Sunday, July 31, 2011


Although it hasn't been all that warm, except for a brief spell last month, summer is indeed upon us. If you don't believe me, just look at the bounty from yesterday's trip to the market. (Don't look too closely: the kitchen's always a mess).

In the back is the bowl where fruits and vegetables wind up, waiting to be used, and there are a bunch of tomatoes which will become tonight's pizza. I got them on Tuesday from a vendor where two old ladies were debating whether to buy from him or not. "Isn't Eric le Tomatologue ever coming back?" one of them asked, and, from his website, it would appear that he does his local market once a week and that's it. Which is a shame: he has varieties you just don't find anywhere else, and I'm going to have to wait until the tomato festival in Clapiers in September to see what he's been up to. Unless he changes his mind.

Anyway, from yesterday there are, clockwise from front center:

* a bag of salad nuts and seeds. I like toasting these in a dry pan and letting them cool off and adding them to my salads. A trick I learned in Germany, believe it or not.
* a bag of pine nuts, which are ludicrously expensive, but there's some pesto to be made these days, so why not. Plus, they're essential for Sicilian cooking and for my roasted cherry-tomato pasta sauce.
* a bottle of wine, Indication Geographique Controlee (I have no idea where my accents have suddenly gone here, sorry), which is about the lowest classification you can get. These people are always at the market, and their reds are headache-inducing, but -- surprise! -- the rose is chewy and full of character. Their vinegar is mindblowing, too.
* a bag of Vietnamese rice from an African store I pass on my way back from the market. The little "Asia" store near me is closed for vacation, and I ran out. The Africans seem to be struggling, but they also have some really good-looking okra.
* a half-kilo "rose de Tarn" braid of garlic. This stuff rocks heavily. I need to get up to the Tarn some day just to see what's up there; it looks quite scenic.
* a melon. There will be melons from now on. Well, until it gets too cold. And boy, are they good.
* parsley
* vicious eggplants. The smaller one has dried blood on it, but you can't see that. The spines on the green part are numerous, hard, and extremely sharp. They were so beautiful I couldn't resist them, and they'll be put to good use, but I keep getting stabbed by them. They're like the cactus of the vegetable world.
* wild blueberries, which have a season of approximately five minutes here. Yum.
* white peaches. The one I just had was bland. It's the luck of the draw: there are yellow and white peaches here, some are clingstone, some freestone, and some are just better than others. These weren't that good. The wet weather may or may not have had something to do with this.

Gotta say, though: living here in the summer makes me feel like Mr. Healthy Guy. I had a day last year when I felt kind of blah, and  I realized that, in my zest to cook up all the vegetables and eat all the fruit, I hadn't had any meat in almost two weeks! A couple of steacks haches took care of that.

* * *

I can't remember when I was last at a new restaurant, unless it was during the plumbing crisis when my crook ex-landlord was taking his time fixing my sink last year. One place I've been looking at is the only place in Gourmet Gulch (aka Place de la Chapelle Neuve) that isn't open for lunch. I didn't even realize it was a restaurant, because it presents as an ice-cream shop unless you look closely. And it is an ice-cream maker, it's just that it also makes ice-cream in odd flavors to go with food. This isn't an unknown concept to me: two years ago when my sister visited (and my taste buds were pretty dead) I had a tomato crumble with thyme ice cream at another restaurant in the Gulch.

Anyway, I'd been wanting to try this place, and when a couple of newcomers to town, E and J, one Swiss, one American, contacted me through the blog, I suggested we get together on a Friday, hit the Estivales, and then go to dinner. And this was the place I'd been thinking of.

It was a fine night: the week's rain had passed, and we got to the Estivales early enough that the binge-drinking teenagers weren't around yet. We bought our tasting glasses (€4) and got our three free tickets. J doesn't drink but E does, and it turned out he knows nothing about the local wines or their terroirs. (He said he's mostly a white-wine drinker, but you just can't do that here: the local whites aren't very good). So we hit the roses, and he was, as people usually are, very impressed.

As you can see, the crowds are thin enough around 7:30 that you can actually get to the tasting bars (on the left) and even have a conversation with the winemakers. Best of show was a Montpeyroux Rose made by winemaker Virgile Joly, with grapes from the Domaine CJ Gilbert. 

