There are only two friends in my adult life that the connection has been instantaneous. While studying art and literature with a study abroad program, I found one of those rare kindred spirits. Berkeley had straight brown hair, a slight build, and the sweetest smile. I had seen her in my French class in the states before but assumed she was much younger than I since I was going to college in my late twenties rather than immediately after high school. Discovering she was my exact age drew us to each other, but the bonding continued as we faced living in a foreign country where we found ourselves in constant predicaments. Some of the other students we had traveled with overseas were relentless in their complaints, but our separate trials previous to this adventure (i.e. cancer for me and single motherhood for her…just to name two) allowed our outlook to never turn bleak. We shared a deep appreciation for this chance to live in Paris. It was an opportunity of a lifetime, and nothing would bring us down.
There were wonderful times: painting Notre Dame together, chatting in cafes, dancing in the Latin Quarter, skipping down the streets belting out Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music songs, drinking wine along the Seine, strolling through all the magnificent Parisian museums, bicycling around the streets of Montmartre, attending the Monte Carlo Ballet at The Opera House, and eating the delicious croissants, baguettes and crepes made by street vendors. Despite living in the most beautiful city in the world, however, debacles always outweighed the ideal. We were often fending off creepy men we dubbed “Quasies,” missing train stops and ultimately getting lost because of chatting too much, sunning on the beach of Saint Malo in our bras and underwear (mine were blue and white checkered with a picture of Snoopy) because we were told the weather would be rainy and we wouldn’t need swimsuits, getting rained off the beach of Cannes when we actually had stylish swimsuits with us, traveling and staying in a dirty hotel in Avignon complete with a sleazy manager constantly checking up on us in hopes of seeing us disrobed, electing to make a trip to Cannes with the intention of sneaking into the film festival only to be turned away by each and every security guard, singing the song Fame at karaoke night in Avignon instead of going to the festival and being told upon finishing our performance “that was very brave,” getting asked out by French men in Northern France and then being stood up after we bragged about our dates to the other students in our group, renting a sailboat in Brittany and then having to be rescued out on the water because we didn’t actually know how to sail, and then of course the ring worm outbreak. The unending disasters and the complexities of living abroad could easily have caused tension. We could have taken our frustrations out on each other because we spent so much of our time together, but this never happened. We took refuge in one other. No matter the obstacle, we knew we had a friend that would be going through it with us.
I was able to visit with this dear friend of mine this weekend, and although location has changed…mishaps still occur. Berkeley and I stayed up late Sunday night writing a beatnik poem about our friendship. Then we dressed up in all black with cat eye liner and berets, dimmed the lights, and made a video with her laptop camera (her video camera was of course not working). We were planning on separately filling out our applications, and then sending the whole package to CBS’s The Amazing Race in hopes of being cast as one of the 10 teams to race around the world for a million dollars. Upon arriving home the following day, I got onto the show’s website to print out the application only to discover that applications for season 20 were due the hour before. Typical.
I would say we are a duo that can never catch a break, but that would be a lie. We caught a break when we found each other. We’ll always have Paris, as Bogie says, but better yet we have a lifetime of friendship to experience…even with all its absurdities.
*Berkeley and I at the Arc de triomphe on the Champs Elyssee in Paris, 2007.
*Dancing in the Latin Quarter.
*Attending the ballet in Paris 2007
*Berkeley and I eating at Squat and Gobble in San Francisco 2011
Vintage American Bicycles
San Anselmo, CA
Jer: (415) 456-6801
He restores beautiful vintage bicycles and let us each take one for a ride!
*Berkeley on a bike from 1953 in San Anselmo, CA.
*The 1960's bike I rode and wanted so badly to buy!