by Tom Kando
I just watched the finish of the Tour de France in Paris. I do this every year. Two reasons: (1) I am an avid biker myself, and a fan of the Tour for the past 60 years, since the days of legendary giants such as Fausto Coppi and (2) I grew up in Paris. Went to elementary school and high school there. First times I fell in love was with little French girls. First friends I had were french boys. First time I had fisticuffs, played hooky, got honor roll grades, saw Western movies, went camping, disobeyed my parents, got scholarly awards, wrote noteworthy papers, ran through city streets, suburban woods and subway stations at night, all of this happened while I was growing up as a Parisian boy.
When I watch the final stage of the Tour de France, my nostalgia gets the better of me. The buildings, the city, the Eiffel Tower, the Concorde, the Champs Elysees, the Arch of Triumph, Versailles, Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Tuileries. Those are magnificent, to be sure. But it’s more than that. It’s also the atmosphere.
I remember our high school teacher telling us that Paris was “the most beautiful city in the world.” I thought at the time, “sure, that’s what high school teachers tell their students in Omaha, in Cincinnati, in Stuttgart and in Ensenada, too...” I didn’t realize (then) that my Parisian teacher was actually telling the truth.
But my nostalgia is not just about buildings. Sure, I have taken my children and grandchildren back to Paris many times in recent years - to see the Louvre, climb up the Eiffel Tower, have coffee at a sidewalk café on the Boulevard Saint Michel. And a week later, we are back in Sacramento, driving down Fulton Avenue in search of a car dealership. So I’m not so sure about tourism - how it processes, what it accomplishes...
My nostalgia is more dignified: I was a French boy. I lived in one of the world’s greatest urban-cultural environments. Somehow, I ended up in Sacramento. No, Mayor Kevin Johnson isn’t right: “Sacramento is NOT a world class city.”
Moving back to Paris is not an option. I have been a Sacramentan for 44 years. Money, house, family, language, citizenship, old age, the usual.
If you are Zen (or Diogenes), you understand of course that happiness is not a matter of place. It is a matter of YOURSELF. Wherever you go, that’s where you take yourself. If you are wise, you understand that you can be happy in Iowa or in Yuba City. I know. It’s not a matter of place.
And one could do worse than living in the Golden State. I bet you many Parisians would like to trade places with me. There are probably more unhappy people in Paris than in Sacramento.
But I look at the City of Lights on the last day of the Tour de France, and I say: “Why on earth did we leave?” leave comment here
Monday, July 22, 2013
by Tom Kando