The Movers

photo: la chope, place contrescarpe

Some café loungers waiting for Roman Legions
to pass through the Place de la Contrescarpe.

And Other Moving Stories

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 30. August 1999:- At nine this morning the server-lady Linda Thalman called me up while I was polishing off the last mistakes, typos and errors, and said, "Feel like doing the Dot-Com today?"

Last week, after France Télécom dropped its rates, I uploaded the latest three past issues of Metropole to the Dot-Com, and heard no more about it. 'It's no more reckless than anything else about the Internet,' I thought, so I said, "Let's do it."

Normally, once Metropole arrives at the server, Linda Thalman glances at it to remove my most outstanding blunders. This week, the issue's upload will be doubled: one to the old URL and the other to the new one. So one version may be 'corrected' and the other may be 'raw.'

I guess this should be the least of my worries. Here then, is the new URL for 'Metropole Paris:'

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, if you have any problems with it, tell me all about them. Bookmark the new URL as soon as you can. If you forget, the old URL will continue to work - through the mysterious magic of an item called 'redirect.'

Other Movers

My apartment's street is 172 metres long, and 12 metres wide between building fronts. Parking is allowed on both sides, so it is one-way; from the big avenue down to the cross street where it is necessary to turn right.

When I moved here in mid-July, the movers filled the street almost daily - moving residents in or out. Move out, then a day or a couple of days later, another gang is moving in. The movers block the street, for which they need permission; and they work like beavers to do it as quickly as possible.

The movers don't fool around carrying people's goods and chattels up stairs or using the old elevators. They bring their own elevator, run it up to a handy window and lift up just about everything.

The movers' elevators all seem to have their own power. Whatever it is, it makes a fair racket for as long as it takes to get everything up or down.

The moving in and out stopped at the end of July, but now at the end of August it has started up again. Lastphoto: movers outside window Tuesday I looked out the window to see how many machines were free in the coin laundry across the street and all I could see was the side of a mover's van - which had a mover painted on it.

When the movers are this close, I have to shut the windows because of the noise. For some reason, the police showed up and the movers had to move their van. The next time I saw it again, it was back in the middle of the narrow street and the elevator was grinding away.

The Speedy Movers

Near the beginning of the block, there is a nondescript shop front. I wondered what it was because there always seems to be people standing around in it, appearing to be having conferences.

My new dentist is just opposite, and the street in front is marked for two-wheel parking. I noticed that there were always a half-dozen scooters and motorcycles parked there - but I couldn't figure out why because there is no motorcycle or scooter sales outlet or garage anywhere around.

With the street being so narrow and one-way, everything on wheels using it passes my place. It sounds like an urban dragstrip sometimes.

I must be thick, I think. The 'nondescript shop front' is a local courier outfit and the two-wheelers parked across the street belong to its riders. They get their marching orders and peel off down my street - not bothering to get out of low gear or second on account of the short distance.

By the time they pass my windows, they can be turning 10,000 rpm, with their exhaust pipes sounding like rockets lifting off. The only time they don't do this, is when mover's vans have the street blocked.

The Slow Movers

If it is Sunday, then there are no movers and no couriers. Every other Sunday, the sidewalk cleaners come to do the sidewalks. Their tanker comes down the centre of the street and the high-pressure hose has a suspension so it loops over the parked cars.

The tanker's motor grinds in low gear and its pumps howl and the hard jet of water hitting the sidewalk makes itsphoto: sign: blancherie sound like hissing steam too. The whole rig comes at a slow walking speed, making quite a lot of noise for a fair amount of time on an otherwise quiet Sunday morning. They must have an odd-even schedule, because it is not every Sunday.

A separate crew in a different rig cleans the street. They just do the centre of the street, because both sides are nearly always full of parked cars. I must watch to see which crew does the pavement underneath the cars.

This seems to be done around 22:30 in the evening, when my shutters are closed and just when the evening's TV movie is reaching its climax.

The Café

Everybody knows Paris is full of cafés and there are a lot of them near where I live. This is a big difference from the village where I lived for 12 years. There was one café there and it was closed on Sundays, Monday mornings, official holidays and for three weeks in August.

Since mid-July, some my new set of cafés, if they aren't on the avenue or in the Rue Daguerre, have been closed for summer holidays too - but now most of them are open again.

Sooner or later, I am going to have a favorite café, where I will be a regular client. There's a word for this in German, but none in English or French. My regular café will be my stamm-café and I will be a stammkunden.

It takes years to achieve the status of 'stammkunden.' This is a two-way thing; you have to be comfortable with the café and it with you, because it will become a home away from home, or a second living room.

The place I lived in before the village had two cafés, the village had one; now there are more than a dozen within a few blocks.

There are three basic types of café: the big cafés on the avenue near the numerous métro stations, the two or three slightly yuppie cafés in the Rue Daguerre, and all the neighborhood cafés in the secondary, largely residential streets.

