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Aug. 31

I realized when I lived in Corsica (1983 to 1986)  it was a very special.  As of 1986 when I left, and even up to 2002 , it had not been "developed" like all the rest of the Mediterranean. The FLNC (Corsican nationalists) bombed anybody who thought about putting up a big hotel or trophy home. When Ruth  and I were there this last June, I could see there had been profound change---the developers had come with the closing chapter of all the nationalist either being in jail or in factional war with each other..

Published: August 31, 2008 NEW YORK TIMES

 

THE train is hardly anything to write home about, not with its three rusted and creaky cars and with seats as hard as church pews. But 20 minutes into the journey from Ajaccio, Corsica’s largest coastal city, to Corte, in the island’s rugged outback, a certain alchemy begins to take place.

The smells of palm trees and Mediterranean winds give way to odors of pine forest and damp vegetation. Twenty minutes more and you’re clattering upward past plunging ravines and snow-capped mountain ranges that look transposed from Ansel Adams photos. Red-roofed mountain villages, ruined stone huts, and lightning-blasted trees thunder past and vanish behind. All that’s missing is a Corsican Wordsworth to distill these natural wonders into verse.

Almost all the passengers — among them Italian cyclists, Dutch trekkers and my own astonished self — press their faces to the dirty glass, muttering superlatives and wondering what will materialize around the next bend. Our words come rushing out in multiple languages — “Bello!” “Mooi!” “Holy crud!” — with each phrase expressing the same sense of awe.

In a way, our band of travelers is just conforming to history’s pattern. For millennia, visitors have arrived in Corsica only to be blown away by its loveliness. The ancient Greeks sailed into its dazzling turquoise bays and declared the island Kalliste: the Most Beautiful. Henri Matisse strode down a gangplank many centuries later and found a “marvelous land,” where “all is color, all is light.”

These days, French kiosks from Normandy to Nice glow with magazine covers depicting the crescent-shaped sandy beaches, jagged ranges, Roman ruins and pastel-hued port towns that give Corsica its modern nickname, L’Île de Beauté: the Isle of Beauty.

But while Corsica fires near-religious worship in France and its European neighbors, it remains terra incognita for us Americans. Of the more than three million United States residents who annually fly into France, barely 6,000 wind up spending a night on this entrancing compact island roughly the size of New Hampshire, according to the Maison de France, the French government’s tourism office.

Earlier this summer, I decided to add one more number to that statistic.

THE train empties us in the mountain redoubt of Corte (pronounced core-TAY). A palpable Corsican pride suffuses the town. Shop windows beckon with traditional local delicacies — ropes of sausage, wedges of cheese, bottles of honey, casks of local wine — and the cafes are filled with groups of old men chatting in the native Corsican language. More than a few of the town’s walls drip with graffiti shouting slogans for Corsican independence.

“For Corsicans, Corte is symbolic of our identity, the place that was least altered by outsiders,” says Jean-Marc Olivesi, the director of Corsica’s museums. He’s in town to plan a big 2009 exhibition on the island’s most famous native, Napoleon Bonaparte, to be held in the town’s Musée de la Corse. “The coastal towns” — Calvi, Ajaccio, Bastia, Bonifacio, Porto-Vecchio — “have a history wrapped up with Genoa or with France,” the two powers that successively controlled Corsica for the last several hundred years, Mr. Olivesi explains.

As a result, Corte was named capital of Corsica during the island’s lone flicker of independence from the Genoese republic, from 1755 to 1769. The leader of the independence campaign, Pascal Paoli, is a local deity. His name adorns the university, the main street and even the sweet shop on the main square — as well as the square itself. In its center he lives on in statue form, a well-dressed Enlightenment gentleman with an intense gaze.

At night I file into the 17th-century Church of Ste.-Croix for a performance by Voce Ventu, one of the many groups around Corsica that is resurrecting the island’s Old World polyphonic singing style. Half the town seems to be there: stooped grandmothers, young families, local collegians and sweaty foreign travelers fresh from trekking. Five black-clad men and some accompanying musicians take positions before the altar.

“This song is an homage,” says the group’s leader, a tall bald fellow named Frédéric Poggi.

It’s a Corsican-language number called “Si Mai Imparaghju à Esse Chjucu,” which translates roughly as “Henceforth I Must Learn to Be Small.” It begins with a lone voice, soon joined by a second, a third, and then the rest, conjuring a fluid and shifting vocal chord. The minor-key melody is somewhere between a Gregorian chant and a folk ballad, with voices rising and falling, drifting in and dropping out.

More songs follow — sprightly reels, sea-chantey-like rounds. When the concert ends and the spirited applause finally dissipates, Mr. Poggi explains the homage from the opening song.

“It’s about Corsica itself,” he says as the spectators flow out the church’s open doors. Beyond them, moonlight glows on the mountains.

“We are only a small part of this Earth,” he continues, translating the lyrics from Corsican to French. “But we are still a very proud part of this Earth.”

IF possible, approaching the southern town of Bonifacio by sea is even more staggering than arriving in Corte by rail. Immense chalk-white cliffs, horizontally grooved like a geological millefeuille, dwarf our sightseeing boat as it cuts through water the color of Curacao liqueur. At sea level, enormous grottoes open darkly in the cliff walls, revealing candle-drip stalactites. Wind-eroded rock formations, some as large as Manhattan apartment buildings, sprout mysteriously from the sea.

It’s said that Ulysses and his men took shelter in Bonifacio’s cliff-lined port, encountering a race of giants. Thousands of years later, Bonifacio is again drawing famous folks and larger-than-life characters — mainly celebrities and corporate titans. For the mellower segment of the boldface crowd, southern Corsica has lately emerged as a discreet alternative to the South of France.

“In Corsica, you have none of the artificiality of the Côte d’Azur,” says Patrice Arend, proprietor of a nautical antiques store, Mer et Découvertes, set in the shadow of Bonifacio’s centuries-old citadel, who, while praising the authenticity of the area is also quick to mention that Sting has been a customer, and that a few years ago he ran into Bill Gates just outside. “A lot of famous people come here, but they come so that they can be incognito.”

 

Sail east from Bonifacio and you’ll tack past the Golfe de Sperone, a seaside golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones and containing private villas created by the likes of Norman Foster. It’s the kind of place where golfers might actually try deliberately to hit their balls into the water, just for an excuse to plunge into the dazzling sea.

Continuing on, you’ll glimpse the Île de Cavallo, a secluded island community known quaintly in the French press as the Isle of Billionaires. Finally you can pull up directly to the opulent Casa del Mar hotel in the glitzy town of Porto-Vecchio — the only hotel in Corsica with a dedicated yacht mooring. Designed by Jean-François Bodin, known for his addition to the Matisse Museum in Nice, the five-year-old hotel has quickly generated big buzz and attracted folks like Giorgio Armani and Marc Jacobs to its Michelin-starred restaurant and lush grounds.

As evening descends on Porto-Vecchio, I slip into the village’s old streets and watch the village transform into Corsica’s night-life mecca. Bronzed from Santa Giulia and Palombaggia — the area’s Tahitiesque beaches — crowds in white linen pop into art galleries and gelato parlors. On cafe terraces, glasses fill with rosé from the nearby Domaine de Torraccia vineyard and Corsican Pietra beer, flavored with chestnut. Air kisses flutter like fireflies — “Ciao!” “Bon soir!” “Hola!” — as an outdoor D.J. spins electro-soul for the dolled-up girls sipping cocktails at Le Patio.

But this is all a mere preamble for La Via Notte, the island’s nocturnal temple. The scale is enormous, bombastic, as if Napoleon himself had ordered it. Seven bars and nearly as many restaurants spread over multiple levels and pavilions. Inside the D.J. booth, three men operate long flashing control panels as if trying to pilot a spaceship. Go-go dancers grind on platforms as streaks of laser light shoot past. A swimming pool glimmers in the distance.

“We have the largest capacity in Europe,” says the owner, Henry Bastelica, estimating the floor space at around 20,000 square feet. “About 4,000 people can party here.”

To woo them, the club flies in big names from the international D.J. circuit, including Roger Sanchez, Dirty Soundsystem and Erick Morillo. (“He flies in a private plane ... and costs 40,000 euros,” says Mr. Bastelica of Mr. Morillo). The vast V.I.P. area, he adds, has served the designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, the supermodel Laetitia Casta, the soccer star Zinédine Zidane and “all the biggest French actors.”

But Mr. Bastelica is quick to crush any comparisons with France’s flashier resorts.

“Celebrities go to St.-Tropez and get snapped to death by paparazzi,” he says with a disdainful shake of the head. “Here no one will bother them. Here they don’t even need a bodyguard.”

Far to the north, on the opposite side of the island, the medieval hilltop citadel of Calvi shoots up from the sea like a Mediterranean answer to Mont St.-Michel. But its warren of cobbled lanes feels more like Kafka’s castle. Around every bend lurk exiles, explorers, renegades and castaways from the pages of history.

In one passage I chance across an old house that some believe was the real birthplace of Christopher Columbus, who is conventionally assumed to have been Spanish. (Admittedly, records of the navigator’s origins are filled with more question marks than a game of “Jeopardy.”) Tucked away nearby is a small building where Napoleon lived in hiding from Corsican nationalists during the French Revolution.

A third small street reveals Chez Tao, a nightclub founded decades ago by a foreign Russian military officer named Tao Kerekoff. Buffeted by a different insurrection — the Russian Revolution — Kerekoff fled to New York. There he met Prince Feliz Yusupov, one of the conspirators against Rasputin, who persuaded Kerekoff to go to Calvi. He opened his namesake night spot in 1935, and it still fills nightly with stylish seasonal refugees from Paris, London and the Continent’s other capitals.

A cavern in the citadel hillside turns out to be a museum for the French Foreign Legion, which maintains a base outside Calvi. Amid mannequins in paratrooper outfits, exhibitions detail the history of this shadowy branch of the French military, once known for accepting recruits of any background from any country, no questions asked.

Under the watchful eyes of two ultra-buffed soldiers, curious visitors mull over the curious souvenirs on sale. If you bought them all, you could lie on a Foreign Legion beach towel, read a book of Foreign Legion Christmas tales and fill your Foreign Legion mug with Foreign Legion “Esprit de Corps” 2007 rosé, whose label depicts violently charging troops firing weapons.

“You have to drink it all at once,” says one of the soldiers with a laugh as he makes a chugging gesture. His French has a Russian or Eastern European accent, and his arms are a gallery of menacing tattoos. “Otherwise it’s not so good.”

