Tuesday, December 15, 2009

TOURIST!

I just got back from a hectic New York visit where, for the first time, I felt like a tourist. I don't know....maybe it was the guy who pushed me and yelled "GODDAMN TOURISTS!" but I have never felt like such a stranger in my former home. As I got off the bus and walked down 8th Ave. pushed from all sides, I couldn't help but think "maaaaan, you people need to CHILLLLAAAAAAX". For reals. Have some wine and a baguette, take a load off. I stood in Times Square looking up at the 42nd floor of the building I used to work in and it feels like it was a different person who worked there. One who doesn't eat sticks of butter and giant bowls of fromage blanc.

I did manage to do all my favorite things while there.....

THE SPAAAAAAAAA


THE MAAAAAAAALL


Teaching my nieces that louder is ALWAYS BETTER....

video


But in the end, I got back on a plane, thought "I'm going home" and smiled as I thought of Paris and my life here. It's taken two years but I'm finally starting to call it home. Chillaaaaaaaaaaaaaax, man. You're back in Fraaaaaance.

Friday, October 09, 2009

MILESTONE


I did a radio interview in French this week on Radio Campus Paris.
A real, live interview on the radio with French people and French questions and French answers from me. As I was walking to the station hyperventilating, I just decided to LET IT GO and have FUN. It's so tiring be an anxiety ridden person all the time. Sigh. It helped that the folks at Les Disques Bien were reeeeeally nice and fun. You can listen to the program in it's entirety here....EUPHONIE #34

Saturday, September 26, 2009

MAGICAL UNICORN NINJAS AT NIGHT

This is a rock opera ode to homesickness written in two hours shortly after my arrival in France. It took a year for my friends to convince me to post it.
In the spirit of spreading the good word that everyone can, in fact, have magic giant balls of glory, I present to you Magical Unicorn Ninjas At Night, a rock opera in 6:36.

Text written in 14 minutes of inspired greatness by Corey Tatarczuk, my partner in comic crime.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

KEEPIN' IT REAL.

I am playing a real concert here in Paris at La Maroquinerie on October 14th. By "real", I mean a place where the sound system includes more than one crappy PA system, some broken amps and a bored dick for brains sound guy, holds more than four people comfortably, has an actual stage and most importantly, PAYS you. In cash money. Not warm beer. Yes, it's all the rage here to pay you with two small half glasses of warm beer. You brought forty people to our club who drank all night and made us a lot of money? Here's a nice warm shot glass of piss beer, thanks for letting us rip you off, now get out. It's like if I had my old desk job and my boss suddenly came in and told me I would now be paid with two small glasses of toilet water straight out of the bathroom, hope that's ok, now go jump off a cliff.
Not anymore....because this morning I was asked by the booker for the real club to provide my hospitality rider (my list of demands for the concert). My first thought is "2 lbs. of cheddar cheese and a can of Beefaroni. Hot. Out of the can."

I flash back to my days as a P.A. (Production Assistant) in live television concerts. I once was sent to Bed, Bath and Beyond on a frantic fetch for white candles for Jennifer Lopez's trailer because apparently everything in the trailer had to be white and the green candles in there would just not do. Jenny From The Block. Keeping it real. How, exactly, do people end up in that special crazytimes place where reality takes a nosedive? I also watched one of the tour managers for Def Leppard light into a woman in the talent department (who was 8 months pregnant at the time) over the cheese plate on their provided private jet. Standing there watching a grown man yell his head off at a tiny, 5 foot tall pregnant woman over a cheese plate made me think that yes, in fact, the human race will eventually be wiped off the planet.

But right now I am thinking what I WOULD actually like in my rider.
Me.
Dana From The Block.



2 pounds YELLOW farm fresh English cheddar cheese
1 can Beefaroni, hot, out the can
1 fork, shiny and silver, NO plastic
1 box Premium brand saltines
2 bags sour cola bottles candy
1 EXTRA large bag sour skittles (1 lb. or higher)
1 lb. ground chuck roast shaped into the letter D
1 D shaped bun (NO SEEDS)
1 plate of fixins (NO MAYONAISE)
1 Weber Smoker Mountain Cooker grill
1 can Crazy Uncle Jester's Brush Fire BBQ sauce
4 cans COLD Cel-Ray soda
4 packs Dentyne Ice Vanilla Chill gum
3 bags CRUNCHY cheetos (NO PUFFS)
1/2 lb. Dean's French Onion Dip
9 bags Lay's Potato chips

And on and on and on and on......I think everyone should write up their own rider. If you need inspiration, click HERE.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

RUMBLE IN THE GARDEN


I witnessed something yesterday that I never in a million BILLION years thought I would ever see in Paris, ESPECIALLY in the very serene, very upscale and very calm Jardin du Luxembourg.
There was a good old-fashioned catfight between two middle-aged women.

I was quietly sitting in a chair meditating on how to be more successful by one of the many circular patches of grass that you can look at but never ever dream of actually walking on (this outdated concept of garden eludes me...what's the point of grass if you can't roll in it?). A group of 10 year old boys were running around the circular path with fake guns, shooting at each other, playing a game. Four mothers stood by watching them and directing the game. A woman of about 50 sat in a chair near me, reading the paper. The game went on for about ten minutes or so and I was enjoying watching the freedom of kids just playing. The reading woman near me was clearly not as the boys kept ducking behind her chair and shooting their guns from behind it which made a CLACK CLACK CLACK sound. Suddenly, without any warning, the woman reaches behind her chair, stands up, grabs the boy's gun out of his hand, screams at him and throws the gun into the trees. The boys all stopped in front of her and yelled back.
That's when she did the unthinkable.
She raised her hand and slapped the boy across the face.
Hard.
OH NO SHE DIDN'T.

Oh yes, she DID.
She slapped another woman's kid. I sat up in my chair with a start and before I could even process what just happened, the Four Mamas Gang was already on the move and halfway across the forbidden grass. Like tigresses protecting their young, I have never EVER seen French women move so fast and with such intent. In a khaki pants pack, they moved as one and were up in Slappy's face before I could even blink an eye. In mere seconds, one of the mothers already had all the boys herded back over the grass and the other three Mothers had Slappy encircled. Animals are animals. You mess with the kids, you're gonna feel Mama's TEETH.
For REALS, yo.

Then the screaming began. Back and forth, back and forth. I thought for sure it would end at that and dissolve into the usual French argument for an hour, so I settled back into my chair.....but then Slappy kicked it up ANOTHER notch.
She raised her hand AGAIN and slapped the MOM.
Even harder.
OH NO SHE DIDN'T.

Oh yes, she DID.
All hell broke loose as the Mom completely lost it and grabbed Slappy's hair with a vengeance. Slappy grabbed back and for a moment, they were locked in a battle of the hair grip. In a matter of seconds, these two women had gone from calm Parisians to two shrieking, clawing, punching banshees at each others' throats. The two other members of the Four Mamas wrenched the now flailing Mom out of Slappy's grip and the three of them shot back across the grass, again, moving as one giant khaki pant. And then Slappy did the MOST surprising thing to me. She sat back down calmly, opened her paper back up and simply continued reading. I sat in shock, staring at her and wondering how she could have raised such hell and then just calmly sit back down as though she hadn't just bitchslapped a kid and tried to rip the Mom's face off.
Cultural difference or just a case of the crazies?
I'm not really sure.....

Five minutes later, the Four Mamas returned with about 15 guards from the garden who honestly looked a little bewildered by the whole situation. Then things took their expected and natural French course with a lengthy discussion between all parties that lasted at least the 32 more minutes I stayed and probably long after I left.

But for one moment there, I saw a little bit of New York....more walk and less talk.
Nice job, France.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

THE WANDER

Yesterday I went on a hunt for a cheap blanket. I know there is a store somewhere near Opera that I have been to with my mother-in-law when I first arrived. I thought it started with a C or something. After fruitlessly searching the internets for things like "sheets and cheap blankets Paris" "sheeterie Paris not Hilton but France and starts with C and sells cheap blankets" and finding nothing, I decided to just go to Opera and hunt for the store. I figured I could just find it if I wandered enough. It was a beautiful sunny day so at noon I set off to wander across the river, past Le Louvre and into the 1st arrondissement. I never really wandered through there but one thing I noticed right off the bat is that people in the 1st seem to have jobs.

