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Archive for the ‘Fun’ Category

Mischief

In dreams, Food, Fun, Hautvoir, proto drafts, RLB trivia on July 14, 2016 at 8:21 am

We’re in the car, driving to the glass museum in the former mining town of St-Benoit de Carmaux, when I say something about our mother’s recoil at anything resembling humor. Yet, in the trove of photos, I see a few of her looking jolly in social settings – parties and such. But jolly didn’t fly in family circumstances. My sister’s interpretation: laughing implied a loss of control. Given some of the less savory aspects loss of control can take, you could call our mother’s efforts at self-control commendable, if misguided. Given we’ll all die anyway, I’d rather die laughing and I’d rather laugh whenever possible between now and the final send-off.

The nuns shared this dread of laughter. As for portraits done in oils (or their later interpretations in the first days of photography) – how often have you come across a formal portrait of some grandee laughing his head off, or with his teeth showing and his wig askew?  The simple answer: never.

Therefore (since this is leading somewhere) a someone given to setting off bouts of giggling in others was not invited to exercise her skills at school commencements or graduations; in classroom settings; at her grandmother’s table or during a family dinner where the main concern of all centered on the edibility of the contents in the mystery pot about to be uncovered.

Solemn was good. Mischievous was bad. Simple. Basic. Prior to the meal, we now bow our heads to ask for heavenly assistance with our digestive juices.

***

After the glass museum, we ate salade aux deux saumons (gravlax and smoked) in Albi.  Giggled over some of the more memorable culinary fiascos from our childhood. And recalled with fondness our father’s   purchase of a gadget from which he produced grilled cheese sandwiches he served with pickles, when all else was lost to the Burnt, the Raw, the… the… that thing you just lifted out of the stewpot, what is it exactly, mother? Or would we rather not know?

(Both the visit to the museum and the subsequent walk through Albi were enlivened by my attempts* to keep my pants on – the change in diet begun end of June isn’t beneficial to my limited wardrobe.)

* successful, but this added an element of suspense to the outing.

***

One boy whose papers don’t bear up under scrutiny will show up at my door at some point around ten o’clock this morning. Beyond listening to him, there won’t be much I can do to help. Who knows – there may be a hidden thread in his narrative that leads out and away, same as in a Navajo rug.

Another boy sends me three pieces of writing he’s done. Of the whole group, he’s the one with a real grasp of the French language and a real desire to use the written word. Why he’s taken to signing his stuff so-and-so President of Africa in some cases, or President of Africa and revolutionary in others, I’m not sure. Given his enthusiasm for words, the fact the authorities signed him up to learn maintenance on industrial equipment can’t sit too well on his sixteen or seventeen years of life experience.

Of the three pieces he sent me last night, the best to my mind is the one he titled Immigration. Could also be called Immigrant’s Blues. Some of the imagery in it stays in mind this morning – for instance, his comparison of the Mediterranean sea to a cold storage chest for Africa’s youth. Funny, not.

Which makes humorous mischief the better option when the weight of the world bears down too much.

(Do I add a post to keep afloat to the filing categories for this blogpost? Yep. Along with food, dreams, fun, Hautvoir, proto drafts, and RLB trivia.

Allez? Allez.

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Yes and no

In Absurdlandia, Circus, Dance, Film, Food, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts on July 8, 2016 at 8:11 am

If writing is something like your first responder on the scene, resisting the urge takes some doing. Resisting the urge to identify. But aren’t you supposed to identify. Aren’t you supposed to put the pen to paper or the fingers to the keyboard the second the urge to do so shows up?

Answer: as the title says. Yes, for the small nugget you may find in the reams of repetitious bilge a body can produce over time. Or for a try at another angle on some obsession of yours. Some need to know that won’t go away, no matter how often you tell  yourself you’ll never get an answer other than: that’s life or who knows or some other pat formula designed to chase away the pesky fly.

Except the fly keeps on coming back.

Resisting the urge? Yes. Forever? No.

***

A phone call in all the din out on Place du Jourdain last night during pre-opening events to the annual street arts festival. A woman whose voice I can barely make out. Someone I know told her to call me. New family in town, maybe I can help. She’ll call back this morning.

***

Unanswerables. France won a soccer game against Germany last night. Honking cars streamed by with folks hanging out the windows waving flags, way past midnight. In the afternoon, an eleven-year old American boy by the name of Omar asked me – if I had a choice – what French name I would give my lodger from Mali. I’d never given the matter even the edge of a thought but the boy answered for me. “Hassan would be nice,” he said.

***

The gulf between the virtual and the real, the article says in The New York Times over one of the shootings in the States,   recorded live as-it-happened.

