Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Before the Fire

We are all invested with hope. It’s what keeps us holding onto the
side of the buoy, as we float among the dead bodies and wreckage of our just sunken ship. It’s what allows us to stay silent, stay hidden and unmoving under a stack of human corpses as the killers heap more atop us.

We go on no matter what the disasters swirling among us, we are bred with the instinct to just get through, to just keep going. But to what end. Is it more that just about continued living. What is it we go on for. What is this wish that living entails, that makes us want more, even while in the midst of suffering.

We are lucky. For the most part we haven’t had to live in times of famine, war or pestilence, or at least we are able to turn our back toward it when it becomes too much. Our hope consequently has become much grander than just to get through. It is lucky to have a chance to conceive dreams that are not perpetually clouded with nightmare. But unfettered dreams can haunt too.

They can leave a desire for content without limit. A taste for the sensation of the right place at the right time with the want of nothing more. The dream of a place were the desire for more never comes. Those types of dreams can leave a longing that inhabits every waking moment. It is a longing for the complete filling of desire that is not bounded with time.

It’s what keeps us moving on, this constant search for that moment of content without limit. For that waking time when we inhabit what we had hitherto only glimpsed in a dream. It’s a schizophrenic view of the self from outside, without any of the separation anxiety. The viewer and the viewed are one, and distinct too. It’s like watching the watcher, or inhabiting the mirror. It’s what we do so easily in dreams, but when that flashes in waking life, it can leave gaping chasms in our rock solid world.


The window panes are literally flowing. The ancient rock houses are
all huddled together against the sunny side of the coline. Its warm outside but inside a slow fire burns. It counters the cold that lingers within the rock walls. It adds a slow sound and a warm light that repeats wordlessly ‘hearth’. Smoke rises from the chimney and scatters, sending out the scent of another time.

In front of the fire, are a man and a woman. They sit, facing each other, in straight backed chairs. They both lean in slightly, one towards the other. They are holding hands and on occasion looking into the other, the fire, themselves. They say very little, what sounds they do make are absorbed by a denser, wordless utterance which is emanating between them. They are enshrouded in the shifting light of the fire. They sit like that - silent and content. She is blissful and beautiful and he has forgotten that no story ends happily ever after.

Their love flourishes amidst the end that rages around them, she flowers in its energy, he amazes at its calm. Each in their fashion knows the end will come, yet in that perfect moment in front of the fire, they just kept going and pretended not to notice. They know that sorrow will come, but not today.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cloudy in the morning, raining in the afternoon.

Letter to a Blank Page.

You are so zen. Haughty white and mighty.
You scare me with your blank stare.
So serene, so perfect just as you are
so full of potential.
Perhaps it’s that which makes me want to soil you.

Just to think of it, gets me in a mood.

Potential realized is
never perfection.
just realization.

That’s the beauty of it.

Just you, and me.
Some alone time.
We’ll go to the end,
get dirty and soiled, all marked up.

It’s like your begging for it, sitting there stainless and white. The way you call me, I know you want it. The only question left now is - how. It’s hard to believe something so pretty could support something so pedestrian. Then again you take all comers. Everyone says your so easy.

So come on, let’s take a whirl, waste some potential with me too. It’s what your all about. Let me mark you, fill you up. It’s what lovers do on rainy days. In a word it’s called gaspillage. But let’s do it anyway - come together and spill over each other. Potential. Action. Who cares if it finishes a mess.

Just to mark your unblemished face, and unfaltering ear, with my rainy days and wandering thoughts. Together we’ll make nothing and call it a good day. Make nothing, but do it together. In the end it doesn’t matter. Even the lucky finish as so much pulp.

I'll save you from your nothingness, and you'll save me from nothing. For a moment though I can remember and forget together. We'll do it together. Condense entire rainstorms in a single line. Oh sweet water from heaven making sound like breezes through brittle leaves of autumn.

Across the world we'll make rain falling. Just outside the door.
We’ll do that and be

silent too.

But not to, like the pure white bliss of zen it can seem a bit too much.

The shop window penetrated.
The bride stripped bare.
It won't matter.
You see - gaspillage - it can be a word that fills too.
Creative acts, rain falling.

Come with me you pretty blank bitch.

Friday, October 2, 2009


In La Roquette, the village of my vigneron, there is a fountain. It's fed by a spring and so cool, fresh water fills it without stop. The fountain stands about three feet high. It has a deep rectangular basin which is always filled, being that it drains from the top. It looks like it would be perfect to water a horse, and I am sure at one point, not long ago, it did. You must keep in mind that until the 1970's most of the farming here was still done with horses. Until 1975, when my vignerons father got a tractor, it was Bijoux, their horse, that did all the heavy work.

Bijoux is gone now. The tractor that replaced him and which came with the ability to distribute great quantities of high production wonder products, is gone too. Those miracle products, in addition to increasing production were also much more toxic than the manure of Bijoux, consequently the father of my vigneron, along with quite a few other vignerons with the new modern capabilities, went not long after Bijoux - all with the same type of liver cancer. Modern farming, just like the farming that came before it, has it’s brutal side

My vigneron, his sister, and his mother, have all talked fondly of Bijoux, the family horse. One day when I asked the sister, after she had recounted a funny memory of the time Bijoux went astray, what they did with him after they had gotten the tractor, she matter of factly replied that they ate him. The way she said it made it seem the most logical thing one could do with a horse when it's utility is finished, after all a horse is an expense. On the farm everyone has to pull their weight.

I am sure Bijoux probably bellied up to the same fountain that I find myself pulling up to everyday as I pass through this village. I stop before, during and after work. You see picking grapes is a sticky and thirsty affair and that big basin full of cool sparkling, spring water wipes either of those problems away instantly. But any water will do that. The unique thing about this fountain is not the sweet water that runs into it, any of the local fountains have that, but the bench that sits across, and just down the street a bit from it.

The bench is inhabited with a rotating cast of the local senior citizens from this village. There aren't very many of them, these characters who look as though they have been sent over from central casting, the village has a population of perhaps 100, yet the bench always seems to be full. Perhaps it's the nice, sunny, almost autumn weather we are having. More likely it's the commotion of the tractors and the traffic of grapes rolling up and down the street that calls them out. It's the harvest, the money shot of the agricultural world. All these folks sitting on the bench have done their time in the world of grapes, and for a couple of weeks each year, the grapes, and their pasts, come parading down the road.

This village has harvested grapes since the times of the roman emperors. It runs on the cycle of the vines as steadily as the water that flows from the source feeds the fountain. Now I am here, at that fountain, several times a day, watering and washing, cooling down, just like they once did, or at least like their horses once did.

When I pull up, I see them. I see them watching me. They make no pretense about not, and why should they, it is their town, their fountain, and they are there to see the show. For the moment it is me. That undeniable fact casts me in a mood each time I step up to the fountain and see them out of the corner of my eye.

No doubt they are trying to sum up the somewhat recognizable stranger. They know I am here because I am picking grapes, but for who, and in what capacity is perhaps open. They may even know I am the american and who my vigneron is, information they got from the grapevine, in this case the grapevine being my vignerons mother. Her grandfather, father, husband, and son where all vignerons. She did her time on the bench too. She was in the fields last year when we did the harvest, a week later she was dead. It's the fate of everyone who drinks from the fountain, be it this one or any other.

But it's not the stares of the local seniors on the bench that get to me each time I step up to the fountain. It’s the memories lurking behind their stares that make me uneasy. I am the present, like at one time they were. I can see their thoughts churning, they are as visible as the dark purple stains on my hands. Each time it is shocking. They are just sitting there, watching, remembering. They look at me, I look at them. I smile and nod - bonjour, bonsoir, madame, monsieur. They remain without movement or response, but not without interest.

They can't be without interest. It's why they sit on the bench along the road, and not on the bench down by their vegetable gardens which they tend each day. It's the grapes that have brought them here. They are falling off the vines by the ton to make their way to the local caves to be turned into wine. The grapes are the continual present, the only constant, the life blood of this village and all the others around here. These people sitting on the bench have had wine running through their veins for uncountable generations.

