'Bug' Hits Countdown Clock

photo: eiffel j-9h

Nine hours to go on Metropole's countdown-clock.

New Years Eve In Paris, Part I

Paris:- Friday, 31. December 1999:- This has been a long New Years for me. It starts today, with a reconnoiter of the Tour Eiffel area around 15:00. This is followed by a middle part of R&R, housework and TV-news - and this is what is here.

Part two begins at 22:00, also today, and goes through to 17:00 on Saturday. To get the whole story, you have to read both parts. The beauty of this is - more photos. Not better photos; just more of them.

To 'cover' New Years Eve in Paris with a crew of one is not impossible, but it is a bit skimpy compared to the resources of state TV. Without giving the problem a lot of deep and hard planning, I decide to take a look at the Tour Eiffel a bit before dark today, on 31. December 1999.

But first I get some food for my own New Years Eve party - at my local marché, which is open despite some leftover storm debris. Then I wager a modest amount on both the New Years Eve jumbo Loto and New Years Day regular Loto.

A glance at the supermarket tells me to try it later. There seem to be more customers in it than at Christmas. I getphoto: bir hakeim bridge some of my favorite cheese on Daguerre and all the apple-pie 'Normandes' I can carry at the boulangerie.

To cross from Trocadéro to the Tour Eiffel, pedestrians use the Bir-Hakeim bridge.

These ottos are much better than any kind of fast food, but other people like them a lot too. Sometimes there are none left and I have to take one or the other of the substitutes, which are apple too but not quite as good.

Then it is time for the daily update of storm and oil spill news for 'Au Bistro.' This gives me a chance to put in the latest about New Years Eve too - and it is the last upload of Metropole for this century. For all I know, it may have been the last, ever.

The métro is pretty full where I get on at the stop before the big one at Denfert-Rochereau - where it gets much fuller. The trick is to make the change to line 6 at the smaller Raspail station. But when the line 6 train arrives it is much fuller than I expected.

This is the line that has the stations closest to the Tour Eiffel and Trocadéro. At La Motte-Piquet a new onload had us packed in like vertical sardines. It is about 15:00 and midnight is nine hours away.

I know whole cubic-people-metres will bail out at Bir-Hakeim because this station is closest to the tower. Going over the bridge, I can see the quays are full of people.

Even more people want to get on at Passy so getting off the train isn't easy and I may have upset some civiliansphoto: eiffel j-8h, trocadero who were mindlessly travelling with huge tennis-racket sacks, who were hoping these would keep me from getting off.

When the number changed from nine to eight, a cheer went up.

On the Passy quay, many people are coming down from the Pont d'Iéna and crossing over the Pont de Grenelle to the tower side of the Seine. I guess that the Pont d'Iéna has already been closed, but when I get closer I see cars and buses using it. Wheels get right-of-way.

On the Trocadéro side there is a medium-sized crowd. A fairly strong 'oh' goes up when the tower's countdown display changes from nine to eight hours 'left to go.'

The 'alpine village' is closed - on account of the light drizzle? On account of no dogsled run, no cross-country ski facility? Big plans; not exactly realized. I can't figure out why the bridge is closed to pedestrians. I guess they make life too tough for car drivers.

These look slightly frightened, in their glass and steel cocoons, surrounded by all these padded people who are no longer bothering to wait for the 'green man' or look for zebra lines on the pavement. It seems as if half of them are speaking Italian and their contempt for traffic is as well-known as their love for cars.

I rubberneck all of this and the high level of the Seine. Then I spy an 82 bus with Luxembourg as its destination, and ride across the bridge on it. The driver tells me to use a ticket, and cackles when I ask when the free rides start.

"At 19:00, when the buses stop running," he says. He also says he is going to watch the New Year on his TV in his cozy and warm apartment, far from these maddening pedestrians.

I could have gotten off under the tower, but instead I ride up to Montparnasse and walk the rest of the way back to Metropole's office.

The supermarket is just as crowded as before, and now it's sold out of half the stuff I want. I have lunch - my New Year's feast - have a siesta and afterwards begin doing the 35 afternoon photos before, during and after the TV-news.

