Friday, March 30, 2012

Moving Day

As our departure date approaches, and the insanity of packing and slimming the small pile of things we own ever further toward nothing, comes some rather interesting news.

Passy Cemetery - Madonna

My wife has felt for a long time that she has French blood running through her veins. Somewhere deep inside she's felt a connection with the country we're headed to. Alas, there has been no proof nor hint at this possibility.

Her daughter called her recently with a story to tell.

She'd made a pot of de-caf coffee late one recent evening only to realize far too late that it was actually fully-leaded and not de-caf.

Passy Cemetery - Jesus vs the Grapes

Unable to sleep, she went out onto the internet to do a bit of research into her family's history. Following through her mother's and grandmother's line, she learned that the Ekley of Montana and Virginia line descended thru the Giffords of Devon, England. The Giffords, in turn, came from, well, how could we not guess?, Normandy.

Looking at the predecessors of the Giffords, it appears there is a link through that line all the way back to 742 and Charlemagne.

If this is true, then my wife may very well be "going home", back to live in France.

Who would've guessed?

Passy Cemetery - In Memory Of...

Friday, March 16, 2012

... reading into natural events...

When my wife and I were in Paris in the Fall 2010 and as we were coming to the end of our visit we watched as a stunning rainbow formed over Pont Marie. We laughed and said that Paris was bidding us a fond adieu.

Rainbow over Pont Marie

A year and a half later, as we are preparing to leave the US to live in Paris, it seems the city we live in is bidding us a fond adieu, too.

My wife had started the home fires just as the sun started to rise. She dropped the shades in her art room and came to get me out of bed. I HAD to see this, she said.

It was quite the sight. Here was an enormous double rainbow, set against the early morning rain-filled sky.

Double Rainbow ~ Sunrise

We took the event as a sign that things were well in motion and that would would be successful in making the jump to Europe.

My father and I have been talking about how humans build stories that explain the world to ourselves, and that stories, descriptions, musing, really have no basis in reality. Events simply occur. Humans are left to interpret, discuss, and provide judgement and meaning.

Building stories of the world around us helps humans feel comfortable with what's happening to us.

I like the stories that Paris and then our US city were saying "good bye". Indeed, it helps me feel settled and happy about the fantastic decisions we are making. Even as I realize my stories are based on nothing but what I'm thinking or feeling.

Strange, isn't it?

Passy Cemetery - World Traveler

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Saying Goodbye...

My wife and I have been visiting our family over the past three weeks. The first came as part of our Visa trip to San Fransisco. The second came as a deliberate trip to the south coast.

Bandon Lighthouse

It feels rather strange to say "good bye". Everyone is very supportive of our move and are quite surprised at how rapidly everything is coming together. It will be around 5 months from the time I was laid off to the time we arrive in our new home, Paris, France. This will have covered everything from healthcare insurance and Cobra costs, to selling the house, downsizing dramatically, selling things we don't need nor want, getting the French Long Stay Visa, to packing and moving.

Yikes! Lots to do.

It's felt like we're running a marathon at a sprinter's pace.

I realize that it's far too early to have any perspective on what we're doing. This, even though people tell us we're their vanguard and that they're very excited to see and witness what might be possible for even themselves.

Petaluma Abstract

To keep myself focused and to form a bridge between this life and the one we are running to, I've been in contact with various people in Paris.

My creative life has included making a lot of photographic images. One of the great joys has been to connect with creative people with whom I can work. They bring their style and talents in exchange for my photography.

Petaluma Textures

Two wonderful connections already made in France. One person is a photo-magazine editor and the other is with a Paris Steampunk group.

It will likely take a few months, if not a year or more, for me to develop any perspective and to lay claim to any lasting judgement about what's happening. For now, it's one foot in front of the other and to keep going...

Napa Prayer Flags

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Expenses and Expensive...

We've thought more than a little some of the comments we've received about the costs of living in Paris. It sounds prohibitively expensive.

Here's the thing: If you've been laid off from a career that you know you were at the "top of your game" in and if you know the odds of how likely it'd be to find a similar job making even 30% less and knowing that age discrimination currently runs rampant in US korporations, what is a person to do? Roll over and "take it all?" Me thinks not.

I realize the French don't like to talk about money, but, since I'm still typing this from the USA, what I'm about to say should make sense and not offend anyone's sensibilities. :-)

COBRA health coverage for just my wife and I is currently well north of $1100 a month. In the state I currently live in, while collecting unemployment and after taxes and after paying for healthcare, my wife and I would have less than $500 to live on. I'm not yet old enough to dip into my 401K's. Granted, we have more resources than that, but...

Think about it a moment.

If we lived like the US korporate controlled culture tells us to live, we'd have literally nothing to live on, would be steeply into debt, wouldn't have a pot to piss in nor a window to throw it out of, and might even be forced out onto the streets to find our way late in life. All the while having a large faction of the kristian konservative tea partiers tell us we "just need to get out there and to get a job, man!"

No. Again, I say no! The economic and political systems and "public forum" are screwed up.

My wife and I have lived rather conservatively, from a financial perspective. What we have we have earned honestly, and by all cultural accounts, fairly. I worked as an engineer in software and management. I was fairly good at what I did. I brought one company I used to work for a technology that helped set the foundation for a line of products that generated $billions$ over the years . So by all accounts, we should be feeling pretty good about things. Except that the company that acquired the company I helped bring that kind of revenue to didn't care about what I'd brought them.

Now that I'm retired, the thing that gets me is paying $1100+ a month for service we will never see much benefit from. Unless, that is, one considers it a "benefit" by making the healthcare industry's CEO's and executive staff rich. Only in the USA do we find healthcare costs 2x what is found anywhere else in the world, while providing a level of care only ranked 22 in the same world. Where does all that money go? You know, but do you care enough to do something about it?

On the flip side, can a person find a livable apartment somewhere in the world for $1100 a month? Can a person find a country that provides better healthcare at a fraction of the cost of the US system? Can a person find a place to live where food costs are comparable to US (as long as you enjoy cooking, which we do) while delivering food in a system that isn't stuffed with corn, antibiotics, and chemicals?

What if that place were Paris? Why wouldn't we move there? Why wouldn't we at least try to live there?

Life is all a trade-off, isn't it?

A wise neighbor once said that "... how we spend our money is a reflection of our values." I couldn't agree more.

Friday, March 2, 2012

... what we are going to...

I have said a lot about how broken the US capitalist system is. I have said a few things about how I see the systems failing the citizens of that country. I have strong feelings about how self-absorbed people appear to be and how they prey upon one another without realizing or being concerned about the people who actually placed them into the positions they now find themselves in.

I had hope when the fine people of New Jersey surrounded the Citibank CEO's home for several weeks to remind him of who he really should have been working for. I had hope that the Occupy Movement would spark a strong and appropriate counter-movement to the Racist Religious Right's Tea Party. Alas, far too many people have been lulled to sleep. They still shop at Walmart. They still eat at McDonald's. They still believe things that are unprovable. They still vote against their own best interests.

It's just sad.

I realize there will never be any "nirvana" in this life, except for the peace we find within ourselves (once you get your chattering mind out of the way and just experience life and living). Yet, a person needs to live somewhere. For my wife and I, that "somewhere" will very shortly be Paris, France.

Here is a short video of images I took during our Fall 2011 visit to that fair city. The music comes from a recording I made in the church of Saint Eustache. They hold an organ concert for free on Sunday evenings at 17:30h.

Perhaps a person will see why we would like to try living in Paris? :-)