By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
“Hello, Nicolas,” she says to the camera.
Pasquel shows Nicolas the outside of a red-brick building complex on a nearby roadside. “This is the place Grandpa worked at. Mom and Dad worked here. This is where they met.”
A restaurant sign reads: “Le Relais du Dernier Sou.” (Loosely translated, it means a cheap place to sleep, eat and change your horse.) Later, I do some more research and learn we are in Montreuil, population 2,690. Founded in the 13th century, the town sits on a hill above the river Canche, just a few miles from the coast and Fermaincourt in northwest France. Author Victor Hugo stayed here just long enough to write his novel Les Miserables, based on the 1830 revolution and set in the town. Mom, smiling serenely, a baguette in each hand, strolls through the old village.
We then see the grandmother, aided by her cane, exiting the house and ambling toward a bench in the courtyard. Her grandson Pasquel, wearing an Indiana Hoosiers sweatshirt, sits down next to her. “That’s my brother, who brought me this sweatshirt back in ’88,” he tells the camera.
The old woman suddenly tears up. As she dabs her eyes with a handkerchief, Pasquel puts his arm around his grandmother and whispers some words of comfort.
EXT. NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE — MONTREUIL, FRANCE
The family visits a small farm. A magnificent stone farmhouse is the centerpiece. A large silver-haired man in his late 60s gives the Garnier family a tour of his property. It is a bright, sunny spring day; the birds are chirping madly, you can almost feel the cool, crisp air on your skin. As we walk toward the rear acreage, we come upon a small herd of Alpine goats. Pasquel turns childlike and seems completely enchanted by the animals.
“Mama, Mama, remember the goats during the summers in the Alps?” he asks excitedly.
“Of course I do,” she answers.
FADE TO BLACK
When my family gathered for Thanksgiving this past year, we viewed the home movies I had transferred to DVD, including the added sappy Sinatra soundtrack. It had been a year since my mother’s death, and all of us thought an appropriate period of grieving had passed. Technically, we were right. Emotionally, we were wrong. It wasn’t so much seeing our mother alive on film that got to us. It was the viewing of whole lifetimes in such a short period of time. We realized that our childhoods, and, indeed, a good portion of our adulthood, had gone by in the blink of an eye. We wept for her, but we also wept for ourselves.
One day, I was driving by 1955 Mariposa, when my cell phone rang. A guy named Grant told me he was a waiter at the Figaro Café and a close friend of Nicolas Garnier’s. He had heard about my search. He told me among other things that Nicolas had dreamed of becoming a famous photographer here in Hollywood. He then confirmed the drug problem. There was a long pause. I was expecting to hear the bad news. The overdose. The incarceration. The suicide. The end.
Instead, I was relieved to learn that Nicolas had somehow found his way back to France and was now living with his family again. When I got home, I sifted through the box.
I picked up the little blue book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and read the inscription:
Here’s the little book you requested. You’ve come a long way. You make the incredible possible. Now that you’ve actually gotten this far, I don’t think that you even have to read this book. I can’t believe the 360-degree turn you made. It’s all I ever wanted when we were together and now we’re apart, but we still have a part of each other. Never forget. I think of you still and wonder how it would be now. I do miss your company and insights in life I admit. Who knows? I hope that we remain close always. But I don’t doubt it.
[Name withheld] — ’05
I decided to write a letter to the restaurant seen in the last video, as well as to the last known address of the Garnier family in Paris. One Saturday morning, months later, I awoke to find this e-mail message on my computer: “My name is nicolas garnier, let’s talk ... nico.”
I stared at the screen in disbelief. I leaned back and tried to visualize the day I’d found the box. It seemed like such a long time ago. I wrote back to Nicolas and explained who I was and what I was doing.
Regarding the box, he wrote: “When I left my stuff on the street, I was staying at my girlfriend’s, down the street on Alexandria ... women! ... life in L.A., epic!”