Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Safety First

We got back from our travels Sunday night and trying to catch up here with our impending tour/album release in a few weeks. Can't get space in my head to come up with anything coherent in the way of a post, but why should that stop me?

Since they passed the law in France that every car must carry on board a neon safety vest (and safety triangle), safety vests have become an obsession. There were supposed to be heavy fines imposed (90 euros) if you were caught driving without a vest in the car after July 1, but they were impossible to find. In the plan to make the autoroutes safer they somehow forgot to stock the stores with enough of the damn things. There were so many people traipsing from LeClerc to Carrefour to Super-U in search of anything resembling a fluorescent gilet that they had to amend the rule - now we have until October 1 to steal, I mean buy, a safety vest.

There've been times in my life where I crave the perfect pair of black knee-high boots, and on a busy street I zero in on every pair. It's as if everything else is a mere sketch - the only thing I see in detail and 3-D is the boots I crave. Same with jeans, if I have in my mind the ultimate dark wash slightly vintage looking jeans, I'm scouring the crowd, and if anyone's sporting something close to my object of desire everything else melts away.

So it is now with the neon safety vests. Aided by the fact that they are designed specifically to show up. On the streets of Limoges or Whitstable the only thing I can see are the brutishly loud, ill-fitting things, usually worn by red-faced workmen. There we were at Edinburgh Castle last week, surrounded by history and pageantry, and Eric playing with the Proclaimers in front of 8500 people, and all I could think was "gotta get a vest."

Safety of another kind was on my mind in Norwich. We were returning to the Brickmakers, the venue where back in September I took a foolish risk and really hurt myself. Maybe it's something about the citizenry of Norwich, who as an audience tend to enjoy things in such a laid-back manner that you want to hold a mirror up to check if they're still breathing. It's just the Norfolk way I guess, but last time it made me want to do something, anything to shake things up a little bit. So I jumped off the not very high stage at what seemed like an appropriate moment.

It's something I've done before and been fine. But this was not one of those times - the floor was slippery, I had (the perfect knee-high black) boots on, and when heel met floor I fell and hit my head on the stage.

It hurt my tailbone, my head and of course my pride, but I crawled back onto the stage and carried on playing. It was only when I noticed the previously stony faces of the audience looking increasingly uncomfortable, concerned and even downright horrified did I realize that I was covered in blood.

Eric and Charley who runs the club took me to the emergency room where a doctor glued my head shut. Better than stitches I thought, only I had to endure glue in my hair for months after. I tried searching online for some solvent to get it out - believe me, there are way more websites out there catering to gluing and ungluing things from the scalp than you could ever imagine. In the end I gave up and let it grow out.

So this time when we played Norwich I decided no matter what, I wouldn't pull any more stunts like that. Just going through life is dangerous enough. So risky, we need to wear safety clothing.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tu Down

We scored what felt like a major victory the other day when our next door neighbor gave us the go-ahead to use the informal "tu" instead of "vous" with her. We were doing our usual chat over the garden fence when she said `this is crazy, you don't have to be formal with me.' Since she is older and we're newcomers, it had to come from her. We were thrilled.

Hands still sore from high-fiving, Eric and I went to pick up his wedding ring from the jewelry shop. It's been months of waiting, repairs and resizing so we've become pretty friendly with the woman who sold us the rings in the first place. Let's `tu', she said, and then she hugged us as we were leaving.

It was a nice farewell as we were off in the car for ten days in England and Scotland. We have some shows to play but tomorrow Eric's singing with the Proclaimers at Edinburgh Castle. They recorded Whole Wide World for their latest album Life With You. I find them so inspiring and uplifting. And we'll get to see our friend Lindsay Hutton which is a treat.

Edinburgh is special for us because it's where Eric and I had our first date. But we've still never had that deep-fried Mars bar he promised me. Maybe tomorrow (though I think they're only available after 1 or 2 AM). I love Scotland!

But my heart's in France.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Good Things

The last time I wrote, about a week ago, I said I was going to try being only positive. And then you never heard from me again, and that might seem a little ominous.

But the simple truth is things are getting really busy around here, with putting the record out. We've been dealing with the logistics of booking and travelling to other lands and it starts to be all consuming.

The good news is there are a lot of gigs in the next few months! And Eric has updated his website!

Another happy thing was our gig the other night. After struggling with the sound and the cold at an outdoor concert the previous week, it was reassuring to play in our favorite local place, the Lawrence d'Arabie, with a nice crowd of friends and strangers around (except for that sour couple at the table right in front...but wait, only nice least for another day or two) and sound like we know we can sound.

Then there was the fete du bois the next day. It's simply that, a celebration of - wood. There's a lot of it around here. This is supposed to be brawny men stripped to the waist, armed with chainsaws, battling it out over who can take down a tree fastest. But it rains every year, so that part of it is a little mythical. Instead it's some cute stalls displaying every kind of cutting board imaginable, and other stalls selling sausage sandwiches and beer. It poured rain just as we were eating and Eric and I ended up huddled under an umbrella with a couple of guys who were grilling and drinking wine. We laughed and talked with them until the rain stopped enough to run to the car. It was goofy and fun.

