Another Darn Long-Weekend

photo: bar du marche, buci

Friday was a good day for sitting around in Paris.

These Freebies Riddle May

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 8. May 2000:- Today is 'Victory in Europe Day' and therefore a holiday in parts of Europe even if the day has a different name in Germany and no name at all in Ireland. Looking a bit to the future, plain 'Europe Day' is tomorrow - and it is not a holiday. Not yet.

The end of World War II in Europe was 55 years ago. The 'Wall' in Berlin was opened to free passage, and knocked down, 11 years ago next fall. Over the weekend, Russia's new and democratically-elected President was sworn in, with gilded whiffs of former imperial pomp.

Since I haven't seen tonight's TV-news, I don't know if Moscow's ceremonies will be followed by a heavily militarily-oriented presence during the remembrance of the end of the war in Europe. I doubt it.

Some timid signs are pointing to the take-over of the 8th of May by 'Europe Day' on the 9th of May. I think most Europeans will welcome seeing 'Victory in Europe' disappear, especially if it is substituted by another day off; to add to 'Workers and Peasants No-Work Day,' known simply as 'May Day,' on the 1st of May - which was last Monday.

This year's calendar has worked out stunningly well in Europe with three Mondays in a row as public holidays. Coupled with France's 35-hour work week, many have been able to juggle a few vacation days into a three-week freebie. Three cheers for Europe and its inventive holidays makers!

Wretched Excess?

In case there are readers who may be toiling 60 hours a week and only enjoying one long-weekend off in May, and are thinking silly Europeans can't afford any of this extravagance, let me put you straight.

But first, a 'truth-in-advertising disclaimer:' the following is based not on personal experience, but on forecasts made by people I have never met, and do not know who is paying them to make these predictions - just as I am sure they are well-paid for them.

I suddenly find I have mislaid my sources; so I will gloss some of these 'facts.' In an area with 350photo: bateau lutece sit down million inhabitants, unemployment is going down increasingly rapidly, while inflation is staying low at about two percent.

Some people even sat around on boat roofs on the Seine.

Milo Minderbinder's plans for all of us being employees of one big corporation as well as being stockholders of it, are hectically being realized - soon the phrase 'Euro-22 Corp SA' will make pension fund managers jump for joy.

Meanwhile, even countries like France - which have believed that taxes are man's highest blessing - has lowered the crucial valued-added sales tax by one percent. I pooh-poohed this recently, but I think it is the first millimetre of a long journey to lower taxes for all.

Lower taxes will translate into people buying more stuff - resulting in tax collection increases - but will also mean that more people will have to make more stuff for people with more money, to buy - thus increasing employment, and new hordes of taxpayers, who are also becoming dividend-collecting stockholders.

The latest news from the US says its jobless rate has dipped below four percent. News like this generally makes central bankers nervous and they start reaching for higher interest rates.

Europe's unemployment rates are double or triple, so we have a huge cushion of unemployed to allow for before we have to worry that the bankers will be trying to depress us all again. We've been down long enough.

Now, if this continent just had a good five-cent cigar.

Café Racing

While looking for a city office that hands out licenses for non-profit activities such as this magazine last Wednesday, Iphoto: auto passion cafe chanced to visit the Porte d'Orléans a bit further along.

My curiosity about it was satisfied by one quick glance. It is a big place with a lot of space, and is of no particular interest whatsoever, unless you want to get out of town this way.

On a second scan I spied an establishment called 'Auto Passion.' Close-up it turned out to be a café, even if it did seem to have two BMW racing sedans in it. Some of the café's chairs were also racing models; but without seatbelts.

It is a big place, going back deep. Along the walls there are cabinets with car stuff in them; arranged like well-done displays at Rétromobile.

TV-screens above the bar were showing sedans racing in endless video-loops, and there was anotherphoto: traction passion cafe big screen in the rear - perhaps for showing whole races. There were a couple of Renault F1 motors scattered about as extra decor.

I had arrived co-incidently with the racing BMWs, which were being prepped for some sort of occasion on the same evening. Two people from the racing team were replacing the sponsor decals and other racing trim.