At one time it was their turn. They picked the grapes, they got hot in the september sun, thirsty, sticky. They washed up and cooled down in the same fountain I am standing before now. They were young and fit and had families, and dreams for the future. They stood just where I am standing now, were stained like I am stained now.

Their memory of another time is what I see in their looks. And what gets borne with all the other thoughts, is that the experience I am having now - the pleasant sensation of standing before the fountain at the end of the day and washing off in its cool waters - they have already had. My present is their past. I am a part of a memory which I never had.

These folks on the bench shake my belief in a solid fixed present. They put me in a line that is constantly present, and yet continually ending. They are witnesses that only the line, and not the points that make it up, is infinite. It is this fact and not always the cool water on my hot skin that makes me shudder. This realization that those people sitting on the bench across from the fountain were me, before they became them. That I will be them. That we both will end, but the line will not. That each time someone falls off the bench, another sits down.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Holy mother of Jesus!

It’s harvest time. The grapes are falling off the vines. The local streets are black and slick with spilling juice. Tractors, trucks, harvesting machines. Hands black and back brown. Tired, sticky, happy in my fashion.

The work takes up the entire day. Sunrise, sunset, just like the song goes, in the meantime the life moves on. Day by day, one step closer to the grave, it’s a long march though not without its pleasures. When you are busted from work, one of those pleasures is your day off. It’s just one day, but a day non the less.

But what to do when you are broken in body, if not in spirit. You push on, against all reason. It was like that I found myself aboard the big red lake salagou last night after work watching a theater piece and trying to stay awake. Ha-ha, it’s not really any good, but the setting was fantastic. The cool night after the hot day, the stars giving way to a moon that rose behind a ancient volcano that sits in the lake. And always the fact of no alarm in the morning giving rise to waves of lux.

Sunday in france, bells from the church, sweet sleepy love, warm bread, fresh cigarettes, coffee, another sunny 80 degree day. A short walk to a long lunch on the plaza in the shade. A nap, some sugar and another coffee. Woody Allen at the cinema in V.O. A walk home. Fresh soup for a chilly night. Bed. Sleep. 6 a.m. Grapes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It was hot again in the vines.

It was hot again in the vines. We followed the machine from the get-go at 7 a.m. The sun came up later, and was soon beating down. The machine is loud and dirty. The day was without romance or relief. It continued after work when I lit up my computer.

The quotes which follow are taken from the lead story on Yahoo/news which concerned the health care ‘debate’.

When I am slapped by these widgets of ‘information’ it makes me feel good to be away from the empire. Speech like this makes it seem as if the only way is down, and when things are falling it just seems safer to be out of the way. It also helps me feel correct as I am stooped over in the hot sun doing migrant field work. In the developed world, universal health care is considered a primary need. In my french back water town I feel good to live in a underdeveloped part of a civilized country, rather than living in a developed part of an uncivilized country.

In america, for all it’s good godly religious stridency, it seems any thought towards ‘the least of His brothers’ has been forgotten. I will leave it to you to decide what has happened to critical thinking and/or debate.

"That's the cart before the horse, as they say in Maine," said Sen. Olympia Snowe,

Sen. Charles Grassley, said talks were ongoing and included "some things that are very central."

"Clearly failure is not an option here," said Rep. Xavier Becerra,

"The status quo is unacceptable" said Mitch McConnell

"I hope he will call for a pragmatic, bipartisan approach," said Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin...

Forget the sides, left and right, back down or fight; me or you, red and blue. Can anyone who talks meaningless, canned words, (without the tongue firmly implanted in their cheek) be of any value at discussing solutions to structural problems in the systems that we are operating in.

All that above mealy-mouthed, dribble-drabble just displays how pathetic, sad and just silly the popular discourse of our ‘learned and important’ men, and women, is. This paplum that they spew out as sage word and which is then fed out in never ending doses for mass consumption. It is part and parcel of a power structure that maintains, at all cause, it’s being. It’s their job, dammit! It’s what empires, viruses and man all try to do - continue on no matter what.

In the meantime Diogenes is still roaming, looking for his one good man. How many say no to a free case of booze. But all that is the problem of any falling empire. No one is out for anyone but themselves. I find it literally insane how the funding can be instantly found to carry on far flung wars of geo-political game-playing but health care for folk living in the richest country in the world is a boondoggle of unimaginable folly.

Everyone should have to work in the hot sun for a few years growing food for people they don’t know. It would give another perspective on whether the meager really will inherit the earth. In the meantime listen to your president from the same story.

"We do intend to get something done this year" "If you have a better idea, put it on the table." "I'm open to new ideas," "We're not being rigid and ideological about this thing."

I like Obama for his choice of language. As my father said, perhaps as a vestige of his running days, or residue of his water flow solutions, “lead or get out of the way”. But that is engineer thinking, not political, which is a different regard on systems and their functions.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

It begins again

In the vignes early on a crisp september morning that will turn into a perfect september day. Blue, blue, cloudless sky will come and last throughout the day. Softer light arrives with the sunny days now, it has begun to lose it’s scorching quality. The temperature is 80 degrees, give or take a few. It is the kind of day that makes the myth of the south of france continue.

For a couple of hours it was all the sentiments of the beautiful day beginning and more. I was happy to see the souches again. See how they fared during the summer. While I was frittering about here and there, they were working everyday. The new shoots I left have born fruit again. It’s really quite amazing that food (and in this case, drink) can grow.

I was in the vines to work, and though the grape harvest can conjure up romantic images, which do still exist, the overall reality of it is much different. The fact of the vendage in the time of mass production is that it is all day, low paying, stoop labor in unrelenting sun. I mean that how it is from my side. If you happened to be slowly passing by on the rising, sinewy country road that borders the vine we were in on the beautiful day that was today and saw the colorful peasants working in the fields, it may invoke a whole different feeling than the one I was having today. It was at least a different feeling than the one I was having after the first few hours of the day had past.

For me it was the first day picking this year, my vigneron started without me. He had begun last week. He is trying to save a few rubles by cutting back on the salary hours, even low paid workers add up to un-affordable when you already are on the financial edge.

For the first couple of hours today I was ecstatic to be in the vine again. Then we continued working, the sun came out. My hands and arms got sticky with grape juice. Wasps are all about the sweet juice, and consequently me too. The vines are low, I am tall, my back makes up the difference. The afternoon was beautiful, if you were sitting in a shaded cafe, in the field it was baking (which is admittedly different from scorching).

But the first few moments, cool just breaking morning, the grapes sweet with the summer sun and concentrated from lack of rain. Fresh, fresh, fresh in the morning. I had the heat on while heading to work, the boulanger at 6:30 am with a “hi, how you doing” and a good sandwich too. Yes, the vines in the morning for a few hours - fantastic, mythic, romantic. Then the rest of the day.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Just a little thing

- Will you look at this, Hank practically shouted.
Sev looked at him and then dropped her gaze
- It’s just a small thing, you shouldn’t worry about it. It doesn’t really matter that much.
She was trying to be consoling but it didn’t quite come out the way she wanted and Hank (the consistently falling hero of our story) was becoming even more agitated.
He glared at her, then at it, the source of his agitation.
She didn’t get it, couldn’t get it. Sev had came from elsewhere, she had witnessed, but never lived in the belly of the relentlessly turning machine. She had seen it, but never felt it roll over her, without consideration or compassion, like it rolled over anything and everything else in it’s path. It left no safe haven, no refuge. It was, if nothing else, unceasingly efficient.
- look at it, they don’t miss a beat, he declared.
They had been working out the dates and schedules of his kids, her kids, the back to school, back to work, end of summer crunch time. Hank had gone to get the calendar that he had hanging up by his desk, he had picked it up on the counter of the neighborhood deli his last time through the states. As he walked into the kitchen he had flipped the calendar to the month of september and there it was, just below and to the right of the stock photo of autumn foliage.

Summer Memories
As summer comes to an end make sure that you preserve your memories. PostNet can scan and archive documents and family photos. We can print out a summer memory book or enlarge vacation photos.
Think PostNet

- look at this, he cried to her.
He threw down the calendar he held in his hand. She saw it but didn’t know why it caused him such consternation. What she couldn’t see was that another small, innocent space of his childhood had been thrown into the maw of the machine. Another formerly public space had gotten confiscated for the never ending production of consumption.

