Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Europe '08

I have a tendency in this blog to write about nonsense and post nothing about what I'm actually doing in my life. Hey, it's my blog, right?

But I'll break from the random here and post on the trip I took to Europe in June.

The actual, official reason for my trip was to attend the Cannes Advertising Festival in France. It's the same Cannes where they hold the film fest and a bunch of other fests throughout the year. It's a fest kinda town.

Here's a picture of me "working." This shot in from cafe inside the Grand Palais where all the work was shown throughout the week.



The best part? The many, many free parties held continuously just outside the Palais, along the Mediterranean. My AD and I would just walk up to these parties, show our festival badges and suddenly we'd be sitting on the beach with a glass of Champagne in one hand and a little plate of appetizers or a sorbet in the other. Here's a shot from a beach chair.



After grinding it out in angry, dirty New York for almost ten years, Cannes was a glimpse at how good life can be. Happier people, sunnier skies, cleaner air and calmer. Much calmer. My AD said it's seventy-four degrees and sunny in everyone's head, all the time. Which pretty much nails it.

The first night we grabbed dinner at the worst restaurant in Cannes, then took a hike up some winding side streets to check out the Old Cannes Castle. It's an amazing floodlit castle that sits on a hill overlooking the city. And in true Europe fashion, you just wander around the grounds with no one bothering or hawking Cannes Castle key chains.



Here's a shot from atop a wall and peering through a stone turret, in the same spot I imagine a bowman would position himself during an attack. If the French fought.



During the day we saw some really amazing creative work from around the world, none of which I'll post here. At night there were the awards ceremonies and then the parties.

Midway through the week the festival held it's opening night gala. It was probably the biggest single party I've ever attended. One giant stage in the center, surrounded by tables and tables of food and desserts, Champagne, wine and beer. All set up on a beach and stretching out to a long ass pier.

An English, all-female vocal band performed a handful of songs and then the stage became a dance floor. Or as I call it, that thing you have to skirt around to get another beer.

Here's a tiny clip from the party, which I only have because I hit the wrong button on my camera. In the foreground is part of the stage/dance floor. In the distance is the Carlton.



After the party we went to a bar that is locally called "The Gutter." It's small corner bar that, after 2pm, is suddenly swarmed with (seriously) well over a thousand people. Nightmare, right? But this was Cannes. Imagine two thousand people and no elbowing, no fights, no dumb screaming frat drunks. Everyone is happy in their linen pants and Mediterranean tans.

The party spilled from outside the gutter bar, into the street, across to the parking lot of the enormous Carlton Hotel, into the foyer of the Carlton, through the Carlton's bar, outside to the pool area, and alongside a path to about a dozen cabanas. I have no pictures from that party. I forgot to use my camera at that point.

I didn't actually stay in Cannes. My hotel was located about six miles away, in a little beach town called Juan Les Pins. Here's a random snapshot I took in Juan Les Pins while running in the morning.



My girlfriend Lauri flew in later in the week and joined me for the last day of the festival. She actually arrived the morning after the gutter bar. Here I am super hung over.



But I got over that quick enough and we were having a lovely dinner that very night.

Here's Lauri at our beach side dinner.




We also hung around the hotel pool in Juan Les Pins.







The last morning we ordered room service, then took off for a few days in Turin, Italy. But I'll post that leg of the journey later.

Another writing exercise

In the writing class I mentioned below, the deal was that you'd read a novel, short story or poem every week, and then write a selection based upon the tone, mood, perspective or writing style of the work. This was written from a story called "Dr. Safi." This wouldn't go anywhere, but I do like the dog dreaming part...


Travels with Homer
Jeffery didn’t have a job. He was 30 and lived with his dog Homer in the basement of his parents’ house, which he’d converted into a small apartment. He liked to sit on his bed with his back to the painted cement wall and watch TV or read old magazines from the 60s, like LOOK, while his dog slept curled in an “O” at his side. Upstairs his parents trampled around and called to each other as from across a great distance, and in the morning the aroma of his father’s coffee filtered under the basement door and permeated his dreams.