Huh.

Jobs, like, where you go to a sleek office somewhere and meet with people and make calls and do stuff. I catch a glimpse of myself in a window......purple pants, crappy oversized t-shirt, sweaty face and eyeliner running down/raccoon eyes. "I used to have a job." I proudly say out loud to no one in particular. A group of suits and click clacky heels with tailored jackets push past me. "I used to have a job!" I say louder, this time to their backs as they continue walking briskly down the busy street, the smoke from their cigarettes trailing behind.

I suddenly think back to exactly two years ago when I had my corporate job working for Viacom in a skyscraper in midtown Manhattan. I used to wear click clacky heels when I wanted to feel like an important, intelligent and sophisticated hot chick executive (who might actually be a spy) on the corporate ladder rise in New York City...THE city. I had an office with a view of Central Park. I enjoyed ending calls with phrases like "Going forward, I think we should....blah blabbity blah blah blah" or my particular favorite "The deadline? How about YESTERDAY?" Click. I used to have my own phone extension with real numbers. And my "I'm REALLY busy" voice. When I was promoted to manager status, I spent a week passing out my very first ever official business cards to all my friends and family.
"Here, take one."
"Um, I actually already know your name and number and where you work..."
"Yeah but this has my job title on it too. Seriously, just take one, you never know."
"You never know what exactly? I HAVE your number AND your cell phone. Remember? We've been friends for 8 years."
"Sigh. Look, just TAKE ONE OK? You NEVER KNOW. Jesus CHRIST!"
"OK, OK, I'll take one!"

I used to shuffle papers and stamp stuff. I used to sit in bi-coastal video conferences and give status reports and updates while checking the video screen to make sure I looked hot and adjust my hair accordingly.

How life changes. Now I work freelance from home, my list of TO DOs includes "TAKE SHOWER" and on my off time I go look for cheap blankets in unknown stores in a fancy part of a fancy town with a fancy language I don't really understand.

An hour later and still no blanket store. I pass the fancy Au Printemps department store and stare at the model on the sign who seems to me to say "Youuuuuuu. Oui, yoooooooooou. You veel never ever haves eenough moooneeey for thees store. Ever. Oh, andz also, vee haaaate youuuuuu." (Apparently she is of both German and French descent)



I turn around and see the magic sign.....C & A.
YES.

C&A is one of my preferred stores in Paris. I don't know what the letters actually stand for but I call it Cashstrapped & Asstastic because it is Walmart level cheap and the only people I ever see in it are the big girls.
My peoples.
I reluctantly pull myself away from the $7.99 sweater rack that I am furiously leafing through like a crack addict gone wild, wipe off the drool and make myself walk out the door. I am on a MISSION to find the cheap blanket store which still eludes me, like a ghost......a cheap blanketed ghost.

I walk back down the street and pass the fancy Galeries Lafayette pausing for a moment to stop and look at the 9 million dollar tranny shoe display I could have made myself with some Payless heels, a bedazzler and some glue. NOTE TO SELF: Halloween costume idea: Tranny Dorothy.



Lost, tired, hungry and patience gone, I give up my hunt for the mystery store and walk back home. On my way, I stop in my tracks when I see a sign for Bagel's Café. In the display are a variety of "New York" themed bagel sandwiches which include "real American recipes" such as sliced chicken, pickles, tomato, cream cheese AND cheddar cheese. All on one of Bagel's bagels.
While I have never in my life seen this particular combo of ingredients except for here, at Bagel's place, I decide to go for it.
Verdict: I may not have found the cheap blanket store that I was looking for but I did find out, once again, that Cheddar cheese actually DOES in fact make EVERYTHING better.



6:28AM this morning
Eyes shoot open, I stare at the ceiling for a minute before turning and poking FB awake.
FB: What is it?
ME: I need to be more successful.
FB: Huh? What are you talking about?
ME: Me. I need to be more successful.
FB: (silence) You already are successful. What time is it?
ME: 6:28. I need to be MORE successful.
FB: OK...be more successful, sure, sounds great. Where is this coming from?
ME: (pause a moment to think) The 1st. It's coming from the 1st.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

TUNISIAN COLON CLEANSE


I recently traveled to Tunisia with FB and two other biologists. I like traveling with the scientists through the Sahara desert. They always know where on the GPS we are, they have maps taped to the inside of the car and they can calculate exactly how much gas will be needed and how much air conditioning we can use between any given points. They know what to do in case of a snake bite or heatstroke and they have seemingly thought out every possible scenario and have an action plan attached to each.

What they DON'T do, however, is tell you when you look like a freak religious missionary sent to recolonize North Africa.


Yes. I apparently traveled through Tunisia dressed as a pale, tightwad Quaker. Given it's a Muslim country where I hardly saw any women out on the streets, I was trying to NOT call attention to myself. Good job. Only thing missing is a giant sign around my neck that says I AM WHITE. REALLY. REALLY. WHITE.

As usual, I was nervous when I bought my ticket....hmmmm....the Sahara desert in the summer? 118 degrees in the shade? Uh.....ok. Following three hyper boys around? Uh....ok.


Hilights of the trip include almost dying twice while 4 x 4ing through the dunes of the Sahara desert. Dude, I thought the desert was flat. Yeah, well, it's not. There are these big things you see called DUNES that if I had spent more than a millisecond reading up on it or even just thinking about it, I would have KNOWN that. I also thought I could just kind of figure out how to drive a 4 x 4 with no instruction. Well, I can't. As the two guides and three scientists sped off across the dunes, I was left in the dust (literally). Here's a tip: You have to ACCELERATE up a sand dune or the 4 x 4 will stop moving and tilt back on you and you will fall off and then you will cry and then you will have a panic attack and then the guides will come back to get you and will laugh at you as you wipe sand and tears off your face while telling them what a beautiful country they have.

Just a tip.

I fared only slightly better with the camel, which I gripped with terror as though hanging from a cliff. FB rode behind me and kept calling out "um, are you sure you are on top of the camel?"
"YES!! I am FINE, OK???? My GOD!!! Just....just.....DON'T FRICKIN' TALK TO ME! I am CONCENTRATING!!!!"


Then there was the sun. The hot, burning, torturous sun. I admit, I was a fanatic with the sunscreen and went through 4 bottles of 70+. The scientists got pretty tired of my crazed Quaker mother reminders "You need more sunscreen. Here. Put this on. No...put MORE on. PUT IT ON! Seriously. I am SERIOUS. YOU COULD FUCKING DIE HERE, OK? From the sun. You could DIE."



But this is finally what did me in.....



The oasis. You magical deadly mirage of intestinal destruction. There were fig trees, palm trees, peach trees and lots and lots of waaaaaater. The scientists ate one piece of fruit from the trees. I got biblical and ate 5. Because I'm American and more is always better. I stood under the waterfalls and then gorged myself in the swimming hole. For one brief second, a distant thought passed through the back depths of my mind about maybe having heard somewhere that maybe the water or fruit might possibly have something like micro...microsomething...like, organisms or like, foreign something.....or bacterias or...I don't know. Whatever. I'm thirsty and this fruit tastes AAAAAAAWESOME.

24 hours later I'm in a near coma in a bed somewhere with my guts spilling out and a 102 fever. FB asks if I want to go to a hospital.
"HERE????IN TUNISIA???? ARE YOU INSANE??!!!! I AM GETTING ON THAT FLIGHT BACK TO FRANCE TOMORROW IF IT KILLS ME." And kill me it nearly did. I had to pull out every ninja bone in my body to get back to France without losing it. For eight hours I chanted one sentence in my head over and over "You are Bruce Lee. You are ninja. You are Bruce Lee....ninja....Bruce Lee...ninja....."

