Thursday, February 19, 2009

Finding The City

I knew I had to move. I just didn't know where. Berlin had become a sink of bad memories, a place I needed to leave behind. But where to go? 

I'd gone to France some years earlier with a friend, and at one point we had driven out of Dijon into the Burgundy wine country when, somewhere south of Beaune, I spotted a very old building by the side of the road. It turned out to be an old convent, closed for the day, but we needed a rest from driving, so we got out of the car and wandered around the town, which was clustered along the banks of a small river. My friend dipped into a bakery and got some kind of pastry which she declared fantastic. I was thinking about what it'd be like to live in a place like this, and she must have read my mind because after finishing the pastry she turned to me and said "This is where you should be living! You hate Berlin! You speak French and you're impossible with German!" 

She was right, and she was wrong. The next few years brought some adventures and experiences I wouldn't have missed for anything. But then things went sour, I ran out of money, and it was, after all, time to move. And yes, I thought, remembering this trip, France sounded like a good idea. I'd already spent some time in Paris, where I knew some folks, but it seemed expensive, congested, and too full of other Americans. Where else was there? I remembered the town in Burgundy and whipped out the map to find it, having forgotten its name. Ah, there: Tournus! Playing around with a search-engine, though, just reinforced one fear I had: I would be pretty lonely. The town is small, I would be a stranger just dropping in from nowhere, I knew no one there, and it was a ways from any decent-sized town. 

But the basic idea was good. 

That's when the Resentments showed up. 

It's rare enough for decently adult music to show up in Berlin, but these guys included a couple of old friends from Austin, and were only a half-hour's walk from my house, so suddenly, in the middle of a cold winter, I had something to look forward to. And sure enough, as I approached the club, there was their diminutive bassist, Bruce Hughes, out on the sidewalk. After trading the ritual insults (I once described one of Bruce's early bands as having produced "headache music," and he's never forgiven me), he started talking about the guy who was their opening act on this tour. "He's great, he's like Jimi Hendrix!" We continued to chat, and I mentioned that I was thinking of moving to France. "Hey, he's from France! He lives in Montpeeler!" Do you know where that is? I asked Bruce. "Sure, it's right near Paris!" 

"It's halfway between Marseille and Barcelona," the guy told me backstage when I finally met him. And yeah, I knew it was pronounced Monh-pull-YAY. 

So when I went home after that show, although I was tired, I was also buzzed enough to call up the Montpellier tourist website, and the official city website which, had some cool QuickTime visites virtuelles (and, as you can see, it still does). It looked interesting. I wrote a couple of friends: "Who do we know in Montpellier?" One of them wrote back with the name of a professor of American Studies at the university, and so in January, 2005, I raised some money towards an exploratory mission to see what the place looked like, and was impressed. I jotted down my first impressions on my blog under the title "A Goal." 

It was a goal that took me close to four years to achieve, one that cost me tons of money thrown down blind alleys and abortive missions to hunt for an apartment. There was a stiff learning curve, no doubt about that. 

And yet, with the industry which has supported me, magazine journalism, collapsing around my ears, with the dollar sinking to unbelievable lows against the euro, and despite the resistance of some of the French to admitting outsiders into their country, in mid-November, 2008, I put some of my stuff into a truck and some more of my stuff into a very full station wagon and used the keys I got the day after I arrived to open the door to a new apartment. 

* * * 

It's taken a while for me to start this blog. It took til February 18, 2009, for me to get Internet service at home, for instance. It took me forever to get a bank account, without which one can't get a phone. I'm still unpacking. But I'm ready to start talking about the things I like and the things I don't like -- oh, yes, fans of my previous blog, there will be dyspepsia here, too -- about this new place I've landed in. So welcome aboard, and check back often. 


  1. Welcome home, Ed! Good to see you back online, however tenuous that may be at the moment.

  2. Let me second MHG's words. Thrilled you're up and running in French mode.

  3. Ditto! Or, should that be tritto!

  4. I thought your recent NPR piece about Buddy Holly was extremely well done. Very moving.


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