Freezing and Starving

photo: bar cafe rue leon frot

During the Saturday noon pause, a quiet café in east Paris.

Apple's Tangerine Oyster

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 20. September 1999:- To you, the name 'Paris' may bring up images of starving artists in freezing garrets. For me, I have always been wary of garrets because of the stairs to be climbed, and because of the pigeons dancing on the metal roofs.

In this fall season, following an exceptionally warm summer's end, I am experiencing freezing and while I'm at it - with my teeth 'under construction' - starving too.

Until now it has been a lucky time. I can remember wearing winter coats inside in August - about five or six years ago, before I spent a lot of Augusts in Spain. Augusts in Spainphoto: techno dancing are sort of a double guarantee against low temperatures.

But September is always the same. No matter how damp and chilly it is, central heating is never turned on before the 15th of the month.

Total happiness near the start of Saturday's Techno Parade.

Many apartments are owned by their inhabitants and to manage collective affairs, there is a building syndicate whose members are the apartment owners. When enough of them get cold, they agree to turn on the furnace.

The trouble is, a lot of people don't think 10 degrees centigrade in the morning is cold. Maybe they were brought up in stone houses in Brittany and think 10 degrees is a relative heatwave - the kind of people who take their summer vacations at the North Pole.

On Friday I spoke to Mme le Gardien and she looked surprised when I said I thought it was cold. Actually I wasn't all that cold, standing in the courtyard after running around the block, having a cafe, and wearing a t-shirt, shirt, sweater and jacket. The courtyard was definitely warmer than inside.

Two other co-residents were there too, nodding in understanding when Mme le Gardien translated what Mr Mushmouth said. One thought somebody had to come by and purge the radiators first.

Actually first, the owner's syndicate has to decide to turn on the heat - then they have to get the radiators purged. So there is this crew of 'purgers' in Paris, and all the syndicates call them at once.

If my building's syndicate is still deciding whether it is cold 'enough' or not, these guys who do the thing to the radiators may not get around to doing my building until late Octoberphoto: cow in tree by john kelly or mid-November. Saving fuel costs for two months is attractive to some apartment owners. Heating charges are including in my rent and there is no reduction for no heat.

John Kelly's 'Cow Up a Tree' at the Champs de la Sculpture.

On top of this, one of the ladies in the courtyard said the ground-floor flats are coldest anyway. I wonder how she knows? This is a big worry for me, resulting from renting the place in summer - I don't even know if the radiators work or how much heat they may give off.

If I went out to work in an office, I could be pretty sure of being warm for part of the day. When I do go out to 'work,' so as long as I am underground in the métro getting there I can count on being pretty warm. I occasionally visit heated museums and shops too.

But once back in the ground-floor 'garret,' when I am putting an issue together, then I am sitting more or less in one place for hours at a time.

I can get up and jog around the apartment once in a while. But I think it may be possible that to 'come in from the cold,' I'll have to go outside.

This is the 'half-empty' bottle. The 'half-full' bottle is the hope that my teeth will be fixed by the end of the month; thus ending the 'starving' part.

I will not only be able to have hot meals, I will be able to have them in heated restaurants. I've been around Paris long enough to know not to ever take a table near any window or doorway. Some restaurants are only reluctantly heated and are full f breezes.


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