Category Archives: Music


Bem-vindos to the latest Portuguese installment of our ongoing ‘Polyglot Austin”  blog series, where we celebrate the city’s cultural diversity while taking an interactive approach to language learning.

Through our beginner and intermediate Portuguese videos below (subtitled, with full transcription provided!), we introduce you to Bruno Vinezof, a Brazilian native and founder of the incredibly soulful rhythm & percussion group Maracatu Texas.

Practice your Portuguese while you learn more about this afro-brazilian percussion genre infusing Brazilian culture into Atx.  Did you know you can join Maracatu in Austin??  Check out their lively performances and classes .

Also! Read on to see how you can win an 8-week Portuguese class at Brazil Day Austin 2014.

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Austin boasts an especially strong and colorful Brazilian music scene. Que lindo maravilhoso!

What an enriching experience learning about the history and culture of  “Maracatu” which conveys, specifically, the rhythm of Northern Brazil.   In the past, in the era of slavery in Brazil, the Maracatu groups crowned a black king and queen who would be the communicators between the Portuguese slave owners and the black community to which they belonged. These traditions are still honored in Marcatu groups today.


An array of alfaias, a type of Brazilian drum, artwork in themselves!

Watch, listen, read transcripts  – have all kinds of fun!  Then,  answer our questions (em português) in the comment area; one of our teachers will get back to you.

Beginner Level

Beginners, to get the most out of this exercise, watch it first without sound, while reading the subtitles.  Then, watch the video again with sound. See how multiple viewings of segments of the video improve your reading & listening comprehension.


Beginner Questions

  1. Pernambuco fica em qual região do Brasil?
  2. Bruno conhece países nas Américas, e mais um continente. Qual é o outro continente?
  3. Que tipo de instrumentos músicas Bruno toca?

Intermediate Level

J: Pode descrever o lugar onde você cresceu? / B: Eu cresci numa cidade chamada Olinda. É uma cidade muito antiga, com mais de quatrocentos e setenta anos. Olinda tem muito casarões antigos, e é uma cidade com muita música, e o carnaval é muito famoso. CLICK HERE FOR FULL TRANSCRIPT 

Intermediate Questions

  1. A cidade de Olinda tem quantos anos?
  2. Para Bruno, qual é a diferença mais importante entre a música brasileira e a música dos Estados Unidos?
  3. Think about the following two phrases: O Maracatu “veio para o Brasil com os escravos,” and “servia como um intermédio.” Why does Bruno use the preterit in the first phrase, and the imperfect in the second?

We thank our friends of  Morena Soul, the lively, fun, locally grown Brazilian-music band for introducing us to the Brazilian scene in Austin.  Meet them here, in our first Portuguese blog entry and be sure to follow their performances as well (schedule).   What dynamic people, groups and strong bonds that unite Portuguese-speaking musicians in Austin!

Like the sounds and cultural richness of  Brazil and the fast-paced rhythms of samba?  Don’t miss Austin Samba (the largest Brazilian cultural organization of its kind in the US) present the largest celebration of Brazilian music and culture of the year at their event ‘Brazil Day Austin 2014‘!  Dance, drink, eat, practice your Portuguese AND!!!…. enter to win an 8-week  Portuguese language class with Freestyle!  Come meet us at our table there and enter a drawing (free!) to win!

Last, but certainly not least, if you love practicing your Portuguese, make sure BRAZILPOD is in your repertoire!

The Freestyle Lifestyle


We do language learning a little differently at Freestyle!

Our one-of-a-kind approach to second language acquisition uses technology and interactive media in a way that brings the most recent, relevant, high-usage vocabulary and everyday expressions to our students in an entertaining and effective way. Join us as we continue to revolutionize language learning!

Fall I Session starts 9/2, join us for a free trial class or Saturday ‘cafe’ –

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Polyglot Austin: Our Multilingual, Multicultural City!

Freestyle Language Center believes in language learning through relevant cultural context. This ‘Polyglot Austin’ blog series shares the unique cultures, stories, and experiences of the multilingual people who call our city home while providing opportunities for language practice and learning!