On the weekends Jeffery would pull together a few dollars and buy a little baggie of weed from some guys who hung around the university across town. He’d drive his old Impala to pick it up. It was a long, blue car that he called Mothera because there was a dead Monarch Butterfly that had been preserved for years in the space where the windshield almost met the dashboard. When he got home he’d play a tape by Tangerine Dream or Vangelis and roll a joint. He liked the idea of smoking a joint even though he wasn't very skilled at rolling one, and sometimes he’d finish rolling it only to have to unroll it and start over. But Jeffery didn’t mind if it took a while. It’s the weekend, he thought.

One Saturday evening after he’d smoked an oblong joint and was sitting on his bed listening to the Alan Parsons Project’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Jeffery had a vision. He closed his eyes and from the inky blackness saw a vast blue landscape arise, which he took to be a representation of the music, or perhaps his mind, but which also looked a lot like Utah or some other western state. It was a vivid and defined landscape that stretched toward all horizons and he hovered above it, watching. He soon realized that he could “fly” through the contours of this dark terrain, and so he did -- soaring across stretches of smooth bedrock, over granite abutments and down into scooped out riverbeds, feeling the rush of mossy air on his face. It was a sensation that he remembered having as a child when he dreamed of flying; the absolute certainty that it was real. And the more he explored, the more he realized that he’d visited this place before. Not just in his mind, but physically. This place existed in the real world, he was sure of it.

He got up off of his bed and walked over to a map on his wall. He turned on a table lamp that was balanced on top of some CD cases and bent the neck up so that it illuminated the map. Hmm, he thought. Where had he visited out West? Had he ever been out West? He looked over at Homer who was watching him from the shadows of the bed. “When was I out West?” he asked. Homer stood up on the bed and stretched, his mottled tongue unfurling from his blond muzzle, then plopped back down.

Jeffery stood there frowning at the map. He then got a beer out of his mini-fridge and walked out through the basement door into the backyard. It was a warm June night and the sky was filling up with pale stars and crickety sounds. I’m going to go out west to find this place, he decided. I’ll get some things together tomorrow and drive out with Homer.

Inside, Homer was also dreaming about flying. In the dream he was chasing a bluebird across the lawn, running and running as the tiny bird flittered just beyond his snapping reach. Suddenly he realized that he was airborne high above the house and Jeffery was calling for him. “Hooomerrr!” Jeffery called, but his scrabbling legs found no purchase in the air and he sailed helplessly away as the house got smaller and smaller. When he awoke in the frowsy darkness, he sensed that Jeffery wasn’t in the room. He wobbled off of the bed and walked through the laundry room into the old family room, pausing to listen at the stairs. Then, his nails clacking on the cement foundation, he walked outside to where Jeffery was sitting and the two of them stared into the night.

Space Invaders

I came across this the other day. It's from a writing class I took from 02 to early 04. I should really take that class again.

Space Invaders

It is 1978 and the Japanese Beetles are everywhere. They come to our neighborhood from above, from the endless recesses of summer sky, of pure blue -- from somewhere out there. They swirl like television static across the sloping lawns and through the low, painted fences that demarcate property lines. They drop into the elastic pockets of hanging bed sheets, sink into slime coated kiddie pools and fall onto picnic tables like dry, scrabbling rain. They keep coming and coming until all of the trees are studded with their ceramic green and copper shells and the leaves sag under their pennyweight. And even after they strip the foliage away, tearing and chewing, leaving only gossamer veins, they still keep coming.

“They’re ruining my whole yard,” Mrs. Merante says as she plucks the beetles off of the hedges that separate her lawn from ours. I watch her squash one between her thumb and forefinger -- squinting beneath her floppy bonnet -- and drop it into a plastic bag.

It’s early afternoon. High above my house a silver jet draws white across the blue sky as I sit baking on the driveway, shirtless in my cutoffs. Chucky sits across from me, also shirtless, a copper arrowhead necklace resting on his chest. We smile at each other grittily, each pretending the heat from the driveway that is melting into our legs doesn’t hurt, but actually feels really nice. I grin to let him know that I’m just getting started. Ah, I could do this all day. He closes his eyes, stretches, like he’s ready to drop off to sleep. I know he’s faking. But it doesn’t matter because all at once the heat penetrates me, rubbing under my skin like sandpaper, and I jump up and run over to the cool grass. “Ah ha!” Chucky raises his hands in victory.