The main TV-news started sometime before 20:00. Michel Drucker, who does all of the France-2-TV light entertainment day and night now, is a 'guest' along with Jean-Luc Delarue, his co-host for this evening's New Year broadcast.

Michel, who also acts as if he is the over-boss of France-2-TV, seems to be slightly tranquilized, and slightly speeded, perhaps on Champagne. Jean-Luc Delarue, a younger, ernest-looking, eighth-grade high schoolphoto: carousel trocadero science-teacher type, has a hard time out-talking Drucker, who wasn't trying at all.

I forget the President. Jacques Chirac, nicely tanned, was on at the beginning.

For the long day, the crowds kept their humor and their sense of being at a big party.

All the country's politicos are tanned, and when they finally started showing up for their storm and oil spill looksees, they contrasted starkly with residents up to their knees in their roofless houses full of mud and fishermen who are not especially happy about the oil in the water and ikky gumbo on the beaches.

President Chirac says, "What seemed like the future, 2000, has become contemporary." Altogether, he is positive, and ernest as usual, adding, "Many children born in a few hours will live to see 1. January 2100." He seems more at ease being President these days.

The President is immediately followed by the TV-news utility guy who interprets what the President has just said quite plainly; but since it was plain this time, is brief.

TV being TV, the 'news' shows the Paris-Dakar TV-sports guy in the Pacific on Tonga, at sunrise. The Tongans sing a lot but the sports guy talks even more. I get the idea not much goes on, on Tonga, at anytime, except singing. They do not appear to think an imported talking-head is unusual though.

Then the TV-news lady, who has beautiful lips, announces that the Tour Eiffel's countdown clock had stopped. TV shows the unlit-up numbers - just a black section of the tower. This, after all of Metropole's efforts to keep you right up to date with this publicity for 2000! The 'Y2K' bug strikes - three hours early.

On this subject, somebody is in the 'Y2K' crises centre at the finance ministry at Bercy. He is on the TV-news several times, to tell viewers that China had 'made it' and later, that India had 'made it.' Tonga, of course made it first of all, even if it has no elevators or nuclear bombs or even wind-up alarm clocks.

He says that 'Y2K' had nothing to do with the Tour Eiffel, which leads me to think he has been watching himself on TV. He claims the 'lights-out' were caused by a blown fuse or something less than 160 kph winds.

The TV-news gradually melds into the evening's New Years coverage with Claude, the head anchorman, coming on the news set to give sweet-lips a couple of audible 'bisous' and some flowers. She says, "This is the first time you've ever come on my set when I'm on," and gets all dithery.

This causes her personal little sign-off gesture - which involves one of the big studio cameras turning away from her and swiveling to focus on the viewers - to be forgotten.

It's a touch Frédérick Mitterrand used as an opening on his old and classic-film TV show - taken from a film clip of a Cinecitta cinemascope camera doing the same thing. He does light entertainment now too and seriously good movies are rare on TV.

All the while this is going on, I am doing the necessary to the afternoon's photos. These are not brilliant, butphoto: 2200 at concorde do show the Tour Eiffel's countdown clock at '-8 Heures.' Lucky I got this before the Tour Eiffel broke down.

When I finish with TV, I go to the fête and this is what I see first.

Michel Drucker's New Year Eve show is called 'Tapis Rouge Pour les Champs-Elysées.' His old Saturday night show was just called 'Champs-Elysées' and it was a way of keeping up with the pop-music world - but TV 'diversion' things have gotten a lot less serious over the past decade.

France-2-TV has apparently built a glass studio on top of one of the buildings closest to the Arc de Triomphe and it is from here that the evening's taxpayer-supported show will be done.

With about two hours to go, TV has cameras on the avenue showing visitors and some residents being silly. This TV also shows what the avenue will look like at midnight, so they must be broadcasting rehearsal stuff.

It is about 22:00 and this is where this 'Part I' ends. Join me in 'Part II' - where I try to out-cover New Year in Paris; try to beat the news agencies, the photo agencies, TV and its talking heads and cat-and-dog shows, all the newspapers and wire operators on ships at sea.

Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini