted.
But for no reason that I have ever been able to re-create I decided that both of us should go,
I think Mysti was appalled.
She was not interested in being in France with an ignorant buffoon.
But, as it turned out, she was.
There with an ignorant buffoon.
So she was making the best of it as we walked down the Champs Elysées: she was telling me about the City of Lights and the blood that flowed across the Place de la Concorde and all of that.
I was finding all of that to be pretty interesting – in a comic book sort of way.
And then, as we broached Metro Stop George V, I had some sort of irrevocable experience.
And I have never come back.
In that moment Paris became home to me.
I have no idea why.
In the intervening years I have lived there, cumulatively, for about a year and a half.
I have places that are so magical, so important, and so psychologically fragile that I almost never want to think about them.
I just want to be among them.
So, as a recent trip to Rome loomed I was almost like a lover who was fearful that his loyalty to Lady Paris might be compromised.
After all, Rome is where most of everything we now do, or think, or even contemplate, came from.
Paris just distilled and re-packaged it.
As it turned out, as I walked down the Tiber, under the sweet gum trees, with the shriek of the parrots in my ears, I had a different experience than I ever would or could have expected; oddly it was parallel, but totally different, to George V.
It gave me a different viewpoint.
We had walked toward Vatican City.
Then we had gone the other way and walked toward the Island, the oldest part of the city..
Either way,in the river, the birds and hulks of abandoned boats, and the occasional rapids, and the aquatic plants and everything of similar nature that would be part of a small rural municipality screamed a fact: “Rome is not Paris: Paris is unique; but so it Rome; Rome is the cow town that spawned Western Civilization”.
And she doesn’t want to change.
And she isn’t my home; Paris is my home; but I love her – Rome - dearly.