'Cuba Libre' At the Club

photo: corona terrace

See all these people basking outside? None of them are club members of either sort.

Without Music, Without Salsa-ing, Without Rum

Paris:- Thursday, 16. March 2000:- If you asked me this morning about the weather, I would have said it didn't look good for salsa, music or rum. It looked like the damp greys were back, pushed along by a northwest wind.

After weeks of boundless optimism, the TV-weather news has finally settled down to endless pessimism. If the sun pops out for half a hour, everybody in Paris cheers for the unexpected freebie shot of 'D's.

But by the time I go to the club, there is a lot of light on the avenue and it is almost possible to hear the sap in the trees trying to push the buds out. This has already happened in some freak micro-weather zones in Paris; and thin impressions of green look out of place while the majority of trees are bare as driftwood.

Today I am in a hurry to get to the club - even leaving early for it - because I have a date with the server-lady, Linda Thalman, to talk about Metropole's implausible schemes.

Therefore I do not gad about the Rue de Rivoli, I do not seek new 500 year-old buildings on my route from the métro, and I do not pass any 'go's, get any hundred bucks nor go to jail, to wait for three rolls of the dice.

The blazing sun on the Quai du Louvre makes me think of other places to be going to or being at, but I plunge ahead - around baby-strollers, dogs, taxis, lost people looking at maps, hot semi-roasted chestnut dealers, street cleaners and all the other diverse ilk loitering in my path.

Near La Corona I come out from behind a sign advertising toothpaste for burnt-out gums, and surprise about two dozen people sitting on the terrace, sunning themselves like beached seals.

My silver-bullet camera does not make any click-clack noises but probably does look like an extra-largephoto: server lady, linda single-barrel shotgun - somewhat sawed off. But who notices this when it is pointed straight at them? "Who's this goof shooting us instead of the Louvre's Pyramid?" they probably wonder.

Bouquets, empty rum bottle, onion soup - behind all is the server-lady, Linda Thalman.

Monsieur the patron is herding thirsty customers into a campsite in a wind-shaded but full-sun terrace area, but he has time for a quick handshake - the only kind that's correct in Europe anyhow - and inside Patrick, the club's waiter, says there is a bouquet for me.

"For me?" I babble. It must be an Easter-egg kind of joke. I go through the bar and out the other door to shoot into the sun on the Amiral Coligny side. There are trees on the other side of the Seine with green fuzz on them.

The big 'salle' is divided into slices of light again. The server-lady is sitting just in front of the club's area, and she has a bouquet of yellow flowers - their name will come to me in a minute - in an Orangina glass on a white saucer.

As the non-'real' and non-'virtual' civilians leave the club area we move back there and have 27 seats to ourselves. Besides the bouquet she has also brought an empty bottle of 'Havana Club' rum, which she insists be made 'Drink of the Week.'

I can't think of why not, except for it being empty, and since she orders an onion soup, I think I shouldphoto: havana club agree since nobody else has brought any other empty bottles of anything else. Even though we've had it before, here it is officially - the 'Food of the Week' is onion soup. No arguments.

This is really not fair because it is before the club's official starting time. But Linda burns herself with the soup - I think everybody does this - so, no arguments.

We chit and we chat about the business we have to discuss and do not do any other club rituals, nor gossip about any people who are not present.

I think we cover everything, but we are surprised when we finish and see the time is about 16:00, and this is when we notice that no other club members have arrived.

If I was a 'real' member instead of the club's unofficial secretary, I'm not sure I'd arrive either. The café's other customers are mostly outside, basking.

Another couple tried doing this a couple of weeks ago on one of the other sunny club days, and lasted about seven minutes before they hauled their kit and caboodle inside. Not today.

Linda has to buzz off. She pays for my double-express and lowers the numbers of cafés she owes me from 4867 to 4865. She wants to round it down to 4000 in exchange for the empty 'Havana Club' rum bottle, but I point out it has one of those plastic things on its snout so you can't refill it with cheapo rum from the bodega.

In the old days, one of my bosses used the get the rum from a bodega in Malaga in five-litre plastic jugs. In addition to going down to the bar every morning at 11:00 to pick up the block of ice lying on the doorstep and putting it into the non-electric refrigerator, I had to refill the Barcardi bottles with this 100-pesetas a litre rum.

Then in the evenings I'd make 'Cuba Libres' for anybody who asked for one. These cocktails were made very scientifically. I'd take a big glass and throw a handful of ice in it - ice I'd smashed into cubes with a full bottle of Coke wrapped in a towel.

The 'scientific' part was putting in the right amount of rum, so that when the full bottle of Coke - it was real Coke too - was put in, it came right to the top. Then a slice of real lemon was added to sit on the rim of the glass, for a little extra cha-cha-cha.

On account of the Coke costing so much, we had to charge 25 pesetas for these drinks, which was about 40 cents at the time.

Our other fancy cocktail was a gin and tonic and the gin came fromphoto: orangina bouquet the same place as the rum, and the glass was the same size; so the price was the same.

One night, three college girls wearing raincoats stopped in on their way to Tangier, and each of them drank eight of these Cuba Libres; and walked out as if they had been drinking air. Instead of going to Tangier, they came back the next night and had another eight apiece.

On the third night, when they came in, the blond one came up to the bar and put a 1000 peseta-note on it. She said, "Sometimes we lose track, so tonight we're paying in advance. Keep the change."

I had to share tips with the English girl, but even my half amounted to two nights' pay. And this reminds me I should pay Patrick for my second café and get outside and take some more photos. The light looks pretty good over by the Pont des Arts.

Next Monday's 'Club News' in Metropole

I am going to have to make up something again. I can't re-run today's 'report,' unless I want to add what happened when the Spanish Legionaries came to town from Africa and one of them wanted me to sell him the blond college girl, raincoat and all.

Date, Time and Location of Next Meeting

Thursday, 23. March 2000 is the date for the club's next 'real' meeting. If it is Thursday and you are in Paris, and spring isn'tphoto: bucket rose, terrace popping out all over making you think of better things to do, you can say "It must be Café Metropole Club day!"

The café La Corona meeting place will be as open as usual next Thursday, so the time for your club's meeting remains from 15:00 to 17:00 - which is also known as 3 pm to 5 pm in certain shillings-and-pence time zones.

Come as you are, especially if you are in Paris. If you cannot be present - like today - you can read the regular - this week's - Monday page for your club news as a substitute. Instead of PR, instead of an account of last week's meeting, it now features something unrelated to anything - luckily - plus whatever new business there may be. The café's location is:

Café-Tabac La Corona
2. Rue de l'Amiral Coligny
Paris 1. Métro: Louvre-Rivoli or Pont-Neuf

A bientôt à Paris,
signature, regards, ric

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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