2 years ago, my wife and I decided our #1 priority was to try and see the world as it really is, not simply to “take trips” and visit points of interest to bury in an old Flickr account but actually attempt to live in places that are foreign to us in order to gain perspective on everything we had done thus far. From co-founding a Creative Agency to having a couple of children, there is a lot we pseudo-accomplished that has felt automatic, for lack of a better word, felt pre-planned for us, as if a nuclear family and the pursuit of success had been pre-wired by a society that views compliance as normalcy. I got fed up with that idea and started to explore the ramifications of leaving, first in a book then out loud, asking Gina if she ever saw herself leaving what we knew behind, if only for a short time, and put ourselves in a position to discover other places, languages and people, for the selfish purpose of getting to know us better. So we pulled out the atlas and started charting a voyage, a grand voyage that would take us around the world in a year during which we could let curiosity be our guide and the rent from our NYC apartment pay our way
When we finished drafting, we realized that such an adventure required more planning than a mere “let’s do this!” We’re a little slow. Well, that and the kids were just finishing school in upstate New York, where we had moved for some modicum of peace after spending 20 years in the city, and probably could use some time off before saying goodbye to everything they knew, like English. Which is why we decided in the interim to move to a single point for a couple couple years, settling on Bologna, Italy, the non-touristy gastronomic capital, where quality of life was said to be one of the highest in Europe, for a third of the price of Brooklyn. So we packed our bags, rented our apartment and fled.
We have now been here 2 years, to the day as we arrived June 26th 2013, and I confirm that I am indeed happy and fat, Italy is real, not just a marketing gimmick!
And that is why, on this anniversary of sorts, it is time to take that next step and deliver on the map we drew because goddamnit you cannot let a good map go to waste!…
See? It’s pretty good, right?
So here we are, packing our bags once again and getting ready to do the thing, to have “foreign-soiled experiences” and take a bath with as many different people as we can find, metaphorically and not. Of course, because nothing actually happens if it is not posted somewhere, feel free to check out bouvarezrelocationprogramme.com where we will contribute as much as possible so as to show off as well as inform our families of our death toll and whereabouts. And if you see a country you know, send us your tips or better yet, join us! 16 countries in 12 months is probably going to go much faster than we think, so don’t hesitate!
Of course, theaptBROADCAST, where you are right now reading these lines, will still be alive with all our tweets and vines but will rarely feature design work as we are putting the agency work on hold during this voyage of discovery. I hope you will meet us, if not during the trip, at least on the other side…
I’m starting to think Letterman’s booker is not going to call…
I was 19 years old when I got off the proverbial boat from my native France, landing in the port of New York City in order to attend Parsons’ School of Design‘s Photography program, which I would quit after just one session so as to move my images around to NYU’s Tisch School of The Arts in the Film department. In between those dark rooms and even darker rooms, I would come to learn most of what a rosey-cheeked French boy would have to in order to fit in with these American teenagers from my context: getting used to bagels, Kools and tightly fitting baseball caps but above all, television…
See, I wasn’t exactly a friend-magnet back then, with one notable exception, and spent a LOT of time alone, walking and observing the streets, getting used to the subtleties of paying for sex in the meatpacking district and staying up late upon my return in front of the colorful glowing tube to watch what this marvelous culture, of which I only heretofore knew about in terms of Miles Davis and Converse All-Stars, had to offer. That is when, after a painfully long lead-in addiction to Arsenio Hall, I was introduced in September of 1989 to the gift that was, and is, Mr. David Letterman. This was the first show I saw:
Of course, I didn’t understand most of his references, mine being mostly cigarette and beret-driven, but to start any form of televised entertainment with a list of the Top Ten numbers between One and Ten blew my mind. I don’t want to say literally blew my mind but close enough. Every single number he read had me in bewildered stitches, and not just because the bit was that funny but because I couldn’t believe this was actually being televised! The fact that it wasn’t really a joke at all, something that can perhaps be said about the whole run of the show, rather simply a compendium of disparate characters, circumstances and words never before put together, was the incredible thing about it. As I sat through that show, devouring another American success story with a glass of whole milk and almost every night of the last 26 years, give or take a vacation, I have been in awe of this man’s pioneering spirit in the arena of buffoonery. He didn’t seem to simply want to amuse us, he needed to amuse himself, and the confidence required to do that in front of people was astounding to me, unknown really, especially in a man who seemed to seek no other form of fame than that lent by that daily hour, and even-so, reluctantly.