Hank knew it was just a small thing. On it’s face, it was innocuous. A little block of text. A simple plug for a product on a free calender where once an aphorism or poem, an idea or reflection, engendered by the changing month or season had sat.

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

-Emily Dickinson

- it’s all over.
- what, she asked softly
- the remembering when the merchants were locals and every single viewable space wasn’t calculated to engender a desire for consumption. When the bludgeoning was frowned upon and brutality was vulgar.

But our hero is doomed (it is this that makes him a hero) to remember the time when spaces existed which weren’t always ‘available for purchase’. When thoughts and discourse could exist without becoming products and brands. When silence wasn’t wasted space.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Broke, Broken.

The concrete is almost all broken up. It’s like the cash in my bank account, there is just a little more to go. In the meantime the rubble, like my debt is growing. It’s a metaphor that often springs to mind when working for free.

It’s good to have a job, it’s not good to have no money. Those are two lessons I learned in my qmerican youth that have stuck with me. It seemed implied at the time that the one came with the other. It’s another example of a lesson where I failed to fully grasp the details. Perhaps it is simply a case of cultural attention deficit disorder, and I should have been consuming ridalin instead of experience. In any case I am once again looking forward to physically draining, minimum wage work. Mind you I am not complaining, simply explaining - how you get to this state of impoverished paradise.

For a week or so I made rubble. Perhaps several tons of broken concrete are evidence of my travails. It's size runs the gamut from just lift-able with one hand, to dust. The rubble was of my own making, and it’s disposal also falls in my domain. It's a benefit of my vertically integrated lifestyle. The later part started today.

A borrowed trailer, a shovel, a pair of gloves, nothing else is needed, except time. Pick up the big pieces, shovel the rest into buckets, carry it to the trailer, drive it to the dump, shovel it out. Repeat until the dump closes. Do it again the next day. In this brute world, does it make sense to talk of the fluffy couscous, tender baby lamb chop, fresh vegetables, cheese coffee and wine the neighbor invited me to lunch on.

The vines start next week. Mmmigrant wages, physical fatigue. Paradise.

Friday, August 28, 2009


The grapes are withering on the vine. It has been, and is again today, hot and dry. The grapes are small and concentrated, their juice is meager. They are thirsty.

It’s not even september and the machine has started up again like it has for the last 2000 or so years here. Sun, grapes, wine. Baaahhh, there is a sheep somewhere in the backround of the picture. Their mmmeeat and cheese with the red red wines, just like it always was. Wash it down, mmmm good.

Every year it is the same, with just a slightly different taste. This year is no different. Thirsty grapes make concentrated flavor. Too bad for the vigneron who needs the weight more than the flavor. That’s production, but oh well. That big rain that never came this year fills up the grapes with juice and hence weight. When you are paid by the pound, heavy is happy.

Picking in August sun, hot breeze that doesn’t stop. Hard rocky soil baking up from below. Oh yes, you’ll get your wine, some years it comes harder than others, but it always comes. Coteaux de Larzac, but it’s not all production. There are other vignes we are waiting on.

Each day now gives the chemical actions a bit more time to act. It’s a living system inside that raisin skin. The seeds floating in the soft flesh, the sugars agitating, the tannins rising, the seed softens. It’s a dance inside those purple membranes, it’s genetics remembering, way back when, when it was all about getting the seed ready to go back into the ground.

But that’s not what you think in the fields. Hot. Sun. Unending rows. Beginning. Again.

At least that’s what they say. I still have yet to see a tractor. Though I am rarely on the street. The local cave cooperative was open, though three of the four bay doors were shut. For me it starts anyday now, it’s vague the migrant work. When the convention season comes, the pimp doesn’t call his whores and tell them what dates they are starting. They just know that it arrives, they leave the details to their man and await his direction.

In the meantime I am crushing concrete with a jackhammer. This gig is so far off the books that I am not even getting paid for it. I am doing it just for the idea that I need to do something. It’s in a cave, so it is cooler, but it’s dusty. In the meantime it fills up time, next is the clear air of the vines and the spirit breaking heat of unrelenting sun. Don't worry, your wine will come.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

On the label it will say - YOU.

Suddenly, everyone is gone.

Perhaps it has been happening slowly and I only just noticed it now. The vacation is ending. Yes it’s still august and the days are still hot and we swim in the afternoon in the red waters of the Salagou, or the blue clair at the pont de diable. It still isn’t sure if we won’t have one more dip in the sparkling salty sea water before autumn. Never the less, it’s over. The summer has turned.

The flavor of the fruit at the market starts hinting of preserves on warm toast with hot tea. It’s color is darker and the flesh softer, like summer, it is rotting into fall. It’s a richer sweeter taste only because it is about to go bad. And by that I mean kaput, finis, over, gone.

The house is empty. Just me and her, and even she has gone for the day. I’ve been surrounded with people all summer, tens and tens of folks in ever rotating groups. Love love love. Everyday we were having a party, or planning, preparing or cleaning one up. It’s hectic and fun and, thanks to the fat sun that hangs long in the sky, well lit.

In a sense, one needs think of nothing.

Gin and tonic, riding high in the ice. Cool wine and cold beer. Shade, slight breezes, and quiet swims in cool black water reflecting starry nights. Oh there are moments. Were moments. Now distilling memories. Mmm good fruit makes sweet jam for cold dark winter days.

Chicago, La Roquette, New York, Clermont l’herault. New Jersey and Moureze. The Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean sea. The great lake Michigan, and the Salagou. Indians lake, and the piscines publique. I was wet everywhere I went. And all because of you, never alone. Mmm you. Like a cool mist on hot skin, even the thought of you gives pleasure.

But the harvest of summer is almost over, and it’s evidence is the empty house. Fun in the sun is over again. It’s au boulot for tous les monde. School and factories, field hands and functionaries. Actors, artists, working class bores - watch the closing doors.

Here, the grapes are waiting. One more week, perhaps two, and for me it’s sore muscles and purple hands. In the meantime I can take care of some loose ends, cook down and put up the sweet memories before they go bad. I’ll label them - NOUS / summer 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

My clothes are pleated because I am on vacation

It hasn’t rained all beautiful summer. The heat is constant and dry. It has taken on a material quality that makes it seem almost tangible. It’s the summer and it’s inherent heat and vacations that I blame my laziness on. If you could see me panting like a dog sprawled out on a cool tile floor you might understand my position a bit better.

It’s not that I’ve been doing nothing, more so just that nothing is getting done. I’ve made my gestures, took my planes, trains, and automobiles in search of that elusive and requisite summer fun. Never the less the more I moved the less I got done when I got there. When I did move, it was always toward the water. It’s the only thing to do that doesn’t lead to hot and sticky. But then again, that’s all water really does - lead away from somewhere - starting with the shore line.

I caught a little cold on the beach in Spain,. Perhaps it was too much information in my summer reading choice. It was all about the C.I.A. post Korean war, biological weapons testing programs they were trying out on the world populations. Though there is plenty of documentation on how and why it began, there is no evidence that they have ever stopped. In any case, whoever fabricated it and then passed it on, this little bug shows no sign of weakening, not that it was ever so strong to begin with.

my malady in fact is almost non-existent, at least during the day. Each evening however my throat starts feeling rough, a few hours later I am hoarse, then I lose my voice. Silent, I am forced to go to bed. In the morning I wake up and for an hour or so cough up the nights production of solid flemmy colors. It’s more annoying then anything else, and really takes away the pleasure of my morning cigarette.

In addition to that I feel constantly tired, or perhaps that’s caused by the daily swims I’ve been taking in the cool bodies of water that flow through here. In any case I feel fatigued. It’s for that reason that tonight I won’t write you again. You know how much I would like to, so many things to say. You - you are really so kind to forgive my faults.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bastille day +1

I’m a mess. It was all france, all day today. It hit me hard from both the good and bad end. They both make me feel like crying. It would be easy to do, I just don’t have the time.

It started early today. It was five twenty five when something within me said time to wake. That simple action avoided the harsh wake up ring of the alarm five minutes later and consequently I was feeling good. I’m off to the vine for the morning, we’re cutting back the grape bunches, leaving less grappe per souche lets the remaining bunches achieve a more detailed and concentrated maturity. Think about it as culling the herd for fitter animals. It’s all about controlling the flow of energy. In this case it’s sap.

It’s a slower process than any other action during the year. It gives a longer look at each souche. It’s another pass, another time, and the vines are at their peak growth rate. We need to dig in through the leaves to see whats going on with the grapes. Then as usual it’s snip snip snip and on to the next. It’s how you make good wine. Start with a more manipulated (changed by artful means so as to serve one’s purpose) grape. There is a certain amount of art, perhaps even skill in it, but mostly it’s a lot of work. In any case it’s back and forth we go.

There is a lot of action inside the vines besides the raisins. They make nice cover for birds, small mammal, insects and other fun stuff. Yesterday I saw two fledglings in their well hidden nest. The parent swooped at me as I lifted my head. This morning I found the jaw bone of a wild boar with one giant, gleaming white tooth intact. It fit right in my pocket. As we were finishing up I got stung three times when I came across a wasp nest. I figured it was the price of the sanglier tooth. The vine is beautiful at six o’clock. Then the sun comes over the rise of the mountain and by noon it starts becoming unbearable. But it ends there.

We quit for the day.

Never the less the day goes on. Its french french french and that means paperwork, forms and bureau's. Today after lunch (mmm it’s market day, zucchini puree and horse meat, goat cheese and fresh melon for desert) and a nap, with a sweet wakeup call, I’m off to the local offices.

Today it’s the social service bureau and then the lawyer. My allocations have been suspended and my divorce runs on. First stop the MSA, mutual societe agricole, you see, I am a peasant now. Conveniently located in town I usually walk, but due to the wakeup call I am running late so I hop in the car and head there. There are two woman assigned to this office, one knows nothing and is a condescending bitch, the other is nice though she is also frequently stumped with the most basic of questions. I saw her walking out as I walked in.

I got the bitch.

I ask what happened to my monthly stipend, and why it never arrived in my thinning bank account. She punches in my number in her computer and looks at the screen for a long moment. She doesn’t know why, but can confirm that it wasn’t sent. It could be a lot of reasons, she tells me, then stares at me. I ask her - what can I do, she says she doesn’t know, because she doesn’t know why it was stopped. We go on like that for several minutes and then she says she will call the main office. She dials and waits about 10 seconds and says no one is answering. “It’s kind of late for them to pick up the phone”. I ask what time they close. She says “five o’clock”. The clock on the wall says 4:18. I, probably mistakingly, pointed this out.

She goes on a diatribe about how busy they are and that I will need to call for myself tomorrow (when her bureau is closed), she explains it’s summer and I can’t expect people to be available when their office is getting ready to close for the day. I see where we are going and say nothing but look at her skeptically. She writes down the number and says to try tomorrow earlier in the day. I get up and go out of the office and then into the lobby and out the door, she follows almost directly behind me. She locks the door on the way out. Her office closes at 4:30, exactly. I go to my car. It doesn’t start.

I left the car and walked home to get my papers for the lawyer. I walk over to his office quickly and arrive just in time, but in a sweat. His office is cool. He lets me wait for a half hour, while he talks on the phone, to enjoy it. We shuffle words and papers back and forth, he seems earnest and forthright but that may only be his job. I will have to wait another ten months at least to know. In the meantime my old wife will stay in the house with the kids and all the rest, rent free and still angry. Me, when I get a chance I will cry at the fortune bestowed upon me. Right now however I need to get to the kitchen, the ten pounds of just over the edge peaches and nectarines I recuperated at the end of the market today need to be cooked down and put up before I go to bed. Just so I can do it all again tomorrow.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Another time.

Again I am with the vigneron out on the side of the hill, in the vines. When he called me last week and said he had a few days work I was excited - for many reasons. It had been beautiful weather almost all of the month and it was tops for working outside, sunny and warm but not really hot, a chance to work the muscles and bronze the skin before the summer swimsuit season. In reality I needed the money. April had been great and I moved around from one day to the next with plenty to do, but the funds are almost out and anything goes a long way when nothing is the regular course.

In any case I hop at the work for something between those two extremes, money and being outside.

It’s the third time we are meeting in the vineyard and when he tells me where we will meet he calls it by name. I don’t know that vigne, but he describes it and I get it and am also warmed by the fact that all the fields have names. It turns out they refer to events or persons associated with the fields acquisition. It is never without interest.

We are to start on the first of May, a holiday here. May Day - the day of the worker. The farmers world doesn’t run on the state calendar and to me every other day being a holiday it doesn’t really matter. He tells me we will start at 7.30, so that we can get some work in before it gets too hot. The fact that the sun is long up by that time and also that it has been getting kind of hot in the afternoon, all the lolling about recently gets me readily agreeing and looking forward to the three or four days work he says he’s got

We meet in the field at 7.30 sharp, it is grey and overcast and a bit windy but not really unpleasant. The field before me has 23 rows of vines, 120 souche per row. They are in full spring flourish. The green is that vibrant color of freshly sprung leaf, the grey skies giving it a contrast that makes the field seem to quiver with growth, perhaps it’s this quivering that gives the green an almost yellow look. I start to have a small affinity for the vines now this third time through for the year, the taille, the attachment, now we will be clipping back the beurgeon, the spring growth, tailoring the vine to grow up not out, reach up to the wire trellis. In reality today it is done so the machine can harvest maximum yield, but this work of training the vines to grow this way and not that way has always been a part of the history and the art of wine making.. It is not without its aesthetic moments.

Then comes the rain, cold wet muddy. By day three we are wearing more clothes than in january doing the taille. This is three days after a sunday picnic where we were swimming in the local river. But the storms rolling about give a great look into the weather currents of the region, one day from the south and the sea, another from the plateau to the north, then the Carroux mountains from the west. Each day presents a living 3D weather map as the storms come rolling in, the vigneron constantly pointing here and there explaining which town is receiving the rain,. Sometimes you see the storm dance around you, the sun at the sea, grey but calm. the view is tremendous.

Each day the storms come rolling in, as they trace a line towards us the vigneron gives me a detailed map of the area, the falling rain in the distance acting as a pointer to this town or that. Often with the towns name I get a short story of the towns high points/and or regional products/ a short souvenir of the vigneron - in dialog form. The vines continue.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

more luck

Cherries. Black. Ripe. Copious. Mmmm.

The beauty of cherries is their fleeting being. It gives their flesh a particular sweetness. The season when you can get cherries that are worth eating is perhaps only three weeks long. This scarce season when spring is fully ripe and summer just awaits it’s official installation is right now.. they seem to arrive at the same moment when you fully integrate the idea that the dark and cold have truly receded again. Cherries are the first real taste of the light and heat of summer. We just picked our fill. Our hands are stained with the blood of another fallen winter.

It was a group affair, my vigneron said we could have at one of his cherry trees. It sits right on the pretty edge of one of the vignes. He had had his fill and being pressed from all sides he just doesn’t have time to go and pick them all. And even if he did, then what. Without his country village mom alive any more to process them, picking them is just wasted work. He said we could take what we wanted. A little prime de panier for his ouvrier.

Cherries - everyone loves them, or at least the concept of them. Even so it was with difficulty that we got the five kids simultaneously rallied for the deluxe chance I was trying to convince this was. In the end we just forced them to go on grounds of fresh air and family time. We arrived in two cars, baskets and bags in tow. From a distance, across the vines, the tree looks pocked with dark red blight.

We swarmed on the tree like ants on sugar. Everyone exclaiming loudly at the quantity of perfectly ripe shiny blood red cherries hanging before us. We all are stunned to explicative. An hour later we have our fill. It’s at least 50 pounds. And we only took the best ones, the tree had five times more still hanging on it when we left. Ah richesse. It’s hard to leave it - “just one more, it’s perfect”.

Then the satisfaction of walking up the street with our baskets overflowing with black cherries. The public casts envious eyes as we mount to the house leaving a scattered trail of rolling cherries from the overloaded baskets. Like a stringer of fresh trout, others see your luck and it is magnified. Ha, the work commences.

