Tuesday, December 29, 2009

That Lonesome Valley

At least I didn't sob when we put my daughter on the train in Angouleme yesterday. My mother used to do that every time we said goodbye and it always made me feel bad. Like the life I'd be returning to was so unspeakably awful, such a disappointment compared to what she'd hoped for me, that maybe a total meltdown was in order. Or did she just miss me so much as soon as I was out of sight, that the mere thought of the void I was about to leave turned her into a blubbering wreck?

All I could feel yesterday morning, as Hazel regarded us from under perfectly lined eyelids, smiling sweetly and waving calmly from her window seat on the TGV, was pride, hope, happiness. Even though so many questions remain unanswered for her just-starting-out grown-up life, and even though she barely washed a single dish all week and constantly bummed tobacco rollups from Eric's daughter Luci's boyfriend Luke, being near her - even to say goodbye - makes me glad.

It was good to be together with "the kids". We ate a lot, watched Peep Show, wished it would stop raining. Then Christmas turned sad with the news of Vic Chesnutt's death. Eric and I had been invoking his name frequently during the Kevin Coyne tribute shows as there was a point where he was supposedly going to come to Belgium for the shows - no doubt a mere pipe dream of the well-meaning but inept promoter.

I remembered him saying, southern boy-style "I love me some Kevin Coyne" when Eric and I played with him in Angouleme last spring, replacing the missing Raveonettes on an interesting double bill. He'd been pretty surprised to see us in the middle of the French countryside. I liked him from the first time I shared a bill with him at Fez, back when I'd just begun playing solo shows, and after that I always looked forward to seeing him, at this club or that.

At Winnipeg Festival a few summers ago we were on one of the workshops stages together, where everyone had to play favorite cover songs. He started strumming "Ode To Billie Joe", one of my alltime favorites, and I got all eager and joined in immediately on guitar, as musicians are wont to do.

"No." He shook his head at me so emphatically, I practically threw my hands up above my head so he could continue with full confidence that I wasn't going to play any more. It filled me with admiration, knowing how hard it can be in those free-for-all situations to demand the right to play completely solo, without the well-meaning participation of anyone who has some inkling how the song goes, and often those who have no clue whatsoever but just need to keep busy. He apologized as he started again, saying his timing would be too hard to follow.

Boy was he right. He played the song like he was telling a Flannery O'Connor story, and I listened. I know he was a very creative songwriter - he should also be remembered as a great, unique singer.

It broke my heart, the statement from his record label saying he died surrounded by family and friends. He was loved by many, many people. But this line keeps running through my head, from a Kevin Coyne song called "I Confess" that we'd been playing last week, with Kevin's sons Rob and Eugene: "I'm a rebel and a rebel is alone." Kind of like someone might sing "Everybody's got to walk that lonesome valley, they got to walk it by themselves" at a Southern funeral, it comforts and explains, a little. Only Jesus doesn't step in to sort things out.

I did feel like crying today, after we dropped Luci and Luke at the airport. They're expecting a baby. Breathtaking, wonderful news. Wreckless Eric a grandpa! Me, I just want to follow them around with an umbrella, open doors, make sure they always have cups of tea, seats on the train and that everyone treats them well.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Something Red & Green

gent window

I've been trying to write a post about the Kevin Coyne tribute shows, Gent, and coming back to spend the holidays with my daughter Hazel and Eric's daughter Luci and her boyfriend Luke. Foie gras, oysters and a huge mysterious bird called a chapon that we ended up eating around 11 PM last night.

I can't make it all fit together. And I don't have an appropriate holiday photo either. But I wanted to send everyone who drops by some holiday wishes, cheer, love and gratitude for visiting my blog. It's been three years since I started writing regularly (or semi-regularly). Even though I find myself straying into Twitter and Facebook, sitting down and writing here is still the most satisfying, and I want to keep going.

Even if it's a lame, cobbled-together post like this one.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Stage Outfit

tour outfit

It won't stop raining here in France, so we're heading to sunny Belgium.

Join us for "The Real World: Gent" as Eric and I bunk down in an apartment together with Jon Langford, Brendan Croker and Rob and Eugene Coyne and also some Belgian artists with names I've yet to learn (damn, I've caught that Bataclan disease) - all in preparation for the series of tribute shows to Kevin Coyne we'll be doing in Belgium for the next week.

I haven't had a chance to put together a new stage outfit, but I'm imagining something like the one above, from a ladies room door in Austria.

Don't forget to check out the new Wreckless Eric radio show and our new single, available as a 7" record right now, and as a download very soon.

I'll let you know how we get along with our roommates - Eric and I are planning to be like the gay couple from "Best In Show", with our own candles and linens and silk kimonos. We're still looking for a cute little dog to rent to drive everyone nuts.

Monday, December 7, 2009

His n Hers

red guitars
Red guitars, Dusseldorf
panidamy
Men's & Ladies room signs, Slovakia

georgia & ira
Heavenly Georgia & Ira, Le Bataclan, Paris

wurst
Lunch on the Autobahn

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Star Treatment

I'd been wishing they'd put our name on the big marquee for the Bataclan show, underneath headliners Yo La Tengo.

Then I saw the sign on our dressing room door.

star treatment

Monday, November 30, 2009

Habituel

We're finally checked into a hotel after being either in the van or venues in Katowice, Vienna, Fribourg and Florence. In four days. I honestly don't know how we kept going after the drive from Vienna to Fribourg which was over ten hours but such is the power of rock. As soon as we get to the venue and hear the sound of Yo La Tengo soundchecking, a Pavlovian response kicks in and we start unfurling guitar cables, sharpening pics and rewriting the set list.

Poland was really interesting and I'm eager to go back there. I didn't think I'd be saying that - in fact I almost thought we were going to turn around and head back to Germany once we crossed into Poland because the road was so bad our heads were practically banging against the roof of the van from the jolts. They'd put up a lot of helpful signs that had a symbol for "bad road" - silly, because the spots where the road smoothed out were so rare, that's what they should have been announcing. But it's amazing how quick you can get used to anything - after the initial ten minutes of cursing and exclaiming and wondering if anyone would miss us if we didn't show up at the gig we were shouting at each other to converse as if we did this type of thing all the time.

By the time we got to Katowice, the road was more normal. It was all looking faintly exotic, an intriguing mix of austere Communist architecture and ornate Eastern European domes with that incomprehensible language on signs everywhere reminding me of a stroll down Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint.

The hotel the festival put us up in was probably the only five star hotel I've ever stayed in. A thirties building redone very creatively with glass that kept the old parts intact. Deco rugs and furniture and a super-fancy restaurant which we ate in cause by now it was almost eleven at night and hey, who knows how much a zloty's worth anyway? The meal was amazing and served so impeccably which I really appreciated because we were looking shabby and road-worn and the young, very clean-cut waiters still poured the wine and grated the pepper like we were David Lynch, who was also apparently staying in the hotel.

Next morning I went in search of the pool. It wasn't easy, as I was half-awake and the signs were all in Polish. I wandered into a locker room and panicked when I saw a manly leather satchel on a bench. I fled what turned out to be the men's room and went through another door - the laundry room. When I finally got to the pool, it was like stepping into a perfume ad - there were all these tall muscular men in tiny bathing suits, splayed out in lounge chairs and walking pantherlike across the tiled floor. I was really desperate for a swim so I blocked out the male parade and got in the water, but I had to pass on using the sauna.

I have more to write but really need to sleep - tomorrow is the last show, in Paris. Last show. Funny, I already feel nostalgic for life on the road, even as I write this from some anonymous hotel on the autoroute.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Questions I Can Possibly Answer

Why was the Marks & Spencer parking lot completely, two-days-to-Christmas full on a Tuesday noon in mid-November?

Why do I dislike Amsterdam so much right now? Maybe because someone broke into our van during the show there, and took Eric's winter coat, his bag, a tiny red vintage purse with nothing in it. They probably took a few tea bags too, but I hadn't done a count beforehand so I'm not sure. Then as we tried to get the van out with its broken window obscured by a Melkweg plastic bag, a group of drunks found it hilarious when I tried to lift a bike out of the way, knocking over three other bikes in the process. Damn you and your healthiness!

Why does our van become a mobile recycling unit on tour? The next person to break in will find dozens of water bottles, various old copies of the Guardian, cardboard boxes and even Eric's mother's last months' recycling.

Why do I love Eric even more after spending two days with his mother?

Why won't the British border control accept that I DO NOT want to live in the UK and stop interrogating me every time we go there? This time they even took us out of the car and into a special room for "high risk" visitors. But it was more Monty Python than the Prisoner. Pointless!

Why is Germany one of the best places to play in the world? Great venues, good food, open-minded and interested audiences. Respect for artists? It doesn't hurt to play with Yo La Tengo - they begin their show with at least ten minutes of guitar mayhem and the people are with them every step of the way. A club manager wouldn't think of coming onstage to tell them to turn down, a la the loathesome Rams Head in the US.

Why am I sitting here typing when I could be availing myself of the plentiful breakfast buffet? No limp "Continental" breakfast in Germany - just a table heaving with muesli, fruit, various yogurts, fresh butter, ham, cheese, the most beautiful bread in the world...

