I woke up one morning and before the coffee kicked in I found myself driving south on highway A8 towards Monte Carlo.
I called my wife and she asked, “where are you?”
“I am going through Puy de Sancy.”
“Is that a nasal infection?”
“Take all the time you need,” she said, “really.”
So I drove, crossed the Italian province of Liguria, went into France and checked in a hotel by the seashore, half empty off-season. The lady at the reception spoke perfect English with a sweet French accent.
“I am sorry if I mispronounced your last name,” she said looking at me.
“No, you said right. “
It’s a nice place, Monte Carlo, not a big city, literally as small as London’s Hyde Park.
Ruled by a prince, not a parliament, isolated from the world, just looking at the life from the outside, very different from the rest of Europe.
If Monte Carlo is my definition of normal, then we live in interesting times.
Outside of it the nationalist movements are taking hold, wherever you look, pretty much in every country in Europe, but this is how the world normally is. We return to a time when nation state is dominate, when economics are important, but no the deciding factor. There are always nations that are rising and nations that are falling and the natural process of conflict evolve. Nothing new under the sun.
We have declining nations, China is one (the massive protests in Hong-Kong wouldn’t happen if it was growing), Russia is a pale shadow of what it once was. Japan is raising, stable and strong in all aspects including military (second largest navy behind the US, it can project power all over East Asia and there is nobody to stop them). Turkey is taking control of the Middle East, - historically when the region was stable, it was because of Turkey, and their influence lasted for centuries. They managed things good. The Americans are going home, closing military bases all over the world. They will close the CENTCOM in Kuwait next year because there is nothing left to command. We will miss them, no? Just look at the pathetic NATO, what do they mean without the Americans? The Yankees provided stability for a long time but it’s over now and the old demons are coming to the surface. How do you think the Poles feel about the Germans, or the Koreans about the Japanese? There is no love lost there, just pure hate. And when you pray for rain, you need to deal with the mud too. There was never a century in Europe without a major war.
In Monte Carlo I parked my car in the center of the city – I’ve been here before and I knew my ways.
It was a sunny afternoon and I sat on a patio with the view of Casino Royale and Hotel de Paris. Palms, sun, striking women and great cars all around me. But what really stroke me was how green it is here in a very relaxing way.
“Gin and tonic, shaken, not stirred”, I said to the barman. I need to be driving but later.
A two door Rolls Royce drove by with Russian license plates, then another one, looking the same. McLaren 720 was next, but I am too old to get in and out of the low car, so not for me. Then a Ferrari Roma roared by, a beautiful thing.
All not for me, get me a Jeep Sahara, black on black and I will be the happiest guy in the world.
I am a simple man, to which my wife says that I am not.
I like the simple life, can’t help it. You give, you get, that’s what I learned in my 50 years on this planet. But sometimes somebody helps you beyond that, and you never forget. A sweet woman makes the world turn.
Now I am looking at her as she steers ice in the glass with the elegant finger.
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler