ZEN COWBOY / MESQUITE PROJE CT
COMMUNITY ARTS /
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month and there you are.
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
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,
’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
These days, French kiosks from
Nice glow with magazine covers depicting the
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
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
“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.
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
“It’s about Corsica itself,” he says as the spectators flow
out the church’s open doors. Beyond them, moonlight glows on
“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
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
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
But this is all a mere preamble for La Via Notte, the
island’s nocturnal temple. The scale is enormous, bombastic, as
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
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
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
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
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
Air France offers abundant one-stop itineraries from New York
Corsica’s four main airports — Ajaccio, Bastia, Calvi and
Figari (the closest to Bonifacio and Porto-Vecchio) — with a
connection through either
Marseille. A recent online search found September fares from
Kennedy Airport to either Calvi or Figari from $1,205.
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
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)
www.trainstouristiques-ter.com. (Note that "TLJ" means
"Every Day" in French.)
Eurocorse Voyages (33-4-95-71-24
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;
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; firstname.lastname@example.org) 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;
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;
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;
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
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 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
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...
Everyday another little bit of the house gets organized, and things in
the studio are moved out.
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.
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?
You may be following the conclusion of ASSASSIN.
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
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
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
"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
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
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...
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Odd, me thinking about Charles Levier yesterday.
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
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.
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
1. Jezebelle knows her place. 2. The TV center. 3. The new
coffee table. 4. The bar.