The rosé at the glamorous Octopussy beach club, however, is getting abundant respect as an afternoon party crowd celebrates Calvi on the Rocks, a multiday festival of independent and electronic music that’s held every July. Along with two other international events — June’s Calvi Jazz festival and September’s Rencontres Polyphoniques, which focuses on vocal music — Calvi on the Rocks has helped make the town into the island’s most exciting musical destination.

Like a pied piper in sunglasses and headphones, an American D.J. named Mandy Coon is inspiring scores of swimwear-clad bodies to abandon their plush sun beds and gyrate to her mix. Surrounded by so much Arcadian eye-candy — the citadel, the translucent turquoise sea, an adjacent range of snow-capped mountains — she’s performing a minor miracle just by successfully competing for the crowd’s attention.

Lounging nearby in Octopussy’s restaurant, James Murphy, frontman of the popular indie band LCD Soundsystem, awaits his imminent turn as D.J. and surveys the postcard-perfect view behind Ms. Coon — who happens to be his wife.

“Calvi is possibly the most beautiful place on the planet,” he muses, recalling that his band was first invited to Calvi on the Rocks in 2005. He found the surroundings so “incredible” that he vowed to return every year.

“I’ve been to some really beautiful places,” Mr. Murphy continues, as dance music echoes down the beach. “But something about this place — the combination of how close the mountains are to the sea, and how clear the water is — is really magical.”

THE PLANE TO THE TRAIN TO THE MOUNTAINS TO THE BEACH

GETTING THERE

Air France offers abundant one-stop itineraries from New York to Corsica’s four main airports — Ajaccio, Bastia, Calvi and Figari (the closest to Bonifacio and Porto-Vecchio) — with a connection through either Paris, Lyon, Nice or Marseille. A recent online search found September fares from Kennedy Airport to either Calvi or Figari from $1,205.

GETTING AROUND

Renting a car is by far the simplest option in Corsica. Public transportation between towns and regions is scant, and the seaside and mountain views make driving a pleasure (though small, twisting two-lane roads, typically without guardrails, are the norm). All of the above airports have an outlet of Europcar (www.europcar.com).

For nondrivers, the Corsica rail system (www.ter-sncf.com/corse) connects northern towns (Ajaccio, Corte, Calvi and Bastia) but doesn’t access the southern part of the island (Bonifacio, Porto Vecchio), and there are only two to four trains a day, depending on the season. The best official online schedule (French only) is at www.trainstouristiques-ter.com. (Note that "TLJ" means "Every Day" in French.)

Eurocorse Voyages (33-4-95-71-24 64; www.eurocorse.com) offers a few buses a day between the towns of Porto Vecchio, Bonifacio, Ajaccio and Corte. For schedules, click "Prestations" on the Web site.

WHERE TO STAY, EAT, SHOP AND PARTY

A number of businesses in Corsica close outside of the main tourist season, which lasts more or less from April until October. It’s always best to verify in advance whether hotels, restaurants, shops, etc., will be open.

CALVI Located in the town center, the three-star Hotel Saint Cristophe (Place Bel’Ombra; 33-4-95-65-05-74; www.saintchristophecalvi.com) is a stone’s throw from both the citadel and the bustling port. Doubles are 98 to 165 euros, about $150 to $252 at $1.53 to the euro. For fashionable beachside dining, the white villalike Octopussy restaurant (Pinede Plage; 33-4-95-65-23-16) does jazzy riffs on Corsican ingredients, like Cap Corse mussels in muscat wine and saffron (14 euros) and fois gras with myrtle (16.50 euros). During the wee hours, the old and eternally hip nightclub Chez Tao (33-4-95-65-00-73; www.cheztao.com) offers drinks, dancing and views from its citadel perch.

CORTE It’s a bit spartan and showing its age, but the venerable 60-room Hôtel de la Paix (Avenue du Général de Gaulle; 33-4-95-46-06-72; socoget@wanadoo.fr) is still the best deal in town, with doubles from 54 euros. To take a crash course in the history and cultural traditions of Corsica, visit the Musée de la Corse (Citadel; 33-4-95-45-25-45; www.musee-corse.com). Admission 5.30 euros. Classic Corsican wines and foods — cured meats, honeys, cheeses — are on sale at La Vieille Cave (2, ruelle de la Fontaine; 33-4-95-46-33-79), while the terrace restaurant U San Teofalu (3, place Paoli; 33-6-73-06-35-58) does a three-course Corsican menu at 16 euros that includes a charcuterie and cheese plate, grilled trout and dessert.

BONIFACIO Overlooking the town’s dramatic harbor and restaurant-filled quays, the simple but clean and cozy hotel La Caravelle (35-37, quai Comparetti; 33-4-95-73-00-03; www.hotel-caravelle-corse.com) offers doubles from 97 euros. To view the spectacular cliffs and grottoes nearby, several sightseeing boats have kiosks along Bonifacio harbor, including Gina (33-4-95-23-24-18) and Corsaire (33-6-23-25-14-60). Most offer one-hour tours with departures throughout the day. Most charge 17.50 euros for adults. For maritime antiques, the cavelike Mer et Découvertes (19, montée Rastello; 33-4-95-73-54-39; www.meretdecouvertes.com) is a trove of centuries-old globes, maps and nautical equipment. Outfitted with white tablecloths and candles, the elegant harborside restaurant Le Voilier (Quai Comparetti; 33-4-95-73-07-06) serves a three-course daily menu (37 euros) that includes fish soup (or fish of the day) followed by lamb or fish, rounded out with sorbet or tiramisù.

