Part 7: Goin’ Down Slow

Continued from part 6.

I didn’t know whether I would hear from her again. Some time passed and I got a blue air mail letter from France. Typical of my behavior, I let it sit a while before I read it. It is nice to savor the fact that I had a letter. Not too long just a day or so. She felt that perhaps she had been a bit hasty and things needed to be thought over again. She had a list of demands most of which were easy to satisfy. However, she was very clear in her mind that I would have to come to France. I had that weak in the knees feeling. Finally, it was decided that I would come and spend a month in a sublet apartment and we would decide at the end of the month. We were going to be living in a high rise apartment somewhere near the Place d’Italy. There were very serious discussions going on with demands on both sides. It didn’t seem that all was going well and it was a surprise when she said that she felt I should come. To that answer my only stipulation was that we should get married. Not for any moral reasons, but to start from the position of a firm commitment.

One of her stipulations was that my first wife and I should get divorced. By this time she had one child with the other guy with another on the way. The lawyer we contacted looked the situation over and our divorce cost us about twenty five bucks in the end. Our common possessions were divided up to everybody’s satisfaction and we separated amicably.

Now, the bothersome problem was all the paper work that was necessary so I could legally immigrate to France. That took quite a while so I just had to wait. One of their stipulations was that I had to post an intention to marry in the section of Paris where we would be living. It almost goes without saying that I couldn’t do that from the U.S. I had to make a special trip across the ocean to visit to the city hall in the arrondissement where we would be living and spend about fifteen minutes dealing with the paper work. This formality replaces the question heard at marriages that if anyone feels for any reason that the couple should not marry, they should step forward and state their objection. The request is then publically posted for a period of time and if nobody has a legitimate objection, a license can be issued.

Now I had to go back and wait some more. Sometime in late winter I got a notification from the French Embassy in New York that I could come and get my passport stamped so that I would be allowed to immigrate to France.

Most sane people would have sold or gotten rid of most of their junk and would have moved with only a suitcase and a guitar. I had to go buy some fancy boxes and I spent a couple of weeks loading up all of my junk. There were some things I got rid of, but most went with me. I talked to the shipping company in New York about surplus weight and was assured that if I had normal household belongings, I wouldn’t have a surcharge. So I put everything in: records, books, tools and all. My “home earth” was with me.

Late winter was changing into early spring. I was ready to go and rented a truck to take my belongings to a warehouse in Queens, New York. One of the guys who had lived at the house was from there and he agreed to put me up when I arrived and help me find the way to the docks. First, I had to get there. A friend of his who was also from the area agreed to give me clear directions. I had to do it alone, so I had to be very careful.

I finished loading on a delicious early spring evening when a setting sun coated everything a rich, honey orange. That increased many fold my nostalgia at leaving. On the other hand, it could have been snowing and that would have been a real problem. I had nothing of that same sense of adventure that I had driving up from Florida many years before, but at the age of thirty-five driving off into the dark, I had a strong feeling of insecurity even though I didn’t regret my decision. There was nothing to do but to plunge blindly into the black night. It was a rather dark highway. My fears mounted as I realized I was arriving at my goal. Somehow I was going to be obliged to go through the guts of the monster. The instructions were good; I made all the needed turns to get to the Queens Expressway. Then when it seemed that success was within easy grasp, there was a sign banning trucks. I hesitated, but I didn’t have an alternative route. There were only a few exits and I would be off of it. I had to risk getting a ticket. There wasn’t a problem and an hour or so later, I was having a cold beer. At a later time when my nephew heard the story, he laughed and explained that there were a lot of low overpasses on that highway and I was lucky not to have gotten stuck in one. Most laws are made for good reasons.

My friend got me to the docks the next day. Then it seemed that I had to pay a couple hundred extra dollars for surplus weight. There wasn’t anything to do. I paid. It seems that everybody’s household is not the same.

After all of that, the rest of the trip was a breeze. There was a French customs agent who remembered my face and asked more questions each time I went through. He started to say something, but when he saw all the nice art work that the French embassy had done in my passport, he just grunted and stamped it. My wife to be met me at the train and we went off to discover life in Paris together. My belongings arrived about a month later.

Part 8 will be uploaded in July 2016.

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