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Two days in the life…

Posted on Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Time 06:00 gmt +1
time since leaving home : 1 hr
It starts badly. I take the 6.05 train from Rennes to Paris CDG. It’s 5.55am. I just drove from home. Didn’t stop for coffee. Those of you aquainted with country living will like that one. Arrived at La Gare. Bought my ticket. Bugger me, it’s expensive. One way. Last minute. Make a valued decision to go in 2nd classe. I probably belong there. Mercifully 2nd class is empty. Not a person in my coach, which is quite lucky as I have a free seat assignment.
No one else.
46 seats.
All to myself.
I stow my things and doze off. Keira Knightley nuzzles up to me. Audrey Tautou is on my lap. A choir of angels provides the soundtrack.
“Pardon, C’est mon siege..”
Well of course it would be, arse face, I think while, moving all my things to an adjacent seat and saying ‘Oh, Pardon, Pardon’.
6am, no coffee and 45 free seats and I have this complete git moving me after I was getting nuzzled. In the new world order that I’m starting to plan, starting to plan I must stress, since deciding to entertain folks in far off places for the price of a train ticket, people like this, won’t be eliminated, just forced to take trains with likeminded assholes so that the rest of us can safely get on public transport without having to commit a mortal sin. On the other hand, Harry Lime had a point.
What ever

Time 09:30 gmt +1
time since leaving home : 4 hrs 30mins
I arrive at CDG at 9am for a 4.50pm flight to New York and then on to Lima at about 11pm local time. As must seem evident I’m a tad early. No other train could have got me to the airport on time. But that’s cool, I can go into Paris for the afternoon.
Or Not.
I thought there as a chance of an earlier flight but sadly (strangely) there wasn’t one. But they did seem rather happy to check me in so early and I watched my bags disappear down the ramp as they seem to do from time to time in this weblog. Um, OK, they’re checked to NYC. As events unfold, slowly throughout the day, the chances of them arriving anywhere where I need them (and trust me, after a day or two I need them..) become remote and the chances of them being sold from the back of a truck in Belleville seem more likely.
So they checked me in.
Later. Much, much fucking later, I was told that they should have told me of a delay but they didn’t because they were all high on crack, or fucked up from the excess of the night before or just retarded. Whichever way, they all worked for AMERICAN AIRLINES.
Take note Luis. There’s a theme here. FYI Luis, the young gentleman from Lima who arranged my flight, knowing that when life is beautiful I have nothing to write about, booked me on this route. I guess he knew that I wouldn’t be able to deal with the banality of a direct flight which gets there on time, with luggage arriving intact or, hey, maybe even a fee upgrade. . One thing is for certain though. The conquistadors probably didn’t use American Airlines when they defeated the Incas. They’d have been late.

Time 17:00 gmt +1
time since leaving home: 12 hrs
Apparently the flight is delayed. I’m at the gate, have been since the afternoon. Nada. Rien. Personne.
On the TV monitor it has said ‘delayed’ for the last few hours but there is no agent at the gate. At about 8pm an agent comes and when I suggest that I may have a problem catching my connection out of NYC tonight, I’m answered with, ‘Well you were told at check in sir.’ ‘Was I shite’, I duly reply, realizing that this would not improve my chances of getting anywhere tonight. Apparently because I’d checked in early they hadn’t told me, nor given me the vouchers for a free lunch and dinner as they had everyone else. Anyway, the flight was to be about 5 hrs late because of ‘weather’. There was me thinking that planes flew in weather every day, but apparently not this kind.

Time 21:30 gmt +1
time since leaving home: 17 hrs 30mins
Hey, we’re being boarded. The weather must be the right kind of weather now. It’s dark, though. The flight will now get me to JFK at midnight local time but, not to worry as an agent will meet me at the plane and give me hotel, food and transportation vouchers. I’ll have missed my connection to Lima but have been re-routed through Miami tomorrow. It’s a long flight. I sleep a little. Sleeping on the train was more fun. I don’t want to hear choirs of angels up here, thank you.

Time 01:30 est
time since leaving home: 25hrs 30mins.
I arrive at JFK, Terminal 4. It takes forever to clear immigration. I don’t even want to as I’m in transit but I have to go through with it all the same.
“Excuse me, where can I find the American Airlines agent?
Ah, there’s not one, um, OK. In that case, where can I find anyone who can help me?
Terminal 8, OK, yes, Take the skytrain, yup OK
I’m sorry, what did you say? It sounded like you said the terminal is closed until 3am.
Ah, OK, so I have to wait then… right, right, um OK.”

That’s the trouble with those small regional airports, huh?

