A Postcard From Paris

July 10, 2010

I wouldn’t have the slightest idea when it was that I last received a postcard.

I’d have even less idea the last time that I sent one.

I do remember purchasing several postcards at a small shop near Père Lachaise, the cemetery where Jim Morrison and a slew of other poets, writers, and such are buried in Paris. The postcards were shots of the iconic, graffiti-covered bust that once marked the Lizard King’s grave.

I’d intended to send them to friends – musicians and merely lovers of music – back in the States, but five or six days were not enough to eat baguettes, drink wine, and write missives on the back of postcards.

(I write very, very small, so it would be more work than it might seem)

Actually, I’ve never been blessed with discipline when it comes to scrawling thoughts onto postcards and actually mailing them.

(probably a reaction to my mom being a taskmasker when it came to the sending of postcards)

On summer vacations, we’d no sooner reach a hotel and step ‘cross the threshold of sweet air conditioning then my brother and I would be sitting at some hotel desk, hands straining, as we cranked out tidings to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and relatives we didn’t even know.

It was like being in the sweatshop for a public relations department of some Third World dictator.

Paloma brought home a postcard several weeks ago – depicting the scene above – that she had found on the sidewalk.

Sandy – who had sent the postcard – might have checked out Père Lachaise, but, if she did she wasn’t making a pilgrimage to Morrison’s grave.

The postcard is stamped 25 Avri ’62. Even with a limited grasp of French and math, I know that to be more than nine years before Morrison died.

There really isn’t much information provided by Sandy on that postcard to Helen Harding. “Of course,” she is “having a good time” and “the monuments are fabulous.”

There’s no mention of baguettes or wine.

But, she does happen to note that they’ll be home on Saturday.

Maybe she was angling for an airport pick-up from Helen.

Here are four songs that are postcards from Paris…

Rosanne Cash – Sleeping In Paris
from The Wheel

I know that a lot of folks consider Interiors, the album before The Wheel, to be Rosanne Cash’s masterpiece (not that a listener could go wrong with much in her catalog).

I’ve always been a bigger fan of the latter (especially for the heartbreaking, opening salvo of The Wheel and Seventh Avenue) and the gentle Sleeping In Paris is simply gorgeous.

Kate St. John – Paris Skies
from Indescribable Night

Those who read liner notes with an eagle’s eye might recognize the classically-trained Kate St. John as a member of the ’80s trio The Dream Academy who notched a memorable hit with the hypnotic Life In A Northern Town.

A good half decade after that band’s split, St. John issued her debut, Indescribable Night, and the delicate, cabaret-pop of Paris Skies sounds like an evening in the City Of Lights.

Shane MacGowan & The Popes – A Mexican Funeral In Paris
from The Snake

Four years after receiving his pink slip from The Pogues, legendary songwriter Shane MacGowan issued the first album fronting his new band, The Popes. Like his work with his previous band, The Snake fused raucous rock with traditional Irish folk music into a delirious brew.

A Mexican Funeral In Paris is a disjointed affair, punctuated by some manic saxophone and a sunny brass section, that tells the tale – more or less – of a band of ne’er-do-wells splitting up the spoils of a heist at the titular event.

Beth Orton – Paris Train
from Daybreaker

I’ve made the trip from London to Paris by train a few times and its a fantastic journey from one major capitol to another in four hours, but it is a bit strange to consider that a portion of the trek is spent under the waters of the channel.

I’ve also spent time riding The Metro, the subway system of Paris, which, compared to The Tube in London isn’t quite as sterile and has a bit more grit and character.

As for Beth Orton’s Paris Train, it’s dreamy and hypnotic and it no more than ends than I’m inclined to hit repeat.

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Last Train Out Of Stubbville*

December 20, 2009

Planes, Trains And Autombiles seems to be one of those films that has become part of the fabric of the holidays. It gets a fare amount of play around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Coming across it the other night – as well as seeing the Atlantic coast getting two feet of snow – makes me grateful that there will be no travel for Paloma and me this Christmas.

Though the sun of Florida might be pleasant and there could be postcard amount of snow in Indiana, our forecast is for temperatures in the 40s, overcast, maybe rain. But we won’t be having to make like Mad Max on the highway or risk our plane plummeting to the earth in a fiery heap.

I am about as enamored with air travel as Rain Man was. Its extremely dangerous. I don’t have the exact statistics at hand, but I think something like one out of two planes crash.

It’s not the actual concept of aerodynamics that is a concern to me. It’s more a trust thing I have with everyone from the most certainly bored and inattentive people that tighten the bolts on the plane to the most certainly bored and drunken pilots.

Paranoid digressions aside, travel by train is inspired.

(and, unfortunately, not often an option for most of us in the States)

During a brief time living in London, The Tube made me giddy as a schoolgirl and I was always up for a ride on the train. I’d sit or stand contented by the motion and familiar rhythm of stops, watching the antics of the passengers while listening to headphones.

