On Tuesdays and Saturdays, when I set out to go to the market, I always choose the route which goes up the hill, through the center of town, out the Rue Foch, through our Arc de Triomphe (Paris isn't the only place with one!), and then take one of several routes through the Peyrou, a kind of park with a triumphal bronze equestrian statue of Louis XIV in it. From one side of the Peyrou, you can see the Cévennes Mountains, of which this one, which I think is Pic St. Loup, is one of the closest.
And I look at the mountain and I think of how much I'd like to go there. Just take a day, get in a rented car, and drive out there. Pic St. Loup is a noted wine-growing area, and there's some real good stuff made there. Public transportation around here, though, is virtually nonexistent, so I'd have to get a car for the day. A quick glance at a couple of car rental sites says I could get a car for €70 a day.
Although, actually, it wouldn't have to be Pic St. Loup. I've got a bunch of other trips I'd like to make, and I've been accumulating them ever since I got here.
Not gonna happen, though, not for some time. There's a problem.
Just getting here was something of a miracle. I was approached by a music-biz guy who wanted his memoirs ghost-written. I quoted a price and he went for it, but instead of paying me half up front and half when we were through, he told me he'd have to pay me in six instalments. I figured that he was retired, probably on a fixed income from a trust, but he was good for the fee. So we got to work. I stopped looking for other writing jobs and concentrated on the bizarre clots of prose this guy would send, turning them back into English and keeping tabs on a lot of stuff he was leaving out or rushing past.
As I wrote at the beginning of this blog, it took me a long time to get set up. Part of it was the fact that I got here late in November and the holidays were coming on, but most of it, as you can read, was because it was France, where everything takes a long time and then doesn't work right at first. In mid-March, I was going to SXSW in Austin, and it was only a few days before my departure that I got my telephone situation straightened out. Then my desktop computer died. Fortunately, with my last payment from the ghostwriting client, I'd gotten a new laptop, since I was using one every day at the Bar Vert Anglais.
I stayed in Texas two weeks, and on my last day there, I wrote the ghostwriting client, because I'd been working heavily on his stuff before I'd left, and wanted to be sure I'd get paid my third instalment. He wrote me back, saying that his investors (who?) were out of money, and that he wasn't going to pay me for the work I'd done since January. Despite an offer of a compromise from me, he's been as good as his word on this (something I know people who've dealt with him in the past will be surprised by), and I've got a lawyer, working pro-bono, trying to help me sort this out in his spare time.
Meanwhile, all that work I didn't go looking for I'm not doing, and there's a $20,000 hole in the year's budget.
So I can't go to the mountain, and instead a mountain has come to me, and I have to climb it to survive. There's been work, and I thank those who've given it to me. There needs to be more, and I'm looking.
But it also means that everything is on hold. I have the name of a woman nearby who does French conversation. I desperately need to improve my French. This isn't going to happen. I want to travel throughout this region, learning more about it so I can pitch stories about this part of the world, but I can't even afford the tram to the Odysseum. There are a few people around town I'd like to have a meal or a drink with, but my last restaurant meal here that I paid for was the night before I flew to Texas in March. Hell, I want a straw hat for this hot weather, but that's not going to happen, either.
I'm lucky in a lot of ways: I don't have anyone depending on me for income. I seem to have an understanding landlord. I have a reputation for doing good work quickly. And I'm living in a place I genuinely enjoy. I'm a good cook, and I know how to make good food out of very little -- and I'm living somewhere where the quality of the food I buy is astounding.
None of which diminishes the mountain. When I take pictures at the market, I tell the stallholders that I'm trying to make my friends in the United States (and, although I don't say it, Berlin) jealous. Which is true. But if you find yourself jealous, do remember there's another side to the story at the moment. Not just the financial side: that would be true anywhere I was living at this point in human history, when the idea of paying for content is so very out of fashion. But I'm also struggling with a foreign language, don't have a whole lot of friends nearby, and spend a whole lot more time than I'd like to in this apartment, where I have lights I've bought that I can't afford to pay someone to mount, and stuff still in boxes that's supposed to go on bookshelves I can't afford to buy. Not to mention that I really need to see a doctor about this smell/taste thing, which comes and goes. Not tasting while living in France is sheer agony. For this I stopped smoking?
Time will take care of a lot of this, I think, but the delay is an immense frustration. When you get to my age, you want to use the time you've got. But I just tell myself, after long practice in Berlin, where a similar scenario played out in my early days, be patient, don't panic, do the work you have.
So that's my life at the moment.