i am from the heartland of the united states of america
i live in paris but also i go other places, too

i write about all those things when i can and then when i remember i put it on this website so other people can read about it if they want to

Friday, August 29, 2014

on professional soccer/rugby/surprising musical guests in a small french town

god a blog piece.  sorry to keep the fans waiting.  it’s been a while, it’s been a while.  august seventh was the last one, really?  lord.
i’ve wanted to write on and incorporate some of the photos / videos i’ve taken, but i actually don’t think my phone can usb transfer files.  if you know cs or wizardry, please let me know.

(in the meantime, sans images)


*recently i was at a dinner with a guy who worked in town hall who said they milked the town population for all it was worth, double counting students, part time residents, the works, which is hilarious that a town of (about) twelve thousand is making these types of chess moves.

  1. a music/dance troupe from Burkina Faso
  • this, actually, led to further research on the country.  burkina faso was pretty effed by european colonialism.  whole-heartedly, let’s say.  its name is a combination of two languages of the two main ethnic groups meaning ‘land of honest people,’ but essentially it would be like if russia came through, sliced up the American Southwest and northern Mexico and called it, like ‘Beautiful País.’  we’d be like, get off your fucking high horse, russia, we know what you did.
  • the adjective is burkinabé, which is very cool.  i also had to know this because olympique lyonnais’ daunting center back was burkinabé
    • (tangent: i saw toulouse fc v olympique lyonnais in my first competitive european soccer match ever.  great, great experience.  toulouse won, 2-1, in a big upset with two very cute goals.  they lost last weekend in a frustrating game against bastia, who scored an early pk on a flat-out incorrect hand ball call.  toulouse has a real nice keeper who i will enjoy watching this season.
    • tangent cnt’d: sports are a no frills affair here, so completely unlike any professional sporting event i’ve attended in the states.  it’s more like going to a high school game with 200x the attendance (generous estimate of 200 fans/game, even during shaker soccer’s apex and record-setting season, fall ‘09, fuck mentor hahahaha LEL CHAMPS BABY) -- that is, no crazy scoreboard, no replay except on goals which made us permanently suspicious at calls that could have gone either way or during injuries to see which player we should jeer, no cheerleaders (although the french are obsessed with “pom-pom girls,” it’s an issue.)  there was a solid diehard section that started the types of songs/chants that you hear on tv/fifa, a kind of surreal Lyon fan section that sported a 1:1 fan to cop ratio surrounding them as they watched the game through a mesh net, presumably to shield them from potential debris/projectiles.  tangent temporarily complete.)
2.  Country music and square dancing.
  • they didn’t play wagon wheel, but the french guy sang with the voice of the tree trunk size men who appear on every car commercial south of medina (many, i’ve seen many, why would you question that?)
  • apparently this kind of skewed version of country (pronounced here koon-trrree) dance/music is becoming pretty popular in southern france.  i’ve never seen more cowboy hats / american flags.  it’s pretty jaw-dropping.

3.  a jazz/funk cover of billie jean at a artisan night market on the edge of the canal du midi
  • the lead singer sang into an electronic bullhorn.  yeah.  fuck yeah.
  • these fools were surprisingly funky and talented.  the town is rather old, though, (average going out age is probably 62) so the guitarist’s gnarly solos might’ve been a little heavy for them.  THIS AIN’T GEORGE BRASSENS, TEAM.


oh yeah, since this is another catch up post (swear i’ll get better at the timing), i also went to my first professional rugby game.

watching pro rugby is kind of like watching an eighty minute brawl in slow motion.  it is similar to american football in the sam way that, say, christianity is to islam, which is to say that there are a few basic over arching similarities (both are trying get ball into other teams territory == both monotheistic, both have lots of tackling == both have prophets from the middle east, both have men with body types that would never work in another sport == jesus is pretty important in both), but besides a few of those, they are wildly different. god, i need to work on my metaphors.

