29 June 2015

Why Jars?

One of the reasons why CHM and I drove over to the Sancerre area, about 2 hours east of Saint-Aignan, was to see the village of Jars [ZHAHR]. CHM had visited Jars more than 70 years ago, when he was a teenager. A cousin of his was spending the summer there, so he took his bicycle on the train from Paris to the nearby town of Cosne-sur-Loire [KOHN-syr-LWAHR]. From there he rode his bike the 12 or 15 miles to Jars and spent a few days touring around the area.

When he told me about that trip, I asked him if he'd like to drive over there and see the village again. So we went there in early June. A few days earlier, we had driven out to the Perche region, north of Saint-Aignan, and we had also gone to Etampes, in the country near Paris, to see old friends of CHM's, a couple I met 6 or 7 years ago. CHM and I have traveled all around France together since the late 1990s — Normandy, Picardy, Touraine, Anjou, Berry, Burgundy — not to mention parts of California back in the '90s. CHM always has good ideas about places to go and things to see.

Jars in earlier days

In this post, I'm just putting in a few photos I took in Jars for documentation purposes. CHM didn't stay there long, all those years ago, but I'm sure it was interesting for him to see it again. I much enjoyed seeing that whole area north of Sancerre — La Chapelle-d'Angillon, Vailly-sur-Sauldre, Jars, and other villages and towns.

Who is CHM, anyway? How did we get to be friends? Well, CHM is a Parisian-born American. He has both nationalities — if I say he's "a former French native" he'll laugh. He moved to the U.S. in the late 1960s and has lived in the Washington DC area ever since. (The first time I ever came to France, at the age of 20, was in late 1969.) CHM never gave up his apartment in Paris, however, and since he retired from his position as a translator and editor in DC he's been coming back to France nearly every summer.

CHM hired me as his assistant editor when I returned to the U.S. from France back in the early 1980s. CHM was the editor of a magazine published in French by the U.S. government for an African audience. I'd been living in Paris for a dozen years at that point, on and off, but even when I was in the U.S. I lived in a French environment at the University of Illinois in Urbana. I spent three years in Paris between 1979 and 1982 before realizing, at the age of 33, that it probably would be a good idea for me to return to the U.S. and find a job that would give me some chance of having a retirement pension later in life.That has all worked out.

CHM hired me in Washington because he thought it would be helpful to have as his assistant an American — native language: English — who could also read and write French. We made a good team for a few years, until life took me off to California and work in the computer software industry. It turned out that CHM had friends back then in the SF Bay Area as well as in Southern California, so he started visiting me and Walt out there in the early 1990s, just a few years after Walt and I had moved out there.

Because CHM visited California every year, we never lost touch. Our four years of working together turned into a 30-year friendship. The first time we were *ever in Paris at the same time was in 1992. Walt and I were staying at a hotel near the Luxembourg Gardens, and CHM stayed there too that year. At that point, he didn't know that Walt and I had been living together for about 10 years. We never talked about it, because in Washington DC in the Reagan era, being a same-sex couple was not something you told your boss or co-workers (or the security people — Walt, CHM, and I all worked for the federal government).

Anyway, after 10 years of spending time together on CHM's annual visits to California, and from time to time in Paris, the day came when Walt and I had to make a decision about what the rest of our life was going to be. Where would we live? We wanted to leave the San Francisco rat race and scale back our lives. We decided to move to France, and found a house in Saint-Aignan. CHM had retired from his DC job, and was coming to Paris on a regular basis. We've been able to stay in touch and have done a lot of traveling around together.


  1. Very interesting:). Good friendships are a great thing :)

  2. Lovely... real friendship can't be beaten...
    this post shows it...
    and, Ken...
    from reading this post...
    I think you are more "French" than American!!


  3. Friendships can be hard to come by and even harder to keep, given the distances involved. I think this shows a real commitment to your enduring friendship.

  4. Wow, definitely long and loyal friendship

  5. Ahhh... "Les Grandes Amitiés." This story reminds me of my friendship with a very good French friend, MS, whom I met in 1981 while I was on the faculty at Auburn U. He had come to AU on his sabbatical from France to do research in his area of expertise (mycology). We became good friends. I left AU in 1985 and moved to CA. He left in 1982 and returned to AU a couple of times to continue his research. But we have still remained very good friends and visit each other frequently. He visited us last summer again. There's something to be said for those friendships that have lasted for so long, in spite of life's vicissitudes, and who have helped shape all of us as human beings.

  6. "(or the security people — Walt, CHM, and I all worked for the federal government)."

    Thank God that OPM didn't have databases at that time nor did they hire greedy contractors for security clearance functions.
    Hopefully those typed papers in your personal files didn't make it into the "ones and zeroes" that were hacked by some foreign powers during the past seven years .

  7. I had trouble replying earlier, a google thing. Today's title made me think you were canning already lol. Did you mean age 20 here: "The first time I ever came to France, at the age of 10, was in late 1969". It's wonderful to have long friendships and to talk about past events, especially trips. I read somewhere lately that our lives must be lived in the present, but only make sense looking back on them.
    We had friends over for taco salad last night and I found a rosé Sancerre in our wine shop (not the gas station one). It was very good and cost $19 (ouch).

    1. Glad you liked the Sancerre rosé. And yes, that 10 was a typo. I was 20 years old in 1969, and I turned 21 in March 1970 when I was in Aix-en-Provence as a student.

  8. Nice explanation that I always wanted to hear more than you had previously printed.

    I was wondering about that first time to Paris at "10" ? It was miraculous if you did get there at such a young age.

    It seems that CHM and you love to travel around France whereas Walt prefers to "mind the farm" and the 'farm animals'! Having friends that one has known for a long time makes traveling together so much easier. And having a husband that doesn't mind staying home is a good thing as well :-)

    Mary in Oregon

    1. Oops, Mary. Typo! Thanks to you and Evelyn for catching it. Typos are the bane of my existence, especially when I get up early and get ambitious about writing a long post.

      Walt does prefer to stay at home. He doesn't enjoy long days in the car, especially sitting in the back seat. If there's tennis on TV, he's happy to stay home and keep an eye on the matches, and watching Callie and Bertie.


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