It goes on all weekend and monday too. We have right at de-pitting them. Cut squeeze catch drop and again. Everything dripping blood red. Big pots of stewing cherries slowly bubbling on the stove all weekend. The table covered with cherries in all form. We eat them with anything, we all agree they go best with white colored foods. Cheese, yogurt, ice cream, bananas, cream, vodka, pancakes, but the chocolate was good too.

Now all the kids have gone away to their respective parents and the cupboard is stacked with jars of all sizes of black jams and syrups that will bring us all back to the tree of plenty until at least the summer heat goes away.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Journée complet

Some days it just works out. Pop pop pop. It’s a rare day, but it does happen.

Off to Lodeve today, my old gray town pressed against the rise to the Larzac plateau. It’s the sous prefecture of the department of l’Herault which means for any type of official business dealings it’s where you need to go. I suddenly had some business to take care of there, it’s only by coincidence it’s also where I go to see the candy man.

My sweet tooth has been flaring up lately but I’ve been putting off the trip to Lodeve only because it seems far to go just to feed a habit. So I wasn’t that disappointed when I found out I only had two days left before my taxes were due. It’s not that I pay any income tax, but I still need to file the forms. You see my income is so small even the state doesn’t want to be bothered counting it.

It was also an opportunity to change my address on my car matriculation. It’s one of those things I kept putting off for another time. It is also one of those things that one day I find myself getting a ticket I can’t pay for and wondering, again, why I didn’t do earlier. I had tried to do it one other time but the bureau’s steel door automatically swung closed and locked literally before my eyes as I was heading towards it. It was quite impressive, even more so being that this solid black steel door was set in a 10 foot stone wall that ran around the complex of back water bureaucratic offices. There was something medieval about it that rang right.

I won’t mention how French it felt at that moment. I was in it, and again, stunned by that fact. It was 3:45 pm and though the bureau closes at 4:00, the outside door locks down at 3:45 so the functionaries can get out promptly. Extremely efficient in it’s unproductive way. But France isn’t about production, it’s about something else. I had been so close, but never the less would need to come back another time. So much for good intentions and ever more efficient bureau’s.

But today is a different day and the door is wide open. You see, like I said it’s a day where everything works out. I have all my papers and after a polite wait, I step right up to the counter. I give over my papers and the pleasant man behind the glass asks for the photocopies of my documents. Last time I was here they just photocopied them and gave you back your originals. Well this is France so everything doesn’t work out even on the good days.

The new system installs itself slowly and insidiously. It comes up slowly and then one day we wake up and realize we are ensconced within it. Today it was the paper savings that someone in a meeting thought would be a good idea, perhaps it is, I don’t know. In any case I went to the tabac shop across the street and got in line with the other surprised at the new system folk. The guy behind the counter was content, at 50 cents a copy, he has found himself a whole, hitherto unknown revenue source.

I ponied up my 1.50 euro and was back before the man behind the glass in five minutes. I noticed as I re-handed him the papers that my I.D, card didn’t have my updated address. I envisioned the steel door closing again just as I walked up to it. But not today. He smiled. He stamped my papers, stapled them together and told me to wait at the other window to be called. A few minutes later, my name was called and the new updated car matriculation was in my hand. Errand one - check.

I walked from there down the street to the maison d’impots, or tax house. I had nothing but my name and a question - How do I go about this task. A few minutes wait and I was before the lady at the information counter. I posed my question, she asked my name. Then she looked for a file and not finding anything put my name in the computer and out came a tax form with all my pertinent information enclosed. She said ‘here you are’.

I took the form to a table, corrected the address to where I currently live, and then became confused with the rest. I had no response appropriate for many of the questions posed. I went back up to the lady and explained my predicament. She laughed and said ‘it is all filled in already, just correct your address and sign the form’. I did. She took the form, stapled it together and said ‘drop it in the box’ which she pointed to. I did. Taxes complete for 2008. Errand two - check.

‘Sweet’ I thought as I held the door open for an incoming lady. I tipped my psychological chapeau and walked out into the sun. I called the local candy man and as luck would have it he was home. Who doesn’t love a treat when you are already feeling good.

I strolled across town and an hour later was back in the sun and still feeling good, if not better. Errand three - check.

I left Lodeve, went back home, ate lunch and took a nap. The afternoon was beginning. In the morning when I had seen that my I.D. card wasn’t updated with my new address, I had forgotten that I had already made the demand to change it, it only hit me as I woke from my nap. The bureau was just up the street from the crib at the local mayors office. Off I went. The bureau was crowded and I had to wait ten minutes but when I got to the desk the woman remembered me. It sometimes pays to talk like an alien. She stepped in the back and came out with my new I.D. all updated and shiny. Not only that she apologized for the delay. Check on errand number four.

It’s still only three o’clock and so I headed to the local hardware to purchase some material for the renovation job that is about to start on the old house we have acquired. Same thing. In - out and materials loaded up in a jiffy. I put in a few hours of work and got everything ready to begin the real work the next morning. I arrived back home at seven. But there was one more surprise to my day.

At nine there was a knock on the door. It is my vigneron, he stopped by to give me some money that he owed me, and if that wasn’t enough he tells me he won’t have time to harvest his cherry tree and that if we want we can take what we want. They are ripe and need to be picked quickly. ‘Oh yeah’ I tell him.

When he leaves my woman and I have a taste of the bon-bons from the candy man, recount the day, go to bed; make love and happily fall asleep. Journée complet. Some days it just all works out.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

aîe aîe aîe

It’s all so delicate, this little balancing act we are all carrying out. There is always another decision to be made, every moment of the day. This or that. When I am cutting back the vigne it’s the sarments, either this shoot or that one, it’s a complex decision but one with finite choices. Outside the vigne, it’s a different, less circumscribed set of options that I am constantly presented with. This outside world demands a more dynamic sensibility. It’s a sensibility which I find not always at the ready. In fact it’s the first question that is constantly confronting me. Can I muster up a sensibility dynamic enough to partake of the day, or will the day just happen. To do it or not to do it, that is the question.

Nike proffered their answer with the ‘Just do it’ campaign which swept across the globe like a totalitarian dream. It erased all questioning, but always left me wondering. They made it seem like not doing it was somehow effaced from possibility. I guess sometimes it is, but sometimes not. Like the Slow Family folk in Texas say, sometimes we’re better off not doing it.

Which might bring to mind ‘Just say No’. That was another force fed question stopping ad campaign that ran simultaneously with the ‘Just do it’ bombardment. The problem is both appeared as complete truths. Neither made any acknowledgment of the need for a dynamic balance of opposites. That’s the delicate question. It evidently isn’t anything new. Perhaps my problem is that I am just a product of my generations mass marketed catch phrases. It’s just that I can’t figure out which one fits where.

It’s all so banal, but I continue non the less. You see we are talking about ‘I’ right now, and we both know there is nothing of greater concern than that. It’s what’s forcing me to go on. I need it’s push on a constant basis. At times I am stunned by a sensibility that could best be described as lackadaisical. I feel like a flàneur who is too tired to walk, there is something about it that just doesn’t sit right.

What will set it straight, show the way? How to make order from the days random events. Maybe the I-ching, prayers, the tarot, meditation. Perhaps just waiting until something happens. On verra, but in the meantime I think I’ll simply follow the advice of the bored cop in front of the crime scene and 'just keep it moving'.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Return, again

Now I am back on the place du marché. Poufff. The disappearing night is always a bit more fatiguing than the thirty hour day but I arrived in good spirits.It’s hard not to when the first thing that greets you is the soft blue Mediterranean glistening in the sun. We swung way out over the sea and came into the little airport from that direction. The landing strip runs right to the shore of the water. There is a moment just before touchdown when we get so low it’s as though we are in a boat. Then a jolt and I am back.

Terra-firma. At least that’s what they say. For me it often feels less stable than that. In any case it is dry land, and I step out onto it. Oh le soleil. Mmm ma chére. Yes back home, almost. When I do get there.everyone asks me what I did. My first response is ‘nothing’. But on reflection we are always doing something. What did I do?

I saw a cardinal build it’s nest, and drop one, two, three eggs into it. I trimmed trees, and made fires. I sat in summer weather looking out at winter foliage. I painted ceilings and paddled canoes. I saw fresh babies and great grandmothers. Uncles and sisters and brothers and cousins, aunts and nephews, nieces and others. My mother, some friends, romans and countrymen.

