Paris Clips

photo: cafe le st serverin, latin quarter

One of several Quartier Latin Spanish football fan bistros.

Saving Things and Undercover Ops

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 29. May 2000:- In the course of a normal week in Paris fragments of conversations pass my ears that don't fit into full features. They are whatever it is that I originally thought was destined for this column - Café Metropole - but never seem to have on tap when it comes time to write it.

"Save the Grand Palais!"

In the Bouquet I find Lucile and Dimitri having their pre-cocktail cocktails, before going across the street for the wine-and-cheese at Au Vin des Rues, which is doing its bit for the 'Mai des Montparnos.' Dimitri says the restaurant always has music on Thursdays, but it is only Tuesday.

The 'Montparnos' are in Au Vin des Rues, a little bit more than they usually are, for the vernissage. A small TV set is stacked up on a table, showing an artistic video of village accordion playing, with lots of audio; a video made so long a go that the only colors in it are red tablecloths.

If I recall correctly, this video may be two hours or ten kilometres long, so I step outside to keep getting asphoto: shops in latin quarter much air as I can while I can get it. The Rue Boulard is not a prize-winner, but it is refreshing to be able to see as far as several hundred metres in either direction.

Everywhere you go in Paris you see these poor, abandoned bicycles, with flat tires. Or do flat tires discourage thieves?

Marc Zuate has stepped out too, and I think he is someone else I met in the Mairie of the 6th, but he is not that photographer at all but a painter and his children are on the café's walls.

In the course of our self-introductions, Marc says he is active in the 'Save the Grand Palais' movement. After its erection for the 1900 Universal Expo it was to have been torn down - like the Tour Eiffel after ten years - but Parisians liked it a lot and kept it too.

It had a wonderful life being the location of all the big art 'salons' every year, as well as being the home of the Salons de l'Automobile when they got started. Somehow, fairly recently, the artists and their several annual salons were kicked out - and they have had to make do with substitutes, sometimes in tents.

We agree this is very bush-league. These affairs like the present 'Mai des Montparnos' are fine, but do not let all of the city's artists get to be in one place where they can see each other, and all be seen together.

I decide the Grand Palais will be a fine subject for a feature. But I find I have little more than hints about its grandeur which means doing some research for it - so I put the idea on the spike I call 'one of these days.'

What little research I do turns up the Rue Visconti by chance and this becomes the 'feature of the week' instead.

Winner of the Bikini Wars

Last week Paris was the scene of a mass street-poster display I call the 'bikini wars.' I don't know how these things are co-coordinated, but several popular-priced textile chains all appeared with either mini-franc bikinis or other underwear, shown on models with more thin flesh showing than fabrics.

In spring this is good for the spirit. Getting an advance view of what may be seen on French beaches this summer tends to dispel the idea of only seeing sunburn for the first week of it.

But the 'bikini wars' only last until this week's posters replace last week's. What a pleasant surprise it has been to see that the geniuses at the Aubade corset-works have decided to take over the poster spots with their habitual old-style well-formed - and well-fed? - models, photographed by a maniac with an obsession for curves.

If Aubade itself decided to join the 'bikini wars' the main problem would be finding enough well-rounded people to fill them, because all the others would have to compete too or be left in Aubade's dust.

Park Your Cars - Outside!

There are places in Paris where walking against a 'red man' signal is risky. I was waiting at one of these when a short old lady beside me, who was also waiting for the 'green man,' said, "I thought they were supposed to park their cars outside the 'gates' of Paris."

The cars, trucks, taxis, scooters, motorcycles and buses pouring in from the Porte d'Orléans were not only noisily and stinkingly formidable; they seemed to be overly aggressive as well.

If I could have heard her better, I think she was about to say that Paris voters are not impressed with the nine different plans of one mayoralty candidate to abolish traffic from the Place de la Concorde - which is not normally used as a route by little old ladies - for collecting their pension cheques.

Valencia v.s. Real Madrid

Before Wednesday's football match, the Quartier Latin was invaded by hordes of Spanish football fans who were easy to spot on account of their very brightly colored regalia, and easy to hear because of their enthusiasm for singing loudly in unison.

The Quartier Latin's own local color was totally outclassed by these fans, who acted a bit as if theyphoto: spanish football fans hadn't seen their cousins from either city - on neutral ground - for some time and therefore decided to celebrate a victory a few hours in advance of the game's outcome.

A tiny fraction of Valencia's good-time football fans - before the march.

Café-keepers and their waiters also seemed willing to be hard-pressed to handle the excessive business the Spaniards were spreading around. Like me, they may actually hope that Spain decides to hold all of its future matches in Paris.

Mad as a Hatter

No matter where you go in Paris - or anywhere, probably - you don't see many hat shops, especially not for men. It used to be that there was more to headgear than fake baseball caps and ugly tractor-driver lids.

It is probably no secret that the Quartier Latin is in the process of being invaded by branch outlets of the world's textile chains. The Saint-Honoré 'name' places are coming to the Left Bank if they haven't already arrived.

You still won't find any of these in the Rue Saint-André-des-Arts, but it does have its 102-year-old men's and women's clothing shop named 'Latreille' which, to me, has always seemed totally out of place.