What will it be like in Berlin tonight?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"I Got A Rock"

The first few shows with Yo La Tengo are over. What a great band they are, and popular all over. Does it sound sappy to say it couldn't happen to nicer people? I don't for a second believe these things (popularity, excellence) just happen - there is a consistency and work ethic and aesthetic at work. Attention to detail and genuine decency. How encouraging to see real passion, imagination and integrity rewarded with an audience.

And then there's me and Eric. We've both lived, in different ways, pretty chaotic but productive lives, and we keep working. It means a lot to us to be included on this tour.

Sometimes things go wrong - my pedal board went haywire in Amsterdam, kept muting the acoustic guitar. I won't go as far as to say it's the story of my life. I don't think I'm cursed or doomed. It didn't ruin the show. Let's just say it made it more...er, challenging. People really didn't seem to mind - they told me afterwards as they were buying our records. I was still kicking myself.

But then we got up to do "You Tore Me Down" with Georgia, James and Ira. And Ira's pedal board was acting up. He couldn't get his guitar in tune. We're standing there in front of this huge crowd, and it's like we're in someone's living room, a low-budget "Peanuts, The Musical". And we're all Charlie Brown.

Perfect.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Das Leben Es Und Cabaret

So we played our first show with Yo La Tengo last night, in Bielefeld. I thought we went over well! It was great playing on a big stage with proper lights, sound, monitor man, everything. People seemed to like it.

Still sweating, I rushed over to where we'd set up our merchandise next to the bar, hoping to sell some stuff. A guy came up to me right away.

"Zwei rotwein, und ein tasse der tee," he said cheerily.

Wow, a compliment. I wished I could understand. He saw the incomprehension in my eyes and launched in again, speaking louder. "Zwie rotwein, und ein tasse der tee!"

Shaking my head, I smiled. "I'm sorry, I don't speak German?" In other words, please tell me how wonderful you thought we were, so I can understand.

"I'd like two red wines please, and a cup of tea."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Allemagne-Bound

We're packed and ready. And not a moment too soon - the heating stopped working yesterday. Suddenly, the prospect of a night in the ambulance or even, God forbid, a Formula One (think Motel 6, but without the luxury), seems cozy and inviting.

And tomorrow, we see our pals in Bielefeld. And play for the people. Didn't find anything new to wear, but I think I've still got a new pair of false eyelashes lying around somewhere...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mud

The road out front is mud. We are almost prisoners now. My computer is still being worked on. The weather is foul.

Why did I take my computer in? Self-sabotage is my middle name. Here I have been working almost a year on a first draft of a book. We finally got a printer a few days ago, after months without one, so I could start printing this thing out and see what I've got. The computer was crawling, and so I decided now, of all times, to get it looked at! When all I've wanted was to feel like I've accomplished my goal of having something done by the time we leave on tour. I'm not worried that the work will be lost - just questioning my lousy timing. It's been four days now and I'm stuck. Every time I ask if it'll be ready today, the computer guy says "Maybe. Or tomorrow."

I'd been wanting to see "Julie & Julia" since it came out back when I was in the US. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more, seeing it there. Watching it in France - I was sort of ashamed. I sank lower and lower into my cinema seat, sure that my American vibes would be detected by the other audience members and they'd stuff me and hang me in effigy outside the theatre as some kind of warning. As the movie dragged on and on, I could understand why it has such a limited release in this country. I don't know why I expected anything better from Nora Ephron. Her hackdom as a director continues to mystify me, because I always thought she was a fine writer. Why that should translate into an ability to not take the low road, to go for the cute, coy and cliched every time, I don't know, but I like to expect the best from people. When they used "Psycho Killer" over the lobster scene, I wanted to throw up.

It's a shame because I swear there was something interesting underneath all the cute concept, about wanting to make your mark, do something with your self. I spend probably too much time thinking about that, these days. Then joke about cows.

Afterwards I had a lousy time at the eyeglass place - my fault for choosing the chain whose spokesperson is Johnny Hallyday! His dessicated visage is everywhere right now. His final tour continues and this week he plays Limoges. It may be the most exciting thing that's ever happened to the place. Gil Rose et Les Hydropathes, who were here recording, cracked me up because they say Johnny must never, never die. They pray that he is immortal, because should he not be, when he dies France will be in interminable mourning and those who don't care will have to hide away somewhere until the public grief subsides. Which may take a while.

I'd finally decided to reorder the glasses I lost back in Chicago this summer. The Optic 2000 employees stared at me like I was nuts - look, there are all these other frames here! Why would you get the same pair twice? I tried explaining that I'd chosen those frames, over all the others, so why go through the work, the agony, of looking again?

But things move on quickly in the eyeglass world, and they're likely no longer available...except in beige. Again, stuck.

Wait, one positive thing - the test pressing was fine, the 45's are being stamped out at this very moment! Now if we can only figure out how to get someone to brave the mud and deliver the package to us.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Under Construction

Everything is under construction around here. The street out front is torn up - impassable by car and thrillingly treacherous on foot. There are big plastic pipes, men in safety vests and heavy machinery grinding, cranking and hauling. All coming to a very civilized stop between twelve and three and after six.

A French band was here building a new album with Eric as foreman. When the building wasn't shaking from the work outside, and even when it was, they recorded. I tried to stay out of the way, while at the same time I was charmed by them and interested in what they were doing.

Like 80% of Americans I've been working on a book. Will I ever finish? Yes, I will.

But right now my computer is out of commission - it had slowed down so much I was spending at least an hour a day trying to get it to do the most basic things. I took it to the local computer guy, the Rupert Pupkin of computer guys `cause I heard his mother calling his name from next door. Let me adjust that, since he is at this moment holding my computer and all the work I have done on there the last year hostage - and say he is delightful and not like Rupert Pupkin at all.

So I can't post the photo of the work going on outside and I can't write on someone else's computer (that's my excuse for this week any way). But I will be back at it again soon.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

White Noise

I wanted to get out of the house because a band is here recording with Eric and it seemed like it would be a good idea to go write somewhere else for a while. I packed up my laptop and drove to the next village over, thinking the library might work, but it was closed for lunch.

So I drove off - maybe there was a café or salon de the I could sit in for an hour or two. All of a sudden my choices seemed impossibly limited, possibly nonexistent.

There’s a bar near the library, but it’s not even inviting for a short cup of coffee, let alone sitting for an hour or two. The Salon de The is a new English-run place we tried once and never went back to - the tea was cheap and nasty, the croissants from the supermarket. I was almost tempted to give it another try but as I drove past a sad English face appeared in the window and I had to drive on.

That simultaneously lonely and liberating feeling of being alone in a crowd - I don’t think I’ll ever stop craving that. The countryside can feel so empty sometimes. Is it wrong to get bored by the peace and quiet of it? No more so than it's natural to crave silence and space when you're surrounded by people and noise every minute of the day. I thought of all the villages nearby and had to rule out everything: the ones where I know the proprietors, because I just wanted to sit down and write and didn’t want to have a conversation.

And the thought of hauling my laptop into an unknown bar was also out of the question. It is not habitual around here, like it is in cafes in big cities, to see people sitting there working on computers. There’s much to love about the slow, civilized pace of life in France, but the downside is in many circumstances you have to play by the rules - it would be tacky or downright uncomfortable to do otherwise. I knew that whatever I found, it would either have people still eating lunch and I’d feel obnoxious barging in with work to do, or the place would be empty and one or two friends of the owner would be sitting there making conversation while a sporting event flickered on the TV set. No doubt I would have to crawl around trying to find an outlet to plug my computer in until a big deal would be made about it, with my plug eventually having to be stuck into a fluorescent light fixture up above the bar. I’d probably have knocked over a chair and started sweating profusely and blushing by then, and have to flee the scene.

I tried the bar/restaurant by the lake, even though I’d vowed I’d never set foot in there again cause they hemmed and hawed about giving us a gig and then continually book that lame duo who play the Who medley. I figured if there were a few people in, it was a pleasant enough spot and is run by women so I wouldn’t feel as self-conscious about being on my own in a bar in the middle of the afternoon.

The parking lot was completely empty, the place closed for the afternoon. I sat in the car and wrote in my notebook for a little while but it was the keyboard I wanted.

By this time I was thinking the library had probably re-opened after lunch. I turned around and was cruising along when I saw a pheasant standing right on the center line of the road. Then two others walked out to join him. They showed no signs of moving any time soon.

I slowed down and honked the horn - they still didn’t move. I stopped the car and started cursing at them, and instantly felt a little better for having a random moment with someone, even if it was a couple of pheasants.

When I managed to get them out of my way and had started up the car again, a noisy Publicity Vehicle came along - these are usually slightly battered looking vans that drive around the countryside with a guy in the front seat holding a microphone while a crappy loudspeaker blares incomprehensible announcements about whatever corny event is going on that weekend (I think it’s the circus this time). Nothing but him, me and the pheasants. I cursed at him too.