Actually, the cars were being redecorated for their next races. A lady from the team told me all the stick-on stuff gets torn up during races - which is not a bad thing because it saves having to repaint the cars all the time.

European sedan racing is not like big-time stock-car racing in the US. While the US-style racing is done with replicas of cars that only turn counter-clockwise, European stock-car racing is done with real cars that turn both left and right, sharply.

I worked at the BMW factory a bit before this got to be a big deal in Europe. I also worked for aphoto: bmw passion cafe shop that made and sold all sorts of stick-on lettering and decor, so it was like a mini-nostalgia trip for me. Otherwise, never raced, never rallied - except once.

The other attraction - especially for would-be street racers - was the idea of being in a bar with racing cars, and being able to drive home on the métro.

Down at the Porte d'Orléans, 197. Boulevard Brune, Paris 14. Racing helmets are only necessary if you think you'll fall off a bar stool.

Road Nuts? Car Crazy?

There is the 'Café-Racer' item above, and Badger has contributed a few words about survival driving in several European countries. Also in this issue, 'Au Bistro' has a news item about the past several weekends' worth of bad driving scores in France. This trio of automotive items has not been pre-arranged and are not necessarily related.

Café Metropole Club's 30th Session

The 30th weekly meeting - the on-the-30th-week mark! - of the 'Café Metropole Club' marked another unexpected mini upsurge in 'real' membership last Thursday, and included a major new 'First of the Week.' You can read about it on last week's 'Club 'Report'' page even if you have already read it once or twice.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 4.19 - 10. May 1999 - This week's Café Metropole column was headlined: - Wow! - 'Is This How the 'Café Metropole Club' Begins?' The 'Au Bistro' column was titled 'Is Corsica Burning?' This issue had one whole feature, titled 'The Rue du Faubourg du Temple.' In an eMail, Mike Kotch wanted to know about the 'The 'Best' and the 'Finest.' The 'Scene' column had 'Asterix Park Reopens for 1999' and 107 other items. There were four 'Posters of the Week' andphoto: baignade interdit Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'That's Not a Train Whistle' - but then, how would Ric know?

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 3.19 - 11. May 1998 - The Café Metropole column had a helpful hint: 'Do Not Adjust Your Web Browser.' The 'Au Bistro' column was titled 'Big Dump At Culture Box-Office.' This issue had two so-so features, titled ''Grand Marché d'Art Comtemporain' and the slightly snappier 'Man Ray in Montparnasse, Forever.' However, there were also three emails, in response to the previous week's 'May '68 features, called 'Echos of '68.' There were four 'Posters of the Week' as usual. Ric's Cartoon of the Week was had the oxymoron caption of 'The Unemployed Clochard.'

Metropole Paris' Nearly Solo Countdown to 31. December 2000:

Here we are again with the text nobody but contest winners read. This is the 19th issue of the year, in case anybody else is interested. Since I wrote last week that I wasn't going to whine about this anymore, I haven't had time to concentrate on thinking up an insanely easy, and tedious contest that will have lots of winners.

Nevertheless - what a stupid word! - I am still chipping in with all the stray centimes and lint I have and putting them into the unopenable Deutschebundespost piggybank - plus! - clipping all the coupons I find on what few packaged goods I buy. It allphoto: eau non potable adds up. If I could only count. If I could only open up the darn piggybank!

This new countdown will last only 366 days, minus the 129 days already gone. The official reason for doing this is to give the Tour Eiffel a new chance to 'get it done' once and for all. This is a re-run for many count-down fans who missed shouting 'Zéro' on Friday, 31. December 1999 when Paris' countdown clock fizzled out. If you don't happen to be a count-down fan, then you can skip reading this. But I warn you that if you do - you will miss the next contest.

There are only about 237 days left to go until the 3rd Millennium. For really alert readers, this figure is again correct. The thing I like least about the count-down is calculating the days gone and the days-to-go each week. I do this by taking coffee beans out of one can and putting them into another one.
signature, regards, ric

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