Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wake me up when September comes . . .

After Marti & I returned from our July trip to the States, we hunkered down to quiet August cocoon mode. Most of our French neighbors were off to the topless beaches or to their favorite Asian & African vacation spots. I'm a spoiled city brat. Gimme Athens, Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam, New York or L.A. anytime. My Parisian homies can keep the indigent natives, blistering summer heat & attack mosquitos; the latter are as big as the rickety Third World puddle jumpers les touristes Françaises take to reach their godforsaken destinations.

That said, our largely uneventful August brought notification that Marti & I had finally attained French citizenship ourselves. It's been a long, expensive & tedious process -- and we still have some sort of induction ceremony ahead of us -- but now we have dual nationality: our new French status does not affect our American citizenship at all. Marti & I are proud to be officially welcome in our adopted country. Although we've been legal immigrants here for more than 16 years, as fully-franchised citizens it will be that much harder for Bush or Sarkozy to fuck with our expatriate asses.

During the summer Bertrand Delanoë, the hip gay Green mayor of Paris, introduced an instantly popular new bicycle sharing program. For a modest fee, you can pick up/drop off a rental bike at hundreds of stations throughout the city. I gave it a try one morning. It's been decades since I rode a bike & I was a bit wobbly at first, but it's, you know, just like riding a bicycle. Don't think I'll be abandoning my path-of-least-resistance taxis, though.

One August Saturday afternoon Marti & I went to see the Joe Strummer documentary. Joe was a big favorite of ours. We caught his last show here in Paris a year before he succumbed to a previously undetected congenital heart defect. What a loss.

Marti & I had seen Joe Strummer fronting The Clash in 1979 at the Ontario Theater in Washington DC, during the band's first U.S. tour. Talk about revolution rock! This was the concert where Marti famously fell asleep during Bo Diddley's set & only awakened after The Clash exploded onstage, propelled by punk attitude & cranked volume, rattling the foundations of the building as well as pop music. It was all white light, white heat on that proscenium. Over the years Marti evolved into a true Joe Strummer fan. She wept at the news of his passing, just before Christmas 2002.

Hey, Joe Strummer & The Clash live on. This is a rocker's van in the Marais.

On Thursday, August 30 my bride & I went to Nouveau Casino to see L.A. alt-rockers Rilo Kiley, featuring the lovely & talented Jenny Lewis. I remember popping Rabbit Fur Coat, Jenny's solo CD, into the player in our rented Mustang last March as we drove out from the City of Angels to Joshua Tree. It was the perfect soundtrack.

Now the band members had regrouped, recorded & were touring behind the fourth Rilo Kiley album, Under the Blacklight. The new CD is a strong effort & it was a treat to check out Rilo Kiley's live thing at this intimate, very chill venue.

Afterward we cabbed over to the Bizart to see our pal Chris Kenna, who was performing with a blues guy named Panama Red. (Regular partner Sal Bernardi was out on the road with Rickie Lee Jones.) It was fun to schmooze with a few members of the Paris Krew at the gig, but the bar was too smoky for us to remain very long. We did catch up with Chris & Sal a few nights later at the Rallye Bar. Ileana & Jorge joined us that evening.

Marti & I, along with our buds Desiree & Mike, ventured out to the 'burbs to see Deadicace, Paris' Grateful Dead cover band. Barry "The Fish" Melton, of Country Joe & The Fish, was sitting in with them that night.

Although we're longtime friends with most of the guys in this band, I think their ship has sailed. Because Deadicace is not a gigging band (they only get together periodically to play special events), they never seem to take things beyond a certain level. The Grateful Dead were able to generate compelling jams because they played together 150 or more nights a year for three decades.

Not only does Deadicace not have the tightness required to enable free jamming, but they always seem to invite underrehearsed guests to further muck up the sound. On this night the vocals were buried in the mix, the volume was too loud & the music school auditorium setting sucked. I mentioned to one friend that it was like a musical gang bang onstage. Des & Mike escaped at intermission. Marti & I visited with our pals Daniel, Michel, Gabriela & Jacques at the break, but split at Metro witching hour as the band was noodling into "Dark Star." At least the one unreconstructed hippie spinning in front of the stage had a good time.

The next day we spent a relaxing Sunday in The Marais reuniting with a few of Marti's old Dialcom & BT colleagues. In retrospect, a number of these folks -- including my bride -- were electronic mail pioneers. In our DC apartment back in the mid-Eighties, we had a huge dumb "Flintstones" terminal with a tiny green screen (it was not an actual computer) with which you could send & receive e-mail by connecting to a remote server. Seems prehistoric now, but Dialcom e-mail was breakthrough technology at the time.

Following a long lunch at Chez Janou, we all strolled through the winding streets of the old Jewish quarter, window-shopped, noted a few historic sites (including Lenny Kravitz's favorite falafel joint) & crossed over to the Ile St.-Louis. It was a fun afternoon spent in good company.

Spinners in the Square Jean XXIII, behind Notre Dame.

Henceforth, you may call her MC Marti. Last Friday night our NYC-based friend Kirk Yano, producer-tour manager-sound engineer for reknowned jazz guitarist Pat Martino, asked Marti if she would introduce Pat & his quartet at his concert at New Morning. She took the stage & did a great job -- in flawless French, no less.

When it came time for the second set to begin, I was out in the street burning one down & schmoozing with our guitar-playing pal Ben Coulentianos. Kirk came out & asked where Marti was; Pat had requested that she do her intro thang again. I laughed & replied that Marti was probably in the ladies room, go poke your head in there. In any event, Kirk found her & MC Marti delivered the second set intro.

The inimitable Kirk Yano, spreading joy wherever he goes. Kirk has just soundly dissed the dude in the background because he claimed to be the "Jimi Hendrix of Sweden." Upon hearing this story, our mutual friend Alan "Glitter Boy" Merrill commented that "Yeah, he's the Hendrix of Sweden. And I'm the Groucho Marx of Japan."

Glitter Boy & Captain Kirk at Planet2Planet recording studio in New York.

Pat Martino & MC Marti. He invited her to come along to introduce the band the next night in Milan, but Marti opted to keep her day job.

Kirk, his French musician bud Julien, Marti & I went to late supper at Pied de Cochon after the gig. The hallowed Les Halles restaurant was packed with brawny rugby fans, in town for the World Cup. Many vodkas later, we competed with the rugbyheads for over an hour trying to hail a live cab in the rue de Rivoli.

A couple of nights ago I went alone to the Gwen Stefani show at Bercy. This completed my Diva Hat Trick; Marti accompanied me earlier this year to concerts by Shakira & Beyoncé.

While Shakira's appearance was highlighted by her amazing versatility & Beyoncé's gig featured the most lavish production, Gwen proved most successful in engaging the audience. At one point she traversed several rows of the stands while performing her ballad "Cool." That it was.

Last night we celebrated Marti's birthday in Montparnasse.

We kicked off the festivities with coupes de Champagne at Le Dôme.

Then we dug into a super meal at Wadja, a nearby Basque restaurant that our buds Noah & Kelly turned us on to a few years ago.

Happy Birthday, Babe!

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