Wednesday, June 9, 2010

avant la lettre - the U.S. chronicles ep.05

the old Troll told us: "I'm gonna tell ya something and you better-a-listen carefully: you guys are doing the right thing. Cause when I was young I went to Mejico on the thumb and by that time twas a whole different story.
But now people are scared and they're scared because they own things and stuff. And all this stuff makes them slaves of money then they fear losing it. But the real wealth is love and happiness and trusting each other in a world of compassion and communism..." And so on, for about two hours. Twas really cool! A friendly Dharma Bum style fellow! He dropped us just on East Sherbrooke Avenue and it already smelled like home. All we had to do was take a bus back home and that was it: the most awesome wild, chaotic, random, unplanned J. Kerouac-style trip ever...

not sure what the pic is supposed to demostrate but, anyway, it's like, ye know...
After that, a long shower and a long night of sleep, I started the big visit of "the rest of the people I knew in Montreal". The tour began with Stéphanie, a Couchsurfer friend I had hosted for one night four years ago, in Toulouse. We met to supposedly just go for a drink and it became a long, beautiful, crazy night wandering in the Mile End, stumbling on street coincidences and random wonders... We had a beer at her place with her flatmates and then went for a walk in the neighborhood. We then tried the best bagels in Montreal : warm and chewy, just out of the oven, perfect according to all NYC standards. And even way better, according to locals... Yummy! We met a friend of hers, whose name I already forgot (was he Carlos? Anyway, let’s call him Carlos and forgive my poor memory). Carlos was having a cigarette break in front of his little bar slash art studio. Carlos was a painter-sculptor slash bar-tender. Carlos was from Chile, probably close to his 50 and he looked pretty much like Gérard Lanvin: a vieux beau ténébreux, with dark tired eyes, a nostalgic shade of sadness floating inbetween his face and the rest of the world, as if coming from both his throat full of heavy tobacco smoke and his mind full of the remembrance of a life that was sure enough tough. Hey, wait a second! His name was Marco! Marco, of course! To start again with the whole description, please follow the instructions: 1) Go back to the beginning of the paragraph, 2) re-read it changing all Carloses by Marcoes. 3) follow his adventures throughout the next paragraph...

Here we go: Marco explained his bar was on its way to be closed. He wanted it closed because he wanted it to become his full-time art studio (no slash anymore, if you want). Basically, it looked like he loved the bar stuff, but he eventually realized the customers were a problem for the slash-artist part of his complex and versatile self. How was that? Well, customers were an issue for Marco because they wouldn't let him paint and sculpt in peace! They would enter the bar slash art studio anytime of the day and night, and ask for strange things, like getting drinks in exchange for their money... So at that point, I asked with a smile if we could get in and get a drink. Well, at that point, he kinda smiled back warmly and showed us in. 

instant magic caught on 35mm film at La gruta, Montreal.
The place was tiny, dark and a total mess. It was called La gruta (the cave) and the wall paintings together with a few unfinished paper-icicles confirmed, if necessary, the very nature of this little hollow of the world: a slash art studio place! Marco gave us some red wine in a couple of coffee mugs and showed us his ongoing sculptures. Real nice, actually. Then we crashed on an old couch and started talking, while he kept staring at his tiny universe, old posters of Quebec art and folk festivals, French existentialist books and some Marguerite Duras best-sellers, a chessboard, a bunch of Art-Déco antique pieces of furniture, postcards from Paris, Nebraska or Valparaiso, and some paper bags of yerba mate from Uruguay forgotten on top of an old piano. A surprisingly un-assorted couple entered and saluted us. She was young, tall and slim, hippy-looking with long blonde hair and a thin dress ; he was older, round-shaped and hairless, rigid and sweating in a grey suit. They were friends – maybe, though not likely, lovers – and sure enough friends of Marco. While they got to the bar to get a drink, a goofy skinny old dude with mad professor's hair and toothless laughing mouth sat at the piano and explained to me in an ol'buddy style that it was his own piano, and yeah! he did know how to play it... an improbable and unsquare schizophrenic pentatonic bluesy stumbl-y improvisation followed. His right hand was trying to escape from the irregular 3 chord frames the left hand was clumsily-but-not-randomly building down in the bass notes. The blues melted in a honky-tonky not-so-funky raggy waltz (and God heard it was good, and God was happy). The tempo slowed down a bit, right before a little souvenir from Chopin popped between his bony fingers. And suddenly, it was over. Nice enough, actually. We clapped and he was so moved as we were and his eyes suddenly glittered with emotion like it had been a while since people last clapped at his piano skills. The un-assorted couple happened to be here with him, on purpose, for their weekly singing session. She knew how to sing. He was shy and didn't seem totally confident with the two of us being here as an impromptu audience. We smiled and offered to leave and they said “No no no, you’re gonna sing with us!” right before they started singing their mosaic repertoire of standards and old folk songs. As we looked at each other in silence with Stéph and Marco (and Marco's eyes said so much more than his mouth), the trio seemed to warm up and something finally raised from our collective music making and silent, attentive support... A lot of emotion, a Jacques Brel’s tune and another wine later, they paused and we escaped after many hugs and loving farewells...

