03 August 2016

What Do I Miss? Mes Chats et Mes Velos

In 1992, I did a bike tour from Paris to Chartres, and from there to the Loire Valley and Burgundy to Dijon, before heading back to Paris--and, from there, taking a train, boat and train to England to visit my aunt.  

As I was about to head to Blighty, I was away from home for nearly a month.  I spent time with one of my friends, who lived near Paris at that time.  She asked what I missed most about home.

"Ma chat":  my cat.

Charlie I:  The cat who brought me back home.

Now, it  wasn't as if I didn't have friends in New York or anywhere else in the US.  Ditto for family: An aunt, uncle and cousin were still in Brooklyn, and my parents and one of my brothers were still living on the (New) Jersey Shore.  But the previous year had been a very difficult--though, in many ways, fruitful--time for me.  I wrote a lot.  How could I not?:  I was in graduate school, studying poetry.  My marriage had officially ended that year (though, in reality, it was dead long before that), and from Memorial Day until Christmas of 1991, I lost five friends to AIDS-related illnesses and the brother of someone I dated was murdered in the hallway of the building in which I was living.


I was tempted not to go back, even though I had only to take a couple more courses, complete my dissertation (a book of poems) and take my comprehensive exam (which wasn't as difficult as I expected) to complete my degree.  After experiencing the losses I've mentioned, I had a kind of crisis from that happened much earlier in my life.  In retrospect, I realize that dealing with it--in part, by taking the trip I've mentioned--led me, if as indirectly as the route that took me from and to Paris, to the transition I would start a decade later.  


Anyway, aside from the pain of past experience, I wanted to leave the United States behind, or so I believed.  Oh--I should mention that an acquaintance of mine was killed during our first invasion of Iraq.  I really believed that the country in which I'd spent most of my life was not, and could not be, a force for good in this world (I still feel that way, often) and it looked like Daddy Bush would be re-elected.  Him!--after eight years of Reagan!  I simply did not want to be associated with such things.  

(Would that I could have seen the future!)

Anyway, it seemed as if the only answer to my friend's question was, indeed, "ma chat".  (I had one at the time.)  She was convinced there had to be something else waiting for me:  she pointed out the family, friends, studies and writing I've mentioned.  And, of course, there were my bikes, although the one I was riding during that trip was quite nice.

The funny thing is I felt almost exactly the same way a couple of days ago, as I was leaving Paris.  In so many ways, my home country, and even my home town, are less tenable than they were nearly a quarter-century ago.  We have had non-stop war for the past fifteen years, and Donald Trump makes Bush The Elder seem like Nelson Mandela.  The idea of leaving is even more tempting than it was then, though I know it will be more difficult than I realized it could be in those days.


I am back, for now.  And what did I miss, aside from some people?  Well, Max and Marlee--yes, I have one more cat than I did in those days.  And, today, I realized, I missed my bikes.  After spending more than a week riding a rental--which, as rentals go, was actually pretty good--taking Arielle, my Mercian Audax, for a ride today, with its perfect weather, seemed heavenly.  

So I missed my cats, my bikes and....


  1. They say dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals. Just the same I'll stick with my cat. At least when a cat spends time with you it's because they really want to.

  2. Philip--Some people not only don't "get" cats, they just flat-out hate felines. They often refer to the "friendliness" and "loyalty" of dogs. But dogs really don't know how to be any other way with humans. As you say, when a cat spends time with you, it's because they really want to!