It's spring in France and the sky is that special shade of blue. Close your eyes. Say that quietly to yourself. It's spring in France...in the southwest of France...not far from the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees and Spain. The color of the sky? Special. Indescribable. Cobalt doesn’t quite catch it. And with the way that sunlight pops off the landscape directly to your soul, it's no wonder that the Impressionists painted here.

Where else would I rather be? To use a phrase that makes my brain itch every time I hear people use it, I'm in my happy place. And because folks are traveling again now, I get to share that place. We've got a house with three spare bedrooms and it won't be enough. Three generations of family are preparing to bounce in and out. A dear old friend in the mix as well.

Have I told you the story of our first visit to the neighborhood? Recon expedition. Stayed in a traveler's hotel in a small town close by our eventual landing pad, the village of Quarante. We sat next to a pair of European couples in the breakfast room and talked about our decision to look for a little two-bedroom place somewhere in the region. We'd use the second bedroom as my office most of the time. No, they insisted, wagging their fingers. No. That won't do. Once your friends and family know that you are set and settled in the south of France, They will visit. They will all visit. Two spare bedrooms is the very minimum. You'll see.

It was good advice.

COST OF LIVING - PART 2 coming next week.


Imagine that it's the early 1970s. You are attending a concert in the Great Southeast Music Emporium. (See #19) Given that the headliner is The Incredible String Band, your attitude has been thoroughly and completely chemically altered. But before that quirky, spacey folk band takes that stage, out trots the guy pictured above and yes, complete with arrow through his head. What do you think happened?

It wasn't Steve's fault that he got booed off the stage. He was just starting out. His shtick was not widely known - not really known at all. Years later, after the Smothers Brothers and SNL and the rest, he might have been welcomed with open arms. But not in Atlanta that night as an unknown. Way too unexpected for a crowd waiting to hear The Incredible String Band's The First Girl I Loved. (I just streamed the remastered version. The very essence of psychedelic folk. Take a listen.) Martin's humor was just jarring in that setting.

Oddly, I don’t remember The Incredible String Band's performance at all, but I certainly do remember Steve Martin’s disastrous few minutes. Funny that.
It's asparagus season in the south of France. Since we enjoy eating seasonally, only those veggies and fruits that are in season in our corner of the Mediterranean make it to our table most nights. So we've been eating a lot of those tasty green spears lately. There's a farm just down the road that we visit. You can buy them by the kilo as they sort the fresh-picked ones by size. If you can't make it to the farm, the local super handles it after they've been sorted. 3 or 4USD a pound at the farm, a bit more in the stores.
After a year off the menu, the smell is always a surprise the first time that I pee after eating asparagus. It's the sort of thing that I notice with delight, much to Cathey's chagrin. Well, as they say, women marry men thinking that they can change them. They can't. Of course, the inverse is true as well. Men marry women thinking that they will stay the same. They don't.

Cute little thing, isn't it? New breed. Stands a few inches tall and weighs only a kilo or two. Affectionate. Loyal. And very importantly, not a yappie little thing. Lots of energy, but not a lot of yapping. New pet brought over from the Colonies by our good friends down the way. They named her Valentina. (I don't know the name of the dog in the picture, but could be Valentina's brother.) I'm a cat person, but these are dogs that I can like.


After meeting Cathey and spending time in the South, I learned to get into what some call Southern Rhythm and Rock. Blues-based, jazz-infused, and nothing like the Philly street-corner doo wop that I grew up with, I dove into the genre head first. One of the great regrets of my life is that, when I had the opportunity, I failed to see either Little Feat or the Allman Brothers Band live. I feel particularly stupid when, after leaving an all-night Grateful Dead concert at the Fillmore East in 1970, I looked up at the marquee, saw that the Allman Brothers were due in town and, not knowing any better, decided that I didn't need to see that Southern ricky-ticky band. I was that stupid. If it had been the booking in which they had recorded At the Fillmore, I just might have shot myself. But that night came a year later. Probably the best live recording ever produced. Even though Tom Dowd monkeyed with the solos on In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, taking Duane's from one night and Dickey's from another, it's 13 minutes of music that I listen to again and again and played more often than I should have in my radio days. 

Legend has it that, in setting the lineup for the Fillmore's final, invitation-only concert, Brian Wilson told Bill Graham that the Beach Boys wouldn't play if they didn't close the show. Graham had scheduled the Allman Brothers to close. "It's too bad that you won't be playing," Graham is purported to have said. The Beach Boys did play, but the Allmans closed.

R.I.P. Dickey.

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