Saturday, April 19, 2008


The shit I've written
Could fill a landfill
Fertilize gardens
It's hard enough
To come up with this stuff
But then what to do
With the detritus?
Reams and reams
Of consciousness streams
And lead balloons
Half-baked tunes
Flat metaphors
Wet wit
Shovel it under a blanket
To bake in the sun
When springtime comes
I'll use it again

Prompted by Sunday Scribblings

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Terrible Twos

I’m currently obsessed with two French duos. The first are these grinning fools, one with serious five o’clock shadow, the other sporting a sideways fishing cap, who peer out from every shop window in every village in France. They’re on the poster for the film “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis”. From what I gather it’s a fish out of water story about a guy from the south being exiled to the reviled Pas de Calais region in the north. It is the most popular film in France ever. I want to see it, even though I know I’ll barely understand a word while all the neighbors laugh hysterically. I would have barely crossed the street to see the US equivalent (something like “Dumb & Dumber maybe?) but here it’s research. Plus, the cinema is just a few doors down, on this side of the road.

Then on the opposite end of the spectrum there’s Carine Roitfeld and Emmanuelle Alt from French Vogue. I feel like I could study pictures of them forever and still not be able to put my finger on what makes them so terrifyingly glamorous and impossibly sexy. It’s like a schoolgirl crush, but again, I can justify it as important cultural detective work.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Deep Country

The other day Eric and I set off to see the doctor for our medical exams for the mariage. Even though we’ve been in France over a year, we have yet to choose a doctor which is what those websites about moving to France tell you to do immediately, but they’re obviously intended for people who are organized. Which we’re not. But thankfully we’re healthy so it hasn’t been an issue until now.

Though from what we saw at the doctor’s offices we tried, it would be awful to be sick around here and searching for a doctor. We’ve all heard about the wonders of the French healthcare system and I’m sure it’s true but out in the countryside things can still be a

We spoke to one doctor in the next village over and she said to come by on Friday morning. We found the building, and when we walked in there were just three unmarked white doors. That’s it - no signs on any of them. Well, one had a photograph of children lined up at a urinal, so that turned out to be a toilet. Okay, that’s one down, we thought. One of these other doors has to be a waiting room, right? So we took a chance and opened another door and there was a patient and doctor having an examination.

The doctor admonished us to go to the other unmarked room which turned out to be a closet-sized waiting room, unventilated, full of eight or so people sitting uncomplaining and staring at us through the foul, fetid air.

I’ve been in some pretty low-class clinics in the Lower East Side of Manhattan back before it was all boutiques and cute coffee bars but this was really bad. I had to get out of there immediately. We tried another doctor in our village, thinking we could at least try to book an appointment and it wasn’t much better. Airless, with magazines several years old. And a harried-looking doctor sticking his head out to survey the victims, I mean patients.

We left and set off in search of lunch, realizing we’ll have to get some doctor recommendations from friends, and fast. A veterinarian might be better.

To shake off this defeated feeling we thought we’d try a nearby restaurant that we’d heard was good. They have concerts every Saturday night and we’d been thinking it might be a good place to play. But when we pulled up the parking lot was empty, and there was a sign on the door about a death in the family.

At this point I was getting really hungry and cranky. I wanted to complain about the emptiness of the countryside, how it was impossible to get something to eat, or be spontaneous, and how going to the doctor could make you sick. Not to mention the continuously lousy weather. And then I felt guilty for being so selfish, when here this family were off at a loved one’s funeral, and all I could think about was how it inconvenienced me.

We crossed the river into a village we’d never seen before and miraculously, there was a café open. We ordered steak frites. Rather, that’s what the proprietress told us we could have.

Sometimes I find myself holding on so tightly to expectations and ideas of what things should be like, I can almost forget to enjoy the real experiences that are going on. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies but I have these images in my mind of lovers on a ride through the French countryside stumbling upon a charming restaurant. This place wasn’t exactly charming. They were playing Alan Jackson. There were a lot of bad paintings hanging on the walls and the bathroom had an enormous poster of a chimp with a laptop sitting on a toilet.

But there was a drum kit and keyboard set up. We talked to the owner’s husband and it turns out they have live music, and chances are we’ll play there soon. The food was good.

And then we saw this rainbow...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Dropping Acidophilus

Maybe it's that Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young record Eric kept playing a few months ago.

Maybe it's the way clogs have become an indispensable part of my wardrobe.

Or maybe it's the fact that good old-fashioned yogurt is getting harder and harder to find in the stores here.

Perhaps it's that things are so quiet there's nothing better to do than herald the arrival of our newest small appliance, a yaourtiere:

"I'll light the fire, while you place the flow-ers in the vawz that you bought, to-day-ay-ay-ay."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

On Eclair Day You Can See Forever

It's raining again.

Thankfully, the patisserie is open.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


This photo was taken last Mother’s Day in my friend Kate’s back yard in Chicago. I was in town that week to help my daughter Hazel move out of the dorm and into her first apartment. We were absolutely exhausted after having to pack up her entire year’s worth of stuff and get it all across town and up a couple flights of stairs. Not to mention trying to clean the dorm room - she and her roommate Libby could give guys a lesson in slovenly bachelor behavior.

All I really wanted to do that day was go to a nice restaurant, or get a pedicure. But Kate had been kind enough to arrange a little concert for me to play and I sorely needed the money. In a way it was typical for me and Hazel to have some bizarre hybrid experience involving me doing a gig. For better or worse that had pretty much been our life together up to this point.

It was tough to get up the energy to strap on my guitar. And my well-meaning daughter had come along to the concert with me (“Sure Mom, I want to see you play”), then passed out in one of the bedrooms upstairs for pretty much the entire set.

Until I started playing “Dancing With Joey Ramone". She loves that song and even sang on the record. As I strummed the opening chords, she came stumbling out of the house in her little plaid coat, took her place beside me and came in right on time. I suddenly felt completely happy.

So why does looking at the picture, and writing about it, make me cry?

It's not the fact that I'm performing in mulch. Or that those jeans are hideously unflattering.

It's how Hazel still looks so much like a kid here(though always more self-possessed than I ever could be). How I used to know every item of clothing in her closet. How I still wonder what exactly it is I'm supposed to be doing, without her around.

Prompted by Sunday Scribblings

Friday, April 4, 2008


I like that word a lot better than beginner.

And that's what I'll be tonight, when I sing in French, in public, for the first time.

It's just a little open mic at our local bar. The performers will mostly be teenagers, including our friend Ned who plays guitar amazingly well and who helped organize the event, at Eric's suggestion.

Eric and I are playing a Francoise Hardy song, "Tous Les Garcons Et Les Filles" which is possibly the French equivalent of singing "Your Cheatin' Heart", or "Crazy". I'm sure my voice will crack at an unplanned moment.

I've been wanting to sing a French song since we arrived here, and the neighbors always ask if we've learned anything yet. Now that the words are making more sense, I want to try.

Tomorrow we have an actual show in Angouleme, and for that I'll more likely know what I'm doing. But tonight there's a possibility I'll fall on my ass. (Not literally of course, I'll leave that for gigs in Norwich.)

There has to be a first time for everything, right?