Tengo una hija que viva
en Puigcerda, España. Now I have found a place I like in Paris:
Au Rendez Vous des Amis. They don't throw the customers out after
a glass of wine. Some customers look like they have been sitting there
since the execution of Louis XVI wondering if he got what he
deserved or not. Mais il est froid et venteux a Paris. I decide
to pay the daughter a visit.
The subway gets me to Gare
Austerlizt. Le tren will get me to Latour de Carol
on the border of France and Spain.
I get a sleeper but I am not
a sleeper this evening. I drift in and out, dans et hors.
rouge," I say in my dreams but le serveur hears "vin
does not sound like blanc to me, but it seems that unless pronunciation
is perfect, he does not understand me. She aussi.
ne parle pas français parfait. Je n'essaye pas même.
The train descends
from the high mountains into Latour de Carol, the small border
station. There is a lot of rock in the mountainside and it extends clear
down to the valley. The water in the little stream looks icy cold. There
is snow in the mountains. Before I get there I call mi hija on
the cell phone. She's there when I arrive. Or is this just a dream?
I pinch her to
see if she's real.
are you doing?"
And now we are
at Teruel's wine shop in Puigcerda. "Es muy bueno," says Turelle
about the bottle of Yaguirre vermouth that my daughter is holding.
We buy it and a bottle of Txacoli. Turelle is a friendly older
guy, round head and short. He talks about learning languages. Three are
commonly used in Puigcerda: Catalan, Spanish, and French. Catalan is the
We go out with
our two bottles into the brilliant sunlight high up in the Pyrenees mountains.
There are striking cloud formations. It is cold but tolerable in the sun.
The air is fresh, almost intoxicating.
del sol brillante
Lumière du soleil brillant
Y yo soy feliz
Et je suis heureux
if I can say it,
can't I be it?
It is not like
the gray overcast days of Paris. Est-ce que c'est la raison
de tout café, vin?
I don't know the
answer to that. But I think the gray does drive one into the cafe, the
tabac, the brasserie, the bar, where various forms of
relief are available.
I wake up to
café au lait grand & fresh muffins. The family business
is coffee houses. Marry into that, and not money, if you can. Your day
will start with a sweet kick that only gets better.
are off to a place around the corner: San Remo Cafe & Bar.
It is not a great restaurant; it has no stars that I'm aware of. We are
there, in fact, because the restaurants with the stars are closed until
the weekend when there are more monied customers at this time of year.
But I like this place. It is comfortable and friendly: comodo y amistoso.
The waitress does not try to impress us but is there quickly to get the
order. They have the printed "workers' lunch" but there do not
seem to be any workers here today. "They are eating at home today,"
says Emiliano, my daughters husband, who runs Solano restaurant
just outside of town. I order the workers' lunch for them: bistec
y frittes. I also order vino rojo, which is not heard as
The wine comes
immediately. Then a crisp salad. The bistec y frittes is soon
on the table. It is sizzling hot. They don't get stars for any of this.
But they do get stars for a friendly quiet place to sit and talk. I sense
that my "restaurant values" are shifting. Is the same thing
happening to my "literary values?" Posiblemente. Deseo las
palabras en la table mas aprisa.
suggests not ordering the vino rojo
by the glass.
who am I?
quién soy yo?
is okay but does not go well with the pork loin.
than rojo malo.
a strange Thanksgiving at Immortales.
esta muy mortales, pienso que si.
we eat and talk, which is what it is all about.
has filled up now.
business crowd at three in the afternoon does not talk; it shouts.
Not Death In The Afternoon but kind of depressing.
is not Thanksgiving exactly.
are not as expected.
is the way things are supposed to be, or usually are, which makes
them as expected.
give thanks that things just are.
