Thursday, May 8, 2014

Clearing out Plan B ...

It's been two years since leaving the US to live in Paris.

Ahead of quitting America, my wife and I put into storage enough furniture and household items to populate a small apartment.  If Europe did not work out, we wanted somewhere to "land" while we figured out our next moves.

Our new lives across the sea are working out better than we ever dared to dream.  It was time to find new homes for the things we left behind.

Travel is seldom easy and this trip was no different.  We experienced unexpected "head winds".  That is to say, life presented us with a few additional challenges along the way.

As we were about to leave France, we heard that one of the creative people we'd worked with over the years had died.  Burke Biggler was a talented performer.  He'd hosted and acted in many of Portland's best cabaret and circus events.

Jude got food poisoned from our "leaving for America" dinner.  She was ill all night and boarded the aircraft tired and weak.  Once back in the States, she then came down with a horrid Norovirus.  She was laid low for three days and it took a long time to fully recover.

A couple days into our trip we heard from a friend that his wife was in ER.  The doctors weren't sure what was wrong.  All anyone knew was that big doses of morphine failed to touch the pain.  Our friends were in and out of ER over the course of our stay and it was difficult to hear little had changed for the better.

At nearly the same time a friend's mother passed away.  While her mothers death was expected, it wasn't very pleasant news.  We felt a growing sense of sadness at all that was taking place around us.

For me, I had to decide what to do with 40 years of personal photography materials.  Prints, hand-bound books, and a stack of negatives all needed to be dealt with.  There's no way to plan for how a person might feel at seeing a big part of their life destined for a recycling bin.

Fortunately, all was not bleak and terrible.  Quite the contrary, in fact.

Our good friends of many years Ralph and Carol helped us move mountains of stuff.  They gave their time and talent to helping us sort, sell, and send to Goodwill our "Plan B" things.  Ralph has a decent job, yet he took time off to give us a hand and to rent a UHaul van so some of our things could be moved and delivered.  In exchange for their time and attention, we got to promise to come back to the States to help them do the same thing.  We're not sure if nor when, but we're hoping that they'll move to Europe, too. The sooner the better, right?

Jude and I were able to visit with many other friends and to spend time "catching up."  Lunches and dinners were daily filled with these kinds of visits.  Early in our final week my father and brothers came up to pick up a few things, make a delivery of one of my really big bird lenses, and to visit.  They gamely went to dinner with Jude and I and a different set of friends each night.

There were a few people I would have loved to have gotten together with, but for various reasons, we weren't able to connect with.  Jude and I cancelled a dinner with friends from our classes at the Alliance Francaise after we'd "hit the wall" after all we'd done.  I wasn't able to find time to get with my photographer friends Ted Mishima and Ray Bidegain.  We regret these "misses".

Walking into ProPhoto Supply with Don (a software engineering colleague and friend of mine) we struck up a conversation with Dave Cleary who asked where I'd been for two years.  After lunch, Don took me down to the new steamlocomotive shed to have a look-see.  The moment I spied Terry Thompson (a SPS700 crew-member) he asked where I'd been.  When Jude and I visit People's Food Coop, it was good to smell familiar organic earthy smells and to hug and talk with some of the most wonderful people on planet earth who work there.

Many of our conversations seemed to pick up right where we'd left off.  In this way it was very comfortable to be back in our old home town.  In fact it was good to try some great Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter and remember some of the things that made our old home town so good to live in.

Ralph reminded us that all the reasons we left remain valid reasons to not come back.  There is an abundance of truth in this.  It was too easy to slip back into an old familiar routine.

US politics are so screwed up that no lasting good is ever passed on to We the People.  Physical violence in America is shockingly close, every where, and at any moment.  The state of the food system is broken in too many unhealthy ways. Healthcare in the US is insanely expensive.  

Our storage unit is now empty.  The keys have been handed over.  Our tearful good-byes have been said.

It's a little too early to have much perspective on what we just finalized, but one thing I know is that our US friends and family will remain our friends and family, no matter where we live. 

Ian may be in the former Czech Republics in June.  Bill and his wife will be in the south of France in late June/early July.  Miz Kitty may come to Scotland in the Fall.  Grace and Micha are taking French language lessons.  A visit Dave and Mary and Martin in Merry 'Ol England is in order.  We need to visit our first Paris apartment landlords near Saint Malo.  Jennifer needs to be paid a visit in Girona, Spain.  My father and one of my brothers will be back in 2015.  My father may come over with my other brother in 2016.

Yes, some very heavy and difficult work has been completed.


  1. Wow, that's an enormous amount of living you're doing there. Your experiences run the gamut. That's wonderful. I'm glad you like living in Europe so much. It's not easy to change cultures and stick with it.

    1. As someone we met here said, visiting a place on vacation is not like living there.

      I think it's a matter of balance and trade-offs.

  2. Wow! You two had a lot more going on than I realized. Almost like your will was being tested. You passed! ;-)

    1. Thanks. It was a difficult test. LOTS going on. Too many things in some ways.

      We couldn't have done it withour your support. Seriously.