Unanswerables piling up like overdue bills. “Tenir debout dans le chaos” – the title to a piece published in a temporary paper put out during Aurillac’s street arts festival last year. A swirl of unanswerables, like so many pieces of confetti. Catching some of the patterns they make – is that the best a body can achieve?

The fine edge. Collective joy, collective grief, sadness, anger, rage, panic. Collective. Private. The edge where one emotional state tips over into another.

***

A total change in eating habits isn’t a full-time occupation? Yes and no, when you’re out in public places with food and drink provided by others.

***

Allez, I’ve used up this morning’s musing time.

 

“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.

Another bit of folk wisdom for the ages?*

In Absurdlandia, Fun, Games, Local projects, Music on June 22, 2016 at 10:21 am

Didn’t they warn me over and over and over again? Waste not, want not.  A stitch in time. Not to mention: be careful what you wish for.

Ah yes. They were right. Be careful. Given the universe’s  irrepressible sense of fun, you’ll get “it” and curse through your teeth. The timing will be off. The constraints on your life, on your time, on your personal space: enough to set up a wail to the heavens. But you wished for a break in the logjam, didn’t you? Ha-ha, personable one, smile to the camera now. Looks like you and your buddies won this round. Und now: never mind the parlor, says the spider, let’s move along and find  you a snug little cocoon to sleep in.

Brief factual translation of the above: a combination of phone calls, emails and registered letters has tipped the scales of justice into the proper alignment. Almost two months after the court decision, Child Protection Services (with help from the friendly reminders mentioned in the previous sentence), “accede to the minors’ wishes”. After suitable interviews and home visits, the four minors will be sheltered in private homes, their benefactors paid for the privilege of doing the work of sheltering, feeding, clothing, insuring proper schooling etc. Said benefactors will have signing authority for all medical and educational needs.

Right here, I break out into a lusty rendition of Viva mi patria Bolivia as a suitable hymn to my foolishness. Why?** Because I’m one of the lucky four. The thought of sharing my living quarters for an indefinite period with a seventeen year-old given to bouts of panic and… well, of seventeen year-oldedness combined with cultural cluelessness?  Leaves me with the choice of cursing or of singing. As usual, given a choice, I do both.

However. Apart from the possible benefits accruing to the four minors, two considerations stand out this morning: 1) I cherish my sanity, and my privacy too. 2)Coping with discomfort has a marvelous way of speeding up the process called On to the Next Thing. I don’t intend to become anyone‘s surrogate parent for any length of time. Ergo, somebody’s wish for the fast track to independence has more than my full support. Good luck to him, and to me.

* As a further bit of wisdom for the ages, I suggest: While skittering across the landslide, don’t forget to enjoy the view.

**Yes but: why Viva mi patria Bolivia? Am I Bolivian? No. The song landed in my life at some point. It tends to crop up in my head when the universe’s peculiar sense of humor so decides.

A post

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, Animals, Current reading, Food, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Synopsis on May 25, 2016 at 7:36 am

This morning, I type these few lines after a lousy night, sleep-wise, and after reading that unionized staff in France’s nuclear power plants are the next considering going out on strike. Never a dull moment.

So I’ll stay with the tiny and the closest at hand, since there’s not much else to reach for anyway. I need help from someone with real and practical knowledge of computers, but can’t afford the services. Everything else is at that same level of need vs available resources. The green plants are thriving and, thanks to a can of bug killer provided by a friend, the termite-like wood-chompers aren’t eating away at the base of my kitchen table this morning. There’s not much breakfast to speak of since the dog polished off my bread supply while I was out. Apart from which, there’s not much else to report on the home front.

Synopsis? Not yet, that’s for sure. I’ll leave the story alone for a while. Maybe read through a few more of the fools in Shakespeare’s plays. In the intro to my copy of Melville’s Moby Dick, there’s mention of the fool in King Lear having served as a model for the character of Pip.

Apparently, my computer has lost the connection again. I’ll assume this writing won’t get erased when I press publish. If it does, what can I do about it? Not much (ah, a little thingie shows up; it reads draft saved at 7:34:16 am. Let’s find out if that’s true.)

Timing

In Absurdlandia, Animals, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Local projects, Revision, Synopsis on May 20, 2016 at 7:56 am

I’m tempted to stop with the title. It says a lot about why a joke falls flat or makes you laugh (or smile).

The kids – whether inner ones or the ones in real time. In high spirits, keen on having a good time. Adults -inner or real, same difference – anxious to get through the chores and take a breather. The kids don’t get it, the adult blows up. Hey! a whole new game! It’s called: getting under the grown-up’s skin. Ha-ha. Ha.