In this entry we feature Morena Soul, a local band that brings a variety of traditional Brazilian beats with ‘modern musicality’ and a global perspective to the local music scene. In the live music capital of the world, stroll through Downtown Austin on almost any evening and hear the rich sounds of live music, frequently in other languages, bursting from restaurants and bars.


Go Polyglot! Practice your Portuguese and get to know Morena Soul!

morena soul

Freestyle was lucky  to have Morena Soul perform at one of our Polyglot Dance Parties! “Obrigada” to Angela Loyd for her fabulous “passista” dancing.

Watch and listen to the videos below for an interview with Sarah and Frank  as they share a bit about themselves and their music. Interact with us: test your Portuguese and answer the questions below!

Beginner Level

Q:Estamos aqui com a Sarah e com Frank que tocam no Morena Soul e a gente está muito feliz que eles estão participando de um evento no Freestyle, e a gente tem algumas perguntas para vocês. Sarah, de onde você é? /  Sarah: Eu sou do  Rio de Janeiro. Q: E você, Frank?/ Frank: Eu também sou do Rio de Janeiro, só que eu me criei em outra parte do Brasil.
Q: Em qual parte?/ F: No nordeste Brasileiro.
Q: Ah, que legal! Então tem influência carioca, e nordestina também. /F: Carioca e nordestina.  Carioca do Rio de Janeiro e nordestino do nordeste.
Q: E o que vocês fazem, em termos de trabalho?/ S: Eu trabalho na Apple. / F: Eu também trabalho na Apple.
Q: E porque vocês vieram para Austin? / S: Eu vim para Austin para fugir do frio de Nova Iorque / F: E eu vim para Austin para fugir da confusão de Miami/ S: Ele está me copiando!
Q: Já estão americanizados! E o que vocês gostam em Austin? / F: Eu gosto de tudo.  Mais eu gosto muito da cultura de Austin por ser um lugar bem diverso, e muitas etnicidades, muitos países, e gosto muito do clima também, e das pessoas.  As pessoas em Austin são mais calorosas. /S: Eu gosto do tamanho da cidade.  Eu acho que é uma cidade que não é nem muito grande e nem  muito pequena, então você tem a infra-estrutura de uma cidade grande, mas a sensação que você está morando numa cidade pequena.  E eu também gosto da parte cultural.
Q: E na parte cultural, como é que vocês se envolveram com a música? / S: Saudade do Brasil!
Q: E o que vocês mais sentem falta do Brasil, da comida?  Número um. / S: E a família.
Q: A comida e a família.  Os amigos.  Esta coisa de Austin ser mais caloroso, é mais caloroso em relação a outras cidades americanas, né? Mas o Brasil, é bem mais caloroso de qualquer cidade daqui.  As pessoas, a cultura, os amigos. / S: Os churrascos, os fins de semana.

Intermediate Level

For the intermediate interview transcription see our Youtube channel.  url

Write your answers in the comments below – our teachers will get back to you!

Beginner Questions

  1. De onde a Sarah é? E Frank?
  2. Sarah e Frank trabalham para a mesma empresa.  Qual empresa é?
  3. Por que é que eles vieram para Austin?
  4. Por que a Sarah gosta tanto de Austin?  E Frank?
  5. Eles têm saudade de quais coisas do Brasil?

Intermediate Questions

  1. Quais instrumentos Frank toca? E a Sarah?
  2. Como é o público brasileiro nos concertos?
  3. Como é o público americano nos concertos?
  4. Qual é a vantagem de tocar musica brasileira aqui nos Estados Unidos, em relação a tocar no Brasil? Qual é o desafio?

Muito obrigado to Morena Soul for letting us share their stories!  Want to see them live? Check out their events calendar for weekly showtimes!

Up next, French in Austin! Who would you like to see interviewed? Comment below with suggestions. Merci!

The Freestyle Lifestyle

Our methodology incorporates technology and interactive media in a way which brings the most recent, relevant, high-usage vocabulary and everyday expressions to our students in an entertaining and effective way. Join us as we seek to revolutionize language learning: Try a free evening class or our popular Saturday “cafe” (11am-12:30pm) at 801 Rio Grande!