We then went up the hill to the restaurant, Soledad, for dinner, and got a nice table in the square. E and J were, however, seemingly unaware that this was all about me, and wound up splitting their appetizer and ordering the same main course! Harumpf! Even worse, their appetizer was made with goat cheese, to which, as some of you know, I'm pretty violently allergic. I had trouble figuring out what it was, but it appeared to be a faked pastry of eggplant slices with the goat cheese sandwiched in, topped by a whipped cream of some sort. Main course for them was a "Columbo" of fish, which appeared in a little pot with hunks of glutinous rice which had been pressed into a large spoon resting nearby. Columbo is a French term for a very mild curry (not at all like genuine Sri Lankan food, I can assure you!) which is blended for the French Caribbean trade. If you don't think of it as a curry pe se, it's a very refreshing taste, especially mixed with a bit of cream, as it was here. 

For my part, I opened with a salad of smoked duck breast, thinly sliced, with tiny dice of dried apricots which were echoed by a small dish of apricot sorbet. I wasn't totally sold on the sorbet, but boy was that smoked duck breast somethign to write home about! My main course was a ballotine of chicken "1001 Nights style," with fig ice cream flavored with cumin. A ballotine is where you bone a chicken whole and stuff it, then carve it into slices, so I had these discs with stuffing -- and I'm afraid the wine from the Estivales had numbed me a bit, so I'm not quite sure what it was. The ice cream with cumin, though, was a brilliant idea and set off the chicken very nicely. 

In the end, Soledad is a gimmick, perhaps best thought of as an avant-garde ice-cream place, but, well, it's a gimmick that works. In other words, I wouldn't go as often as I would some other places, but I'll certainly be back. It's got a €19.95 two-course menu, so it's certainly affordable, although I think the 1997 St. Chinian rose we had was a bit disappointing, and I'm not sure about the rest of the wine-list. But on the whole, a nice discovery. I think I'll go "like" them on their Facebook page

(Restaurant Soledad: 4 rue des Ecoles Laiques, Montpellier. Open Mon-Thu 7pm-10:30pm, Fri-Sat 7pm-11pm. Reservations: 04 67 60 26 19 or 06 50 88 51 21.)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Naked Self-Promotion

Back in 1994, I had an experience which changed my life. Naturally, as soon as I could get to the keyboard, I wrote it all down, although I knew that nobody would ever publish it: it didn't fit the American stereotype of Germans, and, well, it was too long.

Three Americans, one in search of his roots, a village of 400 people on the German-Polish border, none of whom has ever seen an American, and just me and my taxi-driver friend from Berlin to aid in the linguistic and cultural translations that are necessary. History and Chicago pizza ensues. It was amazing.

Now, sixteen years later, along comes Amazon with its Kindle Publishing wing. I submitted it to Kindle Singles, but the editor wanted something a little newer. While I worked on that, I figured I'd just publish this myself. That happened yesterday, and so, in a fit of naked self-promotion (plus the fact that I've been writing professionally since I was 16, have authored two books, and this is the first time I've written anything that pays royalties), I present you with The Bar at the End of the Regime.

You don't have to have a Kindle to read it: you can get a Kindle app for any computer platform, smart-phone or tablet. Tell your friends. Tell your neighbors. And if this works out, there will be more.

Hope you like it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mighty Midsummer Miettes!

About a week ago, I had a visit from noted extremely obscure rock star Julian Dawson and his wife. Julian's been a part-time resident down here for some 22 years, and I've run into him from time to time at SXSW and other such dos. This year, he was promoting his biography of Nicky Hopkins, And on Piano. Nicky Hopkins: The Extraordinary Life of Rock's Greatest Session Man at SXSW and I handed him my card, which is how he and the missus wound up here. I gave him the tour (yes, I now have a tour, not as spectacular or famous as my Berlin tour, but it'll get there) and we had lunch. At one point during the meal, I noticed three large snail shells, out of which came strips of the French flag, and another painted red, all fixed with push-pins to the tree we were eating next to.

Since this made no sense, we asked the waitress, who, after all, must see these shells all day long, what they were. She shrugged and said "Street art, I guess."

They were still there today, so I went over and took their picture. Yes, things are kind of slow around here. Thanks for asking.

* * *

As promised, I've been keeping an eye on the t-shirts as t-shirt, shorts, and bad tattoo weather has been upon us. The selection is downright bizarre. There are the fake-badly-silkscreened ones that come from the like of Franklin Marshall and Abercrombie & Fitch (and didn't they used to be a prestigious firm once upon a time? Probably making more dough off of "streetwear," though). Then there are ones from the cheapo stores which say things like "Fashion is wonderful." As I've long noted, wearing sportswear is no substitute for actual exercise, and wearing the word "fashion" on your body doesn't make you fashionable. The current garment for any female who can get away with it (a demographic which goes from the early teens up into the upper 40s at least around here) is a perfect demonstration of what "fashion" means. Sort of by default, everyone is wearing denim short-shorts...with cuffs. And I look at those cuffs and wonder: is there anything at all as useless as this detail? But they all have them.

For the most part it's guys who wear the worst t-shirts, though. And the best: teenage Maghrebi and Arab guys haven't settled on this year's shirt yet. The first year I was here, it was the DONT PANIK IM MUSLIM shirt, which actually went into a second edition with correct punctuation. Last year's had a flag and the words (in French) DON'T BE JEALOUS. NOT EVERYONE CAN BE TUNISIAN/ALGERIAN/MOROCCAN, etc. depending on the flag.

But bad? How about a powder-blue shirt with its design, an infant wearing Clark Kent glasses and a tie, and nothing else, sitting at a desk, reaching for a telephone, done in glitter print. Then, the text above the image, the words A GOOD DAY FOR in dark blue type, and then, in the same dark blue glitter material POO POO BOY. The fact that this was worn by a macho-looking 50-ish French guy deterred me from asking what the hell that was supposed to be about. But it really was bizarre. Runner-up for odd text was the guy with a greenish shirt with some impressionistic vegetation on it and the words RAILROAD GARDEN IN MY FAVORITE CITY. Really, you'd have to go to Japan to match that for weirdness.

Then there are shirts you figure were bought by someone who recognized a word and thought whatever it said was cool. Like the teenage boy with the sketch of a girl's head with palm trees behind it, kind of a surf motif, next to the words


And then there are the totally inexplicable ones. On the way to the market the other day, I passed a JESUS SAVES ALCOHOLICS TOO shirt. Okay, that one makes sense. Except...why was an 11-year-old African girl wearing it?

This will get worse before it gets better, mark my words.

* * *

The Place de la Comédie, as many of you know, is essentially my back yard, and it's one of the central gathering-places in Montpellier, as this story from the Sunday Independent makes clear. (Very nice visuals when the weedy reporter isn't in the picture). But don't ask me to join you for a coffee there. I know of dozens of other locations, and I won't patronize any of the cafés on the Com. The reason is simple: the music. The Algerian guy with the amplified classical guitar seems okay if all you're doing is walking through, but since I can hear him when the wind's blowing right, I'm here to tell you that he knows basically five tunes. It's because of him that I've decided that no street musician should be allowed to perform in public unless they can do a 45-minute set without repeating themselves.

But he's heaven next to the real blight out there, a kid who's been around as long as I have. He was about six when he started, toting a tiny accordion which he couldn't play at all. At all. But he smiled and mugged and "performed" with a canned passion that made little old ladies want to throw money in his cup and photograph him. Last year, he learned a whole lot of ornaments. No tune, just ornaments. He and his accordion were also a bit bigger. This year, he's back with the ornaments again, fancier, and, just the other day, a tune congealed out of them: "Besame Mucho." And he was singing. Or making a noise with lyrics: the syllables weren't exactly landing where his fingers were. So that's his current schtick. If you read that a 9-year-old Roma boy was strangled in full view of hundreds of tourists in Montpellier's busiest square, you'll know I finally flipped.

His dad picks him up at night, though, to go back to their encampent on the edge of town, and a new threat hits: the unsuccessful bar-disco with which I share a wall has now become a bar-restaurant which needs to change its deep-fryer oil from time to time, and occasionally presents music. There was a pre-teen who played inaccurate drums along with records one night, and occasionally there's a female vocalist and a trio. But most of the time it's a Dixieland/swing band. And boy, are they awful. Oh, don't get me wrong: they know a few tunes and they perform in tune. But soul? Any understanding of the material? Forget about it. What the attraction for 20-somethings for this stuff is eludes me, but I'm sure they'll be able to tell you that a clarinet is an instrument that makes yuk-yuk noises, that the slide on the trombone increases its volume when in use, and the trumpet always takes the melody. In case you didn't know, Duke Ellington et. al. are funny, as their renditions of "The Mooche," "Rockin' in Rhythm," and "I've Got a New Baby," each of which is performed at least twice a night, make clear. Sadly, there are too many of these guys to strangle.

