vendredi 23 avril 2010

Survival mode

I just wanted to reassure those who have been wondering that I have not fallen into a black hole. April is the cruellest month for me in terms of work. This year, as last year, it is proving a challenge to pursue school and get through a mountain of day-job work at the same time, not to mention.... all the other stuff. Had the Charlotte Gainsbourg show at the Crocodile been worth anywhere near the price of the ticket, I would have let y'all know. But alas, I should have listened to my instincts. Like her mother, Charlotte has no voice to speak of. And unfortunately, she does not have her late father's song-writing or musical ability. But the pre-dinner at Le Pichet was excellent, and so was the show at the Showbox the same night, where we had back-stage passes. Nice to have someplace to go when the place where you are disappoints!
Now it is back to the subsistence life: métro, boulot, dodo. Mostly boulot. Merde!

I have a photo I took in Iceland on my desk right now, just beneath my computer screen. It predates this week's eruption (both the taking of the photo and my decision to put it on my desk). Maybe I'll scan it and post it some day. I am sorry about all the stranded travelers but excited about the eruption. I love volcanic eruptions! When I lived on Rue des Ecoles in Paris I belonged to a gym just around the corner. There was a famous volcanologue who used to box there every morning at 7 am. A volcanologue! When I visited Iceland, I was struck by many things, not the least of which is this: the ground trembles ever so slightly, all the time. You realize pretty quickly that the place could blow at any moment. You begin to understand Bjork's music.

vendredi 9 avril 2010

Cigarettes And Whiskey And Wild, Wild Women: Nicole Hardy does Anne Sexton

Instead of having talent, I have cultivated friendships with talented people. This is not as easy as you might think.

But I figure I might as well spend a minute today to mention one of my many talented friends and let you all know that she's going to be performing next Thursday, April 15, at 7:30 p.m. at Richard Hugo House in Seattle.

She (Nicole Hardy by name) has been selected to participate in a tribute to famous dead poets that is part of the larger celebration of National Poetry Month. You are excused if you didn't know that April, in addition to being the cruellest month, is National Poetry Month. But now that you know, don't you forget it. To take part, all you have to do is write or read a poem a day this month, and buy a ticket (they're cheap) to next Thursday's event, which I promise will be fabulous. Note: it is easier to read a poem a day than to write one. You can also fulfill the requirement by spending ten minutes a day doing rhyme-y conversation with a loved one. It's super easy and kind of fun. One person starts, making a statement that ends with a word that will serve as the one all subsquent statements have to rhyme with. For example, if I say "I say like sitting in the sun," you say something like "I can think of better ways to have fun", to which I might reply "It better not involve a gun".... Etc.

So back to NICOLE HARDY, poetess extraordinaire.

Next Thursday, April 15, at Hugo House, she (along with local poets Peter Pereira, Matt Gano and Jourdan Keith) will be doing readings of a famous dead poet, Anne Sexton. Her fellow poets will be doing Richard Brautigan, Audre Lorde and Frank O’Hara. If you have never heard of them, don't worry. Poetry begins in wonder. Actually, philosophy begins in wonder, according to Descartes, but never mind. Poetry is like philosophy, but couched in even more cryptic statements. And I mean that in a good way.

Here's how the upcoming event works:

For Dead Poets Society, each living poet will portray a dead poet from the canon and read his or her work; it will be part costume party, part poetry reading. As an extra wrinkle—since Hugo House’s mission is to support new work, all of the poets will write one original poem in the vein of, inspired by or in response to a work or the life of their selected writer.

Tickets for Dead Poets Society are $10 ($6 for Hugo House members, seniors and students) and are on sale now through

This is truly an opportunity to enjoy an evening of culture and fun for the price of an entrée at Circa in West Seattle, where Nicole works and also gathers some of the material for her fabulous poems.

Soyez nombreux!

lundi 5 avril 2010

Rue des Anciennes Arènes, Place du Cirque, Béziers

In 1999, I co-invested in a renovation project in the French city of Béziers. Béziers is located in Southeast France, in the département called L’Hérault (34), in the region known as Languedoc Roussillon.