At Freestyle, we take pride in doing things differently, just like the city we call home!

Follow our blog for more interactive language fun! Know a polyglot in Austin? Let us know who you’d like to see featured on our blog by commenting below.

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This is What Austin Sounds Like to Me, Part II or “Un gaou à Austin”

It is now spring, getting on towards the end of it anyway, and this is one of my favorite times of the year in Austin.  I can drive with the windows down, music semi-blasting (I’m not young anymore, I’ve got to take care of these aural devices.) The sun is starting to set later and later, which brings le coucher de soleil closer to the moments when I meet friends for drinks or dinner, or, on rare occasions, begin a night of bacchanalian revelry with those friends that are better labeled bad influences.

Magic System is from Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and their music is called Zouglou.

There was a stint when I lived in NW Austin, around the Four Points area.  Sometimes too far from my preferred haunts in and near downtown, Magic System made that journey much more tolerable.

“La musique est pour nous un facteur de rapprochement du peuple…”
[Music is, for us, a way to bring people together…]

 Take the drive on 2222 from 620 into town.  Do it as the sun sets, or just as the lights of night start to outshine said gaseous giant as it heads to bed.  Lower your windows, and crank up a little “On va samizé.”

Let the opening notes blow past your ears and the wind blow through your smartly coiffed hair as you descend Tumbleweed hill, foot covering the brake pedal so as not to achieve enough velocity to attempt low-earth orbit or earn some sort of traffic citation.  Cross under 360, pass County Line BBQ and the music, already getting you in the mood to dance, rhythms you in and out of every turn and switch-back on the descent to Mopac.  Go ahead, play it twice, get yourself to Loop 1 to head south for downtown.

Now, having followed Mopac south, take the exit to go au centre-ville, and after you curve to the left, do a little down-and-up shift in the road, then back to the right (just like you’re dancing, man), level out onto 5th and keep Magic System as your copilot.  Switch to their song “Premier Gaou.” Nothing beats it as you patrol the streets, hunting for errant parking spots that are, if you’re lucky, only a few blocks from your destination.  The music keeps your hips primed for dipping in any concert venue, and calms the savageness of parking rage as you hunt.  Long after you’ve paralleled your way between an obnoxiously stationed Hummer and the Car2Go Smart that it dwarfs, despite their separation, you’ll be singing to yourself as you walk downtown

“On dit premier gaou n’est pas gaou, oh…/ C’est deuxième gaou qui est niata, oh…”
[Fool me once, shame on you / Fool me twice, shame on me…]


Now that you know the route, give your Sunday drive a Zouglou kick!

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This is What Austin Sounds Like to Me, Part I

I recently wrote that, for me, Austin has a very unique soundtrack, in much the same way that Saïan Supa Crew will always be my accompaniment on the #31 bus in Paris, or Akhénaton the background to my treks in the métro from Line 13 in St Lazare to Auber for RER A.

Whenever I’ve much on my mind (what I often refer to as S. O. double M.), I’m wont to either take my dog, Finn, on a longer-than-usual walk, or sometimes a little car ride.

With gas prices what  they are, I’m far less likely to do the latter these days, but it still happens on occasion.

On these vehicled excursions, I really get into the thinking groove, the reflecting mood, on the drive going north on 360 from Mopac to 183.  It is exactly long enough, with a good dose of the Austin skyline mixed with the quiet solitude of the hills, to create the sense it’s only you, your dog, your car and possibility. Like a sumo wrestler eating for his next big match, the vibe is enhanced when making the drive at night.  And  though Ted Mosby is mostly right, this is probably the only thing that gets better after 2AM.

All you need do is cross the Pennybacker Bridge, the suns of other systems winking at you, the lap of lake waving you on, and you can stretch into the world.,

In just a few miles, windows down, dog chilling on the back seat, the running away into thought, singing at the top of your lungs, all is captured by one song: “Désolé.”  And sometimes, as if watching from outside the car, scarcely a few feet above, I imagine I’m making my own video for it.  This is just a minor escape, five fleeting minutes, with the crisp night air, Finn up way past his bed time, volume up even higher.  The world seems a little more conquerable as I leave the embrace of the hills to get back on 183 to head home.   Though this might be my preferred route, song and place dancing inextricably in my mind, to be honest, any night drive will do.  Try it once and see for yourself.  But try the song first.

