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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The Polar Bears Are Not Having A Good Time

January 7, 2009

There’s an ASPCA commercial that’s run for quite some time that has been unofficially banned in our household. You’ve likely seen it – a series of heartbreaking footage of neglected dogs and cats as a Sarah McLachlan song plays. It is rather affective.

I’d rather not see it, but Paloma was positively inconsolable the first time we saw it (of course, I probably now have a reputation as the heartless bastard that has threatened to FedEx a kitten to Gary Busey, yes?).

So tonight, I look up from reading ESPN online, expecting to see The Family Guy and, instead, seeing footage of gaunt polar bears and undernourished polar bear cubs, struggling to cross the ice melting beneath their feet. It was a commercial for the World Wildlife Fund and it must have lasted two minutes – if not quite as potent as the ASPCA’s pitch, it certainly held a greater sense of dread.

I’ve already made a note to send them a donation (no doubt my twenty-five dollars or whatnot will get things back in order).

I immediately thought of a fellow who works in my office building, wondering if he had possibly seen the commercial. Occasionally, he will be outside smoking when I happen to also be enjoying tobacco. Invariably, he will announce some arcane fact about the weather.

“The past seventy-two hours have been the coldest seventy-two hours over those three calendar days since the dinosaurs roamed the earth,” he proclaims to all in his vicinity.

I’ve gotten the impression that he suspects the whole climate change thing to be bogus and he’s on a one-man mission to spread the word.

I get the vibe that he’d sign on to hunt polar bears from a helicopter with high-powered artillery.

I’m not a scientist and I’d wager that neither is this fellow smoker. But, it does seem as though the weather has been off kilter and there do seem to be an awful lot of, you know, actual scientists – people who devote all of their time to pondering such matters – who seem to be concerned.

All I know is that those were some miserable looking polar bears.

Here are some lions and tigers and bears…

Bob Marley – Iron Lion Zion
Mr. Whiteray has a lovely post on Mr. Marley which quite appealed to me as I’ve also been reading the late Timothy White’s bio on the music legend, Catch A Fire.

Bruce Cockburn – Wondering Where The Lions Are
I’ve always been a bit more partial to Bruce Cockburn’s more rock-oriented stuff, but there’s no denying some of his gentler material is wonderful, too.

Rosanne Cash – Dance With The Tiger
Rosanne’s father once came into the record store where I worked. Oddly enough, The Man In Black was wearing a bright, floral-patterned Hawaiian shirt. That said, Rosanne is certainly one of the more under appreciated female artists of the past twenty years.

Zebra – Bears
When Zebra released their debut in 1983, a lot of music fans embraced their Zeppelin-like sound. A lot of critics slagged them for their Zeppelin-like sound. Personally, I wore that first album out (on cassette, of course).


Holding Auditions In My Head For My Potential Imaginary Friend

August 9, 2008

As I often remind Paloma, my childhood was spent in the hinterlands of the Midwest, right past where the flat Earth ends, amidst a lot of corn. Its charm is far more apparent given time and distance.

Paloma has heard me recount tales of my years in the wild. There was no MTV because there was no cable. And new music was not easily attainable. Life was often accentuated by imagination out of necessity and, yet, I never had an imaginary friend.

The last item came to my attention the other night when I happened across my copy of The Essential Calvin And Hobbes. The comic strip, which ran for a decade or so beginning in the mid ‘80s was drawn by Bill Watterson, whose been quite reclusive and rarely (never?) has licensed the use of the characters.

Calvin was a hyperactive and imaginative six-year old tyke; his constant partner-in-crime was a stuffed tiger, Hobbes who was as real to Calvin as anyone else. I can’t do them justice in writing, suffice to say it’s good stuff.

Reacquainting myself with the duo, I wondered if I had missed an important childhood trinket, so I held an audition in my head for such a sidekick.

The name Captain Erving popped into my head. I’m thinking it must be some subconscious homage to the great Dr. J, so I kind of like it. And, for some reason (perhaps some subliminal, nautical influence due to repeated viewings of Jaws), I envision Captain Erving, my potential imaginary friend, as a lobster.

It does seem like a lot of responsibility, though, this imaginary friend business. And, I’d much rather have a dog.

However, in honor of Hobbes, here’s some tiger music.

Manic Street Preachers – Send Away The Tigers
The Manics work since the sublime Everything Must Go has been erratic, so their last album was a wonderful surprise. It was lean, wiry rock and the album was the length of a vinyl release. The title track is fantastic.

Pink Floyd – When The Tigers Broke Free
This song was described in some review I read recently as the “holy grail” for Floyd fans. Appearing in the movie The Wall, it wasn’t on the album, and was unavailable commercially. I think my friend Brad – who turned me on to Animals (probably my favorite Floyd album) – had taped a version of the movie for me from the VHS.

Imperial Drag – Breakfast By Tiger (Kiss It All Goodbye)
As great as it is to discover new music on blogs, rediscovering music I loved – but, for whatever reason, I’d forgotten – is another benefit. The criminally underappreciated Jellyfish is one such band that received a lovely tribute over at My Hmphs. When that band came unglued after two spectacular albums, keyboardist Roger Manning formed Imperial Drag

Rosanne Cash – Dance With The Tiger
Speaking of underappreciated, I’d certainly put Rosanne Cash on such a list. Dance With The Tiger comes from her 1990 album Interiors which chronicled the dissolution of her marriage to singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell. The song was written with John Stewart, who recently passed away. In the late ’70s, Stewart had a hit with the song Gold which featured Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham and, though I’m certain that it’s not Buckingham on this song, the guitar work is certainly reminiscent of Lindsey.