PORTO-VECCHIO Whether you arrive by helicopter, megayacht or simple automobile, the five-year-old Casa del Mar (Route de Palombaggia; 33-4-95-72-34-34; www.casadelmar.fr) is outfitted to receive you. The white and airy hotel, which has a Carita spa and Michelin-starred restaurant on its lush grounds, offers doubles from 350 euros. Another high-end meal awaits at Le Troubadour (13, rue du Général Leclerc; 33-4-95-70-08-62), where Julien Marseault concocts dishes like Mediterranean tuna tartare with lime juice and herb cream (21 euros) and boneless chicken stuffed with spring vegetables in a lemongrass emulsion (22 euros). To sample Porto-Vecchio’s noted night life, start the party at Le Patio (2, impasse Ettori; 33-4-95-28-06-99), an outdoor bar with D.J.-spun soul and R&B, before heading to Corsica’s biggest and most famous nightclub, La Via Notte (just south of main village; 33-4-95-72-02-12; www.vianotte.com).

 

Aug. 30

Assassin update

Oct. 18. 2004

So how in the hell did Yokomi get in my tent?

At the previous party, the fire was burning down to coals in the barbeque pit. The sun dropped behind the western ridge of the valley. A gold blue light filtered over the green of the vegetable fields. The leaves of the avocado tree were black in the fading color of the evening. Smoke from charcoal drifted towards the river. Open bottles of Domaine Peraldi and salads were laid out on a long plank table. Jamahl monitored the chicken and sausages on the grill.

The last tinge of twilight hung like a lace curtain on the shoulders of night when the lights of two cars came down the entrance to the farm. The first was a Erik's large Mercedes van which meant Yokomi had arrived with her boy toy. The second was Sophie's battered Toyota. Both cars were full of people.

I stood at the grill watching Jamahl turn chicken and sausage, acting unconcerned about their arrival. I continued the lesson of being cool. The chicken was crispy golden brown and the sausage burnished red  when Yokomi  came around the darkened foliage of the avocado tree. She was in the arms of Erik and talking in a very intimate manner.

So that was the story.  My interest in any further ploy with her would be totally absurd. I comforted myself meditating with the hot meat on the grill.  The clear part of my brain said  to center and come back to being plain old me--a man who was on the path to Sadhu. I almost felt relieved. Women, no matter what, consume time, and time was the only precious thing I had.

Earlier in the week I called Jean Simon and invited him to the party. I told him there was an Australian gal to tickle his fancy. That was just a tease. Jean Simon would go through burning hoops for a new conquest. Besides that, I was doubtful he would come if he thought there was no element of the old rutting game. I needed his company. He was someone I could talk  about the fiasco of the holy fuck as men do.

Oscar had all but stopped talking to me in the last few days. I felt isolated in my maleness, my age, my language and the madness of my own on-going Punch and Judy show.

Jamahl laid plates out on the long plank table  that ran under the overhanging eves of Oscar's monk-like quarters.  Half of the seating was next to the house and the other side under the avocado tree.

As I brought barbeque pieces on a large platter to the table a Jean Simon's car drove up. People were getting seated  so I went to greet him and give him heads up on the Australian. She was not attached and a chair next to her was reserved for him. By the time we got back to the table only two seats were empty, Jean Simon's next to the Australian and mine next to Yokomi.

Yokomi flashed me the inscrutable thing. At some point in the meal Yokomi said something casually, betraying no hidden agenda but there was intent in her eyes, like she was looking into me.

My response was to immediately forget everything and jump off my high dignity and into pools of Asian darkness. We began talking.

 "Where do you come from?" I asked, not even sure if Earth was her planet. In an instant we were channeled into words and thoughts--- trading stories of adventures, history and art. Yokomi told me she had brought some photos of her paintings if wanted to see them. then joked about that being the old pick-up line. As we left the table to go where there was better light in the kitchen, I said out loud, "She's going to show me her etchings ."

Eloise almost smiled. Tara and Erik who were deep inside conversation ignored us. Jean Simon was doing his whammy on the Australian. Sophie noticed our departure with a raised eyebrow. Oscar laughed and said to the table, "Lust is a beautiful four letter word." Jamahl answered with Moroccan philosophy, "American life, Japanese wife, French wine,  everything fine."

"Oscar, you know I am a lover of art," I said.  Yet there was that old thing in me that was embarrassing if not just plain awkward when I had to weasel words after looking at mediocre work of wannabe artists. Most often my comment would be, "How interesting," when I really wanted to say, "I am amazed that such dullness does not drive you to slash your wrists and save the world from tedious boredom."  The only master piece I was hopeful about was between her forbidden legs. I prepared myself for the worse.

Yokomi spread a half dozen photos across the kitchen table under the ceiling light. I gasped. To my utter surprise, her non-objective abstract paintings were incredibly beautiful---like  details of thousand year old moss on rocks of millennium---rocks that had witnessed the rise and fall of a million organic civilizations across the skin of its crystalline face.

The artwork was surreal in subtle perfection of Zen Japanese culture  and Buddhist mystic. I could go into art babble of what I saw but in truth her work was brilliant. She regarded my reaction with pleasure. Suddenly she was an incredible human being, and I momentarily forgot about her magic keyhole.

