The Press and Metropole

photo: cafe massena, r rivoli

This week's 'Café of the Week' is on the Rue de Rivoli.

Five Years Online Added To 35 Years In Print

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 13. March 2000:- For weather fans there isn't much to tell about last week's weather in Paris. There was little sun and as little rain. Temperatures are 'above normal' by a couple of degrees for this time of year.

However, if you were down on the Côte d'Azur, you probably had really warm spring temperatures a couple of times. But that is a long way from here and is more of a curiosity than anything else.

Anniversary Time Again

Next Friday, 17. March - Saint Patrick's Day - is the fifth anniversary for my online reporting about Paris. The first 'report' I did was the calendar for the 1995 Salon du Livre, which I picked up on that Friday - for it was a Friday too.

Looking ahead five years, I see that Saint Patrick's Day will be on a Thursday, so this Friday-to-Friday business is only going to happen once.

My first-ever 'report' was done for Norman Barth's 'The Paris Pages.' After the Salon du Livre's calendar was completed, I returned to the salon and did a couple ofphoto: cafe snack, mouffetard features, one of which is still online.

Sometime this summer should be my 40th anniversary of doing words and drawings for the press. Forty years ago I was in art school and in the summer in 1960, instead of making some money with a summer job, I was on strike.

Paris is getting to be more like a 'Movable Snack.'

Summer jobs were not easy to get and I had the - misfortune or fortune? - to have gotten a job that lasted about three weeks before it was shut down for an industry-wide strike concerning wages.

I was asked to do my share of picket duty - although I didn't have a chance to vote for or against the strike action - but I declined, because it looked like the strike would last all summer. Win or lose, I would have gotten nothing out of it.

Cooling my heels with the summer's skies all grey made me cranky. I wrote a 'crank' letter to a New York magazine. An editor there - maybe there was no air conditioning - wrote back, in effect saying, "Put up or shut up."

This is how I became a regular contributor to a small but nationally-distributed 'hot-rod' magazine, writing and illustrating a column with answers to reader's questions. After a time, I even made it to the bottom of the masthead, as the magazine's 'styling consultant.'

As far as I knew, I was the only one in the art school getting their drawings published and getting paid for it. Asphoto: car speed style, may 1962 far as school work was concerned, I was a total failure and dropped out after the second year.

Never mind that I'd broken my collarbone by dumping a Mini into a potato field in Oregon - thus becoming the first person to wreck a Mini in the United States - so I couldn't work for another summer.

It wasn't the 'New Yorker,' but my name was on the masthead. This issue is from July 1962.

At the art school, there was an existential question, which was, 'If I do graduate, then what?' There was the possibility of going to the university and taking the art history course, but people who do art, don't 'do' the history of it. They are both full-time, and exclusive occupations.

In the 'art school' there were about 250 students in the first year, and maybe 25 in the fourth year leading up to graduation. We did a little design, but mostly we did 'art' - drawing, painting, collages and sculpture.

The prospects of getting a job out of this appeared dim. The only people we knew who had done this were our teachers - some of whom were actually famous painters; but most of whom were indifferent teachers. The guy we had for design was a 'art'-book designer, and this was his business and the teaching was just to fill in some gap or other.

One student in my class had quit a job as an assistant bank manager to take up 'art.' He was a student of Cézanne long before he got to the school, so he was just honing his skills. I learned a lot about 'how Cézanne did it' from him, but couldn't translate this to my own stuff overnight, or even in a couple of years.

'Ace' Reporter

After starting at the top as a columnist, I got around to reporting some years later when I got taken on as a reporter-photographer by a tiny weekly paper way out in the sticks.

Between getting this and the art school, I had been an 'investigator' in the city's bicycle-license department, a city planning assistant, a bartender in Spain and a guest-worker in Munich.

On arrival in the village, I received a one-week crash course from the ex-RAF guy I replaced, and a longer course from the paper's small town owners, who worked on the paper too.

There was a printing shop attached to this. The paper was making the transition to offset, but its body textphoto: expo news room was still set with an old linotype machine. In the back of shop - it was like an unorganized museum - there were bins full of metal and wooden type, for setting by hand.

On the village paper, three of us shared one phone.

As a reporter in this village I was a total flop. The ex-RAF guy had been exotic, but I was just from the 'big city' so nobody would talk to me except the taxi driver and my landlord, who had a trailer park and whose brother owned the 1948 Airstream I lived in.

This all caved in when the kidnapping happened. I was reduced to getting my 'news' from the ex-RAF guy who came back from the daily paper in the nearby small city where he'd gone.

He pulled off a midnight marine operation to get around the police - but in the end the person who was kidnapped was found alive on the property and the cops kept quiet about 'who done it.'

After the snow collapsed half a tree on the my trailer, I decided to return to civilization; to workin night-shift bakeries and be warm. Now, if I throw in 'Yellow Pages' and a city tourist guide, I will have covered the first ten years of the last 40.


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