The only interesting street music I hear is the occasional Romany flamenco declaimed by young men at The Royal, a bar next to the bakery. There are also occasional manouche jam sessions there, but apparently some of the musicians are of interest to the cops, so this doesn't happen that often.

And there you have a wrap-up of the Montpellier music scene. In short, it mostly sucks.

* * *

In the last batch of miettes, I mentioned that there was a Montpellier iPhone app, and it's now available. In the process of getting it, I was rather disconcerted by the description on the Apple website: "Rated 9+ for infrequent mature/suggestive themes, infrequent/mild suggestive violence." Either Apple is way more prudish than I thought, or someone there gets upset by girls in short-shorts with cuffs.

At any rate, it's unseasonably mild here at the moment with strong gusts of wind, which I rather like, although I'm not trying to bring a vineyard to maturity. I bet it warms up later, though; I can wait.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The 14th

I woke up yesterday at about 9 to the sound of bugles and drums. Out on the Comédie, there were, I believe, soldiers. I say "I believe" because I didn't go out to check. The martial music kept up for the next couple of hours, though, and I suspect it ended because it was getting towards lunch time and the cafés needed to get their tables out.

I also know there were soldiers out there because it's sort of a local tradition, or has been ever since Louis XIV succeeded in crushing Protestantism here and built the huge star fort next to the Esplanade to house his troops and make sure nothing like that ever happened here again, for the troopos to show themselves. Nowadays, though, it's not a big deal. Not nearly as big a deal, in fact, as Armistice Day, when the veterans do their thing. Young people still come up to these old guys and engage them in conversation, which I think is pretty wonderful. Some of them are students at the high-school which is in the old fort buildings. The military installation has moved down the hill to the Beaux-Arts district.

Later, after lunch, I headed off to the War Memorial, which is part of the now-civilian complex of buildings which include the Tourist Office, the Energy House, and the Pavillon Populaire, all of which were built to serve officers (literally in the case of the Tourist Office, which was the officers' mess). Nope, I guessed wrong: I've got to hit this on Armistice Day for the big-time floral tributes. These, however, were fresh.

And yes, that's Pic St. Loup pic-ing through the pillars.

There was no one around, to speak of. I mean, give people a holiday on Thursday and they're outta here. And the patriotic display was, in comparison to America, kind of modest: they took down the flags hyping the upcoming Radio France fesival and put up flags, and there are a lot more flags on the front of the Opéra.

The only other thing I saw that was out of the ordinary was a bus with an officer in a fairly ridiculous uniform with silly epaulettes and a bunch of French Foreign Legionnaires mooching around in short haircuts, t-shirts, and a pronounced air of menace. And yeah, at 11 last night there were fireworks at a remote location that's still within city limits and big enough to hear the big bombs.

Unlike in Germany, I don't take much interest in these holidays here. I don't feel French (well, I didn't feel German, either), and I know I haven't made much of an effort to integrate, mostly because I haven't found a bunch of people I really want to integrate with. There's also the fact that the French do a great job of isolating themselves from The Other, and are very happy to let you know they're doing it. I'm not offended; I know life in America would be much harder for a French person in my situation, so I can let that pass. Further, my socializing has been hindered both by not having much money and an apartment that's less than half the size I need to live in. Both of these problems, I think, are about to change. A new apartment will allow me to unpack for the first time in nearly three years, have a dining area large enough to allow me to invite at least one, and maybe two or three other people over, and make me feel like I'm not living out of a suitcase.

Here's what I see when I turn 90º to my right:

There are about seven or eight boxes over there, as yet unpacked, some of which contain stuff that makes it easier for me to work. I have two bookcases disassembled because there's no place to assemble them. And the worst part is this pillar in the room which blocks off a corner, into which I have to squeeze carefully if I want to access some of the CDs:

No, this isn't a tangent. It's about liberation, too. Of course, there were only something like a dozen prisoners in the Bastille by the time it got liberated; the regime had already let most of them go, and the ones who stayed had no place to go and preferred to stay. In my case, there's only one prisoner, just waiting for the troops to arrive. They'll get here sooner or later, I'm certain. The only thing I'll miss is the violin-makers across the courtyard, whose pleasant sounds now that all the windows are open interject some diversion into each day. But with 15 other lutheries here in town, there are odds I might wind up with another one nearby; the lutherie festival starts next week, and there'll be a map.

