Possibly Rare In November

photo: octangular pool, tuileries

Many people in the Tuileries, waiting for the leaves
to fall, in vain.

Blue Skies In Paris

Paris:- Friday, 12. November 1999:- Today's sun has effected a rare rendezvous with last night's TV-weather forecast producing a sky full of solid blue. The day also has, as last night's TV-weather lady said, temperatures 'below normal' for this time of year.

Because the TV-weather lady never says what the 'normal' temperatures are, I will tell you exactly what these 'below normal' ones are supposed to be. Up from the night's low of 4 C to a high of 9 C. Watchout! Some streets have wind-chill breezes in them.

For readers in Paris, yesterday was another occasion for the weekly 'Café Metropole Club' meeting. For me, it was also an evening spent getting its 'report' online. Therefore, this morningphoto: traffic in concorde I leave the radio-news turned off in order to think of what today's - this! - feature will be.

The Place de la Concorde, without giant wheel, but full of little wheels.

'Metropole Paris' has evolved a bit since I started doing it. Feature ideas used to come to me in the morning shower, from the stimulation of hot water sprinkling on my head. My new shower does not do this so conveniently; and having the radio-news on prevents thinking of any sort.

Instead of 'feature idea' I think of four or five items of information I'm supposed to track down or pick up - not for a feature, but for all the silly columns that now fill the week's issue.

This is how I decide to go to the Place de la Concorde. We - you readers and me, the ed - have a missing event at Concorde. Since September there has supposed to have been a giant ferris wheel - absolutely colossal! - in the place. If it is indeed there, today's sunshine will make it photographable. Who knows when the sun will shine gain?

I should also cruise by a couple of places where I can find out about coming events too. But I don't want to go all the way to Saint-Lazare or the Champs-Elysées; having been in both areas last week. There's a book I'm looking for too, but will probably only find used - but where?

Before I go anywhere, I should check the incoming email. It may contain nuggets. Then I remember to phone Gary Carp, who I am trying to lure into becoming a 'live' source for rock-and-roll in Paris.

Phoning Gary is an adventure. I have only met him once before, in June, and that was an adventure. When I dial, I do not know I'm calling a number on the 'liste-rouge' - which is unlisted - and it is also filtered by an answering robot.

Gary does phone back, fairly quickly. He talks; I fill a page with notes about people, places, bands, singers, dancehalls. In an elliptical conversation, I have to draw arrows all over the notes, to keep some sense to it. Then he has to answer the other phone; he'll call me back. These people with their 'other' phones!

I wait - blue sky outside is passing - and finally call him. Now I can hear the metre ticking as 'adventure, part II' goes on, and on.

My clock is passing 14:00 and this means there are no more than two hours of reliable light left. Gary probably remembersphoto: le parisien reader there is something he has to do today, too, and the call ends. I have one arm in a jacket sleeve when he calls back.

A cozy Le Parisien reader.

"Don't tell anybody my phone number," he says, adding, "It's on the 'liste-rouge.' Rock musicians do not want calls from California after having gigs ending at 05:30 in Paris. He grumbles about Thursday mornings, when the cleaning lady comes. Gary says he and his wife are her employees rather than the other way around.

Which reminds him that his wife is looking for English teachers. "Native speakers," he says, "With papers! Don't need to be teachers; but gotta speak real English!"

By this time all I know is I have to get out of the door fast. Any faint notions of a feature have receded into the past, overlaid with 'Paris rock facts.' All I can remember is I had Concorde as a destination.

I am so disoriented that I have lost my 'personal Paris space' instinct. This is an invisible bubble you acquire after living in Paris for a time, which enables you to walk down streets without having midgets constantly bumping into you. Without my 'bubble,' when I dodge right, the oncoming dodges left. On top of this handicap, I feel 'tilted' as well.

Only two of the usual gang of musicians are sitting around in the métro station. I think it is where they have their time-out place - the trash cans are full of empty bottles and candy wrappers, and there are 478 cigarettes butts on the floor - but just in this one place where they usually sit.

