I have been to France before, but I think that I slept through most of it. I rode a ferry boat out of Ireland in 2003 and landed in Cherbourg. From here, I walked around by the port for maybe an hour, tried to find decently priced food (failed), met some artists kids that could not understand my English or Spanish, and then bought a train ticket to Paris.
In Paris, I ate a tuna fish sub, walked out of the station, saw a fat bald guy, and then walked back into the station and boarded my train for Spain. . . So that was Paris?
Now that I am back in France, I have a little time to look around. I am with some friends, who emigrated from Chile, in a small village called Anduze in the south. The architecture in this little village is amazing. Winding alleyways give way to a hodge-podge of buildings that are stuck together in any fashion imaginable. . . that craziest part is that they are all really, really old. As an American, I know that I do not know time.
Thirty years after Columbus set western sail the house that I now write in was freshly completed. The entire ebb and flow of my country’s history falls within the time-line of this very house. The enslavement and extermination of the indigenous peoples, the battles of the buccaneers in the Caribean, wars, revolutions- the very formation of the USA occurred when this building was 225 years old! This building was standing right here as my country moved into the industrial revolution, when Herman Melville wrote this place was already ancient, as the stock market crashed this house stood solidly.
When this house was built, my country was 99.999% native American. An entire continent of people were wiped out as this house stood in these same French streets as it does today. Generation upon generation upon generation lived out their lives within this building. An entire lineage of people called this place home. I am now watching my friend’s baby son play with a plastic bowel upon the floor, and I cannot help but wonder how many other children had their first glimpses of life from within these walls. How does time keep building upon itself?
It is impossible for me to comprehend the fact that two world wars and a revolution rumbled by and this building just looked on silently, plumbing and electrical wires were bored through it and it never once winced, cars now rattle pasts and this building offers neither attack nor flinch . . . for it knows time. . . and the fact that everything created soon comes to an end. It has watched time like an old guardian of the gates.
As I stand here, I know that I am nothing.
So I laugh.
France is Old.