She divined a very tough self-preservative instinct behind the promises, pity, and ten-pound note.

On Friday night I went to a most excellent concert at Café de la Danse, which you should definitely check out if you are a Paris inhabitant. Can I just say how much I appreciate this thing of sitting down at concerts? I’ll confess, despite the fact that I really enjoy live music, I’ve been feeling kind of old and cranky at concerts for the past few years. I get tired of standing around forever waiting for the band to start, only so some guy who is three feet taller than me can suddenly push his way into the tiny pocket of space directly in front of me the minute the band starts playing. He’s usually a nice enough guy, a friendly, corn-fed, rosy-cheeked, baseball-cap guy, and he often turns around and says “oh, can you see?” and I always say “yeah, totally” because I’m terrified of confrontations. When I was sixteen this shit didn’t bother me. I wore high heels and danced until my feet bled and would have happily ignored the tall guy or the smelly guy or the chain of girls that push their way to the front and spill your beer in the process. Because that was all part of the concert-going experience, you know? Now I feel like a cranky old crow when I go to shows. I wear flats and I complain about the cost of drinks at concert venues and I get tired of standing and I end up spending a lot of my time resenting the people around me for various height, hygiene, and personal space infractions. I maxed out last summer when my friends and I attended a huge, two-day, outdoor music festival and it rained nonstop. As I shivered under my six-dollar poncho, drinking a partially spilled ten-dollar beer, the refrain that echoed in my head came not from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Of Montreal, or The Walkmen. The refrain came from my own damn superego, and it went something like:

You’re too damn old for this, oooh.

You’re too damn old for this, oooh.

Who do you think you are, you old loon?

You’re too damn old for this, oooh.

Pretend that this is a Pynchon novel and that you are already familiar with the melody.

At first I thought this sitting down thing was a merely a lovely anomaly when M and I went to see Stars Like Fleas at the Pompidou and everyone just sat and quietly swayed to the music. It seemed so damn civilized and pleasant, completely unlike concert going in the States. But the glorious Bosque Brown / Clare and the Reasons show we attended at Café de la Danse on Friday night confirmed my hopes. As we filed into the theatre, we discovered rows of elevated seating. You could put down your coat and purse! Everyone could see the band! Perhaps as a result of such creature comforts, the people attending the show were in their thirties, and forties, and fifties! Beer and wine were 4 euros! The bathrooms were clean! This is concert going for grownups! France: 1, United States: 0.

And let’s be honest, I’m not going to Fugazi shows anymore. I’m seeing bands that are mainly conducive to swaying and the occasionally foot-tap. Both Bosque Brown and Clare and the Reasons are such bands, in the best possible way. Mara Lee Miller and Clare Muldaur are for my money some of the most talented, idiosyncratic ladies singing today. In the imaginary universe where I am a tastemaker, I would instruct you to immediately fill your iPod immediately with their magic.

The concert was the climax of an evening where I renewed my deep and abiding love of M. I had wavered on whether or not I wanted to go to the show, and she pushed the envelope by texting me from the venue in the early evening and telling me to get my ass over there. We explored the area around rue de Charonne near Bastille before the show. It is essentially hipster paradise with tons of little bars and restaurants and glorious shops full of expensive things you don’t need. She had already cased the joint, so to speak, and found an adorable bar where we could try my newest obsession: Aperol Sodas.

I’ve been a longtime devotee of Campari-based cocktails. It’s such a gorgeous, interesting drink. There is nothing more aesthetically pleasing than a bottle of Campari. The graphic design is perfect. The alcohol itself makes everything look so girly, like a Shirley Temple, but it packs a pretty serious punch, especially in tandem with other hard liquor. I would say that Negronis (equal parts Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth, shaken with ice) are probably my favorite cocktail when I’m not messing around. But Campari also makes for an easy summer drink when paired with grapefruit juice, orange juice, or soda. One of my favorite memories of a summer trip to Vienna is sitting on the banks of Danube at one of those “beach” bars (I love that Europeans drag in a bunch of sand every year to simulate beach-going) with my mother, drinking Campari and orange juice and watching the sun set as our toes squirmed in the cool sand. Campari–along with nautical stripes, red lipstick, and well-made leather sandals–always makes me feel like part of a decaying Italian aristocracy. On Mad Men, Don Draper has a mid-life crisis and runs away to Palm Springs to stay with these itinerant, louche European “artists” in this spectacular mid-century mansion. As they have sex and discuss existentialism by the pool, guess what they are drinking, straight out of the bottle? Campari. Talk about pitch-perfect.