Okay, I'll endure silence if I have to. As long as I can unpack, get a new washing machine, and see what's in those boxes I packed in November, 2008. And have some folks over for dinner.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Salades Composées #1: Salade Niçoise

Or something a lot like it.

One thing about summer around here is that non-cook or barely-cooked meals become imperative. It doesn't get nearly as hot here as it does in Texas, of course, and I do feel sorry for my friends there. But this is something I wish I'd thought more about when I lived there.

I discovered the salade composée on my first trip to France: it was what one had for lunch if one didn't want to walk down the street gnawing a baguette sandwich. The one I discovered first was the salade périgordaise, which featured a hunk of port-soaked chicken-liver mousse in its center. I was hooked. It wasn't the sort of thing I'd eat every day -- some days I'd just not eat lunch at all, or get something heartier in the winter -- but the idea began to form in my head that a salad jazzed up with a lot of other ingredients could be a very good idea. Thus, in Texas, I started making tortellini salad. I made one just the other night, which is why I'm not featuring it here, even though I make a great one. It occurred to me while I was making it that I should've taken pictures and blogged it. So last night, I decided to make this one and photograph it in full Blur-O-Vision®.

I'm happy to say that a couple of years ago when I ransacked my books looking for salade niçoise recipes, I came across Elizabeth David rather testily saying that there are hundreds of them and they don't agree what should be in them. So treat this as a suggestion.

Okay, first, two ingredients I always use are sliced potatoes and green beans. These have to be steamed.

It's okay to overcook them, although potatoes get mushy if you overcook them too much. Soft vegetables, though, absorb the vinaigrette in the next step:

That's left over from my last salade niçoise, and it's just a nice photo. Those are rare around here. What it's made of is lemon juice, Dijon mustard, a little bit of herbes de Provence, and olive oil.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I did use squeeze lemon juice. It's because I'm cheap and lemons cost a lot around here, for some unknown reason. Anyway, a good little puddle of lemon juice, about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of mustard, some herbs, and then you start whipping it up and notice how all those things start getting thick. At this point you drizzle in some olive oil and suddenly you have this nice yellow vinaigrette which might well remind you of horrible Kraft French Dressing -- at least in the way it looks. Anyway, you take your steamed vegetables, toss them well in the vinaigrette, and refrigerate them for two or three hours. It's imperative that the vegetables be as hot as possible so they'll absorb the vinaigrette; it's sort of a primitive pickling thing.

Yes, I use cling foil/Saran Wrap kind of stuff. You can use a plate if it makes you feel better. The thing is to get these puppies cold.

Okay a few hours later and now it's time for the next step. You will need these things, which you can't see because they're out of focus. Which is a shame: I'm proud to live in a country where you can buy a can of tuna and the art on the can is unchanged since la belle époque. And yes, those are salt-cured anchovies, although this is one instance where oil-cured anchovies also work. I don't much like them for most purposes, to be honest. Salt-cured anchovies are mild, nutty, and give you the right salt and fish notes. You have to wash the salt off, then split them open and remove the backbone, but it's worth it. And they keep almost forever. Black olives, too: a necessity. I can actually buy genuine niçoise olives, and I was about five salads in when I realized that they're bitter, have almost no meat, are tiny, and, basically, I don't like them. So to hell with authenticity, although these plain old local black olives aren't the answer, either. Try Greek cured, Kalamatas, or something. The tomato is a rarity for this salad, but I had a lot of the first beefhearts of the season and they weren't getting any younger.

Man, that's a bad photograph! I'm almost ready to go into the garbage and find the can and try it again. Except for all the other stuff in the garbage, that is. Sorry. (Wait, of course the tuna company has a website!)

Okay, now it's dinner-time. Toss some lettuce or salad greens onto your plate:

Drain your can of tuna and upend it in the middle, and surround it with anchovy filets.

Add the marinated vegetables...

Then the tomatoes and the rest of the vinaigrette (be sparing, don't drown it, and remember, you can save the rest for the next one).

Now, you've also got a good baguette from the corner bakery, right? And some of that raw-milk Camembert for dessert? And a nice bargain bottle of 2010 Chateau La Clotte-Fontaine "Louise" rosé all chilled up? You don't? Well, do your best with what you've got.

