I spent the first 25 years of my life in Philadelphia. Kind of “around” Philadelphia, really, since we mostly lived in the various suburbs surrounding the City.
The 50s and 60s were a great time to be a kid. And, while I guess most people look back on their childhoods with a certain amount of nostalgia, I truly think those years were a sort of “golden age” for kids. The post WWII years were a period of optimism. The economy allowed for parents to provide for their kids, the fight for Civil Rights allowed us to believe that there was a better tomorrow to come. People believed in science and progress. Our generation, while caught up in fear of a nuclear war and the very real prospect of our brothers going off to fight the real war in Vietnam, also stood up to speak out against those things.
We lived through the tragedies of of the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King and RFK, but we still held on to our beliefs that we could create a better world (although I do still find it very hard to not wonder about what might have been had those tragedies not occurred).
As the 60s turned into the 70s and I forged my own path, I joined MENSA in an attempt to no longer pretend I wasn’t smart; something that women often felt they had to hide back then. I dabbled in the fads of the day, such as studying parapsychology. I “saw” a new future for myself far from Philadelphia on the beaches of California.
One day, I woke up and just knew that the time had come for me to go west young woman! I felt that if I made such a move, my future would be brighter. When I called my mother to tell her my plan, she decided she was also ready to seek out greener pastures, so we prepared our move together.
As the date of our departure approached, something odd happened! I noticed that the day after we were to leave Philly, the national representative of French MENSA was due to visit the local group. I didn’t know why, but the thought of not meeting him filled me with sadness. However plans had been made, and they couldn’t be changed. We drove away from my hometown, headed west for adventure and a surprise encounter that would change my life forever!
My mother and I, along with two other friends, set off in our mini-convoy of two cars on our California road trip. The idea was to get to L.A., then Mom was moving south to San Diego and my friend Nancy and I were going to find a place in L.A.
When I think about it now, I realize how naive we were! We didn’t have jobs, we had nowhere to live and I had never even visited California! But, it seemed like a good idea at the time!
The trip to California was filled with adventures that, when I remember them today, rather horrify me! I guess I was much more daring in my 20s, but I have no idea what Mom’s excuse was! I suppose we are lucky that there isn’t a podcast about us and our “mysterious” disappearance! Perhaps times were simpler then, too? Despite it all, we survived and I will write about it all at another time. This is a place for other stories.
My first day in California included a trip to the beach. I had never seen so many pretty people in my life! All the wannabe actors and actresses who had moved to Hollywood but never made it had clearly married and had gorgeous children. I felt like hiding in a closet. Luckily, I got over it.
A couple of weeks after arriving, there was MENSA’s annual national gathering in San Diego. Of course I planned to attend. My mother (who was also in MENSA) told me that the French guy I’d wanted to meet in Philadelphia was going to be there. She pointed out a middle-aged man, and I felt very disappointed. But not half-an-hour later, a VERY cute guy my age walked up to me and said, “My name is Jean-Marc Lofficier and your friends in Philadelphia told me to look for you.” It was quite literally love at first sight, and we’ve been together ever since. I always like to say that JM and I never actually went on a date, we were just “together” from the moment we met!
Those first few weeks introduced me to what would, eventually, become a career. JM was working as a freelancer for a French film magazine called L’Ecran Fantastique, and part of his goal during his visit was to interview various filmmakers for eventual magazine articles. I had never done anything like that before, and we discovered that we made a great team. We interviewed Ralph Bakshi, Robert Bloch and Robert Wise. Star Trek: The Motion Picture had just been green lit, and we were amongst the first journalists to get a “scoop” interview about it! Those were heady times for a girl from Philadelphia!
At the time, our being together seemed impossible. JM was only on vacation, after all, and although things were much looser back then, you still needed to get a visa to be able to stay in the U.S. Luckily, JM was able to find a job with Credit Lyonnais, who sent him back to the L.A. office, visa in hand. I was lucky that, after JM came back, I was able to continue to work on doing interviews for our various magazine employers while he worked at the bank. I would bring the tapes of the interviews home, transcribe the tapes and we’d write the articles together. Back then, there were no personal computers, so I would hand write things on a tablet, then we’d type it on an electric typewriter. I remember how excited we were to be able to get an IBM Selectric at one point!
In 1980 we stopped off in London on our way back from a visit to Paris. We met the wonderful Terrance Dicks to do an interview for a large article JM was writing about Doctor Who. We became fast friends with Terrance and his family, and Terrance suggested we do a programme guide to the series, as an update to an earlier, less complete book he had done years before. That book, The Doctor Who Programme Guide, became a major stepping stone in our career.
