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Archive for the ‘coffee’ Category

“I was walking down the road, minding my own business…”

In Artists, coffee, Film, Food, Fun, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, or juice, photography, proto drafts, Tea, Wine on June 30, 2016 at 8:47 am

Those are the first words I speak in Ed Maurer’s composition, Pérégrinations. Yesterday, I spoke them – and other bits used in the score – while the camera rolled. Others did the same. The shots will provide material for a clip. We laughed a lot – including after others helped me off the floor when a chair broke under me. Because of my weight? I doubt it, heavier bodies than mine occupied it first. No real harm done  but maybe I should take a refresher course in shoulder rolls and tumbles, as learned years ago in a judo class.

“I was walking down the road, minding my own business…” And then? A cat dashed across the path? A cop car appeared? A group of marchers? No one other than a buzzing fly? A squadron of stingers? Had it rained during the night? Were the fields and spider webs covered with dew? Or was this a path through a forest? What kind? A path well-trodden or a push through scrub and thorny bushes? A street? Industrial, residential…

Characters, take your pick.

***

Behavior modification. Basic observation: you can’t modify eating habits the same way you quit smoking because you can quit smoking altogether but you can’t quit eating. Obvious? Yes. Not so obvious: the how-to. A trip to the small downtown supermarket now involves a mental blanking out of some nine-tenth of the displayed food stuff. Some of those I ignored already, some I bought on occasion, some I considered staples. I won’t be counting grams of ingested protein or salt forever but I’m doing so now to get the notions straight – including when eating out with friends.

I’ve reactivated a long-time companion for this purpose: a notebook I’d bought in Montreal a month before leaving for Europe. Jottings, drawings, notions about food. Fancy meals, simple ones. One recent entry shows cartoon figures at a café table in Gruissan. Date: May 28 of this year when I went to the seashore with friends. Comment added yesterday: “I didn’t know it but I was eating my last hamburger with fries. Delicious, luckily.” Better to end something on a great memory than on a lousy one.

So. Re-training the taste buds. Including when the jollity of a morning photo shoot peaks over wine and pasta with home-made pesto.

Yes, stomach? What’s that you said? ’tis time, I agree. I’ll have breakfast now.

Tangled

In Absurdlandia, and other spirits, coffee, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, or juice, proto drafts, Tea, Wine on June 25, 2016 at 7:59 am

Another old saw in need of sharpening: the one about the tangled webs. The tangled webs woven by beginners in the arts of deception. “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” That one.

In need of sharpening because the teeth on a saw have a double edge. The part about deception covers one edge. Doesn’t begin to deal with the tangled webs resulting from bona fide, top-rated attempts at sailing forth on the course of Truth. As scientific evidence of this? Perform the following experiment: gather together the finest-minded people you can find in your environment. All of them intent on helping others with their own physical, mental and/or financial resources. Watch your head and duck when the whirligig gets going. Not because anyone is lying or attempting to deceive. Just because. Because so-and-so understood such-and-such to mean xyz (in that order) while someone else concentrated on the w preceding the xyz and another questioned the relevance of the xyz approach and wished to test a zxy strategy.

The universe keeps expanding, remember? Opportunities for confusion grow at an exponential rate. Smile and bear on through the tangled woods.

***

Proto draft :

The fiction is only borderline funny at this point. I’m still processing the real-life bits that inspire the take-off into the realm of fantasy. The place where lofty ideals smack into basic incongruities – in other words, into humans as they are, while longing to be so much more, so much better, so much…nobler, kinder, happier, gentler, stronger, more decisive, better proportioned, better…oh, you know.

The peevishness that springs forth when uncertainty and frustration turn into a form of mental torture, for instance. What do you mean I still have to wait? What do you mean you haven’t found the magic key that unlocks the door to the magic kingdom? What do you mean my cherished dreams get shunted aside, again? What do you mean? I have to learn how to cook for myself?

***

Coffee. On the brink of starting my seventh decade on planet earth, seems I’ll have to learn to enjoy it black. In fact, I’ll have to re-examine all my habits and preferences in matters of food and drink. I know full well habits can get tweaked. But some are more resistant than others. So, as I did when I quit the habit of smoking, I have to change something basic in the stories I tell myself about foods I like. A few post-hypnotic suggestions may prove useful in that regard. Oy. Laughter, the best medicine? I’m smiling, yes, but I’m not splitting my sides over this one.

OK. Universe, I hereby apologize to my kidneys, and promise to give them an easier time from now on. That better? (Eyes roll up. The lesser self – also a basic component of the universe – mutters “yeah, sure”.)

A last mouthful of black coffee. Sensations on front, sides and back of the tongue? On the palate?

I’ll stick to the word different for the time being.