The little bibliotheque’s not a bad place. The women who work here are sweet - there are books, magazines, children - life! I found a table to work at with a plug socket right nearby and breathed a sigh of relief. At last, I could begin. There was a little hum, a few very quiet conversations. Perfect.

Only for some reason they’d found it necessary to install a bell next to the front door, so that any time someone leaves or enters, which seems to be every two seconds, a chime goes off. Guess where the speaker is?

I’ve been willing myself to block it out. I know I can write something - I just needed some static, some white noise.

Here comes that damn Publicity Vehicle again.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Like Grand Central Station

I quickly gave up on the turgid French Resistance drama. Turns out some of it was filmed nearby in Limoges - no wonder it was drab. Funny, what used to be exotic (lots of stone, old chateaux, tall shuttered windows, endless countryside full of cows) is what I see every day. If I'm looking to escape, I have to look elsewhere (though a great director like Claude Chabrol can take the commonplace and turn it otherwordly - tonight I'm watching Les Biches which probably isn't one of his best but oh my God - Stephane Audran.)

Instead I decided to go to New York City so I watched "Hannah And Her Sisters", again. I know people rave about "Manhattan" for the look of the city but I'll take this homey mid-80's city of all seasons, with rich colors made even richer by the general beige-ness of the characters.



This morning it was almost like the mean streets here in the countryside, with pounding on the door and lots of trucks outside. The fuel man was here to make a delivery for the oil burner and they chose that moment to tear up the road outside, so he'd parked down the hill, snaked his hose through the debris and into the barn. He asked me where the "trou" was? Trou, trou - I couldn't think of what the word meant, without coffee, until I remembered that trou de cou means asshole. So he wanted the hole to pump the oil into. I moved the guitar cases off the tank, happy for my slight knowledge of French slang. Maybe I can go swear at some cows.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Home Alone

Eric's off to England to get the 45 ready to be pressed up next week. It's all so immediate, unlike the long gestation for a full length album. I haven't made a stand-alone single since The Shams "Only A Dream/3 AM" for Bob Mould's SOL label back in late 80's, so I find it very exciting! We're going to make it available as a download too, for the turntable-impaired.

It's funny with Eric gone, since we're always together. I imagined I'd be sliding out into the kitchen in Ray Bans, white socks and shirt with Bob Seger wailing. Or at least buying eggs and bananas at the supermarket because he can't stand the sight of them. But I couldn't find where they keep the eggs, and I'd have to call Eric and ask where he keeps his Bob Seger.

I took a stroll in one of the villages where we have several of our "properties" to keep an eye on but somehow they just looked like normal village houses without my conspirator to help with the surveillance.

So, writing and drawing and watching a French film made for TV. Omelettes and bananas Foster tomorrow.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Good Times Cafe

good times cafe

Rushing to finish up our double A-side single so that it's ready in time for the Yo La Tengo shows we're opening in Europe next month. No time to write this week, but here's a photo from the middle of France.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sorry To Disappoint

So, we're off the road and I'm catching up with things. Decided to look at my website stats, see if there's been much action on the site lately. The thing needs a major overhaul and I have to figure out what exactly the point of a website is anymore, what with all my other accounts, sites, etc.

It's interesting to see what brings people to the site, it's often words that turn up in lyrics and can be pretty amusing: "Housewife Have Sex" is one, or "Knapsack Girl".

But yesterday I was a little taken aback by a string of search words entered by some unknown person out there: "Amy Rigby Dead".

Now, I know I haven't been playing in the US as much lately (and the stats told me that's where the searcher was based). And I know I had a kind of meltdown onstage at the Lakeside Lounge in New York back in July (memo to self: avoid appointments with doctors, lawyers or accountants on the day of shows in the old hometown) that might make people wonder how long I was going to stick it out here on earth, but I swear that's all behind me now.

Then I started worrying - maybe it wasn't whether I was dead the person was trying to figure out, but how to kill me. They just didn't put in the words "I Want" and "How To Make This Happen".

Would it be an accomplishment to piss someone off so much that they'd want to off you? I haven't even read any Pat Highsmith lately, but my mind is racing at the possible suspects.

I'm not famous enough to be the victim of one of those Twitter hoaxes - the majority of people wouldn't be interested enough to even click on the trend.

Maybe there's a little old lady named Amy out in Idaho (there's a whole town called Rigby in that state) who just passed away.

I know one thing. In future, I'm staying off the website stats page.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Evolution

Twenty-one years ago today, twenty-five minutes after a breakneck taxi ride across 14th St. in Manhattan, my daughter Hazel was born at St. Vincent's Hospital. Forget a Grammy speech - it is the biggest honor of my life to be the mother of this most beautiful, talented, wise and hilarious individual. Happy Birthday Hazel!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Most Mundane Travel Notes

Been in England ten days now and played eight shows. Lots of zigzagging (Portsmouth to Norwich to Brighton to York to Preston to Newcastle) which is how it works out sometimes. The shows have gone well - everyone's expectations are so low at this point, due to the lousy economy, that even if twenty-some people show up the promoter says it's been a success. Eric and I have both found joy in playing again, after the burn out/wall we hit in the US.

I still haven't learned to drive the ambulance, and since Eric is expert at driving the left hand drive vehicle on the right side of the road, my job has been to try staying awake in the passenger seat and studying current British culture. Here are some of my notes:

I'm never so aware of fashion as when we're touring around the UK. Forget France, which moves so slowly, with flair. Things change here - all of a sudden everyone's in slightly baggy jeans, though not as quickly as the skinny ones a few years back. I devour the papers and magazines and they have the desired effect where suddenly I'm longing to go shopping and buy this new lipstick, jacket, or skirt. Or why stop there, how about a shiny new "property"? We watch as many property shows as possible.

One of the best shows ever, Peep Show, is back on TV. We caught up with what seemed like the second episode in the new season, but has something happened to Mark? The weird stuffed animal sparkle has gone out of his eyes.

Is it possible to climb a grassy bank from a humble chain hotel to a service station to buy milk without feeling like Alan Partridge?

My new obsession is Jackie magazine. I saw a 1987 compendium of this teen girl mag on our friend Kate's shelf and now I'm hooked - crude but cute illustrations, spotty faces, scrawny sallow limbs and crooked teeth on the models. Before technology made perfection an obligation. I know I'm going to be on eBay seeking out my own copies as soon as I get home.

The food has improved on the motorways - we used to have to hold out for the Marks & Spencer branches to buy fresh fruit or salads. Now they're everywhere.

Went into a Starbucks in what had obviously been a Little Chef. The inside was just like any Starbucks, but I swear the windows still had that steamy, greasy Little Chef look. I remember staring at the black and white photos of egg and chips in the Quadrophenia booklet when that album first came out and thinking "how exotic, gritty and glamorous, cause it's England." And Little Chef probably hadn't even been invented yet. It really is all the same everywhere now, sort of.

We went for a stroll and admired narrow boats on the canal near Manchester yesterday. Then we had ice cream. God, are we middle-aged.

The promoters and venue owners have been so nice to us. Makes me feel bad all over again about certain clubs in the US. Club Cafe in Pittsburgh in particular. I hate that place. Not the people who come to shows there, just the place.

Saw a really good film last night, The Damned United. 70's footballers - it looked great with amazing actors Michael Sheen & my favorite Timothy Spall. I want to go to a football match, but only if someone invents a time machine and I can go back to the seventies when the players had cool haircuts and sideburns.

We had to cancel our show in Henley tonight. Doubt anyone will even notice. The humiliation factor was just running too high. On to London tomorrow, the Buffalo Bar in Islington. Then back on the boat.

This is rambling and disjointed but I'm posting it anyway. I've got important things to do (ie, there's a Boots and a TK Maxx not far away).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Our Indian Summer

I was almost barred from entering the country the other day at the port, but since they have decided to let me in to England, it looks like we've got to play these shows.

Now that we're here, things are going well. Visited with Andy and Amber in Herne Bay after my run-in with the British authorities at Boulogne and they revived us with cups of tea and fish and chips. Saturday night in Bristol was so much fun! And we benefited from the Premier Inn money back "Good Night" guarantee because there was no TV remote in our room, so we couldn't actually have a good night's sleep. So, we're saving money too.

Our gigs were in the Guardian Gig Guide! Not that in makes any difference whatsoever whether anyone shows up, and true they called us a folk-punk duo which I think would surely cancel out any potential audience, but hey - at least we're in there.

I'd forgotten how some audiences actually clap and cheer for music. Cambridge was a small, select crowd and we used a weird bedroom lava lamp type thing cause we couldn't find the light switch in the venue. Very psychedelic. Phil Parker from Except The General provided excellent support - he's been doing some recording with Eric and he writes great nostalgic but immediate songs. Now we're on to Portsmouth, and back up to Norwich tomorrow. We've lucked in to some Indian summer weather too. Maybe this is our personal Indian Summer. A little blast of warm air, a shot of light.

And amazing news, our friend Karen called yesterday to alert me that Craig, one of my favorite haircutters ever who was apparently also on Big Brother (meaningless to me but he is a true character) had surfaced with a new salon in Norfolk. And my hair is in sad shape. I hope he can fit me in. So glad I'm not picking apples back in the Haute Vienne. There's always next year for that.

Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby UK Tour

Monday, September 14, 2009

Kir In Plastic Bottles


I spent all week collecting clothes and shoes to sell and then cleaning, ironing and separating them into piles for how I was going to display them. I borrowed a table, some umbrellas in case it was hot and sunny and got the lawn chairs out of the van. I was nervous, like I was getting ready for a gig. But I’ve done so many shows whereas I’ve never tried to sell stuff at a flea market, especially one in the French countryside.

I’ve been looking for another way to make money, and also a way to get into the French health insurance system. I researched picking apples during the fall harvest but it starts today and we’re touring in England beginning Saturday so that’s out. For a while I’d been thinking “Damn, I wish I could be a migrant farm worker but instead I have to go play these #$%^ shows” but since I hit on the market seller possibility I’ve started looking forward to the tour.

It was good to have something different to be stressed about for a change. Eric helped me load the car the night before so all I had to do was get up at six and drive to Piegut, a half an hour away. I’d never been out in the countryside at dawn, except when we’ve been rushing to the train station. It was slightly misty, the sky rose-colored, the trees dark shapes along the road, all the old stone houses with their shutters down. No one on the road. I got to Piegut and the street was blocked off where all the rides were set up for the Foire, or fair, and even though I’d consulted Via Michelin about where exactly the flea market was, I still wasn’t sure. So I parked and walked to the boulangerie which I’m familiar with from when we go to the Piegut market on Wednesdays. I was wondering if the flea market part was happening at all, because I didn’t see another car anywhere.

In the bakery there was a guy picking up a cake and two huge baguettes. At 7 AM! People are farmers around here, but it still seems unthinkable that they’re out doing errands at that hour, and on a Sunday. I imagine he’s probably in bed asleep by eight o’clock at night though, not out partying at Kim’s in Brantome, as we’d done.

I asked the woman behind the counter where the flea market was and she told me, but because of all the weird hills and one way streets in the village I decided I’d better walk over and see how to get there before I got in the car. I’ve gotten a lot better with the manual transmission but I still have my moments, especially around pedestrians, where I have extreme fear I’m going to do something wrong and go plowing into a crowd.

The place was full of people setting up, all looking like they knew what they were doing. It was a big parking lot on a hillside, surrounded by trees and some bizarre moderne official type of French buildings that turn up in small towns - it’s hard to tell whether they’re from the thirties, fifties or seventies - lots of curves and geometry, white or grey plaster. A weird contrast to the fifteenth century buildings and cows and sheep on hillsides in the distance.



I walked back to get the car, carefully maneuvered in to find a spot, choosing a space between what looked like an English couple (she - blonde in sweats, so it was pretty obvious she wasn’t French, he - tall, bald with a dark beard, so same thing) selling furniture, and a couple of French country guys unloading an assortment of furniture and old TVs from an ancient white and bright yellow Peugeot van. I asked if there was room next to them and they were nice and helped me unload the table from the car and when they saw me leaving to find a place to park, one of them ran over to tell me to just park right next to their van.

I put the clothes on the rack, laid some more out on the table and shoes beneath. I didn’t bother with the umbrellas because we were under the trees. Our friend Francoise was supposed to join me later so I put out a table for her and the lawn chairs. By now it was eight and the first shoppers were coming around. I hadn’t been sure whether to put prices on things or not, but I thought if I put a few it would at least give people an idea of my reasonable prices.


For a few minutes at the beginning it hit me that possibly I would not sell anything. I wish I could say I was completely wrong and that when I left at the end of the day the car was empty except for a table and rack.

But there just weren’t very many customers. By eleven o’clock, when I’d sold enough to feel like it was worthwhile, the not-exactly-a-crowd thinned out for lunch and never returned. The woman running the market came around with a recycled water bottle full of kir, low-grade champagne and cassis, and poured a plastic cup for all the sellers, and that was pretty much it. I hung around for a few more hours sketching, hoping for another customer or two and having to endure the lame, limp-wristed versions of Beatles, Paul Simon and Bob Marley songs by local group Vis a Vis. When they launched into their Who medley I knew it was time to pack up.



I have to look at it as a learning experience. I’m 100% sure I chose a bad vide grenier - it seemed promising because it was connected to the fair with its rides and feasting and those draw a lot of people, but they’d chosen a location all the way on the other end of the village for the flea market. Eric tried to find me but the signs actually pointed in the wrong direction, so that couldn’t have helped.

And it’s clear used clothes are not an easy sell in the French countryside. I saw sellers who just threw a nasty tarp on the ground, dumped a pile of clothes on it and shoved a torn piece of cardboard on top saying “1e” - one euro for everything. Charge anything more than that and people huff and raise their eyebrows.

There are very few people under forty in the countryside - they are the ones who bought the vintage stuff. There are a lot of English people around but they’re all broke thanks to the devaluation of the pound. The French are very marque-oriented - things I had from H&M, a pair of Superga sneakers never worn, shirts and skirts by Benetton - these all sold. The US brands are too much a mystery. The US sizes are different - even though I ended up translating them and writing the French equivalents on stickers, people are unsure and I can understand that, especially with trousers and skirts that they can’t try on.

People would rather stand around in the baking sun than try to stay warm in the shade - I noticed that the few tables out of the shadow of the trees got more customers. And they won’t look at clothes unless they’re on racks. For the table you need household items, or at least purses (no!), objects. And only having things for women - that’s no good, because you cut out half the crowd right there.

So I will definitely try it again, in the spring. I’ll do more research on where the better markets are - out of the sticks closer to Bordeaux and Toulouse probably. And if it doesn’t work there’s always next year’s apple harvest.

Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby - UK Tour Dates

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Don't Take Your Gloves To Town


As if to make a point, my computer has been giving me a lot of trouble the last few days. Proving how indispensable it is to me - I think between the two of us we share one brain.

Giving up on the computer for a while gave me a chance to start getting my stuff together for the flea market I'm selling at on Sunday. I started out with a huge pile of clothes and shoes, but if I keep "organizing" much longer there won't be much left to sell.

Lots of my clothes haven't fit in over two years - those have to go. There are some I have no problem getting rid of: any clothes I bought and wore for temping. Also some black clothes hastily purchased to wear to my mother's funeral a few years back - as if I ever needed more black clothes, but it felt like it wasn't respectful enough to wear a skirt or top I'd played a gig or gone grocery shopping in. Items from Target or H&M, usually a cheap pick-me-up that briefly served its purpose and then made me feel kind of worse - those can definitely go.

There are some things I'm incapable of parting with: purses - I have dozens, even though I tend to drag around the same tired messenger bag everywhere. Each cute purse is a potential other life where I'm daintily pulling a compact out of a tiny beaded handbag instead of heaving a janitor-worthy set of keys, water bottles, notebooks, set lists and trail mix around; hats, same thing - all the possibilities to become someone else; scarves - even if I hate the colors and have no intention of ever doing anything with them but looking at them next to each other, it's like a miniaturized amalgamation of every thrift shop I've ever been in, there in the scarf drawer.

I can't even think of selling the odd unwearable vintage clothes I've been carrying around forever - a skirt sewn to look like an entire roulette wheel with felt numbers around the hem and a sequined ball pinned on, a floor-length white raincoat with big black buttons, a 50's white leather jacket embroidered with silver, a black lamé pantsuit from the late 60's worth keeping even for the label - "MicMac St. Tropez" in bright green thread on royal blue...A 70's grey Western suit jacket, 100% polyester but incredibly well-cut by that master of tailoring Kenny Rogers, either before or after his chicken restaurant failed.

It's a good thing I wasn't here when the vide grenier woman returned my call to book a space - they do it by metre and I thought a metre was comparable to a foot so I was going to ask for five. A metre's actually closer to a yard. Eric told her two, but if I keep subtracting stuff that's still going to be too much.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Go Ask Alice

I fell down a rabbit hole the other day. I really, really did not want to open the South by Southwest 2010 email that was in my mailbox as there is not much chance I'll ever be springing for a trip to that long-running music festival again. Now if they invite me to waddle up the aisle for some kind of lifetime achievement award in the year..ah, 2025, that's a different story. But til then I think I'll keep sitting it out, having had a great time in Austin for many years since the thing was held in a tent with a case of beer and everyone in sleeping bags. Back before the internet was invented.

But my hand slipped on the keyboard and next thing I knew I was reading the SXSW newsletter, where they were giving people a chance to vote on potential panels. Then my hand slipped again and I was scrolling through eight or nine pages of panel proposals, mostly along the lines of "Making Social Media Work For You" and other promotional workshops that made my eyes cross with boredom just reading the titles - marketing was never a big interest or strength of mine, but apparently it's pretty much all anyone involved in music thinks about any more.

There was a time when that selling business was the (usually neglected) job of a record company. Now it is apparently possible to make a pretty good living at this music game, if you're willing to put in your time at the keyboard. Not keyboard as in piano keys but to sit in front of the computer constantly reminding people of your existence. Damn, I'm doing it myself right now - when I could be coming up with some excellent music. But who would know, if I didn't make a point of keeping in touch at all times?