One week later and 14 pounds lighter, I finally pulled myself off the bathroom floor.

Back in Paris, the French doctor I saw in the tropical disease clinic said it best when he saw me...."I thought Americans were smarter about these things than you were."

Uh....yeah. Guess not.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

DIAM'S = A GIRL'S BEST FRIEND

This may come as a shock, but I am not often associated with two genres of music....rap and opera. I know, I know it's surprising but given my general whiteness, my punk rock background and my gangly tall stature, people just don't usually see my inner bling. Or my inner high C.
But they are there alright.
WORD.

A musician acquaintance of mine randomly called me a few days ago to ask if I would be interested in singing some opera/choir type music for Diam's, a female French rap artist. Not knowing who Diam's is, I said "yeah sure...I'm no opera singer but I can certainly fake it." :)
You know, cause I'm SO hip hop opera and everything.

I told FB about it...

ME: Yeah, so I have a gig on Saturday singing opera for someone named Diam's or Diamonds or something like that.
FB: (pause) NO WAY.
ME: Yes way, why?
FB: Do you know who she is????!!
ME: Um, a rapper?
FB: Dude, she is REALLY famous here. It's like going to sing for Missy Elliot. That's amazing, I'm telling the lab right now, they're gonna freak OUT. YOU singing for Diam's HA! Wait....you're singing opera??
ME: Um, YEEEESSS. I can TOTALLY sing opera.

I practiced my fake operatic trills all morning in the shower followed by a hip hop "yyyeeeh yeeeeeeaaahhh".
"MEEE MAAAAY MIIIII MOOOOOH MOOOOOO...yyyyeah, yyyyyyeah"
"AAAAHHHHHH OOOOOHHHHHH EEEEEEE.....yyyyyeah, yyyyyyyeah, c'mon, c'mon"
I totally got this in the BAG.
Eazy.
Bareeeeezy.

The gig ended up being really REALLY fun. Fake understanding direction in French while fake opera singing for a rap record might be my new favorite past-time. I have a friend in NY who calls moments like these "now I'm a ballerina!".
Just put enough balls on and pretend and you really CAN do anything.

And for the record, Diam's (aka Mélanie) is a DOLL. I love her music and I love her political views and activism. She is also one of those artists who is actually nice to everyone around her. The producers were super sweet, the studio guys were great and I got paid well for my efforts.

Life should always involve epic levels of randomness.
Merci, Diam's.
Do you need any backup dancers? Cause I could TOTALLY do that too. ;)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

TERROR IN PARIS

I live down the street from the Eiffel Tower. I can see it from my window (well, if I crane my neck hard right), the sparkly lights shining on summer nights and the search beacon piercing through the fog each winter. Every night I think "OMG I live in PAAAAAARIS and that's the frickin' Eiffel TOOOOOWER".
Then I smile.
Or look pensive....depending on which music video I am pretending to be in that night.

But, like most tourist attractions I have lived close to, I have never actually been inside it. Or up it. So when my dear friend Sue came to town this past week with her family in tow, I was more than happy to take the walk down the street to meet them for a night journey up into the tower. I should have known what was in store when it took me a lot longer than I expected to walk there. One hour later, I realized why you can actually see the Eiffel Tower from my window.

Because it is REALLY FUCKING BIG, that's why.


After giving my usual speech about not asking me any pertinent questions about when it was built or the guy's name who designed it or anything other than what color it is because I actually AM the worst tour guide on the planet, we braved the long line and shoved our way into the window elevator. Smashed up against a window, hurling upwards, the city spread itself before my eyes. Higher and higher, my heart jumps into my throat as I think one thing only....

GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE.
NOW.

I usually "forget" all the things I am scared of....like um, heights. I talk a big game all the time, "Yyyyyyyyeah, one day I'm TOTALLY gonna skydive, bungee off a bridge, maybe onto a cliff. Then dive into the Colorado River.....maybe para-sail off the coast of Africa...you know how it goes. Of course, this is all after I para-glide off the Alps next season."

Cut to airless elevator face pressed against glass, the beginnings of hyperventilation and knees buckling....yeah, you're a regular Top Gun there, champ. The six year old next to you has more balls.

Exit onto the first level deck.
Be cool.
Be cool.
(look down)
OK, not so cool.
OK, DEFINITELY not cool.
NOT.
COOL.

It helps to have a friend in terror. I was genuinely excited when Sue informed me that she was about as high as she wanted to go that night, and maybe in her life.....so we just waited patiently on the deck for the rest of her family, gazing up at the 2/3 of the tower we would NOT be visiting and taking terror shots of each other.



"Ha, I'm so glad we're not going UP THERE."
"Yeah me too, NO WAY am I going up there."
"No WAY."
"TOTALLY no way."
"I'm ready to go back down when you are. You ready?"
"TOTALLY ready to go back down."
"Yep."
"Yep."

Enter sister-in law:
"Hey you guys! We decided we are going to the top, OK? You ready to go?"
Silence.
Clear throat.

"Uh.....yeah....sure am....."
"Um....ok....sounds...uh....great."

Especially after I caught a glimpse of the tiny tiny string that pulls the big big elevator....

24 minutes of terror on top of the world is all I needed to resolve that I would never ever in a million billion years bungee off of ANYTHING, much less para-glide off the ALPS.

Someone had the bright idea to take the stairs on the way down. The stairs. Staircase after staircase, a never-ending metal jungle....around and down, around and down, the ground never seeming any closer while vertigo quickly setting in on me...



SUE: "You OK?"
ME: "Yeah....uh....(pant pant)...this is just....(round and down) kinda funny and all.....ha (round and down) kinda like my recurring nightmare that uh....I've been having since I was a child."
SUE: "Oh wow, what's that?"
ME: "It's uh.....I'm walking on endless stairs really high up and uh....it's actually uh....exactly this. (round and down) So uh.....don't really wanna talk about it or uh....describe it more or even really discuss it right now at ALL...'cause uh....I am actually LIVING my recurring nightmare at this very moment. I'm living it...and it's real....and uh.....I'm about to freak the fuck out and everything...."
SUE: "Yikes. OK."
Silence.
(round and down, round and down, round and down, round and down......)

We made it.
And I've already forgotten the terror.
I'm TOTALLY paragliding off the Alps this winter.

Friday, July 31, 2009

EAST COAST/WEST COAST


I am playing a gig with two California singers tonight.
Sweet.
Basically, hot USA chicks night in France. ;)
If you are in Paris, come by and say hi to both coasts!

Vous voulez venir.
Je veux que vous venez.
Vraiment, franchement, clairement, tellement, en fait, en effet........

Dana Boulé + Kacey Johansing + Vera Gough
vendredi 31 juillet (that means today)
20h00 (je joue premiere partie)
Le Vieux Léon
18, rue de La Grande Truanderie 75001
Entrée libre (that means freeeeeeee)

Friday, July 24, 2009

THE TURNING POINT

(French tarmac....somehow so appropriate....no, no Dude, don't bother getting up, it's just my PLANE you are supposed to be guiding in, I don't want to bother you)

I have to admit, I bawled my eyes out on the plane ride back from New York this time around. Alone in the dark at 3AM. For exactly 76 minutes. I thought about my family and cried. I thought about my friends and cried. I thought about all the stoops in Brooklyn and Queens I sat on and cried. I thought about the concert I gave there, the stage banter in English flowing effortlessly from my mouth and an entire room laughing at all of my jokes.
Cry.
Eating a steak and watching deer with my Mom.
Cry.
Doing Kung Fu with old friends.
Cry.
Ninja dance party.
Cry.
4th of July, crying while looking at fireworks and was blindsided by a crazy sense of patriotism that yes, in fact, I DO love the US of A.
Cry for the US of AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.
But mostly I cried because for two weeks I had felt like ME again. The one who wears no bra and flip flops and likes to sing while skipping down a Brooklyn street to get a bagel while stopping to talk to everyone about everything. The one who has giant shiny steely balls of wonder and fearless glory power (well, most of the time).

