In the Rain, In Montparnasse

photo: le select in rain

No takers for Le Select's terrace on Wednesday.

Trying To Line Up Free Cheese

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 4. October 1999:- It is a little over two months now that I have been living near Montparnasse. Last Wednesday I decided to visit the small museums there because they are handy.

Because they are small too, they don't have over-active PR, so visits are necessary to find out what they're doing. Visits are also friendlier.

It was either raining or about to and there were no palm trees in the weather forecast's temperature ranges, so I took the bus. This gave me a chance to see the glistening black sidewalks of the Boulevard Saint-Michel. Passing by the end of the Luxembourg Gardens, the views of it were hidden by the mists. Gloom in the near distance and plenty of water in the gutters.

This is not a problem if dressed properly for it. I have a hat because it is something that my head carries and I have a coat, and walking does the rest for keeping warm.

Wind was blowing excess water around a lot; it was comingphoto: academie de sculpture sideways as well as down in a slant. With no umbrella my hands were free to shoot the interesting sights rain produces, but the modern camera is more delicate than the old hand-wind ones made largely of metal and glass. The user's manual says beware of explosions.

It kind of goes with our times. We are 'modern' and our stuff may explode at any time. Before, we wanted solid reliability; now we can hear the bomb ticking. It makes life exciting in a sordid way.

Headline - in the 'faits divers' section: "Foreigner blown to smithereens in the Rue d'Assas by defective photo apparatus. Police and the fire department are investigating, but really don't have a clue about what happened or why."

Why? I was just shooting the Académie Sculpture in the Rue de la Grande Chaumière, and the restaurant and the shoe repair place. I didn't realize I was in a high-risk zone.

The Musée Zadkine in the Rue d'Assas has the most unpromising public entry in Paris. It starts with a space between two buildings - an alley - but as you get in, it turns into a wet jungle. Only hope can keep you going further until you see the forest-path wooden signpost, pointing to another dim back garden.

The museum is an old house in a 'L' with a separate annex. The interior garden is spotted with Zadkine sculptures and a lot of vegetation and there is a stone path to follow to the museum's entry.

Inside it is like a house; one with light and heat. Because of the 'L' shape, you can look out through the garden, intophoto: rue de la grande chaumiere other parts of the galleries. Like the other time I was at it, there were a number of people there who were not discouraged by the entry and were ready to tour the museum.

The lady who I talked to the time before said, "We know you, don't we?" The other time it took me 20 minutes of fast talking to get anywhere. I guess she didn't forget it. I haven't.

The Zadkine is a gallery that features good modern sculpture. When I say 'good,' I mean it makes you feel good to look at it rather than wonder if there might be something more interesting in some other museum or gallery.

The current 'Demures' - 'Walls' - show ends soon and the reason I've come is to find out what will follow. I meet the museum's curator and she introduces me to the lady who does the PR. Doing a 'change of address' in person is better than sending out form letters, and means I will get an invitation to the next vernissage - when I can eat free cheese and skip the wine.

I am not really a 'free cheese' type, but I think it will be useful to go to these affairs. I am sort of hoping there may be some strange characters who show up at them but I am afraid all I will find are very ernest types who like wine and cheese a lot.

When I left I had the luck to find the way to the Rue de la Grande Chaumière. At its beginning it doesn't look like much. The narrow street glistened and the two lines of parked cars had raindrops floating on their paint like tiny fishbowls, and way off up at the end, the misty boulevard.

The Académie in is the middle and it has plaques outside with the names of sculptors who taught in it, including Zadkine's. There are other places of a certain age in the street too, so its details have more interest than its whole aspect.

At the boulevard there was a gale blowing from Port Royal. I stepped back and made sure I was all zippedphoto: cordonnerie up. La Rotonde's big sign made it look like a circus. Further along, Le Select looked quieter, nearly somber, and across the boulevard La Coupole is all inside without much exterior.

I crossed over and went past Le Dôme where a waiter was looking out at the windy and nearly deserted Vavin intersection. The Rue Delambre around the corner seemed to have a few new places and I saw the Hôtel des Bains is fixing itself up.

All the cafés at Edgar Quinet looked like they are quietly waiting for the leaves to blow off the trees. The leaves are hanging grimly on this year. Going down the boulevard I wondered if a photo of the brown tower would mean anything and decided it wouldn't.

The boulevard's north side has a scattering of cafés, bars and the theatre, so you should not focus on the tower. It is hard to ignore through; and it is as ugly as a foundry without pipes.

Getting past it wasn't the hurricane I feared and on the other side, the Avenue du Maine was slick with rain. After seeing the usual things I never noticed before - Ceasar's Palace nightclub! - I easily found the alley leading to the - it has changed its name to 'Le Chemin du Montparnasse.'

The vines seemed to have run wild this year in this old alley lined with equally old ateliers. Some workmen were doing something underground in the centre of it, and I watched where I put my feet to make sure it's not down an open manhole.

At the ex-Musée du Montparnasse something has changed. There is new energy in the air. Althoughphoto: resto wadja its new show opened on 22. September, there seems to be a great bustle to send out press kits for it.

While Krystel Boula put one together for me I toured the exhibition. The nordics were a somber lot from somber lands and they came to Paris to find light.

I have never heard of many of the names, but there is a very bright portrait of 'Claudia' by Nils de Dardel, who was also in on the Ballets Suédois capers, along with Montparnasse man-about-everything, Per Krohg.

I skipped the métro and walked home up the Avenue du Maine. It isn't all interesting after Gaité, until getting to where Daguerre meets it. As soon as I turned into it, I started thinking about a double café near the end, at the Rue Boulard.

Later, I made a date with a couple of Metropole readers and after we ate, we sat in Le Select and wrestled with philosophy for a couple of hours. It is a very long time since I've been in Le Select. When I asked, I learned Philippe is on holidays. He took over the bar there about a year before I came to Paris in 1976.

Near midnight, the boulevard was wet, reflecting all the neons, but it seemed warmer. I got the next-to-last métro and rode the three stops to Denfert.

All photos except Le Select, taken in the Rue de la Grande Chaumière, Wednesday, 29. September 1999.
Metropole's New Web Address Continues

This is the new Web URL for 'Metropole Paris:' Some readers have said the old URL works fine, with the 're-direct' sending them automatically to the latest issue. Please 'bookmark' this new URL, but don't throw out the old one - just in case.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 3.40 - 5. October 1998 - The Café Metropole column was titled - 'Hot Cars and Cold Café.' 'Au Bistro' had 'The Big Train Robbery.' This issue had two features, entitled 'Auto Salon - Dreams Of Future Wheels' count down Eiffel Tower and 'Doing Saturday Stuff In Paris.' This 'Scene' column appeared for the first time in this issue. There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Honk, honk! Beep, beep!'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 2.40 - 6. October 1997 - The Café Metropole column was called - 'Warm Days - Cool Nights.' The Au Bistro column was entitled 'We Did It! We Got 'Golden October!' This issue had three features, entitled 'While the Air's Away On Paris' Pollution Day,' 'Montmartre Kicks Out Jams, Stomps Grape' and 'Prix de l'Arc - Out At the Track With Kaz.' There were two 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Pollution Chez Ed.'

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 89 more mostly cloudy, nasty wet, cool and occasionally stormy Paris and Ile-de-France autumn days to go until the really big year-end party is in full swing.
signature, regards, ric

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