When we went back to the party Eloise gave me a  mischievous look and announced, "Well, it is very good for you young people to carry on but I shall call it a night and you can let me know the results tomorrow." She tipped her head to the side indicating Tara and Erik as they walked out into the garden. They apparently were having a very serious conversation. Yokomi and I sat down at the table and talked for another hour rarely taking our eyes off each other.

The moon was full and stars burned on the ragged outline of the river trees. Slowly the guests began cleaning up and gathering their belongings. The conclusion wheel was in motion...

Aug. 25

Everyday  another little bit of the house gets organized, and things in the studio are moved out.

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 1. The mosaic mural in the shower. 2. Detail of shower. 3. New hat rack. 4. The living room. 5. Ruth's room. 6. Counseling corner.  7. Bronco Bob at InCahoots. 8. Bronco Bill there too.

Aug. 24

Life is just too weird sometimes...

Yesterday, one of the characters in Assassin showed up. No, not the exact character, but one of the people that "Martina" was modeled after, or at least part because Martina is a composite of at least four women I have known in my life. But the central persona, showed up in person. I was surprised because I figured I would never ever see her again, nor did I have any wish to see her again--not out of anger or bitterness, but just that she was a very rich desert and one helping was entirely enough.

As for the daily humdrum, I continue to finish details now on the outside of the house and think about decorating the party which is only two weeks away. Did I say I am getting hysterical?

Aug. 23

You may be following the conclusion of ASSASSIN.  http://kewolve.com/Assassin.htm   Believe it or not I am almost in the last pages but not quite yet...anyway here is up to date....

Santiago sat at the table under the avocado tree and laughed. He could not believe how much had occurred in one week as he edited the scrawl in the last pages of the second book. The best and the worst events always came together and after 60 years he no longer understood which experience was the one to follow. The agent in London said an advance of $15,000 was deposited in his bank account. and the book would be published sooner than expected. Money could finally be something to touch. That was good.

What was bad. Nightmares nights and the dream he was finding in the days.

My Lai returned every morning at 3 AM, each time six faces taunting and calling him an assassin. In the day hours a different oriental face tortured him. Santiago was falling into booby-trap  love even though he told himself, NEVER, NEVER AGAIN.

He was resigned to slipping off the edge as he continued writing.

October 14, 2004

Irony was my song. Anna went back to merry-old and I  returned to the Restonica Gorge with the repeat purpose of refreshing my memory of this groove in the earth--this time it was a mad twist of the Cosmic Road Show. I was with my daughter and the Oriental Beauty, Yokomi. Once again I was under the spell of the Restonica, the tantric two-step valley. I remembered Martina wrote in her letter, 'The mountains are High," and a decade later I was beginning to know what she really meant.

I was a maniac, a slave to sex--call my condition what you want--the reality of energy. I wanted to be with a woman, beautiful, exotic in mind, compelling in nature, full intrigue of the female mystery. I the man, the simple plain-ass simple dip-shit balls-in-the-head-man.

Being that incarnation, I was not confused thinking anything else  (like money) could substitute the delightful torment a certain woman could design--the inflection of voice, the flutter of an eyelid, the gentle sashay of the hips, yet so absent from Anna. She was almost as much a man as me. The turn around of one woman to the next can be dazzling.

There was Yokomi,  sleeping like a child, next to me, next to my daughter in my tent.

She was there because of my rampant nuts--the mad penis search for the primal snatchola--me the demented shaman looking for the sacrificial pussy I could penetrate at sunrise. I was disgusted with my melodramatic NEVER NEVER nonsense and  falling into fantasy. All it took was the subtle batting of Oriental eyelashes in the dark drum beat of one night.

*

I drove Tara and Becky the Australian up into the mountains to find the techno-rave. For an hour we could not find the road Sophie said led to the abandoned stone building that was once a jail for Corsican bandits. I stopped the Renault at the edge of a precipice overlooking a long valley and listened. In a moment we heard a steady thump coming from the opposite hillside. There were dim lights, then the flash  of car headlights. In another moment we bumped up a jeep trail to a two-store ruin. Cars were parked around the base and an eerie flickering light filled the holes that were once windows and doors.

Sophie came to the entrance and waved, then Yokomi stepped next her and smiled like a full moon. I heard Tara say to no one in particular, "Oh fuck, I should have known."

Yokomi and I talked for a few minutes with the buzz and lights of the portable Rave machine bouncing around us. There were only a dozen or so people--no one dancing.

 Yokomi's attention drifted as I babbled something about the weirdness of having a dance in a incarceration stone building. Her eyes flicked to the side occasionally. Tara was talking intensely with the young man that was at Sophie's party. Yokomi eyes held curiosity but nothing else.

"So tell me,  are you two together?" I said and raised my chin toward the young stud.

Yokomi gave that inscrutable legend smile of the Orient and said, "For the time being..."

In a minute the boyfriend arrived and they embraced.

" You remember Erik of course. He was very interested with your daughter at Sophie's party," she said.

"Yeah hi. Well, it's been nice talking," I said. Two is company and three is blow it out your ass and cry baby. I began a search for booze or dope trying not to kick myself too much for being an idiot. Yokomi was a babe, why would she want an old goat? She had Erik the Nordic God.

People started to arrive and gradually drift toward the center of the large room and dance.  The walls were bare buff colored stone. About 20 feet up there were pieces of broken and burnt wood beams which had once been the second floor. Only a portion of the roof covered the back section and stars blinked dimly into the neon  and colored spot lights set up around the disc jockey's equipment. The noisy monotonous thump banged around my head so it was better to move to it than let a hole be drilled through my skull.