Time 03.01 est
time since leaving home: 27hrs 01min
So those nice people at American Airlines give me a voucher for a hotel and tell me where I can jump on the shuttle bus. Of course the shuttle bus service starts at 4am. It’s really cold now. I’m starting to feel really unwell.I keep thinking of words that my friend Mark said to me in Italy a couple of weeks ago. “Allow it to be different.”

Time 04.15 est
time since leaving home: 28hrs 15mins.
I arrive at hotel and ask for a wake up call for 8am. Go to bed.

Time 09.15 est
time since leaving home: 33hrs
Wake up, shower, feel much better, drink coffee, go back to terminal 8, check my bag and am given a $5 voucher for food. I buy 4 espressos, line them up and knock them dead. Life is beautiful once more. That’s what I was thinking as I worked out that I wasn’t even half way to my destination yet. I “allowed it to be different.”

Time 11.40 est
time since leaving home: 35hrs 40mins
Take off on another American Airlines, to Miami his time. I work out that American are the only airline capable of making Air Canada look good. I arrive in Miami, looking forward to a quick lunch only to find myself taking the next flight from the same satellite and therfore, without leaving the terminal and waiting for god knows how long in line at security to come in again once more, I’m given the choice of starbucks or pizza hut for lunch. I pass. I read every magazine at the news stand, play all my favourite mental games, you know like, ‘what’s his name and profession?’ and ‘what does she look like naked?’ and the like. I’m bored, my laptop battery is low and I want to keep a little for the plane. The plane arrives. Once more I get on board. Oh Joy.

Time 17.50 est
time since leaving home: 39hrs 10mins
‘American Airlines are sorry to announce…..’ well you know the rest, really, don’t you? Delayed an hour and a half. Apparently the plane is overweight. Some people may have to get off. I feel a couple of hundred eyes staring at me, which seemed to say, “if he get’s off no one else will have to”. I ain’t budgin’. We eventually take off at 7.30pm It’s a 6hr flight so I sleep a bit, arrive in Lima at midnight local time then am horrified to see maybe 600 passengers in line before me for immigration, with only 6 of a possible 16 agents working. Get’s more and more like France here every day. I wait in line an hour and a half. Welcome to Peru. I’m met by Guillermo, who I remember from last time, go to the hotel, only to find the restaurant closed and sit quietly writing this little aide memoire.

Time 2am gmt-5
time since leaving home: 49hrs 10mins
Going to bed now. Many negative thoughts running around my head. Perhaps a little moment of doubt on my part but, hey, it’s OK, I’ll allow it to be different.

Down Mexico Way…

Posted on Friday, March 7th, 2008

Hola Amigos. OK, where did I leave you? Oh, yes I was in Mexico City with a strangely familiar absence of my luggage, no pants or toothbrush, and a healthy dose of the flu, which had been lingering since Italy. The problem is, for these other small calamities have become the norm, is that Mexico City is about 2500m above sea level and the small parts of my lungs which are still functioning after having the flu, are just about to give up. I feel miserable but so excited to be in there for the first time.
I’m here to play a show as part of FICCO (Festival Internacional de Cine Contemporáneo a la ciudad de México) and also to see 3:19, the movie that I’ve been involved in scoring recently. I had just arrived after a 12hr flight from Paris stuck, as is my habit, in between a rather large gentlemen at each side, a woman with a broken seat in front (stuck in recline) and several loud and irritating media types overusing the French version of the term ‘daaahhhling’ and ‘luvvie’. My guess is that they’re on their way to FICCO as well. Whatever. After 2 hours at immigration I was met by someone from the festival who gave me a lift to my friend Dany’s place in Tecamachalco where I met his friend Jorge who I’d be staying with. Jorge’s grandmother was out of town and we had her house at our disposal, which after the indignities of my recent trip to Italy, seemed surreal. Surreal developed into plain bizarre when I realized that grandma’s maid was still there and seemed really happy to feed me and, at every opportunity walk into my bedroom while I was in a state of undress. Tecamachalco, indecently, seemed like many parts of California that I’ve been to except it’s a little cleaner and people drive to kill.

