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June 4th 2000
Published: December 3rd 2016
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I still can't pronouce this town so that any French person can understand it. I wish I had been a runner back then - jogging between the hedgerows on those country roads would have been spectacular.

I wanted to get to the beaches but there wasn't any good mass transit after the bus from Cherbourg to Sainte-Mère-Église, so I had to get a taxi and nervously watch the meter as it rose up to and beyond the money I had, but the driver was nice about it and took less, though still not enough for the return trip after walking the broad and haunting Utah beach under the heavy pallid sky beneath which there was nowhere to hide for those Allied soldiers who mostly made it across unharmed, their experience presented in the small, mediocre museum on the edge of the beach, which made me a little upset that I didn't have enough money for the longer trip to Omaha beach, where the real action was, so I started walking the 13 km back to Sainte-Mère-Église as the sky broke and the rain fell and somehow made everything even greener; I figured it was a good time to drink my Grand Marnier from my flask as I walked between the hedgerows for close to two hours, and then onto the highway, holding a sign torn from my journal, and eventually someone picked me up but he spoke no English and I spoke no French, so we just smiled a lot as he sprayed water off the road from his hatchback Peugot, leaving me miserable and wet and defeated at the doorstep of a bar in town, where two older Americans had been drinking -- veteran paratroopers who were the among the first to land in France, there, in that town, on D-Day in 1944, and who were there to revisit and reflect in their old age, and to put things in perspective for me and to buy me my first glass of Jameson, the drunker one telling me that if I ran into any O'Connors in Ireland, I should tell them he said hello.

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