As a film student, I was starting to think of people who did things I liked or loved as other, people like Orson Welles, John Williams or Gordon Willis, whether legends or craftsmen, they seemed untouchable. Not so with Dave. First of all, Dave… What kind of an on-screen name is that for someone I should aspire to be! But that was never his pitch, never his aim. He seemed much more excited in setting a table, summoning people he thought interesting to it and then invited us in, on equal footing with anyone in his chair. That’s why when he made fun of Madonna…
we were with him. When Cher called him an asshole…
we were with him. And, most significantly to me in my young years, when Sandra Bernhard manically flirted on the air…
my lord, was I WITH him! And of course when, quite a few Septembers later, the lights came up on Dave without an opening credit sequence…
we were with him all the way, now and forever, like Cats. And when Ted Kopple interviewed him about that moment…
that “I’m not sure” is heartbreaking… Perhaps because we felt as he did, not sure of anything, really, anymore.
We knew then, as we know now, that Dave is not only a simple clown dipping his be-Alka-Seltzered body into a human-sized cylinder of water, but a thoughtful man, one who might even pass his own test of being able to take a cross country road trip with and come out better on the other end. When I watched him, I didn’t just seek mindless amusement, those who did would soon switch to Leno, I wanted to see my own strange perspectives, my own creativity, my own shamelessness, somehow represented before a national audience, as if to say “did you see Dave last night? That’s how I feel all the time!” Surely not as articulate, witty or humble as his, our generation’s muddled vision had finally found its champion, even better because he desired to represent no one but himself. Dave pointed the way, my whole American life, 26 years running, to a perspective of existence that included, nay demanded, irony, a quality able to remove ourselves from the misery we all feel and into a temporary state of discerning spectatorship, enabled by those before he, from Twain to Carlin, to laugh at everything. For that perspective, I and millions of us owe him an ENORMOUS debt of gratitude. Without that perspective, borrowed and then torn from the pages of another gap-toothed hero in Mad Magazine and thrown on television, there is no Funny or Die, there is no Tim and Eric, there is no Kimmy Schmidt. He provided a safe doorway to subversion.
Through him, I was introduced to Bill Murray, to Steve Martin, to Andy Kaufman and Regis Philbin. Thanks to him, I felt welcomed into the American psyche. Thanks to him, I grew up to accept weirdness as a pro, not a con. Which is why I was thankfully ready to subsequently accept Larry David, Garry Shandling and Jon Stewart into my life. He upped the quality of my viewership from mere passive occupation to an almost active form of craft, that which demands knowledge and understanding in its audience, without which The Wire might just have been a show about a wire.
As I moved to Italy a couple of years ago and only able to watch snippets on the YouTube which present only the highlights chosen by the staff, I miss the segments in which Dave truly shines, the in-between moments, the non-sequiturs, the silences, the mistakes, the times in which Dave dares put his discomfort on display, even at the more mainstream 11:30 hour, because being a host is being human, being a host is not what he does, it’s who he is. And all my adult life I dreamt that I might do something good enough, popular enough or odd enough to warrant my phone to ring with an invitation to that chair and a guest at his party, I would have loved to look him in the eye and said:
Thank you Dave for giving us more than a voice but a language with which to speak, thank you for being even a reluctant patron-saint to the man and woman child in all of us, we will forever be grateful.
It’s been a LONG time since we’ve shared the music we’ve been listening to, so here are the albums on continuous play in our house…
Laura Mvula’s re-recording of her first and only album at Abbey Road with the Metropole Orkest, though filled with melancholy, is the joy of my life. You can buy it by clicking.
Junior Santos selects some obscure Brazilian funk to shake that now-trendy oversized booty to, and it’s about time, on both counts. Purchase it here.
For some calm after that storm, piano genius Chilly Gonzales has just delivered a piano and quartet album that is not as terrible as I’ve just made it sound, in fact it is quite wonderful. Get it now.
Probably my favorite debut album from French-Cuban twin sisters ever is that of Ibeyi, who for me blew off the lid of mixing tribal, soul and electro styles into one incredibly melodic package. Grab some of the Magic.
And last but certainly not least, whom I consider to be our generation nascent Dilla is a 19 year-old English white boy by the name of Tom Misch, whose every stroke of the MPC or guitar strings gives me a soulgasm. Get his BeatTape today!
I was going to name this post ICE ICE BABY but I spared you. You’re welcome.
Designed as a birthday surprise for our friend Melissa, we once again packed our bags to go and discover the martian surface of Bjӧrk’s native land. And what a land it is! Populated by only 340,000 people who can all trace their ancestry to the first settlers, walking among its lava-formed trails gives us urbanites, and even countryside folks, instant literal perspective thanks to the distance between us and the horizon, which is either frozen or on fire. Unexpectedly romantic, I would recommend a week divided between Reykjavik and the middle of nowhere, where we found shelter in the imposing Ion Adventure Hotel.
