on the road, day 9: limoges to brest.

It seems that 10 nights in a row of unventilated smoke-filled hotboxes and a diet of 50% cheese is about all my respiratory system could take. I've got enough mucus in my body to start World War III.

Last night's show was just short of disastrous. Our sound man seems like just about the most laid-back guy on earth, but apparently this facade dissolves rapidly if you do something that offends him. For example, if you put a homemade limiter on the mixing desk that turns off the output of the PA if its level reaches 105db. This might manifest itself like this: after the band spends 3 minutes gradually building the intro to a song into something that's about to explode, the singer steps up to the mic to deliver the first line of the song, the band switches gears to take off behind him and.....his microphone shuts off, rather anti-climactically.

After much running around to determine why this might be happening, someone tells our soundman about the limiter and the look on his face made me want to assume a crash landing position. Even worse was when, after they'd apparently sorted it out, it happened again. The last thing I heard was a nice and Scottish "Can one of you fucking people please fucking tell me why the fuck the fucking thing's still on there?" I left the room as it was a bit painful to watch. A few minutes later I asked him if he needed any help and he said "Can you find me a wee bit of dynamite?"

On the upside, there's only one more show left. Brest is/was interesting because it's been the part of the trip we were all dreading: 600km on non-highway roads. We really had no idea how long it would take, but our best guess was 9 hours, which is a long time in the van even under the best conditions.

Turns out it wasn't bad at all, almost 9 hours on the nose. I spent the day trying to decipher my new Michelin guide so that we might avoid any more meals like the one in Bourges. In fact...I could be imagining this, but the Bourges lunch seems to have traumatized us a bit: we had a hard time stopping for breakfast/lunch yesterday because no one wanted to be the person who said "this looks good, let's stop" lest it be another bomb. So an hour after we'd decided we were hungry, we finally stopped at a petrol station, and by this time we were so famished we might've even eaten the Bourges food again. I saw Mr. croque monsieur on the menu and thought I'd put my tooth on him. No picture unfortunately, basically a ham sandwich on white bread with an inexplicable layer of bechamel sauce covered by melted cheese on top. I was so hungry I really don't have any idea if it was good or not. I think it was at least OK.

Later, for pre-dinner we stopped in Lorient, a very odd downtown area which at 4pm featured more open gun /ammo shops than open cafes. After a bit of a walk we found an open cafe in the faux-historic grand cafe style. Lots of older folk out for coffee with their tiny, well-dressed dogs: I saw two separate tables at which the dog was seated across from its owner, tail wagging, eager look on its face, the owner chatting happily to the dog as if this was the most normal lunch date in the world.

At this point in the afternoon the menu was limited to 5 sandwiches and a salad or two. For research symmetry I had the croque madame, which was basically a ham and cheese sandwich on white bread with no inexplicable layer of bechamel sauce but instead a raw egg on top. This was pretty good, easily the best-looking thing at the table. Everybody else's sandwich looked as if the ingredients had simultaneously fallen off of the grocery store shelf, during an earthquake or robot attack perhaps, and had coincidentally landed on top of each other. Good baguettes haphazardly sliced as if in self-defense, filled with the cheapest, most carelessly prepared ingedients. Just thinking about them is depressing.

In fact, today's meals and the evening's dinner would really drive home the fact that it is very very easy to eat badly in France, as we have repeatedly shown. I've done better than most b/c I'm such an embarrassing food geek and my menu selections are the result of my vast alien brain's nearly blinding ability to calculate the potential goodness of each menu option. But for the average shmo....man.

Last night's dinner was the last one that we would place in the hands of someone else. It was in the hotel restaurant (and as such paid for by the venue), which smelled like a Asian market fish stall when we walked in. Now, we are in the harbor, on the water, but this is not a smell that inspires confidence, particularly because there was not an Asian in sight (joke!). We proceeded on to a overly bright dining room (mt, you would've instantly died I think) which featured a "seafood buffet" of boiled shrimp, escargot (seafood?), and assorted fish/shellfish salads. Um, no.

I had the soupe de poissons and the poisson du jour, which turned out to be something called Colin, which is also the name of our soundman, who also ordered Colin, which led to much obvious but nonetheless funny humor. It was all....bleh. Fine, I guess. I can do better. You could do better. And the fries: every single damn fry I've had here is the most greasy, limp thing you've ever seen. Anyway, as Dustin Hoffman would say in his incedibly bad Italian accent during his incredibly bad performance in Perfume, "basta". It was now time to take the reigns of our destiny and pull or yank or whatever you do in that situation.

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