holidays

Mr. Bill and I celebrate 20 years of marriage… Part five

When we woke up in Ribeauville on Saturday, November 19th, I looked at Facebook to see if there were any announcements about James Taylor’s show. I didn’t see any emails from the ticketing venue, or on James’s social media. That meant we’d be going home a day early.

I was a little sad to be going, since I really had wanted to go to Riquewihr at least once, if only to get macaroons. Bill didn’t want to go to Riquewihr, because it was in the opposite direction of home, even if it was just two miles. He said he’d go look for the macaroons in Ribeauville. So he went out, picked up more croissants, and FAILED to find the cookies I wanted. Instead, he bought three bags of other cookies.

Maybe I should be ashamed for feeling this way, but I was a little disappointed. What he brought back were not what I wanted. Then it occurred to me that I could probably order the macaroons, which is precisely what I did (they arrived this morning). So I got over my disappointment, and we started packing up to go home. As I was walking the dogs to the car, my hands full of whatever else I could carry, a French woman approached me, speaking rapid fire. I said in English, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French.”

She nodded and smiled, then backed away. I soon realized what she wanted. It was mid morning and the parking lot was already pretty full. She wanted our parking spot. I saw her lurking in the lot, just waiting for us to move. I always hate it when people do this, even though I understand why they do it. I wasn’t the one driving, and we weren’t quite ready to leave. She finally gave up at some point, after Bill had done a sweep of the Riesling gite, and came back to the car. By then, there were a couple more lurkers, just waiting…

It was probably a half hour later when we were on our way home, after a quick stop at the Daniel Stoffel Chocolatier outlet on the way out of town. Bill went in and picked up some goodies for us, and his daughter’s family.

Our drive home was almost totally uneventful. Arran went to sleep, and Noyzi was a perfect gentleman in the back. Maybe we have finally broken him of his habit of barking in the car. The only strange thing that happened was that, as usual, I witnessed public urination at a rest stop. I vented about that here. Below are a few shots from the drive home. As you can see, Arran was relaxed.

When we got home, our landlord came over to tell us our off kilter dishwasher, which had come off its foundation, wasn’t fixed yet, because the repair guy needed a part. Yesterday, he said the repair guy was sick, but would be able to fix the machine when he was well again. He said we should just be careful using the machine. When I told him we hadn’t been using it, because the dishwasher had given me an error code last time I ran a load, he said if the repair guy couldn’t figure it out, he’d just get us a new one. I am still stunned by how different he is, compared to our former landlady. They are like night and day!

I did the requisite load of laundry and a few other chores, then we got ready for the show in Frankfurt. We had to pick up our tickets at the box office, I guess to thwart scalpers. I pictured a long line of people, but when we arrived at the Jahrhunderthalle, we were pleasantly surprised by the ease of parking, the short distance to the venue, and the short line to get our tickets. Then we enjoyed some libations while we waited for the doors to open.

James Taylor had a stripped down band for this show. There was no keyboard player, and no opening act. We had second row seats, which was a first for me. I saw my first James Taylor concert in 1990. In fact, that show, when I was almost 18, was my very first “rock” show– if you could call it that. I remember I went with my parents and one of my sisters, and I paid $18.50 for nosebleed seats.

For this show, I paid 82,50 euros which I thought was very reasonable to see a guy who has won 6 Grammys and spent more than 50 years enchanting people all over the world with his wonderful guitar playing and angelic voice. While we waited for the show to start, I noticed the music that was playing. I recognized songs from albums by James’s daughter, Sally, as well as backup singers Kate Markowitz and Andrea Zonn. I downloaded Kate’s album from the concert hall. I already had Andrea’s.

This was the fourth time I’d seen James Taylor play, but there was a difference between this show and the others. For one thing, there weren’t drunken, idiot women standing in front of us, dancing and shrieking the whole time. There were no huge screens showing close ups of James and his band. And while he forgot a few words, he still played and sang beautifully. I was charmed by his efforts to speak German to the crowd, as well as the encouraging message he had for anyone “in recovery” from drug and alcohol addiction, as he has been since the mid 80s.

James told us some of the stories behind some of the songs he performed, including “That’s Why I’m Here”, from his 1985 album by the same name. I remember that he had dedicated that album to Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Imagine going to an A.A. meeting and seeing James Taylor there! But anyway, “That’s Why I’m Here” was a song he wrote in memory of his friend John Belushi, who died of an overdose in 1982. James was a pretty serious addict back in the day. He’s still addicted, of course, but no longer indulges. Before he started singing, he said, “If you like getting fucked up, that’s okay. I just can’t handle it myself anymore!” Everybody laughed.

At the beginning of the evening, I thought James looked a little pale, perhaps because he’d had COVID. But as the show went on, he was more and more animated, at times jumping around the stage. I enjoyed watching him interact with his band, most of whom had been with him for many years. Dorian Holley was the only one on stage I had not seen with James before. I suspect he’s the replacement for Arnold McCuller, James’s longtime backup singer who just retired from life on the road. I enjoyed Dorian’s singing. He has quite an impressive resume. James listed the people Holley’s sung with, which includes the late Michael Jackson. That actually surprised me, because he didn’t look old enough to be one of Jackson’s backup singers… but then, Michael was well known for enjoying and employing young performers for his shows.