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Even at SXSW, caped polyglots can swoop in at a moment’s notice…

It appears that the city of Austin has survived yet another edition of the South by Southwest film and music festival.  For the residents of our fair city (apologies to Click and Clack), SXSW is usually tackled with either of two strategies:  one) you embrace one or both weeks of the schedule and avail yourself of the “We never stop serving” audio and visual buffet, gorging on as much as your ears and eyes can manage; or two) you resign yourself to a mini-hibernation, avoiding the clustering crowds, time-devouring traffic and cacophonous chaos, fleeing like Arthur and his noble, questing knights from the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog, with your own rousing chorus of “Run away! Run away!”

An added bonus of Southby is the sheer amount of entertainment available to the polyglots of central Texas, to the residents and visitors from afar that call Austin home or pit stop.  Films from the world over, music from every corner of the globe (a strange expression to be sure, given the inherent roundness of said globe), and in enough languages to make Austin even more international than it already is.

Our adventure begins with two intrepid heroes–a Francophone whose obsession with music is probably only exceeded by his taste for wine and love of literature (played here by your humble servant, etc. etc), and a friend and Freestyle Spanish instructor, Jennifer, with her own penchant for the magical realism of literature (fancy a cup of Garcia Marquez?) and passion for the language of Cervantes that has taken her to Spain and Costa Rica.

Their experiences during this magical, yet real, festival couldn’t have been more different.


Jennifer fell into the second camp, the Monty Python-esque denizen of Austin who longed to avoid the “nasty, big, pointy teeth” of SXSW.  One night during the festivities, curled up with what I am led to understand was a mighty smooth bottle of Cacique and a some sort of crochet project in hand, she was, as she put it, “coerced out of hibernation.”  The means of coercion are no secret, and I remember her specifically saying “luckily coerced.”  Her roommate Jacob had met the performer in a bike marathon about a year ago, and had never seen her perform.  It only took a little bit of convincing (though I’m not sure if the carrot was financial, fun or a government mandate), and he convinced Jennifer to hop on a bike and pedal to the venue, in typical Austin fashion.  Apparently, participation in bike marathons gives you mad dope bike skills, so Jennifer’s pedaling was wind-like, a hustle to keep up. Jacob, next time give the girl a break!

Off she went to see a show.

As for myself, I usually pitch my tent in the KOA of festival embracing.  If I had the money, and could afford the time off, I would, every year, brave the riot-proportion crowds and obnoxious, steroid-enhanced Austin traffic to see as many films and concerts as my little brain and body could handle. (Yes, there would be bathroom and food breaks, but I’m given to understand one can live off food from a drive-through window or street cart for weeks before any real health risks kick in.  Most movie theatres and concert venues have restrooms, so that would be settled, and Axe commercials have convinced me of the efficacy of their products.  Women, commence flocking!) I had decided on one show in particular to see, weeks in advance.


Jennifer went, (coerced, wink wink nudge nudge) to see an artist new to her, Gina Chavez, a singer-songwriter based here in Austin, whose music shifts between English, Spanish and bilingual iterations.  As if that wasn’t enough internationalness (hooray for neologisms!), Ms. Chavez is also Austin’s music ambassador to its sister city in Japan, Oita.  To hear Jennifer describe her, “Her voice has that deep ethereal swagger that makes one want to sing along and is backed by Latin beats that make it impossible not to move.”  The venue was packed, with no room for the dancing often inspired by Gina’s jams, like “Embrujo,” so the crowd was relegated to clapping and grooving to the music on stage.  Lest you think the audience simply stayed a passive observer, Gina had everyone singing along to “El Sombrero Azul,” a cover song by Ali Primera, written for Salvadorans as a song of lucha [struggle] during the civil war.