I flew to Chicago. It’s almost home there too. Actors, artists, working class bores, watch the closing doors. Shiny town. Sunny days and late nights, big buildings and a great lake that seemed to go on without end, just like the feelings it engendered. Mmm ma chére etait la aussi. We ate, drank and made merry. Then did it again. Five sweet days. It’s all just so much luck.

It’s a shower of good fortune that has turned into a downpour and I am soaking wet. Everywhere I am feels like home, it’s just that the people keep changing. It makes for complex feelings, this insisting impermanence that confronts me at every turn. When recognized, and acknowledged, it gives a rich flavor to each moment. But sometimes I forget, and become attached to particular moments, and then the change leaves a lingering sadness. Nothing stays the same, but that’s hard to remember.

So now I have to switch gears again, up or down I really can’t say. Little town France is a long way from big city USA. After a quick weekend with the kids, I wake to find myself alone. I need to make rendezvous of all sorts, lawyers and doctors, social workers and driving instructors, farmers and friends. Even a lucky life has it’s dark moments. I just have to keep believing it will all get sorted out, and that the fortune will continue to fall beneficially.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

39,000 feet

I woke up to more rain. Since we've finished the taille it seems to have rained every day. It seems such a waste, all the rainy days on days that I had off already. The funny thing is that it was just getting sunny where I was when I flew away.

Montpellier - New York.
A single thirty hour day and everything looks different.

Now when I get up and hear the rain falling it has a different sound. The rain is a much quieter sound here. It's a softer sound. Where I came from the rain hitting the tiled rooves and stone houses makes a smacking sound, you might say a tinging kind of noise in an attempt to be more precise. Here the soft earth and liquid lake soak up the falling rain, leaving only the sound of grey and mist. Even the commuter train across the lake slides silently through the dark morning.

The place du marche has been replaced with the open lake. Blue, grey, budding green just beginning again in replacing the winter black. It's always surprising to see a season step backwards. The forsythia is full yellow bloom but spring is just a bit less along and it makes me feel the fluidity of time. Just a slight cant is enough to put me off balance.

Then there is Good morning, good-bye. How are you? All the little words of the day tumbling out without translation. I was constructed with the language of my birth and now I am resconced in it. Without constraint of willfully forming my words I expand to the point of disappearing.

The place du marche', Indian lake. My people, and none of them too. Strange to be home and away from it too.

Monday, April 6, 2009

spring fever cures, for you

It’s spring now. The sap is rising. Everything is pushing out. If I was a bear, a female bear, I would be bearing, or at least getting ready to. Being a human male however I am outside that call, and so I just watch the cycles. Spring is all about starting again. It’s hyper active and full of sap.

The vines are weeping right now on a daily basis. They are so full of sap that each press of the trigger on my electrocoup 2000 brings on tears. It makes me wonder - does it hurt to be in love with growing, or is that just surplus sap that needs to be drained. In any case, out in the vines it’s springtime, and consequently I’m often wet with sap.

We’re coming to the end now. There only remains a few hectares to trim and then it’s over. The days are longer and the weather soft. All around things are popping out. When my sap runs I feel like popping out too, it must be the warm weather. It distracts the thoughts.

I almost cut myself in the vines today. The blade was just against the skin, but there was no penetration. For a moment it made me giddy, then I realized how close I came to fucking myself up.

It was my own fault, I just got bored and stopped paying attention to what I was doing. It’s so easy to do, forget what you are doing, it’s as if the lack of intention has a way of calling a cutting blade. I was all ready to cut myself, I guess just to bleed off some sap.

The thing is, as humans, unlike vines, after a certain point we aren’t growing anymore. At least not physically. It’s more a psychological taille that needs to be carried out on a regular basis. Perhaps that was the story of the sharp blade pressed against the skin today. Just a dumb way to wake up, pay a bit more attention to how things need to be trimmed, and not only on needing trim. It makes a significant difference.

In any case I think it is going to help me grow, the psychological pruning I carried out today in the vines, just after the blade pressed against my skin. For that moment the hot pressure on my sweated skin was the sole sensation I was experiencing. The blood was gathered awaiting the cut and a chance to spill outward. It was like a hot flash for a menopausal man.

The shear luck of escaping the closing blade, the cut never coming, the sap never flowing. Like that it had a chance to flow elsewhere, and as I said it was a psychological taille that went on in the vines today. It really is much more sane for us humans.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

There’s a lot of luck that falls my way. That’s not to say it’s all good, but that does happen too. Most of the time it is hard to decipher which it is. Chance, both heureux and it’s sibling malheureux, have a way of looking so similar that they are often hard to tell apart.

I have a wife, she’s a bitch. I have a girl friend, she’s getting fat. I have two kids, they don’t need me. Like I said, it’s hard to find the good without the bad, and it’s like that with luck too. In the end it’s how you want to see it. My wife’s a bitch, but I don’t have to see her anymore. My womans getting fatter, but her ass is getting sweeter, and the kids, well, they are forging their independence. In the right light anything can be good lucky, but some days the light appears differently, not wanting change. It seems cast with a grey that is hard to navigate by.

Yet it is a light none the less, one I’ve always been drawn towards. It’s the twi-night light. Where that grey beacons originate from. This cast of shady light where even the firmest of perceptions can be altered this way and that. It often makes it hard to get a fix on what to do. Never the less, things need doing.

It was this color that I woke to today. Wednesday present. Grey color cast over all. What is that lead color that has replaced the gold. Not raining, but slick with wet. An imperceptible fog covering everything. I am presented with sensations as quick and profound as sunny and blue. My days are not fixed, it was part of the aleatory contract I signed. The color of the morning changes my entire day, but what about my disposition, what to do with that.

I decide to stay in bed. In fact I had half decided the night before when I stayed up to an unreasonable hour. But when I woke it wasn’t exactly raining, one could say misting at most. The rains had been predicted and yesterday as I was leaving work, when I told the vigneron I would keep my eye on the meteo and if it wasn’t raining would report an hour early at eight, I really believed it. I was so sure of the forecast or a reasonable semblance to it, that I even said it gladly. It’s why I’ll always be a fake farmer, I truly believe in cracking out early to beat the weather and get the work in, but in reality I am far too fond of the pleasure brought on by the annulation of work to be a real farmer.

So I stayed in bed. The vines will rest with me, at least that’s what I thought until my mack called at nine and wanted to know why I wasn’t on my corner where we said we would meet. I had work to do, the vines were lined up like hardware convention johns at the cat house. They can wait, but not forever. It wasn’t even raining he said. I weakly replied, that everything was wet. After he called a second time thirty minutes later to talk of obligations and agreements, I sputtered a complaint and vaguely said okay. For a long moment I didn't know what to do. Then I turned the phone off, finished the chapter of the book I was reading and went back to sleep.

You see, I never doubted the forecast, all the signs on the ground yesterday confirmed it . Wind, moisture, temperature, they all felt like rain, and god-dammit I was committed to it, and the day off it would bring. Misty and threatening was good enough for me, and it should have been for the vigneron too, at least that’s how I saw it. But he was less mad, then disappointed, like I had let him down. Though even a hookers love has it’s limits.

In effect the day was one indecision after another. I did nothing, read a book, watched a movie, dicked around on the computer. Later I found a message the vigneron left on my phone not long after his second call to say the rain had started, and not to bother coming. As I said, I am full of luck. Good luck or bad is harder to say, though they say tomorrow it will rain again.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Corporal pleasure

My vigneron is still crying poor. In the meantime, I become like him, rich on paper, but not a cent in my pocket. It’s not easy being poor in paradise. And if I have want, can I really be in paradise? It’s true that money isn’t everything, but it is something. It’s one of those somethings that only becomes a problem when it starts becoming nothing. It’s like a body just before it dies, it has to consider breath, and breathing as something conscious. The less you have, the more important a little becomes.

It’s spring and I am seeing a lot of creatures going at it. Bee’s doing it, birds doing it, why oh why can’t we do it. Come on baby lets fall in love.

