A group of French tourists were riding that silly little red train in Athens, and as they went by me and my friend Meredith on our way to the Ancient Agora, a woman called out happily, "Ooh la la, le chapeau!" She liked my hat. Nice to hear French in Greece. Like being two of my favorite places at once. Nice to have a pretty hat.
Divorce can siphon off a person's joie de vivre. I've been waiting for Monsieur EX to sign off on the division of our community property so I can indulge my ooh la la in one of my favorite places. Lately
I've been picturing myself stationed at the end of a Freeway ramp near LAX. The sign I hold aloft will read, WILL WORK FOR FRENCH FOOD...IN FRANCE.
So I'm dreaming of fall drizzling into winter in a little village near Carcasonne...and of course Mr. Ex prys his way into my fantasy. Our love felt infinite twenty-five years ago when we toured the ramparts in the rain and had our umbrella turned inside out as we sloshed over the cobblestones to dinner in a little candlelit restaurant with walls made of stone.
I had tarragon ice cream for desert.
Why do I remember these things?
How much cheese do I need to eat to harden a few arteries and reduce the bloodflow to my memory banks?
WILL WORK FOR FRENCH CHEESE...ANYWHERE.
In the past month the music of French composer, Olivier Messiaen has come into my life twice, and both experiences have been ekphrastic, which is to say that other artistic mediums were involved with the music and served to enlighten it.
In February I went to Minneapolis to see the work of my friend, choreographer Julie Mueller, who created a cycle of dances for Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time in a collaborative work with the Bakken Trio.
Julie's dance training is rooted in the German Expressionist movement that pioneer modern dancer Mary Wigman implemented in her school in Germany in the 1920s. Wigman was hailed for bringing the deepest existential experiences to the stage, and it was in this spirit that Julie's choreography imbued Messiaen's music with a visible incarnation. The dancers performed both masked and unmasked--a nod perhaps to Wigman's propensity for masks with non-Western/tribal motifs, and to Julie's own interest in Japanese Butoh. At times, by the use of scarves, the dancers took on the look of winged creatures in keeping with Messiaen's love of birds and his belief in Angels. There were swords, too and in a dramatic dance solo, Messiaen's inspiration for his composition lived and breathed on stage. "There shall be time no longer," says the Angel of the Apocalypse in the Revelations quote that Messiaen employs on the front page of his composition.
Yesterday I attended a performance in a series entitled Music & Mansions put on by the Pasadena Conservatory of Music. Messiaen's Vingt Regars Sur L'Enfant-Jesus was performed by the amazing pianist, Mark Robson, in the midst of an art exhibit titled, Secular Icons, painted by the symbolic expressionist painter, Edward Beckett. In addition to the art surrounding the audience and the pianist, there was a program insert with twenty "automatic drawings"--one for each of Messiaen's "Regards."
And like the performance of Quartet for the End of Time, there were copious program notes of Messiaen's own making that set the mind off on its own journey.
I don't really care for surround sound or 3-D. But I am craving more ekphrasis and more Messiaen.
Messiaen served as the church organist at La Trinité in Paris. It's on my list for the next visit. Maybe there will be a concert, and maybe there will be dancers or painters, too.
old hilltop villages, crumbling castles, chateaux with towers, pretty much any French food I've ever eaten, a Kir before dinner, red wine, meals that take forever, French kissing, French fries (known in France as les frites, French doors, window boxes full of geraniums, Truffaut, Colette, French lavender, topiary, those crazily over-designed French gardens, fabulous lingerie, Manet, Toulouse Lautrec, Odillon Redon...