Mon Pays Natal
Your pays natal is the place you’re from, where you were born, a special place that your heart calls home. In my case, it’s San Francisco, and although I haven’t been here in years, that’s where I am today. A lot has changed, but many things from my childhood are alive and well, thriving even amidst the push to rebuild and replace that overcomes all cities.
When you grow up in San Francisco, Coit Tower means a lot to you. Visible from almost everywhere, it’s where you look to orient yourself and keep from getting lost,
it’s a place you visit as a school kid to study the WPA murals that recount California’s history,
and if you can afford the elevator, it’s a place you go to get a birdseye view of home.
Those murals, with their moving examples of socialist realist art, inspired my childhood. California’s agricultural heritage
is alive and well today, transformed by the demands of the times.
Where once women packed and canned the bounty of San Francisco Bay,
today well-to-do gourmets put the egg before the fish.
While there are probably still some San Franciscans reading Das Capital, it’s more likely that they’re reading
menus at an Israeli restaurant (no relation),
or a Russian deli.
In place of cafés with a 25¢ lunch special
it’s the San Francisco version of a French café, where, as I can sadly testify, one is obliged to drop $35 for two sandwiches and two single shot espressos.
Our notions of public art have changed, and instead of glorifying bucolic physical labor we offer sightseers
It’s hard not to be nostalgic for the past, but then, that’s what the whole pays natal thing is about, and today, that’s my story and I’m surrendering to it.