Imagine all the souls awaiting incarnation. Angels lining up until the end of the universe, past the point where the real nothing that is the outside of the universe begins. These angels (you must imagine them in fantastical corporal form with wing spans of enormous proportions, it’s the exact opposite of the pin-head theory) are lined up going far into the void our universe is only just spreading into.

This queue to enter into corporal form and play on earth in full sensation is endless. These angels are all awaiting corporeal incarnation. It’s a fantastical hit in the astral world of the collectively unconscious. In fact, it’s the only thing of it’s kind out there where time hasn’t yet been conceived (in this sense the ‘waiting line’ is without wait, it just is). It’s a chance to play in a human body for a few moments, a lifetime. It’s a little break in the monotony of eternal bliss.

Bill begged to give it a try. Everyone laughed, “you just got off, but have at it again if you want.”
“I think I will, it’s really a great ride.
“Go ahead, queue up, we’ve got plenty of time, and it is fun to watch you. We’ll wait here”.

It’s a trip this slipping into physical form, the diminution of dimensions into three, covered in skin and flexible, full of excitations of the senses. It’s a chance to be embodied with a heart that beats.

Imagine the hit here if one had an attraction, a game if you will, where we could inhabit just a single dimension. You could be a single point, anywhere and everywhere you wanted. It would be a global phenomena. The only problem is that once you stopped playing it you would forget it ever existed. Perhaps it’s not a problem, everyone would just line up again. I mean what does it feel like to be a single point in space, surrounded by an infinite amount of other, seemingly just like you, points? Points don’t really ponder, they just make up stuff.

It’s hard to fathom that once we were just a speck in someones eye, an idea in the back of the mind. It is difficult to believe that we can begin with the caress of a hand in a dance hall, a whisper at the window.
- can I just come in for a minute?
Et Voila, the queue of angels all step forward again. Everyone desiring to play again, and why not, it really can be quite a treat, exhilarating, exasperating, either way it’s exciting.

And where they are coming from it’s so perfect that it often feels (at least that’s what they say) like nothing. Like the weather on a late september evening, when the air against your skin feels like nothing. When your skin registers neither hot nor cold, no breeze or humidity or anything else. It’s a conscious, pleasant sensation of feeling no difference between yourself and all the space that surrounds you. It feels almost as though your body has no borders, it can expand freely into everything. Or is it nothing, either way I forget.

We’re all dying to try on this corporeal body, to live out this physical dream. The supreme comfort of being held in loving arms wrapped in flesh is a pleasure not even accessible to the highest of angels.

So all that to say among the daily worries, I am trying to feel the sensations that I came here to experience, like that the misery is just another strong sensation that passes into the next feeling. It’s quite a ride at this stage, the sensations on many ends come in fast and furious and with the semi-strange backdrop of small sunny france.

But like I said, it’s a long train of thought if I start asking how I got where I am. Suffice it to say, it began with desire and will end when I lose it. In the meantime the toiling in the vineyards goes on.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

vigne sky

Everyday the sky is the show. After long stretches of time stooped over, looking down into the souche, clipping, grabbing, clipping, pulling, clipping, tossing aside, next, to stand up straight, stretch backwards and see the sky - well it’s sometimes a shock. In the sky above, there’s always a show going on. Oh.
Perhaps the clouds dancing on blue fields, or just the blue blue blue limitless blue sky itself. A black crow, a silver flash of jetliner. Or layers of grey. Clouds gathering, sprinting on the wind. Zooom. A pair of Mirage jets tracing the contours of the hills. A great blue heron.

Stretch and follow them, and then back to the vines. The ten, twenty, thirty second break is over. Bend again, down into the vine, cut it back, then the next - stem, souche, row, field. Oh. My body. The earth. Dense.

Two black crows. Floating in circles. Laughing at the earth bound humans toiling below. Yellow and red forest fighting planes, in a pack, like whales, low and lumbering, back and forth to the lac du salagou. A hawk, a heron, a single ray of golden light. A rainbow, a snowfall, an eagle that flies to heights out of sight. The above, the sky. Near and far.

Now at the end of march, the cold only comes as a factor of wind speed, not temperature, which as far as the thermometer goes, is not greatly variable. But the days when the wind is blowing, damp and nonstop from the North, the cold still bites at any exposed skin and shortly thereafter goes after the hands and feet. If the sun pops up over the roche de la virge it will, after an hour or so, take the bite out of the wind, and then by noon it can be a fabulous day. If the sun doesn’t arrive, the day is long, and the toiling in the vineyards becomes more than just a parable.

“The sun has heated up the earth enough to create a constant rising front to block any cold air on the plateau from rushing in under it, it blocks the cold from descending into the valley. See the clouds, it will be overcast tonight” - the vigneron tells me. He has a concise and logical sounding explication of how each weather pattern runs, its possibilities, its cloud pattern, its foretelling of the weather to come.

Sometimes even through my deafness to the language (or perhaps because of it), the descriptions of the weather sometimes sounds like poetry. Yesterday, on a two minute break that extended into five and a cigarette, the vigneron stretched out beside me, pointing up. “Look at the clouds, they are like the sand on the floor of the sea” .

Then he took me to the sea with him on a rare voyage he once had once taken as a child with his family in Spain. He said it was one of his few memories of his father not in the vines. His father had explained to him as they were wading in the warm sea water how the clouds, which had the same rippled form as the sand they were standing in, were formed because of similar forces. The rise of each ripple in sand or cloud gave an indication of the force acting on it. The high, uniform ripples spoke of a force that wasn’t so strong, but was constant. Then the vigneron added that he thought that was the way one needed to be occupied when farming. He sounded wistful, as if he knew that was the way he would have liked to tend his vines but couldn’t. For him it was full force, full pressure, full time.

While he reminisced about what had been and what is, the sarment got a short reprieve before being clipped, thrown to the ground, churned back into the rocky earth to feed their progenitor.

In the meantime I fall in love with passing clouds I’ll never see again. I watch them float by, only to be replaced by another. I start to know their names and where they come from. I find if I stare at them long enough, pay them mind, they all become beautiful, even those that are spitting at me. Lately I’ve found they have responded to my glances and started to reveal their patterns, and that, more than the particular, is what really strikes my fancy. It pulls my regard upwards, away from my earthly toils, makes me fall deeper into their mystery, and their matrix, the sky that covers us all.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Another day.

It’s a funny thing that happens to foreigners who have set up shop in a distant land for a while. They don’t stop being strangers as much as the place they inhabit becomes less strange. Things become familiar and then slowly forgotten. You can even begin forgetting that where you are is different from where you came from. It can happen though, that you find yourself in a situation, a room, a circumstance, that exposes the essence of the difference and suddenly you think, Shit, I live in France.

I go to work in the vines everyday and that thought rarely comes to me. Today it shot through me as I stood in the lawyers office. Actually it was the staircase that triggered the synopses that lead to that train of thought. Yes the lawyer office, I found someone to take my public defense coupon. That means going through all the initiation rigmarole again.

It’s like getting a new trick that you know will be frequenting for a while. You have to see what they’re like, how they like it done. It’s not complicated, it seems lawyers are like all the other tricks, most of them want it in a certain way that doesn’t really vary that much from all the others. Still, each has their variations and if you want it to work out to everyone’s benefit it’s best if it starts off on the right foot.

In any case I had some papers to give him. This being france, and being a legal matter to boot, these will be just the beginning of reams of paper that will filled out and filed. I have started a new one for round two of my ‘proceedings’. But that is another story. In any case thanks to my battling almost one day ex wife I had one of those hyper clear regards on the world around me.

It was something about the black and white tiled floor in the 18th century solid stone building in the middle of town where the lawyer has his office. The wood bumpered steps, the solid, yet light looking, cast iron railing that rose and twisted gracefully along with them. The look of the double wooden doors, the details of the window frame, cut from stone. It all said ‘made (unlike you) in france’.

On another regard it’s nice to be so at home in a place that you start taking exceptional things for granted. This doesn’t mean they go unnoticed, it just means you get in the habit of it not being a special occasion when you engage in it. Champagne is the obvious example, but that is the same good product everywhere, and more just of a cultural overlay.