Fumbles (attempts at fixing)

In coffee, Local projects, news coverage, notes, proto drafts on June 13, 2016 at 7:02 am

The odds of fixing either one of the fumbles? Unknown, but slim. A missed deadline in one case, a misunderstanding in another – both have serious consequences on other people’s lives.

Dealing with the first this morning. Another trip to the préfecture in Albi. A friend materialized last night for the drive there and back with the parents. The front liners at the bureau des étrangers wicket aren’t devoid of empathy – even if, under the weight of demands, their bosses’ expectations and the Monday morning crawl, you have to give empathy a chance to stumble out of the back room. Even assuming empathy will show up, nothing guarantees empathy will prevail. So it’s good to know a friend will be there both on the way in and on the way back.

Second fumble: I said one thing, his teacher understood another. Right now, this leaves the boy hanging in mid-space like a cartoon figure arrested in mid-fall. Except this isn’t a cartoon. Spoke with the teacher on Saturday morning. Will speak to her again today. Keeping toes and fingers crossed the school will find available space and sign him up in an alternate program.

Sticking to finding solutions and avoiding laying the blame on myself or on others because that’s a waste of precious energy. Voilà for the basics in ‘real life’ this morning.

Coffee. Scrolling the news. Pulling together yet more paper et vogue la galère as far as this morning goes.

***

In this specific instance, empathy rules for another little bit. This allows for a further attempt at solving the housing issue. The family is the last one still in the building scheduled for destruction. Every evening, the watchman comes by and locks the entrance door. Every evening, the cops roll by and verify the door is locked. Then, the kids show up with their passkey, pull up the couch from the basement, block the stairs, turn on the music, pull out the smokes and it’s party time. So far, they haven’t bothered the family (I mean, no forced intrusion into the apartment – but the family can’t go out, nor can the family get a good night’s sleep.) Ergo, emergency phone calls on the way to the préfecture and a promise from Social Aid to look into it asap. We’ll see what happens.

On to the next. (But in the meantime, found an artifact that fits right in to the world of fiction. This is good.)

All to the sound of very distant music

In Absurdlandia, coffee, Local projects, Music, notes on June 9, 2016 at 7:18 am

Corals don’t need a leader to organize into complex forms and colonies. With a nod toward human leaders who think they lead, humans don’t need leaders except as an excuse when the mess becomes unmanageable. “Not my fault, I was just doing my job. For complaints, see the next one up on the chart.”

Bureaucratic mazes. No one needed to sit down and design them. They grow on their own. Their growth is as much a consequence of attempting to contain the mess, as it is of willful decisions to deny access to whatever the service purports to be.  A matter of improving the service, they say, as they add another roadblock forcing you into the next dead end. Kafka comes to mind? Yes but also the joke of the Jewish pessimist who says: “it can’t get worse than this”, and the Jewish optimist who answers: “yes it can, don’t give up yet.”

I may have missed an important deadline for the renewal of someone’s authorization to stay in-country. Unless I find someone to handle the matter before tomorrow noon, the person is in deep trouble. Trouble is: only so many hours in a day, and only so much energy I can put into navigating the maze. The mental image of a dug-out in a waterway choked by water hyacinths – lovely to look at, but how the hell do you reach dry land, a dry shack, food, music, human company…

***

A young one – fifteen, sixteen? In need of help before his decisive exam in French literature. In both trial exams, he was marked a six out of twenty i.e. an F. I review the exams with him and the comments from the corrector. An hour into the two-hour session, his confidence builds up to the point where he asks me to explain some of the words used by the corrector and some of the instructions heading the questions. His exam is on the seventeenth. The family’s been in-country for three years. The boy speaks fluent Arabic and Italian. Writes almost-appropriate French. His chances of achieving a passing grade? I don’t even give that a thought. Next and final catch-up session: tomorrow morning.

As for the questions in the trial exams, they reminded me of the trick questions examiners throw in to eliminate as many candidates as possible. What the successful ones will have gained? In most cases, precious little except relief. Ordeal over and parents off their backs.

Do I look forward to time away from impossible tasks and deadlines, plus mind-numbing sessions of basic French grammar and of repeating “no, that’s a b, not a d”, or “no, six times seven is forty-two; I repeat, you write down the two and carry the four“?

Some preliminary effects of faulty wiring on jollity

In Absurdlandia, Animals, Artists, coffee, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Revision, RLB trivia on May 16, 2016 at 9:51 am

The other day, the wiring did something strange and fried the innards of two useful appliances: a computer I used as a stocking device for photos and such, and a photocopier for which I couldn’t find ink cartridges anymore but could use as a scanner.

This morning when the dog insisted that 5:45 AM was the adequate moment for a search through the fresh garbage on place du chateau, the light switch from downstairs to upstairs failed to produce the expected result. For some reason,  Fiat Lux  was operational again when we returned.