(Visiting Mom in NJ forest...yeah that's right, THIS IS NEW JERSEY)

(Hanging out on the East River in Queens)

But now I sat hurling across the Atlantic in the dark with "France" approaching closer and closer. My stomach quickly knotting, the sense of adventure gone this time around and all that is left in its place....a looming sense of isolation and incomprehension.
Bienvenue.
I'm back.
Sigh.

It started the minute I got off the plane and stood waiting for our bags.
Silently sulking next to the carousel trying in vain to talk myself out of the attitude problem, bits of conversations around me floated through my ears and into my brain where they were not translated, but understood.
Huh?
I shake my head back and forth as if a butterfly somehow ensnared itself in my ears.
Whatever.
Get into a taxi with FB under a grey Parisian sky. Silently sulk and do my usual "I'm in a reeeeally sad music video where no one understaaaands me" pensive look out the window. The radio is on and again, some of the words are in my head and I am somehow understanding them......
OK, is this the point where I take Jesus Christ as my personal savior? Because some craaaaaazy shit seems to be going down in my brain.

Up the 104 steps....
I missed you, little apartment with your yellow and blue walls high above a garden.
I missed you, butcher, greengrocer, cheese man and wine guy.
I extra SPECIALLY missed you, best butter I will ever have in my life and that I sometimes dab behind my ears because I secretly want to smell like this butter all the time.

I wiped the crocodile tears away and went to Burgundy this past week where I fell for you all over again, France.
Attitude adjusted.
I'm in love.

(Autun, France)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

IT'S NINJA TIME

Off to NYC tomorrow to play a concert.
I need my bagels.
I need my pizza.
I need my English.
And I need my ninja girls.
:)

video

(film by Corey Tatarczuk)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

WELL, HOWDY PART TWO

I am losing the battle with the tooth as it cracks off bit by bit.
Some people look cute with a gap tooth.
I'm not one of them.

video

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

WELL, HOWDY DOO!


When I was 16, I very gracefully knocked out half of my own front tooth with a tennis racket. "Swing up", he said. And swing up I did. Right into my own face nearly knocking myself out along with the tooth. Based on the sympathetic howls of laughter from my family as I stood crying with tooth now in hand, I decided at that point that comedy might be better suited for me than tennis.

Since then, every five years or so, the fake part of my tooth takes a good long look at my daily life and chooses the most inopportune time to fall out. Leaving me with a toothless grin somewhere between "hillbilly" and "6 year old". Like the time in college, sitting in the front row while nervously and stupidly flicking my front tooth with a pen. It flew out of my mouth and landed at the professor's feet which resulted in me nearly crawling across the floor and having to ask "um, excuth me, I juth need to pick up my tooth...thorry...thorry...."

THIS MORNING
Two days before I leave for NY for two weeks, I decided that three day old baguette really COULD work as toast and CRRRRRUNCH. Off with the tooth. This time, however, only MOST of it came off, instead leaving a tissue thin piece of tooth I can almost see through. Anything heavier than cream of wheat is gonna send the rest of this puppy flying.

okokokokokokokokokokok DO. NOT. PANIC. You can cry but NO PANIC.
NO PANIC.

I have yet to see a dentist here but remembered that a friend gave me the name of an American dentist a while ago. I called, my voice heavy with certainty that I would never be able to get an appointment on such short notice and would be spending the day trying to find someone who could fix this before I leave for uninsured NY. I almost fainted when the receptionist told me "sure, come in Thursday and we'll fix it". My New York dentist made me wait a WEEK the last time this happened and the final bill (WITH my insurance coverage) came to $450.

I just cannot get over the ease of my experience with the health care system here. Every time I have had to seek medical care, I get this trained pit in my stomach from being hassled by the American system for so many years. And I am young and had full health coverage! For all my friends who have NO coverage, it's just an inhuman NIGHTMARE. All the hour long phone calls I have made to insurance companies over the years...for ridiculous things like fighting over why I should not pay $300 out of pocket for a mammogram as it is preventive care and is covered. (Apparently not if you're under 35 even if it was prescribed by the doctor....and why is a mammogram $300 in the first place?) I have not had to pay off thousands of dollars in dental bills in installments over three years time. The list goes on....

I know that the health care system here in France faces issues of how it will continue to pay for all the care, but I really hope this will last. Because it feels amazing when a society takes care of its citizens. When it's seen as a right, not a privilege to receive basic health care.

Go France!

:).....smiling my toofless grin.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fête de la Musique....aka REVOLUTION


If you are looking for a real confidence booster, stand on a chair in the middle of a Parisian street and yell through a microphone for a revolution of the artists against the neighbors.
"TAKE BACK OUR STREEEEETS!! WE ARE THE LIFE OF THE CITY!!! DOWN WITH THE NEIGHBORS!!! WE WILL NOT BE SILENCED!!!"
It works.
I promise.
Because today I feel AWESOME.

Last night I had an out of body experience as I played a loud rock gig on the streets of Paris for La Fête de la Musique, the annual day and night where it is legal to play music outside and for clubs and bars around the city to play music as loud as they want to. It's basically one big street party in some areas. I was the most nervous I have been before a show as I realized I would be playing to an entire street of drunk people so, turning to my bandmates shortly beforehand I said, "OK guys, cut all the slow songs and play the fast ones faster."

IT'S GO TIME.

I could tell it went well as the local shirtless and toothless drunkards high fived me with their 40s. I have to say, it was my favorite concert I have played here so far. I LOVE the streets of Paris and I ESPECIALLY love being amplified really loud in them. I wish Paris was like this every night.....ALIVE and LOUD. I thought the noise ordinances in New York had gotten ridiculously bad, but they are NOTHING compared to Paris. My major complaint is this....artists move to a cheap area and start a scene, the Bobos follow suit and move to the now "cool" area and then proceed to complain about the level of noise. I saw it happen in New York and it's the same, even worse here. I have been told I am singing too loud by soooo many clubs here because of the "neighbors". Maybe it is the same in every city. But enough! This is a CITY, not a morgue and no cultural scene will thrive to its fullest if it is constantly being shut down for fear of "upsetting the neighbors". If it's so horrible, then move to one of the many quiet suburbs and stop trying to squelch the life that MAKES a city.

Ahhhh.....til next year....in the meantime I will keep yelling for revolution.
On the mic.
And extra loud.
:)

p.s. Unfortunately, my camera messed up and I only have the one crappy picture of the scene last night.....maybe someone else has some shots? I saw lots of cameras around....please send if you have any! Merci!

Friday, June 19, 2009

THE RETURN OF TRACY FLICK

Thursday 6:12PM
Walking hurriedly through crowded St. Germain, my phone rings...

FB: Tu marches vers ta classe?
ME: Quoi?
FB: Tu marches vers ta classe?
ME: Quoi?!
FB: Tu vas à ta classe?
ME: Quoi?!
FB: Are you walking to your class right now?
ME: OH MY GOD, SAY IT IN FRENCH! YOU HAVE TO TALK TO ME IN FRENCH!! THIS IS EXACTLY WHY I AM TOTALLY GOING TO FAIL!!!
FB: Uh, I just did say it in French....like, three times....
ME: I CAN'T TALK ABOUT THIS RIGHT NOW! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH PRESSURE I AM UNDER???? I HAVE TO GO!! OH MY GOD, I AM LATE!!!
FB: Bon courage mon amour!
ME: Quoi?!
FB: Je t'adore!
ME: Yeah, yeah....

Click.

As the whole class stood in the hallway waiting to be called in one by one for the oral exam, I nervously clutched my bag and studied the student murals on the wall. It can't hurt to brush up.....what if one of the questions is about snakes?



Why are all the other students relaxed and smiling? And why did that guy get called first? What's the order here? How much longer am I going to have to wait? MY GOD, why everyone SO LOUD?? Some people are trying to FOCUS HERE....Jesus Christ, I can't even here my OWN thoughts given the...

"DANA."

