'Bad' News For Hard Times

photo: cafe rivoli, interior
October sun finally showed up in Paris this week.

Too Much 'Good' News Is Unreal

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 23. November 1998:- When I started this magazine in early 1996, my conception was - and is - to have only 'good' news about Paris, the Parisians, the French and France.

I felt there are enough other sources to get a steady diet of 'bad' news. And all of us get more than our fair shares of it. In fact, most mainstream 'news' is nothing but 'bad.' What does this do to our collective psyches? I don't know; my guess is that it isn't positive.

The way France is, the way visitors like to think of France, is that it is a place with little else but 'good' news. In the weekly 'Au Bistro' column I steer away from all the stories of modern mayhem, meanness, crime, corruption, folly andphoto: seine at issy stupidity; not because these are unknown in France - but because I don't think you need more of it, or really need to know about the French versions of it.

If you look hard enough, you can still find scenes of the Seine like this.

Endlessly likening Paris to 'dreamland' is harmless in itself. But one of my other aims is to tell you about the Parisians and the French. If I never mention that 'bad' things happen here, it makes everything in the magazine a fantasy - like the only unfantastic thing about Disneyland is that it is an amusement park.

Although I have kidded around to suggest that Paris is an 'amusement park' for adults, the fact is that Paris is a real place inhabited by real people. As fantastic as Paris may seem to you, it is reality to some 12 million people in the city and the surrounding region.

Part of this reality is winter. Another part of thisphoto: st germain in rain reality are the homeless, who are mostly French. Put the two together and it is a recipe for dramatic situations.

Two such related stories are edited into one item of 'bad' news in this week's 'Au Bistro' column. The whole story is about the French and the way a particular situation happened and was handled; it is not meant to draw your attention to winter and the homeless.

On the boulevard Saint-Germain.

It is up to you to draw your own conclusions. I'm not telling you to 'draw conclusions,' just as I will try not to inject my opinions into the account. You'll have to figure out your own 'punch line.'

Transport Strikes This Week

For the first time, a 'Euro-Strike' of rail operations has been called for today, and French rail workers are to take part in it. It is possible that this 'Euro-strike' is a French term - to protest against wider competition - and does not actually mean a continental-wide train strike.

This will affect TGV service between Brussels and Paris, with about a 30 percent reduction in scheduled trains. Train services to other countries may be affected as well. Not expected to be affected is the London-Paris 'Eurostar' service.

Throughout France, do not expect more than one train out of three to be operating on any long-distance runs. Regional traffic between major centres is expected to be close to zero.

In the Paris region, the RER lines 'C' and 'D' will be most severely affected with only one train in four running, and one in three on the RER line 'B.' The RER line 'A' should be operating normally. Suburban SNCF trains will be running at the rate of 25 to 33 percent of normal.

Later in the week, SNCF ticket controllers have called for a strike on Thursday. On Friday, train drivers take their turn. The Friday strike is expected to be widely followed.

Train personel around Marseilles settled their two-week strike over the weekend, but have joined in today's 'Euro-strike.'

As usual in these circumstances, road traffic is heavy in the Paris region, with serious bottlenecks reported at 8:00 this morning on all incoming highways.

The Tocqueville Connection Looks At Photos

While commenting on French-American relations and other political issues, The Tocqueville Connection also takes a look at 'Fench Style' and this week their gaze falls on the current 'Mois de la Photo.' They say that the city has its own collection, containing eight million photos - and some of these can be seen at four different city museums. I believe it.


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