in am football, game play is a running clock in which there are 4-15 seconds spurts of action every 15-50 seconds, but outside of that time, no action is allowed, and those moments punctuate the 3+ hours of otherwise motionlessness (don’t get me wrong, i <3 football, go card this weekend, gunning for hoyer the destroyer, fuck the nfl for the gordon decision).  rugby doesn’t stop except during fouls or out of bounds, perhaps slightly less often than it does in soccer, so fools are running for 2x40 minutes.  ‘downs’ don’t stop plays, but rather reengage a brutal, largely one-sided (in order to advantage the carrying team) ruck (all rugby terms sounds like neanderthalic utterances), where you bowl over the downed player who lays on his side on the ground in order to clear out room to be able to retrieve the ball.  if you were lucky enough to have tackled this player, you will be the first rucked because you must get up to help your team’s (often fruitless but necessary) ruck and there will inevitably be two or three men the size of a snorlax/ray lewis hybrid running directly at your thorax.  this scenario happens, on average, 3-4 times per minute.

after a team recovers the ball, play recommences in a surprisingly elegant and fluid manner through the equivalent of laterals (the only way to pass the ball, except for kicks, which i don’t full get but led to this amazing try (read: touchdown)) up and down diagonal lines until another player is bone-crushingly taken down.  a total of seven substitutes are allowed throughout the entirety of the game.  therefore, the mean build is linebacker (i say mean because 9-12 look like linebackers, with extremes either looking like slightly scrawnier versions of vinny jones or, on the other end of the spectrum, like this guy from troy.  this is not an exaggeration.  i have never seen larger men in real life than i did at this game.) a samoan man ahd thighs the size of my torso that looked like they were chiseled out of stone.  there were no bellies.  fools hit hard.

toulouse dominated.  toulouse has a rich history in european rugby, winning the 2010 equivalent of the champions league.  they’ve struggled as of late, but dominated castres, back-to-back league finalists, 35-6.  no one left before the game ended despite this heavy lead.

i tweeted about a contentious call when a player received a red card.  i found it quite reasonable, even lax, and wondered if criminal charges would be pressed because he punched a player who was grabbing his shirt three times in the face before winding up and kicking him in the dome.  the player, a large, large man, lay, ko’d, on the pitch until he was shaken awake by teammates/medics.  dude had no idea where he was was, and was surprisingly/unreasonably forgiving when the violent offender patted him on the back as an apology.  in the replays, the crowd was far more concerned with the shirt-grabbing than the jean-claude van damme to the eyelid.  also this happened directly in front of me.  i almost yelped.


note:  german and dutch people, assuming the sample given by tourists at the campground and church are representative of the population as a whole, are fucking huge.  each one is goofy big.  imagine, like, a nerdy scientist who is puberty lanky and 1.3x normal size.. EVERY GERMAN/DUTCH person.  by comparison, there are a lot of small french people, perhaps accentuated by the aforementioned elderly average age of the town.  that said, i try to make a ‘look how small this door is that they used in the 14th century' joke on my tours, but i’ve had to scrap it because that door could easily fit a lot of the people to whom i give tours.  (note: ONE IS IN FRONT OF ME AS WE SPEAK DUDE IS EASILY 6’2”)

note:  there’s a genuineness and geniality in this area, or at least in the people with whom i interact.  it’s a refreshingly uncool straight-forwardness, although it could a relative comment as i’m emerging from four years embedded in the hyper-hip/ironic/sarcastic/casual bay area / american? youth culture scene.  interviews on television are simpler and straight forward.  there’s less apparent posturing in politics, and people say what they mean, for better or for worse.  in the country, we eat more, drink more, shake hands with or kiss everyone when we arrive somewhere, even if we don’t know them, how’syourfamilynoyourwholewholefamilyi’mcurious.  less veneer.  to be fair, i’m in the country, you know.  it’s the deep south.  but people generally say what they mean.  this may get back to the idea on my first blog post regarding marketing/advertising, but there’s less gloss, more reality, people enjoying things for what they are, enjoying things because they enjoy them and being honest about it.  i fuck with that.

note:  this church gig is done sunday evening.  it’s been a little ruthless.  

reading list since last time:

lorrie moore, ‘birds of america’ -- I counted 8 out of 12 of her stories that followed a very similar pattern: a very specifically constructed character with CHARACTERistics meets a mate who, while obviously unsatisfying or incompatible from the beginning, remains with the protagonist throughout the story in some self-destructive capacity and then in the last few pages the protagonist makes some sort of grand, sort of irrelevant but 'inevitable' action that is followed by a few pages of abstraction.  Which she does, admittedly, very well, but i can only handle in small doses.  I like-liked three of the 12 stories, though.  

