Non-fiction Splinters

photo: cafe de la plage, rue de charonne

If 'beach' is on your mind, this is to get you in the mood.

Mickey, Soot and Dud Posters

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 5. June 2000:- The 'course of the week' for the last issue was particularly rich for fragments of conversations. Last week had no such richness. These things happen by chance and if chance isn't at the right place at the right time, not much is the result.

But you are not paying to read this ongoing chronicle about Paris in order to read 'not much' and I have no intention of turning to fiction here. This said, last week offered splinters rather than whole fragments.

Where Are the Freak Brothers?

About this time of year I get an uncontrollable urge to visit the Freak Brothers headquarters just off the Boulevard Voltaire. This is in 'east' Paris, which has a life all of its own with little resemblance to the central visitor's mecca.

If I'm more vigilant than usual, I also remember to pop into the Mairie of the 11th arrondissement, to get the details of the quartier-wide fête 'Onze' they have there every year at this time. I 'remembered' this on Wednesday only after I saw a poster for it while headed in the opposite direction.

I waited until the clouds parted in the afternoon a bit to let the air gain a couple of degrees. But the Freak Brothers' store front had a look of abandonment to it and hammering its metal shutter with a fist was not rewarded with any '50s rock-n-roll or Orangina-rosé.

Next door's little gallery was empty too. But the next-next door's little gallery was not. Usually there is a Japanese lady in the first one, so I've never been as far as the second one before.

A guy was sitting at a table in it, reading a book. The Freak Brothers' street is off the boulevard, and most of it is opposite a gymnasium, so there isn't a lot of foot traffic - but these two store-front galleries are there just the same.

I didn't intend to interrupt the second gallery's managerial book-reading, but something made me go in. Because of this initial lack of intention, I made no notes about this visit. If you want 'names,' you might as well stop here and skip to the next item.

There were photos on the walls. Most of these were groups of small photos, displayed simply, under glass. Onephoto: shop, piani piano set showed about 30 brick spiral chimneys on houses in some town in Brittany. Another set showed a pearl, shot at different times of the day and night. Maybe it wasn't a pearl; maybe it was some other small, round thing.

Part of 'east' Paris' 'rich-texture' is 'Piano Piano' which has nothing to do with pianos.

There was also what looked like a diagram of Versailles' garden, with an outline of Mickey Mouse neatly drawn in it as a red line.

'Art' that has to be explained - all of these photos were accompanied by fairly long texts - some of which I read some of. So I had to interrupt the reader after all.

The brick spiral chimneys were easy. The mayor of the town ordered that every house in it must have one. Many of the houses had a regular, plain chimney, too. No two of the brick spiral chimneys were identical. If this was also a whimsy of the mayor, or of the bricklayer, is unknown.

Another photo which seemed to be obscure, seemed to make much more sense when some circles of light in it - including a crystal ball - where indicated as resembling Mickey's main head features.

The Versailles garden diagram - which was designed some long time before Walt Disney ever made any cartoons - clearly shows itself to be based on Mickey's head design. Or, Mickey's head design is based on Versailles' garden.

Some guy - I wish I had made notes now - who had some routine job, found or photographed these things in his spare time, over a fair period of time. There's a book too; which I think explains the relationships between spiral chimneys in Brittany, Mickey's head in Louis' garden in Versailles, the pearl and the crystal ball.

If I had to classify this little exhibition I would say it is 'found' surrealism, with intellectual touches - which make it all quite logical and understandable, rather than being mere rubbish.

Dimitri's Job

Dimitri knocked on my door one day to ask me if I could type up a bid for a job he wanted; to restore a fire-damaged mirror frame. I did this and he got the job a couple of weeks later.

Usually his bids do not include the transport part of the work in question. He is a restorer, not a furniture mover. But he asked me if I could help him out on Wednesday morning - to lug the frame up his spiral staircase to his fourth-floor atelier.

The client had gotten it onto the roof of an old Golf and trucked it across Paris, and it was lying on the sidewalk a little before I was ready. So I skipped breakfast and started hauling.

There wasn't any way for three of us to carry it up the narrow, twisting staircase, so Dimitri directed us from above. We got it in where it was supposed to go without hittingphoto: restoration by dimitri any staircase plaster or wrecking the thing any worse than it was - and had a good huff-puff at the end.

On the left, the 'before,' and right beside it, the first stage to 'after.'

It was only on the way downstairs that I remembered the frame had been fire-damaged. My hands were black and my clean jeans were dirty with soot. Rats! But I have another pair.

On Saturday Dimitri came into the café Le Bouquet with an envelope full of photos. At first I didn't know what they were of - I thought they were just some shots of some random gilding he'd been doing.

