A Good Day In a Good Way

photo: view from grande arche

The last weak rays of sun before nightfall, from
the Grande Arche.

Helter-Skelter Around Paris

Paris:- Wednesday, 17. February 1999:- Like most times when leaving the village and climbing uphill to catch the train, I can tell how I'm doing by where I am in the graveyard when the church bells chime the hour. Like most times, I am just going into the cemetery when they ring. They are always late too.

Unlike most times, I do not need to figure out why I'm going to Paris after I get on the train. Today I already have a list of four items. By the time I get to Etoile, I add the Drugstore and its 'servicios' to it because I did not get time to look hard at the map, and I may have to search around a bit to find the Press Club de France.

The short, fast look at the map I did take, hinted the Avenue d'Iéna location may be near the Etoile. It's a good thing I added the Drugstore pause, because it isn't. I forgot to bring the invitation too, so I have to go to a postoffice to ask for the street number. Luckily, they've heard of the place.

All in all, I'm only ten minutes late. The press conference hasn't started yet. I don't come to many of these and I'm at this one to find out why I'm at it.

The good folks at Issy-les-Moulineaux sent me an invitation to the press conference for the 9th International 'Météo' Festival. I looked it up on the Web a week ago, and arrived at Québec in Canada. So, today I want to find out why Issy is holding this press conference in Paris.

The well-appointed and well-lit room is full and somebody brings in extra chairs for those of us standing. I remain standing in order to cool off. Also I can see more.

Mr. André Santini, one-time government minister, member of the National Assembly for the Hauts-de-Seine and Mayor of Issy - who I thought was a Senator; and who may be one still - and who is also knownphoto: santini and fandeux as France's 'Cyber-Mayor,' says the météo festival is mainly in Québec; but begins first in Issy-les-Moulineaux on 26. March.

The Canadian part starts on 15. April, in the city of Québec, which is in the province of the same name. The 'Anglos' in Canada call it Quebec City.

Ministre Santini discussing the météo with François Fandeux at the Press Club.

Monsieur Le Ministre gives us the run-down on the festival in a snappy, morning-radio bark, much less irritating than the France-Info one which wakes me up daily. Issy is sending regional food and cooks to Québec as its contribution to the météo.

Apparently Issy has an antique tobacco factory which has been converted into a gastronomic palace - La Manufacture - where - hold it! - this is all a bit insane.

Start over: the basic point of all this is to award prizes for the world's best TV-weather-news. For whatever reason national weather services once existed, they now seem to be the main suppliers of raw facts for TV-weather presentations.

Weather on TV produces TV's biggest audiences. Et voilà - weather is big media business!

Weather is also part of the food-chain, so this is why Ministre Santini will take food and cooks to Québec. If this can convince the world's weather people to send better météo to Issy - and France! - then France will even be better off in the food business than it already is - this must be the reasoning behind it all.

A journalist, François Fandeux, dreamed all of this up; which kind of shows that some people in my business are not without imagination either. In Issy, it will be the '1st Marché Météo et Saveurs' and in Québec it will be the '9th Festival de la Météo.'

At the cocktail reception afterwards I cage an orange juice, ogle the lady press assistants and get my hand shaken by Ministre Santini by surprise - as sort of as a 'gotcha' for eavesdropping on what he was saying about the Ile Seguin to Mr. Fandeux.

Now I cross off two of the items on my list, go outside and buy Le Parisien from a kiosk, shoot thisphoto: kid's xmas paintings at hotel de ville week's Morris column for the photo on the contents page and hop into the métro to go and meet Allan Pangborn at the Hôtel de Ville.

From top left: Mathilde, 7; Skander, 6; and bottom, Gwendaël, 6 - some winner's of the city's Christmas drawing competition.

With a couple of minutes to spare I check out the skatingrink and the posted winners of the kid's drawing competition The city hall reception office is closed but Allan is there and we go for a café in a bar beside the BHV.

After this is out of the way, the reception office is still closed so we go over to the Ile Saint-Louis to the Oasis, and it is closed too. We settle on a minuscule crêpes resto on the island and load up on calories, and wine-man Allan tests the cidre. It's okay, he says. He's test-driven it before, in Brittany.

From there we cross back to the right bank mainland, see that a small crowd has gathered to get into the reception office, still without success, so I decide this is a good a time as any to waste my habitual 16 francs on the Loto at another nearby bar.

This done, we take to the métro. After getting off a stop too soon and getting back on, we get up to Saint-Augustin, to go to the Mairie of the eighth arrondissement.

