The Winch5 project was born exactly a year ago, at the end of January 2011. After being away from my family for a few months, I had come back to Berkeley, where my future ex-wife and my daughter, Yara, were.
Always generous, her mother had left for the weekend and, as we do every chance we get, Yara and I went to eat at Kirala, a Japanese restaurant that both of us love. She always gets salmon sushi, which she savors in small swallows like hallowed mead, while I have soft-shell crab and black cod marinated in miso. Every time we go there, we try a different sake. Their cellar is so extensive that, since we never remember which sake we tried last time, it seems sometimes like we’re spinning in circles. Even before we start drinking.
I learned a long time ago to listen to what my children tell me, which is obviously a reaction to how my father was. When we talk, I share my problems that they could might relate to or find interesting. It creates a sort of equality between us. They’re not the only ones confiding, and I’m not the only one giving advice.
Doing this with Emilia always helps me find new perspectives. I admire how she returned to Mexico, where she was born, to find out just how deeps her roots ran there, her calm in reacting to a flash kidnapping (a couple of hours around midnight to get twice the maximum amount an ATM machine would spit any single day) and two robberies (one of which was armed). And her joy upon starting new studies in Madrid, a city whose language she speaks – in her native country’s accent – but about which she knows nothing. It was her first step into Europe.
All three of my children have something to teach me. It’s what got me started reading Deleuze again in the 90s – after having previously encountered the thinker in a class he taught at Vincennes – when my oldest son, Fabien, and his Cuban friends, were working through the philosopher’s thought with anti-totalitarian passion. Fabien is also the person who suggested that I go more into detail about the personal circumstances that led me to take this world tour, and to reflect on how this connects with my earlier experiences.
Let’s get back to the restaurant. Even though carried out with love and concord, the separation from my wife left me with a huge emptiness, which no doubt explains why it was so difficult to come back to Berkeley last January. When I had returned to Europe, I discovered with some horror that my entire business model was collapsing. For thirty years, I’d lived out of scarcity – as the old economic adage indicates – and as foreign correspondents working in areas where valuable stories are being told far from the beaten path usually do. As for work: for several months I’d been distancing myself from the way information technology is traditionally covered. Too much advertising, too much gadget coverage, too much of an echo chamber – I couldn’t bring myself to totally start over or find a new passion, something fresh and new. I was drowning in deja vu.
In short, I had taken the huge step of returning to Paris. I was pretty content with the move, but I didn’t know what to do. This is when my daughter said with a grin full of tenderness and illusion that I’ll never forget: “You should spend a year on a beach in Mexico, and write you’re the novel of your life.”
A huge grin filled with delight on dad’s face. She’s convinced that I have something to say (and I knew she was also dreaming of a year spent tanning on the beach).
“Impossible,” I responded without considering it for long. “If I do that, I’ll completely disappear. I really haven’t posted much to my blog in the past few months. I don’t have a lot of contracts anymore. And who’s to say that, even if I wrote a book like that, it would help me come back to the surface. That’s to say that if I leave to spend a year on the beach, I die.” This is an example of where my way of journalistic formulas can come out really wrong.
Not every night was like this, fortunately, but the one that followed really brought me the advice that gave birth to Winch5.
I’ll tell you more tomorrow.