Monday, September 1, 2014

THAT'S IT FOR SUMMER.




Sunday in the park with Marti. This past weekend my bride and I enjoyed the beautiful late summer weather by taking a long afternoon walk, window-shopping on the rue Faubourg Saint-Antoine. I guided Marti into her favorite square in Paris, the 17th-century Place des Vosges. It was rentrée, the time of the year when Parisians return from their August vacations. Like Labor Day in America, it signals the unofficial end of the season. For Marti and me, the coming months will bring life changes, visitors from the States and travel, culminating in a milestone destination birthday celebration (mine) to kick off 2015.

Our troubadour friend Jerry Joseph will return to Paris at the end of September for a few gigs, solo acoustic and with his newly-reconstituted band The Jackmormons. Keep an eye on this page and on the various social media for updates on the performing schedule. This is gonna be a once-in-a-lifetime, not-to-be-missed run of shows.

During Jerry’s visit, Marti and I – at the suggestion of our wack NYC singer-songwriter bud Courtney Lee Adams Jr. – will be celebrating our 33 1/3 wedding anniversary. A brilliant concept from Ms. Adams. It gives me the opening to jump back into the vinyl universe – a world I pretty much kept on its axis as I spun my way through the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s and well into the ‘80s. By the time of our move to Paris in 1991, I had amassed a collection of more than 2,000 LPs. Most of these were relegated to the Mom’s Basement storage facility, then after she passed, to a used-record shop in Amherst, Mass. I did bring two cartons of approximately 110 albums each to our 85 rue Blomet apartment. To commemorate our 33 1/3, I’ll be busting out that microcosm of my collection for the first time in 23 years. I’ve just acquired a new turntable.

In November Marti will fly to Washington DC to spend some quality time with her gal pals in that city, which we called home from 1978 to 1991. Then she’ll continue on to Nashville to spend Thanksgiving with her family. I’ll remain in Paris, saving my energy for the big two-week birthday blowout right after the Christmas holidays.

My 70th birthday bash will take place in Greece: Parties with our Athens krew, a trip to favorite sites on the Peloponnese such as Epidauros and Nafplio, followed by a weeklong stay on the island of Spetses, where more natal day festivities will ensue.

Our dear pals Alyce and John have signed on for the entire birthday tour. It’ll be a treat to have a couple of designated responsible adults along for the ride. I’m really touched that they’re coming all the way from San Diego to help nudge me into deep geezerhood.

Our friends in the Spetses-based band Taxideftes have promised that they’ll be gigging somewhere in Athens during my birthday weekend, so that’s a built-in party right there. I may be able to convince them to come and play on Spetses the following weekend, when our moveable merrymaking spree reaches that island.

All these events lie ahead. Now let’s take a last look at summer. Specifically, our August adventures.


We bade farewell to July by hooking up with our visiting friends Ronak and Trevor at Restaurant Le Marrakech for delicious Moroccan dinner. Trevor is the son of our longtime Washington-area besties Liz and Rob. Ronak and Trev live in Toronto. We’re happy we got to see them on this leg of their summer tour of Europe.

After-dinner jam. Ronak and Trev check out our musician friends Perry Leopard, Mathieu Goulin, Automne Lajeat, et al at Bar 96.


Rosanne in Amsterdam! On Tuesday, August 5 Marti and I trained up to Sin City for a concert by Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal. We checked into our hotel across from Central Station, then we checked on our pal Steve, who was doing a lot better healthwise than the last time we’d seen him, in July.

We enjoyed a visit with our favorite hip poet/ anti-Establishment provocateur John Sinclair. He’s pictured here with Marti at his Poet Emeritus Table at the 420 Café. Always a high level hang with John.

John with his signature seeds. Nice packaging. He’s burning one down on the label and they come with a download card for his Viperism album. Not available on CD.

John Leventhal and Rosanne Cash at The Paradiso. We’d been looking forward to this for months. A superb acoustic performance and a highly engaged yet respectful crowd.

The duo performed a compelling mix of original songs from Rosanne’s most recent albums The River And The Thread, Black Cadillac and The List, as well as a generous serving of classic country covers. Marti and I danced to “Tennessee Flat-Top Box.”

After the show we went backstage to say hello to Rosanne and John. Rosanne and I had followed each other on the Twitter for several years. Marti and I came to know her after we hosted Rosanne and Rodney Crowell’s daughter Chelsea Crowell and her sidekicks Louisa Green and Colm O Herlihy at our place in November 2011. Over several days we brought them around to perform setbreak- and mini-sets at a number of bars where our Paris musician pals were playing. After a chill visit with Rosanne and John, we headed out to find dinner and a coffeeshop.

