Mon Pays Natal

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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.

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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,

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it’s a place you visit as a school kid to study the WPA murals that recount California’s history,

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and if you can afford the elevator, it’s a place you go to get a birdseye view of home.

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Those murals, with their moving examples of socialist realist art, inspired my childhood.  California’s agricultural heritage

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is alive and well today, transformed by the demands of the times.

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Where once women packed and canned the bounty of San Francisco Bay,

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today well-to-do gourmets put the egg before the fish.

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While there are probably still some San Franciscans reading Das Capital, it’s more likely that they’re reading

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menus at an Israeli restaurant (no relation),

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or a Russian deli.

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In place of cafés with a 25¢ lunch special

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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.

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Our notions of public art have changed, and instead of glorifying bucolic physical labor we offer sightseers

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what, exactly?

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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.

Explore posts in the same categories: French Letters Visits America

3 Comments on “Mon Pays Natal”

  1. Sue Geisler Says:

    I hope you enjoy your time here – the weather is delightful this week.

  2. zuleme Says:

    I am from Cape Cod and can trace my family on the Cape back to the Mayflower. As soon as I smell salt air I am happy. The sight of a little shingled house with roses on a trellis fills me with joy. On the other hand, the Cape has changed so much and is so over developed and so over populated that I start feeling crammed in and ready to head for the mountains again. Then as soon as I spot the mountains once you hit Ossipee, I feel like I’m home.
    Nostalgia is a powerful force.

  3. Margaret Pilgrim Says:

    Abra, it’s Tuesday now and I just read that you are here in San Francisco. If you have time and inclination, give us an email and drop by for an apero. Or whatever.

    In all events, enjoy. Tomorrow should be warmer.

    Best, margaret

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