It was like having the greatest ant farm in the world with a soundtrack I loved.

Peak hours could sometimes be less enjoyable, but I do remember certain stretches and routes would have far fewer passengers, especially the line I used most, nicknamed “The Misery Line.”

(I thought it was delightful)

I’ve taken trains through jungles in Malaysia and through farmlands in Ohio and there’s no denying that watching the countryside slowly and serenely roll by outside the window adds romance and intrigue to any landscape.

But, this Christmas, the view from the couch with Paloma and the animals and a few days of downtime appeals to me most.

*In case you’ve forgotten (or never seen Planes, Trains And Automobiles), Stubbville is where Steve Martin and John Candy must depart because “train don’t run out of Wichita… unlessin’ you’re a hog or a cattle.”

Beth Orton – Paris Train
from Daybreaker

I’ve made the trip from London to Paris by train a few times and its a fantastic journey from one major capitol to another in four hours, but it is a bit strange to consider that a portion of the trek is spent under the waters of the channel.

I’ve also spent time riding The Metro, the subway system of Paris, which, compared to The Tube in London isn’t quite as sterile and has a bit more grit and character.

As for Beth Orton’s Paris Train, it’s dreamy and hypnotic and it no more than ends than I’m inclined to hit repeat.

The Clash – Train In Vain (Stand By Me)
from London Calling

I mentioned The Clash’s Train In Vain in a post earlier this year, but I never tire of hearing it.

Cat Stevens – Peace Train
from Teaser And The Firecat

All debate regarding what Cat did say, didn’t say, or actually meant to say regarding Salman Rushdie aside, although I was pretty young, I do vividly remember hearing songs like Morning Has Broken and Wild World on the radio as a tyke.

And, maybe most of all, I remember the ethereal Peace Train.

Megadeth – Train Of Consequences
from Youthanasia

Paloma and I saw Megadeth many years ago. In fact, I believe it was on the tour for Youthanasia. Fortunately, the tickets were comps as the venue was an ancient arena and the sound was dreadful.

However, Train Of Consequences is a monster. It sounds like a train, barrelling down the tracks full throttle with gear-grinding guitar and even a madcap bit of harmonica.


Accidentally Poking The Nun With A Stick (Or, Maybe She Simply Wasn’t A Lakers Fan)

April 14, 2009

Unlike last Easter, Paloma and I opted for a more traditional take on the holiday this year – I’d promised we could go shopping for some plants and flowers.

As the late morning sky resembled that from the opening credits of The Simpsons, we decided to head out into the countryside and, forty-five minutes later, she was loading up a cart at a lawn and garden store.

Checking out, Paloma made polite conversation with the clerk. As it was roughly noon on Easter, she asked if things had been slow.

The clerk replied that, actually, quite the opposite was true. “Guess people ‘round here don’t go to church on Easter Sunday.”

His eye contact conveyed disapproval and his tone had enough accusation in it for me to, momentarily, consider telling him that we were Muslim were late for the call to prayer.

However, as “’round here” was Sticksville, I suspected such a comment might have brought Homeland Security into the mix. Paloma had promised me KFC for lunch, so, obviously, that would have been an inconvenience.

When I was in third grade, basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was only about half a dozen years removed from being known as Lew Alcindor. As Larry Bird and Magic Johnson wouldn’t really bring the NBA onto my radar for several years, I doubt that I knew Abdul-Jabbar by any name.

(I was surprised that both Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Lew Alcindor passed spell check – what a glorious time to be alive)

As a nine-year old who was being raised Catholic in a small Midwestern town, I doubt I’d heard of Islam, either, until reading an article on Abdul-Jabbar in some magazine (probably Sports Illustrated).

The piece made me aware of the greatness of Abdul-Jabbar and it served as a foreshadowing of the future.

After several days of letting the subject slosh around in my nine-year old brain, I decided to take up the matter in religion class with Sister Jonette.

“Sister Jonette, we’re Catholic and believe in God, yes?”

So far, so good.

“And some people are Muslim and they believe in Allah, right?”

I was suddenly sailing into unfavorable waters.

“So, how do we know that we’re not praying to the same god? Or, what if we’ve got the wrong one?”

Sister Jonette had to be eighty-years old. She was of the ruler-wielding generation of nuns. She was not really of the demographic to take into account that I was quite honestly curious about a topic that would prove to be vexing to a lot of folks down the road.

I tried to throw Kareem under the bus as the source of my curiosity.

As I shuffled off to the principal’s office, I was no closer to having a grasp on spirituality, but I had learned a valuable lesson regarding religion.

Queens Of The Stone Age – God Is In The Radio

Beth Orton (with Emmylou Harris and Ryan Adams) – God Song

Faithless – God Is A DJ

Manic Street Preachers – The Girl Who Wanted To Be God