high heel fetish, warm colors and blurry couples: a humble tribute to WKW.
Back on the street, wandering again, we ran into a milonga where a young couple of tango teachers had just given a masterclass. He was from Istambul, she was from Buenos Aires. They looked so young, they looked so beautiful. They had been dancing Nu-Tango together for ten years now, and teaching it for about five. They were amazing. Their students were totally amazing too and I couldn't remember seeing so many great dancers packed in such a small place at the same time. Ever. The music for their new tango workshop was difficult. Not the obvious Gotan Project stuff. I recognized non-conventional covers of Goran Bregovic & Iggy Pop's Arizona dream main theme and Tom Waits' Jockey full of bourbon. Plus a lot of beautiful things I had never heard before. The couple of teachers and the couples of students were so elegant, so sensual, so beautiful. Each one in its very own style and fashion. Each one with their tricks and mood and little routine secrets of dancing, breathing and sensing tango together... Oh my god! It's no big surprise team games gather more people than tango: there is no place here for shouting crowds and their all-you-can-eat philosophy. Conpenetración... How can you possibly reach such levels of sensibility, empathy and sincere expression? Get connected so intimately to somebody and knit with him or her such a beautiful, ephemera piece of moving art? How can music be transcended by four feet, four shoulders, four hears and two souls in one single motion? I'm afraid I'm madly in love with tango... We next had some tapas and red wine, walked on for a while talking and finally had another warm chewy bagel from the oven at the other best-in-town bagel bakery. It was already very late at night and we'd had about enough beauty and magic for one single day and it was time to go to bed.

the Cirque du Soleil at home and at their best...
Spent a few extra days in Montreal, all with nice people and old friends and beers and bike riding and such... One extra thing is worth mentioning, though, if only one : a night at the Cirque du Soleil brand new show, Totem, in their home, in their beautiful fairy tales' resident yellow and blue chapiteau house! Robert Lepage's new show is amazing. The stage is a giant turtle's shell and skeleton, the scenography complex and delicate. The lights and the live music are perfect, the whole design and artwork, beautiful. The performances elegantly linked together on a powerful oniric, highly symbolic promenade along the evolution of human kind. Where ecology and mythology, pure circus and contemporary aesthetics, high flying acrobats and feet-on-earth high-tech wizards meet… Expect nothing but pure enjoyment, dream and wonders! Totem won't be shown in Europe except in Amsterdam for about a month in October. So, I really recommend all my French and Spanish and Austrian friends/readers to book already a low cost flight and a ticket for the show (talking about the ticket, which I reckon is everything but cheap, but so worth it, a huge thank again to Kim for inviting me: you made the kid in me happy and amazed big time...)! Those people take the circus experience so much further than any other. Hey, mommy and daddy, if you have nothing to do in October and don't know Amsterdam yet, go spend five days there, visit around. And of course, go see the show. Honest, it's great!

After that, with the idea that Montreal had already treated me with more than one could possibly expect, I got on a greyhound bus and crossed the border again down to Burlington, Vermont, to breathe its laid-back, arty, hippy feel along the Champlain Lake's bank. Met Laura back there and we went hiking for a few days in the beautiful Green, White and Black Mountains. We met and followed the Appalachian Trail again (even though much farther North than a month before), eventually reaching the summit of Mount Moosilauke, aka the "Bald place", aka the "Gentle Giant". Hot, sunny weather, nice landscapes, great talks and Go playing at a great little mountain lodge (Dartmouth College Ravine Lodge). Oh, the easy and fulfilling life in the wilderness!
the bald place, the gentle giant as high in feet as our Mont-Blanc is in meters ; land'art river cairn: this is a few one my favorite (DIY) things!
We then went camping, sunbathing and doing Japanese-style land'art with stones along a nice although mosquito-y river. We got scared to death at night by a psycho-killer freak walking around the tent, moving branches and doing strange, creepy throat sounds. As there was nobody around at some kilometers and all the gear, baseball sticks, guns, pepper sprays and such were in the trunk of the car, and nothing at hand – not even a swiss knife – we stayed sitting in the tent without moving, exploring the silence of the night with our eyes shut, all ears, looking for any clue about where exactly he was and what he was waiting for to kill us. We got ready for an attack, or a gunshot accross the tent's thin walls, feeling totally helpless... Then the silence fell, again. No feet stepping around us, no throat sounds anymore. Just the silence. Worse than ever, then, right in the eye of: right in the quiet before the storm... Only when the sun rose and the morning came to greet us over the river, did we dare to crawl out of the tent to check around and eventually discover, at some distance from there, a dreadful psycho-killa grouse making through the bushes the exact kind of foot and throat sounds that almost killed us the night before. Ah ah ah ah ah. You're not funny, the grouse!

