After dropping Jackson off with the family he was staying with, driving down to L.A., and then making a fifteen hour flight from LAX to Charles de Gaulle (with a short layover in Cincinatti and a not very restful two-hour nap in my seat), I was confronted once again with California-style traffic, except with itsy bitsy little tennis shoe-sized European cars. The taxi driver had pas d’Anglais and I wasn’t in the mood to dust off my conversational French, so the ride was long and slow and I was queasy with exhaust fumes, just the thing when your body is desperate for sleep and the continent you’re on is just waking up and smelling the cafe au lait.
An hour later we got to the fancy hotel with the jazz club where Jack was staying and I called him on my cell phone from the lobby to come down and pay the taxi driver because all I had was a twenty and the guy wanted euros! As if! Seriously, the exchange rate was for shit, the ride from the airport cost about a hundred bucks. Welcome to France, you want a baguette? That’ll be ten dollars. Now get out.
After a joyful reunion with my husband and restorative nap I woke up to find that I was about to be force-fed several glasses of water . . .
. . . and several pounds of nourishing, nourishing cheese.
Then it was time for a short walk over to the Arc de Triomphe without my camera and then back to the room for another nap! Which is pretty much not the way you’re supposed to adjust to a time zone that’s nine hours ahead of your own, but because Jack’s gig was going to go until 2:00 a.m. I figured I’d want to be up late anyway. So I went back to bed at 7:00 p.m. and woke up about 1:30 a.m., tried to flatten down my hair with a wet comb, and then went downstairs to the club to catch the end of the second set, again without a camera because I still wasn’t ready to look like a goddamn yahoo. But here are some pictures from the next night:
Here we see Frank Goldwasser and Jack Kennedy backing up Ms. Sugar Pie DeSanto. As you can tell, Sugar is one of the wee people. She has one of those great belt-it-out voices, though. She’s also fond of doing tricks like this:
Can you see that? It’s like some kind of musical performance Pilates, and the audience loved it. Loved it! So happy to see a sixty-nine-year-old woman’s panty liner.
One of the stories I loved about Sugar is that, according to Jack, all week long at the end of each set when it was time to introduce the band she’d go through everyone and then say, “On bass — the bass player!” She had no idea what Jack’s name was. Even after they’d played together for ten days and he’d humped her luggage through two countries and off a broken down bus, it was, “Hey! Bass player! Where’s my bag? The blue one!”
Sugar travels with many, many costume changes. I love this picture, especially because Frank looks like a weary extra from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
Also in the band was a lap-steel player named Freddie Roulette. In his hands the lap steel guitar becomes the velvety vehicle for psychedelic make-out music. Seriously, he’s like a quiet, sedentary, pipe-smoking Jimi Hendrix, and his music was mesmerizing. After the show a gray-haired Frenchman came up to Freddie and asked him to sign a record album, and I looked over his shoulder at the cover and it said “Sweet Funky Steel.” Dear God, I want a copy of that album to make another baby by.
This is Leon. You don’t even know what a ladies’ man is until you meet Leon. Jack told me that earlier in the week a gorgeous woman showed up at the club by herself and started dancing in front of the stage like she was in an iPod commercial, just swinging her ass around like she was the only one in the room. After the set she was at the bar and Leon went over and started talking to her and then fifteen minutes later they left together. And the next morning Jack was all, “Leon, what’s your secret?” And Leon said, “I have a big dick!”
After the last set we all had a few drinks and then we decided to go downstairs to the hotel employee cafeteria to get something to eat. The employee cafeteria was back through a huge stainless steel maze of a kitchen, which is pretty empty at 3:00 a.m. except for room service waiters and folks prepping for breakfast. And Leon had this thing worked out where he’d give the cooks a couple of bucks and they’d give him a steak. So Leon headed over to the kitchen and Jack went up to our room to get a couple bottles of wine, and the next thing I knew I was at a fluorescent-lit Formica table with a bunch of blues musicians and immigrant hotel maids eating a big, flat steak and pommes frites and feeling perfectly fine; gregarious, even, which, if you know me, is a state of mind only brought about by the rare confluence of alcohol, rest, good company, and a mysterious star in the trifid nebula going supernova, all at the same time. Gregarious doesn’t happen very often, is what I’m saying.
The second night, after the gig, Sugar, Leon, and Freddie all had to drive back to Belgium at 4:00 a.m. to catch a flight back home, so we all stayed up again and then went to Danny’s room to keep drinking, and at some point we ran out of wine and Danny pulled out a bottle of calvados, which is Spanish for don’t make any fucking plans. Calvados until 7:00 a.m., until the hotel buffet opened for breakfast and Danny, Jack, and I went downstairs for some eggs and croissants and coffee and then went to bed. I would have easily slept for about ten years at that point. Unfortunately, it was Sunday morning and everyone left over from the band went from being temporary musical employees to being permanent musical freeloaders, so we had to check out at noon and move our shit to another hotel. On four hours of sleep and a calvados hangover? Fuck you all the way to Boulevard St. Michel, I cannot describe how unbelievably, irredeemably malevolent I felt when I woke up and had to pack up my shit and stuff my ass into a taxi and check into some sort of medieval hotel on the left bank that was wall-to-wall ghosts. Seriously, this hotel was about five hundred years old and was probably filled to the brim with ghosts. Nice, benign ghosts, but all the same. Haunted. Hotel. With chipped furniture and slanted floors. It was like a Batman episode. So what could I do but unpack and lay in bed moaning while Jack, being the total prince that he is, went out and got some flowers to spruce up the room:
Here I am later, making a go of it, feeling like utter crap:
And taking pictures like this:
It’s a trash bag! Instead of a trash can! Fucking amazing!
