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Connubial Bliss

(Disclaimer: you get only one side of the story)
(Question: What is it, Connubial Bliss is roughly twice as popular as any other page. Something about human nature?)


W.A. Bourguerau: Virgil and Dante in hell (1850)

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The Golden Century (or: "You are from Mars")

(December 2, 2014) The Golden Century is an all-you-can-eat Oriental Restaurant located right next to the landing strip of the Cannes-Mandelieu airfield. If there's any magic to proximity, and if there's any proximity to Hollywood, it’s here. From Brad Pitt to George Clooney to Benedict Cumberbatch, they’ve all been dozens of time inside a two hundred yard radius centered upon the main buffet of the Golden Century. This is the spot where private-jet celebrities touch down on their way to the Festival de Cannes.



Act I. I had been there once, by sheer coincidence, a few minutes before the place opened for the first time at 7 PM on a nondescript weekday. The doors were already unlocked, I entered unsuspectingly. The place was empty, except for a few nervous waiters and an interior design so intense in its lacquered combination of Formica wood and red lanterns that I fainted.

The main buffet of the Golden Century

Act II. It takes only a few weeks and the place is the talk of the town (towns would be Cannes (67.000 inhabitants, Mandelieu, 37.000 inhabitants, and exurbs, such as us in Le Trayas (rhymes)). Patient queues of local hungry-men form at impossible hours and extend for miles in all directions. It’s a sight so disorienting for the pilots of private jets that general aviation is redirected elsewhere. Talent can no longer touch down, the Cannes Film Festival folds (you think I’m joking).

Act III. We have to do something nice with Claudie, our cleaning lady. Chang suggest we take her out for lunch. Sure, good idea. How about the buffet restaurant next to the air field? NO, I say, it’s bad for my health. “You are from Mars, Michael.” NO. “Claudie loves Chinese food.” NO. “She told me.” NO. “She wants to go there.” NO. “Do something, Michael.” NO. “Do something for us. NO. “You are from Mars.” NO. This goes on for weeks.

Intermezzo.  Chang has one weak moment once per week, and during that moment he suggests that we need not go to the Chinese buffet. Michael suggests the Italian Café on the beach off the Cannes old harbor. Claudie is called and invited for lunch, at the Italian Café, on Tuesday.

Act IV. Tuesday morning. Michael has returned from a morning clean-up of the swimming pool. Heavy rains have polluted the pool water and necessitated emergency intervention. Michael is exhausted. Time to strike. “Will you listen to me?” Chang asks.
“Yes.”
“Why don’t you do once what I want? Claudie loves Chinese food.”
“Okay,” I say. “Why don’t we ask her. We’ll pick her up anyway. We ask her.”
“You are from Mars.”

Act V.

Chang, Claudie at the Golden Century; picture taken by Michael



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"Once you lose your sexual attractiveness"

(Sept 18, 2014) Michael is sitting on the connubial bed. There are swearwords coming from the hallway, "fuck," "fuck," which lack the introspective quality of swearwords not meant for Michael. And yes, Chang appears in the bedroom doom and starts explaining that the light was left on in the walk-in closet (energy, future generations...) Then Chang interrupts himself. He takes note of a Dunoon coffee cup parked on the sheets in the middle of the bed.

He explodes. This is practically one of the many worst offenses Michael can commit---think of potential coffee stains on the sheets.


"This is not your day," Michael answers.

Chang explodes again.

"This is not your day," Michael repeats.

"If I were you I'd watch out," Chang answers. "Once you'll lose your sexual attractiveness, you'll have a hard time with me."

Dunoon coffee mug, On the coast-series  


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Rye bread


(July 4, 2014) Chang is having breakfast at the Swiss-chalet dining table. I sit down to sketch a simple blue-print of the chalet for our landlord in France, who needs it urgently. Chang starts to crunch on his slices of Swiss rye bread ("crunch, crunch"). I need to concentrate, move away to my desk. 

"Immediately angry," Chang says, "immediately angry."
(I say nothing.)
"Immediately angry."
"No, I'm not. Why should I."
"Because of the noise I make."
"No, I'm not, I just have to concentrate. Is all."
"Immediately angry."
"No, I'm not."
"Immediately angry."
"Please Chang, please, I tell you, I am not angry."
"Immediately angry."
"I'm not. If I tell you. I am not. Please accept that information."
"Immediately angry."

