Saturday, February 23, 2008


"There's got to be more to life than this!" she cried, standing in front of a sinkful of dirty dishes, a rubber-gloved hand shaking the soggy Scrunge towards heaven.

"Hmm?" he asked from his post at the kitchen table. His head and shoulders were illuminated by the laptop screen as he answered some emails, read the Guardian Online and snuck a few surreptitious glances at the Project Runway homepage.

She shuffled back and forth in her droopy yoga pants and Slippery Rock University t- shirt, picking up half-empty coffee cups and cereal bowls.

"I mean, we used to laugh at people like us!" she went on, stabbing into a corner or two with a dripping Swiffer and then shoveling an armload of newspapers into the recycling bin under the counter. "We were interesting, we were exciting, we had passion..." she trailed off. "Whatever that is." She picked up a box of Muesli Light. "Now we just have meals and chores and routine and comfortable clothes." She slammed the box down on the table. "I don't want to be careful and I don't to be comfortable and I don't want muesli. I. Want. Passion."

He looked up then with a little smile on his face pertaining to a witty article he'd just read, but quickly changed that into an expression of care and concern.

"You haven't heard a single word I'm saying!" she screamed at him, and stomped out of the room, if Birkenstocks were ever able to stomp.

Later that afternoon she was sitting at the laptop in the kitchen, paying a few bills and checking the various strangers' blogs that somehow seemed realer and more compelling to her than the lives of her own friends and family. She heard the front door open and he came in with a load of shopping from Trader Joe's. He set a plastic Walgreen's bag down on the table and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

She opened the bag and took out a small purple and black perfume box. "Elizabeh Taylor's 'Passion'?"

He opened some cupboard doors and was putting a box of granola away. "It's what you asked for, isn't it?" he asked innocently. "I didn't even know they still made the stuff!"

(Prompted by Sunday Scribblings)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Premiere Partie

We were all set to go to a concert last night in Angouleme: the Raveonettes and Vic Chestnutt, an odd pairing maybe but we're fans of both. And our part of France has very little live music, so this was a big event for us.

I was waiting for Eric to come back from running errands, and our friends were on their way over so we could all make the hour-long journey together and get something to eat in the "city" before the show at La Nef - Angouleme's hardly even a city but we are deep in the country here so anyplace with even more than a restaurant or two seems downright sophisticated.

The phone rang and it was a guy from the club in Angouleme. He knew we were coming to the show (France is a smaller country than I thought) and would we like to be the premiere partie?

With my limited French it sounded like he was asking if we wanted to play first (premiere partie) tonight. I knew I must be hearing him wrong. But he kept on, saying that the Raveonettes had cancelled and, since we were coming anyway, they wondered if we could play before Vic Chestnutt.

Luckily at this point our friends pulled up and I ran outside with the phone and they confirmed that the club was indeed asking if we'd play tonight. They are so supportive of us and love to see us play, so they were practically putting our guitars into the car by now.

"But we haven't played in months! It's an hour to get there and they want us to play at 8:30, and Eric's not even back yet." He showed up then and we said what the hell.

We sped west past chateaux, cow pastures and churches into a deep crimson sunset and arrived with just enough time to set up, sound check, eat something (this is France, after all), say hi to Vic and play.

Here's where I'd like to say that the audience went nuts for us from the first song, saying "Raveonettes Who?" instead of "Raveonettes Ou?" but the truth is they were pretty confused by the whole thing. Eric pointed out that by looking at us they could get a good idea of what the missing band (a gorgeous Danish guy and girl duo) will look like after 30 years of touring, but I don't think they got it.

But, no matter. It was fun to play again, the awe-inspiring Vic Chestnutt appreciated our act, and we got paid instead of shelling out 18 euros to see a younger, fresher, cooler version of ourselves.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


They'd been sleeping together for four months when she decided she'd better bring up a slightly uncomfortable topic. But, coward that she was, she approached it by calling attention to his shortcomings first.

"Darling," she said, when they were lying in bed one morning, "did you know you grind your teeth when you sleep?"

He looked a little embarrassed and nodded.

"It's no big deal!" she laughed softly and put her hand on his shoulder. "I totally understand."

"You would, I guess," he said and cleared his throat a little. "Because you do it too."

She looked down, slightly ashamed. "I know," she whispered. "And there's something I haven't told you."

He looked at her with concern.

She went on. "I have a mouthguard I'm supposed to wear when I sleep. But since our first night together," they both smiled at the memory, "I haven't wanted to, er, spoil things by putting it in."

He reached over and opened the drawer of his bedside table, pulling out a blue plastic box. He shook the box. "Does it look like this?" He held up a piece of molded transparent plastic.

She gasped. "You too?" she asked. "What are we going to do?"

He shrugged, put the mouthguard back in its case and tossed the case in the drawer. Then he turned on his side to look at her. "If we ever feel close enough to put in our mouthguards before we go to sleep at night," he said, "then I guess that's a good thing." He thought for a minute. "Isn't it?"

(prompted by Sunday Scribblings)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Jet Lag

It's hitting me now.

Number of countries: 4
Flights: 8
Rail systems: 5

Guest beds slept in: 5
Hotel beds: 2
Couches: 3
Air mattresses: 1

New movies seen: 4
Michael Clayton (not so new but...)
The Savages
There Will Be Blood

Friends met up with: 17 (approx.)

(My friend Kit Keith, a wonderful painter)

Family members visited: 8
Concerts: 2 (My brother Michael's Sit & Die Co. & John Prine)

(Michael & the boys at Otto's, 14th St. NYC w/guest Baby Maria)

Museum exhibits: 4

(New York Public Library's Kerouac exhibit)

Miles travelled: several thousand

(Hazel's lovely roommate Libby in the rearview)

Daughters I could convince to stay in school this semester: 0

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What Becomes Of The Broken-Hearted?

