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


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


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.