Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Home ...

I’ve lived in cities my entire adult life; Manhattan, Los Angeles and now Cologne, and in each one of them my dwelling was blessed with a view filled with green. It wasn’t as if I went to the central rental office in midtown (fill in the city) and was allotted an apartment, I did select the places I've lived in but there is an undeniable element of what some people call "good housing karma" that has followed me wherever I’ve gone.

I’ve just returned from a two-month stay in America, that, after having moved to Cologne a little over six months ago, so this recent trip was something of a whopper in terms of time away from my new home and family. As I write this it is approaching 9:30 at night and His Holiness is sound asleep and his Mother has retired early following a particularly difficult day and I’m looking out into a pink-blue sky through densely greened limbs alive with birdsong on a late spring night. The double doors to the outside are thrown wide open and I have a blanket on my lap that keeps me just warm enough. How beautiful it all is, how fortunate I am to be here tonight in this room, with those I love near to me and the world just far enough away, sheltered as I am by the deep green filter beyond my perch. There is no urban hum here in Koln; oh I can here the odd loud car now and then in the distance but it is nothing like the rumble of Manhattan at rest.

There is an infinite list of differences between the city I am living in today and those I have lived in before but none of them really matter. Having just returned from two months spent between the New York and Boston I am greatly relieved to be home. On Sunday night, having just returned and unable to spend much time indoors, the three of us wandered into the square just at the end of our block. There is an old church there surrounded by buildings that survived the War, elegant remainders, unusual and ponderous in this city that is ancient in it’s origins but needed to be almost entirely rebuilt after the War, and not too well unfortunately. Our square is a respite for the eye and for the soul. Six cafes circle the green center of the piazza, each quite distinctive but all quite comfortable and unassuming and open on a Sunday evening when mothers and fathers, lovers and others sit in these uncrowded places and eat ice cream or drink cool kölsche and enjoy late spring together without ever once paying attention to what your neighbor is wearing or what he might have been driving or where he might work or any of a number of items on the checklist that American urbanites carry with them wherever they go. Leaving that list behind was one of the primary reasons I left America and I must tell you there is nothing quite as wonderful as sitting in our particular park on a Sunday evening, enjoying our ice cream and beer and taking in the bright night sky.

There are things I will always miss about America, like sitting in a roadside diner and listening to the chatter between the grill cook and the waitresses as Saturday morning’s orders crescendo into a frenetic rap of code and rhythm and familiarity. There is the unmatched sound of a Boston hustler sounding “Cracker Jacks” in the stands in Fenway Park on a cool spring night. Those sounds and images will be a part of me for as long as I draw breath, but they are the exception; life is rarely that colorful or sweet. So I have opted for a different set of sounds and smells, and as the sun fades on this particular point of view, as deep green yields to dark blue and night overtakes it all, I am happy to be here, happy to have found this spot in Germany, where the Old World feels right to me, this creature of the New World, this denizen of Manhattan and LA those twin ghosts of dreams and bright lights.