First landing in the capital city, we rested our bones at the 101 which is the perfect place to have your first morning shot of fish oil. Later on, we found an incredible dinner and intense wine list waiting for us at the Grillamarkadurinn before traveling an hour and a half to the aforementioned Ion where the bar is but a glass box overlooking the frozen dunes and where I bet lovemaking would be a worthy risk.
We spent five days in this martian landscape, between dipping our bodies in the geothermal pools of the Blue Lagoon and hiking on the edge separating the European and American tectonic plates, and we intend to go back. In the meantime, enjoy this little souvenir I brought back…
And some pictures…
If it weren’t already apparent, we love to travel, perhaps even live to travel, we’ll see what’s what by the end… Before then, I hope to see you around a corner one day.
United by family brought together for a 15th wedding anniversary, we were lucky to tag along through the kind of scenery usually narrated by Jeremy Irons. Landing in Hoedspruit, South Africa, we traveled an hour by Jeep to find ourselves in Kruger National Park where we got a glimpse of what the world used to be, perhaps ought to be, mostly devoid of the madness of men. Mostly I say because, of course, man’s interference is everywhere you do not see another elephant, another lion, another leopard because they were taken not by their assigned foes but us, the ultimate predators. And so, as we glided through the bush, as inconspicuously as a diesel engine will allow, I found myself wishing we could find the strength NOT to aspire to exercise dominion but, rather, co-existence. An unreasonable wish to grant? For sure, for the entitlement we humans feel for this planet is ever-growing. But how about at least Respect, yes with a capital R, respect of our rental property here on earth, is that too much to ask?… Proper respect, that is my wish.
And that is all, now enjoy the film! Full screen and headphones on will guarantee the if-I-were-there experience the kids love so much! Or check it out directly on Vimeo for a larger player.
once again, disgusted with the ways of people, i prefer to escape and seek again the beasts with whom i seem to have more in common. this time, going from bologna, italy to hoedspruit, south africa where my family and i shall witness intended savagery for a week. i shall of course stream what i see since the bush now has wifi. see you there!
As a boy raised in France in the seventies and eighties, I cannot appropriately describe the influence of humoristic dissension on my life and that of all my friends, family and contemporaries because it is too great to blog about, too important for me to merely talk about, rather something I would like to represent, someday, to the best of my meager abilities, as I live to design a life of some worth. France has always known a thing or two about rebellion and it has, as long as I have been alive, been wise enough to put down the pitchforks and guillotines in favor of pens and pencils. As a jeune, I used to enjoy the wild antics of Edika and Gotlib in Fluide Glacial, the vulgarisms of Vuillemin and his “sales blagues” in L’Echo Des Savanes which eventually led to the outrageous behavior of one Professeur Choron, creator of the self-defined as Stupid and MeanHara-Kiri, the magazine whose staff, after closure because of a joke at General Charles De Gaulle’s expense, decided to go mainstream-ish by creating Charlie Hebdo, the magazine senselessly and brutally terrorized today in Paris.
A lot of people have rightly talked already about the attack perpetrated on freedom of expression today but I would like to go further and propose that freedom of expression is but a concept, one that cannot be assailed that easily. What is more essential to my mind is how said freedom is practiced and by whom. Those people, those cartoonists assassinated today, Cabu, Wolinsky, Charb and Tignous were the ones who took it upon themselves to apply the freedom given to them and risked their lives doing so. THEY, and all the journalists and humorists throughout the world like them who stick their necks out for us, are the real defenders of what we ALL take for granted and brandish with feckless pride when we want to feel part of a greater good.
It is they and their peers who show us what courage is for, speaking truth to comfort all the while fearful of undeniable consequences, it is they who push through, with both wisdom and wit, in order to give all of us some perspective to agree or disagree with, it is they who contribute to our humanity the most, by allowing us to laugh at it.
And they paid the ultimate price at the hand murderous weirdos who are offended by drawings…
I am horrified and incredibly sad tonight as I can think of no way to adequately turn the page on this tragedy. All I can think about is the freedom we are told we are born with but cannot feel until we practice it. I shall go back to the drawing board. Merçi du rappel les amis.