I'm afraid to ask, but I think they have the concession on métro line '4,' up to Gare du Nord and back. If I ask, I may get 'adventure part III,' so I don't.

In general, I am trying to think of what it is like to be in Paris. I am supposed to note the noise of the métro wagon and pay attention to the other passengers, and smell it all; and have eye-blinding insights.

I do all of this. But I don't 'record' it. I scan the station billboards for new posters. Nothingphoto: rivoli arch super this week. The musicians who were sitting where I started, get on at Odéon.

No, it's not the same two - but they are part of the same gang. They are not bad, accordion and small tambourine; until they do some show tune unrelated to Paris. Is it 'Oklahoma?' 'When the winds go through the tunnels?'

One of Rivoli's dozens of arches; all the same, except the exceptions.

I can do the Châtelet switch-lines routine blindfolded. I must have got my personal-space 'bubble' back. Yesterday, going to the 'club' there was a ten-person string ensemble performing in the tunnel, right at the most important intersection. I had to climb over some of the audience, sitting on the stairs, to get through.

The westbound line '1' train is fairly full, but it is one of the new-model ones. As usual, nearly everybody has a baggie-on-the-back, a gymnasium-sized one on the floor about the size of a sleeping camel, or a two-wheeled 'granny-carrier;' plus some people do not know when the fold-down seats should be folded up - so it is as tight as it sometimes is during rush-hours.

Space is eased at Palais-Royal, where the customary 300 Louvre visitors get off. It is further eased at Concorde where I and 200 others get off; onto a full platform where everyone is milling about trying to figure out which exit to take.

When you are in a situation like this, do not despair. You will probably not know that the next train with 200 passengers to deposit is only 90 seconds of two minutes from arrival - so it would be wise for the 4-500 people on the platform to be off it. Take any exit you see and if you are too short to see anything except fabric, follow anybody who does not look like they are waiting for the next train.

If you do intend to actually see Concorde, follow only the blue 'sortie' signs. If you go down an 'orange-correspondence' tunnel, you will end up seeing anything except Concorde - but this is fine for some folks, who are probably in Paris only by accident anyway.

I follow the 'sortie' signs without much hope of taking the right one. This ensures that I accidently do take the one I want and this is the first time in two decades it has happened.

It just goes to show that the only time you need take care reading the directions, is when you want to transfer from one line to another. Getting these wrong could get you to the Porte d'Orléans instead of Montmartre.

The sky over Concorde is three shades short of Cobalt Blue and there is no colossal ferris wheel in it, just a very bright ball of sun. I shoot some throwaway 'postcard' photos. The reason 'why' is because the light makes me do it.

I shoot a lion on the shadow side - for another throwaway - and Mlle. Strasbourg on her pedestal. I shoot the working fountain because I will send its photo to the Paris, Nevada architect who put a copy of the sister fountain, now under renovation, in Las Vegas.

Although a lot of cars are going through Concorde, there are periods between traffic-light changes when its roadways are almost deserted; allowing a considerable number of pedestrians to cross back and forth, either to see the sights or pass from the Tuileries to the Champs-Elysées, where the sculpture is still on open-air display.

On the Tuileries side, the postcard-souvenir stand and the snack kiosk seem to be different; less slovenly than usual. Inside the high, gold-tipped iron gates, the Tuileries seem to be as elegant as usual.

In fact, looking down towards the small Arc du Carrousel, there seems to be a horde of people parading along between the trees, some still with green leaves, under the blue sky.

There is a bit of a breeze though, so not many people are lounging around the octangular pool where it is exposed. Over by the Jeu de Paume, south-facing walls are reflecting what heat there is on a few parked against them. One is reading today's Le Parisien. Or he is tearing strips off it to re-light his pipe.

I have a throwaway collection of 'arch' photos, that I have been adding to over the past couple of months, with the vague ideaphoto: rivoli tile, brighton of doing a feature illustrated only with arches. This is against Metropole's policy of only using photos from the current week, so I am not quite sure how I am going to talk Ed into actually running the feature.

