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Archive for the ‘Hautvoir’ Category

Vendredi matin, le roi, sa femme et le petit prince…*

In Absurdlandia, Animals, Artists, Food, Hautvoir, proto drafts, Sundays, Visual artists on July 17, 2016 at 11:03 am

*the title refers to a traditional French song in which the king, his wife and their little prince come visiting the singer on every day of the week. Since the singer isn’t in, the little prince says: in that case, we’ll come back tomorrow. And so on, until the singer runs through the days of the week.

Friday morning my sister and I went to the supermarket in Gaillac. So did a whole bunch of people on holiday for whom the supermarket visit was something of a family outing. Crowded parking lot, impatient parents, blocked alleys while grandpa waited for grandma to choose the one essential flavored tea among the seventy-eight varieties on display. All par for the course – and the main reason why I visit supermarkets as little as possible.

Can you call it a moment of zen when the experience borders on disgusted amazement? Zen of sorts, I suppose, that landed on me in the yogurt section.

Yogurt. A double alley lined with refrigerated containers. Yogurt for children, one label read (this meant either slurpies  with cartoon characters on them or containers with – yes, cartoon characters). Next, you had organic, health (different from the organic kind, presumably), lo-cal, flavored, with fruit at the bottom or fruit mixed in. Did they have yogurt for boys and yogurt for girls? Not that I noticed. Maybe I should complain.

In other words, senseless glut, aisle after aisle after aisle.

Yesterday, before she left for Canada my sister and I took in a exhibition of ceramics in neighboring Giroussens. With all due respect for the potter who finds fulfillment in reproducing stones out of clay, my preference went to a large amphora in the courtyard. Shaped like a traditional receptacle for oil, wine or grain, it is decorated with leaping goats, flying fish and fowl blowing on trumpets and other friends of dance and music. A small sample?

DSCN3076 With thanks to the potter Thierry Basile, whose name lurks at the bottom of the jar, along with a pair of used work gloves.

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Frustration – dealing with

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, dreams, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts on July 15, 2016 at 8:01 am

Such are the ways of internet that I learn of grief and carnage further south here in France from an email received from Canada. The grief and carnage (and looming rage, revenge and so on): undeniable. But I have more immediate and local concerns centering around a group of teenagers – and one in particular – so you might say that, for the moment, the immediate looms large enough to counterbalance the further down the road.

The title summarizes the predominant feature in the inner landscape this morning. Frustration at not getting through to a frustrated teen ager. Of the group, he’s the one most at risk of falling in with the wrong friends. The one most in need of structure and of someone playing the role of a father figure or older brother. Obviously, I am neither of those.

Unseasonably cold weather. The proto draft on chill too, for no other reason than the impossibility of maintaining the breathing space in which to let the characters out to play.

Magpies chattering outside. Recollections of a long-ago dream in which my former mother-in-law and grandmother to my child instructed me on how to deal with all those dangers at my door and windows. Concentrate on one object, she said in the dream. Even as someone jimmies the lock on your door, concentrate on one thing and one thing only.

Breath, for example, the empty space between intake and out take. The space where potential likes to hang out.

 

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.

Can’t get much briefer than this

In Hautvoir, proto drafts on July 13, 2016 at 11:30 pm

“Except that’s not how it happened.”

Those words, like a mantra, running in my mind while I listen, or while I read a family member’s recollections.

Not how it happened. How what happened?a fictional someone wants to know.  The boy’s death, a medical doctor answers – the how and the why of it, not as the facts suggest.

The characters, and the proto-draft, much in the background of things this week. But for some reason, a physical representation of one the characters lurks, just on the edge of my field of vision, to the right. Male. Narrow face, pale complexion. Slim, wiry. Smoker? Afraid so.

He’s in profile – the left one. Wearing a blue cotton worker’s jacket, except he’s a history teacher, so it must have belonged to someone else and he must be wearing it away from school.

Fiction. Lurking. Waiting its turn.

 

Assumptions

In Artists, Circus, Food, Hautvoir, proto drafts, Sundays on July 10, 2016 at 8:19 am

All traces of the street festival gone, this morning. Stalls going up for the Sunday market. I’ll do a quick run down before it opens. My sister arrives from Canada at some point between ten and noon. Someone wants to see me before that. One of those someones who may or may not show up. If he does, he will have unrealistic expectations. Some people cave in when the notion sinks in of what unrealistic means. Some don’t. Either way, the paths they follow are unpredictable.

Details. Over and over again. What makes this one tick and that one balk? What crucial detail am I missing in someone’s life story that may provide a few answers to puzzling behavior?

Assumptions in need of airing. Disappointments in need of mending. Connecting back to family – maybe some folks get too much but then, some folks don’t get enough.

***

Everyone tells me I missed the best show of the entire festival. A tight-rope walker who’s perfected the art of the stumble. Who balances his balancing bar on the wire, then sits off-center on the bar and so on. From a height of some seven meters, I’m told – each meter corresponds to some three years of training. So the man has been at it for some twenty-one years or so.