Montanyas eran hermosas en la mañana.
can give thanks for that.
the car, it did not fly of the road. Thanks, caro.
grand boulevards in Barcelona
Mediterranean climate. I prefer the cold and the rain but this is
a nice change.
por el cambio.
train takes me back to Paris where I walk the streets looking for
is different from San Francisco. In Paris you can just take a walk
in the evening and keep your ears open. There are so many cafes
and so many that have music that you don't have to check a paper
or the Internet.
It was at
Rue Abbesses & Rue Houdon that I heard it.
sound of jazz coming from Le Houdon Jazz Bar.
Antoine Hervier Trio with vocalist Maxine Plisson.
The songs American. The classics from the Great American song book.
ask her if she sings French.
she says. But the great jazz classics, ils sont en Englais.
Leaves, I say, was originally in French.
But she has
just come to the bar to get a sip of something and does not have time
to answer. The song is not over.
pianist is the strongest musician in the group.
like what I see.
nice long bar that wraps around toward the door.
A casual coffee-house
in some small dive
rot with the rest ...
don't think so.
La Femme Noire
I decide to go back. But first I stop by Madison Garden Bar.
This is a "girl" place not far from my apartment and on
the edge of Pigalle.
I had had a conversation with la femme noire the last time
I was in Paris.
There is a tall, somewhat
awkward women at the bar. She is one of the "girls" and
is also tending bar. A drink is expensive: 20 Euros. I ask the prices
and she hands me la liste. It's 140 Euros for a massage;
it's 245 for la bouteille. La bouteille is a bottle
of champagne and includes sex with la femme. She asks if
I'm interested. I say no, Je suis simplement curieux. I
ask who gets the 245 Euros, the house or la femme. The
house gets it all, she says. Gratuiti pour la femme?, I
ask. She tells me about 30 to 50 Euros is normal. I tell her that
is the reverse in San Francisco. The house gets about 50-60 Euros
, the girl about 200 Euros. She says she's worked Germany and Amsterdam
and Paris is the best but she doesn't know San Francisco.
revoir, I say.
revoir, she says looking bored.
I walk over to Place
Pigalle, then slip down a side street.
I walk into a bar where
a girl sits in the window. The bar is bigger, nicer. There is a
big parlor for sitting down with a bottle of champagne and a girl.
There are more girls here than at Madison Garden. The bartender
is a dignified older woman, not one of the girls doubling as the
bartender. I ask her for la liste. It seems everyone has
la liste. The prices are about the same as at Madison
Garden. It is 20 Euros for a drink, 20 Euros to buy a girl
a drink. I buy one for la femme noir who is sitting next
to me. She tries to talk me into "champagne."
suis pressé. Acune champagne ce soir," I say.
She is easy going, soft,
sexy, and nice. We talk a little, then I head for Le Houdon
Dary is playing. It is hot. Nicolas is on tenor saxophone.
plays with the intensity of John Coletrane but sounds like Charlie
Parker. He has picked a good model but I'm a little dubious. But
he is young, has time.
is strong. He matches the intensity of Nicolas, drives the rhythm.
No chance of dropping the beat with this guy. He is the beat, and
I won't accuse him of sounding like Elvin Jones. I don't know how
one would copy Elvin Jones, anyway.
over, conversation at the bar.
est Philippe Soirat.
He is on the CD with Stéphane Spira.
a tall black guy at the bar, introduces me to Philippe.
Now things are getting
interesting. The whole restaurant staff poses for a photo. I buy
Dominique a drink for that one. It is his idea and he
facilitates it. I do think I have found something here. Le
temps est doux et je sui heureux.
with the barman
is actually a young women
one of those places.
back in Pigalle. I feel at home there on the side streets
but not on the big boulevard with all the neons.
She is a very
personable young woman.
are three woman on the other side of the bar.
That is, my
side. But they are not clients.
barman explains about champagne.
qualite est importante pour les hommes?
You see, the
price of la femme is based on the quality of the champagne
the client orders. At least at Sully Bar.