We decided that working for a French magazine was not going to enable us to earn a living and soon started looking for new frontiers to cross in our writing. I still remember how excited I was to publish my first movie review in the local beach newspaper, the Easy Reader! We were able to expand our writing to a variety of markets, including such varied outlets as the San Antonio Express and News, Starlog (where we became fast friends with the terrific Dave McDonnell), The Twilight Zone Magazine, American Cinematographer, and one of my all time favorites, My Weekly Reader, à magazine for school children that I had grown up reading!
Eventually, we felt the need to move from writing about the achievements of others and start creating our own stories. We met, and became friends with, Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, both of whom gave us an opportunity to collaborate on comic books with them. Then I was given the chance to take Harry Love’s animation writing seminar at Hanna Barbera, which allowed us to learn the art of script writing and eventually sell scripts for series such as Duck Tales, The Real Ghostbusters and others. We felt very lucky. I was proud to become a member of the Writer’s Guild of America West when they first opened their doors to animation writers.
As we began to write more comics and animation, and eventually partnered with Moebius in launching Starwatcher Graphics, it became time to stop the journalism aspect of our career. I had many outstanding encounters before that, however, including some unforgettable interviews, visits to amazing movie sets and a chance to feel a part of an amazing industry. Eventually, Starwatcher was disbanded in 2000, and we started Hollywood Comics. In 20003, we started our own micro-publishing imprint, Black Coat Press.
Our years in L.A. we’re special, but one day, I knew it was time to move on, and chapter three of my life called me to France!
November 2, 2004. After four years of George W. Bush, Wes till held out some hope for a John Kerry victory in the Presidential election. We were disappointed, to say the least. As the results trickled in, it was clear that nothing was going to change for the better. I turned to JM and told him that the time had come for us to leave the U.S. and go to a place where people like us could live without fear of bankruptcy every time one of us had an illness more severe than a head cold. There were other issues, of course, but I won’t go into politics too deeply here.
On Wednesday, the day after the election, we started looking into our options. We thought of Canada. The Pacific coast was out, as the prices there were as high as the ones in California, and we would have found ourselves struggling financially to purchase property, something that we felt was important for us to do. Montreal or elsewhere in Quebec seemed possible. Montreal has the reputation of being one of the most livable cities in North America. But it was really too cold for jm in the winter and too hot and humid for me in the summer. Plus, we weren’t entirely sure if at our age we qualified for permanent residency in Canada.
I’d visited Australia in the 80s and we both felt tempted by either it or, a bit farther afield, New Zealand. But, again, we weren’t sure if we qualified to move to either country. New Zealand had one more thing going against it for me: too many earthquakes! After the 1994 Northridge quake, I was quite skittish about anyplace that seemed likely to have the same seismic possibilities as California. And, there were our parents to consider. My mother was 81, but her husband was 13 years her junior, so we felt safe moving away with Bob there to take care of her. But JM’s parents had no one else. If we moved to the far side of the world, it would make it difficult, if not impossible, for us to see them if they needed our help.
There was only one logical conclusion: we needed to move to France!
It was something that had always been in the back of our minds. We’d harbored the dream of retiring to rural France “one day” for many, many years. It was simple for us, as we are both dual nationals, so there was no paperwork involved; we were simply “repatriating” as far as the French authorities were concerned. With country decided, location came next.
JM was born in Toulon, but I was not a real fan of the provençale region. It had too much of what I already didn’t like about Southern California: it was too hot, too dry, not green (as in greenery, not ecology) and there were too many people. Indeed, between the time we first visited JM’s family after our marriage and 2004, construction in the region had exploded and everywhere we had once loved was massively overbuilt. Besides that, a quick search on the Internets showed us that the price of real estate, perhaps driven by Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, had sky rocketed into the same range as prices in Los Angeles. We wouldn’t have been able to afford a dog kennel.
But we had always loved our visits to the Languedoc and the Midi-Pyrenees. We had wonderful memories of the region around Carcassonne and we had good friends in Pamiers, also in the same area. When I researched real estate, I saw that prices there had remained reasonable and we could hope to find something in our budget. The choice was made, that was where we would concentrate our search.
All of this and more is detailed in my book, so I won’t go into it now. But suffice it to say that the choice was a good one. Since the writing of my book and my stopping my blog, Possumworld, much has changed in the world and our lives. We could certainly never have imagined how prescient our choice to leave America was; how could things have gotten worse than having W as President? Oh, how wrong we were!
We’ve been so lucky to find ourselves in a community where we have made many friends and where the lifestyle has suited us so well. JM was asked to be on the town council and enjoys working for the good of our village, many, many more Americans and other English speakers have followed our path and found their way here. Things in France have changed as well, not all for the good, but nowhere near as close to the bad as in the U.S.
Please enjoy your virtual visit to our world. May you find your own perfect path!