I wanted to see this but the boy who crossed the Meditteranean in a crowded dinghy and doesn’t like green bean salad, doesn’t like circus acts either. The two of us reach temporary understandings on some issues. Then, I discover the words we exchanged had different meanings at their landing site. Understanding someone across  cultural and personality divides – it’s a slow process.

For now, market, then whatever comes next.

 

Street arts and smarts

In Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Theater on July 9, 2016 at 9:02 am

best to concentrate on details at the moment. As soon as I widen the frame, the view gets too depressing. The ugly stuff doesn’t go away, nor does the awareness of it. But the ugliness doesn’t need any help from me in its propagation.

The noise from the late-night band ended past one AM. Basic chords repeated ad nauseam to a pounding drum beat. The audience loved it and kept asking for more. Not the finest moment in the history of this town’s street festival.

There’s an off-festival venue this year, in the inner courtyard of one of the schools where I do (or did?*) coaching. A group of caravans, a large she-goat, Celtic music, puppetry – from the most elementary to the more accomplished. In the more polished category, Rêves d’une poule ridicule gets my vote. I’ve seen the show evolve from its first – hm – embryo? The mock strip-tease of a chicken getting plucked and groomed for the plunge into the stew pot is now the pièce de résistance in a thirty-minute show with great miming and acting by the three comedians and great musical support from their accordionist. A show that works for kids and grown-ups alike.

***

*When your friends get ostracized, you can’t help wondering when your turn will show up. I hate it when people reveal a seamy side I only imagined they had in the fictional renditions I’d done of them. Local people. People I meet on the street and with whom the simple exchange of pleasantries isn’t possible anymore. Some line has been crossed where being right is the same as being wrong. You weren’t supposed to question the treatment delivered to kids who deserved better. You did. So much for genial hand waves and kiss-kiss at the local market. If it stopped there, it wouldn’t matter much – plenty of other people to wave at and chat up. But the back-room maneuvers to destroy people’s reputations and professional standing? Unsavory, to say the least.

***

Details. An empty water bottle where none stood before you left the house. A door double-locked where you only turn the key once because the door is so flimsy the lock is the only part of it that might sustain a direct kick.

Signs of someone else’s presence. Someone who comes and goes. Lets me know where he’s going, then goes there. Eats the food but leaves the dirty dishes (in a clever way: by leaving a few uneaten bites in the dish). A teenager in other words.

He’ll be away for a week, and replaced by a grown-up.

***

As for single or double-locking of a door: with summer windows wide open and the gitano community grilling meat, drinking beer and playing the flamenco between parked cars on Place du Château, there’s no need of locks or keys. You go by your reputation in this part of town. That’s just fine by me, no matter what local back room boys and girls dream up as put-downs to justify their part in la comédie humaine.

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.

 

Both unexpected and predictable

In Artists, Current reading, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Visual artists on July 6, 2016 at 8:35 am

Sorting through electronic files about local refugees this morning, trying to get some grip on my sloppy filing habits, I have to smile at the persistence of another habit: my decision to shelter the one who’s annoyed me the most – and, in all probability, will continue to do so. I’m a bit old to change some of the more basic attitudes in my makeup. In this instance, my need to understand what annoys or jars or disturbs. Plus, as Henri Michaux once wrote: don’t be too hasty in discarding your bad habits because, what will  you replace them with? (this being an extremely loose translation from the French).

***

My main problem as a writer right now: reality is proving more interesting than my fictional take on it. More interesting, and invasive too. This is a high-class piece of annoyance, obviously. At some point, the fiction writer will rebel and insist on telling it her way. So I guess I’ll let the fiction writer stew until she starts sputtering or breaks loose as she is wont to do. Beddy-bye for now, fiction writer, the door’s unlocked, you can walk in or out anytime you please.

***

So, for this next bit of living, a seventeen-year old joins me and the dog for a stretch of the trek. He’ll stay with one of my friends next week while my visitor arrives from Canada.

***

Reading two things in tandem at the moment, as I often do. The first, Boris Cyrulnik’s Parler d’amour au bord du gouffre and Kandinsky’s Du Spirituel dans l’art, et dans la peinture en particulier. 

The first part of the Kandinsky isn’t an invitation to read on. Writing in the Russia of nineteen ten, he seems quite taken in by the theosophists. My personal appreciation of the likes of Madame Blavatsky doesn’t lead me to any rush to further enlightenment. While I understand Kandinsky’s dislike for materialism of the acquisitive kind, I’m not a huge fan of mystical eye-rolling either. So why don’t I put down the book? Because it annoys me? No, because I’m getting to the good part: his reading on the language of forms and colors and his insistence on what he calls the principle of inner necessity that makes an artist’s work resonate with something basic in humans which he calls the soul. I don’t know what a soul is, but that part of what he writes makes sense to me anyway.

