A hellish guttural sound works it way across a dimly lit road in a secluded French village.
The sound repeats itself several times until it becomes a recognizable braying of a lone mule. Petrifying in the dead of night-tedious every time after, with or without Pinocchio undertones. So donkey serves as my rooster out here. Its cold and getting colder. Few are up, other than perhaps a scattered selection of country eccentrics. A gaggle of stray felines. Perhaps a farmer moving his livestock, and nocturnal creatures calling it a day ( or night) and me, clad in my runners attire, ready to cut the track, which is more a a lengthy road in Chateau Chinon, a small set away village 3 hours outside Paris, yet may as well be three decades away. The roads here are windy and twisting medieval roads. Offering beaucholic views at the price of a queasy stomach. The place is picturesque almost to the realm of absurdity. Dimly lit mornings with the sun scarcely risen, caterwauling magpies heralding the turn of the morning and bemused livestock still ignorant to the lingering and mercilous butcher’s blade.
Through this environment go I, existing communally with a hodge podge of characters coming and going. There’s Colin, philandering former techie from LA, Marrten, a Dutch stonemason, and the curators, whos temperament ranges from measured to intensely irritating idealism. Currently, I’m hauled up in a “dorm”, a small building across the way from the worksite of this project we are working on. A strange creation that the poetic aspects of myself seeks to appreciate, but the pragmatic attributes of myself see little meaning for, if any. A haphazard “gothic” chateau built from the ground up, using “organic materials and sources…etc”. The notion of such a place in a land famous for gothic chateaus seems self serving and pointless. A bit like building a replica of a livestock barn in Nebraska “using organic materials” ( naturally) all the cowbells and whistles included. I swear to Baudalaire, the next person who waxes on about “organic” anything in my presence is getting shanked.
In the moments of this realization, the futility of this idea, I happen on a much darker realization. Perhaps its the travel. The crisscrossing. The permeant sense of the impermeant, the lingering miasma of “what now”, and the endless circles back to the train station and three months of beats and whistles in my eardrum having yet to be alchemized into some kind of meaningful sound.
-I’m cynical now.
When did this go down? When was it? The time, the place, the hour, the moment of its dark conception- WHEN DID IT HAPPEN? I wrote on a sheet of receipt paper several months ago after some long forgotten purchase “disillusionment is a sniper, an assassin, and strikes the idealist when hes not looking”. Christ. Foreshadowing much?
At this moment, I don two pairs of socks per foot, in deference to the oncoming chill. I look at my suitcase, clad with stickers of personal icons, coats askew. My bed, comfy though unmade- my stuffed parrot- a childhood talisman who always comes at my side that I adore without apology, a half full bottle of water, a biography of Marchesa Casseti I’ve been dipping in and out of since leaving the US- and I realize yet another thing.
There’s a singular term that describes my mind in this moment-“devil may care”.
Nice. Good wording. Darkly cadenced. Halloween appropriate.
What does that mean? Nonchalant. Ambivalent. Careless. Raffish.
Its been almost 3 months. In this time I’ve felt levels of upheaval I didn’t know existed. Straddling feelings of partial confinement and odious need. I’ve been upended like a linebacker in the 4th quarter. I mean, what am I looking for in this journey? A sense of place? I struggled with that back home. I’m so past dancing with all these self made maledictions and vacant platitudes. I want so much to reach out to someone and truly tell them how I feel about this journey. Yet, facetime is tiresome, the wifi is fragmented and intangible, language barriers are strong and-the hardest pill to swollow- “the world isnt interested in your problems”. That was a tough one to reconcile. Yet stacked with a hard truth I’ve had to come to terms with again and again.
There is a part of me deep down that just wants to eat crow and say “alright you win. I miss my old place, my green sofa, my glass of bodega wine and films. Scores of trader joes chips and hummus. My parents place on the weekends, cinnamon coffee on the balcony, my fathers rum and coke, tarot sessions and doordash and my friends home, meaningless walks through the arts district-where amateurs hour ruled, yet I was never far from my base. Now that base is shifted. My problem isnt exclusive to me. Friends move, parents move. You leave a spot you’ve known to be stagnant for years and suddenly the Rip van winkle complex rears its head, as people moved on, places close or change and you’re feeling as alien as a penguin in the prairie. Homes you’ve known for decades sell, the temperatures drop and a million and one variables drop into the picture, shaking things up so you either piss or get off the pot, sink or swim, shape up or ship out, get the best of it or let whatever “It” is get the best of you.
4 months ago, it was still sizzling in Vegas. My apartment was 80 percent boxes. My day was a morass of music, cleaning and cold ( or hot) comforts. I jogged in the morning, kept rigid control of my finances, only occasionally going out, and binged on French films and culture to warm up the cultural burners. I analyzed every nuance of Paris ’til my eyes were as red as a glass of Bordeaux. Yet then, if you asked me, where I would like to be it would be Paris. Berlin. Florence. Traipsing through the country like a renegade. Yet now? Up the road from my old place at Golden Fog coffee. Oh, they do have great croissants. And vegan black bean breakfast burritos, a divine morning protein.
What if I sat still? In that way? Indifferent to good or bad decisions, but riding the moment? Well then, I’d sit for hours. Have coffee. Maybe more. Willing away the day with the happy unexpectant idleness of a dubious fisherman with his pole. Staring with happy judgement at the awful local art- I’d pop in my earbuds, god bless that free wifi, and listen to soundtracks. Nothing high concept, mind you. “La la Land” “Rocky Horror” ” Sweeney Todd”- setting the tone of my day- depending on my mood. Soon, it’s time to go. I wave goodbye to the employees, a genuinely friendly gaggle of southwestern hipsters, and walk back home. I turn the key and walk in the gate. Maybe get some laundry done. Chuck, an obese boozehound with an untethered chihuahua and a heart of gold, waves as I make my way up the steps. I can see the glossy overphotographed tower just on the horizon. My parents home 5 miles away. My old high school 6. My best friends, 8. The span of almost 30 years in but 15 miles at the most. Its suddenly colder. A frigid 76.
I make a mint tea, put on a turtle neck and sip.
Later I’ll have a bath. I got some great eucalyptus stuff delivered. Yes, on Amazon. Piss off hipsters. Anticapitalism be damned. Nothing like a made to order soak. Maybe I’ll make it up to 2 hours. I’m the king of short and sweet tub baths.
Later, laundry done, bowl of seasoned tomatoes and couscous digesting, I’ll slip under the sheets, watching the lights of the imperfectly perfect area glisten .
“This is my life”, I murmur in a discordant fashion.
I’m neither blissful nor morose. Neither elated nor somber.
I open my eyes. My laptop facing me. Back in the dorm.
“This is but a moment”, I say to myself. I catch my potential plunge off the cliffs of nostalgia and malaise just before the nile crocodiles appear in the rivers below.
Par for the course. Part of the journey. Yet begs the question, how long will it last?
-devil may care.