Behind Rivoli's arches, the tiles - some a bit faded.

He will say Metropole is not a photo magazine, but a words-and-photos magazine and he can't think of any words to go with the arches. Just like I can't think up a feature article today.

The buildings along the Rue de Rivoli have arches, practically all the way from Concorde to the Rue du Louvre - which must be one of the world's biggest collections of nearly identical arches. Professor Greb would tell me to let the Guinness people know.

There is the arch-part of the arches, and then there is the part behind the arches, which is the sidewalk, shadowed by the arch uprights. A lot of times there are too many people strolling along here to notice that the sidewalk is faced with decorative tile patterns.

Some of these announce the establishments they are in front of - such as the Brighton Hotel. The Hotel Maurice is being renovated, so its sidewalk is narrowed and full of people bumping into each other - which makes reading its sidewalk tiles impossible.

Even though it seems like all the shops under these arches are housing trinket dealers, there are others to see as well. the Sulka shop is one example, and there are a couple of opulent tea rooms, and the Galignani - the oldest 'American' bookstore in Paris - and a W.F. Smith's branch, for those who prefer their books in English rather than 'American.'

By the Rue du 29. Juillet I have had enough arches - no more than a third of them - and even though I've been thinking of going as far as the Place des Pyramides to see Jean d'Arc - no pun intended - I cross Rivoli to return to the Tuileries and its round pond.

From its fountain, it is clear the breeze is truly one from the northeast and explains why a lot of people look like they're wondering why their left their gloves behind.

Just beyond the Arc du Carrousel the Louvre's Cour Napoléon is nearly all blue, with a warm band of stone in the middle. A huge poster for the Denon exhibition hangs from the scaffolding over the Carousel passage through the Louvre's Seine gallery, and I go through it to get a shot of its sunny side.

But the poster for Apple - 'think big' - is still in place so I go east on the Quai du Louvre towards the Pont des Arts. Over it, on the Quai de Conti, I shortcut through the Hôtel des Monnaies and head towards Odéon on the narrow Rue Guénégaud, full of buses and little sculpture galleries.

About here, the afternoon's traffic is starting to accumulate, especially in the Rue Mazarine. At Buci, I turn left and then right into the Cour de Commerce Saint-André, the alley running behind the Café Procope.

Sometime in the past couple of hundred years, somebody has paved it with uneven cobbles, which would be tricky in high-heeled shoes. Boules were played here by customers of Procope, but I don't think they were played on these cobbles.

Sight-wise, it is a good alley. A little too good; this is the reason I haven't been in it since before the Maison de la Catalogne was opened; with its tourist promotion for Catalonia, its culture section - the Espace Miró, Espace Gaudi and Espace Pau Casals - and its bistro 'La Catalogne,' which has right-looking tapas on its bar.

November in Paris, without having had my August on the Costa Brava, is a harder nut to swallow.

Going through the last arch of the day puts me across from the métro at Odéon. The light is so nearly gone, the camera won't evenphoto: cour de commerce st andre try to get the film poster that shows Paris full of beach up to the sixth floor - for a 'futurist' movie that began this week.

I do not find the book I'm looking for and when I shoot the last café, it is the camera's last shot. Fifty images in the can, despite Gary Carp.

In the alley behind the Procope, near the tea rooms.

All the streets around Odéon are plugged with cars - a situation I am becoming more and more aware of. The métro is less full, and even through it loops west before going south, it is probably faster to Denfert. The bus going up Saint-Michel might be faster yet because it is more direct, but is probably full with shoppers from Rivoli.

At this point, what we have here is what I do when I don't have an idea for a feature. It is a bit like coming to Paris and not seeing the big sights or the museums. Like me, what you can do is just walk around and take it in with your eyes, ears and nose.

But, if I felt like doing a feature today, I have photo sets for three of them. This is on account of the, possibly rare, blue sky in Paris on this day, in November.

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