Skip to main content

ON BECOMING AN EXPAT: The Beginning

From infancy through young adulthood, I lived just west of the center line of the Great Northeast Corridor of the United States, that stretch of a few hundred miles along the Atlantic coast that starts in Boston, cuts through New York and Philadelphia, and terminates in northern Virginia just past Washington, DC. I LIVED there. It wasn't just my home. I never strayed. I knew nothing of the rest of the civilized world except for what I heard and read, saw on the television or in the movies.

In the first place, our family never traveled much when I was a kid. Dad's lunch counter required his attention seven days a week. When we did vacation, we went down the shore, the Jersey shore if you didn't get the idiom. I don't remember a single night in a strange bed that wasn't in a relative's house or down the shore.

And the personal histories of my family discouraged any incentive to travel in order to return to the lands of my genealogical roots. My paternal grandmother Dora and her brother Sam told stories of waves of antisemitism culminating in pogroms in their native Ukraine, of risking lives to rescue the Torah from burning synagogues, of walking with all of their belongings in pillowcases to Milan in order to take steerage to the New World. We never knew any of Dora's five husbands, the last a cousin so we can assume that his story matches hers.

Mom's Russian progenitors apparently lived more comfortable lives. Bankers led the family. Still, they were Jewish bankers. Some chose to remain, the 'home' base for a family network that facilitated its members' desires to emigrate, not unlike today's new Americans. Gino, our favorite pizza guy when I was a kid, told of how his family in Italy put together the money to send him to New York. A cousin took Gino in, taught him the business, and put up the money for Gino to open a shop in Flemington, in what was then rural Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Gino brought over other cousins to help in the shop. Business boomed. Gino opened a second shop, staffed by the cousins he had trained, allowing for additional cousins to be brought over. That's how Grandma Rose's family operated.

Nothing in these stories created a desire in me to retrace the steps of ancestors who left their native lands so willingly.


Then one day in 1970, I climbed into my VW Beetle and embarked on a road trip sufficiently epic to merit a Ken Keyseyish novel if only I had the talent.  My intention was to travel to Atlanta to visit a friend, then on to Dallas to visit a cousin. I had no plans beyond that. But in Dallas I met Cathey, who was born in New Orleans, raised in three different Texas cities, and who attended college in Mexico and did the backpacking-in-Europe scene years before. I was to spend the next forty years (and counting) with. Cathey. . On that one trip, I left Dallas for Indianapolis, returned to Dallas with one of Cathey's sisters, drove to New York with Cathey, to Boston and back to New York with another friend, with Cathey and friends to Chicago and San Fransisco, to Los Angeles and back to Dallas. After a side trip to New Orleans, Cathey and I found our way home, to my home, then our own first home together in northern New Jersey.

I'd been bitten by the wanderlust bug and Cathey was a carrier. With such a start, how could I not consider the unthinkable, the idea that living out my life within a few miles of my birth would not satisfy my soul?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

GRAND CAFE OCCITAN: RESTAURANT REVIEW

  We made our way to a new restaurant the other day, up toward the hills past La Liviniere in the small town of Felines-Minervois. None of our party had been there before, but a friend had visited and said that she'd enjoyed it. She's a vegetarian. First clue. Now don't get me wrong. I have no gripe with those who choose to go meatless. I understand the environmental concerns and I understand the horrors of factory farming. But I also understand that form follows function in the design of tools, in the design of appliances, and in the design of human teeth. Our incisors and canines did not develop over the course of hundreds of thousands of years to rend the flesh of a fresh-caught broccoli. We are omnivores by design, Darwinian design. And I enjoy eating omni. Enough preamble... I never went inside the Grand Cafe Occitan. A young lady who would be our server met us at the front door of the nicely pointed old stone house, leading us to a pebble-covered courtyard on the side

THINKING OUT LOUD...

GRACE SLICK, BREXIT AGAIN, SELF CHECKOUT, AND MORE: #18

    GRACE SLICK I just listened again to Volunteers , the last Jefferson Airplane album with the 'classic' lineup. 1969. Perfect. Sometimes sloppy. Sometimes over dramatic. But perfect. And Grace Slick. Grace. Slick. Perfect. BREXIT & CONSERVATISM Except for the 30% or so who've drunk the Kool-Aid, can we all agree that Brexit is not working out as advertised? And that the Republican Party in the USofA has sold its soul to a cadre of authoritarians who think they are the true small-d-democrats but who don't want everybody to have a vote and won't abide by a vote that they don't like? How did it happen that, in the name of political conservatism, two countries put into power incompetent leaders financed by greedy elites? And I just read that Michael Gove thinks that Liz Truss is toast because her agenda has been shredded. Whose agenda has been shredded more thoroughly than Gove’s and why would any thinking person be interested in his opinions except to liste