A Trick Question: How I Work

photo: cafe la rotonde

A big-time café on a big-time street, the
Boulevard Montparnasse.

About Doing the 'Scene' in Paris

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 17. May 1999:- For some time now, in every issue of Metropole there has been a 'Scene' column. This grew out of a very haphazard effort to add a few 'coming events' to the end of this column.

Like a lot of innovations to this magazine, the 'Scene' column got upgraded as a result of readers asking for more, or more different items, or plain 'mor' betta.' Once I started doing it, it got more items from people who think being mentioned in the column does them good - known as 'plugs' - and this has lead to it getting even more bigger.

Every week the first thing I do is 'prune' it; trying to get rid of the stuff that has outlived its shelflife. 'Coming' itemsphoto: entry rue d'assas zadkine get moved to 'new' items and some of these get moved to 'long-running' items. Doing all of this makes me think of new categories, while at the same time I curse myself for ever starting the complicated thing in the first place.

There's one point I should clear up. I take what I get and if there's a good photo or image to go with it, it is more likely to get into the column. The merit of the event, if there is any, has nothing to do with the selection.

Although a Montparnasse landmark, the Musée Zadkine can be easily overlooked.

Nobody pays me anything to get plugged in Metropole, so I can be ruthlessly autocratic about the selection. I am not on everybody's 'press' list, so there are items that should be in the column but are not. Someday I will take care of this; most likely before the end of the century.

I am on several of the Ville de Paris mailing lists, as well as on the lists of some national museums in Paris. I have poked my nose in others, but my visiting card has either failed its attempt at impression or it has slipped through a crack in the firewall.

Metropole is also on lists of places I never heard of, some not even in Paris or the Ile-de-France. Since I think most readers have the standard guides, I'd rather plug some obscure little - anything - than be constantly boosting, say, the Louvre, for example.

The ex-Euro Disneyland now known as Disneyland Paris, I never boost. I am 'for' Disneyland and I am glad they provide employment, pay taxes and draw people out to east Paris, but I will not boost them - unless they pay for it! - because I've never cared for Walt Disney's factory-cartoon style. 'Asterix' is another kettle of fish entirely, so I 'plug' it with near abandon.

Another way I get items is just by walking around. I read posters and strip-search the reception areas of arrondissement city halls and even find things in trash cans. Or lying in the street nearby.

Last Wednesday I was doing this sort of 'research' while moving crabwise through the Latin Quarter towards the city's Zadkine museum in Montparnasse. I got hung up in the Rue de Seine, picked up a nice booklet at the Mairie of the 6th, and checked out an art book publisher - Hazan - who has closed the shop and moved from the Rue de Seine to the Rue de Fleurus.

Since I have already visited the Musée de Montparnasse - twice! - and have been running a 'plug' for the Musée Zadkine about the night watchmens' beds, I thought it was time for a visit.

photo: atelier zadkine museumWhat with the foray into the Rue de Fleurus, I had a fair amount of the Rue d'Assas to cover until I got to 100 bis. By the time I'd gotten this far, past all the law-school students, I thought I'd lost it.

One of Zadkine's ateliers is now a museum showroom.

So I went across the street to look at some botany school garden, and when I turned around, there it was - the narrow, garage-like entrance into the first courtyard - the hand-made sign pointing to another, hidden courtyard - the trees obscuring the ateliers in yet another series of courtyard, and the almost invisible front door to the right at the back.

I was convinced this feat of deduction put me into the realm of 'investigative journalism.' So it was with some confidence that I began to introduce myself and present my 35-francs-for-50 visiting card.

The large lady guarding the tin cashbox looked at it and said, "This is not a press card."

"I didn't say it was," I replied mildly, adding, "It is a visiting card."

"Well you can't come in here with this," she declared, and handed it back.

I took it and held it out to her again, and said, "It is politesse, Madame, to offer a visiting card..."

"Not a press card!" she almost shouted, face getting slightly flushed.

"....before telling you my reason for..."

"Listen buster," she said forcefully, "It's not a press ard and that's it!"


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