There’s a level at which the twain shall never meet between grown-ups and kids – the inner and the outer. The kids just want to have fun. So do a lot of adults. Except there’s money to pull in for groceries and rent. Income tax returns to file. Job interviews. Meetings. Calls from the teacher “about the problem we’ve been having with your child”.  Power outages. Email glitches. Software with built-in obsolescence. People at the door just when you’ve decided the day is over. Admin papers in need of urgent updating. Fun. Games. Not to mention quality time with a favorite grown-up (whether inner or etc – see above).

The dog whimpers started at five thirty am. At least, the dishes are done and most of the food prep out of the way for lunch with a friend. Must clear the table for stuff like plates and cutlery unless we pile everything on top of file folders, busted electrical appliances and other sundries.

Apart from which yesterday’s workshop was a delight. The boys were happy with it and so was I. Sometimes, though, the days feel like a high-wire act through a haze of mosquitos.

Must say the random hit on a Facebook message about pickles upping your happy-happy serotonin levels landed just at the right time last night. Five minutes sooner? Not funny. Five minutes later? Meh.

Timing.

And now: shower, get into street clothes, clear the desk, take out the garbage and head to a meeting.

 

On to the next thing – a howling wolf? a blazing inferno? a fly doing the back stroke?

In Drafts, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Local projects, Revision on May 13, 2016 at 9:01 am

I’m keeping the agenda loose for this afternoon’s workshop. For one, this is my first meeting with “the group”. For another, I’m told, members of “the group” vary from one session to another. So do their numbers – anywhere from four to twelve participants. Basic language skills (and in what languages)? Variable, comes the illuminating answer.

As a general outline, the two-hour session will involve a basic getting-to-know-you section. On which – depending on the identifiable variables – I’ll tack on something about expressions imagées. For instance, what does a French speaker mean when he or she says: “j’ai des fourmis dans les jambes” or “il a la tête dans les nuages” or “je donne ma langue au chat“? Do you have a similar expression in your language to say I’m restless or he’s daydreaming or I give up, tell me the answer.

Plus: whatever happens for real, in real time. I’m bringing along paper, pens, pencils, crayons and such,  and we’ll see what happens when somewhere between four and twelve teen-aged asylum seekers from an assortment of origins sit down for a session they haven’t asked for but must attend or else.

Next week, in another session (90 minutes) I must lead twelve of the same (or other) youngsters through basic training in how you present yourself to a French teacher/potential employer/person in authority in order to exude respect, self-confidence and eagerness of a controlled/enthusiastic kind. Again, the session is mandatory and the group home is – how shall I say – experimenting in the field of occupational programs. Most of the thirty or so residents in the home are still in administrative limbo. I bet they spend more time with their head in the clouds or their eyes glued to their phone than devouring manuals on French grammar or memorizing the dictionary.

Somewhat in limbo myself, story-wise. Must up the ante somehow or the assembled ingredients will not provide a satisfactory finale.

As I write this, I’m looking at photos I did of a nine-year-old boy’s copybook. The boy does better with words when he can draw at the same time. For instance, a drawing to describe what happened (and why he was punished but not the other kid) when a classmate called him the dumbest guy in the whole school. The other kid punched him in his glasses to make his point and our hero swatted him on the head in response… ah! there’s another expression imagée for the group this afternoon: donner une bonne tarte. Which doesn’t mean giving someone a good pie but rather, delivering a vigorous swat with the open hand.

Of what, if any, use any of this will be in fiction? Time in one of its wrinkles may reveal.

A moment of foolery, or *

In Current reading, Drafts, Food, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Revision, Sanford Meisner, Sundays, Theater on May 8, 2016 at 7:58 am

*or why I don’t waste my money on buying the magazines, but read those I find devoid of their sealed plastic covering :

The five-page article gives telling anecdotes from the lives of young persons born to the toiling/unemployed classes (known as classes populaires in these climes) who’ve taken the social elevator through access to the better schools frequented by those young persons born in the upper classes (known as la classe supérieure in the singular around here). This is followed by a two-page interview with a woman who describes the social climbers as trans-class – something like transgendering applied to social categories. In this interview, the woman informs the readers that no one is responsible for his or her class of birth.

With this stunning revelation in mind, I return to the day a young man by the name of Pierre – whose dad is a mason and his mom a lingère – goes for a meal at his new girlfriend’s home. On the menu: something to which he refers as purée de patates (that’s mashed potatoes for the likes of most English speakers). The girlfriend’s mother gently chides him: no, no, these aren’t mashed potatoes, she says, this is un écrasé de pommes de terre (the closest translation I can think of: a smash of earth apples.)

If there’s an afterlife – and Molière not otherwise occupied – he’ll be glad to learn Les Précieuses Ridicules are alive, thriving, and pursuing their mission of civilizing the great unwashed.