First let’s cover the real underlying reason for my visit, the first hand experience of Mexican Cuisine. The first night I arrived, after travelling for 16hrs, my friends took me to a local taco stand called El Farolito. I couldn’t have been happier than a pig rolling about in its own shite. The next morning, way too early if you asked me, my FICCO ‘volunteer’ arrived. I didn’t know what a FICCO ‘volunteer’ was; in fact I hadn’t a clue as I’ve recently taken to only reading things I have been given with view to remembering the things that it may be necessary to remember in future.
Like a long time from now.
Quite clearly this doesn’t work so well as I can never work out what may be important, however there is only so much room in my head and most of it is filled with useless facts from National Geographic magazine and other such non vital bollocks, how to name old bits of musical equipment and how to get to the dressing room in at a show I did in 1983 in Hannover. Other things, like people’s names, hotel room numbers and which order to put my clothes on in the morning, I have to write down.
It’s a coping skill, before you ask.
Anyway, as I was saying, my FICCO volunteer turned out to be an ususpecting young lady called Haydee. She quickly took control and gave my life some structure and ensured that I was in the right place at the right time, which as far as I could work out, was one rather shabby interview in 5 days. Apart from the fact that she drove her car like an insane person we enjoyed a steady flow of really good lunch spots and conversation.
The first was, well naturally, El Farolito but a different one, this time in the Condesa district, which had more of a small town vibe to it that part of a city of 30 million. I liked it. I would have been able to order from the menu with a certain panache, as I’d eaten the same food only the night before, but was happy to let Haydee chose for me. The best way to discover something new, I guessed. Over the next few days I certainly discovered a few more Mexican delights, including one which would have Mitsuo Tate roll in his grave, well, if he were dead at least, namely Mexican Sushi at Sushi Ito in Polanko. Now before you say wtf?, hear me out. Always hear a fat person out when it comes to food. … … It’s a really good fusion, I have to say, the fish wasn’t outstanding but the treatment with chipotle and habanera was unforgettable. I visited another Sushi Ito in Alta Vista a few days later and it didn’t disappoint. No sir. Apart from that, the other high point, from a culinary point of view was hanging out at Coyoacán on a Saturday and visiting the food market there. Um, the closest experience I can compare to the food market is eating at Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech, after the sun goes down. It was lots of home cooking, lots of grease and lots of happy looking folks. The real deal. Didn’t manage the tamales or flautas, but made up with excessive amounts of gorditas and quesadillas. I have yet to learn the Spanish word for my new fave, but it is fried pork skin in tomato if anyone can give me a name. Or a European supplier, come to think of it.

me in mexico city

The concert I was invited to play at a museum, the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico, was near the big square at Zócalo in the Centro Historico. The fact that I had been asked to play in a museum hadn’t gone unnoticed, as I couldn’t help but think that a museum is where one puts old things. I had to process that thought a little, bounce it around and turn it into ‘precious things’.
Now, I’ll go a bit into uncharted territory here as I try to tell you about the show.
First of all, the people who met me and helped me set up were fantastic. The venue itself was a beautiful choice and absolutely perfect for presenting Lumiere. The way that the venue had been set out with chairs and carpets for people to lie on was just right. The sound seemed pretty good and the atmosphere was intimate, even though it was quite a large space. Um, OK this is how it reads when I like something, just in case you’re confused. As I said, uncharted territory. So with all of those things in my favour, I felt that my equipment would blow up or my fingers would fall off but, no, I really enjoyed the performance, felt relaxed, especially by the audience being close and, by the look of things, very comfortable. It was, I remember thinking, as good a performance of Lumiere as I have even given. For me, it’s very rare that the planets line up and allow me the right condition but this concert showed me that it can happen, especially if the people arranging the event read the stuff I send them about how to present it beforehand.

As for the film festival, well seeing 3:19 on a large screen and watching people react to it was a marvelous experience only marred by the lack of profile that the film was given. I was invited to a big glitzy end of festival party but it was kinda plasticky and I didn’t care for it much. But of course, as I couldn’t have imagined, FICCO had ambitions which went way beyond the nurturing of independent cinema, using sponsors like pepsi and cinemex to propel their little festival into the realms of Hollywood and judging from the closing ceremony this was a big mistake as it was quite simply the most tacky event that I’ve ever had the need to attend. And remember, I’ve lived in London and attended Sundance. Simply, the bullshit seems the same no matter what branch of the arts that you explore with any vigour. Not that I explore with vigour, I just attend, but the odour is unmistakable It’s a shame really, as most of the people from the festival were really cool, but I guess that the lower echelon soldiers didn’t have to suck Pepsi dick as much. It goes saying that 3:19 didn’t get a mention but it did receive a lot of praise from the more independent element, and critics seemed happy with it. My favourite interview, of course, was during a FICCO press conference when someone asked me if I could play any musical instruments. No, I said, as everyone smiled and quietly agreed with me.
One thing also that I enjoyed, apart from the happy experience of surviving Haydee’s driving, was being able to spend a little time with the friends and colleagues that I’ve made in Mexico since becoming involved in that movie. It’s nice to put faces to those who’s work I’ve seen but who’s names, up until now, were just movie credits.
I’m hooked. I’ll be sitting by the phone waiting for another opportunity to go back. I’ll be taking an oxygen bottle with me next time though.