I was angry with myself and dancing helped release the sexual frustration. I needed to turn my brain off. I let the pounding vibrations persuade take charge. What the hell, I began to find the inner Techno-Zorba, I thought and laughed out loud. Freedom came with the sweat and transformed me to a primitive rutting machine.

It was at that point that Yokomi came out to the dance area and flashed me the inscrutable stuff and once again I went for it. We went like pagans around each other while the air smoldered voodoo and  the music blurred on the night. We danced an through three of the bumping tunes then her eye seemed to get stuck on a sharp corner of the room. I went in a circle so not to blow my cool and get a glimpse. It was the Nordic God leaning against the wall, being unconcerned, talking with Tara, playing cool. It worked.

Yokomi left the floor and I continued to dance knowing she was just a momentary illusion. Yet I took the lesson of Erik. Paying any attention to her killed her curiosity.  Hey, two guys can play that game. So I was cool. It worked again. In five minutes Yokomi was dancing seduction in my eyes. We talked about going camping together sometime.  We danced until the morning sky began turn burn magenta through the hole in the roof. Then suddenly Yokomi said,  " Don't forget about camping. It will be fun," then she followed Erik as he went out the door.

Tara and Becky appeared and said they wanted to go. The magic ball was apparently over and I didn't even get a glass shoe.

As I fell in the wake behind Tara, Sophie grabbed my sleeve.

"Santiago, we dance the fuck again oui? I make big fete this weekend and we fuck the world. I make sure Yokomi is there oui?"

"Sure Sophie, but make sure she brings her boyfriend--I know Tara would like that..."

"Yeah sure, maybe you make a trade. Erik is too young for her. She needs mature stuff."

When I got to the Renault, Yokomi and Erik were driving down the jeep trail.

Tara and I left a few minutes later. My wad of sexual energy was wasted, but I was gratified—a young beautiful woman had teased me. She said she wanted to see me again.  Maybe that is good as it gets when you are an old geezer. Sophie grabbed me by the arm as I was getting in the car.

“Remember—we do mad fuck again next fete,” and then she laughed. “Yokomi fuck you good time, oui?”

“Sophie, I am fucked up enough. She is too young—I am too old. What do I want with more trouble?”

Sophie pulled her big hot lips next to my ear and said, “Mon cher, you fuck for trouble. You a man.”  Her English was bad but she knew what she was saying.

October 15, 2004

How little is captured in words of what actually has happened...describing what is around me. At best I am drawing a thin cartoon of an incredibly ornate tableau. The sun is rising above the jagged ridgeline piercing the pitch black poles of pine, skidding across the stone skull of the distant mountain. River banks melt like ice cream as frigid glacial waters carry away another billion years of the smallest grains of the observable universe down to Mother Mediterranean. I write the scene with flowery words that make serious writers laugh. Fuck them, dry or juicy, words catch only the shadows.

When I was camped with Anna in this valley and her sex encased my body I felt nothing. If  she was  the woman I had desired with passionate heart, that lustful tongue would have been sweet. But she was not the woman. Her song of love was whispered to a deaf man even as her lips slipped down onto a habitual stiffened cock. She was an aging magician playing the spontaneous skin flute. If only she had been the woman I wanted it would have been a miracle, but she was only a tease of an old dream. I feel so bad for Anna who gave love, but was not loved.

Anna knows I am an asshole. It was not the first time she had been fucked by me.  But now she has returned  to her dreary England and  telephones me trying to resurrect my disease by talking about our sexual  moments not knowing her words make me nauseous with the memory. I tell her what I must as an old friend but as a lover, a man I remain a complete asshole. I nervously slither out of the conversation and promise her more lies intro the future. All the women who have known me know I’m an asshole. Six people I killed in their very last moment of existence looked at me with that look—you are an asshole. It's good to know who you are.

I carry on with the game.  I jump out of one rumpled rut into the next. Always the  disease of men, that little pole of erection directing traffic. The Oriental Beauty is in the crossing.  But she appears to be as duplicitous as the average man with nuts. She loves to get stoned on hashish and wine. Maybe she is just plain crazy. She acts out her life with spontaneous moments that have no content, no underlying meaning. She accepted the veneer of my play because I spoke her inner language in a country where we were both foreigners.  I was interested in her art. That was my tricky little ploy---you know, I like I give a shit about art after all. At the techno dance she told me she didn't have anything to do for a couple days, so I invited her to go camping with Tara and me. The next thing I know I am back in the Restonica in a tent with my daughter and her.

We spent two days together, Tara doing her best to remind me I was an old goat chasing young women. I ignored her of course. On walks up the mountain trails occasionally Tara would either be ahead or behind and Yokomi and I would have insular moments. I asked her directly which is an alien manner to  Japanese culture if she was interested in me as a friend or if there was any romantic notion. She answered with another puzzle,  that she not only had a thing going with young Erik but also there was a Hungarian she had met in India and maybe she wasn't over him quite yet. But that was just the opening. She said she never had an affair with an older man, then gave me that inscrutable oriental face thing. Well, I may be a fool but I can take a hint as well as a boot in the mouth.