James’s long time guitarist, Michael Landau, was well within view of us on the right side of the stage. He stood up and flexed his legs, I smiled at him, and he smiled back. That was kind of a cool moment. One thing I love about European concerts is that I seem to have a much easier time scoring good seats here. Another thing I love about European shows is that most people don’t act stupid at them… at least not at the shows Bill and I attend. And you can get a beer or a glass of wine without mortgaging your house.

At one point, James was introducing a song from his 1971 album, Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon. A man in the audience held up a vinyl copy, which James immediately offered to sign and bite. The guy rushed up to the stage with his album and presented it to James, but then they needed to find a pen. Another guy came up and said he had something that had been signed by a bunch of famous singers, including Johnny Cash. He requested an autograph, which James was happy to oblige. In fact, at the break, I ran out to go to the restroom, and when I came back, James was still on stage, signing autographs and shaking hands. I was very impressed. I wondered if he needed to pee as badly as I did! It struck me as a very humble and generous gesture toward his loyal fans.

I decided not to try to get an autograph myself. I would be honored to have James’s signature, of course, but autographs don’t really mean that much to me. Earlier in the show, someone yelled out that his dad loved James. James made a comment reminiscent of what he said on his Live album from 1993. Basically, he reminded the guy that they don’t know each other. It made me think how strange it must be for performers to be “loved” by people who don’t know them. James himself reminded us that he is a deeply flawed person, as we all are… but what impresses me about James Taylor is that he’s clearly worked very hard to become much better. He’s clearly not the same person he was in the 70s or early 80s.

At the end of the show, of course there were encores… and James and his band encouraged people to get up and come close to the stage. It was one of the most intimate concert experiences I’ve ever had. I think the only one who topped that was James’s somewhat less famous brother, Livingston, who puts on a FABULOUS live show and is extremely approachable. I remember seeing Liv in 2003 at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, a couple of months after I saw James at Wolf Trap in Bristow, Virginia. James’s show was MUCH bigger than Liv’s was, and we had those drunk women in front of us, careening around sloppily as they slurred the lyrics of James’s best songs. I remember thinking Livingston’s show was so much better, if only because there weren’t any obnoxious drunks there. But Liv also engaged the audience and was thoroughly entertaining. This most recent show by James, while slightly pared down, was akin to Liv’s show, only it was in a much larger, yet still intimate, venue.

In any case, we obviously had a wonderful time! I’m so glad we went. It was the perfect ending to our 20th anniversary weekend. And yes, even though James will be 75 years old in March, he’s still a hell of a great performer. I think the money we spent on this show, even with its delays, was well worth euro cent.

Dorian and Kate dance!

Getting out of the Jahrhunderthalle was very easy. Bill was happy about that. But then we hit a Stau, so Bill went through Hofheim to get us home. And when we got home, we were confronted by a big mess caused by Arran. He got into the basement and raided our dry goods, and peed and pooped on my rug. Fortunately, he was no worse for wear. We have thoroughly dog proofed down there, as we’re going to someone’s house for Thanksgiving dinner today. Noyzi had nothing to do with the raid. He was tucked in bed when we got home. He’s very classy for a street dog.

Well, that about does it for this series. It wasn’t a super exciting trip, but we had a good time… and it was great to have Arran and Noyzi with us. I’m so grateful to be here on many levels, and for so many reasons. I’m glad James Taylor is still with us, too. And before I forget, below are a couple of clips from the show.

The magical ending.
Auf Wiedersehen…
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Parker goes to France, part three…

Sunday is kind of a rough day to be in some parts of Europe, especially in January. January and February are very much the “off season” in Alsace, so a lot of places are closed. I’m actually kind of glad to be in Alsace in the winter. Yes, a lot of shops and restaurants are closed, but there are no crowds whatsoever and you get a feel for the place as a local might. Bill and I visited Ribeauville for the first time over MLK (Martin Luther King Jr. weekend) weekend in January 2017. I remember how it was then… and then we came back in February of that year. We had meant to bring Parker with us that time, but she was unable to visit because of an unexpected injury. It was interesting to see that some of the places that were closed in January were open again in February, and places that were closed in February were open in January. Anyway, in 2020, it was no different than it was in 2017, although I did notice that a couple of businesses had either closed altogether or changed hands.

Sunday morning, we decided to go to Riquewihr, since it’s super close to Ribeauville and quite touristy. I knew we’d find a few things open and maybe score a nice lunch. As it turned out, we did have a nice meal at La Grappe D’Or, a restaurant I had been wanting to try on previous visits, but we never got around to it due to the dogs. I see from Trip Advisor that this establishment gets mixed reviews. We had a really nice meal there, and I got a kick of all the Michelin bric-a-brac decor.

