I can place the time mostly because we always complained that we missed the big riots of May and June 1968.
I was 7 years old for most of the first visit. And, to tell the truth, mostly miserable. There were several reasons, but the largest one seemed to have to do with the fact that it wasn't America. I think I can forgive myself - strange things are frequently disturbing to 7-year-olds.
Lyon is not a tourist city - at least not for Americans. So I was pretty isolated as an English speaker.
My parents, in an effort to keep me entertained, went in search of some source of books in English. The American consulate couldn't help us. Not too surprisingly, literature and culture weren't high on the American agenda. But the British consulate had a large library, which I read voraciously.
I didn't necessarily understand it, mind you. Especially the Kipling. But I enjoyed it.
In the process of all this, the family befriended one of the officials at the consulate.
I wish I could remember his name. I'm not surprised I don't - I actually have a terrible memory for names, and a worse one for faces. As time goes on, people that were clear, vibrant parts of my life start to blur - the colors run, and the writing smudges.
I remember him as a large, jovial man, with grayish hair that might have been considered "long" for the time - but not so long that it got anywhere near his neck.
I know that we visited him when we went back for a summer visit several years later. I don't know the year, but let's assume I was 12 or 13. We saw him for a day at some cottage outside of town. He was quite amused that he could still tell me to "drink up," and have me drain a glass so rapidly that I'd receive a faceful of ice.
Yes, I had a drinking problem as a child.
I actually found the comment that he "still could" a little disturbing - not that it wasn't a behavior of mine, but more that I didn't remember previously doing it around him.
We visited his apartment once, back in the year of our first stay. It was one of those bizarre 19th-century apartments with 20' ceilings. They're something worth experiencing - walking down a hallway feels like navigating some sort of bizarre slot canyon. And they're impossible to clean. As I remember, not much effort had been made to do so at his place.
He introduced us to his roommates - a pair of remarkably young, gorgeous girls. I remember thinking of it as a somewhat odd living arrangement. After some chit-chat in the living room, he suggested that I might be interested in some of the stuff he had in his room. We went back there, while the girls kept my parents entertained.
I don't have a clear image of the room, except that it was large and well-lit - quite a contrast to the living room, which was fairly dark. And it was, in fact, filled with quite a lot of, well, stuff.
I don't remember what I was lying on, but for some reason I ended up lying on my side, my head propped on my right arm, as he wandered the room.
He started showing off his exercise equipment, and talking about how strong he was. The only thing that sticks with me is some cock-and-bull story about coming upon the scene of an accident in front of the consulate, and having separated the fenders of the two cars himself.
I was suitably impressed. I've always been fairly gullible.
After some amount of this, he said something like "a lot of boys your age have started to find this pleasurable," walked over to me, and started stroking my dick through my pants.
There are interesting moments in life, when a picture that previously may even have appeared to be in focus suddenly "clicks," and not only proves to be something else, but takes on an amazing amount of depth and clarity that one hadn't even realized was missing before.
One of my more reasonable internal voices said "Oh, so this is a pedophile!" in kind of a detached, observational tone. To this day I have no idea where a 7-year-old learns the word "pedophile," but there it was.
Unfortunately, that didn't give me any idea what to do. Yes, it was pleasurable. In fact, I'd been masturbating for a while by that point. I just had no interest in pursuing the subject with him.
After a bit of internal confab, I decided that the best thing to do was not react. I killed off all expression, and focussed my energy on making sure things stayed limp.
I honestly have no idea what happened next. My memory stops there. Well, there's a vague thing about being taken back out to my parents, and the three of us leaving. But that's it.
So I don't know. Either that's all that happened, or I've suppressed something. I'm not even sure if it's all that important.
I came away from the experience with what would later become a somewhat different take on pedophiles. It's possible, in fact, that this was the start of my fascination with trying to understand why people do some of the very odd stuff they do.
Don't misunderstand me. I'm not endorsing NAMBLA. Having sex with someone unable make an informed decision is simply wrong, and there is a fair amount of evidence that sexual activity at too young of an age can seriously damage aspects of one's psyche.
It's just that, well - the man was quite clearly a predator. The whole situation was obviously staged to carefully extract me from my parents without arousing suspicion. I have no idea how many kids he may have done this to.
But I could not in any way think of him as evil. I still can't. I in fact quite looked forward to visiting him again - I just did my best to avoid being alone with him.
I guess it comes down to the fact that I have sympathy - or at least pity - for people stuck with horrendous sexual desires, a profound sense of luck that I don't, and a blank incomprehension that people somehow think the attraction is a personal choice.
The choice lies purely in what one does about the attraction.