Oh my God, it's my turn. (wildly look around for my bag that is already in my hand) ohmygodohmygodohmygod (open door, walk towards teacher's desk) ohmygodohmygod (sit down....now, take it easy...DO NOT FREAK OUT) ohmygodohmygodohmygod...

As she handed my written test to me, I saw it. 30.5 points out of 40.
I passed.
I PASSED.
And had I not blown 9 out 10 points on the oral comprehension section (quelle surprise)...that WOULD have been a 99%.

Yes, I am THAT person. THAT student you knew in grade school, freaking out all the time, SWEARING she will fail and then totally surprised when she gets an A+..."Ohhhh! You mean I got the extra credit part right TOOOOOO?" Just slap me. I would. There are some personality traits I would gladly part ways with. Exaggerated neurosis is at the top of my list.

I have to go put together my summer reading list now.

Byeeeeeee xxxxxxx

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

THE TEST

5 hours, 12 minutes before THE TEST...


GET OUT OF BED. IT IS AFTER 1PM. Why are you so retarded? Just CAAAAALM DOOOOOOOWN. It is JUST a French test. A stupid, two hour long, this means EVERYTHING TO ME French test.....So what? So what if you FAIL and have to repeat the ENTIRE five month class again? You WILL NOT fail....you studied so hard for five MONTHS, get a grip on yourself.....I'm sick. I'm really sick this time. YOU ARE NOT SICK, YOU DO THIS EVERY SINGLE TIME. I'm so dumb, I'm so dumb, I'm so dumb...STOP IT...I'm gonna fail, I'm gonna fail, I'm gonna fail....THAT IS NOT POSITIVE THINKING YOU IDIOT!....I'm gonna freak out, I'm gonna freak out, I'm gonna freak out, I am freaking out, I am freaking out, I am freaking out..GET OUT OF MY HEEEEEEAD......ok now my stomach REALLY hurts, I think I have a sinus infection......sigh...how old ARE you anyway? 12? When are you going to stop acting like a 4th grader and start taking things in stride? This is all my Mom's fault, she's nervous too and I totally inherited this from her....that's why.....my genes are messed up.....I have messed up nervous genes....how am I supposed to pass with messed up nervous genes???....my family is from Germany anyway, I was clearly meant to learn German....duh....this is totally FB's fault, if he had actually corrected me more than once a year maybe I might have LEARNED something THE RIGHT WAY instead of the TOTALLY WRONG WAY, yeah this is all HIS fault, UNBELIEVABLE.....I'm sick, I have a sinus infection and this is all my Mom and FB's fault....imperatif....shit....I didn't restudy the imperative....(heart racing) OMG, I TOTALLY FORGOT THE IMPERATIVE TENSES!!! WHAT AAAAARE THEY???? WHERE ARE MY STUDY SHEETS???? They are around here somewhere.....I cannot BELIEVE I didn't think to review the imperatives again....how could I DO this to myself????...what's the imperative of CALM THE FUCK DOWN??? Tranquilles-toi? N'inquietes...uh....toi? Or something something.....ok you are hyperventilating now. Good job. Glad your Kung Fu training has paid off, you REALLY know how to handle pressure. Real ninja material here. What would Bruce Lee do?
GET.
OUT.
OF BED.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

LES ENFANTS


I went to Lyon this past week to play some music for the best audience I have had since arriving in France. Children ages 3 to 6. The thing I love about young kids is that they don't lie and they expect to be thoroughly entertained. You can't bring your B game. If they don't like what you're doing, they make a face and put their hands over their ears and tell you to stop playing mid song. If they like it, they stand up and squeal with delight and clap their hands. It's like the Gong Show. I love it.

I went as part of a program called Have A Good Night, a really wonderful artistic endeavour set up by Jerome from Blog Up Musique. He puts together a compilation CD each year available for free download. It consists of lullabies for children from 20 or so indie bands from around the globe. The result is a really beautiful CD that I was lucky to be part of this year. As part of the program, some participating artists were asked to come to Lyon and do a day of concerts for children at a local elementary school. um....YES!

I received instructions to meet at the train station to take a 6AM train to Lyon. Ouch. The night before, my usual nerves kicked in as I realized I would be traveling alone for an entire day conducted in French. Sigh. As my confidence level in my French has been in the toilet as of late, I barely slept thinking of all the ways I could go down in flames. I double sighed as my alarm went off at 4:45AM and got up thinking, "well, here we go again.....walk it off Boulé, walk it off."

I carried my 90 pound accordion to the station and found my seat. I met the other three musicians: Isabelle and David from Pollyanna and Minnie from eliote & the ritournelles. They were super cool and after my usual language panic bitch slap (which, at 6AM is even more pronounced), I settled into another day of grasping at conversation. Here I am grasping in my sleep....



We arrived to a warm welcome and the day got easier as I ingested more and more coffee. The first group arrived and I swallowed hard, hoping I would remember the words to the French song I wrote the day before which consisted of little more than "what sound does a tiger make? uh....how about a rabbit? a dinosaur?" When in doubt, kids just want to make noise......


It was.....so.....much....FUN.

After our concerts, we were ushered to the cafeteria to eat lunch amongst the children. I was AMAZED at the difference in school lunches between the US and France. I expected a lunch line with unruly kids and meal of fried tater tots, greasy taylor ham on Wonder bread, cake and jello but instead we were served a proper three course meal by some super friendly lunch ladies. OK, I grew up on pizza thrown to you on a styrofoam plate by angry lunch ladies to be eaten in a deafeningly loud cafeteria. But THIS, this just seemed so....I don't know...civilized. Fresh salad and fresh melon followed by a meat and potato casserole. Then topped off with more fresh fruit and cheese. Children sitting quietly at tables for an entire meal......HUH?



After the last concert, we walked around Lyon for a bit and sat at a café for a beer. I smiled when I saw that hipsters are in fact, everywhere.....


Thank you musicians, Jerome and especially les enfants de Lyon for a really beautiful day and for sending my confidence level back up. I really really needed that.
:)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

DAY 527 - LE COUP DE PIED

I snapped today and I wish I could say I am sorry...but I'm not.


I live near Saint-Germain-Des-Prés. Also known to me as hell. If it's not the swarm of tourists walking at a snail's pace down a narrow two foot wide sidewalk, then it's the huge amount of flat-out douchebags who live in this area. We've been here almost a year and it is really starting to get to me. Over-dressed, over-perfumed, over-coiffed, over the top ego, over snotty, over self important douchebags. Tons. On every sidewalk and each corner. I have tried every conceivable route to and from my apartment and the metro station but there's just no avoiding them, especially in June when everyone and their mother is outside enjoying the sunshine.

There's a crosswalk near the Saint-Germain-Des-Prés metro station, right by the bus stop. I cross it every day and almost always, the cars do not make any effort to slow down or stop. I usually just wait for them to pass but today, I did not wait. I don't know why. I guess I didn't really care. I had just come from Savate class where I insisted the teacher let me practice my punches on him for an extra 30 minutes. I had my usual rolling cart in tow with me and I felt good. Annoyed. Crabby. Motivated. The norm.

I saw a car coming but I stepped into the crosswalk anyway. F that. YOU slow down. The car proceeded to miss me by a hair's breadth and as it went past, inches from running me down, I did something I always WANT to but never ACTUALLY do. I kicked the car as hard as I could and yelled "PUTAIN SALOOOOPE!", let go of my cart and flipped the driver an over the head, two arms raised in glory position double bird. I may as well have had a slow-mo 360 degree camera pan around me while the orchestra plays the theme to Rocky.
It felt THAAAAT good.

But then the car stopped and backed up.
Um.....oops.
Now, I would normally NEVER in a million years kick a car in NY and proceed to call it a fucking bitch, much less scream it at the top of my lungs in the middle of a crosswalk. But those are the only two curse words I know and.....I dunno, I'm a foreigner in France losing her mind so somehow it seemed appropriate.