As for my show, I went to see Baloji, an emcee originally from the Congo, now living in Belgium.  I’ve been listening to his music for several years now, and the concert did not disappoint.  The crowd was electric.  But the French take-away from the night sprouted from a much more benign incident.  My friend Jaclyn, during one of the sets, met a guy from Africa who had a band of his own.  Then, she told me about him and his group.  He sounded cool, so a quarter of an hour later, crossing him in a doorway, I introduced myself, invoking my friend as our one degree of separation.  After I asked him from where he comes in Africa (“The Ivory coast!”) he told me briefly about his group, Aciable. (From their site, aciable:  pronunciation: ah see ah blay  (language: Bahoulee, an ethnic group of Ivory Coast in  Africa.)  meaning 1. Joy and dance.  2. African-inspired dance band based in Austin, Texas.). I was intrigued, but the brief conversation stopped there.


Just a few (ten? fifteen?) minutes later, I found myself in the men’s room, dutifully staring down the wall from my strategic positioning in front of the urinal.  In the corner of my eye, the door opened, and in steps the Ivoirian–strange that I asked the name of his band, but not his.  As luck would have it, he sidled up to the urinal next to mine.  To heck with time-honored protocol in the men’s room, I will speak again to this man! In French! “La Côte d’Ivoire, hein?” [the Ivory Coast, huh?] The slightly higher pitch of surprise in his voice, “Vous parlez le français alors?” [So you speak French?] My response, as ever in these situations, is, “Bien sûr!” [Of course!]  The conversation continues as we exit les toilettes, and I learn that Aciable is, in fact, an Austin-based band, much like Gina Chavez.  I verify the name of the band (whose site I later find on the googlenets), hand him my card, and tell him I look forward to seeing him again.  In French, of course.  Jean-Claude, if you’re reading this, on se verra bientôt!

Jennifer, on the other hand, was fortunate enough, after the set, to eventually talk to Gina, the Spanish flying off her tongue like Mexican fruit bats taking flight. Their conversation lasted longer than mine, substantive, packed full of vowels and minerals, sprinkled with idioms.  Gina remembered Jacob from the bike marathon (ah the benefits of exercise!), yet Jacob seemed surprised that Gina remembered him and, as if starting a surprise loop,  she seemed surprised that he was surprised by that. And that’s not surprising.  She talked to Jennifer and Jacob about being the music ambassador and how it’s going to be a continual post, with the current ambassador taking the new one to Japan for introductions, passing the mic, so to speak, from one to the next. She was incredibly sweet and wanted a picture of Jacob and Jennifer with her. In a subsequent email after the encounter, Jennifer learned that Gina recently performed a benefit concert for her El Salvador college fund and plans a summer Boat Fiesta to continue to raise money for the cause. It seems that whatever the  Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch was that convinced Jennifer to come a’questing during SXSW led her to the Musical Grail that is Gina Chavez. She told me, “I feel fortunate to have met Gina, and it’s wonderful to know a talented artist with such a kind heart.”  She’s definitely a fan now, and she’s hoping to convert you, too.  Here, just see for yourself.  A tune by Gina Chavez via Jennifer’s introduction:

“If you’re just starting out learning Spanish or don’t speak a bit of it, try listening to “Miles de Millas,” a bilingual tune that will amaze you no matter what language you speak!”


Though Jennifer may have had the more glamorous night, I am no less excited about my toilet talk.  Whichever way it happened, it’s just further proof that anywhere, anytime, the super powers of multilingualism can swoop in to carry the day.

For more information on Gina Chavez, visit

For more information on Aciable, visit

A Great deal of thanks and credit goes to Jennifer, without whose story I would not have been able to write this post! Merci mille fois! Muchas gracias!