I’m typing this on a disconnected laptop because I have a fairly healthy sense of humor but losing the contents of this computer would push the envelope of my equanimity straight over the cliff. The automatic back-up feature stopped functioning a while ago. The external hard drive churns but doesn’t save. Yes, I save my writing on little plug-ins. Still. When power systems play games and fry the innards on my appliances, I don’t fall down laughing.

The more pleasant times? Pleasant indeed. Brief though. Yesterday, for instance. Several pleasant hours, all in a row. At one point, on my friend’s terrace, I imagined my dog gamboling through the countryside instead of foraging for dreck amid the smashed bottles. But I’d need a car, wouldn’t I? Not much chance of having the kind of money that buys a car again. C’est la vie.

***

Of course, I appreciate the humor in someone using a search engine that turns up websites for upholstered furniture when you type in the title of this blog. Since my small frame is now well padded in all directions, there’s something apt in said ap. But the fickle power supply does something unfortunate to my jollity. C’est la vie.

A day off. I’d like to be racing through the draft, making the sorrier parts sing and so on. I keep giving the light switches sidelong glances instead.

Allez. Maybe it’s this room that induces gloom. Allez, allez, almost finished reading through The Horse’s Mouth again, or How to make misery sing.

I’ll need a bit more coffee first before another look at my draft.

Listening for the sounds of English

In Animals, coffee, En français dans le texte, Hautvoir, Revision on May 5, 2016 at 7:40 am

Blessed moment when :

the sun’s up, the phone’s disactivated and it’s too early for anyone to come knocking at my door.

Several minutes go by. This is all I have to say?

Yes, for right now. I’m savoring the quiet. And the coffee. And the knowledge this is a day off. The dog is functional again and, barring further unforeseeables, I’ll make it through the month, money-wise.

Add the sight and sound of mourning doves feeding on the flowers of black locust trees et voilà for my trove of personal contentment this morning.

***

Revision: proceeds at a creeping pace. The competing sounds of French and English inside my head. I need some quiet time today to keep the inner French resident occupied while the English-speaking one gets on with her occupations.

Allez? Allez.

“Travailler c’est trop dur et voler c’est pas beau”*

In Animals, coffee, Current reading, En français dans le texte, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, Revision on May 4, 2016 at 7:42 am

Writing this post in the morning means a certain mindset prevails. Quality and length of sleep and dreams, urgency of matters out there in the “real life”, overall condition of befuddlement or clear-headedness have direct consequences on the morning mood.

This morning, “real life” means stumbling out of bed and into clothes, walking the dog, pouring coffee down my throat, dashing to Albi and back, finding my way to the bank before an afternoon of coaching kids in their ABCs and 2 X 8. After which I’ll get to collapse, maybe, and pay attention to fictional lives as in reading and revision. Tomorrow is a statutory holiday but tomorrow is another day, far, far away.

The good news on a personal level: I can recover some of the money I’ve spent on other people and thus make it through the month of May without my small-town, small “real-life” descent into baseline survival of the begging for help variety. Orders given to the dog during the walk? No further illness allowed. (Orders provide the illusion of some control over “real life”.)

Of course, I should have gone straight to bed after the meetings last night but after counting and re-counting the money collected in two fund raisers, I dipped back into Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Almost weighing every single word in the text, at this point. After which weighing every single word in my less-than Shakespearean writing becomes a mandatory exercise.

***

Real-life stuff that keeps the going interesting: two of the boys received a standing ovation when they walked into class yesterday. I’d informed their teacher of the positive court decision. Many of the other boys in their class are embroiled in the same kind of legal strangle holds. Good news for some meant good hope for many.

***

* title of this post: the first lines in a song done by Cajun artist Zachary Richard. Translation: Working’s too hard and stealing’s not nice. The song goes on to say: begging for charity’s something I don’t know how to do, I live off love and hope to live on for a long time.

A find

In Animals, coffee, Collage, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, photography, Revision, Tea on April 30, 2016 at 8:51 am

The dog sleeps a lot – you would too if your food and drink options proved limited. She even gobbles down the pills, no questions asked. A small portion of rice flavored with activated charcoal? Mamma, you be so good to me! Water in small dribs, followed by a visit to the great outdoors soon after. And no contact with other animals, for the time being. As a result, she wags her tail near the window when she hears familiar folks and canines go by. She’s one good doggie.

A find? Yes, Cybèle was a foundling, but not the one titling this post. The correct title should read: two finds but they match up so well, I see no reason to change the wording. I’m talking about two objects – a table and a chair, both from the late thirties.

The two must have sat in a nice café, at one time. The table top is a fifty-centimetre (about twenty inches) square of red bakelite banded in black. The top sits on a central column with four projecting slices of grooved and varnished wood. The seat of the wooden chair has slats in the same style.

