Olivier Lacan

Software bricoleur, word wrangler, scientific skeptic, and logic lumberjack.

Path to America

Written on February 11, 2011

I was looking around old photos for something I’m making for a great friend and I realized that I had never connected two important events in my life. In January 2007, after having moved out of my parent’s house the previous summer, I decided on a whim to go to New York City for something like 3 or 4 days. My university’s winter break was longer than usual that year and I thought I had enough money to afford the cheaper than usual trip (post-New Year’s hotels and flights were deserted). In reality I couldn’t as I got slammed with a huge bill for my apartment’s utilities when I got back.

It was the first time in my life I took a plane — a transatlantic flight — alone. It was hard to express why exactly I wanted to go to NYC like that, in a cold season, alone, with no clear purpose. I remember wondering how my girlfriend at the time would take it, but I couldn’t reason myself, I had to go.

The feeling of absolute control of making a decision by myself, and executing it on my own was exhilarating. I didn’t do anything very interesting for those three days. I would wake up, walk around the city, shop around, eat, take pictures of buildings, billboards and people, then go back to my hotel and browse the web.

One slight excuse I had used on myself was that huge rumors were going around that Apple was going to introduce the elusive iPhone to the world at a special event on the second day of my trip. I wasn’t really familiar with Apple’s practices at the time as I had purchased my first Apple device (an iPod Video 5G) the previous summer at the 5th Avenue Apple Store in NYC with my friend Clément Dague. I somehow hoped the device would be released immediately at Apple’s flagship store and that I could snatch one before flying home, and maybe sell it to pay for my journey.

The iPhone was announced, and even though it wasn’t even on display at the 5th Avenue Apple store I felt like I was closer to technological history being made. It might have sounded foolish if I had voiced that feeling at the time, but I don’t think anyone would laugh at that today.

Walking around the streets of New York, not like a tourist, but like a free man (minus a job and responsibilities) gave me a glimpse into what at the time I only felt was a crazy dream.

A few months later, I met two American girls that are now my friends, one stayed at my apartment that summer, the other one jumped from joy when she realized I was the only fluent English speaker at a house party in Paris a few weeks later.

In August I flew to Quebec with my parents to visit friends and I sneaked out on a Greyhound bus from Montréal to go visit a friend from college with dual citizenship who was working in New York City for the summer. I finally got my hands on that damned iPhone on display at the 5th Avenue Apple Store and called my mom in Canada (for free) with it.

When I came back to France, and eventually to college I couldn’t keep the sound of the world buzzing in my head quiet anymore during tedious lectures on British Civilization. So I sent a text to one of the girl I had met that summer, she replied.

When my friend Guillaume told me he was visiting his brother for Halloween, I bought tickets to Orlando, Florida. A friend from class had never travelled outside of France, I took her with me. We landed on November 5th 2007. When I left on November 10th, I cried.

PS : I’m writing this on February 11th, 2011 from Winter Park, Florida.