Five magazine pages of learning how to wear your Ralph Lauren shirt so as not to give away the fact you were born and raised in a ZEP. That’s a Zone d’Education Prioritaire i.e. the kind of town in which I live and where I coach school kids and – gasp! – get paid to do it too. No benefits, no paid holidays, but paid, Madame I gently inform you, so I can buy my own potatoes, hold one up and ask it for the plain truth: “Life form, how dost thou prefer to be eaten – boiled, fried, mashed or smashed?”

***

Meanwhile? Meanwhile, in Act 5 Scene 1 of Twelfth Night, or what you will,  Orsino, Duke of Illyria, asks Feste how he fares and the following ensues :

Feste : Trully, sir, the better for my foes and the worse for my friends.

Orsino: Just the contrary, the better for thy friends.

Feste: No, sir, the worse.

Orsino: How can that be?

Feste: Marry, sir, they praise me and make an ass of me. Now my foes tell me plainly I am an ass: so that by my foes, sir, I profit in the knowledge of myself, and by my friends I am abused: so that, conclusions to be as kisses. If your four negatives make your two affirmatives, why then, the worse for my friends and the better for my foes.

The rest is excellent too. But I digress because, writing-wise, I’m still trying to figure out scene breaks and where the reader goes next. Revising, in other words.

May Sunday

In Animals, Artists, Food, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, news coverage, Revision, Sundays on May 1, 2016 at 7:47 am

When I left off as cook’s helper last night at Brigade Papilles (translation: The Tastebud Brigade), the men had set up the apéro section for today’s event, and started on the dining hall. I hope they leave the banners from Les Plasticiens Volants‘ production of Little Nemo in Slumberland. What about the models for the giant balloon figures, I asked. With some seventy people in the hall at lunch time, don’t they risk getting damaged or stolen? Nobody seemed concerned. I assume they have their reasons.

Fine weather, although chilly for an outdoor May 1st celebration and fund raiser for RESF (Réseau Education sans frontières). No chillier than marching with banners while chanting El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido. Healthier too, given the tear gas and truncheon doctrine of the present authorities. A never-ending spiral. With cameras on both sides of the demonstrations, Facebook provides opportunities for compilations of the worst excesses. Anger builds and the scenes  become as senseless as watching opposing bunches of primates hooting insults, hurling rocks, kicking and dragging one another. Human primates have the advantage, if you will, of tear gas, water cannons and plastic bullets, molotov cocktails… and the list goes on. As for all-out war, I’ll pass on singing All we are saying is Give Peace a Chance. I doubt weapons manufacturers keep the song on their playlist – unless they have a peculiar sense of humor.

Théâtre du Rugissant leaves for a final residence this week, before the opening of its new show. School holidays end. A court decision should land tomorrow or Tuesday concerning three of the four young men from Mali awaiting news on their fate. In my personal world, reading, writing and revision get tucked into the days, like special treats squirreled away. But last  night was straight to Slumberland, and tonight promises an exhausted collapse into bed.

The dog? Left off the leash for a few minutes, she managed to scarf garbage again this morning. The ongoing head-scratcher:  how to keep a dog healthy in a filthy environment.

 

Sense, scents, cents

In Animals, Drafts, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Local projects on April 19, 2016 at 8:48 am

Cybèle started expectant whimpering when the car turned up the road leading to the lake – a spot she hasn’t visited in over four years.  The woman’s house? Unknown to her. The woman? Not seen in over three years.

As soon as I let her out of the car, she trotted off to the correct townhouse at the end of the row, wagging her tail behind her. Go figure. A friendly human, a huge back yard, a dog buddy…and two cats practicing the art of making themselves scarce. My dog has an obsessional need to wait in ambush for the fun of chasing a panicked cat up a tree. I’ll call on a regular basis to make sure no harm ensues due to a miscalculation by either species.

A word to my immediate neighbors so they don’t call the cops over my absence and the sight of a stranger in my home. Pack up for a leisurely drive up to Roanne for a sleep-over. On to Mulhouse tomorrow morning.

Didn’t take the time to read the article in TNYT – a scientist suggesting that the brain structure of bees would allow for some form of awareness and/or consciousness. Nice when science provides elements of proof to the obvious. Of way more interest at this end: wondering how that awareness shapes the world. You’re a bee. There’s a field of rapeseed giving off a delicate scent of baked cookies. Or a patch of borage in full bloom. Your senses say: Here Be Bliss in bee-land.

Waking to a house without a dog (and fresh batches of dog hair): odd. Not starting the day with a walk with a canine through fresh garbage  temptations, and broken bottles? You want the truth or not? A large backyard would be bliss.

Pack up the old kit bag, including the draft? Allez.

(Ah yes, the cents in the title: gift from friends to make up for my lost hours at work. Gratitude – doesn’t always look like something from Coutts-Hallmark.)