I dreamt, or was it real, that there was a violent storm outside. Lightning, thunder, and branches and cows flying past the windows.
Just like I’m not sure that this really happened: we were in an employment agency in rural France, being interviewed by a black-haired young lady in black shorts, tights and high-heeled boots. The place was called Pole Emploi, and we were trying to find out how we could declare ourselves as musicians. She was sifting through sixty years of songs and albums, two artist’s lives, and shaking her head because a lot of it happened and continues to happen somewhere else, not in France, not even in Europe. She didn’t have any information about what we could do, anyway, but would put us in touch with someone who did, if she could find them. Then she showed me an ad for an orchestra in the Languedoc who were looking for a saxophone player. I told her I’d go home, learn to play the sax, and give them a call tomorrow.
And maybe I dreamt that I found myself wishing we were somewhere else. I was looking at a website about this elite in France, the people who have status as working musicians, and how they have a right to salaries, even for when they’re not working – but the government gets to tell you how many hours you have to work a year, and where. But if you adhere to the rules, well you do benefit.
And then I was driving in a car, listening to the new Charlotte Gainsbourg album, thinking how much I wanted to like it because she’s got to be one of the most charming people in the whole world, but how she’s an actress after all and therefore can only be as good as the people she works with. At first listen it left me cold but “Time Is The Assassin” was starting to work on me – something to do with the strings.
Then, I’m not sure, but I think I was in a nearly full cinema on a Wednesday afternoon and there was a film about Serge Gainsbourg and how he had this weird papier mache-headed alter ego telling him how to be the artist he became, as if he wasn’t capable of doing it on his own because everything’s set up to reinforce the idea that you should toe the line, and it takes some evil, unruly spirit to help you break free from that, either that or a woman. Because all of a sudden it was women telling him what to do. Like Brigitte Bardot saying, “Serge, I need you to write me a love song, zee best love song in zee whole world!” and you just knew it would be “Je T’Aime” only the projector started shaking, they turned on the lights and said it would be a little while. Which gave me the perfect opportunity to leave.
There was a policeman sitting in his car right outside, staring at me, and I felt so conspicuous leaving like that. Maybe he was sent by the state to keep people from leaving the theatre before the movie ended? The film had the effect that movies about writers and musicians often do – they make me realize that it is very hard to show the act of creating, at the same time they make me want to make something myself. Sort of like when I used to be in a TJ Maxx and hear Enya or Meredith Brooks or Colbie Caillat or Shakira playing (that buzzing pop music that always plays in those places) and think “Why am I shopping, I want to go home and write something so that someone like me might be shopping and hear my song and think ‘Why am I shopping, I want to go home and write something’. And on and on…
As I turned the car around and went out the back way to avoid having to pass the gendarme, I saw another Pole Emploi office. I don’t think hot pants girl was in there but possibly someone even less helpful.
And I turned Charlotte’s album back on, and remembered that Charlotte was Serge’s daughter and what a shame I hadn’t stayed to the part in the film where she was born, how that would have really brought it all full circle.
On to the supermarket where, in the wine aisle, I spotted the one bottle of Italian wine in the whole store, a Chianti. I realized I needed a change, some variety. As you do. So I went for the Italian.
I know that part was real, because I just put the empty bottle in the recycling.