Really, I'm Not the Weatherman

Cafe Le Traleyant
A warm port on a wet day in Paris.

Shameless Plug for Dream Island

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 15. December 1997:- Before I tell you how mixed up I'm getting, first the weather report. My 'snow' report a couple of weeks ago startled some readers into thinking they'd have to wear woollies and hide in their hotel rooms night and day.

I don't know if my leg was being pulled by the readers who wanted to know how they would be able to get through the snow drifts. Have no fear! Or nearly none.

Last time I looked out the window and it was daylight, it was thinking of raining outside. The weather around the Ile-de-France thinks about raining more often than it does it. In addition to little rain last week, the temperatures were in the 'no-scarf' zone. That is, was, about seven to ten degrees.

For all my expertise in looking out the window, I do not make Mairie 11th hyper-accurate seven-day forecasts. For all I know General Winter is gathering his troops in central Siberia just as the Azores High is about to collapse or move towards the Gulf of Mexico and away from its habitual station - where it protects Europe from the really nasty effects of Greenland and General Winter.

All of Paris' 20 city halls have some sort of illumination - this is the Mairie of the 11th.

However right or wrong I may be, I gleaned one bit of crucial information for ski nuts from TV-news last week. The ski stations, somewhere far from Paris in alpine regions - are open.

TV-news even showed mountain crews pushing snow out of the way - for some technical reason I know not what. It is never good enough for them it seems. What it does mean; there is enough snow at the ski stations.

It is probably wet snow, or 'unstable' snow, or there is fog, or even, it is snowing too heavily! That got me.

Snowing too heavily to ski - the lady from Paris wailed. Look, she said, look at all my nice spiffy new this season winter ski resort gear, and I can't keep up my tanning salon tan because the snowflakes are too big.

Some of those places are so spiffy they probably have tanning salons too. But, I wonder, where do they get all the photos in the brochures, taken in bright sunlight, with people dressed like upscale spacemen from 'Star Wars' zooming downhill, throwing up roostertails of fine, white, fluffy, powered snow?

Is it flour maybe?

Shameless Plug for Dream Island

CD title HarmonieAs unlikely as it may seem, this is about a place that used to be an island in the stream. It is still in the stream, but it no longer an island. The stream is the Elbe and the island's name is Finkenwerder.

I am writing about this unlikely place for a simple reason: I received an audio-CD from there on Saturday. Until now I was unaware that Finkenwerder had a recording industry, but I guess I was wrong.

This is the title of Kurt's CD 'Die Harmonie.'

I first saw this place where Heinz lives in June of 1969, just after getting off the Alexandr Pushkin in Bremerhaven. It didn't look promising, so I moved to Munich. Munich was gaudy but unpromising too so I was back in Finkenwerder the following summer.

The only idea I had was maybe I could get a job on the docks in Hamburg. Heinz took the month off to help me out and he showed me all the best places to drink outside around Hamburg in July.

One fine day he was grumpier than usual. When I asked him what was bothering him he said he had agreed to fix his brother-in-law's dirt patch, so it could be planted with grass.

I looked at this and it looked about the size of two 20-bottle beer crates. I figured Heinz would mope around all day, putting this thing off. It looked like an hour's work if there was two of us, so I said let's do it - so we can take the ferry over book title Finkenwerder to Oth-something-marschen and watch the girls getting off the S-Bahn after work, at the beer-kiosk on the platform.

So we did the job and Heinz was surprised it took only an hour and we got to go off in high spirits, as if we were wearing straw boaters.

That evening, as I was comfortably listening to the original recording of 'Woodstock,' Heinz came in from his brother-in-law's and said he had invited us to dinner.

First the book, then the CD. Next - the movie?

We walked down the length of the former dike to a Stube where Kurt Wagner was very well-known as a football hero. I didn't understand German well then and it didn't matter because the lingua franca of Finkenwerder was and is Plattdeutsch, and you have to be born in Finkenwerder to understand the local version of it.

It was very warm, and soon we had very large, cool, beers. There was some ice-cold schnapps too; in fact there was schnapps with every beer and we had three of each before the pepper-steaks were ready.

I have had pepper-steaks since then; but they have all been pale fellows in comparison. What a dinner that was! Near the end I felt like an engine-room oiler going through Suez in midsummer on the dayshift.

The upshot of the dinner - passing the schnapps-test - and the result of the hour's dirt-pushing; was I got an offer to work at Kurt's engineering place - for about 85 percent more than I'd made on any job in Munich. It meant I wouldn't see the docks soon.

If I hadn't passed the drink-warm-Johnny-Walker-straightup test a few weeks later, I might have gone into engineering instead of the rotten newspaper business; but life plays its funny little tricks.

I haven't followed Kurt's engineering career too closely, but I think I heard he had something to do with the 1.5-litre plastic soda bottles you see everywhere these days. He was always coming back from Japan or Eastern Europe with great stuff to eat and drink and he shared it around a lot.

When he asked me to work on a book for him - a history of Finkenwerder - I couldn't refuse. Now that some of the drawings from the book are on the CD too; I'm only glad he didn't ask me to sing on it as well.

Kurt wrote a couple of the songs Kurt and Rite at Le Dome on it, and I think the name 'Harmonie' is taken from a whole line of Hamburg-Finkenwerder ferry boats; and also is the name of the group that sings on it - the 137 year-old 'singing-table,' Die Harmonie.

Kurt wrote this chorus:

"Damper fohren damper fohren
Jümmers wedder damper fohren
Müssen wi all de johrn"

In front of Le Dôme in Montparnasse, Kurt and Rita from 'Dream Island.'

Which makes sense, even if it is in Platt. One time, going over there on a Sunday, as the ferryboat was nearing the Finkenwerder landing, the head sailor called out to all the day-trippers on board, "Aussteigen, alle aussteigen. Finkenwerder, Traum-Insel."

Besides fish and smoked eel, and the apple orchards behind the dike road, Finkenwerder is also known as the location in Germany where part of the Airbus is assembled. Before Airbus cranked up, a Spanish charter pilot put a 707 on the runway there, mistakenly believing it was Hamburg's airport. He got it stopped on dry land with about a metre to spare.

They had to cannibalize the thing to get it off again. 'Traum-Insel - Isle of Dreams.'

All of this week's 'Events' are in the Noël Program feature.

Metropole One Year Ago

Issue 1.43 - 16. December 1996 featured the columns - Metropole Diary's 'Time Not Looking count-down eiffel at Paris is Lost Forever' and 'Au Bistro' had - 'One Big Unanswered Question and Miss France in 3-D.' The articles in the issue were 'Shopping' on the Rue Saint Honoré - Just a Short-Cut Between Windows and Food' - 'Standing Around Waiting for Food - Cash and Carry, No Shopping Carts, No Credit' and 'Not Everybody a Winner Contest - Best Christmas Window - Prizes are Few and Tiny.' There were two 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week rounded off the issue.

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 747 days left to go.

Regards, Ric
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