One title caught my eye - something about writing a song a week. I clicked on the proposal, where a singer/songwriter said the old model of putting together an album of 12 good songs every two or so years was not going to work anymore - that now it was all about providing new content for the fans as often as possible and by challenging yourself to write and make available a new song a week, you'd be giving them just that while keeping yourself creative, exercising those songwriting muscles.

People were allowed to comment on the panel proposals and someone wrote in saying you couldn't force creativity, sometimes it takes a while to say something meaningful or interesting, he resented the whole idea of a song a week.

The song-a-week guy then replied to album's-worth-of-twelve-good-songs man, first saying he was entitled to work any way he chose but then s-a-w got warmed up and his creativity really started flowing as he made all kinds of suggestions for what the (obviously) old codger could do with his prehistoric mindset - I got the feeling it was the most emotion s-a-w guy had felt about anything in a very long time.

The sad part, aside from the time I was wasting playing imaginary referee, was that this is just the type of lively argument that would have once occurred in real time, in front of a crowd who could have also joined in the debate. Blood might have even been spilled.

And now I can't decide who to cast my lot with - accept that fans will take what you give them as long as it's with some regularity, that if they believe in your "brand" well that's good enough for them? Or have faith in the possibly archaic form of the record album itself, a collection of a certain number of songs that go together, some kind of perfection worth aspiring to, whether anyone hears it or not?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Flea Fever

emmaus

It makes total sense that as soon as I finally get my bike tires fixed, it starts raining...and raining.

Still, we had fun visiting Kim in Brantome yesterday. She's a rarity in this part of SW France - an American, and has opened a lovely shop that will expand next summer to include a cafe. It was inspiring to see what she and her business partner Jean-Yves are doing to her old French house, keeping the charm and the patina. And her garden gave me hope!

We had a bite to eat in a cafe and, as much as I loved Roger Cohen's ode to eating in France in the NY Times the other day, it was more telling about the general direction food's going in this country too that both Kim and I were surprised when the omelettes we ordered were actually good. Expecting the worst in restaurants becomes a sad habit, even here.

Then she showed us the Perigueux (shhh, don't tell anyone) Emmaus. It's hard to find any kind of thrift shop-style bargains in France- even some of the most unsightly crap is prohibitively expensive but this store has the stuff and the low prices. Too bad I'm out of money right now cause I saw these 70's panels (one pictured above) that I'd love to have for something. But you know you're broke when it's too much of a risk to even inquire how much an (admittedly useless) item costs!

It gave me some ideas though - I'm looking around for a flea market in the next weekend or two so I can unload some of my old stuff, thus enabling me to buy some new old stuff.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The End Of Summer

end of summer

I started feeling under the weather the other day. A cold, the flu, I don't know. A 19th century doctor might say I'm suffering from "deep melancholia, exacerbated by cessation of potential feminine contribution to the prolongation of the species" or something. I have got to stop reading Germaine Greer, even though I think she's brilliant. She quotes 15th century poets, doctors in Victorian surgeries to make her arguments but generally disregards all of 20th century popular culture. Making most of the experiences of the first fifty years of my life feel pretty beside the point.

Maybe I should go back to school. It's that time of year, isn't it? In France, everywhere you turn it's "La Rentrée! La Rentrée! La Rentrée!" until you want to scream. The whole country returns to work and to classes on the same day after taking the month of August off (though I noticed, this summer, with the crise and all, a week here or there seemed more likely.)

In the US they stagger going back to school instead of everyone returning the day after Labor Day. The Northeast sticks to that tradition, but down south everyone goes back in the middle of August - supposedly to do with farming. Ohio's a week later. I don't know about the rest because I haven't actually had the chance to live in every geographic region of America.

Which is sad. I would've liked to go on being a mom forever, sending children off to school in Bakersfield, in Phoenix, in Saginaw. This year, with Hazel going back to college, I couldn't help but feel that this is the last time, with the new books and classes and all. Of course I could be wrong - she might get so into academia, she'll become a perpetual student. But it won't be on my dime, on my mind, like it is when they're young. And if it is, that probably means I haven't found a way to move on with the rest of my life.

It's that damn hopefulness at this time of year that gets me down - not in January, but now, when it's all starting up again. Like this will be the one. I had it last summer, when our album came out. That surge of positivity, that naive energy. You ride it for a while, and then it peters out. Leaving a great big pile of dead leaves. To what? Contemplate? Jump in? Mulch.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Missing Jordans

Now that we've dealt with the minor distractions like gigs, moving and robberies, it's time to get back to what really matters - breakfast cereal.

The staple of our lives for the last three or four years has been Jordans Crunch. A UK company, but widely available in France - until last month.

I've mentioned before how the village we're in has possibly the worst bakery in France, so croissants and fresh bread are not such a good option for breakfast. In the morning I just want to eat. I don't want a project involving driving to the next town, and then dealing with all the social requirements of the bakery.

So Jordans has been there for us, the delicious basic Country Crunch. During a health kick we tried scaling down to muesli but unless we make our own (which is too much effort...see yogurt machine) it's like eating sawdust and lumber offcuts.

Now the Crunch has disappeared from supermarket shelves around here and I don't know what to do. The only Jordans product left is the Chocolate Crunch which is fine once in a while but as much as I love chocolate, I don't want it for breakfast.

We'll be playing in England next month so I guess that means filling up the ambulance with boxes of the stuff. Come to think of it, I've been looking for a way to make money. Black market cereal? Or as a sales incentive - with every CD purchased, a box of Jordans?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Reunited

hazel on the bass
Hazel at the Star Bar, Atlanta, July 2009

Sometimes miracles happen. Hazel got her guitars back yesterday. We'd alerted some of the music stores in town and the guy at Music Exchange spotted both instruments when someone tried to sell them at the same time. No sign of the computer but Hazel is overjoyed.

Thank you everybody for your kindness - offers of laptops, guitars, love and support.

Long may Hazel rock.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Welcome Wagon

I know I took the name New Orleans in vain a few times with my last post, but I've said how very much I love the place. I don't think it was worthy of this kind of karmic payback - my daughter who just moved there last week got robbed yesterday.

Someone went into her apartment and stole her guitar, her bass and her laptop. Pretty much the only things of value she had.

I say went in because the lock wasn't broken, and she had locked the deadbolt. There have been handymen in and out of there all week and it looks pretty apparent that someone saw what she had and the first day she was out at her new job, went in and took it.

People have warned about the high crime in the city but this is some kind of welcome. I know they're only things, and she's alright, and everybody has stuff happen to them.

But she's just about to start classes, moving's taken all our resources, she has several hundred dollars of textbooks to buy. Does anyone have a spare laptop sitting around?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mad At Jazz

Maybe I'm just tired. But last night's show really pissed me off.

We'd booked this gig months ago, at a little bar down the road in Perigueux. Having played there before, we knew what the deal was. Some money, dinner, drinks, hopefully a couple of fans, curious bystanders and just plain bystanders along with regular bar customers.

Then jazz came to town. We got a call the other night from the bar owner - seems there was a New Orleans jazz festival going on this week and the world-acclaimed musicians had been stopping by the bar for some jamming each night. The crowds had been unbelievable! Did we mind if they showed up after our gig and did some playing, on their own equipment? We might even get a chance to sit in, if we liked.

Ohh..kay. Sounded like not such a big deal.

But the whole thing felt wrong as soon as we showed up, because of all the posters we'd sent the place, there was not one up. But, prominently featured in the front window - posters for the Jazz Festival.

We asked, nicely, and the guy went and put one of our posters up. One, cause that's all he had left. So where were the rest?

Then during soundcheck he came up to tell me my distortion pedal was too loud - since the jazz musicians were coming to play into the wee hours, he didn't want to test the patience of his neighbors with our unruly volume.

Hmm. Don't think that's ever happened to me before. How loud does an acoustic guitar really get?

The place was hung with paintings of prominent jazz musicians, like, umm, Bob Marley and even Jimi Hendrix. Serious, artistic stuff.

We finished our soundcheck and ate dinner, which sucked and took forever to come. I noticed a nice couple at a nearby table who appeared to be waiting for us to play. They'd read about the show on one of our sites. That was pretty much it for an audience, because the owner had decided jazz was the way to go and had made a point of not letting anyone know about our show that he'd been so very pleased to book a few months ago. Now that jazz was floating big euro signs in front of his eyes, we could just be like a noisy potted plant in the corner of the bar, adding a little atmosphere while the audience filed in for the "real" music that would happen later. These New Orleans musicians were, after all, world-renowned, and who were we? Two unfortunates who happened to live up the road, and weren't we lucky to have a place to park our sorry asses for a few hours so people could hear us play for free.

The lighting in the bar looked way too bright and before we started to play, we asked if he could please turn some of the lights down?

Oh, no, no - the "New Orleans artist" who did those marvelous jazz paintings had insisted that they must be bathed in glaring light at all times - so that the public could fully appreciate his genius.

At that point, the culprit behind the so-called art, who'd been sleazily sucking up to Eric, telling him what a fan he was, strolled past and then exited the bar, practically shouting over his shoulder that he'd be back when the jazz musicians arrived.

We convinced them to turn a few lights down and we played for an hour, with some people enjoying it while a few others trickled in, looking confused because we didn't look like jazz.

We were wrapping things up with the last few songs of the set when the owner excitedly came onto the stage to tell me "Mr. World-Renowned New Orleans Musician" (who no one had actually heard of) had just arrived.

I saw a man in a loud shirt and straw hat casting an irritated look in our general direction. What exactly were we supposed to do? Yell out, "Hey everybody! At last, there's some real talent in the house! Mr.WRNOM's finally here so we'll just shove off so you can be a part of something wonderfully artistic, creative and spontaneous that is sure to bring in plenty of bar revenue and leave you all feeling so much better about yourselves for having been in the presence of...well, damn, can't remember his name but trust us, he's from New Orleans so it's got to be better than this shit we've been subjecting you to"?

Invite him to play with us, even though neither he nor us knew what the other person did?

That may have been the way to go, but there was no chance to be neighborly because as soon as we started another song, he made a point of walking right past the stage and out the door.

We finished up, packed up, and loaded the van. But not before the owner tried to short us on the money. And asked Eric if he could help the real musicians figure out how to work the P.A. Giving Eric every legitimate right to now claim that he has worked with New Orleans legend Mr. What's His Name.

Better yet, I think it makes absolute sense that in France we will now be known as New Orleans musicians. After all, Eric owned a Meters record once. I wrote a song called "Calling Professor Longhair". And aren't we helping my daughter pay rent on a place down there while she's in school?

Did I mention the dinner sucked?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Re-Bonjour

I love when I hear people say "re-bonjour." I don't think it's officially a word in French. But say you're shopping at the supermarket, and you've already said hello to your neighbor from down the street in the canned goods aisle. You meet again next to the yogurt, and one of you, with a little smile, might say it. It's polite, at the same time acknowledging that there's no need to make much of an effort the second time.

Trying to get back into writing, now that I'm off the road. Have to start somewhere, so this is it.

Hello, again.

Friday, August 7, 2009

We'd Only Just Begun

I'm in a stupor my last evening in New Orleans. Maybe it's the heat and the fact that Hazel and I walked miles today (slowly of course), or maybe it's the incredible food I've been enjoying every step of the way. Had lunch at this place Stanley on Jackson Square and it was delicious - eggs hollandaise with the plumpest, juiciest fried oysters. As I've done after every meal I've eaten in this town, I said "Now THAT was hands down the best!"

Hazel found an apartment that's cheap and right near school and the Garden District. The building needs work but the apartment will look cute with her stuff in it and I think she'll be okay there. This is still one of the greatest places on earth - I'm really pleased she's here.

This trip has been too perfect, the only minus has been I keep wishing Eric were here to see everything. I can't wait for him to make his first trip to this place, hopefully soon.

Oh and the other thing bumming me out in a serious way - I mean serious to the point where when I think about it, I get weepy - I've lost my glasses. My brand new progressive lenses that cost a fortune. I don't often get attached to things but I loved those glasses - they were changing my life cause I could finally see to drive, read maps, everything. I even loved the tan leather case they came in. It was like some kind of worry beads for me through this tour, I'd rub the soft leather like a baby with a blanket or toy to calm myself down. Gone. Somewhere between Lula Restaurant in Chicago where I used them to read the menu and I-57 in Illinois they have disappeared. I was holding out final hope for when we emptied the minivan of all of Hazel's stuff but - nothing. A lone McDonald's french fry (when did I go to McDonald's?), a pair of dirty white Keds and the first Wussy album - that's it.

I've still got my progressive sunglasses at least. I've been practicing wearing them after dark. My new affectation? Born out of necessity, on the banks of the Mississippi.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Clean Laundry

Finally managed to wash my clothes yesterday, in the lovely house we're staying in in Algiers. Never been to this part of New Orleans before - it's on the other side of the river and full of very old shotgun houses, weird shacks selling "coon" if that's possible and beer and oysters. There are also lots of damaged houses and then some new buildings as part of the renewal.

People have been telling me it's "the same, and different" in this city and I guess that's the only way to describe it. There are certainly way less people than before, I can maneuver the weird U-turn system a lot easier than I could when there were more cars. There is such a feeling of people trying to do good things - building, shops, art, the usual music and food that is incredible and varied. I haven't been to the parts of town that were really wiped out, only here and the area around Tulane, the French Quarter and Warehouse, Magazine and Garden District. I think Hazel has found an apartment, at least I hope she has. I love imagining her setting up all her stuff in her own place for the first time - I remember being so excited to do that when I finally had an apartment that wasn't the dorm or a continuation of dorm living. And then she'll go out and explore. I hope she'll be safe. I try not to worry about it too much.

It's hot, no doubt about it, but by Louisiana standards I think they're having a very mild summer. We're going to take the Algiers Point ferry to Canal Street this morning and have beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde. It seems kind of corny but that's something I love about being here - doing the corny touristic things is no sign of defeat. Just embracing the lifestyle.

As I was folding the clothes, I was trying to remember when I even last did laundry. Was it North Carolina, at Alison's house concert? Was it Julia and Dan's? Or Tom's house in Rochester? I know everyone offered.

I zipped everything very quickly back into my suitcase. There are these huge bugs here, palmettos I think they call them, that terrify me. Hazel and I saw one the first night and we both tried to be strong. After all, it's part of living here, just like the heat, and the gumbo.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Remember Me?

I used to write here. I used to do all kinds of varied activities, and even read books. Now I can barely get through a short article in USA Today. "The Road" is taking its toll. I made it to the fitness room this morning, at least. I'm only able to attempt a post now because things are winding down. We played the WXPN festival yesterday (see review) and have a day off until Cleveland tomorrow. Then Eric's going home and I'm going to help Hazel move to New Orleans, stopping off to play a house concert in Champaign, IL. What a trip! I miss writing but I'll start up again soon (she promises others, but mostly herself).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Moonwalk Revisited

(I wrote this last year but since I don't have time to write anything new right now I thought I'd post it again in honor of the 40th anniv.)

In July 1969 I was ten years old. It was my second time at Girl Scout camp.

The first time I was too young. The camping wasn’t completely rustic, with cots on a wooden platform under a large tent, four girls to a tent. But I was only seven then and terrified of the outdoor latrines. So scared that one rainy night when I had to pee I weighed the options and wet the bed. Sleeping in a urine-soaked sleeping bag for a night or two was preferable to walking the dark path to a wooden outhouse where all kinds of insects might be lurking. It didn’t matter what the other girls thought, because I was too shy to talk to anybody anyway. Besides, once I went home at the end of the week, I’d never see them again.

Three years later I had more confidence and could deal with certain aspects of nature much better. Plus there was a lot to talk about with my tentmates, three girls from other towns in western Pennsylvania. The fact that we were strangers and would go back to our regular friends after sleeping in the same tent for two weeks made it that much easier to freely discuss all sorts of things. Like, which Monkee was the cutest? Had you ever looked at Playboy magazine? Did you have a boyfriend?

Shelley was the oldest in the tent. She must have been eleven. She said she knew Bobby Sherman personally and that she’d french-kissed a boy. We waited for her to elaborate.

She showed us how she’d turned her head sideways and, illustrating by holding her fist up like another mouth, how the boy had done the same. I held my breath thinking about it, wondering if that’s how babies were made. Somebody said they’d heard that if your mouths were open wide enough some kind of seed could travel from one person to another and that’s how you got pregnant.

A counselor came running up the hill and poked her head in through the tent flaps to tell us they were showing the moonwalk on TV. We all hurried down to the rec center to watch on an old black and white set.

That done, we walked back to our tent to get ready for bed. Seeing a man bounce around on the surface of the moon had been pretty incredible. But mostly I kept thinking about french kissing, and that part about the seed.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tonight in NYC

Hazel's band Big Knife are playing a free show tonight at Otto's Shrunken Head, East 14th St btwn A & B in Manhattan 8 PM. With their pals Eyesight Television, these kids are touring the US, drinking beer, kicking ass, taking names and delaying the inevitable.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hometahn Blues

I have a fraught relationship with Pittsburgh. It's where I was born and spent the first sixteen years of my life. When people ask me where I come from, sometimes (when the Steelers are winning?) I come right out and say it. Other times, it's too complicated. I didn't get a driver's license until I'd moved away, so I barely know my way around. I didn't play music until several years after I left so I can't really call myself a Pittsburgh artist.

Except when I have a gig here goddammit. And then the whole town should celebrate me, right? I mean, Andy Warhol left when he was twenty one or so and they built him a whole museum!

But the promoter for our show in the `burgh this Tuesday, July 7, couldn't even be bothered to put us in their ad. They've got things going on in August, in September, in nice bold letters in their big half page ad in the weekly paper, but not us.

Years ago, there was a club called the Electric Banana here. Legend has it, the promoter kept a gun in his desk and if he thought your set was too short, he'd take it out and wave it around until you got back up on stage.

