Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Traveling? Need a couch? Need a guide?

For one year I've been praising the site and the system of Couch Surfing, made up in general of people who love to travel and meet people, act as hosts and/or guides or just hang out with and have a drink or coffee. As one might imagine, finding a couch is a bit more difficult than finding someone with whom one may meet for coffee or a drink. The majority of registered users fall in the 25 to 35 year age range but a few older travelers are also registered.

First step, register at stating whether you have a couch to offer for a night or two or would rather meet for a coffee or a drink. You'll have a page with a profile and photo. Be certain to note as much info as possible. If you are looking for a host or a just having a drink, it is wise to check the chosen person's profile for common interests. After all, even just having a drink can be painful if you're short on conversation subjects. Occasionally, Couch Surfing in your city will notify you of get-togethers. To my mind, this is mostly for young singles who are free to hang out. These impromptu meetings are quite successful, at least in Paris (the person who introduced me to couchsurfing site, a single traveling musician, always attends these events and swears by them).

Recently I spoke of couchsurfing at a meeting and was surprised to hear someone say that she would never stay in a stranger's home. Another said she'd be afraid to even meet for a drink. No one says one doesn't have to be careful and exert some discretion when choosing whom to contact. Several tips for safe usage are noted on the site and are absolute required reading.
So saying, I realized as my friend spoke her misgivings that I had sent an email asking for a couch to a registered user who had no references, no record of usage had only recently joined and noted that all requests be sent to a personal email. All subscribers are recommended to communicate through the couchsurfing site, this as a safety measure. Members are also rated by the number of times they answer requests. My heart in my mouth, I also realized that this member, if in reality it is a sincere member and not just someone playing a joke or worse, had not answered my request.
Thank heavens, most serious members do answer if only to say, 'maybe next time'.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Whither the weather?

As heard in Paris:
- Is it summer yet?
- What? Where?
- Here.
- You mean in Paris?
- Ouais.
- Bien sûr, it's mid-July isn't it? Bastille Day's come and gone, n'est ce pas?
- Certainement, but you see the weather? Why, our highs are New York's lows. And let's not speak about Tokyo and Osaka. Osaka's tropical.
- Laisse tomber, you know Paris is a bowl.
- Yes, of ice cream and I'm freezing. Gelée.
- Pas de soucis...a warm front is moving in and in two days the sun will shine and the temperature rise --- au moins till the end of the week.
- Remember the heat wave? 2003?
- That was hot. Chaud, chaud, chaud.
- Des morts. People died.
- Not ready for the heat.
- No air conditioning.
- No fans.
- No wonder...
- N'est ce pas? Most of the time summer here is unseasonable.
- Je sais, in my opinion downright unreasonable.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A blast from the past : Rocco and his Brothers

I admit to being an inveterate TV fan. No wonder when one can view such a film as Arte showed over the weekend: Luchino Visconti's "Rocco and his Brothers". The title is a familiar one from back in my Greenwich Village days. My sister was and still is, a francophile and in love with foreign films, especially French but not me. As a dancer, I usually watched musicals as part of my schooling in the how tos of performing, so I missed this and many other classic films over the years.
Getting back to Rocco, the script with well drawn characters and the actors held me spellbound especially memorable performances by Katina Paxinou, wonderful as the typical mom who rules the brothers, Annie Giradot as the 'devil in spite of herself' making the viewer, me, simultaneously love and hate her and her wanton ways. I yearned to tell Rocco, Alan Delon, not to give her up after his foolish brother shames her and him but helas, he does and honey turns to vinegar. I haven't been a Delon fan but surely if I had seen him long ago in this film I would've been. His performance as Rocco blew me away and his beauty was an added extra.
Sometimes I felt the sexism a bit much but one has to take into consideration the timing and the place : Italy, 1960. If you haven't yet seen this classic masterpiece, I strongly recommend it.