Euros for the cheap stuff
Euros for the good stuff
suis plus intéressé par la qualité de la femme.
would be, I say. Le bière serait bien pour mois.
beaucoup de clients réguliers? I ask.
an Arab-looking guy comes in, kisses one of the girls on both cheeks,
and goes into the back with her. His "girl" looks pleased.
I think it is a relationship, this thing with the girls. If you come
regularly, they treat you sort of like a boyfriend.
Sully Bar is quite lovely, the woodwork magnificent. I
guess guys who are picky about champagne are also picky about woodwork.
Lighting is low, red, and sexy, of course. It is an old-time parlor
and a beautiful one. One girl always sits in the window seat, thus
eliminating any confusion about what is available inside. The shiest
male need not hesitate at the door.
I tip my "girl",
the barman, 10 Euros—she looks a little surprised at getting
a tip but pleased—and head down the street.
have not had sex but I'm still feeling hungry. Maybe just being
around this part of town makes you feel hungry. Maybe tout appétits
increase here. I head down the street to a cheap little Tobac
called Le Fontania, where the main interest, besides drinking,
is betting on horses. There are even old woman in booths jotting
down betting notes. I order a sandwich and a glass of wine from
an older blond woman who has her hair cut like the mane of a horse.
The sandwich is huge—so big it is cut in half to fit on the
plate—and the wine glass is filled to the top. I think I'm
encountering "worker" prices. It's only 7E20. I save one
of the halves for later and watch the next race on the giant TV
above the bar.
how I find it.
walking up a street. There are a lot of little cafes.
I turn the
corner onto Rue La Vieuville, then hear music.
drapes are pulled.
see a bar through a window near the door.
open the door.
look up at me.
it looks like it's okay to go in.
starts again. I listen. It's an unusual place called Living B'art.
There are bottles of wine on the tables, some plates of food. But
the focus is on the small performance stage.
Cadé is the musicien:
I learn more later.
is a song writer as well.
seems to me.
But I don't
hear the words. Not well. Every one sounds
What is it
all about? I want to know. At break, I meet Stéphane
and he gives me Série rose, a CD. I will listen more.
is from New York, lives in Paris.
the description too. She had suggested the week before that I might
shoot video, so I do. (Distortion from the contrebasse
on the video made the quality too low to use, but you can hear samples
here.) She has with
her the perfect blend of musicians for her style: Jobic Le Masson
on piano, Peter Giron on contrebasse, and John
Betsch on drums. Together they wrench the big emotions out
of each song. But about 12:30 I wonder what is happening over a
Le Houdon, which is not far away. I split for Le Houdon.
There I encounter a real surprise: Philippe de Preissac,
vocals and clarinet, and "Hot" Papaz on washboard. The
sound is funky too but of another kind. It reminds me of New Orleans
jazz with strong folk influence. It stirs real passion in the audience.
Maybe it is the combination of instruments, particularly the washboard,
which is played with little metal thimbles on the fingers. Maybe
it is the clarinet, not heard so often these days, or the very French
style of singing of Philippe, or the humor with which they
talk with Philippe. "It is heart," he says. "That
is what the younger musicians don't have." Well, some do but
not in such unlimited quantity. But certainly it is heart, passion,
feeling, humor, and a considerable amount of musical talent. It
is also for sure the unusual combination of sounds from the washboard
and the little drums and cymbals that surround the washboard played
by "Hot" Papaz. It is wholly delightful and original.
Philippe sings mostly in French but at one point he sings "It's
a wonderful world," strongly accented of course, and you begin
to really believe that it is.
good stuff. I left saying to myself, "Not in San Francisco."
Was I becoming an expatriate? Was the city of gray overcast skies
stealing my heart away? Was a river more enchanting than a bay?
Shame on me.