The really good stuff is the stuff that doesn’t even present itself elsewhere. That may not even be in the lexicon of folks out of the region. I am talking about a local product, really local, like things that grow in the wild, but are reaped in certain areas at certain times like any other crop. Vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, herbs.

The other good thing about local wild products is that they are free, if you know where to get them. In a pinch they can usually be had at the market, but that involves prices, sometimes at champagne levels. In any case when they are in season they are available where they grow and out of season they don’t exist.

Being a fake farmer in a little village, I have a high level of access to both the products exact season and the places where they grow. This is not to mention that whatever particle tool may be needed (never complicated) I have at hand. Today it was a pioche. Also known as a pick ax. The vigneron has his in the back of the truck just for occasions like today.

Yes spring is not only forcing the buds to pop out on the vines, but everything else that grows is on the rise. Today it was poireau sauvage - wild leeks. We had noticed that they had popped up as we made our way up and down the rows. They look any other weed growing in the vines. And like many of the other things growing in and around the vines they are edible, and whats more they are full of very good taste. A taste that can’t be had otherwise.

We got the pick ax and started working up and down the rows again. Fifteen minutes later we each had a bag full and off we went. Everyone loves to eat them. The only problem with many of the wild products, no one likes to prep them. But that is all part of the deal, they arrive full of dirt, and long hairy roots. both of which, need to be eliminated.

The difference between being a real farmer and a fake farmer is that the real farmers woman does all that work, a fake farmer has to do it himself. Though in my womans defense she does prep and cook all the wild boar the vigneron lays on me. Mmm primes de panier.

Coming soon wild asparagus.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

In black and white.

I was going to take the road that leads to the vigne again today, but I keep getting pulled onto another route. It ended leaving the air of a sordid affair, and it continues to de-track my thoughts in a scandalizing sort of way. The curé and his beau, or at least that shot into my head when I saw him look around like an owl as he opened the presbytery door, just before the two of them stepped in. “No after you”.

I thought I was a bird, standing motionless, inconspicuous on the balcony above as they strolled from the car to the door. The beau was unaware, but the curie saw me, and shot me a look. I felt like a sparrow under the gaze of a hungry owl. Something from both our sides registered that the other had been ‘noted’.

It’s too bad, before I saw the padre and his beau I had been thinking of the group of professional folks I saw all gathered together on the side of the road that drops down into the little village of La Salces. It’s a road that has about all you could want in your southern france country road. It’s skinny and smooth and winding, and is surrounded by a patchwork of green. Forests and olive groves and vines cutting their lines among the rolling and rising hills. Coteaux de Larzac is their appellation If you see this road on a map, it’s colored with the mark of ‘scenic route’.

They were all in a pile these out of place characters who seem to pop up anywhere. They are always out of the scenes character, it’s the thing that makes you take notice. They were all young and hip and hyper-professional. Theirs is a profession that has all the attraction of a traveling gypsy circus. When you see them you think how wonderful it would be to run away with them. That is until you do, and then you realize the reality isn’t quite like the dream. Or perhaps their reality is too much like a dream, in the sense it is often chaotic and unsure.

In effect it is what this group fabricates. Dreams that is. They are the creators of illusion and attraction. It’s their business, and it’s most attractive illusion is themselves, as they go about weaving the dreams we will see in the future. Their was about a dozen of them. These expensively outfitted, good looking hipsters standing beside their shiny rented truck just in front of the vines I had put in order the other day.

They were surrounded by all their dream making equipment. The truck had disgorged it’s charge and everyone was demi-busy arranging this or that. Primping is really a better word - there is no real heavy work in this high paid world. I know, I spent a bit of time in their ranks when I was running away in Chicago.

It's a job that is all about primping, ceci, cela. The lights, and reflections, the makeup and cables. In this business the smoke and mirrors are real, and expensive. And everything right from the stars on down is precious. You keep your job with them by being precious too. It’s fun, and easy to do when you know your job is creating someones dream.

They had picked their spot well, though they almost always do. Beautiful settings are part of any good dream. It was a beautiful sunny morning and their backdrop was the freshly ordered black souche in the foreground and the rolling green checkerboard of field and forest behind. In the far distance there was a skyful of extremely calm blue reflecting off the morning sea. An idyllic setting for the pretty girl turning her head from her man, over and over again until she looks like she means it, and the director says ‘that’s a take”.

The vignerons wife saw them to on the road to work too. She was a-gaggle all morning with it. They were filming on her land and it excited her. A real film crew, they were on her property just in front of the vines we had worked two days ago. What if we were there working, she wondered - we were that close to being in a film.

I was happy for her. I felt kind of the same. it was something out of the ordinary and we talked about it all morning, I tried to say that since we had pruned the vines behind them, we were the films ‘greensman’ but my story was lost in translation. It didn’t matter though, I got it.

We could see them across the little valley from where we were working. She noticed when they left around 11:00. She suggested a break just then and I seconded it, so we took a cigarette and watched them break down. From the distance it looked no different from an olive man and his workers loading their truck, and yet she was pulled toward it like the local lass to the swarthy roustabout. Pure attraction. Here, then gone, what’s more romantic than that when you are tied to the land. It was an event I could see fixing itself in her memories like a dreamt image. Not of the heavy tossing and turning kind like the curé and his beau had left, but rather something lighter, quicker. Like a jet fighter cutting between mountains.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Habeus Coitus- avec juste un peu de romance. R/3

So it’s off to the lawyers tomorrow. It is now just over three years of proceedings and two decisions made. My hopefully one day EX-wife didn’t like either one, so the process continues. The main reason for her displeasure seems to be she would like everything and that decision hasn’t yet be rendered. Little by little though she will wear the system down. It’s a big system, the justice department of the country of France, it takes time. Shit, it took me fifteen years before I couldn’t take it anymore, who knows how long it will be before our old blind friend Justice gives in and throws up her hands too saying
- okay, okay I've had enough of you, if I give you everything will you leave me alone?

That's what I finally ended up saying. She’s already got the kids and the house but it just doesn’t seem to be enough. She wants something intangible that a public institution just can’t deliver, like tranquility. She thinks it’s something someone should have to give her. It's her due for being so miserable. She is looking for retribution for her lack of it, and is now focused on me. In any case the process continues. As I said it’s already been three years and so far we haven’t budged from point zero.

It’s for that I have an appointment at the lawyers. It’s a new lawyer for stage three now. The other lawyer got tired of it and said a case like this could take many more years. For a flat fee it just didn’t seem worth it to her. Even though it’s her job, I can’t blame her. So now I have to find some other shyster who can see an angle in it. I just want to be done, be able to point her out in a crowd and say - yes, there, that’s her, my ex-wife. I mean I’ve already lost my two kids and the house I bought and rehabbed, what is in it for me. It all seems so pathetic.

The vines go on, we knock down field. They seem to never end too. The nice thing though is that unlike my wife they do and one day long before my divorce is declared we will be done. It’s hard to think that you could grow the grapes, process them, age the wine for a few years, and then drink it before a simple divorce can be decried. Imagine the time it would take to figure out the books that would eventually show just how screwed we got by AIG, Citigroup and the likes. And though that may before I am officially declare divorced, I wouldn’t wait for the book to come out anytime soon.

I am broken battered beaten bruised and bemused with it all. The spring has come on for the last week and the sun tans the skin and raises the sap. The vines are weeping with each slice of the scissors. Literally pouring sap from each new cut. It sometimes makes a small pool below the souche that is quickly absorbed by the dusty earth, leaving just a dark wet stain. I keep looking for some clue to things in the shape of the stain that is left on the ground. So far I have seen nothing but abstract forms. If I do see something I will be sure to let you know.

I did see something yesterday. Or should I say ‘heard’ something. because that’s how I first came to be aware of it. Two eagles copulating. It was a raucous event. It didn’t last long, and lacked any of the ‘hot’ aspect that we sometimes think of when copulating comes to mind, but it was something I never saw before, at least live and un-staged. It made me happy to be where I was for a moment, even if I was sweating it out for minimum wage at a dead end job.

It’s the unexpected that always attracts. It’s for that I am staring at the pools of sap that gather below the cut sarment. I am looking for something unexpected, but recognizable. Like the end of this divorce, or someone fucking someone else, but with love, not anger.