A dream

In the dream, we are two mixed groups of people at a party. I am in the smaller of two rooms having a glass of my favorite wine, St. Emilion. Suddenly a voice calls, "Hey, Manda, we're waiting on you." I look through the doorway to see who's speaking. In the other room, a man I don't know but to whom I wouldn't mind being introduced, sits on a stool holding a book. With misgivings I enter the room. His book is now a manuscript. In fact, all the other partyers now have manuscripts. Me too.
"Well, Manda, it's your turn," the leader says. I look down at the open manuscript in my hand and see it's notes running riot on a symphonic score. I'm about to ask, "how the devil can I read this ?" when I jerk awake.
Thank goodness, the thought of trying to read all those notes was a nightmare... I'm still trying to figure out what this dream is really about.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

On the Seine

Ever long for dinner by candlelight with intermittent music, in intimate company with a view of the Seine? Le River Café peniche, with its spacious wood interior is the place you're longing for. In fact, I sang there last night. Every Wednesday, all year round, is jazz night, presenting jazz artists of grand caliber such as Michele Hendricks, daughter of famed singer, Bill Hendricks of Hendricks, Lambert & Ross fame. I usually sing Jazz there but last night's concert was a changeup from the norm. With bassist Nicolas Rageau and newcomer on the Paris scene, pianist Greg Lloyd, we alternately rocked the house and soothed the spirit with gospel, negro spirituals and inspirational songs. What's that? Songs like "I believe", "You'll never walk alone", "If I had a Hammer" etc. Get the picture? Or rather, the song? If you're a musician it's a tough nut to crack, after all, people are eating and speaking. But eventually they finish dessert and then they're all yours. Le River Café is situated on Quai Alexandre in Issy les Moulineaux. Check out their site for further info and check mine for our next performance there and elsewhere.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Waiting for a hit!

Will wonders never cease? The electro-dance song I wrote and recorded with David Rubato two years ago, "Deep Inside," is out and spinning. Only available for the time being in the United Kingdom, it showed up in the top ten on the Funky House internet site today. My fingers ache from being crossed since David and I signed a distribution contract in 2006. I grew up believing that the least a singer needed, besides some talent, was one hit record and a career was made. Of course, no one is against having a string of hits to his or her credit. At this point in time, though, with record sales on the decline, it seems like a lot to ask for. At any rate, it's too early to uncross fingers. By the way, to date, Deep Inside has three remixes. DJs make the hits so let's hope they hit on this cut.


Not so long ago
I felt nothing but the pain
Every place I went
Real bad memories on my mind

Nights were passing by
'till the day I realized
Despite what I believed
All I need's inside of me

I can tell now


Now I'm on my way
I know what I'm heading for
Learning everyday
Taking one step at a time

Keeping my head high
I feel I've got what it takes
Never giving up
It's the only way to go

I can tell now



Friday, July 11, 2008

Caregiving III

Never having seen a limb fresh out of a plaster cast, this first view of Raphael's leg and foot was a shock. Raphael is a good sport and let me take pictures of his limb.
Check out Dr. Ben Kim's newsletter this week. He gives best acupressure points for promoting strong blood circulation throughout your legs and feet. I think I'll try it out on Raphael...

Caregiving II

Athough it's not funny for Raphael, this footgear has given me many laughs over the last couple of days. I mean, with two of them he could ski any slope. Maybe that's why, even though its use is necessary, reimbursement from Social Security is not forthcoming.
Without further ado meet Roboboot:

Monday, July 7, 2008

Clichy Plage ?

As promised, more about the beach installation called Clichy Plage (Clichy Beach). In the Clichy Stadium on Rue Villenueve, the city has followed through on an ambitious project, begun in 2007. Not what the title suggests though, only the small northwest corner is spread with sand. There, older patrons, mostly women, fully clothed and veiled, relax under umbrellas on lounge chairs while nearby, children swim in a removable pool, deep enough for them but hardly for an adult to swim. A lifeguard (maître nager) watches them cavorting and generally enjoying the unattended surprise of a free day at the beach. Free, yes but after this opening day, July 5th, adults pay 1€, children .50 centimes. Hey someone has to help foot the bill ! Ping pong tables are available as well as a football court, changing rooms and etc. The beach is open every day from 10am till 8pm and concerts are held on the podium Friday nights beginning at 8pm until 10pm. This is the one feature that seems not properly thought out.

The first concert of rock and French pop music could be heard throughout the immediate neighborhood on all sides of the "beach". This seems a burden for the immediate neighborhood. Are we to suffer for the greater good ? Ah well, no one thought to ask. Clichy Beach opens until August 3rd, 2008.

My favorite park, Roger Salengro, across the street was almost empty when I visited Clichy Beach on opening day but it remains to be seen how many people will attend the beach when obliged to pay. The women might return to the park which is free and beautiful but that's another story.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

How did you celebrate July 4th, Independence Day ?

July 14th is Independence Day in France, equal to our July 4th celebration. A friend invited us for a July 3rd party in the suburbs, at least an hour by car. I answered the invitation with a subtle hint that transport being a problem - my husband won't be driving for a while - I probably wouldn't attend. However, this friend who is forever sending out emails about his activities, never answers others emails or at least mine. So July 4th, hubby and I spent at home. We got a lot done, worked on writing blogs and etc. at the computer. Know what I mean ?

Then July 5th rainy, windy morning weather cast a damp outlook on the big picnic planned by my friend known on the net as "Island Girl". It was decided to wait until early afternoon, say three o'clock, before going to the planned rendezvous. Three pm arrived, I was ready to party but the weather remained overcast and slightly cool. Unfortunately the long ride and the late hour with thoughts of trekking home on the RER train and bus, I chose to stay home with hubby again. Sure, he couldn't even go downstairs for coffee because of the slippery sidewalk. His leg and foot cast has a metal piece on the bottom, practical for resting ones foot but not practical in the rain with his two canes. By four pm however, the sun shone bright enough for a walk around one of my favorite parks, the Roger Salengro, just up the street from our building.

Also stopped into what is euphemistically called, Clichy Plage (Clichy beach) in the stadium across from the park but that's another story. At any rate, the weekend had nothing to do with those remembered holidays back home: hot, sunny, fighting the traffic to get to the beach. Fried chicken, corn, lemonade, or are my souvenirs going back too far ? After all, France has been my home since nineteen-eighty-four. So how did you spend the American Independence Day ?

Friday, July 4, 2008


In a fit of temper brought on by our car stalling, my husband tried to push the car. Result: he tore his Achilles Tendon. Ouch. Naive as we were, we both thought he'd be back at work in a few days. Wrong.
After an operation he is now in a cast for two months and I'm in the position of caregiving for the first time in my life.

So what does it entail? As my sister-in-law commented, "Oh yeah, lots of takeout food". Well, I'm trying not to fall into that habit although I must say that we're eating small frozen pizza tarts at least once a week. The rest of the time I'm learning culinary skills in trying to serve nutritious and interesting food. I find that my husband who always has a healthy appetite has now turned into one yawning mouth. I discovered a great recipe for eggplant last week so we have that dish once a week. Also found a recipe on the net from Dr. Ben Kim for zucchini spaghetti. Nothing lasts forever and he'll be out of the cast and back on his feet in August. We already cancelled our August vacation because of his reeducation.

I remember the good old days BTA (before the accident) when he cooked dinner and we both shopped for food, etc. etc. Now it's cooking two meals a day, food shopping practically every day, taking down the garbage, watching the dishes pile up in the sink, and etc. etc.

ER Scandal

Just finished reading my friend, Island Girl's blog relating to the scandal in the King's County emergency waiting room . This brings to mind a similar story regarding a patient lying on a rollaway bed in the ER of Harlem's Knickerbocker Hospital several decades ago. The patient died. Her name was Billie Holiday.
Unfortunately for her, she was checked in under her marriage name but so what? It's the same old story and we haven't learned our lesson yet. Hospitals understaffed and staff overworked and underpaid. I knew a male nurse who worked in the Knickerbocker emergency room at the time of Ms. Holiday's demise. He performed doctor's duties when he had to and wound up every night with a bloody uniform. The problem is deep and who has solutions? A little compassion goes a long way...