Monday, October 6, 2008

September brought deep lows and thankfully, a few highs to our life here in Paris. Marti and I lost our great friend John Simms, who passed after a brief illness.

On a happier note, we enjoyed a fun reunion with good friends from the States, caught another groovy
Jimmy Buffett club date and kicked off the celebrations of Marti's milestone birthday.

On Monday, Sept 29 Marti and I went to the Crématorium du Père Lachaise to attend John's memorial service. As we were exiting Métro Gambetta, we encountered two lovely African American women working to figure out the street map on the subway wall, apparently looking for a route to the cemetery. They were Linda Lee Hopkins and Lisa Doby, whom we had heard perform with John at New Morning last November. I approached them and said, "Come with us."
Linda exclaimed, "God is good!"
"Yeah He is," I replied.

It seemed like half the professional musicians in Paris were milling about in front of the Crématorium, waiting to go inside. Marti and I spoke quietly with our friends Chris Kenna, Perry Leopard, Kevin Kretsch, Chris Dailey McCraven, Davyd Johnson, Rémi Jeannin, Henri le Boursicaud, Romello and others. Seemed like everyone who ever encountered John recognized immediately that he was the real deal, basked in the glow of his engaging smile and loved him dearly.

Inside, John's friends and family went to the podium to share their thoughts, prayers and favorite memories. A cat I didn't recognize shuffled up to the mic; he was chewing gum and wearing sneakers. Said his name was Moe. A jazz poet, longtime friend of John's. Had known him during some dark times for the both of them. Moe paused a second, then kicked down a few stanzas in touching tribute to our fallen prince:

. . . Dream and dare
Believe the World
Colors and tongues
Shape our lives
Room for all round table

High times, low times
Sometimes all we have
Courage and trust
The bond made of us
We do the best we can

For troubled waters
They rush and they swirl
Rushing and swirling
Caught up we all
Surging and spawning

Upstream, upstream sure
We are spilling ourselves
Upstream,down wind
Together now better
One among many

I march, I run
I sit and calm
Oh, let go, let's dance
I am rhythmic tic 'o time
One among many

Relinquished of the vigor
The vitals of my spring
Replenished in greater meaning
This is love
One among many

I am the grass root!

-- Moe Seager

(reprinted from Fishermen and Pool Sharks, Busking editions, Paris, 1993.)

Then Linda, Lisa and other voices of the Paris-based American Gospel Singers lifted our hearts and our spirits with the chorus from John's signature song:

You lift me up
Higher and higher
Nothing's gonna put out this fire . . .

We wiped away our tears, clapped along, sang along and sent our friend -- this sweet soul who had touched so many of our lives -- back home.

After John's service we all repaired to the nearest café to toast our friend and begin the journey out of darkness back toward the light. Marti, Davyd Johnson, Chris Dailey and I huddled at one end of the bar and regaled each other with road stories. The next night Chris Kenna turned his regular Tuesday night Blues Jam at the Bizart into A Night to Remember John Simms.

Kevin played with a friend.

The Rat Pack at the Polo Lounge circa 1962? Nah. Just Marti, me and Rick. Digging the tunes and picking fights with the noisy drunks at the next table. (Sorta like when Old Blue Eyes used to smash the paparazzi's heads with their own cameras.)

Brandon Pusey played and sang.

Moe Seager did a blues version of his jazz-poetry trip.

John's nephew Rodney Carrington Hunt, in town from Baltimore for the funeral, blew an alto-on-life-support that Chris had apparently resurrected from a dustbin. (Rodney's mother had told him to bring his sax to Paris, but does anyone listen to their mother anymore?)

Much better. Pink-slip that sax and sing some good old soul for John.

When the going gets tough . . . dance!

Paris brings out the hopeless romantic in all of us. A few weeks back our friends Hayley and Stephen blew into town from Athens, Georgia.

I met them for lunch near their hotel here in the 15th arrondissement, then we boarded the #80 bus and headed out for adventure. We got as far as
the Champs-Elysées.

If you're looking for adventure, dial
M-Y-R-A. This was taken at our clubhouse: the Rival Deluxe on the Avenue Matignon. My little actress-model friend is my go-to gal pal when I'm in the mood for Champagne and Crazy. Myra even has the Marti Seal of Approval.

Double Denim Threat.
The Nicotine Sisters.
Is Paris ready for these two?

At a dive bar in the 20th the following evening. Hayley, Stephen, Marti & I were joined by Smilin' Frank. Not pictured: Alex, our pal from that other Athens -- the one with the Parthenon -- who was busy at another table schmoozing with seven or eight women. I think he was wearing Spanish Fly aftershave.

Chris Kenna.

Sal Bernardi. The Garden State's envoy to the City of Light.

Melissa Cox from Oz. Fiddler. Singer. Throw another kangaroo steak on the barbie.

On September 18 we celebrated Marti's birthday at Gallopin, an historic old brasserie across from the Bourse.

Livin' large. Somebody's gotta do it.

We should all look this good
when we hit 39.

More Marti Milestone B-Day celebrations await -- the girl likes to draaaaaaag these things out -- in Maximum City. In December. With our New York krew and a number of other unusual suspects from Washington DC, New England, Las Vegas, LA and points beyond.

Marti's Paris Birthdaypalooza was still goin' on two nights later -- I told ya, she lives for this. Jimmy Buffett, a self-proclaimed Parisphile, came to town to serenade her.

Jimmy's so hip. He rocked a beret and a messenger bag, set off on a Velib' public rental bike for a wheels-eye view of our fair city.

“One Particular Harbour”/“A Pirate Looks At Forty”/“Cheeseburger In Paradise”/ “Southern Cross”/“Margaritaville”/“Fins.”
Jimmy delighted the crowd in the intimate New Morning jazz club (holds around 500) with an array of favorites. Sang a solo acoustic version of “He Went To Paris” for the final encore.

She went to Paris.

And I thought the Deadheads were out where the buses don't run.

This past Saturday I realized a dream. After 17 years of loyal service, our old Flintstones TV finally went to Cathode Ray Heaven. A few years ago, lusting after a flat screen, I had "accidentally" knocked the fucker to the floor. Miraculously, the behemoth rose like a Phoenix and flickered on. And on. I ignored it, started watching downloaded shows on my terminal almost exclusively.

It morphed into The TV That Refused To Die. New millenium? No problem. Still here! But to everything there is a season and Fall 2008 was checkout time for this artifact of 1991. The new flat screen LCD arrived Saturday morning with the cartoons. I have reclaimed my default position on the sofa.
Life is good.

Now I'm watching the Bosox embark on yet another Hunt For Red October.

And looking forward to watching skinny jug-eared Barack kick the shit out of the Grumpy Old Man.

Cage fighting. I can't get enough of it.