It makes me nostalgic for a time I never actually knew myself, when promoters cared so much. Now they book fifty shows a month in so many venues they can't keep track of who's playing where. If a couple shows do well, good. The rest of the acts will just have to get by some other way.

Who will know about the show? We had someone doing publicity but it's barely in the local listings. I've tried with the local radio and they've always been supportive but they must have other things going on. And today, in the local paper, they list us as playing on Sunday. I just double-checked and we are definitely playing at Club Cafe this Tuesday, July 7 at 7 PM.

If anyone reading this resides in what is actually a really lovely, interesting city with some of the friendliest folks in the USA, please spread the word. I don't want to be too depressed to not bother coming back.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Early Bird Special

We're practicing being senior citizens on this tour. It isn't hard to get the hang of things, as in France we're surrounded by retirees.

In the US we're already off to a great start by joining Costco and AARP. Yes, Eric and I are now card-carrying members of the Retired People's association! You only have to be 50 and with the card you get 25% off car rentals. Costco takes care of that pesky "additional driver" fee that at $4 a day starts to add up after a couple of weeks.

It's great to pretend to be retired because the truth is neither of us will ever have the option of kicking back and enjoying the fruits of our labors - we're going to be working in some capacity until the day we die.

So this tour is good practice for that. We're in a rental car that would suit Tony and Carmella Soprano - it's roomy enough to hold all our gear but several hundred dollars cheaper than a minivan or SUV. And it is class with a capital K. Our next goal is to find outfits worthy of this behemoth.

If there are still any venture capitalists left out there, here's an idea: hipster retirement homes. The Woodstock generation are going to be needing assisted living sometime in the not too distant future and it's not hard to imagine CSNY being piped through the lobby and elevator speakers in one of these places. Lots of vegan options in the dining room and Blow Up and Medium Cool showing in the activities room at 9 PM.

The thing is, we're staying in a traditional one of these places this weekend. My dad and his wife live in a very nice apartment in a senior complex. For four days and nights, we'll be kicking back with bridge and canasta, dodging walkers and mobility scooters in the halls and making nice with the neighbors who are still lucid enough to converse.

And maybe, just maybe, we'll try out our future potential career as entertainers on the retirement home circuit ("Remember that Ramones concert back in nineteen hundred and seventy six? These young people today, they don't know what music is. People had talent, back then!") After all, we've got to check that the equipment's working okay. It'll probably be one of the rare times in America that no one tells Eric to turn his guitar down.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Those Days Are Gone

Amy and Hazel Rigby, Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, 1994. © Ted Barron

I went to a music class with my 2 year old goddaughter Daisy and her mom, our friend and ace designer Karen the other day. It was all little ones and their mothers with the ages from about two to four. The teacher was this brilliant woman Charlotte, who sat on a rug with everyone and kept pulling things out of a basket: crocodiles, sea creatures, stretchy fabric. I felt a little embarrassed because I got so caught up in the songs and clapping and stuff, I was worried I was being too enthusiastic.

It was fun, and it was sad, as I looked back at those days of two to four year olds from almost two decades. I guess it’s a little bit what it must feel like to be a grandparent? I’ll probably get a bumper sticker made up: Grandma In Training. (Note to Hazel: Not that I’m in any rush!)

I snuck glances at all the lovely mothers, willing them to enjoy themselves as much as possible and not spend their time worrying, like I know I often did. I wanted to tell them how this is the best time you’ll ever know (just like every time is the best time you’ll ever know) but I think they would have thought I was a mad woman.

So instead, I just clapped a little harder and sang even jollier, with Daisy and Karen.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Follower

"If all the other kids went and jumped off a bridge, would you do that too?" I remember my mother asking, when I wanted to get my ears pierced.

I've been resisting for months, smug in my insistence that I wouldn't/couldn't get involved in any more social networking tomfoolery. But yesterday, I caved. I don't know why - it just seemed like a good idea all of a sudden.

So now you can, how do you say, "follow me" on Twitter.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

This Is England

Thanks to Mark Riley for having us on his show on Monday - what a devil! The gig at Manchester's Night and Day cafe was a little on the hot side (or maybe it's just good practice for the US) but the hooligans dancing at the front by show's end made it all worthwhile. The Buffalo Bar in London was great fun last night, but we've had to cancel tonight's show in Bristol.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Just...Desserts?

Just when I think I've made great strides in integrating and learning a new language, all that, there are those little moments that remind me - I'm an alien around here.

Yes, we're all flesh and blood etc but so are we also decades of cultural references, shared experience, goddamn TV shows.

This hit me again last night - we were sitting around having dinner with a group of friends, some French, some English, me the only American.

Someone had made a cake for dessert and brought along a can of whipped cream and the can was making its way around the table, with everyone taking a turn anointing their cake. Some people did very basic squirting, some hearts and flourishes, and as everyone expressed themselves with the can we were each scrutinized by the rest of the table and judged and applauded for our creative efforts.

"It's like a Soul Train line, only with desserts," I said, thinking back fondly to the parties of yore when eventually things would disintegrate to the point where two rows would form and anyone on the dance floor would have to strut their stuff for a few seconds.

"Quoi?" I realized no one at the table had any idea what I was talking about. Not that it mattered, but all of a sudden I was trying desperately to explain, in fractured French, about how once there was this TV show, and there was dancing, oh and this guy Don Cornelius, and they'd form these lines either side, and you'd have to dance down the middle, and...and...

By now most of the table had moved on to something else. Eric stayed with me supportively and Emmanuel seemed to catch on to the very slight joke I'd made way back what felt like two months before.

And I suddenly felt very tired.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Proud Sister

If I could have a bumper sticker printed up today, it would say "Proud Sister Of A Sartorialist".

Anyone who knows my brother Michael knows his impeccable style. I don't think I've seen him wear jeans since he was a little kid. His band wear matching gabardine shirts, trousers, ties, coats - and never the same outfit twice. He even dresses vintage to play softball.

Someone told me they thought they spotted him on this website dedicated to great dressers and sure enough, there he is. Scroll down and look for the rogue in the striped socks.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Nothing To Wear

I've been in an eBay frenzy the past few days after realizing I have nothing to wear on this tour. And then I went to find some new glasses and the guy in the eyeglass place had to give me some water when he revealed what two pairs of progressifs (or varifocals) will cost. So how to find something to wear for practically nothing? New clothes are out of the question, and the depot ventes aren't much cheaper.

First I thought I could try to whip up a few items myself. Only I don't have a sewing machine. I got started laying out a pattern, just in case there might be time to run over to a friend's house and sew, but it's been such a long time since I sewed anything, even the laying out part is beyond me at the moment.

So, eBay. I've been hard at it - searching, watching, bidding, forgetting to bid, and finally winning a few low priced items. French eBay is hilarious with over the top descriptions ("Magnifique robe d'été!!"), and has the added benefit of increasing my vocabulary with each item. (Genou? Knee. Mollet? Calf) The harvest is just starting to roll in and (why is this surprising?) the first item is a bit of a dud. A cute red top in the photo, a good brand, nice fabric, but as I put it on the thing seemed to expand, growing until it was almost more of a knee length tunic with an elasticated hem. In other words, a red bubble. As I examine the photo, I can see very clearly how I screwed up - I should have gauged the distance from the armhole to the hem...and now, rereading the description, it clearly says "tunique".


Ah, well. Not that big of a loss for six euros including the postage, but I still don't have anything to wear.

A beach coverup! It makes a perfect beach coverup!

Only when, exactly, will I be going to the beach?

But there's always tomorrow's mail. I'm still waiting on a skirt, a dress, and a pair of trousers. I'm thinking if one of them actually fits and works as anything other than a "beach coverup" or something to cut the grass in, I'll be doing alright.

And if not, there's always the Red, White & Blue thrift shop in Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Withdrawal

I'm going through severe Ripley withdrawal today. Last night I reached the last page of The Talented Mr. Ripley, the first one in the series. I've done it kind of backwards, having read all the others first. Maybe it's a way to make it possible to go back and read the rest of the books again, then work my way back to the first, and on and on, so the ride never has to end.

I always feel like I need some kind of counseling when I've finished a Patricia Highsmith book, but particularly anything from the Ripley series.

With Tom Ripley, anything is possible! If someone pisses him off, or stands between him and what is rightfully his, or just acts like an oaf, there's always a very good reason to kill them. In the softest leather gloves.

Like I said, counseling...

I tried to get into this Alan Bennett book, The Uncommon Reader, this morning, and I know it's a good one, but it's too whimsical for me right now. I need some kind of chaser.

I found these books at a vide grenier the other day. Lord knows what any of them are about but I love those early 70's fabric covers. I think Ripley would approve.

70's books

Monday, June 8, 2009

Saved

I almost cheated today.

Eric and I made a vow, after the shows in Holland, to cut out the treats, the sweets, the pastries, and try to get in fighting shape for our summer touring.

Maybe it was a photo someone showed me of myself on stage, practically popping the seams of a dress that fit me ten months ago. Yes, I could blame it on the dryer - but we don't have a dryer.