You might have missed it the first time around, but Gina and my trip to Cuba a few years ago seems appropriate to re-post today, if for no other reason than to remind ourselves that this is just the beginning, if that, to what may one day become a free-er island. A actually free island being, to my mind, still quite distant on the horizon. Here is the eloquent text Gina wrote to accompany the short film I made there, enjoy and reflect:
To celebrate my 4 decades on earth, my husband, Stefan, and I headed to my family’s homeland, Cuba. I’d had a profound relationship with this place my whole life, but had never stepped foot on it. My relationship with it was a made up of hundreds of personal tales, history books, news reports, novels, coffee table picture books, and political debates, all smashed up with melancholy, nostalgia, bitterness, hopes, dreams, aspirations, love and loss, coated with a heady philosophical debate on the meaning of libertad. over the last 5 years, yet another volume of information has come to me via the internet in the shape of blogs and tweets from my generational counterparts on the island. First person accounts from the other side! Their connection with the outside world appears to have the potential to be destiny-changing for Cuba, but for me, it already has been. In no small part, knowing more about them – the Cuban kids whose parents stayed home as opposed to all of us Cuban kids displaced all over the world – about what they think, how they express themselves, their desires for cuba, their thoughts about us, moved me to finally get my damn visa and plane ticket and take the ridiculously short airplane ride across the Florida straits.
With Stefan's support, encouragement and crazy camera skills, we moved across the island over 10 days that I will undoubtedly remember as some of the most important of my life. acting as my personal reality show production crew, my husband followed me into adventure after adventure: meeting, for the first time, my uncle, the brother my mother left behind; a cousin who mirrors the face of my beloved grandmother; more than a dozen cousins ranging in age from 20 to 80 in 4 different cities. We also managed to stand on the land where my mother and my father's childhood homes had stood, and to drink in the incredibly beautiful landscape that surrounds it. We talked and talked with this recovered family, and cried and cried, and laughed and laughed. They enveloped us with warmth and love, welcoming us like their lost children. In the film you'll see here, all of this happens in spanish, but i'm confident every exchange will be internationally understood.
I've come away from the trip with a much more informed point of view – about the island and its people, inside and outside its borders, but perhaps not surprisingly, i've also realized that i've opened up the proverbial box… And I'm not quite sure what is going to come of it. I am quite sure the box is packed, and under so much pressure for so many decades that this trip and this film will be just the beginning of something. What lies below this precious series of encounters will be much more complicated, just as Cuba is so much more complicated than those coffee table picture books and Che t-shirts would have us believe.
Walking as I ususally do on a Monday afternoon, gingerly up from Via Peschiere Vechie in my adopted town of Bologna where I had just picked up my weekly supply of cheese and thinly-sliced salumi, as per my Italian head-of-household job description, I felt a strange sensation wash over me as I approached the car, where Gina was waiting. I turned around and could have sworn I was seeing the city fold back on top of me, inception-style. I felt SO dizzy, I nearly fell over. As I got into the car and told my loving wife, the world kept turning faster and faster. Not enough sugar in my system? Impossible. Walking too fast in the cold? I don’t see how. The freaky think is that I felt no pain, anywhere. Prone as I am to Ophthalmic Migraines, which blur my vision for an hour before slamming into a pounding headache that can last for twelve, I am used to my eyes fucking with my head but this was different… Coincidentally, we were picking up the kids from school at that time and bringing our youngest (Leeloo, 8) to a nearby public hospital for an ecography long-scheduled to check on stomach pains she’d been having and when we arrived, after a few minutes of sinewy roads, I was not feeling well at all and had to lie down over multiple chairs in the waiting room, trying to breathe through what was increasingly becoming an episode of sorts. As Gina and the kids went into their test room, I attempted not to panic, which is really hard to do when you’re hyper-ventilating in a hospital. A few seconds later, I felt a hand grabbing my arm, which was covering my eyes, and saw two doctors, furrowed-browed, bending over me and asking if I was ok. I was not ok and they could see it, apparently. They called emergency personnel.
Now, all this is happening in Italian, not my mother tongue and which I have only really so far properly acquired the all-important vocabularies of food and bathroom usage so a lot of what is going on, notwithstanding the increasingly whirling black hole my brain seems intent on taking me through, does not compute. I know that I went on a short ambulance ride, from one side of the hospital to another I suppose, to find myself alone, my family still in the test room, and in a wheelchair, trying to describe my symptoms to a busy triage nurse: “Gira la testa!” “Vertigino” “Non posso vederre qualcosa!”(Head spinning! Vertigo! I CAN’T SEE ANYTHING!) were some of my UN translator-grade gems I believe. They wrote it all down and just when I thought I was in good hands, irony of all ironies, I could feel my body completely tensing up. That is something I had never felt before and do not want to ever feel again, a tension so acute that it forced my hands into lobster claw shapes, which I could not control! Panic? Yeah, Panic. The nurse had turned her back to enter my data and was unaware of what was happening until I saw, out of the corner of my eye, Gina and the kids just entering the building, looking frantically left and right for me, and I yelled GINAAAAA! She saw me with my hands up and rushed over. At this point, I thought I was having a stroke as my entire body was stiff and my arms were stuck up in the air. She called the nurse who gave me oxygen and explained that I was having a tachycardia attack, which tends to force the body into this shape. Great. Thankfully, after a few minutes, I calmed down enough… for the vomiting to begin. Fantastic.
