...Continued from page 1

If two hours, I'm not about to wait because it is like a Sunday in August; so I head east on the Boulevard Haussmann. Very few cafés are open, but by the level of Printemps there are more people about and I hear parade noise by the time I arrive in front of Galeries Lafayette. What luck!

The parade is marking time where the Boulevard des Italiens splits off from Haussmann. The situation is, where I'm ready, the parade will pass right in front of the Banque Nationale de Paris, in somber capitalist shadow, and will get some light from the cross-streets Rue Le Peletier and Rue Laffitte.

In France, there is some bitterness at what is thought to be a bogeyman called 'mondialisation,' and although the BNP's takeover bid for Paribas and the Soc-Gen banks is a pure Franco-French bid for 'world'-bank size, it is being bitterly opposed by everyone except the BNP and the Finance Ministry.

Amazingly, I actually get my shot of red flags passing in front of the BNP's HQ. Also amazingly, for the first time in a donkey's age, since 1983 to be exact, the Communist-oriented CGT labor union is marching together with the Socialist-orientated CFDT, with bothphoto: may day parade flags their leaders in the front line: Madame Nicole Notat for the CFDT and Monsieur Bernard Thibault and his Beatle haircut, for the CGT.

Different weather or different times? A relaxed parade today on the Grands Boulevards.

Perhaps it is the nice day, but it is all very laid-back and I note none of the tension of past years. There seem to be no gorillas to stop me walking right into the parade, and its marshals stop its advance at cross-streets to let trapped motorists pass. No strong-arm stuff today.

Not here on Haussmann at least. Earlier in the day, Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National did its usual thing of paying homage to the statue of Jeanne d'Arc and holding its usual speeches with their usual texts in front of the Opéra.

The break-away Front National faction led by former number two, Bruno Mégret, followed three hours afterwards - with the ritual at the statue, and nearly identical speeches at a stand set up at Palais Royal - which had been passed earlier by Le Pen's followers.

The FN's squad of official tough guys has been decimated lately by court actions and defections, so today they apparently protected both factions as a unit, which was possible because they were timed not to meet.

In another part of town, up at the Père-Lachaise cemetery, the mainly civil-servant FO laid its traditional wreath at the wall of the Communards executed during the Paris Commune. In addition, in solidarity with the retired, their main demo was at the Bastille.

Groups mainly concerned with unemployment tacked themselves onto the tail of the CGT-CFDT parade, which was also joined by the small but long-lived Trotskists, who remain resolutely hard-line.

Perhaps oddest of all, another grouping of unemployed were to meet out at Vincennes for a 'Fête du Travail - Faites des Emplois,' which was sponsored by the Vivendi Foundation - whose parent company is nearly tied for world first place with Suez-Lyonnais des Eaux in the water and cable-TV businesses.

I am very happy with all of this. Before leaving Saint-Lazare I noted the times of returning trains, and this 'Fête du Travail' parade has come along at exactly the right time for me to wrap up my work today and get back without having to hang around. The advertised 16:17 train leaves the station with me on it.

Later, TV-news gives the scores. For the CGT-CFDT - 30,000 according to organizers; 13,000 accordingphoto: may day parade in front of bnp to the police. The FO also claimed 30,000, but the police gave them only 10,000. No scores were given for the two Front National groups, but they got airtime anyway.

Also getting their moment of fame on TV, were what appeared to be several thousands of travelers at various SNCF train stations around Paris; hooting and booing today's rail strike.

The parade ignores the BNP's headquarters as it passes with its traditional red flags.

This I did not note at Saint-Lazare, mainly because it is primarily a commuter station - although the one with one of the largest traffic counts. However I did notice a SNCF poster claiming something like a 96 percent satisfaction rate with its Poissy line - and this is one line that is 'on strike' about once a week.

Since my station-master was neither 'on strike' nor participating in the 'Fête du Travail' today, I guess my line would have a 105 percent approval rating. As the homeward-bound train stops at every station, I read Libération's account of putting TV on the Web.

All I have to put on, is today's 'Fête du Travail.' No video, no audio; just some simple words and photos. Maybe Paribas or the Viviendi water company will let me put on TV next year.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

count down Eiffel TowerIssue 3.18 - 4. May 1998 - This issue featured - Café Metropole - 'Where Were You in May of 1968?' and the 'Au Bistro' column had 'Bonjour 'Euro!' The issue had four features: 'Foire de Paris - The Exotic and the Unusual,' 'May Day '98 at République,' 'Eyewitness to Paris in May '68,' by Jim Auman and '30 Years Later - A Chronology of 'May '68.'' There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned, 'Only One Euro.' And there were more spelling mistakes than usual, due to it being a larger issue than usual.

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 243 more slightly warmer but still unsettled spring days to go.

Regards, Ric
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