I passed it the other day and did something I thought was only allowed in old third-rate movies - a double-take. I walked past a display window full of hats and was part of the way to Buci before realizing that real hats are rare - anywhere.

I went back and peered in the window and saw lots of hats. I walked further back and went in, and through the place to where the hats are. Ladiesphoto: latreille hars may be interested to know I had to pass hats for them first; but ladies hats are less rare so I didn't pay a lot of attention to them.

On the left are Panamas and the Stetsons and Borsalinos are on the right; with lesser ilk below.

The 'Indiana Jones' movies have made a certain style of hat popular again, for weekend bush rangers, and 'Latreille' has these. But its Stetsons and Borsalinos are slicker. There were straw hats - 'boaters' - 'Panamas,' tweed jobs from Dublin, fishermen's caps and even bowlers!

Since there were no customers I didn't see any harm in having a chat with the Monsieur of the hats, about the general situation of hats in the world today.

The first thing to let you know - Stetsons may be less expensive in Paris than in New York - according to Monsieur. He did admit that they may be made in Europe under license - and also thought that all fine hats start life someplace in Poland before getting their form and style in Italy and France.

He had never heard the term 'mad as a hatter' but said he had heard of an Italian family firm that had abandoned the business of making felt hats the traditional way - possibly because of this hat-maker's affliction.

While we were chatting a gent came in to rent a dove-grey top hat and some other customers picked out new lids, and the shop's third-generation owner came over to help them make up their minds. He knew the 'hatter' term, but said it had never caught on in French.

My Monsieur was kind enough to give me the name of a - rarer still - hat-cleaning place, so if you happen to need this service I'll pass on the address. If you are ever hatless in Paris and don't care for umbrellas, 'Latreille' can probably give you suitable head cover.

Since this discovery I've told my little herd of hats that their slightly shabby days may soon be over.

Checking the Bars

Jerry from Brooklyn, now known in Paris as the 'bar spy,' has been in town picking up more secrets, and picked on me Friday night to act as a 'front' while taking 'sneak-peak' at my local watering holes.

Jerry is right out in front with this, so I am exaggerating about him being sneaky. He's fun to be with when he starts analyzing a bar. "Lookit this inlay! See the join there!" This bar 'crawling' unnerves bartenders, who seem to be surprised by a customer who looks under their edges instead of just propping himself against them.

Before getting to the bars and cafés, I asked him to sight-measure a Morris column for the folksphoto: music cafe, le beliere in Margaret River out in Western Australia, who intend to build a replica. Jerry said, "22 to 24 feet high!" I hope they know this is a British-type measure and is not metric.

Yesterday I dropped into Le Belière which had a special afternoon session to drum up signatures for a petition to 'save it' from the cement people. For the occasion there was music - which the place usually has later at night - and more free food and drink than I've seen at any recent 'art' opening.

Welcome to the Belière says Monsieur Greets, the piano player, with the bar's dog.

Le Belière is like a '50s jazz and accordion café, in a not too ritzy 1890's building. Tidy but funky I would call it. Its organization has 9000 names now and needs another thousand - but they are not online.

If you want to lend support by sending a message such as 'Sauvez Le Belière!' - send it to me and I'll pass it on. Be sure to add your full name and home town. Jerry would have approved of its small bar and the lady with the accordion had a big voice. Folks were dancing too.

Café Metropole Club's 33rd Session

The highlight of the 33rd weekly meeting of the 'Café Metropole Club' was stuffing two similar Zorro hats into a single 'Hat of the Week' award. This was pure co-incidence and had nothing to do with the hat business above. You can read about it on last week's 'Club 'Report' page.

But if you intend to skip it, the club's next meeting will be on Thursday, 1. June. Be sure to see this week's 'Club News' pagephoto: il sole di sicile anyway for the continuing wrangle over classes of memberships..

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 4.22 - 31. May 1999 - The week's Café Metropole column was headlined, 'Underground Bikini War.' The 'Au Bistro' column was titled 'Springtime For Jacques and Lionel.' This issue had one feature, titled ''Art' On Paris' Main Street.' This issue saw the beginning of the Café Metropole Club News, with something called 'Annual Visit to the Freak Bros.' The 'Scene' column had 'Sow Didn't Go; Neither Did Strikes.' There were four 'Posters of the Week' with some kind of 'warning' attached and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Your Prize?!?' What prize?

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 3.22 - 1. June 1998 - The Café Metropole column had a mindless title: 'Starving Artists Discovered Squatting,' as if itphoto: ici mourut racine never happened the year before and this year too. The 'Au Bistro' column was titled 'World Cup Ticket Monkey Business.' This issue had one feature, titled 'The 'Panoramas' - The Eldorado of Passages.' For footballing sportsfans there were 'Links For World Cup SportsFans.' There were four 'Posters of the Week' as usual. Ric's Cartoon of the Week was had the stupifying caption of 'Not artist! Clochard!' because the reverse could be true.

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

Due to lack of interest in this section, it is hereby suspended unless called back by popular acclaim.

There are only about 216 days left to go until the 3rd Millennium. For really vigilant readers, this figure is correct. On account of this section being suspended, the number of days gone since New Year's is unavailable.
signature, regards, ric

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