- Essays: On The Road (And A Little Off)


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August 13 -- On the Train to Paris --
It has been a cold summer in France this
year, yet I hear from HQ that Tennessee
temps have gone to 104 degrees Fahrenheit
(metric world take note: that's about
40 degrees Celsius).

Today I go to Paris to rendezvous with my
friend The Doc, that Dutch force of nature,
and Xander, our keyboard player, and Doc's
new fiancée, whose name I have not heard
yet.  We have a gig tonight just below
Nevers at our friend Serge's place, Le
Tomahawk.  Tomorrow we play at the village
fest in Chateau Chinon, then the Tomahawk
again.  After that we drive back to
Bretagne for two or three more gigs there.

The past two days, though, I've spent with
JL and Felicie at their house, La Maison
Though it will soon be overflowing with the
Doc and entourage, most recently it has
been a quiet, relaxing time, except for
Bilbo terrorizing the La Poste lady.
But that's another story.

A couple of nights ago the power went out
due to trees down in the wind, and we lit
candles and lanterns and sat in the warm
dimness and smoked and sang.  Jean-Luc and
Felicie had dug up the real, actual words
to La Mer and they began to teach it to

I got into the Gare Montparnesse at about 4
pm.  I had bought a Coke on the train and
it had cost 4 Euros Fifty.  I didn't buy a
sandwich, figuring it would have to be at
least 10 Euro (Actually, they are 5 E), so
I was hungry when I got to Paris.

Getting off the train I walked through the
heavy-laden ozone air to the end of the
platform into the circle of Doc, Xander and
Dragana, Doc's Serbian fiancee, who would
turn out to be very beautiful, warm and

We went out of the station and got into The
Doc's Renault Megane, old veteran of all
our French tours together and began the 300
kilometer drive to Le Tomahawk.  It is a
biker bar with a sort of red Indian motif,
including teepees, whch also serve as guest
rooms.  Charming, actually.

Serge and Claudine have three willowy
daughters working in the restaurant which
serves barbecue every bit as good as Big
Bob's in Decatur, and the best Tex-Mex I've
eaten this side of Austin.   So Americans
in Paris, if you suddenly wake up needing a
fix, take note:  just 15 km or so south of
Nevers on the left-hand side, Le Tomahawk.
Good Eats.

We played that night much of our usual
repertoire, but I included "O Shenandoah"
solo as a mini rehearsal for the upcoming
Rochefort En Accords Festival.

The biker crowd who come to the Tomahawk
arrive on a variety of sleds, but the most
prevalent, not surprisingly, for these are
some  well-heeled bikers, are old
wonderfully kept up Harley panheads and
shovelheads.  These are more than somewhat
expensive over here, so the colors worn by
the bikers are really more in the nature od

Our friends from Tin Tin's Band(meaning
Gang) showed up and were at their usual
level of boisterous but well-bred
enthusiasm for the show.

Tin Tin is a French comic book character, a
very proper, well-mannered young man.
Which is why the colors worn by the members
of Tin Tin's Band are prone to provoke
laughter among the French.  On the backs of
the bikers' jackets is a rendering of Tin
Tin in a very advanced state of corruption:
3 day growth of beard, cigarette dangling
from the corner of his sneering lips, a
tattoo or two, maybe.
We played until well past 3 and went to
bed.  Next day would be long: hiking up and
down the hilly street in Chateau Chinon to
play on each of three stages throughout the
afternoon, then back for another night at
the Tomahawk.

AUGUST 14, Chateau Chinon --  The little
market town of Chateau Chinon (Chinese
Chateau) is the epicenter of the Morvan,
that part of central France in which I
found myself this date.  I have come here
with Le Doc every year but last for the
festival and we have invariably had a warm
reception as well as a few CD sales.  The
sale of CDs provides eating money,  the
performance fees invariably being nearly
obliterated by plane, bus, ferry, train and
taxi expenses.  I always feel that I will
have made some money on these ventures
until the travel is figured in, at which
time the bottom drops out of the bucket.

But it was a partly cloudy day in the
village, and occasionally a light shower
would appear, only to be gone in a minute.
We did three sets only marred by the
failure of Xander's power cord to his
keyboard and then his little melodion
giving up the ghost as well.  Doc and I
soldiered through but by the end of the
day's alternate baking and soaking I was
totally fried, and when we got back to the
Tomahawk we had dinner, I did a set with
Doc and Xander on his newly revivified
Korg, and went to bed, going to sleep to
the strains of "Ring of Fire" ala Le Doc
and Xander.

AUGUST 15 --
Next morning we set out back west to
Bretagne and the 2 gigs of the
originally-scheduled 5.  But had I not
begun touring with The Doc in in 2003 I
wouldn't be in France this time, so...let
it roll.

We got into Quiberon about 6.  This was the
same campground that I had played with
Mary-Lou the week before, and the audience,
though comprised of different people, was
equally receptive and equally anxious to
have a CD or two.  All in all is was a good
gig.  It was Wednesday and we would drive
back to and spend the rest of our time
together at the House of Mary-Lou and then
the next night have off because of one of
the cancellations.

FRIDAY, August 17 --  Tonight we played at
Le Daniel's, a bar with a late crowd (we
started playing there at half past
midnight, so it was actually Saturday
morning).  The crowd arrives more than
somewhat inebriated already and grimly
determined to get totally plowed.  By the
time we finished playing, at about 3:30 am,
things had gotten so far out of hand that
one celebrant had completely doffed his
every garment not once but twice, a Honda
Gold Wing had been laid over on its side in
the parking lot, requiring four somewhat
befuddled young men to stand it up again,
and there was a girl-fight.
I have seen me some unseemly behavior, and
it has even been reported to me that I have
participated in sole(though I have no
recollection of ever being in any condition
other than upright and dignified) but this
Le Daniel's crowd takes the prize.  Though
I look forward to returning as many times
as I can get across the pond, I was glad
when it was over and we got back to La
Maison de Mary-Lou.
With the cancellations I now had an extra
four days and except for finding a
Protestant church on Sunday, I caught up on
my email, and in general lay around.
Jean-Luc anf Felicie returned and Monday
night we had a farewell jam.
Tuesday The Doc, Dragana and Xander hatted
up for de Nederlands.
For me, it was time to think about
Rochefort En Accords...


NEXT: Our hero makes new and renews old
acquaintances at the best music festival in
France(and perhaps Tout Le Monde).