Either way of what that  mysterious smile was about, I could have played the role. I may have snagged her like a trout on a finger touch line, but the truth was my ego got hurt. Yeah I was an old goat just like my daughter was saying. Playing the game meant wearing the mask of a cheap trickster, not so much to her as to myself. As it was I did things from her view point of culture that were repulsive. I coughed up big gobs and spat into the forest. My sandals smelled like sour feet. I didn't cover my armpit stench with deodorant. Since Admiral Perry, the Japanese predilection for bodily cleanliness has been legendary, and I carried around the fumes of Armageddon. So much encouragement for elderly sex appeal.

If that was not bad enough I began to talk about me. Typical male bullshit. And I carried on telling her about my former life with Tara's mother, Martina and Dark Eyes and all the rest of my spent seed vessels. I could visibly see Yokomi's mind run off into the woods.

After the two days we returned to the Farm. Yokomi gave me an international "ciao" farewell kissing me French style on both cheeks. I felt like Grand Pa. The "Angel" I had been looking for flew away again. What a fucking idiot. Would I never learn?

All of the women, all of the lies, all of the years of jumping from one riddle to the next, all of it made me feel not just stupid but sick in the soul. I was an assassin that killed not only innocent strangers and random lovers but my own spirit. Okay, this time I was going to clear my head and become a saint. Okay, that is shit. Tara and I had only two weeks left in Corsica, so if I couldn't be a saint I could try being a father. I had money in the bank and for once could spend a few bucks on my little girl.

Oct. 16, 2004

In the late afternoon, Eloise came down to the pool bungalow and told me, "Oscar and I have decided to have another little barbeque before you return to America, and thought it would be good if all  your friends  could come. Would that be all right with you?" But before I could answer she ask she gave me a curious wink and said,   " I say how did that camping expedition go?"

I knew she was asking because she had seen me fall all over myself at the previous party. I kept her informed of my besotted on-going soap opera condition  as it progressed towards the eminent romantic disaster. Her only comment had been "I have no idea how so much of nothing can happen over so little of anything."

"Oh,  I had  a great time," I said, "and Eloise, you will be the first to know if I get involved in further nonsense."

"Really, it isn't any of my business, but the way Tara was talking your meeting with this young woman, I thought you perhaps had found another challenge."

I saw the slight lift in the straight line of her thin lips. "I promise Mother Confessor, if I get into any mischief you will hear it from me, but I think I am finally learning not to be such a fool."

Eloise chuckled. "Don't be daft. Men are perpetual fools and that is why we love you so."

Oct. 18. 2004

The fire was burning down to coals in the barbeque pit. The sun dropped behind the western ridge of the valley. A gold blue light filtered over the green of the vegetable fields. The leaves of the avocado tree were black in the fading color of the evening. Smoke from charcoal drifted towards the river. Open bottles of Domaine Peraldi and salads were laid out on a long plank table. Jamahl monitored the chicken and sausages on the grill.

 

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED...

 

 

Aug. 22

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So... what I have been doing in between finishing details in the house has been out in the studio.

For the first time since I was a kid in high school I have been painting "western" themes albeit, in my own weird ass eclectic mode. Also I put together some of the broken tiles from the disaster kiln wreck that happened in Las Cruces, so not all was lost to accident.

1. Bronco Bob again. 2. Bronco Bill again. 3. The Gay Caballero this time in a fiesta outfit. 4. Another bronco buster. 5. The Dying Warrior 1. 6. Dying Warrior 2.  7. The tiles in shower detail. 8. The shower. 9. Me posing as an old goat in the desert.

Aug 20.

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1. Ruth puts the ceiling right. 2. Gina follows the big dog. 3. She trails the guy. 4. Clouds building in evening. 5. Shiloh on the hunt trains under-puppy. 6. Shiloh camouflaged. 7. Ruth walks in her world, thinking redecoration.

We are at the last of doing the main part of the house before I start working outside getting ready for the big day of September 7th. Ruth is determined to make her little spot more soothing with calm colors and decorative touches. I wait for it to be over.

Aug. 19

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1. My beautiful and romantic adventurous daughter and I had lunch yesterday. She told me all about her plans of journey across the west side of Africa. I tried my best to keep my mouth shut and not panic. Her mother and I did even crazier things, so it is our fault our  little girl has a rare strand of lunacy. That was the wonderful part of the day.

2. Some where in the course of beaucratic madness at the end of the day I was waiting for my number to come up on the magic billboard of MVD. I got to the counter ten minutes to five and the lady was handing me the plate when I tried to pass her my credit card. She pulled back the plate and flicked her eyes and thumb to my right where there was a big bold ONLY CASH CHECKS OR MONEY ORDERS NO CREDIT CARDS sign. I looked in my pocket knowing I left the check book at home.

3. Coming home can be the best part about everything, especially when you have a young puppy following an old Alfa dog.

4. We go for little walks together down in our own piece of heaven. Yesterday I lost GinaLolaBrigida for a terrifying ten minutes in the bush. I know there are things down there that are just waiting for a little snack to pass by. That won't last too long.

 Gina will soon grow into a fair sized mutt. Let'm try then.

Aug. 18

Sometimes I get that old sensation, that I have to get up and go do something meaningful immediately. I don't know where or when this peculiar human neurosis  began but it has been a constant since I was a child.

However, lately I have been repeating a mantra in my head that slowly seems to be working.

 It is this: YOU ARE NEARLY 64 YEARS OLD, AND YOU ARE RETIRED SO ENJOY WHAT IS LEFT. 

What that means is instead of me going off in mad pursuit of fortune and fame I wait for Ruth to revise the honey-doo list.

