Thursday, December 18, 2008


Paris is ablaze in lights as the holidays approach at an ever-accelerating pace. By the time you read this Marti & I will have loaded four suitcases with Christmas gifts, clothes, accessories & electronics, grabbed the laptop, suitbag & carry-on tote, cabbed to Orly & flown to New York, the first destination on our 2008 Eurotrash Holidaze Tour. Before departing, though, we took some time to get out to see the Noël decorations here in our adopted hometown.

We got the first serious whiff of Christmas on Saturday, December 6 during a visit to our neighborhood Casino supermarché. Out front had miraculously appeared a forest of evergreen trees, all the kids cheered.

Our favorite bakery is decked out for the holidaze.

The Mairie du XVième, around the corner from our home.

Later that day we bravely plunged into the throngs of window peepers on the Boulevard Haussmann.

The most impressive animated windows were at Printemps. (Of course this was before they found dynamite in the sixth floor men's room of the store. It's a terrible thought, but that news certainly would have thinned out the crowd.)

Silver bells, silver bells,
It's Christmas time in the city.

Dueling balloons. Looks like it's Hello Kitty by a whisker.

A glittery Passage du Havre.

A tree with horsie motifs at PADD equestrian boutique in rue Cambronne.

The Ferrero-Rocher tree at La Defense, near Marti's office.

Lobby tree, 85 rue Blomet.

In a run-up to the Holidaze Tour, Marti & I enjoyed a number of fun outings in November. On the 15th we hosted our pals Ileana, Jorge & their son Antonio for dinner at Au Sud de Nul Part in the Latin Quarter. We love this restaurant. Excellent cuisine at remarkably low prices.

Jorge & Ileana.

I always press 11-year-old Antonio -- who is fluent in French & Spanish -- to speak with me in English. Our most successful discussion that evening centered around the comic book & film Ironman.

We went to see Joan As Police Woman at La Maroquinerie on November 19.

Our dear friend Daniel from Marseilles was in town for a series of Paris concerts. He's the most dedicated live music junkie we know. This had been an open date for him but he decided to join us.

Joan was terrific. She sang material from her Real Life album (2006) & from her latest project To Survive. Daniel copped the setlist. We visited with Joan briefly at the merch table after the gig & obtained a little thank you gift for our friend Teri, who first turned us on to Joan.

The three of us went to late dinner at a Chilean restaurant around the corner from La Maroq.

We drank cocktail apéritifs made from pisco, a South American liquor that goes down real easy & packs a punch. Nice.

Dinner was deelish. And it was great to hang with Daniel again.

A couple of nights later Marti & I were on the town again. Our friend Rick hooked us up with guestlist tickets at Le Reservoir.

It was a concert by Texas singer-songwriter Jolie Holland, who is very talented but on this night was acting a bit like a diva onstage. She never acknowledged or thanked the audience, whined about the sound & the heat in the room -- in November! -- rather strange coming from a Texas native.

The promoter's rep who had comped us was pissed off, to put it mildly. Speaking with her after the show, this young woman -- a friend of Rick's -- complained that anyone who had sold as few paid admissions as Ms. Holland had no right to go into prima donna mode. Apparently the promoters had had to paper the house to fill the seats & took a bath on the booking.

As we left the venue, Rick was off to pack for a morning departure to the States for Thanksgiving. Marti & I went to the Bistrot du Peintre for dinner. [Note: If my cardiologist is reading this, now's the time to click over to your favorite Asian porn site. What I ordered will give you a heart attack.]
I had the os à moelle, a bistro classic, roasted veal shin with bone marrow, served with coarse salt & thick toast.

[Hey, Dr. Abbou, you can come back.
I just Googled & discovered that bone marrow is protein-rich & high in monounsaturated fats.]
Ha! It's heartening -- pardon the pun -- to know that this greasy, succulent comfort food is actually decreasing my LDL cholesterol levels & reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease! (Mostly, though, I love it because it looks for all the world like you're eating the bone of a cocker spaniel.)

On Tuesday, November 25 Marti & I rendezvoused in Pigalle after work, then went to Le Paprika Hungarian restaurant in the avenue Trudaine. We had a great meal here, recalling our trip to Budapest last May.

The house band at Le Paprika.

After dinner we joined many of our friends at O'Sullivans, next to the Moulin Rouge, for a musical memorial tribute to our dear pal John Simms.

Keeping John's spirit alive.

DrKev, Woodbine Charlie & friend kick down a few tunes for John.

Thanksgiving 2008. Marti & I kicked off the holiday American-style with brekkie at Starbucks in Montparnasse.

We hit the Grande Epicerie for cheddar cheese, crackers & cranberry sauce, then headed back to the 'hood to claim the fresh free-range turkey we'd ordered from our local butcher.