tony marra, ‘constellations of vital phenomena’ -- highly recommend.  part of my hysterical-realism bender; really moving, interconnecting novel across 3 or 4 main characters that takes place over the course of 5 days during the second chechnyan-russian conflict in the mid-nineties.  a few beautifull constructed characters, with their backgrounds giving the plot a sense of inevitability and train-crash-voyeurism.

zadie smith, ‘white teeth’ -- a caricature, essentially, of the lives of two families in north london.  smith’s imagination is out of control, sometimes literally, but i laughed out loud at parts and found her story really playful and rich.  i also definitely recommend.  read before marra, but after baldwin.

michael ondaatje, ‘divisadero’ -- didn’t do everything for me.  really promising beginning but then fast forwarded and switched tracks after like 70 pages then just completed jumped off track and told a completely different, largely unrelated intergenerational narrative for the last 120 pages.  tough to sink my teeth into, even though it was obviously well-researched, with some really cool layouts for moments, and a cool parallel to my own life because the first part took place in the bay area then switched to southern france for the last part.  frankly, i think i just didn’t get it.  pretty sure nabokov said something like only the second read counts, and i think that will apply to a lot of these.

james baldwin, ‘another country’  -- my favorite book of the summer.  the first hundred or so pages of this book are some of the best hundred or so pages i’ve ever read.  dude imbues his worse with so much tension, pressure, realness, like they’re going to explode, even though, after a heartwrenching beginning, a large part of the plot is just the story of a web of friendships and relationships.  he lets his characters monologue for four or five pages and you don’t even notice.  i also read this during the span where i watched both annie hall and manhattan, so i feel like i have this weird dramatic angsty hybrid new york city during the 50s/60s/70s/ constructed in my head.  baldwin.  what a writer.  excited to be in paris and visit some of his stomping grounds.  and i’m not saying that my capstone paper on baldwin and richard wright as black ex-pats in paris was mentioned during the speech by the chair at the history department graduation ceremony, but my capstone paper on baldwin and richard wright as black ex-pats in paris was mentioned during the speech by the chair at the history department graduation ceremony.

lealan jones and lloyd newman, ‘our america’ -- a three-part interview/transcribed radio piece about two kids living on Chicago's southside between ‘93-’97.  Pretty rough to the touch, but poignant, and painful in the rawness/innocence/lack of innocence of the two narrators.  I wonder what a similar story would read like today.  this also seemed to be a shock to the american public when it was released in the mid-90s.. i wonder if we’re desensitized to it now, willing to be resigned to chiraq and not really flinch at the conditions of life present in parts of our country’s cities.  i don’t know.  i don’t know.

david foster wallace, essays inc. ‘a supposedly fun thing that i’ll never do again,’ ‘getting away from getting from it all,’ ‘michael joyce as ...’ -- dude was a fool.  i’d do this an injustice in my commentary, but df(t)w is one of the most hilarious, unique, specific and poignant noticers.  he uses this skill and his high-brow/low-brow hybridity in lengthy essays on the illinois state fair (‘getting away…’), a weeklong caribbean cruise (‘supposedly fun’) and a mid-level professional tennis tournament/player (‘michael joyce’).  do yourself a favor and read them.

erik orsenna, ‘la révolte des accents’ -- a short french book that the bishop gave me once he found out I was into reading and writing.  it's a story about a town that loses all its accents (é, è, etc) and the girl tasked with going to retrieve them, and is a not-subtle commentary on the dilution or loss of the french language.  the bishop talks to me like i'm a novelty, as do many acquaintances in this town, phrases like 'our own little american' or 'the young american,' or just 'the american.'  (PS YEAH I READ A BOOK IN FRENCH)

paris review winter ‘13 -- geoff dyer ‘art of nonfiction,' lydia davis ‘the seals’ -- funny interview with dyer, highlighted by (my paraphrasing) ‘95% of my experiences with drugs have been good; the other 5% have been spent with boring people.’  davis wrote a sad story about death and about how we remember.  her prose is calm, and her reflections, while part of a work of fiction, are beautiful. she’s a good writer, i will be excited to read her again.

now reading: jean rhys, ‘wide sargasso sea’ -- quality and enjoyment tbd.  cool set-up so far though.  post-slavery plantation life for a young woman in british jamaica.

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