I half thought about running away but there were onlookers and I didn't want to seem like the jackass trying to flee the scene with a rolling cart in tow, tripping over cobblestone roads. I mean, what would the tourists think? Really. As I got to the sidewalk, he was already backed right up to where I stood, hanging out his window and yelling his head off at me. Just as I thought....an over coiffed dude in a fancy car with stupid sunglasses and a face just BEGGING for a swirly.

My fear subsided. I don't even need to run because this jackoff is clearly never going to actually get out of his fancy car, plus he's going to be blocking traffic in about two seconds. Yell away, doucheface. Be my guest. I tried for a second to understand what he was saying but I couldn't make anything out. And as I had already exhausted the extent of my French insults, what's the point anyway?

Then it happened. The flash of light where the witty comeback just appears so clearly in the moment, instead of after the fact. Smiling, I put my hands defiantly on my hips and yelled back in English, "LOOK DUDE, I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU'RE SAAAAAAAAYING TO ME!!! 'CAUSE I'M RUBBER AND YOU'RE GLUE AND WHATEVER YOU SAY BOUNCES OFF OF ME AND STICKS TO YOU!!!!JERK!!!" And with that, I marched off down the side-street where I congratulated myself on the creativity and randomness of my 3rd grade level comeback, hoping an American tourist may have heard and caught my prepubescent reference.

I won't be making a habit of kicking cars but I do think I will make a new habit of working in 3rd grade insults.....actually, I just really want to call someone "poopy pants". That's all.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

DAY 525 - THE GREAT PRETENDER


I am getting dumber.
I know this.
I can feel it.
My brain cells are one by one packing up somewhere far beyond my reach. I don't even speak good English anymore. My posts have been fewer, my patience has been thinner and my brain is more fried. Frieder.
Way more frieder.
I have had French class twice a week since January. Whenever people asked about my French, I used to say "Wow, it SURE is harder than I thought!" with my BUT I SURE AM GIVIN' IT A GOOD OLE' TRY! smile smile, wink wink.

Now when I am asked why I don't understand, I just say "Because I am slow and stupid. Did you know I am dumbest one in my class? Seriously. I am the stupidest one. My head is like a brick, I sit in the first desk in the front row too and I study two hours a day and I do ALL the homework and I try every day really REALLY hard. But I am just really slow and stupid."

That usually wraps up the conversation pretty fast.
I'm not even upset about it anymore.
Screw it.

In March, I passed the 15 month mark of moving to France. When it came and went with no perceptible change in my level of permanent confusion, I have to say, I got depressed. I had heard from so many different people about the magic "usually around 15 months or so, you will see a sudden difference, you'll just start to understand"...
And so, I waited.
I waited 15 long months for that magic moment to come. 15 went into 16 into 17 and now on this, my 525th day of wrestling with this language, I have to admit to myself, I feel defeated.

I'm really, almost unnaturally, good at pretending I know what is said to me. I can usually catch enough of the social cues to pretend my way right through every conversation. But it's exhausting trying to make sense out of two paragraphs having caught only CHEESE, HOUSE and HORROR. I could make about 65 different narratives out of that one, each one more implausible than the last. It's exhausting. I'm tired of the GUESS THE SUBJECT OF THE CONVERSATION! game. I fold. I can't do it anymore. I don't KNOW what the subject is, I don't KNOW why you are all laughing so hysterically, I don't KNOW why someone names PIERRE had something to do with a SANDWICH and it was HILARIOUS. I can't pretend laugh HAHAHA PIERRE SANDWICH! HAHAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHAHAH!!! PIERRE SANDWICH!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!

A few times I have been too tired to pretend and have let the truth come out and it usually goes like this.....

YOU: GRBLEGREBLGREBLEGRBLE GRBLE GRBLE GRBLE GRBLE
ME: Yyyyyyyyeah, I have no idea what you just said. I dunno, maybe slower?
YOU: OH. OK. GRRRRRRBLE GRRRRRRRRBLE GRRRRRRRRBLE GRRRRRRRRBLE GRRRRRRRBLE!
ME: Yyyyyyeah, that actually isn't working at all either. I still got nothing on that one. Was it about a banana that caught on fire or something? No? Wait, was it you have fear of pineapples? No? OK, don't worry about it. Just move on. You don't need to tell me the 5 minute broken English version, it's cool. I probably won't understand that one either. It's seriously not worth it. Just moooove on, you can even go talk to someone else if you want too. Seriously. I'm cool with it. I get it. It's cool.

I have to run to French class right now and count down 120 more minutes, hoping last week's conversation doesn't happen again.

TEACHER: blah blah blah blah SUBSTANTIF blah blah blah
ME: (knowing I should not have asked a proactive question) Um, excuse me? What is a substantif?
TEACHER: blah blah blah blah blah
ME: (vigorous nod of the pretending head) OH RIGHT! OF COURSE! MERCI!
TEACHER: What is the word in English?
ME: (busted. purple face) Uh.....uh........uh.....
GERMAN GIRL BEHIND ME: It's called a NOUN.
CLASS: silent.

Fuck you, Germany. Thanks for throwing me under the bus. You want to paint SHIT FOR BRAINS across my forehead too while you are at it?
Nazi.

I gotta go.
I'll be back more often.

xo Dana

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

FRENCH PROVERBS


I had some trouble with my French homework the other day. In one column was a list of the beginnings of French Proverbs, on the opposite side were the finishing words for each phrase. For the life of me, I could not match them up. Uh....."At night all the cats....uh...have taste and color?".....or...."Impossible....uh...you have to run?"

After FB came in and helped me finish the phrases, I realized why not one of them made any sense to me. Because none of them actually make any sense.

#1. Impossible n'est pas français. (Impossible is not French)

Really.
Given the amount of times I hear "ahhhhh, pas possible" on a daily basis, I'd say the word "impossible" is actually pretty frickin' French to me. Like, it could be the national anthem and should be right up there with Egalité, Fraternité, Liberté et Impossibilité. No offense but, come on....vraiment?

#2. On ne discute pas des goûts et des couleurs. (loosely, as in, we don't discuss things that are a matter of tastes and colors...)

OK, there about about 400 French talk shows dedicated to discussing exactly that and in a country where I have had to end countless discussions with "WHAT ARE WE EVEN ARGUING ABOUT????!!!"......my question would be: huh???

#3. Rien ne sert de courir il faut partir à point. (loosely, nothing serves to run, you should start on time....better to start on time than to run)

I don't even need to comment here, except to say that maybe this is some German proverb that snuck over the border. Or maybe "on time" is just relative and the point is more to never run? Ever? In your life?

#4. La nuit, tous les chats sont gris. (At night, all the cats are grey)

Please, someone explain to me what this means. My best guess which brought laughter from FB was: At night, it doesn't matter if a black cat crosses in front of you because it is grey so you won't actually have any bad luck.

?????

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

WIN BIG.

photo by ChrisCB

Oui, c'est vrai. I won the first round of LA BASTON a La Bellevilloise. Yay! The video for the show is now posted online. WATCH THE BATTLE UNCUT HERE. While it is always helpful for me to watch my own performance, one thing struck me like a cement block to the head. I am still horrified/terrorized by how I sound speaking French. In my mind, I sound romantic and flowery...oh so effortless, so breezy, so light....like the sigh of a flower petal in June.

In reality, I sound like a nazi gagging on cheeseburgers.

But that's ok. Je persévère.

The BATTLE continues June 24th.
Round Two.
I'm ready. :)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

LA BASTON


I entered a Battle Of The Bands competition here in Paris and was chosen as one of 60 bands to perform over a series of nights at La Bellevilloise. Each night has four or five bands perform, the audience chooses one winner and a jury chooses the other to continue on to the next phase. As far as I know, I am the only foreigner in the competition. And as most indie rock bands here sing in unintelligible English, I thought "DUH, I got this wrapped UP. My English is WAY more awesomer than YOURS is, Fraaaaaance." Last week I got the line up for my night and was surprised at the curve ball. They booked me on the only night the other three bands all sing in French....La Chanson Française.

(eyes narrow)
Fine.
Be that way, France.
I'll fight a battle on foreign turf.
On your terms.
And I will WIN.