Cops! On roller skates! Wrap your tiny American brain around that.
Excuse me, monsieur, is that Notre Dame or the Louvre?
I just about fainted in the Louvre. Seriously, the whole week I was having such grave insomnia and then trying to make it up in time for breakfast and get with the local schedule, but the sleep deprivation was making me psychotic. And then, I mean, look at all these assholes trying to look at the Mona Lisa. This painting is so famous it has its own wall.
So I gave up thinking I’d take pictures of anything but the street below our hotel window. Back at l’Hotel de Troll, I’d seen this dandy in red pants come through the lobby at breakfast with a handsome priest wearing a floor-length black cassock, get into the hotel elevator (which Jack called “the coffin” because it was just about the size of one), and then at dinner time I saw them go back out and wait across the street for a cab, chatting avidly all the while.
I have no idea how that person was ever going to get out of that parking space.
The week wasn’t a total loss, I revved it up enough to take a trip with Jack to see Uncle Charlie. Charlie is Frank’s uncle, and he’s this charming man with great skin who’s been a tailor in Paris all his life. Except when he was a baby.
Here’s Jack standing in front of the sign for Uncle Charlie’s shop, which is across the street from a building where lots of Algerian immigrants live and they hang blankets from their balconies and you’re NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT and it gives Charlie an aneurysm every day just looking at those blankets.
Charlie makes all his jackets and suits by hand, so Jack had been pleased to pick up some new threads after he realized that all the gig wear he’d brought (jeans, t-shirts, Pumas) was totally inappropriate for a venue with a dress code. After visiting Uncle Charlie, Jack took me to a cafe near the Pompidou to have a bite and watch the world go by and we decided to call home and see if we could talk to Jackson. He was staying with our old neighbor, the one I used to be afraid of, and as soon as I got him on the phone we had this conversation:
Me: What are you doing?
Jackson: Eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal! (Which he’d wanted for ages but I’d never buy for him.)
Me: That sounds good. I miss you!
Jackson: WHEN ARE YOU COMING HOME??
Back when I was dropping Jackson off at our neighbor’s house he said, “I don’t want you to go away,” and I started getting all teary and I said, “I feel kind of funny about it myself,” and I guess it was good for him to see that I was upset about it too because then he put on this brave little brave face and started laughing about how he was going to see Madagascar while I was gone! And maybe even the new Star Wars, too! And I knew that talking to him while we were gone would reassure him but it just tore me apart to hear him be so sad and not be able to give him a hug, so that on top of my sleep-deprivation and inability to adjust to my new haunted environment I now added a heaping helping of guilt and separation anxiety.
You are enjoying your Paris vacation, no? Have another baguette.
So I was a total fucking emotional loser the entire trip and Jack hated my guts. I couldn’t make it out of the hotel half the time without thinking I was going to barf all over the street. What fun Jack was having, bringing food back to the room for me and spending days in bed not having sex but watching the French Open on TV with his anxiety-crippled wife who was waking up at 3:00 every morning and reading Nancy Mitford until the sun came up, when she’d promptly fall asleep again. What a good traveling companion! So flexible. Up for anything! As long as it involved staying in bed with a pillow over my head.
Then the evening before we were going to leave we were walking back from Le Bon Marche department store, where I refused to buy anything for myself because it was all so goddamned expensive, and I said to Jack, You know what? I actually feel pretty good. Do you, ah, want to go out for dinner? After he was done punching me in the face we walked over to Le Petit Zinc and had a fantastic dinner with oysters and veal, and then we went back to the room and had really hot sex until I made Jack stop because I thought we were going wake up the neighbors and that was it, that was the final straw, he finally just lost it with me because THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO WHEN YOU’RE IN A STRANGE GHOST-FILLED HOTEL, HAVE REALLY LOUD, HOT SEX, BECAUSE YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO SEE THESE PEOPLE AGAIN AS LONG AS YOU LIVE SO WHO CARES IF YOU FUCKING WAKE THEM UP FOR FUCK’S SAKE!
We woke up the next morning after four hours of sleep and packed our bags and got in a taxi and got halfway to the airport barely talking to each other. Jack finally broke the ice by asking me to ask the taxi driver to open a window because it was so stuffy in the back seat, which I did, and then we were able to resume polite conversation all the way through check-in, shoveling out our remaining euros in the duty-free shops buying souvenirs for people at home, a bomb scare that pushed all nine hundred people in the terminal over to our gate to wait for the all clear, and a flight delayed two hours because the food service people went on strike.
And then we made it back to California without crashing or exploding and the first thing I did was get Jack back to work! Because I needed cabinet pulls, goddamnit!
Then we got Jackson into one of his souvenir soccer shirts . . .
. . . and went for a smoothie.