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— Part II —

(Part I: Hanging Out In Paris.)


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.

"Vin rouge," I say in my dreams but le serveur hears "vin blanc."

Rouge does not sound like blanc to me, but it seems that unless pronunciation is perfect, he does not understand me. She aussi.

Je 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?

"Hola, hija!"


I pinch her to see if she's real.

"What 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 official language.

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.

Luz del sol brillante
Lumière du soleil brillant
Y yo soy feliz
Et je suis heureux

& why not?
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.

Now we 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 vino blanco.

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.

hard floors


The waiter suggests not ordering the vino rojo by the glass.


Si, senior.
Strange in Spain
rojo nojo
But who am I?
¿Pero quién soy yo?


The blanco is okay but does not go well with the pork loin.


Better than rojo malo.
Si, senior.


It is a strange Thanksgiving at Immortales.


Immoratles esta muy mortales, pienso que si.
But we eat and talk, which is what it is all about.
Immortales has filled up now.


And the business crowd at three in the afternoon does not talk; it shouts. Not Death In The Afternoon but kind of depressing.


Mucho RUIDO.
  They don't know  
    it's Thanksgiving.
How could they?
The food comes
we eat
we talk


But it is not Thanksgiving exactly.


It is
a lesson.
Things are not as expected.


Which is the way things are supposed to be, or usually are, which makes them as expected.


That is,
I give thanks that things just are.


Los Montanyas eran hermosas en la mañana.


We can give thanks for that.


And the car, it did not fly of the road. Thanks, caro.


The grand boulevards in Barcelona
Are Grand
Agradece por Magnifico.


And the Mediterranean climate. I prefer the cold and the rain but this is a nice change.


Agradece por el cambio.


Paris Encore


The night train takes me back to Paris where I walk the streets looking for music.
listening for it.
This 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.
  Walk & listen.
Vous l'entendrez.    
It was at Rue Abbesses & Rue Houdon that I heard it.

The sound of jazz coming from Le Houdon Jazz Bar.


The Antoine Hervier Trio with vocalist Maxine Plisson. The songs American. The classics from the Great American song book.
I ask her if she sings French.
Mais Qui, she says. But the great jazz classics, ils sont en Englais.

Autumn Leaves, I say, was originally in French.

C'est une
qui nous ressemble.
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.
The pianist is the strongest musician in the group.
Une Musicien
I look around.
I like what I see.
A nice long bar that wraps around toward the door.
A casual coffee-house atmosphere.    
Maxine does Lush Life:    
... in some small dive
to rot with the rest ...
I don't think so.


La Femme Noire


On Saturday 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.
La femme noire
is not there.

I'm disappointed. 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.

Au revoir, I say.

Au 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."

"Je 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 Jazz Bar.


Jazz Chaud


Nicolas Dary is playing. It is hot. Nicolas is on tenor saxophone.
He 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.
The drummer 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.
Set's over, conversation at the bar.
Le Batteur est Philippe Soirat. He is on the CD with Stéphane Spira.
Dominique, 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.

Sully Bar
Talking with the barman
who is actually a young women
in one of those places.
I'm 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.
There are three woman on the other side of the bar.
That is, my side. But they are not clients.
The barman explains about champagne.
La qualite est importante pour les hommes?
Oui, monsieur.
You see, the price of la femme is based on the quality of the champagne the client orders. At least at Sully Bar.
160 Euros for the cheap stuff
290 Euros for the good stuff
Take your pick
Je suis plus intéressé par la qualité de la femme.
Or would be, I say. Le bière serait bien pour mois.
She smiles.
Avez-vous beaucoup de clients réguliers? I ask.
Just then 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.
The 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.
I 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.


Errer Autour


Houdon Jazz Bar
No music yet

Begin to wander


Don't know how I find it.
I'm walking up a street. There are a lot of little cafes.
I turn the corner onto Rue La Vieuville, then hear music.
The drapes are pulled.
I see a bar through a window near the door.
I wait.
The music stops.
I open the door.
People look up at me.    
But it looks like it's okay to go in.
The music 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.
Stéphane Cadé is the musicien:


I learn more later.

He is a song writer as well.
Soft sounds
many minor chords
It seems to me.
But not Hamlet.    
But I don't hear the words. Not well. Every    one    sounds    très   important.
ma mine ...
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.
Christine Flowers
Autor de Midi

Christine is from New York, lives in Paris.



Throw funky into 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 play.


Later I 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.

This was 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



On 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."

"Not 'Je suis fini'" he says. "'J'ai fini.'"

He departs to do "l'addition."

I think 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."

My waiter 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," I said.

I walked 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.

The 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 that 22h.

According 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 maison.


Now 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.
ma mine
crayon noir
oreille ...

My mind is broken
And the sun
Cut its lead pencil
In my ear ...

Something like that.    
Stéphane's voice is soft, sensitive. It will be fun to get to know the words better.
mon amusement.

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