The find now occupies a spot near my kitchen shelves and provides a place to sit, drink coffee or tea, write, draw or take in the afternoon sun. The table’s big enough to accommodate a second cup and the company of one (1) extra body, if and when such occasions should arise. Combined with the re-potting of plants, the find supplied several moments of vast contentment yesterday.

***

Am I done with the story? Almost. I sense I’ll have to let the whole bunch live out the next bits in their fictional lives off the page or the computer screen. Not because their lives don’t interest me any more. Because, like the tabletop on yesterday’s find, stories have a frame. Sometimes, like a flat-earth explorer, you only discover the edge when you get to it.

So. A café table, plus flowers plucked from an abandoned garden.

Today is cold and rainy. With luck, tomorrow’s feast will happen outdoors.

DSCN7213

Mellow, for the time being

In Animals, coffee, Drafts, Hautvoir, humeurs, Local projects, Music, Revision, Theater on April 26, 2016 at 8:15 am

In my mind’s eye, I still have the vision of the afternoon light through the clouds in the Cévennes – like huge spotlights picking out exquisite details in the patchwork of fields.

As for the dramatic report of my dog’s despondency over my absence: sure, Cybèle was glad to see me. Of equal interest to her: the fresh trail from a cat in her keeper’s neighborhood. Proving, yet again, how humans project their own emotions on other life forms. (I’m glad to see my dog too – as background, I much prefer her snores to my upstairs neighbor’s musical selections.)

Inching back into regular activities, aided by the school holiday which allows for a slackened pace. Plus the temporary loss of the charger for my phone. Those who want to contact me must email or knock on my door.

The draft: about half-way through deletions and re-phrasing. Eliminating as many passive tense constructions as I can (unless the passive tense happens to be a character’s usual avoidance mechanism.)

As for the kvetchy, whiny/sullen mood in the media: a tiny bit goes a long way. Over lunch with a friend yesterday, we marveled at how persistent humans are over their right to miserable attachment to things that don’t work –  unworkable relationships topping the list.

New shoes this afternoon. The other option: painting my toes black so no one notices them poking through the fabric. I could wiggle them to my heart’s content. Hm. Or paint little faces on them and make voices for them à la Señor Wences. ( Señor Wences had a head in a box  called Pedro. Señor Wences  would check out the Pedro’s impressions by opening the box. “S’all right?” – “S’all right, shut the door,” Pedro would answer.)

Voilà. The title summarizes this post. I expect a speed-up in the pace of aggravations soon enough to satisfy my need for variety. Meanwhile: more coffee, more revision et vogue la galère.

Watch your feet

In Animals, Artists, coffee, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, photography, Sanford Meisner on April 25, 2016 at 8:28 am

The title refers to the old joke about the centipede, asked to tell which foot it set in motion first: the one on the front row left, or the one on front row right? Resulting in a foot-tied rather than tongue-tied centipede.

Home. Chairs in a different configuration. The boy who stayed here while I was away brought his own food. Scorched one pan (nothing scouring can’t handle), and left everything else in tip-top shape. E-mail, agenda items, must buy new shoes since my toes poke out of the old ones. To-do this, to-do that. In no hurry to slip into anyone’s expectations as to the identity of the Real Me. Right now, the Real Me savors the last bits of the second bowl of morning coffee.

While in Alsace, I didn’t pay much attention to current world or national news. From the headlines, I don’t seem to have missed much. Must be a slow day in terms of catastrophes. The Nouvel Obs can’t do better in the fear department than ask: Should We Fear Supernovas? Best I can answer: I’ll take my chances with everyone else.

There’s way too much seriousness going around. Think straight kind of seriousness. Don’t think this, don’t say that.

A favorite moment during the last week: a visit to the church in Graffenwald with the person who waters the flowers and does the other off-stage chores. We entered through the sacristy where everything was solemn and the Christ statue pointed skyward to his Father’s Abode. A door led to the stage i.e. the altar (with a mike on it). Another door led offstage to a lav featuring a trusty snow shovel. The parish priest had called the off-stage person with his concerns about a missing flower vase. Which member of the community has taken off with one of the flower vases, I cannot say. The matter seemed of greater import than those fearsome supernovas about to explode and vaporize our piece of the universe.

In pressing concerns over here: retrieving my dog. Getting shoes out of which my toes don’t poke. Buying soil to re-pot a baby Douglas fir, gift from a man who has built the finest tree house I’ve had the privilege to see. A peek here :

DSCN6716

***

The Centipede Conundrum extends to the draft, of course. Always an issue when the “where was I?” syndrome strikes. Read from the top, again? Eh. If I knew of a better system, I’d use it.