Saturday, December 13, 2008

43.66° North - 3’ 75” East

Greetings from 43.66° north latitude, 3’ 75” east longitude.

Or to put it more romantically - the South of France just west of Montpellier. The sole problem with romance being that it really works best in the abstract. Once I moved here with the wife and two kids, the abstract, for the most part disappeared. And though the sun here does shine colors quite particular - shades that often make one (and that one - on - to be exact, in this case, is me) take notice, carrying out the daily chores as a stranger in a foreign land almost always trumps a romantically setting (or rising) sun. It’s the life of an immigrant as opposed to that of the tourist, and like any good immigrant anywhere, I’m out of my language and place and culture. Consequently I’m poor.

And I’m only telling you this because when I moved here and traded in my 3000 square feet of living/working loft space in modern metropolis chicago usa for the 60 square meters of stone village house in pre-historical languedoc france, where I live now. I was forced to trade quite a few other things too. But that is always the immigrants story, its always about giving up all the things that are most important in the life, the close family and friends and language and culture and ingrained rhythms of life, just on some romantic hope that somewhere else things are better. And this I’m telling you not to gain any sympathy or allegiance, but merely to give you a context for my tale.

Because you can see, that unlike many migrants escaping destitution, or war, or famine, I ended up here for some other less tangible, more abstract reason. So in a sense the giving up is even more rending, because it was done with volition. Or is volition just a part of the romance. It all was just a spin of the wheel - just a chance, and this time the ball stopped here, under the sun in the south of france. Double zero green just seems less likely than another. In truth it could have been 26 black. Just a different spin of the wheel while driving my cab on the streets of Chicago and instead of picking up, and then marrying a French woman, it could have been someone from Ohio. And my lament of expression would radiate from Cleveland.

But ah yes! the south of france, who can begin to describe the extreme variety, the subtlety, of the looks and tastes that one has access to at this degree and hour. And if it’s all chance, the push and pull of tides outside our reckoning (and what immigrant hasn’t uttered the forlorn words ‘what am I doing here’) what good luck has fallen on me, to be stripped of my romance in such a romantic place.

I guess what I want to convey is the day to day of actually living, which is so often often void of any romance, and yet which can simultaneously expose the roots on which the romantic myths of this part of the world feed. This part of the world, along the Mediterranean coastal region has been tracked, and traversed and inhabited since prehistoric times.

The 450,000 year old “Homme de Tautaval” and his people lived 35 minutes down the road from the village where my family and I live now. I don’t know if the Homme de Tautaval had any wine in his cave or not, but when the villages here were acquiring their present day form, circa 9c. - 12c. A.D., the viticulture had already been active in this area for more than 1500 years. It still is, and it is breaking my back.

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