The next afternoon we took a long walk, did some shopping, found a gallery showing Nico Koster's 1969 photographs of John Lennon and Yoko Ono at the Amsterdam Hilton.

A couple of years after their Amsterdam Bed-In, John and Yoko would headline a bill that included Stevie Wonder, Bob Seger, Phil Ochs, Archie Shepp, Roswell Rudd, Allen Ginsberg, Ed Sanders and others in the John Sinclair Freedom Rally at the Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor. Our rad poet friend John had been sentenced to ten years(!) for marijuana possession. Lennon had already written and recorded the protest song “John Sinclair” for his album Some Time In New York City. Three days after the rally, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the state's marijuana statutes were unconstitutional and John was released from prison. He had served 16 months for two joints.

Before meeting up with Steve for a beefy late lunch at Toro Dorado -- one of two killer restaurant recs he’d given us; the other is the real-deal Italian Il Pacioccone -- we stopped for a coffee break at Super Skunk. Nice place. It boasts the loveliest coffeeshop decor we've seen since the old Rokerij on the Leidseplein closed.

In the early evening Marti and I caught our return train to Paris. All in all, another cool Amsterdam getaway.


The night after our return from Amsterdam, Marti and I joined our Colorado friends Brooke and Marty for Chris Kenna & Melissa Cox’s dinner concert at Ben's Café.

Melissa and Chris.

After-gig stroll to Place de le Bastille. Marty called this street installation a Metagram.


One afternoon I took Marti to lunch at the Auberge de Venise, a great Italian restaurant in Montparnasse. We both had carpaccio of tuna, octopus and swordfish as starters. Marti ordered linguine al gamberoni (grilled jumbo shrimp) as a main course; I had fegato alla Veneziana (veal liver in an onion-wine sauce accompanied by polenta and fetuccini). Delizioso! This was formerly the Dingo Bar, a favorite haunt in the 1920s and '30s of Ernest Hemingway, Man Ray, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Amedeo Modigliani, Aleister Crowley, Isadora Duncan and many others who appreciated its open-all-night policy. The original bar is still intact, with a photo of Papa Hemingway mounted above.

Hemingway and Fitzgerald (at left) met here for the first time. Besides the remarkable cast of characters who hung out, the star attraction of the Dingo was Jimmie Charters, a former boxer from Liverpool who served as bartender. Charters recalled the era in This Must Be The Place, a fun, gossipy memoir -- in 1934, while everything was fresh in his mind -- which I love and have read three times. In his introduction to Charters' book Hemingway wrote, "I am very fond of Jimmy[sic]. He was always charming and he was and is an excellent barman." That can also be said of the Italian waiters who took care of us on this lunch. We loved the place!


On August 15 Marti and I hit the Friday Date Night Trifecta. We started with a late-afternoon screening of Begin Again, starring Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightly. It’s an entertaining small film about the NYC music biz.

Next we tried the sister Auberge de Venise restaurant, at Bastille, for dinner. Excellent!

We ended the evening at a gig by Kenna, Cox & McFadden nearby at the Angora. Curtis, Terry and other Paris krew members were in da house. A great night.


The following Sunday Marti and I attended services at our respective churches (they are a couple of blocks from each other), then repaired to the swank V Bar in the Four Seasons Hotel George V for after-church pre-brunch cocktails.

Brunch was at . . . wait for it . . . Burger King! How fucking politically incorrect and on so many levels was that? Well, if you’re a vegan or locavore or anti-globalizationist or some other kind of pervert, you won’t appreciate this. But Marti and I have been waiting patiently for the Return Of The King, ever since McDonald’s drove the competitor out of France in 1997. What can we say? There’s a time and place for everything. Apparently for us, it’s after receiving Sunday Communion and enjoying expensive cocktail apéritifs in a chi-chi hotel bar. Gots to have that Whopper®!


Late August often means searching for favorite restaurants that have remained open and discovering new ones right here in the ‘hood. That was the case of this particular Saturday lunch. We found a pleasant unassuming café in the rue du Théâtre called Au Rendez Vous des Amis. Good basic bistro fare. Just what we were looking for.

After lunch we walked around the corner to the Comptoir de Perou, where I scored a number of ingredients for my larder. So far I’ve prepared Peruvian-style chicken and pork dishes using one of the sauce mixes I bought. Un gran éxito!


As summer winds down, businesses reopen and street activity ramps up. Out grocery shopping one morning, I caught this firewood delivery to fuel the ovens of Pichard, our award-winning corner bakery.

On another morning I clicked this pic of the Eiffel Tower and the building we've always referred to as the Flash Cube Hotel. (One has to be of a certain age to know what a flash cube was.) I figured Marti would like to add it to the extraordinary collection of photos at her Facebook group Friends of the Eiffel Tower. If you love the Tower, go to her group and join.

