'Home' In Paris

photo: columbus cafe

The Columbus Café is in the Marais and the Beetle
looks like it is from California.

Metropole's Club Seeks Members Globally

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 1. November 1999:- Launching and conducting - if this is what it's called - the Café Metropole Club has resulted in me thinking much more about America - the United States part of it - than I have in years.

The 'club' is not an exclusively 'American' affair. It is open to all, from anyplace on the planet. For various technical reasons, I would prefer that extraterrestrials refrain from applying for any sort of membership for the time being - otherwise all human beings are welcome.

About 50 percent of Metropole's readers live in the United States. There are more people hooked up to the Internet there and a lot of Americans are interested in Paris. Americans also like to have fun, so this possibly explains why they have quickly taken up the challenge of membership in the 'club.'

The other 50 percent of Metropole's readers live in the rest of the world. Altogether, you read, write and speak about 200 different languages. 'Club' membership is equally open to you. You are welcome to join it.

This week's 'Club News' gives details of how to do this. It is so easy, I won't be surprised if some people join it while they are asleep in a dentist's chair.

Now, about languages. The 'Club' has no 'official' language; which means you can use your own. I can understand various flavors of English and one or two of French and German, with some 'notions' of Spanish.

Metropole's server-lady - who has a travel feature in this issue - also understands severalphoto: brentano's languages, including being able to speed-read traffic signs in Arabic. She keeps saying she will come to the club, to meet you, and if she ever shows up she will be welcome to become a member too.

The Paris branch of Brentano's, on the Avenue de l'Opéra.

I have explained elsewhere that the 'virtual' membership card I promised last week did not make it into this week's issue. The nominal reason for this is nobody objected to the idea. If I don't know what you don't like, how am I to know what to do?

So then, Paris fans and Internet people worldwide, join the club! It is free, it has no rules, and it doesn't cost much.

If my 'reports' about the club's activities make it seem trivial to you, consider that I am running the club, shaking hands, taking notes, taking photos - so I have only a sketchy idea of what is going on.

At the club, its members do talk seriously to one another and have deep exchanges of views, I think. You can take part in this while I look after the nuts and bolts and ashtrays.

So far, the numbers of members at any one meeting has been low enough so that general conversation is possible. This means that there is not a lot of time spent waiting around for a chance to speak or ask questions.

Just by listening, I have picked up some interesting ideas - one of which led to this week's feature article.

America In Paris

Many years ago when I was a new immigrant in Europe, I used to search for 'items from home.' As my 'home' was pretty insignificant in the export of common things category, I quit searching after a couple of years and adopted European tastes.

Over time I have completely forgotten what 'home' tasted like and have ceased to think about it. Recently, listeningphoto: neon hot dogs americain to club members - who are at the moment mostly Americans - has made me remember that visitors do look for items from 'home.'

In the case of 'America,' this is also a global marketing machine that relentlessly exports its tastes and styles to the entire world. Without worldwide acceptance of things American, they would not be here - but here they are.

Soft drinks, cigarettes, entertainment, the industrial fast-food concept, are all successful American exports. The signs for all these are everywhere.

In the normal course of producing Metropole Paris, I avoid these 'signs.' If possible they do not appear in this magazine about Paris.

But this is unreal. McDonald's does have many branch locations in Paris. Disneyland is very real, just to the east of Paris. Millions of people, both French and visitors, patronize both of these - and eat American packaged cereals for breakfast, eat Mars bars sold in métro vending machines, buy Kodak film for snapshots, drink Coca-Cola and Pepsi at outdoor snack kiosks.

For over a hundred issues of this magazine I have censored all images of these everyday items. Paris is big enough and all of these 'signs of America' are only a thin haze spread over the city, so leaving them out is not any major problem.

But, it occurred to me at a recent meeting of the Café Metropole Club, am I not giving a false impression of Paris?

You pay a visit to Paris, even if it is from Malaysia, and you will see 'America' nearly everywhere. What's wrong with trying it out; having a taste of it?