When I discovered last summer that Campari made sodas in adorable, miniature bottles, I nearly died of happiness. I wasn’t quite so jazzed to discover that a four pack of such delight costs ten dollars in Denver. Get with the program, Denver. In Europe, however, Campari soda is cheaper than Coke. I had noticed Aperol next to the Campari, but I thought that Aperol was merely a second-rate Campari knock-off. Uh, no, stupid girl. Actually both liquors are owned by the Campari company. Aperol is a lighter, sweeter herbal elixir with the distinct taste of—wait for it—rhubarb! Rhubarb is probably my favorite thing in the universe. So I’ve been on the hunt for Aperol sodas, which aren’t quite as ubiquitous as Campari sodas. The verdict from Friday night:  amazing. Sweet, effervescent, and the prettiest shade of pinky-orange you can imagine. M and I forecasted many warm evenings to come where we will sit in rue de Charonne cafes and sip Aperol soda and chat about all kinds of fallen-aristocrat topics.

Anyway, if we dwelled in that magical parallel universe where I am a tastemaker, I would tell you to stock up on some Campari or Aperol sodas for the summer. You’ll be the coolest kid on the block (that is, an imaginary block in the imaginary parallel universe where I am a tastemaker). I would also encourage you to start experimenting with Cynar, an artichoke (!) based liquor and the redheaded stepchild of the Campari family. I’ve been desperately wanting to buy a bottle, but I’m apprehensive about what I’ll make with it. I’ve heard that one can make a kind of Cynar-Negroni (substituting Cynar for Campari), but I love the citrusey kick of Campari in a Negroni and am loathe to give it up. So I’m desperately seeking suggestions from the cocktail-savvy reader. I’ll send you a sweet postcard in exchange for viable Cynar cocktail recipes. Or I’ll make you a drink (or three) if you’re a local. I feel like we already have a lot in common if you are experimenting with Cynar and happen to live in Paris.  Are you going to the Rouch/Artaud/Tarahumaras documentaries tomorrow?  Wanna date?

* * *

I haven’t been blogging with nearly the ferocity with which I began. Anyone who knows me can attest to my intensity right of the starting gate followed my lackluster enthusiasm a couple of laps into the race. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Sagittarius, what can I say? I have a list of good excuses, including a head cold, a houseguest, and an amazing documentary film festival that is only two blocks from my house. But excuses (and those individuals who make a habit of making them) suck and the last thing I want to do is abandon this silly little project. I’m so, so grateful that you are still stopping by. There are good things in the works for the month of April. I’m taking Clarence to Berlin and Brussels, so there will be lots of adjective-heavy reviews forthcoming of currywurst stands and steaming bowls of mussels. Stay tuned.

Did I mention how handsome you look today? You’re a knockout. Let’s get a Cynar-based drink. I think we’re totally ready to move to second base.


One comment

  1. The Accidental Expat

    Sorry for the late follow-up, but I just discovered your blog– boffo stuff.

    From The Rooster Bar @ Nostrana (Portland, Oregon), here’s their fab “Cynar-Cynar-Cynar” recipe which I wheedled out of them with the (true) story that I was living in Europe, they were in Oregon, and I needed a drink fix.


    1.5 ounces vodka (Rooster Bar well vodka is Monopolowa)
    3/4 ounce fresh lemon
    0.5 ounce Cynar
    Splash of simple

    Build in rocks glass, stir. Garnish with a slice of lemon.

    BONUS: A Bay Area mixologist has this tip for the “perfect” Negroni: instead of 1 part sweet vermouth, make it a half-part each of sweet -and- dry vermouth. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the difference it makes.



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