Friday, July 15, 2016

A few words for Nice

I've been in love with the idea of Nice since around 2006, or maybe a year or two before.  I had read The Bay at Nice by David Hare, the one act play that was to be my senior thesis directing project.  True, the play is set in Russia, but its constant evocation of Nice as this heavenly place filled with perfect light and beauty, combined with my pre-existing love of all things French inevitably created a wistful desire to some day go and see it for myself.  I always smile as I remember some college friends teasing and mocking me for my snooty (though it was quite cheap) French wine and my Edith Piaf music as I was immersing myself into writing and directing my thesis.

Fast forward to 2013, and I'm newly married with a French last name, and I'm heading to the only place that's ever crossed my mind if I were to imagine where I might go on a honeymoon.

Over our two week honeymoon that September, we spent 4 or so days in Italy's stunning Cinque Terre, but the bulk of the time was spent, at my request, in Nice.  Our favorite beach was Lido Plage.  Our favorite restaurant, hands down, was Le Bistrot du Fromagere - we loved it so much we went there 3 times. We wanted to be best friends with the owner, who was also our server and the slicer of the home-made bread, which is still the best bread I've ever had in my life.   Our favorite wine was a rose, of course - Chateau de Berne.  Every single night, no matter how much we had at dinner, we got gelato and walked down the Promenade des Anglais.  I cried when we had to go home.

The beauty that I read about, the beauty that I saw in pictures, the beauty that I imagined - absolutely nothing compared to seeing it in person.  Even my own photographs don't properly capture the light and color - the staggering blue of the Mediterranean and of the sky, the spectacular golds and pinks of the sunsets, the vibrant bursts of color of the fireworks at night.  We were so wrapped up in the la-la land of honeymooners that I don't think we ever did figure out why there were fireworks displays so frequently during our time there in early September.  We were content enough to let the occasion be a celebration of the city itself.  Who needs a reason when you're Nice?  A city full of the friendliest French people you're likely to find, the best seafood in the world, endless bottles of cold rose, gelato for days, and simply effortless beauty.

My head and my heart can't keep up with this summer.  Orlando, Istanbul, Baghdad, Baton Rouge, St. Paul, Dallas, and now Nice.  And forgive me because I know that list isn't comprehensive - how could it be?  And I can't write an ode to each tragedy, to each city, I can't change my profile picture in solidarity with every act of violence in every culture - to do so would be pointless and madness, anyway.

But oh, how I love love love love love the city of Nice, France.  How my heart aches for the residents and tourists who stood where we stood, looked up at the sky as we did at the fireworks and the stars and the moon, breathed the same salt sea air.  It just aches, and I just have to share it and find comfort in the beauty of the city, and the knowledge that as it always does, out of this tragedy will grow love and brotherhood and fellowship and stories of courage and kindness.

Often it feels like there's nothing we can do in the wake of tragedies, particularly those that occur across the country or across the ocean.  You can always live your life striving to be an agent of peace.  You can strive to be peaceful in the microcosm of your life, and do what you can to allow your love in action affect the macrocosm of this brutal but beautiful world we live in - and it is a beautiful, beautiful world.


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