Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Vincent Van Gogh, On the Outskirts of Paris (1887).

Marti and I traveled to Amsterdam on Friday, April 10 to catch a couple of Bob Dylan concerts. Zimmie had played Paris earlier in the week, but his gigs were at the Palais des Congrès, a soulless venue I try to avoid. Besides, I’m always looking for an excuse to visit the ‘Dam.

Marti, who started a Facebook group entitled Friends Of The Eiffel Tower, flies the colors – right down to her luggage tag.

After checking into our hotel off Dam Square, we cabbed down to the Leidseplein to hook up with our longtime pal Michel. We hung out at the Rokerij for a while, then headed for the Bob show at Heineken Music Hall. Marti and Michel went into the arena early, while I stayed at the bar across the plaza to quaff an Absolut on the rocks and rendezvous with our Amsterdam bud Jimmy Mack.

Dylan and his band were in fine form both nights, although I thought that there were a few too many plodding tunes on Night One.

We four situated ourselves back by the soundboard, where Marti and I could dance to uptempo songs like “Leopardskin Pillbox Hat” and “Maggie’s Farm.”

Jimmy Mack at the Bulldog on the Leidseplein, after the first show.

Michel and Marti. Note Michel’s smile, which soon disappeared after we took him next door to the Pancake Corner. The joint was frenetic, replete with boisterous partying dudes and blaring ‘80s music. Not Michel’s idea of a place to enjoy late dinner. My bride and I, whose musical tastes are a bit less parochial than Michel’s, were actually digging the cheesy hits and goofy ambiance. What the fuck, it’s Amsterdam at 2 a.m.

The weekend flew by. Early Sunday afternoon – Easter – Marti and I rolled up to the beautifully-restored Grand Café Restaurant ‘1e Klas,’ located on Platform 2B at Central Station.

While we waited for our train, we relaxed in easy chairs with cocktails and took turns playing with the camera on my new Crackberry.

Easter 2009. The Bunny and his associate distribute treats on the Thalys platform.

April 12 also marked the 18th anniversary of our move to Paris. Upon returning to our adopted hometown Marti and I celebrated with a great meal at Le Suffren, conveniently located near a certain favorite Tower.

Last week our friends Pat Martino and Kirk Yano came to town. Pat, the reknowned jazz guitarist, was returning to his roots, leading an organ trio in a concert at New Morning. Before the show, we visited Pat in the dressing room, where Kirk – his sound engineer and tour director – was making final adjustments to the customized Pat Martino Signature Gibson.

MC Marti introduces Tony Monaco on the Hammond B3, Louis Tsamous on drums and le légendaire Pat Martino à la guitare.

Tony and Pat.

Marti supervises Kirk.

View from the sound cage.

It was a marvelous night. Pat’s playing was impeccable, comme d’ hab’. Afterward Kirk, Tony, Marti and I went to the Julien for a late hang.

Easter Sunday in Steamboat Springs: our dear friends the Kisers (newly transplanted in Colorado) reported in.

Greek Orthodox Easter in Paris, a week later. Marti and I arrived early at Saint Stephen Cathedral for the beautiful Saturday night Resurrection Service.

The church is darkened in anticipation of the Resurrection -- the central event of the liturgical year -- commemorated here by the bishop bearing a single candle. Gradually the light is passed to the congregants, triumphally illuminating the cathedral. It’s a seminal visual from my early childhood.

Following the service Marti and I cabbed over to the Apollon restaurant in the 7th arrondissement, which offers a traditional fast-breaking late night Easter meal. This commences with an egg-cracking ritual, symbolizing Christ breaking from the Tomb. The person whose egg remains unbroken the longest (in our case, Marti) looks forward to good luck for the rest of the year.

Next up: Magheritsa, a soup based on lamb broth from gizzards and other non-scheduled parts of the animal. It’s an acquired taste, to be sure. Surprisingly, Marti downed most of hers this year!

Succulent, falling-off-the-bone roast lamb shoulder is the main event. Accompanied by roast veggies and salad.

Tsoureki Paschalino (Greek Easter bread). Awesome when toasted the next morning.

Our favourite Greek red.

We had been blessed with April showers in both Amsterdam and Paris. On Greek Easter it drizzled off and on throughout the evening.

It helps to live in a town that looks gorgeous in the rain.

Gustave Caillebotte, Paris, A Rainy Day (1876-1877).