Lunch at Chipotle in the mall. How American can I get? On this late-summer Wednesday the Hells Angels were dining there as well. I'm ready to declare the American Cultural Invasion of France accomplie!

Our jazz pianist friend Christian Brenner returned from Brazil a week ago. Such a pleasure to hear him again at Le Cavalier Bleu, opposite the Centre Pompidou. He was accompanied by Jean-Pierre Rebillard (bass) and Guillaume Naturel (sax and flute). Marti and I were celebrating that day's installation of our new kitchen sink. (Because Marti and I will celebrate anything.)


Remember those life changes I mentioned above? Marti is undergoing one now. After thirty-two years of service, last Friday was her last official day working for British Telecom. She’s retiring and will now run MDMC, her own telecoms marketing consultancy.

Marti is grateful for the wonderful friends and outstanding career she’s had with BT. In 1991, they provided the opportunity for us to come to Paris. Well done, sweetheart. On to the next adventure!

So of course last Friday night we celebrated Marti’s retirement. Her freedom fest kicked off with scrumptious Argentine steaks at Santa Carne, a fab restaurant near the Bastille. Holy Meat on the Grill, Batman!

The party rocked on to the Angora after dinner. We saw a host of our Paris pals at Chris Kenna, Melissa Cox and Gerard McFadden's jam.

The Unusual Suspects. Curtis, Gerard and Gulliver. Gulliver sat in on sax.

Tractor Tom with Tex and Melissa. How's this for a mini-setlist: "I'm A Believer," "Love Hurts" and "Lost Highway." From The Monkees to Roy Orbison to Hank Williams. Worked for me!

Megan. The surprise of the jam. Great original songs and cool moves.

Back home to 85 rue Blomet after a long emotional and fun day and evening. Next up: September!

Marti thinks this retirement thing is gonna work out just fine.
#ThePartyNeverEnds

Friday, July 25, 2014

STAYCATION FRIDAY.

This summer Marti and I have been going on frequent brief getaways to destinations like Normandy and Amsterdam rather than taking a single long vacation. That’s because we’ve booked a couple of extended trips for this coming November and January. In November Marti will visit Washington DC and Nashville. Then, after the holidays in Paris, we’re going to Greece for two weeks to celebrate my 70th birthday. Yesterday, however, we decided to don our tourist caps and enjoy our local vacation mecca: Paris!

We rode the #70 bus from our ‘hood to the end of the line, the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall). There the Big Bubble Guy was holding forth.


I had been trying to get Marti to Chez Julien for a long time. We finally made it to lunch.


Daurade with haricots verts. Simple, elegant summer meal.


After a leisurely lunch my bride and I walked off the cals by strolling through the Marais. These are allegedly the oldest houses in Paris.


No trip to this quartier is complete without a hang in the Place des Vosges, Marti’s favorite. The 17th century square was once home to Victor Hugo, who I’m told wrote a boffo Broadway musical.


I was on a mission. There were a few items I was looking for before the annual July Sales ended. We shopped briefly in the men’s stores in Rue de Turenne, but I was unsuccessful there. And I certainly wasn’t looking for a kitschy Eiffel Tower teapot. I did score a dress belt, socks and a bottle of YSL La Nuit de l’Homme cologne at BHV Homme.


I found a pair of summertime earrings for Ms. Marti in a nearby boutique.


Iced coffee break with Marti on the terrasse of a café in the heart of the Marais. It was taking a while to be served and I almost said out loud, "Who do you have to blow to get served up in here?" But I didn't want to see 17 hands go up.


One more impulse purchase. A cookbook entitled And If I Were Your Little Woman: Cooking In High Heels - 69 Easy Recipes To Give A Festive Taste To Your Daily Life. Talk about High Fucking Concept. Leafing through the display copy, however, I discovered recipe after recipe I’d like to try. What’s more, it was only ten euros.


Time for a visit to the temporary beach.


Paris Plages. Now in its 13th season.


Foosball under the bridge. I saw a photo of our mayor playing a game on opening day of the month-long artificial beach season.


The company jumps when he plays reveille/ He's the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B.


Cultcha at the beach. The Louvre gets in on the act.


All the reproductions were bathing scenes.


The creator of the Friends Of The Eiffel Tower Facebook group in her element. Apparently the iconic bistro chair, like the Tower, is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. Who knew? In any event, the company that manufactures them constructed this 43-foot-tall installation using 324 bistro chairs -- a figure that references the tower’s height of 324 meters.

How can you not love this town?
#ThePartyNeverEnds