20 May 2009

Across the Lake

Family day in Yvoire, one of les plus beaux villages de France. The other side of the lake.

Bye sunny Nyon.


Great shopping.



Food for the masses.



And a million pretty, happy places pour aller une promenade.








Que sera, sera.



Bye cloudy Yvoire.


13 May 2009

Why I Like France

1. It's cheaper than Switzerland.

2. The French like food.

Of course the Swiss like food, too. Very good food, in fact. It's just that the Swiss seem to think you should pay more for its nourishment and pleasures. Considerably more. Ridiculously more. For pretty much the same stuff that comes from, presumably, similar suppliers. So I drive fifteen minutes toward the Jura and do my shopping in France. Divonne-les-Bains to be exact, a popular spa town in the 19th century, though the natural springs that supply the baths were tapped by the Romans to supply water to nearby Nyon. What, the water from Lake Geneva wasn't good enough for the Romans? Snobby Romans.

These days it's a pretty if not pretty unassuming village of about 6000. There are two small grocery stores. Also unassuming. But an unassuming (and rather ugly) grocery store in France means something else entirely in most other places in the world.

The availability and abundance of regional cheeses (Tomme de Savoie, Reblochon, Comté, Raclette, Vacherin, Gruyère) and other cheeses from France (Époisses de Bourgogne, Saint-Félicien, Saint-Nectaire, Saint-Marcellin, Ossau-Iraty, Crottin de Chavignol, ad infinitum) is worth the trip alone.

And the Fun Ways to Enjoy Dairy Products sections don't end with the cheese. There is the yogurt aisle and the numerous ways to devour bacterial fermented milk including my current favorites: sheep's milk yogurt and vanilla flavored goat's milk yogurt.

Choose your own fresh eggs:

Pick your own pâté, aspic, confit, chaud-froid, and/or cured meat:

The produce section is small but very fresh. Tomatoes from France, Italy, and Spain!

Potatoes divided and bagged according to their best use: roasted, au gratin, fried, boiled, sautéed, or mashed:

Fresh fish from mostly the Mediterranean, North Atlantic, and regional lakes and rivers:

The ever-present and ever-frequented wine section, mostly French:

The nice thing about small store wine selections--besides small store prices--is the availability of wines from appellations rarely exported outside the country. Wines from places like Rully, Touraine, Rasteau, Coteaux du Tricastin, Crémant de Die, as well as regional wines from the Savoie (Apremont, Chignin, Crépy, etc) are often more traditional in character and winemaking techniques and are less affected by the current and reigning market trends for powerful, alcoholic, and over-oaked examples.

Of course you couldn't have a respectable wine selection in France, small or large, without a few of the overpriced and overrated: '99 Mouton and '87 d'Yquem at discount prices!

All this and a nice reading area for easily bored kids to take refuge from their easily obsessed parents who spend entirely too much time scouring the wine and cheese sections for hidden and unknown treasures:


Strange but true, I return to Switzerland for bread. Baguettes are great and everything but they don't last long and they're hard to fit in a bread box. A stop in Nyon--five minutes from the house--and a day's entertainment is complete.

Except for lunch: the World's Greatest Grilled Cheese Sandwich made from Comté cheese and Pain Moûtiers de Tarentaise. After that I usually have a couple hours to decide on dinner. Last night: pan-fired skate with a sauce of browned butter, shallots, capers, yellow peppers, and red wine vinegar; green salad; fresh ripened sheep's milk cheese (two kinds); and a Swiss Marsanne from the Valais. No, no dessert.

11 May 2009

Everybody Here Is a Cloud

Mother's Day moody madness in Montreux, 2009.

And everybody here is a cloud
And everybody here will evaporate
You came up off the ground
From a million little pieces, have you found where your place is?

You gotta do what you gotta do. Even if that means turn right back around and go home. Little people grow up pretty fast. At least they like to think so; big people think differently. It's often safer at home anyway. And the clouds will follow you there.


Tranquilo, mi niño. Tranquilo. Días mejores están por venir.

01 May 2009


A gift of Spring. This must have come to me in a dream though I can't seem to pinpoint it even that specifically. All I know is at some point between last night and the first thing this morning I felt I had to listen to this album and then felt I had to share it. So here it is, in all its glory, for a limited time only, the complete Forever Changes by Love.

Why this? Why now? Because Forever Changes is a Springtime album. Maybe the Springtime album. Though released in November, the recording began in June of 1967. Spring. In the album, there are plenty of the markers of Spring: fluffy bunnies, bright tulips, the green grass of 1967 America. Flower Power. Los Angeles. Lovely, romantic melodies. Baroque pop.

Forever Changes is also the Spring of giant thunderclouds creeping over the mountains that will soon--maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon enough--blot out the blinding sunlight and wash the parade away. There is a discomfort in the album. Some fear. Paranoia. And plenty of uncertainty. Yass, yass, it's a beautiful day. But what if?

Forever Changes is a good reminder. It's Love in the Time of the Swine Flu, kind of thing. It's an "alternative interrogation method." A warning of ongoing hoaxes being played on America. A solitary flower pushing its way through concrete. It's the Good Humor Man and merry-go-rounds. Hummingbirds and la da da, da da da da. Two wars (at least) and bankruptcy. And the streets are paved with gold and if someone asks you, you can call my name.

I won't say much more about the album, it's well-documented (Allmusic, Wikipedia, random websites, and more random websites). I will say that it should be owned and turned over, year after year, like soil in a garden, after a long, cold winter. Listen to it then go buy it and listen to it again. At home. In the dark of night and again in the light of morning.

I post the album--again, for a brief time only--not to give away music, though I am, but to spread the good word of Love. Everybody should be listening to this album right about now and maybe if we did something just might change. Maybe if Arthur and Bryan and Don and Ken (and who knows who else) weren't dead already (RIP, guys) I'd think twice about doing it. But, in my little mind, not enough people are out there promoting what is good and right in this world of ours and by all accounts Forever Changes is nothing if not good and right.

The Love documentary Love Story is almost as heartbreaking as the album and worth tracking down. Here is the promo:

Oh, the snot has caked against my pants
It has turned into crystal
There’s a bluebird sitting on a branch
I guess I’ll take my pistol
I’ve got it in my hand
Because he’s on my land

And so the story ended
Do you know it oh so well
Well should you need I’ll tell you
The end end end end end end-end-end

Yes I’ve seen you sitting on the couch
I recognize your artillery
I have seen you many times before
Once when I was an Indian
And I was on my land
Why can’t you understand

Served my time
Served it well
You made my soul a cell

Write the rules
In the sky
But ask your leaders
Why? Why?