(and so on)



 _______________


You bought a newspaper yesterday

(April 24, 2014) We're walking homeward along 24th Street in the Mission District of San Francisco. There are several book shops on this segment of the street between Mission and Potrero (amazing), and the first one, Alley Cat, is coming up. I'll buy the New York Times, I say. You've bought a newspaper yesterday, he says, you don't need one today. (We don't buy a newspaper)



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Camp Meeker (Karen's cabin)

(April 6, 2014)
Chang

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Telegraph Road


(Friday, March 21, 2014) We're in San Francisco now, which means that the first thing in the morning would be a trip to Telegraph Road, Oakland, CA, where Morning Glory is located, the KP-Asian Supermarket, where they sell Korean food.

The Korean supermarket on Telegraph Avenue
Oakland---you will possibly agree with us---has---or at least had---a notoriously bad reputation---because bad reputations are always notorious---especially next to San Francisco, the reputation---and now we know why.

What we didn't know at that point---or, more precisely, didn't remember---Michael Chabon's latest novel is set on Telegraph Road there---or Avenue---something about a record store and race etc.


Michael Chabon

And then we had a little connubial bliss with Chang---in the afternoon---who abruptly changed directions during a walk through the Mission District after a very brief verbal exchange (the bliss), and departed in the other direction, yelling a departing "f@@k you,  f@@k you," at us, so we went to the Castro district to find a new lover, and went into a bookstore to buy a new York Times, and the Staff's Choice of Book was Michael Chabon's new novel, and since Chabon is one of the new American authors we in fact did read---quite extensively by our standards---we picked up his new book and re-discovered---we had read a review---that it was set on Telegraph Avenue, whence the title of the book---spoiler alert---Telegraph Avenue. We feel---spoiler alert---part of new literary history now. Not yet Chang though, because I didn't tell him yet; we have, however---spoiler alert---reconciled.

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Tweet

(Third week of January, 2014) Chang is very busy, because he's now on Twitter. Where he has joined the ranks of the Korean Radical Right Wing (KRRW). On the second day he has already 20 followers, and whenever a new tweet arrives (this, I presume, is from people he is following, there's a certain level of reciprocity) his Samsung tablet booms. It makes a deep, engaging noise. The third day he has 100 followers. What do they do, I ask, the KRRW. They are fighting the KRLW people. Yes, that would be the Korean Radical Left Wing. Something to do with the Public Sector Unions, and with North Korea. The KRLW are in favor of North Korea. The fourth day he has 200 followers and is aiming higher. Three days ago we are witnessing a historic moment, a bit like New Year. Fireworks go off prematurely, he's at 499 followers and there's another boom of his Samsung tablet, and he's at 500. Followers. When I ask next time he's at 510, no, let's check, at 511 followers. The Samsung tablet booms all the time now. He's already saved one life, some fellow KRRW so desperate (because that's what radicals are, they are desperate about something) that he was about to commit suicide, the guy. Chang somehow tweeted the guy out of this. I asked him to put the booming Samsung table into the other room, because it works on my nerves and I'm jealous. There's only one consolation, a glitch in the political spectrum, a kink in the cable. The worst enemy of the KRRW is the JRRW. That would be the Japanese Radical Right Wing. Shouldn't you be friends with the JRRW, I ask? No, because the JRRW is visiting this shrine, where the Japanese war criminals are laid to rest, and they want to repossess a rock in the middle of the Korean Sea, and call the Korean Sea the Japanese Sea. But the JRRW will win, because Congress, the American Congress, just passed a law asking the Japanese officially to apologize officially for their war crimes. Obama signed it. The tablet is booming again. How many followers you have now, I ask as we speak. 520. Slowing down a bit, your accretion of followers, I observe. He doesn't answer, is busy tweeting. The tablet is booming again.  

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"Your body also belongs to me!"

(October 19, 2013) I’m lying on the bed, unexplainably exhausted around 5 PM, nursing my second effervescent Aspirin (330 mg, 120 mg of vitamin C), and Chang’s shadow darkens the door. He halts his steps, and his eyes travel to the bedside table where ca. 60,000 mg of Snack gout Cacahuète Dia are sitting quietly in a porcelain bowl. He sidles around the bed, pincers the rim of said bowl with thumb and index finger, lifts it, and takes it away. He returns. “No wonder that you are always not feeling well,” he says (note the universal quantification), “all that junk food. Think about it: your body also belongs to me.” 