I have been 'trying out' one two blocks away. There is another one, also two blocks away, but it has been on holidays. Now that it has reopened, I will split my 'testing' between the two.

In the first one, my face is already known. I have been there often enough to know a half-dozen regular 'faces' inphoto: rue rollin addition to the owner's and the staff, because they are all there every time I go in for a café.

It is an ordinary neighborhood café, on a corner of the Rue Daguerre and a local street, so its view is of the two. The narrow, wood-topped bar is in a 'L' shape, making it possible to stand on one side and see one street and the corner or on the other to see the other street and the corner.

The Rue Rollin, between Mouffetard and the Roman arena.

One time I was there last week, the bar was elbow to elbow, leaving me the hinge of the 'L.' There is a big vase of flowers in this place, so they were right in front of my nose if I wanted to see the bar. By turning a bit I could see everyone else in the café. To see the streets, I would have had to turn my back on the whole café - so standing at the 'L' is not a good position.

This café has no TV and no ambient music and only one electronic game machine. The other one is a antique 'loto' game with lots of holes for balls to drop into and I have never seen another like it. If it has any, it has electrics instead of electronics.

On Friday in the late afternoon, the café had moms and pops in addition to the regulars. Holidays are over - maybe they are all regulars, including the little kids.

The Haircut

Last time, my barber in the village left my hair too long. It grows too fast so if it is long it is soon in my eyes. Like boulangeries, there are a lot of hair-dressing shops in the new neighborhood and I have been scanning the prices posted in their windows.

By the time my hair was two week's-worth too long, half of the shops were shut. I went into one on the avenue and was told an appointment was unnecessary, so I went and got a paper to read and came back to wait.

There seemed to be only three customers ahead of me; but I read the paper for a half hour and didn't pay any attention until it was my turn.

This is when I saw no sign of scissors. In this hair-dressing salon they use only electric razors. I didn't see any combs either.

I asked how they can cut hair with these - remembering sitting on a board placed across the arms of a barber chair and getting shorn like a sheep according to my dad's instructions - which was more or less how everybody had their hair done in those days.

The lady 'barber' said it was a new system, devised by some famous hairdresser whose name is on the shop front. I have been seeing the results of this 'system' for years - ladies seem to like having their hair done somewhat like the Hilter Youth of the '30's. Razored up to the ears, and long and lank on top.

I don't care what ladies have done with their hair, but I've always thought it unfair to inflict on their young sons - but they do. This has been around so long now, it should be out of style and this barber shop out of business.

I had to walk out and go around with hair in my eyes until last Tuesday. On the way to get a paper I stopped into the first hair dressing salon I saw. My first question was, "Do you use scissors?"

The guy looked at me like I was crazy - these foreigners! - "Of course," he said. My confidence increased by 200 percent when we fixed a time for scissor-job. No waiting around.

When I went back, I had the regular wash and snip job and we told each other our stories. He asked mephoto: friday roller rando if I wanted goo and I said no - I'd just wash it out as soon as possible. He waved a hairdryer around a bit and even gave my whiskers a trim.

Last Friday night's roller rando passing through the Place Denfert Rochereau.

He did a good job - as good a job as is possible with my hair. Said it'll last five weeks. "Thanks, Claudio - I'll be back in four," I said when I left. We'd gotten to first names and about a tenth of our histories. Outside, the light wind blew my hair back the way it was, but shorter.

The 1999 Summer Guide:- appeared in Issue 4.27 in the form of two extra pages in addition to the 'Scene' column. You can quickly get to these by hitting this link to the issue's home page. There are a lot of summer events at the science and music park at 'La Villette,' so a list of these was put into their own 'events' page, called 'A Multi-Theme Park.'

The Fall Season and Paris 2000 - since the beginning of the year, readers have been hinting that they intend to be in Paris for the turnover from 1999 to 2000. The Ville de Paris has not been asleep; its plan is called 'Paris 2000.' It is a fairly modest plan - 'from the heart' - as it's called. The national program seems equally low-key and brief details of some of both agendas are in this week's 'Scene' column.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 3.34/35 - 31. August 1998 - This was an issue done before I went on holiday to Spain, to tide you over the end of August. The Café Metropole's subtitle for two weeks was - 'Life In the Tame Lane.' This issue had two features, entitled 'The Truthcount down Eiffel Tower About Spain' and 'One 6000 Km Round Trip in Spain.' There were two 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Siesta's End.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 2.35 - 1. September 1997 - This was an issue done in a hurry as soon as I returned from Spain at the end of August. For this reason the Café Metropole's subtitle for two weeks was - 'Summer's Over - What Next?' The Au Bistro column was entitled 'Tragic Death Under the Place de l'Alma.' This issue had one feature, entitled 'On the Forever Mediterranean Beach.' There were two 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Our Beach Reporter.'

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 124 more partly sunny, rarely hot, or occasionally unsettled Paris and Ile-de-France summer days to go until the really big year-end party is in full swing.
signature, regards, ric

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