06 May 2009

Home Again

Sitting here in Brooklyn practicing my guitar riffs for the SUCIDIE concert coming up in, oh, only about six or seven weeks from now. For those of you not familiar with their work, SUCIDIE employ very complex musical structures, and learning their songs has proved quite demanding. Demanding enough, in fact, that I've decided I have to take a break from this arduous work and fill you in on recent events, including my semi-whirlwind trip to London and Paris. Yes, a repeat, albeit with slightly better weather, of last autumn's adventure, and this time containing 50% more football, French stuff, and consorting with rock royalty.

First things first: I arrived in London in time for a visit to Craven Cottage where I witnessed Fulham, by dint of a hard-fought but not especially suspenseful victory over Stoke City, ascend to the vertiginous and unprecedented heights of 7th place in the Premiership. Champions League, here we come! Well, not quite, but the UEFA Cup remains a slight possibility.

The night before I'd been out till 3 am - actually later, now that I think about it, once you count the Night Bus ride from the West End out to Bayswater, where I was staying. It had started out as simply a night of dancing but turned rather unexpectedly into, well, I guess, a date, something with which I've had no familiarity whatsoever for lo, these many years. I felt like a teenager again - okay, maybe a twenty-something, that being the prevailing demographic of the club we were at - and hearing Lady Gaga on a mega-club-style sound system removed any doubts I might have had about her awesomeness. The new Madonna, people have been saying about her, and apparently Madonna herself has heard the buzz, because she turned up at Gaga's New York show last week to see for herself what the fuss was about. She looked slightly grim and discomfited, witnesses report.

It's true that my interest in Lady Gaga was initially stimulated by little more than the fact that so many otherwise reasonable people seemed to hate her - any performer capable of alienating large swathes of the population is off to a good start, especially if the irked ones come disproportionately from the bien-pensant classes among whom I so often find myself. But after seeing her videos a few times and dancing to her songs a few more, not to mention reading Sasha Frere-Jones's mini-profile in the New Yorker - the first time I have ever agreed with Frere-Jones about anything, I've become convinced the woman is a genius. Or at least a lot smarter than me, anyway. I'm also appreciative of how her wigs grow more brazenly opulent and expensive with each successive video, surely as reliable an indicator as any of her rapid ascent up the ladder of artistic and commercial success.

Then it was off to Paris. Only hours after arriving, I attended a dinner party where I knew almost no one, but where nearly everyone spoke English (increasingly true all over Paris, which is why I despair of ever improving my French beyond the rudimentary level where it's been for the past 30 years). I had a nice time chatting to various Canadians, Americans, Colombians and the like, all of whom seemed to have lived in all the same places where I've tended to knock about, basically San Francisco/Los Angeles, New York, London. I mean seriously, we'd mostly lived not just in the same neighborhoods, but often on the same streets. Ever feel like you're living in a cliché? Or are one?

Then at some point I got introduced to a pleasant, similarly pedigreed woman in her 40s or 50s who, almost before we'd exchanged pleasantries like our names asked whether I was married or in a relationship. When I said that I was neither, she beamed. "Excellent! I told our host to introduce me to single men!" she said, and then set about planning our week together in Paris. I swear I gave her no encouragement whatsoever, and in fact any of you who know me in real life or tried to hit me up for a record deal will be aware of just how noncommittal I can be. But I got the impression that my opinions and/or feelings were not the issue here, as she adroitly steered me away from the crowd and into a back corner of the garden.

The maddening thing - apart from losing the opportunity to talk to any of the other interesting people there - was that while I didn't want to marry her or go canoodling down some romantic Parisian backstreet in the manner she apparently envisioned, I found her company interesting and was even able to muster some sympathy for her recent breakup with old Whatshisface, who apparently had been no fun at all and never once took her out dancing in the five years they'd been together.

But while I knew that was as far as this relationship was going, my opinion seemed of little import in the matter, and I finally took the coward's way out. In fact, I'm almost - I say almost, because longtime readers will be aware that I'll say practically anything here and that discretion and decorum are not always my strong suits - ashamed to recount how I dealt with the situation: when word went out that dessert was being served in the kitchen and she made a beeline for it (see, there are some advantages to my no-sweets diet plan), I simply slipped away into the night.

Yes, I know, disgraceful behavior. I didn't even say goodbye or thanks to the host or to any of the other people I'd met, and felt about as mature as a 12 year old trying to figure out how to deal with overly aggressive girls at his first school dance, but when I made it out the gate and onto the street without being spotted, what a wave of relief washed over me. Only downside: well, there were two, actually. One was that I genuinely did feel bad about my disappearance might have left her feeling; I have been ditched myself on a few occasions, so I have some idea of what it's like. The other was that with Paris - the part that matters, anyway - being ultimately such a small town, I had to keep my eyes peeled constantly for the next six days lest I run into her on the streets and have to come up on the spot with a plausible explanation for my vanishing act. Oh yes, I forgot to mention she was rich, too, so I may have done incalculable damage to my hopes of starting a new career as an international gigolo.

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