In fact, even without the list of honey-doo there is enough projects on our 12 plus acres to keep me busy for the next 30 years...hmmm...let me see that takes me up to 94, then what?

Today I go get our camper trailer insured and licensed so maybe we can schedule a week or two someplace where both of us do nothing but act RETIRED. That would be just fine.

Aug. 17

Odd, me thinking about Charles Levier yesterday. http://www.anne-french.com/Paintings%20by%20Charles%20Levier.htm 

 If you looked at the web site on him, of course it only gives a little of the story of his life.

The most simple thing I can say about Charles was that even though his art may not have been totally original, he certainly was. I have met very few characters like him, in fact none. He was unique.

One small story about him.

I was just about to leave Corsica when our friend Rollie said, "Stop, I have a house for you!" We went to the house on the river, Charles called "La Ranch" and there he was packing his car with suit cases. He said, "You here to watch the house?" I expected an examination of my character before he would turn over such a beautiful place to a complete stranger. I said yes and waited. He handed me the keys , got in his car and started the engine and said, "Okay goodbye." I could not believe he was just going to drive away with nothing more. "Wait, what about the electricity and phone and when will you return and and...." He looked at me like I was an idiot and said, "Don't worry I cover everything and I see you in a year or so." With that he backed out the driveway with his beautiful young wife and sure enough I did not see him until 16 months later, having lived in his house and he paid for the works.

Anyway, I have been trying to return to a former character I once was and that was when I was a painter, and I don't mean house.

Though it may be hard to detect, Charles influenced me greatly in the the style he had which if not unique, was completely free hand and exact. He was a true artist. If he did not paint a picture a day his bank account went down, and that was how he looked at it, not really that different from Rubens of Rembrandt. Charles was very successful. Everything he painted he sold. Not many artists can say that.

So here I am again, trying trying trying to go back to that beautiful freedom I had once upon a time when I was a painter.

I wouldn't mind if I sold a painting a day, or even painted one picture a day, but I doubt that will ever happen.

All I want is the journey getting there, not really about being there.

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1. The door to my studio. 2. Wall mural detail. 3. Wall mural detail. 4. Bronco Buster Bill. 5. Bronco Buster Bob. 6. Gay Caballero

Aug. 16

For some reason yesterday, I began thinking about an artist   I once knew in Corsica. I thought about the last time I saw him when he was on his death bed, lucid, astute, proud and unafraid but still a skeptic of what life is.

Oddly enough he remembered everything about me and my family the last meeting we had ten years before. He was also very kind to the little girl that I was chaperoning that day and to my surprise, she who ordinarily was a problem brat, was very attentive and kind in return.

The artist was Charles Levier, http://www.anne-french.com/Paintings%20by%20Charles%20Levier.htm  was 83 and only had a few weeks left to live. I had lived in his house on the Gravone river for over a year with my family, being a caretaker to the property. The house was for sale then, at a small price of $250,000. Of course that was a fortune to me then, but now the property is probably worth 2 million.

Anyway, why I was thinking of Charles I don't know but what came to mind was when I saw him he was alone, coughing with lung cancer and more or less cursing the fickleness of existence. His young German wife was away shopping or what not and according to Charles, did not give a fig about his well being.

I saw the property this summer, it looked in good condition and as far as I know the young wife did well with the estate, being she got everything in the end.

What conclusion I came of Charles sad end, was how lucky I am to not be alone and dying in a small room by myself. Even though death is a solitary experience, the thought of going to that edge of oblivion alone is very sad.

Aug. 15

We had a long hard day yesterday so Ruth wanted to relax in our new 120 gallon bath tub. Hey it's big enough to have a family outing in it.

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1.Gina the new pup is having a meeting with Scarlet. 2. Ruth prepares the bath. 3. Ruth in heaven. 4. Lots of suds. 5. Gina wants to swim. 6. Suds enough for the family.

Aug. 11 The mutt is just a baby. Her brother she visits at the bar.

Aug. 10

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A few days of meeting old friends at the Mine Shaft Tavern, watching the characters of town swapping stories and the most new event, introducing Shiloh to our new puppy, GinaLolaBrigida, or the short version Gina. She is pit bull and labrador.

1. Dwight Miller, my first friend in New Mexico from 1986. 2. Dwight and family meet Ruth. 3. Peter Mahl who will be with his band at our party. 4. Some of our friends. 5. Shiloh inspects Gina.

AUGUST 08

In one month we are having our BIG PARTY.

I am slightly hysterical because I want the place to look as good as we make it, but there is just so much yet to do, like finishing the outside. The entire new extension has to be closed in both on the bottom near the foundations and up at roof level.

Hmmm...Oh well, what it will be, will be...

I have to keep reminding myself it is just a single-wide trailer that has had its walls knocked out and it is pretending  to be a house. Anyway, the party is not really about impressing the world or even our Madrid hippie contingent...

What is the party about?

Well...big numbers. Ruth at 55 and me at 64. together 119 years of chaos in one place at one time.

Now August, can you believe it?

Corsica not only seems like another life ago, it feels like we were never there aside from still paying for it.

Life goes on and especially when it comes to Ruth's plans for the house. So at last the living room is nearly done and both of us are happy.

Next the cabinet in the hallway and then on to putting the rock facing around the new extension...all of that before we have our BIG BIRTHDAY BANG in September.

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1. Jezebelle knows her place. 2. The TV center. 3. The new coffee table.  4. The bar.