I will gloss over the next few hours of visual tests, vomiting, cat scan, vomiting, blood vessel-searching, vomiting, neurological exercises, vomiting… I was finally told to shut my eyes for the foreseeable future and that I would be kept at the hospital for a few days under observation…
ALL I WANTED WAS CHEESE AND MORTADELLA, WHAT DID I DO WRONG???!!!
At this point, I could no longer see where I was or where I was going. Since I had been woozy since the school pickup, I didn’t even really know where in town, if in town, this hospital was and I found it really confusing to not even be able to imagine where, just even so that I could have something concrete to think about. I was transferred from wheelchair to wheelbed and taken somewhere, a room? A hallway? I had no idea. It was full of people certainly, old people screaming in Italian. Competent nurses, I suppose, tended to me, fit me with an I.V. but all I could imagine was the hospital in Born On The Fourth Of July where Ron Kovic (lil’ Tommy Cruise) is transferred after coming back and finds a leaky, rat-infested slum in which you are taken care of when there’s time. I do not recommend this imagery if you ever find yourself sight-less in a foreign hospital.
The next three days were a complete blur (see what I did there? Ugh, I’m tired…) The whole pee-in-a-bucket/vomit-in-another cycle was a truly wonderful experience but the best part was really at night when my roommates decided to scream for the nurses at the top of their lungs for no apparent reason. “AIUTO! SIGNORA!!” was the chorus I was treated to nightly, from who knows how many members in this choir, I still had NO idea where I was! Of course, Gina came to see me during visiting hours and that was great help, especially when she brought the kids a couple of days later. From what they would tell me, with an eye mask on, a scruffy and pale face and sunken demeanor in my reclined bed, I did not look so fresh. So they both started crying on my bed as if this was to be the last time they would see their papa… I reassured them that I just had a bad headache and that there was nothing to worry about. Then my son asked:
Is this how God punishes atheists?
I let out such a loud laugh, my first since the whole thing began, that he saw that I was ok. I told him that no, it was just an inflammation in the eighth nerve behind my ear canal, not divine punishment. And although I am slightly disappointed that my attempt at secular upbringing has obviously failed, I was indeed told that I have Vestibular Neuritis, an infection of the aforementioned nerve which can supress one’s sense of equilibrium within a few minutes, as it did me. Just stunning. I was told that with proper treatment and diligent rehabilitation, I would be back to normal in about a month.
So I stayed in there, Gina brought me some headphones and I discovered, and easily got up to date with, Serial, slowly took off my mask and even, on the last day, got reacquainted with solid foods. Italian hospital food, I must tell you, even though I only had the strength to take a bite or two, was fucking DELICIOUS. Risotto? Grana mashed potatoes?! Made me want to live again!
Finally, on Friday and after an extensive new battery of tests, they told me that I could do at home anything they were doing here and that I could go if I wanted. I wanted. Now armed with brand new emergency room vocabulary, I slowly and carefully packed my bag, waiting for Gina to pick me up. I asked for whatever checkout papers I needed so that she could review them before signing and paying and after about two hours, they came. Except, no bill, just prescriptions… Yup, five days in the hospital, tests, food, even a cat scan, all for zero dollars. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to whether this burden borne by the government, and most certainly dragging it down, is worth the ease of care but I must say, when you’re caught in the middle, it’s hard to argue with it.
I cannot even explain the roller coaster that was the ride back home but I have now returned, still dizzy and scheduling an MRI for tomorrow so that I am absolutely sure that there is no neurological damage but I am told the extreme symptoms should subdue this week to transition into a milder version for the next two and finally disappear by the end of December. You might have noticed that perhaps my spelling, syntax or grammar is not quite up to snuff and now you know why… All in all, this should be no biggie and I will be back delivering cured meats and macerated grapes to my stomach soon, God willing…
Having left my native France as quickly as I could, I never got the chance to visit my own backyard, a land torn by the scars of history. Since my family and I are now back, if temporarily, on the Old Continent, we thought it sage to quench our thirst for knowledge, understanding and Schnitzel on the very grounds fouled by those who started, and ended it.
After a trip like this, I shall sleep this weekend. Well.