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"We must get the SAMSUNG 40ES6100 TV LED 3D."

(Anytime) Michael is sitting on the bed next to Chang who's studying the latest Samsung TV-screen commercial on his laptop, about the SAMSUNG 40ES6100 TV LED 3D. And it's great, this screen, its display, the brilliance, sharpness, vibrancy, so many parameters to marvel at, the best image ever. You can see it, can't you? We must buy the new Samsung screen now, it's better than anything before. "Better than your laptop?" jaded Michael is about to ask, and because this is him, he actually does (ask): "Better than your laptop?" "Of course." And because Michael carries traces of of irrepressible school-mastery pedantry in his DNA he continues the conversation with "How is it possible that your laptop screen is able to shows an image quality exceeding its own image quality," to which Chang (still sitting on the bed next to Michael) will reply "Shut up!" or "You always do this to me," or "This is also a Samsung."

_______________ 


"This is so you --- you could have invented these stripes."

(Monday, March 18, 2013) By sheer serendipity we find ourselves climbing the road hugging Mount Halla, Korea's highest mountain at 1,900 meters, a somewhat listless volcano that hasn't harmed anybody in quite some time and defines Jeju Island in a sort of materialistic way, almost vulgar-marxistically so --- Jeju wouldn't be there without the volcano, Jeju in fact is the volcano in geological terms --- so we climb road 1139 and have already reached an altitude of 1,000 m when Michael has the idea that Chang could get carsick on this sinuous path across the high altitude forest, and we U-turn and descend again. Mentioning car-sickness wasn't perhaps the best idea, Chang is starting to think about his stomach and the stomach thinks back and new, or slightly altered, thoughts feel provoked by each turn.

Mount Halla
Anyhow, the worst is over when we hit a stretch of road marked by red cross-stripes. They are well-done, these stripes, each marking is slightly raised, creating a bump per mark and accentuating our downward glide in this floating American-suspended car in unmistakable ways. They are warning us of impending danger. We wonder which danger we're facing, no stripes mark the upward leg of the road. We cross perhaps 5-10 marks per second, thus reverberating downward in three-dimensional alert space, visual (red stripes), proprioceptive (the position of our limbs) and auricular (vibratory humming). This goes on for a while. After two kilometers or so you would assume we've been warned enough but the stripes won't go away, one stripe following the next with unrelenting stamina, stripe for stripe for stripe in the way of countable numbers. Ever tried to count to 100,000?

"You could have invented these stripes," Michael finally says to Chang.

It takes Chang a little while to get it, but then he says: "No."
"This is so you," --- Michael.
"No," --- Chang.
"The more time I spend in Korea, the more I understand you," --- Michael.
"No," --- Chang.
"This is so Korean," --- Michael.
"What do you know of Korea?" --- Chang.
"The relentlessness of these stripes, their uncompromising, irresistible determination to prevail through sheer repetition," --- Michael.
"This is unfair," --- Chang.
"Why?" --- Michael.
"You spring this at me, unexpectedly, without warning, this is unfair."

Now we enter a repetitive cycle, rotating from "why" to "unfair" to "why" and so on. The stripes continue, we continue.

Finally the stripes relent. No more stripes. No more warnings. "See," Chang says, "I was right."

You wonder about pictures, right? Well, we went back and took pictures today:

up...

...and up...

...and up...

...and up...
...and down.
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"I wish I were you; always mañana"

(Tuesday, March 5, 2013)

