One Finger Tapping

Samaritaine terrace
Rain on the terrace of the Samaritaine department store.

Two Would Be a 100 Percent Improvement

Paris:- Sunday, 28. December 1997:- I hope it isn't offensive to anybody that I'm writing this on a Sunday. Maybe you think it isn't work, so doing it on a Sunday is okay - but I'll tell you, I am not a good typist - I use mostly one finger and another to do the shift work - so it is work to do it.

The reason you know it's Sunday is because of the dateline above. It says Sunday; that's today. Every feature in Metropole has a 'dateline' and it means whatever it is, is about the date on it. Last week's issue is about last week; this week's is about this week - or to be totally accurate - the week immediately past.

When you read the newspapers all their stories have 'datelines' too but if you look at them closely, you'll soon notice that the 'dateline' doesn't often match the time-date of the subject. All you Les Halles can say for certain is that the story is about sometime in the past. Television is worse - it can be 'live' but it is almost all canned; from 'sometime.'

Arches at Les Halles.

Time is a slippery thing. Almost everybody I talk to says it is going faster. Around here, I need to look up dates quite often to see what I did when, or try and figure out the exact day, time, place, I took a particular photo.

I do this with sheets of ordinary paper, with some photocopied lines on them. It's fast and cheap and I can do it anytime, day or night.

Do you remember the last two weeks of September? I don't, because I forgot to fill in the days for the whole last two weeks of the month. What did I do in those 14 days? Where was I? Who'd I talk to?

I think I decided I had to get it going again in mid-October, because the sheet for that month has a pretty blank first two weeks. I probably ran out of the paper with the photocopied lines. The machine is a seven-minute walk away, and for a whole month I didn't find time to go there and make a couple of photocopies. That's not good, with time speeding along like it is.

This is supposed to be a round-up of a year's worth of this magazine I call 'Metropole Paris.' Right next to where I'm writing this onscreen, I've got the 'recent issues' list for the 50-odd past issues. It is sort of a reminder of the year.

Since I'm the guy responsible for the shop: Electricite 'datelines,' the 'recent issues' list is like my own diary. The 'Café Metropole' column in every issue used to be called 'Diary' but I don't like the word and what it means so I changed it to 'Café because that's where I'd rather be. Yet I depend on it, diaries, them.

When this shop was new, there was electricity in the air.

I've tried several electronic versions. I load the software on the machine and I immediately try to set the personal preferences to suit myself. No software was written for me so this is impossible - other business is always more pressing; I haven't time to fiddle with this - faster to get a photocopy and write it by hand - so this software twirls around endlessly on the hard disk, unused; hours, days, weeks, months - all blank. I wonder if the blank electronic calendar pages rust.

Any of this happen to you? Anybody out there want to vote for the 26-hour day? Longer weeks? Bigger years?

Well, looking back, the first thing I notice about the beginning of this year (1997) is that I skipped an issue. Before the year was a week old I did a short and fast mini-tour of Paris. Did I do this in January? I must have, but the idea of it seems crazy now. In the first issue I also wrote about where to get half-price threads - and next week I'll be doing it again too. I also managed to cram a 'Last Grand Tour of 1996' into the same issue. Pure lunacy!

The reason an issue was skipped was so Metropole's server lady could take a week off to grow her fingernails back. I think I had about a week-long siesta while she did this; but my hand-written calendar does not mention it.

Judging from article titles, January was a sleepy month. By vedettes & Pont Neuf February I was exploring the boondocks of Boulogne-Billancourt and I went across the Seine to Sèvres to see Foucault... and that reminds me I should call Foucault to find out what all the Meudon painters are up to.

On the Pont Neuf and feel thirsty? Take the stairs down to this floating bar to swap marine tales.

By mid-February I was looking for winter sun in Paris while Parisians went looking for snow, ice and freezing fog in the mountains. I tried doing record reviews, but sending tapes is better. A Hamburg source says the Zip Band's CD is selling well up there to insiders.

March saw me checking out the food chain at the Salon d'Agriculture and I liked the cows best. Later in the month Metropole had the literary bit at the Salon du Livre. More to my liking was Pascin's 25-year Montparnasse party. This was followed by finding the 'Freak Bros.' alive and well in Paris.

There were more salons in April, starting with the one for modelers. And then a reader led me to find chickens in downtown Paris and I was amazed for several weeks. The May Day parade was almost missed, but Dava was found, and readers started to write a lot - or I was slowing down and they were helping me to keep up appearances.

At the end of May France had election fever and I tried to pass this on - did you vote? Bernard Tapie was not having fun in court at the time. Lionel Jospin led the Socialists to a win over a lackluster Alain Juppé, and to clear my head I started hanging out around the centre of the city; by the Seine, on the islands.

Bastille Day is always in July and Paris' new 'in' quarter of Oberkampf got thrown in along with the Summer of 1927 in Montparnasse. The weather was not hot, but I went beach crazy anyway, trying to sell the Tuleries as a possible - and then managed to spend all of August on a couple of real beaches in a foreign land.

Nobody wants to remember 31. August 1997 and what happened early that morning in Paris. The return-to-school the following day took some of our attention and life ground on.

The weather changed course and I wrote 'Golden October' to death; for week after week. I was reading Paris history so I went to see Sylvia Beach in the rue de l'Odéon.

Thirza Vallois and I went up to the 'Grands Boulevards' sort of looking for Napoléon III, but it was chilly by then statue & bikes so we didn't look too hard. I snooped around Châtelet myself, then wrote too much about cars and finally looked at Parisians drinking free wine at Champerret.

The old bike looked like it was made of wood; the new one looked like it was made for posties.

Besides looking at shopping in December, Metropole was following two trials: those of Maurice Papon and Carlos, the terrorist. A holiday program began running and the last episode of it is in this issue. I didn't actually do much shopping myself, but showed all the decorated windows I found to photograph - but there was no window contest because one big department store has no decorated windows.

Not counting the weekly index, posters or cartoon, Metropole had about 100 columns and 150 features during the year. Without doing a lot of picky counting, I will just guess that the word-count was something over 300,000 words. Readers and a few contributors wrote some of them: otherwise I tapped them out one at a time while using another finger for the shift-key. When these two wear out, I will still have eight left.

Somebody is doing something right - probably by accident - because readers, or pages-read, jumped about 500 percent from 30. September 1996 to 30. September 1997. This looks good, and is encouraging.

Since there are no cards and letters, keep those emails coming. Every one has gotten an answer up until now and I'm going to try and keep it this way.

Thank you all. Thanks to Paris.

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