Santa Rosa, California
September 24, 2018
When I first visited Paris four years ago, my most memorable experience was not visual; it was audible. I had just left the Louvre, was feeling a bit lost and lonely, when in the distance I heard this:
In a dark pedestrian tunnel, a young flautist was playing Danny Boy as folks walked past him in conversation. No one stopped; no one seemed to even notice. After tossing a few euros in his case, I gestured with my phone and asked if it was okay to record him; he smiled and nodded.
It seemed, at the time, a strange mix, Danny Boy in the Louvre. But there has always been a connection between the Irish and the French. Joyce went blind writing Ulysses in Paris. Yeats went mad for Maud in Paris. Oscar Wilde spent his final days in Paris, so despondent, cooped up in his hotel room, that the parable goes that his dying words were “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us has got to go.” (The wallpaper stayed.) Beckett wore a beret and spoke with a brogue (wouldn’t that be cool) when he wrote “En Attendant Godot.”
In my experience, Danny Boy, like bagpipes, can generate one of two reactions: either it makes you nauseous or it makes you weepy. If you fall in the weepy camp, I have a theory. I call it your “geographic DNA.”
Hear me out on this.
Have you ever traveled somewhere and had an abiding sense, though you’ve never been there, that somehow, some way . . . “this is home.” It’s more than a nagging suspicion that you’ve been there before, it’s a voice that whispers from deep within “you belong here.”
My theory is that woven somewhere into our double helix is the zip code of our ancestors. It’s a genetic postmark–an encoded “return to sender” label- stamped so indelibly in our soul that for most of our lives it goes unnoticed.
Until . . .
Until one day, if we are fortunate, we round a turn, crest a hill, or grab an empty chair in a pub and find ourself back where we belong.
That’s the plan this year. I’m going home.