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Another Midnight in Paris, but not Woody Allen’s Paris

Paris. Winter. The numbers shining from my cell phone warn me that midnight is fast approaching. It was only days before that I’d returned to the city I’d previously called home, and which has felt like it for far longer. I’d just left a rendez-vous with a  dear friend, a night cap after attending a poetry reading together. Quitting her, the wine and the company inspired me to do something a little more cozy with my other dear friend, thus the solitary walk in the almost-quiet streets. “Et j’ai dû côtoyer le pavé / Pas à pas je me dis, c’est pas vrai.” [“I had to take to the streets / Step by step I tell myself, it’s not true”]

Heading east, more or less, the Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle turns into Boulevard St Denis turns into Boulevard St Martin as I stroll upstream, toward the Place de la République.  I long ago gave up learning all the names of the streets I wandered here, still wander, instead memorizing their beginnings and endings. This particular stretch of by-many-another-name boulevard starts in République and ends somewhere just beyond the Opéra Garnier, aptly adopting the appellation of the man who Haussmanisized all of these Grands Boulevards.”Si Paris va bien, Maître Gims pète la forme!”[“If Paris is doing well, Maître Gims is in great shape”]

It happens terribly often that these wanderings, in the dead of night or full life of day, present to me those intimate, those magical moments that keep me connected to this city.  No matter how long between visits, or how long each stay, something happens to remind me not just that I’m fully there, here,  but that I’m never absent from Paris.

Now where was I? Ah yes, Paris. Winter. Midnight. Boulevard St Martin depositing me in the Place de la République, eyes alert for the closest entrance to the métro, the subway, so that I might make it back to the apartment in some reasonable amount of time.  To my right, and about a block away, I spot said entrance, a few bodies entering and leaving, apace with my own rate of travel.  This wasn’t the hurry-and-get-there clip of the morning rush hour, or the I-can’t-get-home-soon-enough trot; those I see are climbing and descending the steps as if weighed down by second jobs, or second bottles of Chinon, or simply slowed by the extra seconds between arriving trains. The casual arrival on the quay complements the less frenetic rush to board.

As my body turns right, out of the corner of my left eye, something bright catches my attention, day-like and massive.  Stopping in my tracks, I turn to figure out what’s going on.  Some distance away, in the opposite direction of the yawning of the métro, I see a semi truck and flatbed trailer, parked next to the sidewalk, with what are clearly a film crew and a massive set of lights focused on the trailer bed.  My initial assumption is of course that yet another movie is taking place in Paris, and at this late hour they might be escaping the throngs of lookers-on, or perhaps simply looking to avoid the traffic common just a few hours earlier in the evening.  “J’vois pas Paname du même coté que les touristes … / Derrière le papier-peint pas d’assurer tout risque (Paname!) ” [“I don’t see Paris from the same view as the tourists…/Behind the wallpaper no insuring against all risks”]

I’m not in any rush so, cat-like, my curiosity shifts my weight and then movement towards the action.  A few steps closer, the truck is now some thirty or forty meters away. Perhaps I should say some thirty or forty yards away, it’s just that sometimes it’s not only language and demeanor that totters back and forth between arrivals, but perspective, too. Fully facing the truck now, I can start to make out more clearly what’s going on.  It’s not a crew working on a film, but rather a music group working on a video.  They’re rehearsing on the flatbed, moving (dancing?) in unison to a piece of music I can’t hear at all. From here I can see that they’re all wearing the same outfits, black and gray letter jackets and jeans, some with baseball caps, some without.  My first thought, my first instinct is that this is a hip hop or R&B group working on some new clip destined for MTV Base or M6 musique.  As I take a few more steps, it becomes easier to distinguish between the members–height, weight, stature, even faces become just a little more defined. The figures taking on their own forms, I start to recognize what I think are the people behind the voices of “L’école des points vitaux” and “Désolé.”  Is it?  Could it be? I think to myself, but that isn’t quite accurate because I hear the words come out under my breath.

“Is it? Could it be? Mais c’est pas possible!” [“It’s not possible!”] There’s no way that on this, of all nights, I would wander into Place de la République when they are filming a video.  Would I get that lucky?  I’ll know if I see him.  Look for the glasses, look for the aviators.  A few more steps, a better viewing angle and the director comes into view, previously hidden by the corner of the rig.  His hands are up, giving some directions to the guys, who nod in agreement or understanding.  A few more steps, and some movement based on the directions, then a few more and from behind one of the lights comes into view a head, hat cocked to the side, and the reflection of the set lights in a pair of sunglasses.

