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


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!