I'll come back soon with the tortellini salad, and I'm thinking hard about other salads in this genre, because it does get hot in the evening thanks to the situation of my building vis a vis the sun. But I also smell some impending miettes, so it won't be tomorrow. Bon appetit!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

As Others See Us, Chapter 3

I thought that the end of the Year of the United States last December might be the end of the odd voyeuristic treatment of my homeland by French photographers, but something was going on in the background that I didn't know about: someone was going through the archives of the great Franco-Hungarian photographer Brassaï, and found 110 black and white and 60 color images which he'd shot in the U.S. in 1957 and which had never been shown in public. As digital restorers restored and Flammarion got ready to publish a book of these new photos, curator Agnès de Gouvion Saint-Cyr and Gilles Mora, the artistic director of Montpellier's Pavillon Populaire huddled to create an exhibition worthy of the historic find. It opened a couple of weeks ago, and, it being a sunny Sunday afternoon, I figured I'd wander over there to see what was what.

From what I can gather, Brassaï wasn't really much interested in America, although from time to time Harpers Bazaar or another fashion magazine would print his work, and in 1956, his old buddy from Paris, Henry Miller, got the Museum of Modern Art to show a series Brassaï had just shot of graffiti on the walls of Paris, which was a big hit. After a lifetime of declining to visit, Holiday magazine offered him $3000 for his impressions of America, suggesting he shoot in New York and that most French of American cities, New Orleans, so he gave in, and in 1957, took some cameras to New York and got to work.

And there you go: Brassaï in color! Not that he gave up black and white:

That's about as iconic a shot of Grand Central Station as you'll ever see, (even though the caption at the show says Penn Station).

And yet...

I don't mean to sound cynical, but there is every possibility that there's a good reason that it's taken forty-odd years after the old master's death to find these photos. And that reason is, the overwhelming majority of them just aren't very interesting. Very few images stuck with me after two go-rounds of the show. There are a lot of pictures of black people dressed up, some color shots from a Sunday in Brooklyn, where the subjects, teenagers, mostly, are on their way to or from church, but they have a snapshotty character to them that doesn't go anywhere. The subjects aren't interacting with the photographer, but the photographer doesn't seem to be interacting with the subjects, either. And it's not like Brassaï had never seen black people before. There is a big series from the Easter Parade on 5th Avenue, in black and white (see the picture at the top of the blog) which imparts the shocking news that women wear fancy hats on Easter. Even black women!

And people dress up, even little black girls. There are also some shots of Times Square at night, like this one:

Nice enough, but if someone told you this came from the oeuvre of one of the 20th century's great photographers, you might scratch your head. Only one of the New York pictures of people resonated with me, and that's because Brassaï knew it was an inside joke:

The New Orleans shots are even less distinguished. He apparently took a Mississippi River cruise, where he shot pictures of his fellow passengers and some nicely atmospheric black-and-whites of trees in the swamp. Then he went to Bourbon Street, where he went to a bar and heard an unknown-to-me Columbia Records artist named Earl Williams sing. Four pictures, a series, stand out of the New Orleans group, though. He shot a picture of a well-dressed young black woman talking to a friend, a chef at a restaurant, outside his place of work. As she left to walk up Iberville, Brassaï followed her, and she looked over her shoulder, once with suspicion, a second time with growing comprehension, and finally he posed her next to a lamp-post, smiling most winningly: hey, this French fashion photographer wants my picture!

I should also add that there is one photograph in here which is not from New York, as its caption says, and, if Wikipedia is right and he stopped shooting photos in 1961, not by Brassaï. It's a white wall with a sign over it saying "Boston Parks and Recreation: Graffiti. Each Man His Own Censor." Here's what gives it away: 1) Someone has lightly crossed out "Man" on the sign and written "person"; 2) Someone has stencilled the words NIXON BUGS ME; 3) Someone has done a crude drawing and written "I am free and gay," and it is clear (although it's not a pornographic or even sexual drawing) that the word "gay" doesn't mean "carefree"; 4) Someone has written, next to it, "right on."  The color is wrong, the composition is wrong, and I wonder how this early '70s artifact from someone else in another city snuck into this show. I know nobody at the Pav Pop's going to read this, let alone the people who are publishing the book, but as always you wish they'd run this past a homeboy first.

Anyway, as opposed to the dire, hyperintellectual, embarrassing work from last year's America celebration, this is worth your while for a half-hour some afternoon when you want some air-conditioning and want to see the lovely job someone's done printing and hanging these mostly minor pieces by a major artist.

(Brassaï en Amérique 1957, through October 30, Pavillon Populaire, Esplanade Charles de Gaulle, open Tue-Sun 11am-1pm, 2pm-7pm. Entrance free.)
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