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


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PenMarc'h, Finisterre, Bretagne  August 8th
2007 -- I got into John Lennon Airport(how
cool is that?) Liverpool at about seven in
the am on Thursday.
I had intended to see England from the
window of a bus, but as it turned out, I
would spend a lot of time sleeping.  As it
also turned out I have few impressions of
England to report; except that all the
chicks look as close to Paris Hilton as is
possible.  Victims of fashion.
Caught a bus to Plymouth, got there eight
hours later and checked into the hostel by
ten pm, walked down toward the ferry port,
intending to see if perhaps they had a
Bureau de Change so I could buy my ticket
tomorrow.   Night was just coming on.
Pedestrianwise there was nobody but me and
the hookers standing in doorways.  Probably
there is nobody quite as lonesome as the
musician in transit, except for the hooker
in a doorway. Maybe the President.  Good.

I realized that it was stupid to worry
about whether I could change my dollars
sufficient to buy my passage across the
Channel, there being nothing I could do
about it tonight anyway, paid an outrageous
sum for a burger...England seems to be
food-expensive everywhere... and went back
to the hostel.  In the room I shared with a
startled French family on holiday, I laid
out my next-day clothes, set my cell phone
for 2 am in Tennessee, which would waken me
at 7 am in Plymouth, said my prayers for
deliverance and protection for the hookers,
and went to bed.

In the morning I set out down the hill to
the ferry port, the hookers having gone
home to a well-deserved healthy sleep or
maybe even an epiphany.
I was wondering if these were perhaps
the same streets that the Mayflower folks
had walked to get aboard their ship,
having realized that the Speedwell,  fobbed
off on them by the Dutch to get them out of
Amsterdam, wasn't going to cut it.  I got
safely aboard the ferry... there is indeed
an exchange open before sailing time... and
we set out to Roscoff; in Bretagne.

The first thing I did, in preparation for
the six-hour trip, was to buy a newspaper.
It seems I can't leave the States without
something bad happening; when I was in
Amsterdam, we had 9/11, a couple of years
ago I was in Paris for Katrina , now I'm
not even gone for a full day, but a bridge
falls into the Mississippi.  The
relationship between my non-presence in
America and the safety of the nation is
starting to look less and less like

I shared my seating area with a British
couple and their equally British
kids.  Pleasant people with nice children.
They are, I hope, enjoying their holiday
here in Bretagne.   I generally follow a
don't ask don't tell policy when traveling,
so I didn't learn their names and they have
no idea of their brush with the outskirts
of greatness.

Finally at about two in the apres-midi, we
arriived in Roscoff.  I stood on deck while
the landing crew jostled the gangplank back
and forth.  Finally they found the sweet
spot or whatever.  We waited until the
cleaning crew had come aboard and then we
got off the boat.  It had been a long
boring ride.  I prefer that kind to your
long adventurous one.  I got through
customs without triggering any flags at
Interpol and as soon as I got to the lobby,
there was the maniac Jacques.  Outside,
Michele was standing just off the parking
lot, giving their wonderful old dog
Myrtille, the opportunity for relief.

I had phoned my French friends Jacques and
Michelle the week before, startling THEM
with news of my imminent arrival in
Roscoff, but they're good sports and drove
up from the south of Bretagne to meet me at
the terminal. They would  babysit me a
couple of days until my first employers
this trip could come and pick me up on
their way home from the South.

Jacques and Michele have a great passion
for American music, much to my benefit.
Their English, though, is quite as
non-existent as my French, a fact which
would send us scrambling for the
dictionairre every three seconds over the
next two days.  We had a great time and I
got a cram refresher course in
conversational French.
What do I like about the French?
Everything, of course, but they REALLY know
how to put a feed on.  Over the next two
days I ate ham and cheese and mussels and
crawdads and beef and French fries.  I
drank wine, I drank coffee. I listened to

They live in a house that is much like a
museum of tools.  There are tools for
making, tools for tightening, tools for
sowing, tools for reaping, tools for
cutting and tools for joining together.
All of them about four hundred years old.
They are resting on every surface and
hanging on every wall.

On my last night in their care we went to a
fete where they were serving mussels and
playing original music from the area; stuff
so Celtic you could smell the peat and
taste the ocean with every note.  Melodies
so heartbreaking of interval and rhythm,
made me just want to go out and paint my
face blue..

Next day, Jean-Luc and Felicie, my bosses
for the first segment of my tour de France,
appeared and we hove off to the wilds of

Au revoir, Jacques.  Au revoir, Michele.

I'll keep you posted.