After living in Europe for
many years, my friend Ernest McCall
returned to the U.S. in May for a few months to test whether he wanted to relocate
back to North America. For the time being his answer is no. I asked him why and
here is his reply. His letters are always fun to read.
Hi from Amalfi… we
took the hydrofoil here yesterday morning from Capri.
Im sitting in our
hotel’s lobby, the cloister of a convent founded in the 1200s by St. Francis,
using Anton’s MacBook (the one I gave him when I got back from DC).
To answer your
question, not very succinctly I fear: after 14 yrs. in Europe (3 in high
school, 1984-87, and then continuously since 1998), I feel as comfortable or
more comfortable here than in the US. Better food, nicer architecture,
more educated people (not the elite, just the average guy on the street),
better public transport, longer history, a bit more realism or maybe cynicism
about human creation/accomplishment, blah blah blah.
I don’t want to rent two
places, e.g., here and in the US (DC or SF are my first choices, Portland or LA
or San Diego would be second choices), because everyone I know with two homes
spends most of their time in one or the other, as opposed to going to new
places. I have a friend who has rented an apartment in St. Moritz for
about ten years, and needless to say, he never skis anywhere else. My
brother has a house on a little island in the San Juans (Wash. State), he can
fly his family up there easily from Portland and their cabin backs onto the
landing strip, but again, they then end up hardly going anywhere else. I
do not feel rich enough to maintain two homes (where rented or owned) and then
to spend another 3-4 months elsewhere. And I don’t want (yet?) to spend
all my time in the same two places, no matter how different (another friend, a
painter, lives between an apartment on 56th St. just off Fifth Ave. and a tiny
Umbrian hill town). So, if the choice is staying in Europe or coming back
to the US… I dunno… maybe it’s just inertia/laziness.
Like most people, I *hate* moving, esp. internationally. I can always
come back to the US whenever I want, right? It’s probably cheaper and much
easier to pay a lot more per month for a fully furnished apartment through an
agency like pied-a-terre, for three months here or four months there, than to
in fact move to DC and sign a long-term lease, sign up for utilities, etc.,
esp. if I don’t want to give up my apartment in Europe.
Then there’s always the
thought of moving somewhere else, e.g., Berlin or Paris or Rome or whatever.
For a variety of reasons – subject of another drawn-out email, ha ha ha –
I’ve decided not to do that for now, I plan on renewing my lease in October of
this year. I pay annually and in advance (my landlady loves me), so maybe
next summer, I’ll start whining about this matter again, where oh where in this
big wide world to live??? Basically, I get tired of certain things about Istanbul
at times, but when I’m gone, I miss it, esp. my panoramic view of the
Bosphorus, the wonderful seafood, my funny & entertaining group of friends,
the level of service / low cost of labor, etc. And I am old enough to
know the grass is not greener, etc., I would get very sick of certain aspects
of Berlin or Paris or Rome, too.
I think the real problem is
that we die. It sounds silly, but I’m being serious. My dad totally
understands, i.e., not enough time for that spring in Seville and that summer
in Siberia and that autumn in Amsterdam and so forth. He once asked me
about going somewhere or other, and I told him, "oh, you should go there
in October, the weather’s lovely then," to which he replied, "Ernest,
the weather’s lovely *everywhere* in October… in our mid-70s, your mother
& I need more Octobers in our lives, dammit!"
OK, off with Anton to the
saltwater pool + diving area, sort of built into the cliffs below the hotel.
We just toured the oldest paper factory in Europe this morning. I didn’t
know that Amalfi was a center of papermaking since the 10th century. It
was also – hard to believe for such a tiny place – a real rival to Venice and
Genoa and Pisa. These four cities still today hold an annual Regatta dei
Quattro Reppublichi (it changes location each year, i.e., each city gets it
every four years). Amalfi had ambassadors in Constantinople [Istanbul] and all
around the Arab world, it had 80,000 people at its peak, but most of them slid
into the sea in an earthquake in 1350 or so… bummer. Today the
town itself (without the surrounding villages) has about 3,000 people, so told
us the boy who sold Anton a belt this morning.
Renting a motorboat tomorrow
and going to Positano, some sort of local festa with fireworks, and then it
becomes a techno-rave-party on the beach, no doubt full of GORGEOUS tanned
Italian teenagers, our mouths hang open as we walk around these little towns.
OK, that’s enough for now.
Enjoy your time in Scotland
and London, good luck in Delhi and Kabul.