Ne Suis Pas Fini
Tuesday I head over to Saint Germain and the "Latin Quarter,"
also known as the Left Bank. I think maybe I will find my perfect
hangout there, even though I seem to have just found it over in
Montmartre. I hunt down Rue Mouffetard, which I have read
about. It is near Sorbonne University. I'm pretty good
at finding it but then feel disappointed. I'm not into student places.
And this seems to be both students and tourists. I buy a cookie
from a cheerful woman in a boulongerie and retrace my steps
down Boulevard Monge to Boulevard Saint Germain.
Walking down Boulevard Saint Germain, in search of the
perfect sidewalk cafe, I catch a glimpse of the Notre Dame—just
a little glimpse down a side street but nevertheless there she is.
Now I've see her before and I've even been inside but catching this
little glimpse down a side street amazes me. So many amazing sights!
Then I stop at a sidewalk cafe. Not a perfect one. I conclude after
walking two blocks I'm not going to find one. But it is an okay
one. It is not one of the many upscaled ones I have been walking
by. It looks genuine. And right across the street is a place call
PC Superstore. I have a not-particularly-good steak at
Le Villon and an okay glass of wine. I think some of the
food here has become too much of a formula. But I do get an amusing
language lesson. For some reason the bartender, not the waiter,
comes out when I'm done and asks if I want anything else. I say,
"Je suis fini."
'Je suis fini'" he says. "'J'ai fini.'"
departs to do "l'addition."
about it. Okay, "Je suis fini" in French probably has
a different meaning than in English. It is probably more personal,
meaning something like "I'm done for."
comes and I payer. But before I go I stop by the bar. The
bartender is there looking amused. "'Je suis fini' means I'm
terminal?" I asked. Yes, he said with a smile. "Merci,"
across the street to the PC Superstore and started to go
inside. There were little blinking pink lights all along the stairs
that led up to the store. It looked sort of like the entrance to
the Sexorama in Pigalle. I ascended until I could see inside
the store, then turned and left. I was not impressed. I was accustomed
to digital hype but not this degree of it.
previous day I had gotten an email from Stéphane
Cadé. He had just read Sidwalk
Cafe: Hanging Out In Paris (Part I) about Enrico's
closing. He wrote: "I think you must absolutely come to the
Limonaire, because it is a very special place in Paris,
a cabaret as in the past, but modern. For many of singers as i am,
it is a very important place."
Now I who
was looking for special places couldn't very well skip going, could
I? Stéphane was signing over there in the evening,
so I checked on how to get there. From the location of my apartment
near the subway station in Pigalle, there did not seem to be a good
route. So I decided to take a taxi. Linonaire was over
near the Grand Boulevards. I headed over about 10 PM. Make
to the Limonaire web site directions, it was located off
of Rue Montmartre between Rue Bergère and
Boulevard Poissonière. The cabbie got me near it
but not there. It was down an alley that lead to a hotel in an inner
courtyard. Actually I heard Limonaire before I saw it.
As with Living B'Art, curtains were pulled keeping the
light in. As with Living B'Art, I waited for the right time to make
my entrance and found a little space at the end of the bar. What
can I say? The place was pure funk old cabaret. Again there were
tables with bottles of wine and some some plates, and there was
a small old bar and a lot of stuff on the walls. I quietly ordered
Four Roses and soon felt intrigued and à la
I began to get into the music. This was a larger group with two
guitars and drums. It had a kind of rock rhythm and sound but I
heard again a lot of minor chords and chromatics; maybe the "tragic"
sound. But now I was getting into the lyrics, frustrated that I
could not understand all. It was really the words that interested
me and the way the music, like a boat on a river, supported them.
It was the chanson, the song, that mattered. I was missing
something because I did not understand every word. Je n'ai pas
ete 'fini' parce que je n'ai pas compris. Mai j'ai voulu savoir
les mots mieux.
My mind is broken
And the sun
Cut its lead pencil
In my ear ...
Something like that.
voice is soft, sensitive. It will be fun to get to know the words