Tuesday, February 28, 2012

This past weekend signaled that I had finally snapped out of the post-holidaze, post-birthday, post-flu doldrums. Even during our recent Valentine’s getaway to Barcelona I was suffering a bit of energy drag. Now I felt back at 100% again. We kicked off with a jazzy Friday night at the Café Laurent, where our friends pianist Christian Brenner, François Fuchs (bass), Pier Paolo Pozzi (drums) and guitarist Olivier Cahours were holding forth.

Marti and I commandeered a couple of corner tables and were joined by our longtime bud Philos, as well as a host of other unusual suspects.

Philos was in town from Madrid, so his local boyhood pals Chris and Thibault (shown here chatting with our friend Virginia) came down to the club to join us.

Just seat me with the beautiful women, s'il vous plait! That’s Christian’s girlfriend Glaucia next to me, and her friend Mehtap at left.

Virginia and Doug. New friends of old friends of ours from Washington DC. They relocated to Paris a few months ago.

I love how Olivier plays. We all had a rollicking good time, heard three full sets of tasty live jazz.

Afterward Marti and I hailed a cab to take us to 1 a.m. dinner at the Maldoror, the legendary mom-and-pop anarchists’ café in the 11th arrondissement. It had been quite a while since we’d visited with Joël – at his customary post behind the bar – and his wife Françoise, who whips up scrumptious bistro comfort food for starving nighthawks like us. Marti had pork spareribs and I downed a funky andouillette sausage with mustard sauce. Just the ticket.

By Saturday Marti and I were on Rockstar Time. We ventured out at the crack of four in the afternoon, shopping at Lafayette Maison for a wedding gift to send Marti’s Indian colleague Pooja and her new husband Vikas. We decided on a lovely Gien china platter. Destination: Delhi.

Later that afternoon we connected for a drink with Philos at Le Drugstore Publicis, the swanky Champs-Elysées restaurant-shops complex in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe. It had been several years since our last rendezvous; we caught each other up on news and misadventures.

Sunday morning. Waiting for the #80 bus. All revved up and already late for church.

The route takes us north, crossing the Seine to the Right Bank. Not a bad view from our stop at Place de l’Alma.

Saint Stephen Greek Orthodox Cathedral, in rue Georges Bizet. Marti and I have been attending services here ever since the first weekend we arrived in Paris, more than 20 years ago.

My bride follows the Greek-language Divine Liturgy via a missal we obtained in the 1990s at the Hellenic College-Holy Cross Seminary bookstore in Brookline, Mass. The service is printed side-by-side in the Greek alphabet, phonetic Greek and English. Marti told me she particularly likes the prayer for the departed: "Give them rest where the light of Your presence falls.”

Following the service we strolled over to the rue Marbeuf for a traditional three-course lunch at Maître Pierre Italian restaurant. I did content analysis on the minestrone, which was simple and deelish. I’ll be concocting a version of it later this week.

Cut to six hours later. It must be time to eat again! Hey, this is Paris: Foodie Center Of The Universe. Marti and I met Glaucia and Christian for dinner at a mutual favorite, Chez Fernand. It’s literally across the street from the Café Laurent. We’ve been taste-testing this bistro for years. Always a good call.

We were flattered to be sharing Glaucia’s last evening on this trip before she returned home to Brazil. The lovebirds had just been there together earlier in the month; Christian will be visiting her again in March. He told us about gigging and jamming with Brazilian jazz musicians on the February sojourn. He’s looking forward to sitting in again.

Glaucia is showing Marti pics of a) the kids, b) her home, or c) her Kawasaki 900. Christian told us Glaucia is a sane, cautious driver in her car; crazy insane on the bike. Hang on, Saint Christopher.

Dessert detritus. Former site of a Calvados-flambéed apple tart topped with walnut ice cream. A Normandy pyromaniac’s fantasy.

The four of us walked off the os à moelle de bœuf, magret de canard, côtes de porc Iberienne and jarret d’agneau by ambling over to the Café de Flore for nightcaps. A fitting finish to a relaxing, pleasurable evening with beautiful friends.

Marti and I really didn’t want the weekend to end. So, after a day where we were resurrected from Computer Hell by our on-call techie Morgan, we made a last-minute decision to hit Adam Cohen’s gig at the Divan du Monde that evening.

Adam and his cohorts -- the beautiful Mai Bloomfield on cello, guitar and vocals, and mad-talented Michael Chaves on bass, keys, percussion, whatever, and vocals – kicked down a marvelous set of Adam’s tunes, as well as cover surprises such as “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “What's Goin' On.” The old man got a couple of nods too: “So Long Marianne” and “Tower Of Song,” among them.

The crowd in the intimate venue was more than willing to provide spot-on backing vocals to the Prince-Sinéad classic. Lots of women in the room, so it sounded great. A highlight for me was the medley of Adam’s “Hey Jane” and Leonard’s “Bird On The Wire.”

Marti and I spoke briefly with Adam after the gig, told him about our trip last year to Hydra, where Adam spent several summer vacations at his father’s Greek island home. We also said how much we enjoyed his gig last fall at Le Reservoir. Here’s a loose acoustic version of his song “What Other Guy,” shot during that same November 2011 visit to Paris:

After the concert Marti and I decided to check out Le Кrǝmliи, a new bar we’d read about -- just a couple of blocks around the corner from Le Divan.

Got vodka? Да! They got vodka.

Serendipity. At the bar we ran into our actor-singer pal Barry Johnson, Oakland’s finest export. Barry was happy to report that he’s just landed the role of Deloris’ evil gangster boyfriend Curtis in the forthcoming major Paris production of the musical Sister Act. Way to go, Barry.

Uncle Joe. A sweetie at heart.

Got 80€? Try the caviar and vodka special.

Mister Gorbachev, tear down this shelf!

Barry and his sidekick Shelly camp it up with Cristina the bar goddess. She turned us on to Potocki Wódka, an artisanal luxury Polish vodka distilled from rye. A delightfully smooth, slightly sweet spirit. It’s authentic, based on a family tradition dating back to 1816.

Give us some cleavage! Five shooters on, Marti obliges.

Theater people. Barry rehearses his thug role of the murderous Curtis with my bride, the former professional costume designer.

Totally against doctor’s orders, I downed a lotta vodka in a short period of time last night. For someone who’s been getting by with degustation-sized rations of wine and hard liquor these past many months, I was clearly fighting above my weight class. Hence the late-night drunk dining expedition to Chez McDo, right down the street. My cooked-to-order Bacon Burger rocked. Miraculous alcohol absorption properties. Best of all: Marti nabbed us a table by the window, where we could observe the lovely police bust going down outside on the Boulevard de Clichy. Complete with pat-down and handcuffs. Law & Order: Special Pigalle Unit.

All that was missing was the iconic coffee cup.

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