Friday, November 28, 2008

Woody's World

As a substitute for one of those big family Thanksgiving feasts, we watched "Hannah and Her Sisters" last night. Thanksgiving always makes me think of New York - from my first Macy's parade (I froze and got groped by a stranger) to seeing Patti Smith at the Bottom Line, to trying to cook a turkey in a toaster oven and blowing the fuse for the whole building. Grease fires,turkeys that never thawed, dinners eaten at midnight or in Indian restaurants. Call it homesickness. I guess that's what made me reach for Woody Allen.

Not that Woody's world was ever mine. The holiday meals in "Hannah", one at the beginning and one at the end of the film, are cooked to perfection and served by a maid, while everyone perches on cream colored sofas.But one of the pleasures of watching "Annie Hall" or "Manhattan" or so many of his movies was that I could project myself into a fantasy of what life in the city could be, if only I wasn't an art student, or a punk rocker, or a struggling musician or an impoverished parent exiled to Brooklyn of all places. If I was, instead, an earthtone-wearing success who lived in some generic uptown. I think the closest I ever got to that other world was when my friend Adolfo talked me into charging an absurdly expensive pair of Ralph Lauren shoes on my mother's Saks card. "You deserve them!" he said. Funny, my parents didn't see it that way when they got the bill.

In my mind there's still the possibility I'll eventually wind up a cross between the saintly beige-attired Hannah, the wayward sexy sister Lee and the flaky, artsy Dianne Wiest one in her vintage clothes. I'll stride around some part of Manhattan that doesn't exist any more, on my way to a rehearsal of my latest play or a party in someone's two story apartment. Has anyone ever actually seen a two story NY apartment, except in a Woody Allen movie?

But it's not entirely correct to say that Woody's world was never mine. Because I just remembered how last year we watched "Broadway Danny Rose". It has that final scene, warm and sad, where Danny and his oddball clients, who are the closest he gets to family and friends, sit around the apartment eating TV dinners for Thanksgiving. And here we were, a couple of dishevelled show people, eating duck legs off of TV trays, watching the holiday on a screen.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I had a terrifying dream last night, where Sting and Elvis Costello were prancing around a Paris stage in some bizarre opera. Sting was bearded, Elvis sported an ankle-length black coat and fez, and a trio of women dangled in chairs above them.

Wait, that wasn't a bad dream but an article and photo I saw in the Daily Telegraph.

But it's Thanksgiving today, and I don't want to spend any more time wondering why such things happen, or even worse, why I spend my time reading and thinking about them.

I only want to celebrate the good things I've seen or heard lately (with apologies to Kim at Je Ne Regrette Rien, who tagged me for a list of favorite albums. That one's going to take me awhile - possibly until the end of my life).

1. Cinemania - We were staying with our friend Lindsay Hutton in Scotland and this documentary was one he set out for us to watch. A look into the narrow lives of five New Yorkers obsessed with films, I felt sure this would be too depressing to make it all the way through. Instead I was entranced by the characters and fascinated by their devotion to cinema. From Jack's description of ripping a noisy candy bag out of a fellow filmgoer's hands to Roberta's program collection and Eric's belief that a move to France would yield a technicolor life like a Jacques Demy film, this unassuming movie has stayed with me for weeks. I guess you could call it a love story.

2. Glen Campbell singing Times Like These. I always loved the Foo Fighters song - hearing this version on a late night drive took my breath away.

3. I laughed and cried over this story in the Sunday Times. Guess that makes me officially middle-aged?

4. Gratin dauphinois. I have to try and make it today.

5. Amadou & Mariam - I must see them when they tour France in 2009. Found this sweet clip through Travelling But Not In Love's site. I imagine Eric and I touring with them. I better work on my French first.

6. Peter Holsapple's music blog in the NY Times. Funny, fascinating story and the comments are interesting as well.

7. A gorgeous blue sky and icy fresh air outside, and an extra hour of light here in France. I'm going for a walk now. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Know We're Back In France

...because yesterday we had delicious steak frites in a random town near Calais. And espresso that was hot, and strong, and creamy and didn't slop over the top of the cup.

...because at a service station on the autoroute I saw a sixty-something woman wearing an impeccable jacket and skirt. With over the knee black patent leather boots.

...because the sky was completely dark last night, except for stars.

...because I was offered and at least attempted to eat a boiled chestnut in the epicerie this morning.

...because I was waving at neighbors left and right as I came back down the hill with croissants and a baguette.

...because none of this seems corny at all - it's just being home.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Last Legs

Slept til noon today thanks to some sleeping pills. I'm so exhausted. I can't take much more of this being in a different bed every night, but a girl has to make a living.

No, it's not an excerpt from "Butterfield 8", just a lame attempt to update the diary after three months of touring. I miss writing, but I can barely speak in coherent sentences let alone compose entire paragraphs.