We've been very disciplined, the last few days. I eyed the chocolatines in the bakery yesterday morning, then chastely looked away from the moist golden pastry with dark-hued chocolate peeking out. I know, if we were really serious about cutting back we'd avoid bakeries altogether, but we have to be realistic. It's France, and that means bread. But, bread alone. No butter, no sugar.

It's nice to have another person to keep tabs on, and vice versa. But today I slipped away, to "get some copies made". Yes, it was a flimsy excuse. But I felt like I would go insane without something special in my life, like an apple tart or an eclair.

It's Monday - the bakeries were shut. The moment of crisis passed.

I took a few pictures instead.

for sale

tower

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lazy Sunday

The perfect day to tune in to Wreckless Eric's new weekly radio show!

Friday, June 5, 2009

This Moment

There are those rare moments in life when everything seems to come together. When all the hard work and insecurity pay off. When you can finally say "I've made it."

I had one of those times last week. We were packing up to leave for Holland, and a call came - someone wanted me to sing on their session.

But they were in New York. Luckily, Eric was able to fire up his studio and in no time I was pouring my heart and soul into three different numbers. By 2 AM the results were winging their way back to the studio on the other side of the Atlantic.

You're wondering who. Was it Elton John, and if so why couldn't he have just come over here to do it? Or maybe David Bowie? Robert Plant and Alison Krauss deciding to make it a trio?

No, this was quality.

This was a series of diaper commercials.

I don't know if they'll actually use "my work", but I want to hold on to this moment for as long as I can.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bona Fide

Yesterday may be the most perfectly beautiful day I've ever seen in France.

Problem is, I only saw it for a few minutes while we packed up the van to drive to Holland.

I'm sad to be travelling this weekend, when they're having this big festival in a nearby village. It happens once every seven years, and the whole place is covered with flowers, flags and greenery. A thousand people in old-fashioned garb will walk through the streets.

Les Ostensions, it's called. I kept wondering what it meant, it sounds so much like osteoparosis. And that's not far off - it is literally a bone festival.

They carry the "real" bones of saints around for every one to marvel at.

When I was a girl in Catholic school I would have killed to be in close proximity to anything having to do with saints and martyrs. They tantalized us with all this spooky stuff when we'd drift off and look bored in class.

My school was St. Winifred and hers was one of the most outrageous stories of all - when she spurned the advances of a knight he cut off her head and because she was so pure the head reattached itself to her body. Each time we entered the church for mass, there was a statue of Winifred with a very visible scar around her throat. We'd even go hang around the statue during recess, because one time someone swore they saw it move.

So how disappointing that I'm going to miss some bona fide saint action, going on right down the street.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Les Papys Rock, Again?

We'd been wondering lately about our old rivals, Les Papys Rock. They haven't been heard from since our showdown at Fete de la Musique last year, when Eric and I kicked their ass in the parking lot of their hangout, the local bad restaurant La Cabane.

Walking by the restaurant the other day, we hoped to hear them cranking up their sorry cover versions in anticipation of June 21 or a local fete desperate enough to hire them. But the place was silent, the chalkboard still reading "Salades XXL" from the summer, the sad net curtains hanging limply in the windows.

Things were too quiet. It could only mean a reunion must be in the works. This was merely the calm before the storm.

We pictured Patrick, the drummer and local plasterer out on a job, braced on a ladder, his hands in black-leather drumming gloves gripping a trowel of plaster as he smoothes it on the ceiling overhead. A call comes in on his mobile. "Merde." He reaches down, answers - the group is getting back together and we need you - now. "Non, non et non!" He gave his all to rock and roll and here he is back doing hard labor. Never again.

"Remember the lady over in Le Puy whose cracks you spent a lot of time filling last month? Maybe Mme. Patrick would like to know about that?"

"Putain." The still wet plaster falls down on his head as he closes his mobile. One down.

Over in the lycee, the beret-wearing lead singer, the worst philosophy teacher in the region, is teaching a class of bored teenagers about Descartes. He recently got a Blackberry which he keeps on the desk next to him, and as he drones on to the students he occasionally reaches down and lovingly caresses the keypad. All of a sudden the thing starts buzzing. Un texto! He can barely contain himself. Raising a finger to tell the youngsters to hold that incomprehensible thought, he reads the message. "Every man is condemned to rock." Tears come to his eyes and he straightens up, squaring his shoulders. He stares at the back row of students, imagining they're the top tier at Bercy Arena. With shaking hands, using both thumbs, he texts back: "I'm in."

In a house next door to La Cabane, the bongo player is splayed out in front of the TV in his underpants and tan leather safari jacket, a bottle of cheap whiskey at his side, a can of half-price cassoulet heating up on the stove. The phone rings for the first time in weeks and he answers and happily says yes, grateful for something to do. Minutes later, he grabs a pair of bongoes and runs out the door, stopping in the middle of the street when he remembers he's not wearing any trousers.

The sporty bass player is pedaling his bike up a steep road somewhere in the Alps, training for the Tour de France, wearing his trademark acid wash denim knee length shorts. A faster biker overtakes him and hands him a rolled-up fax. He keeps pumping as he smoothes the paper out on the handlebars to read. Seconds later, he wheels the bike around and speeds back down the hill as the fax falls to the ground. "...AND BRING YOUR AMP" it says.

The English keyboard player with the peeling nose has moved back to Suffolk, but he's in France visiting his adult kids and their families. He only has to look at the shining eyes of his grandchildren as they listen to his tales of the concerts of yore to know he's doing the right thing by joining up again.

The other English bloke, a decent guitarist who quit in disgust after the second gig says he's on board - but only if they can get Ralph, the legendary soundman, and rumor has it he recently passed away.

But Ralph is eventually located in the retirement home, asleep in a chair next to some old ladies playing cards. A nurse taps him on the shoulder and tells him he has company. It's the Papys' lead singer, beret in hand, ready to plead his case. "We need you. We can't do it without you." Ralph turns up his hearing aid and after looking uncertain for a second or two he croaks "yes". Then he smiles a tight little smile and falls back asleep.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

One More Time

Some things have changed since our last US tour. A new president, economic crisis, the Steelers won the Super Bowl. Our record was just out then, back in September. When we come over in July we'll hopefully have our new 45 available. Here are the dates so far:

Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby

Tues July 7 Club Cafe Pittsburgh PA
Wed July 8 Southgate House Newport, KY (that's just outside Cincinnati)
Thu July 9 Barley's Taproom Knoxville, TN (w/Tim Lee 3)
Fri July 10 Star Bar Atlanta, GA
Sun July 12 house concert Raleigh, NC (email me for info)
Wed July 15 Black Cat Washington, DC
Thu July 16 Asbury Lanes Asbury Park, NJ
Sat July 18 Bop Fest Rochester, NY
Tues July 21 TT the Bears Cambridge, MA (Jimmy Ryan opens!)
Wed July 22 Lakeside Lounge New York, NY
Thu July 23 Cafe Nine New Haven, CT
Sat July 25 Record Collector Bordentown, NJ
Sun July 26 XPNonential Fest Camden, NJ
Tues July 28 Beachland Tavern Cleveland, OH

It's looking like we still have a day or two open for house concerts - Friday July 17 somewhere in upstate NY would be ideal, and Fri July 24 in NJ, NY or eastern PA. Maybe you've been thinking of throwing a party? All you have to do is invite your pals, hire or borrow a small PA, lay on the food and drinks and we'll do the rest...

And just to remember the good times from last tour, here are a few photos.

chrissie
We were at WXPN in Philadelphia and met up with Chrissie Hynde and her amazing guitar player James. Like a little kid in a rock n roll theme park, I am grinning like an idiot.

royale with cheese
Eric had his first Sonic drive-in experience in Virginia. This kid loved Eric's accent and was thrilled to meet someone from England. He wants to make films. When Eric said we lived in France, he said "I bet you'd like a `royale with cheese'".

broandsis
We tried to pass ourselves off as a married brother/sister act. It was Alabama, after all, where that kind of thing is legal.

gordon&co
We formed a new group at 3 AM in Austin with Robbie & Jamie: Gordon and the Chocolate Fireguards.

samstown
We stayed in some damn swanky places...

brooklyn
And visited the old neighborhood.

Now we get to do it again. We're older now. But I think we can still have fun.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mom Puts Out Fresh Towels, Wipes Counter

I was in a cleaning frenzy over the weekend because company was coming. But this was no ordinary company - this was an esteemed journalist from a British newspaper.

I know I go about these things all wrong. Instead of cleaning the toilet, like the good half-Italian girl I am, I should be filling the tank with exotic fish. Why fret about the unkempt backyard - someone around here must have a few llamas we could rent?

Screw trying to look presentable - I should be popping on a turban, shoving a cigarette in a long holder, dabbing rouge onto my cheeks and pouring a tumbler of Scotch.

I mean, this guy has interviewed Hunter Thompson, Depardieu, Budd Schulberg. Eric is always entertaining but I am surely the most boring, disappointing interview around. I can't stop being a mom, making sure everyone's got a cup of juice or something. This is no way to build a myth!