ACT I: Michael is sort of sick, he has a cold that doesn't go away, and he needs to be better by Saturday when we fly off to Korea. So Chang rules that Michael "must stay in bed," this morning, "and not go for a walk," and the planned excursion to the tax man needs to be postponed as well; attempts to call the tax man (ie. the French Government) founder on a recorded message indicating that the phone number quoted on all tax-men-letter-heads has been disconnected (lateral damage of the Italianate elections perhaps, the border not even 100 klicks away?). So Michael stays in bed and does research for part II of the Green Eyes, an envisioned potpourri of Undead, Rapture, X-factor, gay sex, Romeo & Juliette, you name it. So Michael has surfed a bit on the laptop and is reading the look-inside-pages of Daniel Radish's book Rapture Ready on Amazon.
ACT II: Chang is sort of busy, and when he is, he's getting agitated --- ca. 30 minutes into the process --- about his solitude at the helm of action (terrible sentence, try to read it again). To put it differently, some internal psychic pressure is building up ("in his brain," Chang would say), telling him that he's the only one who's heeding the calls of discipline & order & life while bohemian Michael, on the other side of the great divide, is floating in entropy & self-satisfaction & general idleness.
ACT III: Chang enters the bedroom and alerts Michael to the cleaning lady's arrival tomorrow morning and the impending necessity of clearing his (Michael's) desk of "little note paper" debris (somehow related to part I of the hated Green Eyes). Michael replies that he had been asked to stay in bed. That was a long time ago, this morning. Now Michael has to act and "to do something now." Michael obliges in the sense that he promises "to do something today" --- not a promise that Chang will find very convincing (as we all know). 
ACT IV: The evil spirit of provocation stirs in Michael who asks Chang to prepare a "cup of tea" for the cold-stricken patient.
ACT V: Chang explodes.
ACT VI: (this is not a classical drama, whence the additional act): Four minutes later, Chang reappears with a cup which is deposited on Michael's bedside table. A cup of tea. Michael eyebrows signal surprise, his inner dialogue (wisely kept private) triumphs ("I knew it, I knew it"), Chang saying: "I wish I were you; always mañana."

The cup of tea on Michael's bedside table
PS: Chang even prepared a second cup of tea later.

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"Why don't you write...."

This is Michael, having a great time, drinking with Sacha, while Chang is working his ass off in the garden, sweating like hell... 


(Sunday, March 3, 2013) Chang and me, sitting next to each other on his bed, Chang looking at the screen of my laptop with the last blogpost (picture above, showing me and Sacha, the model for the Jack Horn of the Green Eyes, the picture taken this afternoon in Sacha's garden), Chang saying to me: "Why don't you write: 'this is you, having a great time, drinking, while Chang is working his ass off in the garden, sweating like hell...' "  

PS: Showing this entry to Chang, Chang saying: "You know, when I die early, you will really regret...You are from Mars...Somebody spending 6 hours painting while you are drinking...
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Première Saveur Fines Herbes

(Saturday, March 2, 2013) Chang returns from shopping. I help him with the shopping bags. He alerts me to a small bottle of première Saveur Fines Herbes of French condiment provider Ducros. For Korea. We'll take the herbs to Korea (where we are going to spend the next two month (we've rented our house here to a Finish couple, have to stay somewhere else)). We'll take the herbs to Korea so we won't run out of herbs in Korea.

"You think this is really necessary?" asks Michael.
"Yes."
"Don't you think they have herbs in Korea."
Yes, they do (they have everything in Korea, in particular Samsung).  
"It's a glass bottle, it could break."
"Yes."

This goes on for a little while, then your's truly has a really bad idea. Says he:"I don't want to hurt your feelings, you shouldn't get angry."

Yes, this was all I said ('you shouldn't get angry').

"Why are you getting angry?" Chang replies, voice raised.
"I'm not getting angry."
"You always do this to me..."  voice raised more, signaling anger.
"I'm not getting angry. You are getting angry."
"You always do this to me, you always do this to me..." further increase in voice-pitch and voice intensity.


This goes on for a little while in a process that the inventor of the word "escalation," (his name eludes me at the moment, a pre-Kissinger figure who also invented Think Tanks, more or less) that the inventor of the word escalation couldn't help but qualify as escalation.

Then your's truly has a really good idea. Says he: "Shall I make a sandwich for you?"

A short grubby silence, followed by: "Yes."
 
Sandwich isn't really the term here, perhaps "du pain beurré" would be a better signifier. 
"Darling," Chang continues, "..."

Oh, he's so sweet.

Bread, herbs, views
PS: Herman Kahn invented the term escalation in the 50's
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You don't need it

(Tuesday, Feb 26, 2013) We swing by Decathlon, the sports chain, perhaps my alpine watch is back from the repair shop. "Non" replies the computer, translated to "don't worry, it will be ready in time" by the helpful atelier assistant (we're going to leave for Korea soon), such a nice, sweet person, the atelier assistant, I guess everybody would love to get married to him immediately, I simply don't dare to ask, plus, I'm married already, to Chang.  Decathlon also sells T-shirts at discount prices, €2.99 per piece, white ones. I point suggestively at the rack. "No," Chang rules, "you have enough T-shirts." Too many, even. But Michael persists and lingers, and pulls a hanger with a T-shirt off the rack. "Too small, you always get too small," Chang rules (I had opted for M-size). We end up buying THREE shirts, TWO for Chang (M-size), and ONE for Michael (L-size).