I'm not scared of your chanson.
I got my OWN chanson and it's got BROOKLYN NINJA written all over it.
Bring it.

Televised LIVE on the internet!
THE ULTIMATE BEATDOWN
NEW YORK VS. LA CHANSON FRANÇAISE
Wednesday, April 29
8:30PM France time (I play at 10PM)
WATCH THE BATTLE LIVE HERE

Or better yet....buy your BEATDOWN tickets HERE.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

YOU BUY HOUSE IN CHINA


I've been spending a lot of time with other immigrants lately in mandatory government sponsored classes I have to take for my resident card. I like being around immigrants from around the world because it makes me feel like I am at the UN. I've learned a lot about other cultures, I've learned the fastest way to get a room riled up is to mention Algeria and/or "respect" and I've learned never to accept a government sponsored fish lunch.

SETTING: Small, airless room in a government building somewhere in the north east of Paris
SITUATION: Mandatory French Civics class to obtain resident card
CAST: 38 legal immigrants, 4 French government workers a.k.a. "the checker inners", one hyperactive civics teacher and one paid non-English speaking English translator.


9AM: I take my seat along the wall in between Philippines and Algeria. It's too hot in here and why does it already smell like eggs? China and Tunisia are sitting by the window and refuse to open it. The overhead fluorescent lights are killing me. Briefly consider that going to bed at 3:30AM was a really, really bad idea. 8 more hours. Settle in.
9:18AM: Enter The Translator. 30 something guy in dark glasses who perpetually looks annoyed, apologizes for being late in French and takes his seat at the back of class. All who don't understand French gather round him so they may hear his English translation. I prefer the comfort of the wall.
9:29AM: Overactive civics teacher has spent eleven minutes yelling aggressively about how AMAZINGLY AWESOME! French history is. Since it's so great and wonderful, why are you yelling at me? We're right here, lady. Translator is silent, I think he might actually be sleeping under the dark glasses. Finally Russia asks him what the Teacher just said.

TRANSLATOR: (annoyed) Nozing of eemportance.
RUSSIA: Uh, ok.
TRANSLATOR: (silent)
TEACHER: (speaks for five minutes about the French Republique) Translate please!
TRANSLATOR: Ehhh, between zee zerd and zee feef, zey like uh, zey really liked eet.

I stifle a laugh as I cannot actually believe THAT is his translation for 11 minutes of history. I now realize to be a paid government English translator, you don't actually have to speak English. Or even speak at all. The 3rd and the 5th WHAT? Can I at least get a SUBJECT? Translator is neither bothered nor disturbed by the questions around him and slowly everyone not understanding French drifts off into dreamland as they realize they will be spending 7 more hours with someone yelling something they don't understand at them in French while sleeping Yoda speaks in code every 8 minutes.

Now we go around the room and give our names, country of origin and how long we have been in France. We get to a tall guy with dreads at the back of the class.
TG: (barely audible) It's Nafir.
TEACHER: Where are you from?
TG: (gives her a long annoyed look before sighing) Naaaaaaaah.
TEACHER: Excuse me?
TG: (shakes his head) Nuh uh.
TEACHER: What do you mean? I am asking you where you are FROM.
TG: (takes another long look at her up and down) Nah. It's complicated. Move on.
TEACHER: (infuriated) I SAID WHERE ARE YOU FROM!!? Everyone is from SOMEWHERE.
TG: Yyyyyyyyeah.
TEACHER: SO WHAT COUNTRY WERE YOU BORN IN?!!!!
TG: (another long pause) Naaaaaah. Complicated. And I don't HAVE to tell you. I'm not GONNA tell you so MOOOOVE ON.

Entire class looks in awe at complicated dude.
He really does seem.....complicated. Teach decides it IS probably wise to back off at this point and does, in fact, move on.

10:40AM: Losing battle with sleep and resort to head down with pen in hand to pretend write.
10:48AM: I wake up to my least favorite game, the game played by every roomful of immigrants in every mandatory class I have been in. I call it the IN MY COUNTRY! game. It can be started anytime, in the middle of anyone's sentence, about any topic...in fact, off topic, non sequitur and something you know as little about as possible is preferred.
Today's first player is Australia girl who in the middle of a sentence about jobs in France announces...

AUSTRALIA: You can be a cop in Australia!
(Here we go........)
CANADA: No you can't.
AUSTRALIA: Yes you can!
CANADA: No you actually CANNOT, I know this because my uncle moved there and bought some land and.....

13 minutes spent on whether an immigrant can be a cop in Australia. Maybe I am just an annoyed, close-minded NYC jerk but what does that have ANYTHING to do with what jobs I can take in FRANCE? The country I am LIVING IN. The country we are ALL IMMIGRANTS IN. If I wanted to know Australian cop laws, I would have ALREADY GOOGLED THAT SHIT. Before I can get even more riled up, the IN MY COUNTRY! game takes a sudden turn as China guy who up to that point has been silent, SHOUTS from the back corner, jolting awake those around him:
"YOU BUY HOUSE IN CHINA!"
(room goes silent)
"YOU BUY HOUSE IN CHINA!!" he shrieks again. Teacher looks on with her Oprah smile as she has successfully gotten her immigrant class to open up and relate to each other. I thought this was a French Civics class, not a Customs Around The World Based In Shaky Facts class.

USA LAWYER: No, you actually CANNOT buy a house in China.
CHINA: YES! YOU BUY HOUSE, YOU BUY HOUSE IN CHINA!
USA LAWYER: NO, that is just a LEASE, a lot different than buying land, you cannot pass that onto your children so you actually CANNOT buy a house in China.
CHINA: (upset, shouting and pointing at the sky) YES! YOU BUY HOUSE! THEY IN THE SKY! YOU BUY HOUSE IN THE SKY!

The class falls silent because, really, what more is there to say? You buy house in sky in China and then go be a cop in Australia. Moving on.

Next discussion is about passports and EU citizenship, Russia proclaims....
RUSSIA: I don't like that you HAVE to show a passport when traveling to the UK, mine is Dutch."
SERBIA: You have Dutch passport? You Dutch?
RUSSIA: (reacting as though Serbia had threatened her very life) I am NOT DUTCH, I AM RUSSIAN!
SERBIA: You have Dutch passport, you Dutch. You already EU citizen.
RUSSIAN: I AM RUSSIAN!
SERBIA: You Dutch. Why you even here? You no need to be here, you EU, you Dutch.
REST OF CLASS: (taking any opportunity to chime in) Yeah! Why are you here? You don't need to be here if you're Dutch! If you're Dutch, you are already EU! Who told you to come here?!@#, etc.
RUSSIA: (face red with fury) It is for my work and I AM NOOOOOT DUUUUTCH!

OK, so Russia is not Dutch. From the third to the fifth, they liked it. You buy house in sky in China and you can be a cop in Australia.
French Civics 101.
Got it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

THE JACKOFFS


I have been playing a lot of concerts in Paris lately. Four this past week alone. Hauling my hundred plus pounds of gear up and down 6 flights of steps, arguing with taxi drivers that yes, my keyboard will in fact fit across the back seat, dealing with bookers and sound men in a foreign language, pushing people to buy a CD to make my cab fare home in an age where very few feel purchasing music is necessary (if I had a nickel for each time someone with a 6 euro beer in their hand told me they love my music but couldn't afford to pay me anything for my CD, could I perhaps give them one instead....). I do this because I love what I do and I love the music scene. The music scene that involves the surprise of being paired with a band who blows my mind, who inspire me and who connect me to a new group of talented musicians creating beautiful songs and making the world a little bit prettier. The music scene that involves real music lovers and fans listening attentively to a live experience that cannot be copied and passed around the internet. A shared experience between audience and performer is sublime and it is this experience that keeps me coming back for more.

I treat every musician I meet with respect. I buy a CD if they have them, I listen attentively to their set no matter if I like the music or not. It's a question of community and respect for that community. I therefore pose my next question....

WHY ARE THERE SO MANY F'IN DOUCHEBAGS IN THE WORLD?