Only two more shows, Brighton and Leicester, and then back home.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Yesterday we set off at 5:45 AM to drive down to Manchester to appear on, of all things, a breakfast TV show. We followed directions to Channel M, a local Manchester station, and since it was still dark when we arrived we could see them broadcasting from the second floor of this glass building, but we could not find the station entrance. You know those morning shows where passersby are visible through the glass, sometimes saying "hi mom" and waving at the cameras? That was us, me on Eric's shoulders, shouting and gesturing at the cameraman to get someone to come down and let us in.

Then there was a frightening moment when Eric threatened to drive the car right through the plate glass window, but we finally found the door and got inside. It would've been nice to get the full hair and makeup before going on TV, but this was a barebones operation so I went off to the ladies room to fix myself up while Eric drank tea and looked at the newspapers.

If ever we could have partial lobotomies and come back twenty years younger I think breakfast TV presenters would be the perfect job. You get to read all the papers, wear cute colorful clothes, sit around drinking beverages and talking nonsense with assorted guests. Yesterday morning alone our hosts Brian and Nicki talked to a footballer, an X Factor contestant, a young artist and the head of the Manchester Arts Council.

And us. We sat on the couch chatting about...come to think of it I can't really remember what we talked about. I know Eric kept saying what a nice sofa they had. And I remember Nicki delighted in asking if Eric was "really Wreckless?" Perfect for an audience who are guzzling coffee and trying to get out of the house. At the end of the program we played "Please Be Nice To Her" as the credits rolled.

So by 10 AM we were ready to go back to sleep. Maybe we're not exactly cut out for the morning talk show game?

Later that afternoon it was on to Liverpool for an interview with Spencer Leigh. This was taped, the songs and talking parts done separately, so there was no pressure to have any of it make sense. Spencer was very nice, and there is something about Liverpool that really captures the imagination of anyone who grew up in the sixties. Even the name of this particular BBC station, Radio Merseyside, made me want to put on some boots and false eyelashes and start doing the Freddie.

After Liverpool it was time to drive back to Manchester for the Mark Riley show on Digital 6. Eric gave me a brief biography of Mark along with a short history of the BBC has we sat in traffic and it appears I may or may not have met him back when he was in The Fall years ago. There's a story somewhere of that band coming to a party in my brother's apartment on 13th Street but neither he or I could remember exactly if he was there. Mark played amazing stuff - TV On The Radio, Jessica Hoop, live Pulp and some French band I have to look up. Plus he airdrummed to all the records and was a great interviewer, relaxed and funny. Mercury Rev were out in the hallway waiting to do a session as we left. Then we found a superb Chinese restaurant. It would have been the perfect ending to our media trifecta.

But the heat didn't work when we got back to our cozy cottage. It's probably a good thing. After a day like that we were starting to get a little too showbiz.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Eric and I are in Lancashire at the moment, nestled in a cozy little cottage on an organic farm, having a day off! We're in the middle of this UK tour, having played outside Manchester last night and Glasgow and Edinburgh the previous days. Amazingly this rustic place has wireless. When I got on my computer just now I counted over 40 different wireless access locations from the last 2 months. Is it any wonder I don't know where I am half the time?

I voted last month when we were in America and have been so enmeshed in our little touring world and all its logistics, exhaustion, joys and frustrations that I barely registered how huge this moment was until Nov. 5. Now I can't stop thinking `bout Barack. I look at the pictures of him and well up. I don't think I really believed anything like this could happen, or how much it would mean.

It's not often I wish I could go back in time but if I could rewind to the evening of Nov. 4, I think this is where I would have liked to be.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Some Guys Just Know How To Make A Girl (Man, Woman, Child, Country) Feel Special

"Amelia --

I'm about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first.

We just made history.

And I don't want you to forget how we did it.

You made history every single day during this campaign -- every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it's time for change.

I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign.

We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I'll be in touch soon about what comes next.

But I want to be very clear about one thing...

All of this happened because of you.

Thank you,


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

And They Called It Astrovan

It started as a trickle of a few emails on Saturday night and has since turned into a raging...trickle of a few more emails, all from people with Astrovans in their lives.

Car Talk, a syndicated radio show where brothers Tom and Ray advise people with automotive problems, is a lot more entertaining than it sounds. These funny guys shout at each other in colorful Boston accents and are so passionate about cars that a question about an oil change can send them into a frenzy.

Every week they play a few car-related songs and this week they chose Astrovan, from our new album. I am thrilled.

One of the clunkiest, most boring utilitarian minivans ever made, Astrovan inspires some pretty intense feelings. Against my will I developed a close relationship with the one I had for a brief time - a time cut short when the thing was stolen from my parking space in Cleveland. That inspired the song and perhaps it can now become an anthem for Astrovan sufferers.

Maybe there's an annual rally we could play at? It's probably held somewhere in Wisconsin, in the dead of winter.