Yahia, my dear old friend, used to say unequivocally that Paris was "La Plus Belle Ville du Monde."
Which surely must be true.
But the Metro smelled like piss.
Maybe every metro smells like piss.
I took the RER from Gare de Lyon to Chatelet les Halles and waited for the connection to Charles de Gaulle airport. It was rush hour crowded but i got onto a car of the tram that held less than a dozen people.
I dumped my heavy bags and my guitar on the seat in front of me and crumpled into the chaise across the way from two German twenty-something girls. They were all dressed up in some matching sort of black and white fashion, they wore bright red lipstick and were busy discussing something. A few people behind me were talking quietly.
I looked up above the doors at the linear map showing the stops before we reached the airport. It looked to be about a 20 to 30 minute ride.
All of a sudden, I hear singing.
At the other end of the car, a slight, dark haired, middle-aged woman is belting out the French rendition of "Those Were the Days," (that old Mary Hopkins' tune, which, it turns out, is an old Russian tune written in the 1920s.) And it's fantastic.
She is proudly delivering the song. And frankly, it's a tough audience. Everyone stops talking for a few seconds to listen. But then they resume their conversations. Don't they realize how much better she has made this ride? It's palpable. The car becomes brighter and more animated and everyone and everything--it's apparent--is uplifted, like she's shone a big light on the train. She rips out the entire song with full fledged "La la la la la la! La la la la la la! La la la la la la la la a las!" at each refrain. And i can't help myself, I'm beaming.
She then breaks into a quick chorus of Besame Mucho before walking through the train with her small purse open as she goes around to each of us allowing us to tip her.
She surely didn't make much. I gave her some Euros. But seems she got a lot of people with upturned noses.
Way back when I was busking, I was told by a Frenchman that the French (even though they love their artists) just don't view busking like Americans do. It's not some romantic thing but rather something base. I didn't care much because it's pretty exhilarating especially when you've just started playing out and you're painfully shy to begin with.
* * * * * * * *
I walked all the way around Charles De Gaulle 3 times looking for the terminal for my departure; this airport was surely designed as a mirror of a French mind. It made no sense whatsoever to me. I asked for directions at least five times before I finally found the right gate to check in. I checked my bags but then have to go to a different place to deposit my guitar and a different place to pay for the added cost for the guitar. $200 is what it cost to get my guitar to France and back home. Then, it sat there waiting for some person (preferably someone with the airline and not some rogue thief) to somehow get it on the right flight.... I doubted it would make it home. Every time I passed by, there my guitar still sat.
It's amazing, it occurs to me, how it all works, somehow. How there are a zillion flights in a zillion different cities and towns all going to and from a zillion different places and everyone is working diligently to make all those flights run and all of the bazillion people get on and off the planes and then all the gazillion pieces of luggage going on and off too and then being transferred, not to mention all the humongous planes flying UP IN THE SKY!!!! AND they all run pretty much ON TIME. It's amazing.
I'm heading towards the terminal to go through security when I get stopped by a French military personnel. He and several others push the entire crowd back. There's a bomb threat, evidently, and no one is allowed to pass.
Welp, this decidedly calls for one more pain au chocolat and un cafe.
I pass by the gate where I checked in. There's my guitar.
I have the best pain au chocolat and cafe of my life.
Heading back to security, I see my guitar is still sitting at the check-in gate all alone on a dolly.....
* * * * * * * * *
I want to fold myself deep into a pristine forest and disappear for a century or two.
I'm very tired.
After the Xanax wears off, we're served some complimentary cocktails with our meal. The man sitting next to me is a preacher originally from the Congo flying back home to Atlanta after his missionary trip. We chuckle at the unexpected opportunity to get drunk on this delightful Air France flight to the US.
* * * * * * * *
The flight from Atlanta to Tulsa feels like a flying bus.
It's completely booked and we have to check our carry ons.
I'm late to board because I had to wait for my guitar....
But there she finally is!
By the time we're in the air and I'm pouring the Skyy Vodka into my tomato juice, the flight is loudly animated and everyone is talking to one another. If they don't already know the person sitting next to them, they do by the time we get to Tulsa. I happen to know a couple of people on the flight who are sitting across the aisle.....
I'd met this friend at the Annual Garden Deva Festival last year (that I had to miss this year to play at the Amiens Festival).
And as great as it is to be in Europe, it's so good to get home to friends and family and to be playing the following night at the Canebrake in Wagoner, Oklahoma and to see everyone there including my cousins, Linda and Joe. And then to Norman to play with Terry "Buffalo" Ware at Tres Cantina and to see my Bestie, Leslie, and Michael and M Tim and Sandy and Neil and Steve there. Then, how nice it was to play a few shows with Susan Gibson at Greg Johnson's Blue Door in OKC and at Robin and Jim's Tilly Ponderosa in Tulsa and what a terrific songwriter she is. And although i'm completely exhausted with jet lag, it just gets better and better playing tunes at the Science Project with Tom Skinner and the guys and with Terry and some Shambles (Marlin Butcher and Bob French) and with the Dirty Power Trio--Bob and Steven Streetman, and in Sweetwater for the West Texas Revue and Beyond with Bob Livingston and Bradley Kopp and all, and it's always great playing with Stephen Rickey Lee at Bodeans and at Tallgrass in Tulsa.
I feel fortunate and know that I'm blessed to get to play music with so many great musicians who are dear friends.
It's a hard-knock-life eeking out a living playing music, being a song peddler, and i always feel that essentially, all i'm still doing is really just busking, although maybe i might be playing and singing in a warm barroom or concert hall instead of out on the cold street--but I'm pretty sure...these are the days, my friend.....
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
La la la la la la......