I whipped up Sister Mary's Zesty Carrots, a horseradish-inflected perennial favorite from a cookbook my mom gave me for my birthday in 1989.

The summer before Marti & I had enjoyed a marvelous traditional turkey dinner in the refectory in the historic Brick Dwelling at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Mass. That's where we first tasted the carrots.

Ever the Bay State boy, this year I made cranberry and walnut relish to accompany our bird.

I found the cranberry recipe in the Thanksgiving week online editions of the New York Times, along with instructions for making a killer bread stuffing with black pepper and vinegar. Both were big winners.

Marti took Thanksgiving & Black Friday as vacation days. On the 28th we bounced around town together, checked out the installation of the Christmas tree at Notre Dame Cathedral.

At a nearby souvenir shop we found some Paris-themed Christmas tree ornaments that we may use this coming Saturday as table decorations at Marti's big belated birthday party in New York.

We met our friend Doug for lunch at Place St-Michel. He had printed one of his photos for us to give as a Christmas gift.

The following week I went to the Louvre to meet up with my gal pal Myra for a lunch date.

Myra -- though not a blonde -- is however a model & actress, so she can't be expected to realize that a rendezvous at the pyramid at the Louvre means the ginormous entrance structure, not the small inverted pyramid by the boutiques. Always a drama hooking up with this girl. We went to lunch with my longtime pal Michel, at a bistro across from the Banque de France, where he works.

Myra was repelled by the pungent wafting of choucroute that hit us as we entered the restaurant. It was a plat du jour that day. Then she complained to the owner's wife when the frites were served on the same plate as the salmon (instead of in a separate bowl). By this time I was imploring her to shut the fuck up -- never rag on the person who is bringing you food!

Somehow Myra & the patronne warmed to each other & were in fact laughing together by the time we left the restaurant. That's how Myra rolls.

Last Thursday night my bride & I returned to the Bistrot du Peintre for dinner. In addition to roasted bone marrow, I love the classic Art Nouveau decor here.

Flocking gone wild. We saw these cheeseball trees at a florist near the Bistrot. Come to think of it, that babyshit brown one would go well with our sofa.

Illuminated Eglise de St-Germain l'Auxerrois. After dinner Marti & I walked down to the Bastille & descended into the Métro. We were bound for the Rive Gauche.

The temperature was falling as we crossed the Pont des Arts.

Marti went into master chef Jacques Cagna's Rôtisserie d'En Face in the rue Christine to make a reservation for New Year's Eve dinner.

Then we strolled to the corner of rue Christine & rue Dauphine to the Café Laurent, where we were joined by Rick, back in Paris following his trips to Vermont & Berlin. We caught a couple of sets by our friend Christian Brenner, who will be playing here New Year's Eve in a duo with bassist François Fuchs. Marti & I told Christian we'd come share Reveillon with them after dinner on the 31st.

Late Saturday afternoon we met Antonio, Ily & Jorge for a cup o' Christmas cheer before we go our separate ways for the holidays.

Antonio posed with my fedora & his mom.

I slid the digicam over to him & he snapped this great pic of his dad. Jorge & I were resurrecting that signature shooter of the disco era: the B52 (Kahlua, Baileys & Grand Marnier). My next project: bringing back the Kamikaze (Triple Sec, Vodka, Lime Juice). Someone's gotta do the cocktail archeology around here.

Gangster Boi.

Now the U.S. Tour is underway: we're off to Maximum City. Big soirée on the Upper East Side on Saturday night in honor of my beautiful bride's milestone birthday.

Entertaining our 50 or so invited guests will be our favorite Glitter Boy, Alan Merrill. I love rock 'n roll. Who doesn't?

Blasting the B-Day blues: the incomparable Jon Paris & bass bomber Amy Madden.

We're hoping our friends Chantele DiBrava & Kirk Yano will kick down their Electro Glam Rockstar thang.

Jerry Joseph rules. A talent powerhouse. We're so excited that he's coming.

Our longtime bud Marc Black will get everybody slippin', slidin', high ridin' & glad tidin' on the dance floor.

After New York the Eurotrash Holidaze Tour rolls into the Nation's Capital, where Marti & I resided throughout the Go-Go '80s.

Then we'll spend several days in Hooterville, celebrating Christmas with Marti's family, before returning to DC & NYC for cameo visits enroute home to the City of Light.

Flashback to Christmas Past -- My grandmother Efthalia with her five children: Catherine & my mom (back row), Bette, Charles & Anne. My boyhood home in East Longmeadow, Mass, late 1950s. That traditional New England hooked rug now graces the living room of our Paris apartment.

I kinda like the continuity of that.