I brush off my legs and walk over to the Japanese Beetle trap that is set up in the center of our lawn. It’s a weird-looking contraption -- a yellow, hourglass shaped-plastic bag resting atop slender plastic legs. Every lawn has one, and together they look like a fleet of tiny alien craft that had landed during the night. The traps emit an awful smell that is inescapable: At once sweet and rank, grassy and chemical, the scent hangs low across the neighborhood, seeping through the soft window screens into our kitchens and bedrooms and filling our senses as humidity fills a locked room. Chucky comes over to help inspect the trap. In the bottom of the bag a few beetles convulse, moving their pointed heads in busy circles. I flick the bag with my finger and immediately hear my mother’s voice calling out from her bedroom window. “Michael! What did I tell you about touching those traps? Get in here now and wash your hands. Now!”

Chucky’s on the front porch when I come back. “What do you want to do now?” I ask.

“I don’t know.” He spits on our cement walk. “Wanna pretend we’re the strongest men in the world?”

“OK.

“But I’m just a little stronger than you are.”

“No, we’re exactly as strong as each other.”

“OK, but I’m just a teeny, eeny-weeny bit stronger than you.” He holds up two fingers to show me how small the difference is.

“I don’t want to play.”

Outliers

Written 20 minutes after taking a sleeeeeeping pill. mmmmm

Outliers
We do not conform to social construct. Not the more obvious, middle of the road choices most people fall into, quite comfortably and naturally, in their early 20s. To them, it's like putting on pants. We never made that connection. And we remained undefined. And in some cases, pantsless.

We tried subculture, that tangle of weirs that awaits just downstream. All the really smart, fat chicks and the short, pimpled poets find themselves defining themselves in place they learn to accept over time. Until one drunken night you look around your dark circle of friends in some bar or basement, and the rising high lifts you out of your apathy and you feel, for the first time you can remember, that you just might have control over your life. And that you've finally hooked into a group that understands. You. Fucked up people, who are funny and talented--or at least have the desire to be talented. And there's the music and moves and shit to do. But in the moring you wake up with a hangover and every thing's gone to shit again. You are not part of this group. That was a delusion brought about by the excessive, some would say, desperate consumption of so much liquor in such s short time. Really, you were out of control. Far beyond the pale of group 2's different, but still important senses of moderation and fair play. Begone, we'll still be friends, knowing it's an act.

Drop on level. Now say to yourself that you're finally home and you grin. But you hate it all again in the morning. But we also do no fit in with the several subgroups that exist below the line of accepted society—punks, Goths, gangstas, nerds, dorks, gamers, fan boys.. There are the last outposts of belonging, slight off the center but sill cozily within acceptability. I don't have the jewelry or makeup skills, my body is not build for goth, unless you count way-too-old and boxy-shaped goth with a giant fleshy face and a corporate card. Gangstas, please. I avoid you at all costs, only because you tend to be loud, obnoxious, confrontational and easily insulted I'm not walking that minefield

Go a further step subculture and find dominatrices, TV, sex addicts, drug addicts, bondage freaks. Hay, a night out is a night out. BU theres a commitment even here, perhaps especially here. Look at tall the equipment that must be kept clean. Giant devices and complicated knots and whole dramatic why of speaking the embarrasses me.

So where are we, the outliers?

We are undefined, ill-fitting, tongue-tied, flush-faced fuckers. We travel through your valleys and mock your consistency (while smelling the flowers and stealing tomatoes). We are visitors in every sense. To you word and the commitment that constructs it. We can commit, but only for short times. We can love, but it's a strange love, maybe cerebral. We do great things in short spurts of inspiration knowing our concentration and interest each have time limits

Down here with us are some of humanities darkest. Criminals, murderous, perverts, maniacs, sociopaths, inmates. There are also artists and writers, people who would kick a dog to death or another who would lie to his own mother.