***

So, back to this business of annoyance. Better annoyed than bored? Yes. Especially when annoyance is just another name for curiosity. What’s causing the ruffled feathers? What is it about so-and-so that grates so much? Why can’t you let that particular sleeping dog go on snoring?

Story, in other words. Out in “real” or in fiction.

For now, back to real I go.

While a silly tune plays havoc with my head

In Absurdlandia, Artists, Circus, Dance, dreams, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Theater on July 3, 2016 at 8:35 am

This is serious. Come on. Look at the mess on your desk. Look at everything you must get done before nightfall. Plus, the horrors, the miseries, the emergencies. Plus, you must take some time for yourself, as they say. Relax. Wind down. But Think Of Others! But don’t stress out. But…! and so on.

Tragedy/Comedy. An impossible balancing act? But so is the simple act of walking.

Few of us will ever push the act of walking up to the level of walking on point, one foot at a time, on overturned glasses. And, indeed, what is the use or the purpose of achieving such a level of strength, grace and daring? No purpose. The notion must have appealed to the circus artist* the same way a crawling baby decides he’s going to manage that trick of walking on his hind legs no matter how many times he lands on his bum.

Impossible. The tragedies, too deep. The comedies, too superficial. “Not funny,” say the mourners, and of course, they’re right. Except for the fact laughter doesn’t ask anybody’s permission to show up, even at a funeral. Laughter breaks forth – in churches, in schools, in hospitals. It can even break forth while having sex or visiting a sorely afflicted friend stranded in dire circumstances. How? Why? Because of something incongruous. Something that breaks the solemnity. A fly on the solemn speaker’s nose. A piece of savage wit. Anything, anything at all that interrupts the narrative and sends it spinning off in another direction.

Something silly enough to interrupt even horror?I don’t know, although some of my characters keep on trying to break through that barrier too.

For now they’ll have to take the back seat while I tackle another bout of paper sorting, laundry and house-cleaning, prior to various visits – official and otherwise –  to my humble home. (The official part happens on Tuesday. Can I greet two persons from Aide Sociale à l’Enfance with my living-room in this condition? And my kitchen? And – gad – the bathroom. Will you look at this mess in the office? )

and so on.

*La danseuse sur verre (Lucie Boulay). You can see her performance on youtube or visit this page of Le Boustrophedon’s website.

When you can’t run, amble

In and other spirits, Circus, Hautvoir, Local projects, Poetry, proto drafts, Theater on July 2, 2016 at 8:47 am

Two brief encounters last night, like book-ends to an overlong evening at the year-end staff party in a local school.

After a familiar brown face peered out at me from a passing car, I found the owner of the face loitering near one of the local homes sheltering young migrants awaiting validation of their papers. He attended a few of my workshops and shows a natural talent for writing. In fact, in one of those workshops, he told me his life ambition was to be a poet, but he’d settle for social work. Well, he’s made a success of his school year so they’ve signed him up for a Bac Pro (the French designation for a trade-oriented B.A.). In social work? Literature? No, in Entretien des équipements industriels (Maintenance of Industrial Equipment).

He laughed – sort of – when he said it and added he couldn’t send me emails anymore because the computers didn’t work in the Home. I told  him to sign up for my sessions in August and, in the meantime, to read through his writing and attempt to combine into one powerful statement the many attempts he’d made throughout the text at getting a certain something across.

The walk home involved an isolated stretch between the stadium and the pool where I keep a wary eye and a jaunty step. A group of teen-aged boys approached, thoroughly engrossed in their world – no problem there. Then a solitary figure came my way. I gave him a crisp bonsoir in the murky light. He answered something I couldn’t make out as I walked by, then called out Madame in a light voice. The voice was so soft, I hesitated before turning. He laid a hand on his heart to show his good intentions and came closer. “I’m Salah,” he said and I recognized the boy I coached (for a total of four hours…) prior to his French literature exam. He didn’t have the results yet, but he was pleased. The luck of the draw landed him a text by Voltaire to comment and he’d applied the rules I’d pointed out, he said. Held out his hand for a handshake, smiled, said merci with all the hardware glinting on his teeth, and took off.

Voilà.

***

Something quite beautiful picked out this morning of an article in Le Monde about French poet Yves Bonnefoy who died yesterday at age ninety-three. « La tâche du poète est de montrer un arbre, avant que notre intellect nous dise que c’est un arbre, » he once wrote. (The poet’s task is to show a tree before our intellect tells us it’s a tree.)

Maybe the same applies to fiction writing. Slow going at the moment, in my case. There’s some fascinating stuff to translate (for a fee? wheeeee!) for a circus group and a puppet theatre. Papers, emergencies, laundry, friends…hop-hop-hop.

Allez? hop-hop-hop. Or maybe at a slower, steadier clip because I’m not keeping a hop-hop-hop kind of pace these days.