Where Were You in May of 1968?

cafe-tabac republique
The pause that refreshes, just before the May Day parade.

Living on Two Bucks a Day in Paris?

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 4. May 1998:- If you are more than about 45 years old you might remember where you were in May of 1968. If you are less than 45, what the fuss was about may be a mystery to you.

Thirty years ago the world seemed like a lot messier place than it is today. A lot of young people all over the funky western world were in an uproar about one thing or another - sometimes with a fair share of good reason - because there was more than a bit of folly going around.

But this wasn't everywhere. In France, things were getting somewhat prosperous, we are told, and there was no particular reason for the momentous events of May '68 - except perhaps the French had not had a good fight with the leaders of the country in some time.

My memory is murky and I was not in France, but somewhere in the mists of time I seem to remember not being surprised at the studentfoire-flowers-gardening uprisings in Europe. I had been in Germany in 1964, and I must have heard something there - but I can't remember what exactly.

This garden display at the Foire de Paris, looks like a shrine.

In 1968 I was doing illustrations for a book and when a chance presented itself, I pitched the idea of a book about the then going-on events, to a representative of the publisher. He thought it was a great idea and wanted to see the 30,000 words I had already written as sort of an introduction to the current events.

So this 'demo' manuscript was sent off and I verified its arrival, and then I listened to a big silence for a long time. Finally I asked for the manuscript back and this was when I found out what silence can be.

With one thing and another I had a nose full of it, so I got on a boat and came to Europe. Twenty-nine years later, here I am, partly on account of May 1968.

An interesting letter from Jim Auman in February prompted me to ask him if he had any amusing stories about his time spent in Paris. There was another one of those 'silences' and then a couple of weeks ago, his 'May '68' dropped into my eMail inbox.

For the 30th anniversary of the 'events' of May '68 in Paris, I am happy to present Jim Auman's account of that time, in this issue. Don't miss it.

Discount Bistros in May

Citing unfair competition from fast-food joints and take-away sidewalk kiosks, 4000 bistros throughout France are launching a 'round on the house' operation, by lowering the prices of six leading drinks by 20 percent.

It is not exactly 'on the house,' but an effort to regain clientele that cafés and bistros havechantelle crausaz seen wander to outlets offering less service and comfort, but also being able to charge value-added taxes of only 5.5 percent, as against the 20.6 percent that cafés and bistros have to charge.

Since the middle of the '60's, the number of bistros in France has dropped from 200,000 to 50,000 today. Many young people find bistro prices prohibitive, and I am not exactly 'd'accord' with paying six francs on average for a thimble of café either.

Paradise in Paris - for Chantelle Crausaz at the Foire de Paris.

It almost means that bars and cafés are reserved for the well-off; it certainly means that students and old geezers like myself are not inclined to linger, and 'une autre, s'il vous plaît' is seldom heard. I used to pass up a lot of trains on account of this, but now I'm more likely to pass the bistro instead and go home and make a half-litre pot of the black stuff and drink it out of really quadruple-sized mugs. I always liked big swigs.

So watch for the bars, cafés and bistros with the special sign this month. Since the reduction is coming out of the 'patron's' pocket, make it a 'double-express' to save someone from having to wash two thimbles.

Paris Jazz Festival

The jazz started on Friday at the Parc Floral, and the free concerts continue until, get this, until 26. September. Okay, you have to pay 10 francs to get into the park, but the jazz is free. On every Saturday afternoon starting at 16:30; the list of performers is more than impressive enough to make the ride out to the métro station of Château de Vincennes worthwhile. Info. Tel.: 01 43 43 92 95.

Grand Marché d'Art Contemporain

This art market, featuring 400 artists, starts at Bastille on Wednesday, 6. May and lasts until Sunday. I've been meaning to look this over as it is a regular event, but this time it was recommended to me by Mr. Marin, the Brazilian I met at the Foire de Paris. Open from 11:00 to 20:00, and on Friday until 22:00. This show moves to Berlin from 27. May to 1. June; comes back to Paris from 30. September to 4. October, and rounds off the year from 8. to 11. October in Lille. At métro Bastille.

Dites-le avec un Pavé!

Well, hmm, 'say it with a brick?' 'Le Pavé de 68' is a limited edition, consisting of a 300 page book with two audio CDs, currently being promoted by fnac together with the TV-guide, Télérama. For the sounds, images, words, scrawls, and posters of May '68, this is probably a good buy for 149 francs. No old brick throwers should be without this and if I had the money I'd get one too.

Back to the Future

The city of Paris, in the form of the Mairie de Paris, is running a poster campaign for the World Cup championships, which will be happeningconcours lepine from 10. June to 12. July. There was one featured on last week's poster pages, and there is another this week. Somehow they all seem to say that Parisians should get - no, be ready - to receive gazillions of special guests - while sort of leaving the impression that this might be impossible to arrange in time.

The official booklet from the 'Concours Lépine' association.

This week's poster features a Mr. Friendly taxi driver, who has the backs of his front seats plastered with signs saying which languages are spoken in the taxi. Italian, German, Thai, Russian, Japanese, Norwegian, Arabic, English, Spanish and a couple of others I can't make out are featured. Besides 'Eu falo brasileiro,' Mr. Friendly also speaks French.

According to the headline on the poster, our taxi driver has only two months left to learn another 22 languages.

Manet, Monet - La Gare Saint-Lazare

This exhibition has been mentioned her before, but I've seen signs plastered on top of posters all over town saying that its last days are approaching. And so they are; this show at the Musée d'Orsay will be on view for the last time on Sunday, 17. May.


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