The Pubs May Be Fake But It Doesn't Rain Pigs

A Metropole café in Les Halles

Introducing a Great Writer, But Not For Metropole.

by Ric Erickson

Metropole Paris:- St. Patrick's Day:- Monday, 17. March 1997:- The International Herald Tribune is perceived as a businessperson's newspaper, and its Saturday edition used to be considered a poor relation.

Regardless of how much its owners - the Washington Post and the New York Times - whine about what it costs to keep the 'Trib' going in its Paris headquarters, the IHT, as it likes to be known as these days, puts out a very respectable Saturday edition that is often more interesting than any of its daily weekday editions.

Despite its name - 'International' - and despite its owners, on Saturday the 'Trib' can be what it has always been for more than a hundred years, a Paris paper. Reading the editorial pages will tell you better than any other publication what America thinks; and if you think all its contributors are pinko lefties, then you can read Bill Safire, Dick Nixon's one-time flack.

During the week, the paper has good columns and good features - and it always has the comic-strips - even if I don't care for them since they dropped 'Pogo.'

But its Saturday edition has my favorite columns: Dave Barry from the Miami Herald, the IHT's own Souren Melikian writing about the skullduggery in the art biz, the week's wrap up of the highly regarded business news - "Can Africa Attain 'Tiger' Status?" - hey! Headline writers please note: no tigers in Africa! - and a column by Mary Blume.

First spring flowers

Mary Blume is a jewel and whatever the IHT pays her, it cannot be enough.

Mary Blume has been writing for the IHT longer than I've been reading it - 32 years - and I do not think I am alone in guessing that my indifference to the paper would increase by about 50 percent if she was no longer a contributor.

Last Saturday's column was no different from the hundreds - thousands? - of others that she has done. It was well-written of course, it was informative and it was entertaining. It was not like TV-news, which is usually none of the above.

The headline was: "Green Power: The Irish Pub Invasion." For Metropole, just as I don't write about Pubs in Paris, I don't write about Irish Pubs in Paris either - no matter how friendly and cozy they are.

Besides making it a point to feature Parisian bars and cafés, the other reason I have never written about Irish Pubs in Paris, is that I don't drink. I don't want to even go in one of these places and spoil everybody's fun - what is he? Must be a temperance!

First spring flowers

The last time I was tempted, I was dying for a café and I just happened to be going past an Irish Pub and I thought, why not? But they had turned their expresso machine off and that was that - water wouldn't do. I needed something stronger - and strong bottles to look at while I had it wouldn't have been too bad either.

I have been in elegant pubs in downtown Dublin and Cork and I've been in cement-floored ones hard by the Atlantic. I cannot figure out what all these Irish Pubs are doing in Paris though. They seem to be sprouting like mushrooms.

On Saturday, Mary Blume told me. Guinness, the brewery that makes a beer that looks like really old crankcase oil - you know, with a little brown in it - has a deal that includes five Irish Pubs in kits. Kits!

I should have known. The French have an affinity for Ireland and if you are over in the West you bump into French - literally, on the wrong side of the road - there all the time. I saw then there a long time ago, and I suppose that I just sort of thought every French person who had ever been in a pub in Dingle or in Clifton, came back to Paris and opened a pub of their own, because they are such great places.

When there was only one or three 'Irish Pubs' in Paris, there were a fair number of Guinness outlets, because Belgians like all sorts of weird beers, and I think Guinness was ever brewed in Belgium at one time if it is not still. At any rate, you could always get a pretty good - not perfect, mind you - a pretty good pint, in places in Paris that sold moules and frites.

And now Mary Blume is telling me Irish Pubs are sold as kits. Ah, prunes!

I'm just kidding; I'm not that sour about it. Even if it doesn't sound like much to you, I have a couple of memories left over from a couple of unusual days in Dublin, or 'Publin' as some Germans call it. Not drinking doesn't take them away, although for the life of me I can't honestly say why I've even got these memories, or how. Absolute mystery.

Anyway, another reason Irish pubs are popular in France, fake or not, and as Mary Blume points out, is that the French, even if they've never been to Ireland, seem to know that Irish pubs are places where you have fun.

I do not know how they know this. But these are not places to drink and run. These are places made comfortable enough to hang around in and house rules are that you talk to the other customers and they to you. Very much like the mañana way of keeping time in Spain, in Ireland 'there's time.'

As in closing time. I don't know if things have changed in UK since I was there about a 100 years ago, but one thing that really got on my nerves there was closing time, last call, time, drink up gentlemen please thank you goodnight, slam, and there you are on the wet street and no place to go but a damp B & B in Bayswater.

Not in Irish pubs. They close slowly. One time I was in Mulligan's, it closed so slowly in the afternoon I was still in it when it opened after the break.

I thought the re-opening was a sign I should leave for lunch and the first place I tried there was only one customer but he was a maniac and insisted on buying rounds Old church door of Paddy for the 'house,' partly because there was only the bartender and me - and is the gist of the reason why I never ever ate any Dublin Bay prawns in that city.

According the Mary Blume, the Irish pubs to avoid in Paris are the ones that are considered 'in' by what is known locally as 'jeune cadre dynamique,' or maybe that should all be plural if there's two of them, but if you find these types being in the majority in any place you happen to be in Paris, you are probably in the wrong place.

These specimens, are 'suits'-in-training, and are not comforting types to pass time with - and now that I think of it, I haven't seen any around lately. There is a certain kind of salon I'm not going to anymore, and I guess that's where I used to run into them.

There is one thing I do know though. There is no Mulligan's in Paris. Despite all good intentions, it is not exportable, in a kit.

There are always 'coming events' in Paris and there will be some this week, but after last week I don't care. If you need to know something, write me, and I'll look it up.

Regards, Ric
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