We've been working on the garden a little bit, getting a winding path going and trying to find the right spot to put a table and chairs. It gets the morning light and some evening light too, which the courtyard misses. I find myself walking up there a lot, which is what I love about paths - you want to follow them. Before, it felt too daunting, this big open green space (mostly weeds - oops, negative) but now there's somewhere to go.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Glass-Half-Full Girl

Eric was catching up with my recent blogs the other day. I wonder sometimes how other couples deal with blogging. Do you tell your sweetie the moment you post some witty insight ("Hey hon, come check this out") or a recounting of an event you both attended ("I need some fact-checking here!")? Or do you wait til they stumble on it in their own time? If you talk about someone online, do you ask their approval beforehand, or do you wait until you've posted and then alert them? I imagine there's a lot of new business in counseling these days to help people sort out their issues with sharing - not the old-fashioned kind between two people, but rather sharing with the world in general, especially when it might be things you haven't gotten around to talking about at home yet.

I'm often a little shy in front of Eric about what I write, mostly because I think he is such a fine writer himself and I would want him to like what I write. When he was looking at the last month or two of posts, I was reading over his shoulder and I noticed a few bad habits in my writing.

One is my overuse of the word "just", as in "they were just the worst band I've ever seen." A pretty useless word, "just", when trotted out constantly to somehow soften or make judgements and statements less definitive. (There's another word I overuse - "somehow". Same as "just", I use it to back off a little from whatever it is I'm saying.)

Another word I abuse is "adorable." Yuck! This has to stop immediately.

But my worst bad habit is one I've been guilty of for a long time, in my songwriting as well. And sure enough, with Eric's laser vision focused on my writing, it came clearly into focus. I accentuate the negative way too much. For example, why, when I wrote about the neighbor's get-together, did I have to turn it into a post about my lack of French skills? I have clearly made progress with the language from last year. Several of the neighbors made a point of telling me so! But in order to someh- (shit...see what I mean?) put a cap on the writing, to make it all fit together, I grabbed a convenient "hook" - and in my case the hook is usually something to do with me not being able to get it together.

So I'm doing some writing practice now that involves not falling into default self-flagellation mode. It's going to be hard. No, let me rephrase that. It's going to be a wonderful challenge, one that I'm looking forward to very much. From now on, or rather for as long as I can stand it, I'm going to see if I can tell a story without the woeful attitude. Call me Glass-Half-Full Girl.

Monday, July 7, 2008

From A Duckling To A Swan (And Back)

Yesterday all the neighbors got together for the annual meal in the barn across the street. We knew what to expect from having joined them last year, and in some ways we wished the whole thing would go away. Mostly because we were afraid of having to eat farci again.

Just like last year, I heard the gang gathering outside at around 10 AM. I wanted to get something to wear out of the front room where I keep my clothes and, since I hadn't remembered to shut the shutters the night before, I had to hit the floor and soldier crawl to the dresser in order to avoid being seen and waved to and shouted at by about thirty people.

Eric and I went over at noon and it was pretty much the same as the first time: kisses and handshakes all around, aperitifs and little sandwiches and then everyone sat down to eat the big meal. Which, thankfully, was not farci but delicious wild boar and roast chicken. And the most adorable pastries.

We listened to some stories and songs and Eric and I managed to make it through a song in French, as we'd vowed we would do last year. It all seemed a lot easier the second time around. Part of it was knowing what to expect, who to kiss, who to "tu" and who to "vous". When the cheese course would come, when they would tell us to break out the guitars.

A big factor in it being easier was that I could understand and speak French better. It's actually possible for me to make small talk now, about gardens and travel and bakeries and music and children. I felt like I'd really made progress.

But apparently that was only an illusion, a little bit of magic bestowed on me for showing up at the barn yesterday. Because this morning, in the bank, in the bakery - nothing. I could say barely one intelligible word of French. The spell was broken.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Picture Book

Photo by Julia Gorton from "No Wave: Post-Punk.Underground.New York.1976-1980"

When Eric and I were doing photos for the album recently, I thought "God I've been doing this a long time." Like some old actor who trots out a variety of expressions that have worked for him year after year. Only there's a few more lines and wrinkles to compensate for. Still, we had fun acting out little scenarios while our friend Karen snapped away. At least in "band" photos there's someone else to interact with. I always sort of liked doing photo shoots. It's the one time I feel like I can control how I look - in real life my hair is straggly, the acne scars show too much, I'm self-conscious and awkward. I can stare down a camera lens in a way I never can with real live people.

I started getting my picture taken back in college days, by my friend and dormmate Julia Gorton. I hadn't done anything much with my life except for going to art school and knowing how to put on eyeliner and thrift shop clothes and loving music, but I figured in Julia's photos somehow. I got excited when I heard about Thurston Moore and Byron Coley's No Wave book that came out a few weeks ago. I heard there was one of Julia's photos of my brother Michael and I in there and I couldn't wait to see it. This was taken before I started posing as part of the job. Like most everything else at the time, it was all just for the sheer novelty and excitement of doing something, even if that doing something was just sitting around trying to look bored.

I can't wait to get my hands on the actual book. Looking at a few of the photos online was kind of a shock - at the time I was so intimidated by the whole scene, and now I just marvel at how cute and fresh-faced everyone was, while acting tough. Young & odd. I like how we fit in, a little.