Back to Square One is a self-portrait of Peter Land, a multi-disciplinary artist from Denmark, as homeless person. The title of the work refers to the board games that send you back to the first square and the cardboard boxes are the spaces of the game. The shape signifies that even bending over backwards gets you nowhere.
June 4, 2022
Hyperrealist exhibition Ceci n’est pas un corps
49-50 quai Rambaud,
It is my favourite recordings of a conversation with the audience. An entusiastic fan, anticipating a direction to Jim Morrison’s mention of astrology, yells out his sign. He agrees that he is a Sagitarius, describes it as the most philosophical of all signs and finishes by denouncing any belief in it. In a wonderful moment of irony, the enthusiastic fan immediately echoes his sentiment.
But, it is what he says afterwards that I am interested in today.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen man but I want to have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames.”
I’ve seen his grave. He went up in flames first.
That said, and taking Père Lachaise into consideration, what would a sustainable hedonistic lifestyle require? I think I will try to find some supportable prudes, ones I can talk to without wanting to pullout my hair in rage. Their objections will help me work out the answer.
I revert to my previous plan, B, for Saturday. Plan A had been cancelled a month ago because ticket sales had been too low (not very surprising seeing as it was new and there are at least three established festivals in the region). I have eliminated plan C because, while I enjoyed the music on day one, I do not know any of the bands. In other words, I have been there and it feels like I have totally done it. If I am going to do the familiar, I am going to go big.
The festival is big and big business. Sponsored booths, brands everywhere and a cashless system that probably generates more money than the sales of the pricey tickets. I take tour of the grounds, allow myself one more gripe (more space dedicated to stands than to music) and pack away the grumpy old man.
All this predictable crap comes with predictable fun. There is only one main stage performer that I have not heard of. The others I have known for at least ten years. This is going to be an evening of full hopping, along with fifteen thousand other attendees, to twenty year old hits.
Three, two, one … Time to party.
The train taking me on the 31.6 kilometer journey to Vienne is crowded. I am going to the jazz festival for a blues concert.
To continue along similar lines, when speaking French you have to specify that it is the one in France. You might prefer to end up in Vienna, Austria but that is not where the festival is taking place.
My last visit here was unplanned. I had read about Condrieu as a destination for a day trip. The name had immediately rung bells–it is one of the only white wines I enjoy. The article was full of suggestions for tastings, things to do and places to see. It said nothing about everything being closed on Sunday (the locals I tell the story to are surprised I was surprised). I did find one store selling freshly picked cherries and locally pressed juices. The signs say it is 12 kilometers to Vienne and I turn my visit of a wine village into a leisurely stroll along the Rhone.
This time the place is alive, breathing, in the way smaller towns embrace their internationally recognized events, to the rhythms of the festival.
The first stage is at the first restaurant in front of the train station. A little further down the road there is a blues duo and on a throughway there are a bunch of fifty-somethings backing a forty-somethings’ version of Should I Stay. I go and bump into another grey-haired band. It takes two bars for me to recognize that they are losing their religion.
I was expecting a municipal hall, I get a Roman theater.
There seems to be a surprising number of Roman municipal entertainment facilities still hosting events. Two weeks ago I was waiting for Godot in Lyon’s Odeon and next week it is Nîmes’ colosseum for another concert.
I could have called this post: How to have a Roman holiday without going to Rome. I could have then added a subtitle saying how unfortunately the only appearance of Audrey Hepburn would be to signal her absence. Then again, the object of this post, the concert, doesn’t get much of mention either (in case you were wondering, I thought it was excellent).
I feel lost because I do not know where I am going.
Does that even make sense?
The Cheshire Puss would have me walk until I get somewhere. But getting somewhere doesn’t make me less lost.
I could play with this. Mix a little metaphor and philosophy; Conclude with a paradox. Pseudo intellectual bullshit that would please Alice when she is big or small.
Now, I have cornered myself. If I cannot play with the “wherever you go, there you are” then I will have to get real and stop wondering about the wandering. Deal with the where I am instead of avoiding it with a digression about destination.
“I am in wander land.”
I miss them. Sometimes more than others. Sometimes to the point that I write about it.
It has been 9 months without. It was 45 years with.
I was expecting it to be easier by now. I’ve heard that you never really stop missing them but that you slowly get used to missing them. A new normal. … Not yet.
In February, during a ‘more’ period, I made the mistake of compensating with food. After a week, shirts were tight, trousers were losing buttons and some outfits were staying in the closet. Sparkling water compensated for the compensation. (The word to describe this, as tired as it may be, has been stolen by a tech giant. I have extended my partial boycott of their products to the word. A delightfully irrational reaction.)
A couple of weeks ago, I am seated feeling bloated. I scold myself. My tailored shirts are still tight.
I switch to self-medicating with recreational cannabis which I mix with CBD so that I can tell myself it is under control, so that I am not becoming one with the couch, so that I can feel less of a stoner.