______

The fridge is empty


(Wednesday, Feb 20, 2013) Early morning, we sit on Chang's bed, Chang with Ipad (we mean the Samsung Note 10.1), Michael with notebook. The fridge is empty, we will have to go shopping one day. Today! Yes, today. When? Michael suggests ten AM. Nine AM would be better, Chang thinks.

Chang: "Nine, we leave at nine!"
Michael: "Nine-thirty."
Chang: "Nine o' clock. We have so many things to do."
Michael: "Nine-thirty. In a relationship, one must compromise."
Chang: "You don't respect me. You live in your own world; you don't think about me, or others."
Michael: "Yes. I live in my own world. Here's what I'm doing now" (points to his notebook) "Lübke English" (he'll explain later). "I have a great time. I have fun. I live in my own world. You do so, too." (M. points at Chang's Samsung pad) "You're photoshopping." (Chang plays with Adobe's Photoshop on his Samsung note, see picture below)
Chang: "Yes, I have fun. But you have more fun. We leave at nine."


We left at nine.

__________

Doonesbury


(Tuesday, Feb 12, 2013)  This is us, folks, this is us, Chang saying ""book,"" ("your hobby," "don't get obsessed about it," etc.), and Michael saying "book."  Chang carrying some laundry/garbage bag, Michael not carrying some laundry/garbage bag; and so on:





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Tunk-Ka café


(May 26, 2012)  Our longest-lasting controversy is about the river-side café, and while I sing about its charms, such as the chilled, oaky, buttery chardonnay served with chicken breast and sauce hollandaise, or the light-wood paneling, or the shady riverside terrace with its muted, yet clipped conversations at neighboring tables about Muffy, who failed to make partner with Allen & Overy, or the color coding of the awnings, always dark green, preferably in the hex value #00693E (Dartmouth Green), brèf, while I am singing about the river-side café, Chang is dreaming of food markets, this Asian contraption that encumbers the innocent hungry-man between various food stalls where everything is cheap, and abundant, and smelly, and sticky, and eaten with chop sticks.

We are on our first excursion across Phuket now, and the understanding has been that we would end up in a food market, but the first food market didn't pass Chang's muster even though it was located in the Korean neighborhood of Phuket town, because the Thai girl behind the Korean garlands didn't speak a word of Korean, and so we are driving on, and it is already past 12am, the time when Chang is overwhelmed by hunger and everything stops until he finds a place to restore himself. He suggests we turn right, but I continue straight, and we are mysteriously led up a hill when signs appear which speak of the Tunk-ka Café. The road ends in a parking lot, and everything is coded in dark-green, including the lush, tropical forest, and Chang wants to flee, but is overwhelmed by hunger now, and we, who haven't been to a riverside café in eons, we end up in the first HILL-TOP café of our life,  by sheer serendipity.



The Tunk-ka Café. We have to descend a long staircase through the lush, dark-green forest. Chang is scared. Have a look at the menu first, he cries, but the prices are reasonable, to his disappointment.

One world, folks, one world, trust the color coding. Sure, there are local specificities --- fans blowing in all directions even though the hill-top is supposed to provide a hill-top breeze --- we are first seated in the crossfire of four fans, but it's not a problem at all to change the table and we suddenly find ourselves at the best table with a view of Phuket town.


Admittedly, Phuket town is a fairly mediocre sight, but that's not the café's fault. We order lime soda, Chang has shrimp with rice, I order chicken with coconut curry. The conversation at the neighboring tables does not center on Muffy, since most patrons are Asian (a good sign), and talk with muted, yet clipped voices about reincarnation.



The best Thai food I had in my life. Subtle, to the point, oaky, buttery flavors, basil from heaven. And the rest rooms! My bladder feels like reborn.

I paid 50 bath for my lemon soda and 100 bath for the coconut curry chicken, ca. 5 USD in total. You can contact them at 07621 1500,  reservation recommended.

We return to the parking lot, and the monkeys are waiting for us, as if this were the very happy ending of a very outdated movie.