Béziers is not too far from the larger and better known city of Montpellier. In fact, Béziers is something of a secret treasure. It is located just 10 kilometers from the Mediterranean and 50 kilometers from the mountains. The back country is simply spectacular and untamed, and features the station thermale Avène and roquefort cheese. More about Avène below.

The city of Béziers is known for bulls and wine. But there is more: the inner city neighborhood where I bought and renovated an apartment (as part of a larger and ongoing project) is where the Roman arenas (arènes) were located, built in 80 AD and able to seat nearly 15,000 spectators.

The vestiges of these arenas and surrounding neighborhood have now been almost completely rehabilitated and are open to the public for guided tours. So if you’ve never seen a vomitorium, consider visiting Béziers.

Béziers boasts 65 centuries of history, from the Roman era to the Crusades, not to mention the opulent 19th century, traces of which remain in the wide tree-lined avenues, the new Arena, fountains, public gardens, and imposing Haussmanian architecture. Better still, the weather is California-like. Best of all, Béziers is off the beaten tourist track. Even French tourists seem to stop at Montpellier or head straight to the Côte d'Azur without stopping.

Some people may be shocked to learn that bull fights are still staged in France, but they are, in Roman amphitheaters located in Fréjus, Arles, Nîmes, Béziers and other towns in the south. In Béziers, the annual 4-day feria, based on the Spanish corrida, takes place in August. Béziers even has its own accredited bullfighting school.

I’ve been thinking about Béziers lately because my investment has matured. It has been a rental unit since work was completed, with rent controlled at a moderate rate and the property managed by a special company set up for this purpose. A hassle-free investment, except for all the hassles. More about that another time. I've also been thinking it would be fun to look in on my investment this summer. We could fly into Paris, rent a car, and head south. Maybe go to Grenoble after that, where my friend Monique has just bought a resturant. Maybe traverse France and pay a visit to my sailboat in La Rochelle. Just thinking aloud here...

Not too far from Béziers, up in the hills, sits the Avène spa. Visits are covered by the French social security system, as the water is noted for its healing properties for sufferers of skin ailments such as eczema and psoriasis. Incidentally, Avène makes a wonderful, gentle line of skincare products, which unfortunately are impossible to get in the US (but sold in Canada!).

Here are some photos taken as the project was near completion. And yes, the sky really is that blue in Béziers.

1. These tiles, which date from the 18th century, were found when the project got underway. We decided to use them in the entryway to the apartment.

2. This is the view from the kitchen terrace, which overlooks a tiny interior courtyard.

3. Vestiges of the Arènes.

4. Béziers

5. Place du Cirque. My apartment is in the white building with the green shutters. The living room overlooks the square, Place du Cirque.

dimanche 4 avril 2010

Spring into it

Roxy made some lovely cupcakes with orange/cream cheese frosting for Easter Sunday brunch. Notice how she color-coordinated the cupcake paper holders and her icing decorations.

Carolyn had some left over paint that she used to decorate her hollow eggs. Don't they look perfect with the chamelias?

samedi 3 avril 2010

Noël en Espagne, Paco Rabanne

As the Easter hoohah heats up, many people the world over are wondering when the Catholic Church is going to assume accountability for the Sins of its Fathers. For decades, the Catholic Church has merely transferred priests who sexually abuse children, rather than doing the right thing. How many thousands and thousands and thousands of children have suffered in shame because the Catholic Church did not do the right thing?

Can you imagine the outcry if public school administrators just quietly transferred sex offenders out of sight rather than reporting them?
Why should a sex offender who dresses in priestly garb be spared having to answer to society for crimes against children?

And lest you think I am down on priests, let me take a moment to recommend an excellent book written by a friend of mine. Andrea Vogt's Common Courage recounts the life and death of Bill Wassmuth, a noted human rights activist and former priest who lived in the Pacific Northwest. Andrea is a superb writer and this is a moving defense of tolerance and social justice.

I would like to see the Catholic Church become a beacon of tolerance and take a firm stand against hypocrisy, especially when it comes from within its own ranks. More tolerance for activists who do good, like Bill Wassmuth, and less co-dependency and enablement for its own members who sexually abuse helpless children while advising women who are married to abusers to suck it up and pray. Perhaps a more publicly accepting attitude towards homosexuals while we're at it.

Isn't it time for the Catholic Church to change, just a little bit?