But they were of the soot-covered frame. Dimitri had also found a painting under the soot - which he said needed restoring even before the fire. The two photos here show the before and after. Actually, the 'after' shows just a little light cleaning and no actual restoration.

The lifting and hauling might not have been much work in comparison what he's done so far, but it's kind of a good feeling to have contributed some lugging to something this week.

Poster Doldrums

After the previous week's 'bikini wars' and last week's riposte by Aubade's roundy-round models, Paris' poster scene settled into a week of doldrums with only new ho-hums plastered around town.

I don't think this is entirely accidental. There is a whole business area that includes having an event, deciding to do a poster for it, booking space for the poster's display, and getting it hung up at the right time - in the best places if possible.

In the course of this, the calendar gets a glance - so Christmas crêche posters don't go up in June, for example. I know of an 'orphan' poster panel, that still has its Christmas crêche poster on display - but this was in Metropole when it was in season and if it is re-run you'll think I'm nuts.

Last week's calendar said that the week was short - from Wednesday's traditional new poster day, to Thursday's Ascension Day holiday which was the first day of a long weekend for many in France.

Many posters reflect actual news, in the form of the week's magazine covers and some of these are newsmagazines. The spaces for these posters have to be booked in advance too - long before magazine editors know if their magazines are going to have exciting news, or any news at all.

If all the factors governing last week in Paris were put into a hamburger grinder, all you would get is a low-beef high-fat variety. This, the posters reflect. Some weeks are rich and some are not.

While there are some fairly good events posters underground in the métro, most of the métros big posters are equally boring. Part of this is due to the portable telephone industry and France's new Internet sites. These two are taking a lot of space to say next to nothing without being particularly inventive about it.

Paris Plage

Without any relationship to being freezing cold, I have been closely following the weather forecasts for signs that the time has come for Metropole's annual 'Paris Plage' feature, which is supposed to show the city as a perfectly feasible beach resort.

Predictions for Friday's temperatures turned out to be correct - a day after being very incorrect on Thursday - but the predicted sunshine didn't quite make it to earth.

Nevertheless, I started out with the good intention of doing the first beach report of the season, at the Gare Saint-Lazare, forphoto: sitters, opera steps purely technical reasons. For some reason I don't quite understand, I did not reach the Seine until three hours later - when I rode the métro under it.

Paris Plage was temporarily installed on the steps of the Opéra on Friday.

For this reason the nearly annual 'Paris Plage' beach resort feature is not in this issue. In its place you will find something about how not to end up on the Avenue de l'Opéra while walking from Saint-Lazare to the beach.

Café Metropole Club's 34th Session

The low point of the 34th weekly meeting of the 'Café Metropole Club' was not the absence of any sort of club members but the near lack of any 'Anything of the Week' awards.

This was due to the club's rule that prevents the club's secretary from declaring a regular weekly meeting the 'Non-meeting of the Week.' You can read about it on last Thursday's 'Club 'Report' page.

But if you think you might just skip it, the club's next meeting will be on Thursday, 8. June. If you are in the mood be sure to see this week's 'Club News' page anyway.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 4.23 - 7. June1999 - The week's Café Metropole column was headlined, 'Chaos Surprisesphoto: defense d'afficher Parisians.' The 'Au Bistro' column was titled 'The Other Big Strike.' This issue had one feature, titled 'The One-Day Tour of Everything.' 'Bet On Longchamp' was the subject of an email from Cindy Walsh. The 'Scene' column had 'It's Festival Time Again!' There were four 'Posters of the Week' with an extra page of European election posters. Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Don't Come Back.' Why not?

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 3.23 - 8. June 1998 - The Café Metropole column had the redundent title of: 'Cascades ofphoto: rue main d'or sign Visitor Info,' which may have been a lead-up to the 'Scene' column. The 'Au Bistro' column was titled 'How France Gets Ready for the World Cup.' Before you read this, remember that France won this Cup - a year later. This issue had one feature, titled 'Me and Monte McGee and Monte McGee's Dog.' For footballing sportsfans there were 'Links For World Cup: Ready, Set - Duck!' Several readers contributed to an email feature about 'Picnic Tools.' There were four 'Posters of the Week' as usual. Ric's Cartoon of the Week was had the alarming caption of 'Not In My Wineglass!'

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

Due to lack of interest in this section, it is hereby suspended. No popular acclaim during the week asked for its reinstatement

There are only about 209 days left to go until the 3rd Millennium. For really picky readers, this figure is correct. On account of this section being suspended, the number of days gone since New Year's is uncalcuable.
signature, regards, ric

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