Saturday, December 5, 2009

my heart wears a black turtleneck (or, my inner french soul)

i was having a nice conversation the other day with my tarot card reader, who happens to be french (i mean that in the real way, like born in france and even has an accent, not the american way, like some one of his most recent 32 ancestors was french), about views on life and the like, and he said, "but you're french!"

he clarified by explaining it this way: "you know french movies? there is never any closure, and in french books, you finish and look around for the gun."  his point was that some people are by nature very positive, seeing the bright side of things, and some are by nature more negative; and that some cultures are more positive, literal, and emphasize the bright side, while some more naturally emphasize introspection, the grey areas of life, and...make you want to shoot yourself, i guess.

i laughed, because i thought it was a funny thing to say, especially coming from a french person. but i should have said, "i'm not french, i'm from the oregon coast!"

the second best book about the oregon coast is uncle mike's guide to the real oregon coast, by michael burgess. it is geared to the first-time visitor and has things like this in it:

"Don't bother putting your best foot forward. Your villagers are simply too miserable to care. Nothing you do, not even throwing your life away and joining them, will change things. These are humans who, from the cradle to the grave, never really get warm and dry, and it's foolish to think their inner child is somehow nourished by the gloom and damp."

"The first rule is not to try and fit in...Your best approach is to regard the nasty bit of nowhere you've come to as a theme park for the depressed, and the villagers as hired rustics with wet blankets to sell".

which came first - the personality, or the environment?

and the ennui of france & the french - or anywhere in europe, for that matter - that world-weary, nuanced view of the world that comes with having been a country, in one form or another, for thousands of years. thousands of years of experience with wars, revolutions, religions, fads - that will make a society a little grey around the edges.

which came first, the personality or the society?

it's funny, because as i was thinking about this post, i remembered some writing i was doing while on the train in france, my first visit there, in 2005. what struck me was how america is really just a teenager on the globe - and, how like a teenager, we - as a country - are loud, impetuous, impulsive, exhuberant, with little ability to think through what the implications of our actions will be, little knowledge of or empathy for others, self-centered, anti-intellectual, and living for the moment.

from my journal that day:

it seems strange but i love the absolute human-ness of the landscape. i love the quiet, settled human dominance, the lack of struggle for supremacy - both supremacy over nature as well as supremacy about whether the preservation of wilderness has any merit in and of itself. it is a moot point here; the issue has already been decided by 2000 years of settlement, during which time most of human effort has been dedicated to eating, having children, and surviving wars with each other. people smile less. but they are not so naive, so full of youthful impetuosity. i used to love that aspect of americanism most of all. now maybe as i see its negative effects on others, it's only natural that i should also seek out a more somber, serious place, without the predominance of absolute rhetoric, without the lack of responsibility for the health and welfare of others, without the emphasis on freedom at all costs...

hack away at that hypothesis - it's full of holes, i know. i'm just telling you that when i was riding on the train through france, in the aftermath of bush's reelection, that is what i was thinking of, and a little fucking societal perspective on the grey areas of life sounded pretty damn good.

was i ready to move to europe? you bet your ass. i just didn't realize it was maybe in part because my inner frenchy was longing for some native soil - that my oregon-coastal soul had found a society to match out there. because maybe for those of us from the coast, the environmental greyness of our youth produces the same personality effect as historical greyness of a society.

i also didn't realize that it was in fact the first step in my patriot retraining program (PTPtm). but more on that later.


  1. Love it! Excellent observations.

  2. this leaves me very concerned for what my inner Pittsburgher-ness translates to, (apart from my unconcious preference for Joel over Rudy and a fondness for crappy beer, that is).

  3. maux - your inner pittsburgher must be that which resonates with my inner coastalite so well.