nostalgia made in Woodstock, aka 3M revisited: music, muppets and moth.
Later that day, we headed to Woodstock, NY. THE Woodstock, I mean. THE one and only Woodstock where all these guys I spent my teenage listening to, went and played about forty years ago. THE ONE AND ONLY F---ING WOODSTOCK!! It is a regular little town stuffed with old hippies who never left and went on living a hippy life, listening to John and Yoko and opening a few hours a day, when they remember to do so, some crappy second hand and tye-dye tee-shirts stores. You can buy Bob Marley's swimming-pool towels, Jimi Hendrix' chewed guitar picks and all the usual hippy goodies and pseudo indian-jamaican-dharma-rastavibes stuff... Summertime and the living was easy (and pretty slow, blame it on weed smoking which apparently is a national sport here). If you ignore it is on the whole somehow a ridiculous dusty cliché, it seems to be a nice place to be on earth. Woodstock. God! Looked for a place to set the tent, thinking it would be easy in Hippylandia and every single ol' hippy would invite us to stay at his place and offer couch and food and pot ad libitum. But nope. It seems they grew a bit - say - capitalist. Or prudent, at least. And on each and every little piece of ground, frontyard or garden, there's a little plastic sign saying "POSTED - PRIVATE - NO TRESPASSING - BEWARE OF ATTACK DOG" and such. Surprising, uh? Wasn't private property supposed to be a robbery, fellas? All of a sudden, this “peace, brother” thing sounds like a sad malentendu, right? Yeah, you can peas’ wherever you want but on my lawn"... I'm definitely too naive. We then spent another day in and around the Catskills National Park, by a beautiful lake whose long Indian name had so many K, H, A, L and Ms I wasn't even able to read the first half of it. Swam in the lake, dived from the cliffs, slept in the sun. Saw birds and salamanders and many golden retrievers and finally drove back to NYC.

another peaceful anonymous lake, somewhere upslake New York...
In nice New Palz - somewhere along the way - we had a beer and BBQ dinner: NP was a deliciously laid-back equivalent of Woodstock, where the hippies were 20 to 35 y-o instead of 70 and the beers, slightly cheaper. During the happy hour (from 5 to 10!), a beer you buy gives you another one for free and each drink gives you a free BBQ burger. In other words, buy a four bucks beer and get two beers and two burgers. In other words, go to New Palz, get more drunk and fatter for less! And make friends meanwhile... Although very late at night, heavy traffic and a terrible humid pressure cooker heat were waiting for us in Brooklyn. This (the heat, I mean) is supposed to be the same for the next few days – say until the end of my adventures here, and consequently of the US chronicles. We went to the Invented Games Festival in Brooklyn, where people presented and introduced everyone to the games they invented, with names like Freesball, Golfketball, Froccer, Soccolf or even Basketsbee. From the etymology, I’ll let you guess what their concept of "inventing" a new game is… Originality and dizziness to the fullest! Wooooh! If not nice, it was a least sort of funny. Sort of. Hem...

Today is June, 9th. It's f---ing summer-hot and sunny on this side of the street Atlantic.
I'm now chasing the last souvenirs* and postcards to take back with me and guess my next post will be from Barcelona. With some inspired conclusions and considerations, hopefully.
So again: take care of yourself and of your beloved ones.
It's been a pleasure having you all with me during this adventure.
Peace, love and happiness to all!

* not the least of these: an Extracycle "free radical" kit for my bike! Had fallen in love with this freaky hauling beauty
after trying Jeme's one during a few days in New Orleans. ;)

No comments :

Post a Comment