I get the sign-up form for painting on the Champs-Elysées, scheduled for 29. May. With this in hand plus the city's 'Paris' magazine, we trot up Malesherbes to Courcelles and drop into the métro at Monceau, and make the change at Etoile to ride out to the Grande Arche at La Défense.

The phoney-looking postcard invitation to the '2nd Festival Japon' modern painting show gets us both a free ride in the space-capsule elevator up to the top of the Arche. Although the organizers are supposed to be Asahi Art Communication from Toyko, Art Sanjo and the Artec/Galerie A Part in Paris, there is no guest sign-in. In fact there is no reception at all.

This is okay because then we don't have to say 'excuse me' to anybody before popping out onto the rooftop terrace; where, by a lucky fluke, it is not raining and there is even a bit of weak sunshine slicing through the clouds just before it drops below the horizon to the west for the night.

While Allan takes his photos, the security guard tells me that he and a couple of buddies keep a watch on the top all the time - exceptphoto: sculpture robert saguineau maybe if there's snow. Otherwise, the roof of the Grande Arche is open all year, and there's always a couple of hardy snapshooters clicking away.

I am wondering about the scaffolding I see on the Tour Eiffel. It wasn't there this morning when I looked at it from the train while it passed over the heights of Suresnes.

This part of the '2nd Festival Japon' exhibition was done by Robert Seguineau.

Then Allan points out how the Tour Montparnasse is directly behind the tower. I did unconsciously wonder where the Montparnasse monstrosity was, but - Allan goes further to the left on the terrace to get a separated view of them.

Well, the paintings. Yes, there seem to be about 300 of them. When I see 'modern' written, I expect to see strange stuff. But most of these paintings are not 'strange' at all. Somebody went to a lot of trouble to put up this lot of paintings and all of them will be gone by the time you read this. It's a good, spacy area for it though. There's a café and a gift shop as well.

There is supposed to be a 'vernissage' for the art show too but when we look where we are directed, there is only five people in all, assembling something on a stage in front of 300 empty seats and not a cracker, peanut or plastic wine glass in sight.

We get the same cute but bored-looking elevator driver going down as we had on the up trip and at the bottom where it is already nearly dark, we trot down the huge flight of stairs, ride down a long escalator and then down another one and hop back on the métro for the long blast of a ride to Châtelet.

There we switch lines and pop under the Seine and the Ile de la Cité over to Saint-Michel - where the exit escalators are being repaired so all the commuters and rush-hour people are squeezed onto what remains of the stairs and it's trudge, trudge, trudge upwards, and mind not to step on midgets and little kids.

Coming out of there into the night air at the corner of the boulevard and the quai is a bit startling, and even with all the fumes of passing cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles, the air seems refreshing after the long underground ride.

It is 18:10 so we scuttle along the sidewalk to Shakespeare & Company and push our way into the sales area in front, where the actor Michel Palin is signing his books.

Allan happened to see the poster announcing this event yesterday and took the precaution of buying author Palin's 'Pole to Pole' in advance. He hands me his loaded camera and I get mine out and while he's manoeuvering for his turn, I ask a cute spectator if she's drinking whisky.

She's got a shot glass, but it could have tea in it. If George put it up, it's probably colored water. Whatever she says to my dumb question - it is to give me the impression I'm not enough of an 'insider' myself to get one. What? Tea? Whisky? This will teach me not to come out to book-signings without my own shot glass.

Allan meanwhile, has quickly got himself set for his book to be signed, so instead of thinking up some smart answer I do my job and popphoto: palin signing pole to pole the two of them, twice, as I hear Allan praising the book in detail - he's already read it - and Michel Palin being a good sport about it.

What did Michel Palin write? I forgot to ask.

I think Allan has done this before because once he's said his 25 words or less we are out the door. I don't think we were inside more than four or five minutes. Outside, I pop the front of the shop with my camera's weak flash; and Allan says the signing is over - we just made it - and gives me his camera again and I rack off another flash-pop for him.

This time, Mr. Palin looks a bit startled. The signing is finished; this is Paris street, where famous people are like you and me - nobody - but a few steps later he is just another nobody in semi-dark Paris, in the Latin Quarter, with the full evening ahead to be private in public.

At the café on the corner of the Rue Saint-Jacques, Allan and I have a last café. I tell him not all days are like this one. Even counting for the closed city hall reception place, my list has scored five for four; 'five' on account of the unlisted Drugstore visit at the beginning.

This is also the last feature of Paris reporting, for the last issue of this magazine's third year. Today has been one of the few when I've had a list of 'to dos,' and one of the fewer times when they've gotten done.

It's been a good day, been a good way; to finish the third year.

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