A difficult morning but it is too early for self-medication. I remind myself how hard it has been to get here. I do not want to go through it again. I get into the pep-talk to myself. I almost forget I want to smoke a cigarette.
The song has picked up another level of meaning:
It was a little more than ten years ago. It was a party night. I had gone to a popular club in San Francisco. I am enjoying myself. I look around. Almost everyone is 20 years younger than me. I did not belong.
Blues are my go to. The music rocks, it can be seedy and dive bars are fun places.
I am looking for a blues bar and I can only find jazz clubs. At the second place I try, my neighbour gives me a flyer for a concert being held in a town a few kilometers to the south of the city.
I am at the bar enjoying a beer before the concert. I look around. There is a lot of grey hair.
Their autocorrect comes with a superpowered phonetics engine. It makes smarter mistakes.
Postal workers have been correcting for phonetic spelling since the beginning of mail. My insurance papers make it to me despite having the address rewritten. Rewritten because not all the names of the less famous make it to the dictionary. Regardless, the inventions of a computer do not faze the post office.
Computers come with so many scapegoats that if you are not in the mood to name something specific, like software, or bad data, or have overused too many of them, you can just say “Computers” with a pregnant pause and your interlocutor will probably make some sort of sympathetic noise.
And now everybody is reminded that they have a computer in their pocket, that cars use more microprocessors than computers and that the internet of things is coming (is here). “Technology … .”
In the late 90’s there was a joke making the rounds after Bill Gates said that the auto industry could learn something from the computer industry’s ability to increase performance and reduce prices. There were various versions of a supposed response from the General Motors CEO saying that if cars were like computers, they would stop suddenly on the highway; you would have to turn them off; check the tires, check the oil and check the fuel; and then restart the car. The glitches transposed … .
When the audio system in my car glitches it sends my onboard computer into a tizzy. Luckily the car still drives but if I want to use the onboard systems I have to park the car for the two hours it takes for the “trip” related measures to reset. … .
Zero is an important number. But is it a number? The statement assumes a positive answer to the question. It is an age old technique and I wonder if Plato ever had Socrates rant about it.
I remember once being outraged at a sophisticated example. Technically legal. A case of caveat emptor, let the buyer beware. Trickster wording that would easily trick the eighty percent. Unfortunately the outrage overwhelmed the memory of the example.
My memory has me learning the concept of caveat emptor from the Brady Bunch. One of those episodes with a life lesson for one of the kids. One of the many with a moral. One of the two ideas I think I learned from that show.
The other idea I attribute to the series is the advice to humanize people that intimidate you. Actually, the tip from the show was less abstract. One of the older girls was trying to get her driver’s license but the examiner frightens her and she makes a comic mistake. Stepdad suggests imagining the examiner in his tighty-whities and she gets her license. These days I express the idea as even the Queen shits.
Funnily, I am not intimidated by people in positions of power. My problem with them is that I don’t show them subservience they are used to. I can show them the respect their position requires but I have a hard time hiding my opinion of an idea. Or knowing what they are expecting. Like when the CEO introduced himself and all I had to say was that I knew who he was. He ended up walking away awkwardly. Funny but not career enhancing.
Funnily because I am also very comfortable in other typically intimidating situations like public speaking yet I get very anxious about approaching a stranger. It’s like my extroversion. I am clinically extroverted, getting energized by other people, needing socializing but I can be quite the shy guy. Sometimes, I try to make sense of this. Most of the time I am pedantic about the definitions.
I take a picture to make sure that I do not confuse my memories with my imagination. An American 1950’s pickup truck with a California licence plate in the middle of Avignon’s theatre district is surreal enough to be a scene from some art house movie. It reminds me of American Graffiti.
I change my mind. It is a trophy photo. Proof of what I found while I was there.
I’m on my way to see a play and I realize it is cliché. Been there, done that. Avignon is known for two things: its 14th century popes and its arts festival. Then again, if it wasn’t for the oversized theatre scene, chances are that I would have found something else to do.
The title, Elvis’ Kitchen, caught my attention. The blurb advertising sex, food and happiness decided me. Sex sells.
I decide to rebrand my adventure to Went there, did that.
I am still wondering if the truck belongs to a famous actor, or maybe a rock star. I could probably scan the internet to find out if one has been spotted in town. Who else would ship a vintage truck to Europe?
I throw out the star theory. The pickup is missing a paint job and there are signs of recent restoration work. There is a story behind the truck. A story that will probably be told on a motor-themed cable channel.
The theater looks closed but there are other people waiting. One is on the phone. I read the poster.
“Are you waiting for the play?”
“I just called, tonight’s performance is cancelled.”
I spend my evening in a taqueria. It’s the first authentic one I’ve seen in France. I feel the effect of the beers when I stand up to go.
“What did you do this weekend?”