“C’est pas possible! Ce n’est pas possible!” I talk to myself a lot; like a sports announcer I often have running commentary in my head and in my mouth.  In France, it’s not unusual for me to do all of this code switching.  “It’s them, it’s really them!” Sexion d’Assaut tourne un clip right here in Place de la République, and I’m about twenty meters away.  I feel my pace quicken, so I force myself to slow down, lest I look too eager to become an on-looker, wide-eyed groupie, psycho fan.

So here I am, self-induced almost-crawl, not so slow as to appear creepy or stage five stalkerish, but certainly not the racing pace that would have given my pulse a good run for its money. I’m still eyes-wide, but if I can just keep a low profile, perhaps the others milling about won’t take too much note of my presence.  It is all I can do not to run up to the trailer.  Are they going to take a break?  Pourrai-je parler avec eux? If they  stop, I’m going to talk to them.  If they stop, I’m gonna talk to ’em.  Another five minutes of rehearsal; they seem to have the steps down, everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to.  Or at least I think they do, hell I don’t know what the director told them or whether they all did their thing.  At this point, I’m all If they take a break I’m gonna talk to ’em. If they take a break I’m gonna talk to ’em.  I feel the words generating in my throat.  “Qui a eu l’idée pour ‘Désolé’?  Qui sont vos poètes préférés? Je vous admire depuis la sortie de “Antitecktonik’!!!  Je suis américain, stupide mais je kiffe trop la musique!!” [“Who had the idea for ‘Désolé’? Who are your favorite poets? I’ve admired you guys since the release of ‘Antitecktonik’!! I’m just a stupid American but your music rocks!!!”] Who the hell is this white guy yelling at us?  In French? We’re trying to make a video here.

Thank goodness such an outburst never leaves the voice box; thank goodness the knees didn’t automatically kneel themselves near the tires.  I’m stuck right here, a good twenty feet (yes, twenty feet) away, and as the others loitering about seem to be over the chance sighting, I keep my focus on the trailer, on Sexion d’Assaut.

Another three or four minutes (oh how they stretched into what clearly felt like the end of an LP, spinning the scratchy silence, too lazy to lift the needle) and then a shout:  “Alright, we ready?” A rousing “Yeah!,” then someone climbs into the cab, puffs of black smoke indicating the diesel engine is up and running.  They take off, easing into traffic in a manner only possible after midnight.  They turn right onto Boulevard St Martin, heading towards Opéra.  Automatically, my legs turn, too.  Yep, we’re following the rig.  A determined mosey, surely the rig will get caught at a light.

Again, my body’s trying to do one thing–keep it cool, keep it cool, we’re just out to flâner un petit peu, take a little stroll tranquillement–but my mind is racing–what are we going to say to them? how do we start? when they stop do we run up, or just stroll by? what if we get drinks? am I going to get drunk with Maître Gims and Black M?

And so I keep following as the truck passes one green light then another green light (Who gets this lucky with intersections?).  Mutter-breath, “If they stop I’m gonna talk to ’em, if they stop I’m gonna talk to ’em.” Another green light. Their height decreases by half.  Another.  Half again. Another. My legs, no longer suitable for running anyway, cultivate the saunter in a perfect field test; I am not speeding up, but neither am I slowing down.  I am Baudelaire’s flâneur incarnate, his midwinter night’s hip hop flâneur chasing the metal carriage that rumbles past those dandy, agèd arcades.  Another. Brake lights become twinkles.  Is that a street light or the lights for the camera? Another. They must have a code or a cop for les feux.

Ten blocks. Or twenty. Or  four-twenties. My mind out of breath from its relentless racing; my legs, still in amble mode, ready for the next twenty, and the next.  But I’ll never catch up.  This is Paris, at night, in the winter.  Behind me, the Place de la République beckons, so I turn, then return.  This time, on the north side of Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle turning into Boulevard St Denis turning into Boulevard St Martin. Appropriately enough, even the switch to the opposite side of the street from earlier gives everything a completely new perspective.  “Et j’ai dû côtoyer le pavé / pas à pas je me dis c’est pas vrai…”

Totally worth every moment I’ve ever spent learning French.

“Et j’ai dû côtoyer le pavé / pas à pas je me dis c’est pas vrai…”

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