Nice saved me from insanity. I got an apartment in nearby Villefranche Sur Mer right after I retired from photographing weddings. I was pretty beat up. I had just spent countless hours with everybody at Pictage struggling to survive. I did that for nineteen months, and things were bad. We were nearly out of money and bleeding like crazy. Then, my ex-wife says to me, “I’m still young, I’m still pretty, I have options” and she left me for a guy she met on match.com. I was devastated. But Nice welcomed me with open arms.
Once Pictage was stable, we hired a guy to run the lab, and I left the world behind. I got a beautiful apartment in the Villefranche harbor, enrolled in the Institut de Francais french immersion school, and threw myself into learning french. My big life of going on nationwide lecture tours, shooting weddings around the world and attending board meetings was all reduced to me walking to school on cobblestone roads with a bookbag and homework. I was a student. Nobody in the school was allowed to speak any other language but french, so it was a great place to be anonymous.
A few years later, Pictage sold, I invented the Lightsphere, got engaged to beautiful Melissa, and the angry ex – (who left me, remember) – came to court wanting half of my Lightsphere invention (worth many millions), and $15,000 a month – for life. The judge gave her $2,450 and $0 for support.
But little did I know then how fast my life would turn around. All I knew was that Nice was beautiful, that the wind was soft, that it had interesting river rocks in place of beach sand, and had a train running along the coast nearby, and that everybody spoke French except for me. But I was never lonely. Nice felt like home. And far, far away from Los Angeles.
I would wake up in the morning and have my coffee and baguette in the dining room of the school and read, “Nice Matin” newspaper. I’d stare out at the harbor and absolutely not believe that I was living in France. I made great friends that I keep in touch with today (fourteen years later) and will never forget the long walks I had along the Promenade D’Anglais, the many times I stayed at the Palais De La Méditerranée, looking out over the rooftop pool at the Cote d’Azur.
One word describes the waterfront of the French Riviera: playground. It’s playful, carefree, fresh, open, sweet, airy. I would take my SMART car cabrio with the roof down and drive down to Cannes, or up to Monaco with the top down, seeing the beautiful palm trees lining the entire way.
Just a few weeks ago, I had to do a three stop speaking tour through Europe; Duisberg Germany, London and Paris. Because my flight got there two days before my Germany presentation, I stayed in my old hometown of Villefranche. I had to finish up my fifth screenplay, and the ability to walk from my apartment down to the waterfront and stroll while working out scenes in my head was an amazing experience. I fell in love with Nice all over again, and dreamt of how I couldn’t wait to bring my family to experience it.
Last night I saw photos of the shot up lorry that plowed for a mile at a high speed over happy people celebrating Bastille Day. In the photos, there were crushed baby strollers. The impact on individual families is beyond comprehension. It came to a stop in front of the Casino Du Palais De La Mediterranee. Seems like yesterday when I sat in that corner Starbucks people watching. In an instant, so much needless destruction of joy and life.
I’m sure when I return, there will be a monument of some sort, as there should be. It’s a scar that Nice will have to wear for eternity. I’m glad I knew it as the simple, happy playground that it was before it became a symbol of how amazingly selfish people can be.
What right do you have to take away the joy of a family? So you can show the world how mad you are? Fuck you, and I hope those bullets hurt. I hope you felt every single one piercing through your skin and shattering the bone. I hope you saw chunks of flesh flying off your head. And I hope that at the moment the bullets started to hurt, that you realized what a grave mistake you made.
P.S. I don’t think there was only one of you – but that’s just me, and other people with tinfoil hats.