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


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Rochefort En Accords 2007 Weighs Anchor

Rochefort, France, August 23 or 24 or maybe 25th, 2007 -- Karel knew of a place that had a Dixieland Band. We set out walking up the street for a bar called “The Go Away“. The name didn’t make much sense to me, either.

On the way I had a conversation with my new friend Marie-Juliette Beer (again, no relation to Karel, except that sometime way back in the medieval day they have a shared great-great-great-great-great-great-great-granduncle who was responsible for maintaining Stratford-Upon-Avon’s weir, or something. Maybe just maintaining Anne Hathaway’s weir when Will was out of town).

Marie-Juliette is quite the ticket. Bee Ay Bee Ee with a capital Bee. I did a little Q&A: she’s been in London for five years or so, danced in New York City before that, grew up or spent some time in Boulder. BOULDER! I seized upon Boulder and it turns out that Marie-Juliette knows the kids of friends of Peppermint Patty and mine in Boulder, danced ballet with one of them in NYC in fact. All in all a lovely, and it would soon turn out, talented, lass. She sings a lot in England, the lucky sods.

(Marie-Juliette: http://www.myspace.com/mariejuliette)

We finally arrived at the bar, turns out The Go Away is an Irish pub called The Galway, right in the middle of town. The entertainment was, for this special few nights, right out on the blocked-off street. There was indeed a DixielandAndOtherKindza jazz band playing and it was indeed a boss six-piece, one of the guys being like up in his eighties and blowing sax and clarinet like nobody’s business. I quickly found myself a seat at a table with new friends, including Roxy and J.C. from up around Lille, and with Barbara Langer and her husband Barry Melton.

I can’t remember if this was the first time Barry and I had met at Rochefort and here’s why: he just folds you into whatever is going on, it seems like you been there all night, have known him all your life. Barbara is like, so very Northern California hippie chick STILL! complete with brain to go with the hippitude. Still wears her hair long and flowing. Like Our People do. So I’m gushing here, but screw you, these are some really cool people, and why the fucker didn’t get elected judge when he ran in San Francisco is just more proof of the dumbness of Americans, even homosexuals and hippies like they supposedly got in SF, when it comes to elections. I was there, too, but I didn’t vote. Probably only half the homosexuals and none of the hippies did. So obviously George Bush is OUR fault. Nah. We had nothing to do with the corruption of the Supreme Court.

Wait. I just remembered: I was introduced to Barry for the first time ever earlier that evening when I told him he owed me five hundred bucks because my friend Nona’s Subaru got towed. He wouldn’t cop to it, not having been elected, and I gotta agree he has a point. So now back to The Galway:

We had a great time, sitting around and singing the lyrics to the old tunes the band was playing. I love those sophisticated lyrics they had back then when everybody wanted to be Gershwin or Porter. Some are pretty corny, but some are pretty cool, such as “Moonlight in Vermont”, which Geraint Watkins would point out to me a few hours later, has not a single rhyme in it.

We laughed, we sang, we bonded, we definitely partied somewhat, and walked together back to our respective digs, which were across the street from each other, and I woke up the next morning in my bed in the Roca Fortis….

A new day began…


A new day began with two little birds competing for a hole in the wall underneath my suite where “Monsieur Panama will not be disturbed”.
I’m used to the early morning sounds of raucous birds, as we share a bedroom with a cockatiel back home, so it was almost pleasant. I don’t know the outcome of the fight over the bird apartment in the wall. I didn’t want to get involved and have to refer the case to Judge Melton, with whom I was supposed to get together that morning and rehearse. We didn’t.

I showered, brushed my tooth, and got my bedhead all spiky and went down the stairs and through the courtyard to breakfast, which at the Roca Fortis, as in a lot of France, is coffee and bread, basically…a little butter or cheese perhaps but the base is coffee and bread.
I’m sitting at my table when two very well-behaved young Englishmen come into the café. They looked at my hair, perhaps, and one of them said to me, “Are you here with the Festival?”
And we introduced ourselves.

Nick Harper is an internet dude also, and we discussed where to get email. I directed them to the café I’d found the day before and set off there myself.

(Nick Harper: http://www.myspace.com/harperspace)


----A Note On Bridges----

The Charente River pumps 40 cubic meters of water each second into the Atlantic Ocean, having gathered eight smaller rivers into its bed during a 360-kilometer run to the ocean. It serves as the outlet for a basin of roughly 10,000 square kilometers in western France. At its mouth sits the 17th century city of Rochefort.
Of its several bridges, one is of an unusual type: a transporter or aerial bridge. This is a bridge consisting of a high superstructure with a road-level vehicle- and passenger-carrying gondola slung beneath it. These are used where an ordinary bridge would interfere with the passage of ocean-going vessels, but where an elevated approach to a sufficiently high roadway is impossible. There are probably fewer than one hundred of them throughout the world. You can look it up on Wikipedia. Or you can just believe me.

I had gotten a note from Karel Beer earlier in the year to have a “river song” ready, as one of the venues would be this very bridge, where each of us would perform just one song, and the song absolutely had to be about a river. Well, who am I to interfere with an impresario’s vision? So I had prowled around to find a song that would be both faithful to his concept and my abilities and had come up with a respectable arrangement of “O Shenandoah”.


It was this request from Karel that had Nick Harper prowling the internet to find his “River Song”. As soon as he got to the internet shop and I saw he was using a wireless laptop, I told him that the Roca had wireless and he made his way back there to find his song. Which he did.The bridge performances were the only ones we would be responsible for on Thursday, the first day of the festival, so at the appropriate time, about four pm, river songs in mind and instruments in hand, we performers trundled down to the bridge in a variety of vehicles. There was a light drizzle, but surprisingly there were also a lot of brave passengers on hand to ride across the river with us as we sang our river songs.


Next: Our hero does the do on the bridge, and Rochefort continues.