For anyone who's ever felt like a loser in the Valentine's Day derby, I offer this song. Thanks to Ira who filmed this at the old Palms in Davis, CA some years back, and songwriting partner in crime Bill Demain .

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Trains and Boats and Planes...and Boats

I always dreamed of going to Venice. Doesn't everyone who ever saw "Don't Look Now"? It seems so impossible that a city that preposterous and mysterious and beautiful even exists, we all have to go find out for ourselves eventually.

For my 49th birthday last month, Eric surprised me. We were visiting our friends in Norwich, including my soon to be goddaughter Daisy, and he told me to pack a bag for the weekend. I thought we were driving down to London. I even checked Elton John's website to see if maybe he was playing there. But as we got near the Stansted exit Eric said he had to stop at the services. Then he drove past the services and asked if I fancied a trip to Venice. Being an American girl, to hear the words "fancy" and "Venice" in the same sentence? I think it's the most romantic thing anyone's ever said to me.

So we did all the things that lovers do in Venice: we argued about where to eat and should we go over this canal or that one to get back to that shop we saw - wait I swear it was back around the other way. No wonder it has a reputation for romance - if your relationship survives the challenges of the crowds, overpriced hotels, dodgy restaurants and too much beauty to look at everywhere you turn, then you are absolutely made for each other.

I know we are. Because we could admit to each other that we'd rather see the 20th century art at the Peggy Guggenheim museum than the Tintorettos in l'Accademia, but only because we were just there for 2 days. And we could accept and even celebrate the fact that the best meal we had was the pizza and calzone in a town outside of the city. We could spend precious sightseeing time watching an Italian documentary on AC/DC in the hotel. Sneak on the train without tickets and corroborate each other's story if caught. Find perhaps the only thrift shop in the whole of Venice. And how cute do we look in our costumes for carnevale?

Friday, February 8, 2008


I'm kidding myself when I think I've made progress, food-wise, after a year in France. True, I've learned a lot about the wonderful cheeses, the difference between Comte and Cantal, brebis and chevre. And when I saw the package of Kraft singles in my daughter's refrigerator, I looked away in disgust. Then I saw the bag of white bread on the counter.

Together, they still seem like some kind of miracle.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Almost Human

I keep wanting to write but have been in motion since...two weeks ago I think? Didn't bring along my not so portable laptop. "Any gigs?" people ask. No gigs. Just a US visit in the dead of winter for, let's say, family reasons.

I'll get to the special birthday destination part when I get back home and can post a few photos. And then there's a New York part. But now I'm in Chicago feeling almust human after twenty four hours of that weird half-life of being stuck at the airport.

I assumed that they would know how to deal with snow here so I never considered that a little bad weather could shut the airport down.

Wrong. Or, partly wrong. Because O'Hare never actually closed. They keep it open just enough to keep hope alive. As they cancel flight...after flight...after flight. But always stringing everyone along with the slim possibility that maybe, just maybe we'll get there.

After I got dropped off at the airport in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, the airline informed me that they'd cancelled the flights that day from Pittsburgh to Chicago due to weather. They gave me the option of going back "home" (in this case, my dad and stepmother's senior apartment complex) and returning to the airport the following morning. Or flying on to some random city where there was a slim chance I could get a connection to Chicago. I think the choice was clear.

Pick a city then, the airline said. Philadelphia? Wrong direction, lousy airport. Houston, too far. Cincinnati. Hey, they've got an Outback. How bad can it be? Plus they're still showing three flights to Chicago.

I'd look at it as research. Now that I'm in France most of the time, this was a rare chance to get back in touch with America. But is that really fair to America? I mean, being stuck at an airport is akin to being put into a temporary coma. There used to be angry scenes at the airline counters but now people are so accustomed to the frustration and accepting of the quiet abuse that there's only this big mutual mute stasis. And,anyway,everyone's hooked up to their own little life support systems: cellphones, bluetooths, blackberries, televisions every few feet,laptops and these super high tech headphones that filter out pretty much everything except the sound of them telling you they just postponed your flight for another hour. Remember when reading a newspaper was the most obvious indication that you wished to be left alone in your own private travel hell? Papers seem so quaint these days, with the old-fashioned type and newsprint and awkward crinkling of the pages. Almost downright friendly! And incorrect - what about the waste of paper?

Around hour five I bought another newspaper and the woman behind the counter said, "Hey, would you like anything else with that today? Some gum, a bottle of water maybe?" Wow, I thought, she cares about me. Isn't that nice.

But as I turned to put my change away, I heard it again, "Hey would you like anything else with that today? Some gum, a bottle of water maybe?" I'd mistaken "upselling" for genuine contact. I have been away for a while. Same thing at the Outback, hour seven. "I bet you'd like a great big piece of our strawberry cheesecake right about now, wouldn't cha?" Oh no thanks! I replied in my best imitation of Zombie #2. Just the check please!

Around hour nine, when they cancelled the final flight and I'd learned pretty much all there is to know about spring's new peep-toe slingbacks, I climbed into a hotel van with a couple of other people, all of us clutching our airline-issued overnight bags and headed for the Days Inn to sleep for a while before trying it again the next morning. Maybe it was the dark interior of the van or the fact that we were at last in some kind of motion, but everyone started talking and laughing. It was like the spell was broken, we were all off duty. Then, just as abruptly, and maybe feeling a little sadder after that tiny glimpse of humanity, in the lobby of the hotel, under the fluorescent light, we all went back into our little traveler shells.