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Party-Time for Bistros

It is supposed to be customers who initiate this; but if bistros want to do it instead it is okay with me. The fourth annual 'Bistrots en Fête' began on Thursday and continues until today - throughout France.

There are about two thousand establishments involved and the idea is supposed promote the worth of bistros with animation - such as live music, jugglers, magicians, organ-grinders and even recitals.

There are bistros and there are bistros of course. Some patrons permit free-lance 'ambiance' and some do not. For all I know, singing in bistros is illegal - but I can't sing so I have never learned about this first-hand.

In some bistros, it is the patron - himself, herself - who is the 'ambiance,' but more often, it is the other customers. In quiet, country bistros, there may be card-players inside and boules players outside and this is about as much 'ambiance' as most drinkers need or can stand.

Paris is another story. Paris has a wide choice of bistros and somewhere, there is one to suit you - even if there is no special 'fête' going on. The best thing about bistros is you don't have to pay to enter - and sometimes you don't have to pay when you leave either.

100 Candles of Rocket Science

Early in the week the 100th launch of the Ariane rocket was announced and I thought, this is like 'spitting into the wind.' Space rockets are more complicated than microwave ovens, and it can't be good luck to get too cocky about throwing one up by merely snapping your fingers and saying 'nothing to it.'

Anyhow Aérospatiale says that I am just supposed to call it a 'routine flight.' Ariane's first launch was on 29. December 1979. On Wednesday night 450 people turned up at the factory in Les Mureaux near Paris, to watch the historic 100th launch via TV from Kourou in French Guiana, on the northeast coast of South America.

Nobody applauded until the cargo - an Intelsat-803 - was successfully placed in orbit, 23 minutes and 40 seconds after the launch. It was the 29th successive zero-error shot.

The next lift-off will be of the new and very much bigger 'Ariane 5,' trying for its first zero-fault launch. This is its second trial; the first flopped on 6. June 1996. The rocket launched last Wednesday was an older 'Ariane 4' model.

18 Candles for 16 Arianes were blown out in Kourou on the occasion of the successful launch. The sixteen Arianes from a half-dozen European countries were guests at the launch - invited because they were all born within hours of the first launch in 1979.

The Annual Paris Transport Strikes?

I'm not quite sure if they are in fact 'annual,' but somebody said they were to me yesterday, after my SNCF train was less than on-time getting me to La Défense. This action by SNCF crews has mainly affected trains running west out of Saint-Lazare. I had a free ride last Wednesday because my station was closed. It was late and slow, but it was free.

According to Le Parisien, some long-distance routes are affected as well. Cause of the labor action is reported to be the new fall timetable, and new 'bonuses' to compensate for fewer 'conductors.' I put 'conductors' in quotes because there are drivers and there are controllers, but I've never laid eyes on a conductor.

Watch out next Wednesday for irregular RATP bus service in Paris. Ticket vendors and métro controllers are also supposed to be absent underground, but the métro itself is supposed to be running normally.

The Grape Harvest on Montmartre Report:

Jean Tiberi, Mayor of Paris, and Daniel Vaillant, Mayor of the 18th arrondissement, each clipped a symbolic grape off a single vine at the vineyard by Montmartre's rue des Saules, Thursday morning.

The two mayors do not share the same party affiliations, and may not even be mayors in the same country, as the bottle tree 18th is sometimes called the 'Republic of Montmartre.' After taking a tour of the Clos Montmartre, the two retired to the Lapin Agile cabaret, across the street.

Not everybody in Montmartre has a bottle-tree like this one.

Mr. Vaillant used the occasion to deny a report that he had been on hands and knees to get Sophie Marceau to be 'god-mother' to the 'Cuvée Dalida,' which will be the name of this year's wine from this vineyard. Paris' mayor, Jean Tiberi said that one shouldn't believe everything printed in the 'Canard Enchaîné.'

Starting next Saturday, 4. October, the 'Vendanges à Montmartre '97' will commence. Eight hundred bottles of last year's wine will be offered for 300 francs each, posters will cost 80 francs, and long-distance telephone cards, with an image of Dalida, will be sold at the city hall of the 18th.

This year's harvest was treated in the cellar of the city hall by Françis Gourdin, who thinks it will be one of the best years - rating perhaps 14/20. Clos Montmartre, Cuvée 'Dalida' - 1997.

Welcome Back, Bernard Tapie!

All those dreary months in prison were not wasted by France's very own Mr Dynamic Businessman, Bernard Tapie. According to Le Parisien, Mr. Tapie has written some Rap-lyrics, which he is to record with French 'rappeur' Doc Gynéco, and the CD is going to be pressed by Virgin.

This is not Bernard Tapie's first pop outing. Under the name of 'Bernard Tapy' he brought out a four-song super-45 in 1966; which was in tune with those yé-yé times. As a rapper, he is expected to have some 'hard-time' lyrics on the new disc. Welcome back, Bernard!

FN Attempt to Rewrite History in Vitrolles

Bruno Mégret is number two of the ultra-nationalist Front National party, and he also works as the press-agent for his wife, the Mayor of the southern town of Vitrolles.

Malicious tongues in the opposition also say he functions as shadow-mayor, and I hesitate to discount this rumor. On Wednesday he announced proposed changes of some place names in the town.

If the changes are adopted at the next municipal council meeting, they will start with the name of the town itself. Thus, Vitrolles would become 'Vitrolles-en-Provence.'

The existing place Nelson-Mandela, close to the city hall, will become 'place de Provence,' the avenue Jean-Marie-Tjibaou will become 'avenue Jean-Pierre Stirbois.' Apparently, Stirbois was imprisoned several times for public brawling and carrying illegal firearms, and was known as one of the most extreme FN leaders.

The avenue Salvador-Allende will become the 'avenue Mère-Teresa' and the arcades Marcel-Paul - of the Communist resistance - will become the 'arcades Colonel-de-Courson.'

Opposition leaders, who plan to go to court over changing the name of the arcades Marcel-Paul, speculated that Mégret was pulling a publicity stunt, "in order to divert attention from real problems concerning the management of the town."

Sports News

The Salon We Missed

The World Motorcycle Salon opened yesterday at Paris-Expo at the Porte de Versailles without me learning about it - until I saw poster for it in the métro yesterday. The salon runs until Friday, 3. October.

TV-news showed an interesting film of a crash-test, with a motorcycle- looking thing crashing into a sturdy wall. The two-wheeler had sort of a 'roll-cage' on it, and according to the commentary the crash-dummy moto motor was not killed - and didn't need to wear a helmet.

Big-scale motorcycle production ceased in France nearly 25 years ago with the death of Motobécane, but there remain a few small manufacturers who make nearly custom bikes, costing very 'custom' amounts of money.

Four cylinders, 16 valves, 80 hp; must be Japanese.

It is now legal in France to drive 125 cc models with an ordinary car-driver's license. Because of this, the sales of the small-bore bikes and scooters has skyrocketed - and so have accidents.

Being once on a Matchless, in the rain, on streetcar tracks in a cobbled street, was enough to make me swear off for life. If insanity strikes and I do get the bug, I'll spend a couple of francs on some lessons first.

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