Here are some photos from lunch…

The family who sat at the table next to us brought a cute little French bulldog in with them. She only got a little bit agitated when someone walked past with an active looking retriever. I really enjoyed La Grappe D’Or. We’ll have to go back there, if we make it back to Riquewihr. We probably will, but you never know what the future holds.

Here are some more photos from our walk around town. Riquewihr was still decked out for Christmas and I was imagining how pretty it is there during the holidays, even if the snow was absent this year.

After a couple of chilly hours walking around Riquewihr, which wasn’t totally dead, but was a lot less populated than usual, we headed back to the gite. We were all pretty tired, and the cloudy weather kind of made us want to hibernate with some wine. Luckily, that’s easy enough to do in Ribeauville, too. I remember the first time we visited Riquewihr, I was really surprised by how beautiful it is. Every time I go back, I am surprised anew. It really is a unique village that, unfortunately, way too many visitors to France miss. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to visit several times. It never gets old.

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advice, anecdotes, Germany, restaurant reviews

A crappy day in Germany…

I have had one hell of a crappy day.  What really sucks about my crappy day is that I was looking forward to the weekend, hoping to have some fun.  My husband, Bill, has been gone to Chad all week and I’ve been by myself, hanging out in our rented home with my two sweet but occasionally irritating hounds.  I really need to get a life and make some friends.

Last week, I was sick with a cold and I’ve been dealing with what I think is a very weird gum abscess.  It doesn’t hurt, but it’s worrisome and annoying and has caused a little swelling and bleeding.  I need to have it looked at, but we don’t have dental insurance yet… it doesn’t kick in until January 1.  Add in the fact that I am very neurotic when it comes to my teeth.  I have two baby teeth that may be about to give up the ghost.  I expected them to– they are 42 years old and have served me pretty well.  They seem to be rooted well, too.  But the idea of possibly needing an extraction or two and the expense, trauma, and pain associated with that does nothing for my mood.  And once those teeth come out, it’s time for implants.  What fun.

I got a visit from Aunt Flow a couple of days ago, which is always fun.  It’s even more fun when your plumbing is on the fritz.  This morning, I went downstairs to do my laundry and there was a bunch of standing grey water in my new washing machine.  I immediately assumed something was wrong with the machine.  My husband bailed the water out, then went to take a shower.  While he was showering, the drum in the washing machine filled with more water.  That tells me there’s a blockage of some sort in the house.

So we called the landlords and they came over to help us.  There’s water all over the floor.  My dogs are going crazy.  I’m feeling neurotic about my teeth and I’m on the rag.  We finally got the washing machine going to the point at which we got the laundry done, but it wasn’t without a big mess and inconvenience.  The homeowners will call a plumber on Monday because there’s a leak in the pipe and the drain probably needs snaking.

I’m still feeling very cranky and grouchy…  the mail carrier comes by.  She looks a lot like my mom.  She has a package for me, a star I bought for our big Christmas tree because the one I have on it is a 110 lighted one from Target.  I’ve been waiting awhile for this thing to arrive.  It didn’t cost much.  Looking at the address on the envelope, I see why it’s taken so long to get to me.  The star came all the way from Hong Kong.

I open the package and this is what I see…

This thing is even more disappointing in person than it is in the photo.

 

It’s made of cheap plastic and there’s no way to stick it on the tree.  It’s sloppily and incompletely covered with glitter.  And it’s just a sucky product.

 

I showed it to Bill and he said, “It’s like the equivalent of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree.”  He asked me if I wanted to put it on our other tree (we have two because the first time we were in Germany, I forgot to pack our tree and got another one that is small).

I said “No, we can just put it somewhere and make fun of it.”  That comment made him laugh.

So, in review, I’ve got residual snot from a cold to get rid of.  I’m on the rag.  The plumbing is messed up.  The washing machine may also be messed up, though we did at least get the thing going enough so we have some clean underwear.  I have dental problems and no insurance until January 1… and I’m not in enough discomfort to go to the dentist and pay entirely out of pocket.  At the very least, I suspect I need some antibiotics and knowing that, I keep checking my teeth and gums for signs that I need to get to a doctor urgently.  That has made the side of my face sore because I have to contort my lips in order to see and I’ve done it enough times to cause muscle fatigue.  I wanted to have some fun this weekend, but it looks like that’s not in the cards.  I can’t take a shower because of the plumbing.  And I’ve been listening to my dogs bark all day.

Stuff is just piling up.  I know these are minor first world problems, but they are still very irritating and have spoiled my mood.

Last night, we visited The Mad Scientist for dinner and ran up a respectable bill.  I had my usual stuff for dinner, but finished up with my very first taste of Metaxa, which is a Greek brandy.  It sort of tasted like brandy mixed with sherry.  It tasted good and no doubt made our Mad Scientist friend happy that I ordered it.

Metaxa in the glass…

Metaxa in the colorful bottle…

 

I need to have some fun soon.  At least I’m not in any pain, though.  On a positive note, Bill did bring home some macaroons from Paris.

These are yummy!

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