I ask this question honestly. For every amazing show I have (and thankfully there are many), I also encounter the following which pretty much sticks to the same formula each time...

A group of 30 something aggressive jackoffs who decided to have a band like, 5 minutes ago, blow into the club like they are reunited Led Zeppelin. They fail to introduce themselves and instead "inform me" they are taking my slot. Argument ensues. Their girlfriends and wives show up shortly after and ask me to remove my gear from the chairs so they can sit and listen to The Jackoffs make their sound check while reliving prom. The Jackoffs will usually sound check for an inordinate amount of time, hemming and hawing with the increasingly annoyed sound man. The "music" is about as bland as the midlife crisis of the bassist living out his teen dream. They chug their free beers and proceed to play way beyond their allotted time slot because they are too wrapped up in "Hey, did you notice what a sweaty JERK I am?" dreamland to recognize the following:

1. YOU ARE NOT A ROCK STAR. YOU NEVER WERE.
2. YOU DO NOT NEED TO TURN YOUR AMP UP TO 11. THE CLUB IS 6 METERS DEEP.
3. IT IS NOT 1991.
4. NO ONE ASKED YOU FOR THREE ENCORES. NOT EVEN YOUR WIFE.

The Jackoffs will hear pretend applause in their heads that tell them "YYYYYEAHHH, keep going, this is the JAAAAAAAM" until I insist they end their now 75 minute extended set of wandering over-amped banality. Another argument ensues. They will take their time to get their shit off the stage and will knock over my gear. I will set up and play my show. The Jackoffs will stand as close to the stage as possible and talk as loudly as possible for the entirety of my set. When asked to buy a CD, they will look at me like I am the most insane nutjob on the planet and say incredulously "No way".

Nice.
End of scene.

You can catch The Jackoffs playing around town pretty much any night of the week. Just follow the guy wearing his sunglasses at night, he'll know where the JAAAAAAM is at.

And if you are in town Wednesday night, go see Ottilie at Le Vieux Léon. I played a show with her last week, she's a singer from the Alps whose show had me dancing and smiling ear to ear. Her live show is amaaaaazing. Oh, and buy one of her CDs after the show so she can make her cab fare home. :)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

THE SYSTEM

This is the face of a legal alien in France.


Proud.
Strong.
Fearless.
Welcomed.

This portrait of pride and jubilation in my new-found homeland was taken during my latest half day stay at a prefecture somewhere in Paris. After 15 months now of mairies, prefectures, administrative mistakes, paper shuffling, office shuffling, people shuffling, interviews, blank stares, feigned comprehension, total confusion and a new understanding of what the word "system" really means, I have received my holy grail...the carte de sejour. I'm legal, man. Before I set off on my half day adventure (for what I thought was just a chest x-ray appointment) I jokingly made a guess that I would end up having to talk to at least 12 different people in French and would most likely cry for three of them. I was off by one. It was 11 and I only cried for two.

The morning started off great. My eyes opened at 8:12AM for an 8:30AM appointment across town. Flurry of SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT, run to the metro with my giant GET LEGAL folder and off to yet another prefecture. The hives started the moment I left, by the time I got there, the tears were lined up and ready to go. French language skills out the window. Check, check and check.

DESK ONE: Sign in. Woman points to desk next to her.
DESK TWO: Two women talking animatedly with each other outside a room filled with foreigners. I step up nervously and show my convocation. She asks where I am from, after blanking I choke out "New...York"

FRENCH WOMAN: "Thank you! To enter, you have to buy my friend and I a plane ticket."
ME: (mind racing crazily....she couldn't possibly have said what I think she said) "Uh...."
FW: "Two plane tickets please!"
ME: "I.....uh...(panic panic panic) I don't understand....you want uh..my plane ticket?"

She laughs and whisks me into the room, I take a seat off to the side and look around at the 50 or so other foreigners, all speaking French. She goes to the front of room where there is a video screen set up and takes out what looks to be a remote control and announces to the class in English "WHERE IS THE NEW YORK GIRL WHO DOES NOT UNDERSTAND?" I am officially dead inside. I slowly raise my hand as all eyes are now on me, the New York girl who does not understand. She comes and gives me the remote control and tells me to push it when I see the Eiffel Tower on the video. What? Huh? Why has she given me this? Why am I the one running the video? Why do I feel special now? She starts the video, I push the green button and I jump as a loud English voice comes out of it.
Only then does it hit me.
It's a frickin' translator.
Not a remote control, you moron.
After watching a video strangely focused on "women have a right to work here", we sit waiting to be called in for interviews. No one talks to me. Quelle surprise.

DESK THREE: I am interrogated for 30 minutes by an older woman in a small office. Sweating profusely, my French is coming out in horribly spoken spurts of chewed up garbles mixed with fighting tears back. Then she pushes me over the brink when she passes over a short French test for me to take. OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD stop it OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD just read the frickin' questions OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD ok name, got it OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD lieu de naissance OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD ok birth, naissance means birth 9 juin OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD.....and so on.
I pass the paper over, she glances down over her glasses for a moment before sighing and asking...
HER: Madame Boulé, what does the word lieu mean?
ME: Um....place.
HER: And lieu de naissance means...
ME: Um...place of birth.
HER: (looking me over) Then why have you written June 9?
ME: (tears well) Um..I don't know. Sometimes I have crisis of nerve.
HER: (She looks at me) OK, you need to calm down. Breath.
ME: I know. My whole life is this since I am child.
Before I can burst into more tears and ask her to be my Mom, she gives me THREE more convocations for THREE more interviews and classes I am required to take, shuffles me out the door and walks me down to the medical office....

DESK FOUR: Sign in while crying.
The medical area waiting room is in the middle of about 8 doors which open and close in a flurry of doctors coming out, x rays being stacked, people shuffled in and out of one room after the other. In the next hour I would see five people in white labcoats. In one door, check eyes, passed to different labcoat guy, check weight and height. As he writes the numbers on my chart, I suddenly say in English loud and clear, "Wow, must be those delicious French donuts!" I realize my crisis of nerve is really kicking hard now. He doesn't even look at me as I internally chastise myself for making some sort of Turrets inspired wisecrack about French donuts. WTF IS A FRENCH DONUT?...YOU FOOL...YOU IDIOT..WHY WOULD YOU SAAAAY THAT? TO WHO? IT WASN'T EVEN FUNNY ANYWAY....WHY WOULD THAT BE FUNNY?

"OK go into the hallway and wait for one of the doors to open, go in and lock it, take your shirt off and wait for the door on the other side to open."

Uh....alrighty. But like, all these doors keep opening and closing, who is on the other side? Some dudes? I go in, lock the door, whip out camera to take a portrait of my self esteem being smashed to bits in a maze of incomprehension and crises of nerve.
Door opens as I stand there half naked with a camera in my hand.
Uh...hey guys, just uh....getting one in for the books here....heh...heh...have you heard the one about the French donuts?
I am smashed against a screen as two technicians take the chest x ray and shuffle me back into the room and out in to the waiting room.
Wait wait wait wait.
Shuffled in to see Doctor who asks a barrage of medical questions including..
DOCTOR: Are you depressed?
ME: Why? Do I look depressed?
DOCTOR: Just answer the question.

Back to DESK 4 to check out, shuffled down hall to pick up carte de sejour only to be told I have to pay 275 euro in stamps only, not money (cause that just makes soooo much more sense) and they of course only sell the stamps down the street at the Tabac but it is 1:23 and their office is closing in five minutes so if I cannot make it back in time, I will have to return later. Or tomorrow.
NO WAY, compadre.
After all this I AM walking out of here with my carte.
I race down the street again to get the stamps as I know how serious the French administration are about their lunch hour and if I come back at 1:31PM, it's game over for me. I ponder briefly the irony of how I always seem to be running somewhere for an administration that took 15 months to process me. Panting, I rush up the stairs where finally.....I receive my carte.

Next week...off to the local prefecture in my arrondisement to explain my work situation for apparently four hours. Hmmmmmmm......