Friday, January 13, 2006

January 13, 2006

Feeling homesick today ...

I left more than just familiar surroundings when I boarded the plane for Germany. I left a way of life, the circumstances and patterns of living seldom considered until they are abandoned or lost or out of reach. Distance from that which is known can often provide a contrast against which to assess your life. Some people never experience this mild disassociation, others experience it repeatedly.

There is a man named Harold who watches over our cabin in the Catskills back in Upstate New York. When I told him we would be spending most of our time now in Europe his eyes widened and he nodded his head a bit and commented on how difficult it must be to prepare for such a journey. His last name is French in origin, and I asked him if he had ever been to France or to Europe and he told me no, he had never been outside the State of New York. Now Harold is about 70 years old, a short, wiry man with a crisp white goatee trimmed just so, and if he was wearing a navy blue beret you would swear that he had just arrived from the French countryside. When Harold first told me he had never ventured from home I must admit that I took a second look at him, just to make certain that he was all there and that he was fully capable of performing the tasks I had in mind for him. But there is nothing wrong with Harold, he is a good, honest, capable man who has raised a family and is now helping one of his less fortunate children raise her family, working well passed the age when most men would have retired. The fact that he has never left the State in which he was born however was a fact that stuck with me, still does, and when I compare the life I have lived and am still living, with the life Harold has lived, and is still living, I can’t help but wonder how things might have turned out had I not had the urge to wander in the first place.
After a bit a shuffling around in the American South, I traveled north in my late 20’s to New York City. Eventually I came to know the city of New York as well as most and better than many. I’d had the good fortune of working for Mayor Giulliani for a time and in that job visited all the boros of New York and got to know someone in just about every major neighborhood in the city. I was a denizen of New York, confident, a bit cocky perhaps but sure-footed on the rough and ready streets of Gotham. While based in the City I traveled extensively and even spent an extended term on the Left Coast, in California, the land of dreams for the eastern half of the planet. But it was life in Manhattan I knew best and it was life lived among the millions to which I had grown accustomed. Funny thing about Manhattan, it is one of the few places on the planet where, even if you live there, you feel you are somewhere special – almost like you are on holiday every day. I don’t have that feeling here in Germany. Although we may be in the geographical center of Europe, it is quite clear that we are no longer at the heart of the planet. It wasn’t just the familiar streets and shops and friends I left behind, it was a sense of self, all wrapped up in the city I had called home for most of my life.