The Americans who have been at the club say they have tried these things. And do you know what? They nearly all say they 'are not the same.' The taste is different, maybe the name is different; the package has French text on it.

The latest American hit movie has a title in French, and its poster is different too. On the Champs-Elysées, thephoto: batwing door, harry's film is running in several cinemas - with a notice that it is in 'V.O.' This is 'Version Originale' which means the soundtrack is in its native language, and subtitles in French have been added.

So, no matter where you come from, if you 'overdose' on Paris and need a bit of 'home' - in the form of worldwide brands - you will find all you need in Paris.

The batwing doors of Harry's New York Bar. Watch your step.

Actually there is more than this. Both exporters and importers have been busy, widening the selection of nearly everything - so it is no problem to find beers from Mexico or China, spices from Indochina, pasta from Italy, sausages from Spain, olives and nuts from Africa, maple-syrup from Canada and vodka from Russia. The list is kilometres long.

It was not always like this. The world has changed a lot in the last 30 years, with its 'global village' marketplace. It exists in Paris too.

Before you had to search for it. Today in Paris, Paris still exists - and you do not have the search long or far to find whole areas where the 'global marketplace' is nowhere to be seen. You can have it either way.

Rerun: Metropole's Photographer Pals

Long-time readers probably know that John McCulloch is Metropole's contact in the throbbing centre of the theme-city supreme, Las Vegas, Nevada. However, John's main interest isphoto: san francisco book co photography, followed distantly - in years - by Paris, where he was stationed for a time in the early '60's, as an keen observer of the Vedettes du Pont-Neuf.

Lately, and for the past couple of years by the looks of it, John has been tracking down the ghosts and real rails of old railroad tracks in the mountains and deserts of western America. He has photographed scenes that were once the themes of folksongs before all of us folks became so urban. Take a look.

The San Francisco Book Co. is near Odéon in the Latin Quarter.

Don Smith won Nelly with a tinned chicken, and the result was a 70-day honeymoon in France late last spring. In the middle of it they spent a half-hour on the Champs-Elysées finding me taking part in a 'painting' contest. The honeymoon was a chance for Don to shoot everything French in sight, and you can see all of this on his Web site.

Although personally unknown to me, Gerald Panter has let me know about his Web site. I took a look at the section where he has followed Eugéne Atget's footsteps, in order to re-shoot the identical scenes. Mr. Panter shows that after a century, Atget's Paris is still here if you can take the time to look closely enough.

Café Metropole Club 3rd Session Rehash

The 3rd session of the 'Café Metropole Club' ran off successfully last Thursday. Read all about it on last week's 'Club 'Report'' page. I was not a bit nervous about it being a bit haphazard because this is a planned feature, but putting in the wrong link-code again was not planned. This week it is - finally - correct.

New Web Address Continues Ad Nauussseamm

This is the new Web URL for 'Metropole Paris:' http://www.metropoleparis.com 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.

The whole Internet seems to have been a bit unsettled for the past few weeks so if you have any problems making a connection, just try again a little later. Do not bother trying to readjust your set.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 3.44 - 2. November 1998 - The Café Metropole column was titled - 'Unique Picasso Collection Auctioned.' 'Au Bistro' had 'Paris Is Wet!' This issue had only one feature, entitled 'Dancing On the River - The Seine's Future?' count down Eiffel Tower The week's 'Scene' column headline was 'Tango's Last Gasp.' Makiko Suzuki sent an email from Japan which was titled, 'Statue of Liberty Near Toyko Bay.' There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Ya Gotta Light?'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 2.44 - 3. November 1997 - The Café Metropole column was called - 'Death in Marly Is Internet's Loss.' The 'Au Bistro' column was entitled 'French Truckers About to Resume 1996 Srike.' This issue had one feature, entitled 'Looking Around for Nalpoléon III, with Thirza Vallois.' There were two 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Arthur has a 'S' On His Sweater Because It Is Halloween'

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 61 more mostly cloudy, medium-warm, often sunny, and occasionally very rainy Paris and Ile-de-France autumn days to go until the really big year-end party kicks in.
signature, regards, ric

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