Mid-August, Mid-Nothing

photo: dancer, sq tino rossi

Bongo dancer draws small 'Dayclubbing' audience to the Square Tino Rossi.

'Dayclubbing' a Las Tardes

Paris:- Saturday, 12. August 2000:- On the last two Sundays I have been out to see what Parisian vacationers are doing. First, it was the open-air tango on a warehouse ruin by a canal and last week it was the Cuban band from Santiago out at La Villette.

This is the weekend - lasting from last night until Tuesday night - that is the middle of August in France. It is the last long weekend, the last weekend of a criss-cross mini 'Grande Départ' and a huge 'Grande Rentrée,' and it is the dead-low point of the summer.

So, just before autumn starts its preview next Wednesday and while all this driving in different directions is going on all over France, what is happening in Paris?

Not much. For front pages Le Parisien has stargazing, an annual complaint about this summer's TV reruns, the everlasting Titanic story and the dope wrap-up for the Tour de France.

In Paris, at least, the weather has finally turned around. The city now has higher than 'normal' roomphoto: montand, ile st louis temperatures, inside and out. It is comfortable. It is possible to get really laid back. No suits to be seen anywhere.

On its last cruise of the day, the 'Yves Montand' with the Ile Saint-Louis as a background.

I bought Nova's double-number summer issue, for its regular guide to Paris' summer. Turning the pages, I thought it looked familiar - and after uncovering some stuff I found another copy that I must have bought weeks ago.

Besides nightclubbing, Nova also promotes 'afters' - which are places to go when nightclubs get tired. Expanding this further, Nova is now investigating 'dayclubbing.'

According to these two copies I have, this starts at 06:00 at the Gibus. Normally this would have been classified as an 'after,' but I guess the sun was well up by then because it is summer.

We've had 'nightclubbing' in Paris for some years now. This got extended with the 'afters.' Now, instead of having 'befores,' the word is going to be 'dayclubbing.' With 24 hours covered, the next new 'Engrench' word - instead of 'Franglais' - should be 'Clubvie Total.'

I operate on Spanish time. A French afternoon is an undefined period of the day, with its petit-matin and its matinées; and with people beginning to say 'bon soir' anytime after 14:00. Some people absentmindedly say it all day.

In Spain, 'las tardes' begin between 14:00 and 16:00 and last until nightfall. Nobody mixes them up with mornings or nights. Unless I am taking a siesta, this is when I operate, and I thought I would fit in a bit of 'dayclubbing' into it today.

The Nova article about this new party time shows a lot of people dancing by the Seine with the Ile Saint-Louis in the background, at the area called the Square Tino Rossi - which is on the river side by the Jardin des Plantes and the Institut du Monde Arabe.

Coming out of the métro at Jussieu in front of the ugly university, the place is deserted. I go down Jussieu, past the old labs - are they still radioactive? - and down the absolutely nondescript Rue Cuvier to the Quai Saint Bernard. The air is like warm soup.

The Square Tino Rossi is a sculpture park, but it is not square. It is a refurbished Seine quay, so it is lengthwise along the riverside.

There are not many people around at 20:00. One of the semi-circle mini-amphitheatres has some bongo players, a couple of dancers and a small audience. Across the river, on the tip of the Ile Saint-Louis, a few diehards lizards are catching a last orange glow from the setting sun.

A small sightseeing boat comes along. It is empty, and I see it is the 'Yves Montand,' a one-time Batobus, now seemingly fallen on hard times. At least it looks like a boat. A real Batobus, looking like a bubble-backed water-bug, comes upriver and swings around the island to go back.

There is definitely no Bal Salsa here, nor four of them, nor any sign of Dos Con Dos. Even as a beginner 'dayclubber,' I have already planned to head further upriver, to the Quai de la Gare.

Some of this can be done right beside the river. At other places it is necessary to go up to the road. Fromphoto: pirate ship, port de la gare Austerlitz to the Pont de Bercy, the riverside is under construction - with some left bank speedway, bike paths - and pedestrians considered last.

The Guinguette Pirate, tied up at the Port de la Gare.

The long Quai d'Austerlitz has the trains on one side and an eternal carpet warehouse on the river side. It goes on nearly forever. The only time I've been here before is to put the car on the overnight train for Madrid. The neighborhood has gone downhill since then.

When I can I get back to the river, I go under the Pont de Bercy, to arrive at the Port de la Gare. There are the line of barges, there are a few cars parked about, but there are no carnival lights and very few people.

The floating Guinguette Pirate, which looks like a junk of a junk, has some diners on board. Its 'program' was on 2. July. It featured 'Universal Love,' along with activities such as pétangue and siesta contests, massages, fortune-telling; zouk and batcudas. It started at 11:00 but it's been over for a long time now.

The Batofar is next in line. It has customers, partly hidden by its superstructure, but on the quay nothing is happening. I should have read Nova more carefully - tomorrow at 16:00 there will be 'Cake and Milk' - Cake and Milk? - with wonderful DJ's - the 'terrace sublime' - until 02:00 Monday morning.

Okay. The next date for the two hulks, for their 'Festival d'Eté Piratages,' will be Sunday, 27. August starting at 16:00 at the Batofar. This might be free, but there will be some charge for the deck chairs - needed for the siesta contests.

It is about dusk now. The barges lining the quay are being quiet about it as the blue becomes deeper. My last chance for 'dayclubbing' is a tip from another Nova piece about Bercy.

Up from the river, on the other side of the Rue de Tolbiac, is a huge fortress called Les Frigos - so called because it is the ancient coldmeat storage for Paris. Invaded by artists, photographers, sculptors, in 1985; they rent the cold storage rooms for use as ateliers. 'Soirées ultra chic, ' says Nova.

It looks formidable and it looks forbidding. Except for it and an old giant wheat storage building further on, the whole area is called the 'ZAC Tolbiac,' and is fully under construction.

According to several of the hundreds of signs around, the idea is to overdeck the rails going into the Austerlitz station, and add a whole new piece of area to Paris. A lot of concrete will come to rest here.

On the other side of the tracks, the Rue de Tolbiac disappears into soft black. It is still warm; I am thirsty. I take the stairs down to the Rue Chevaleret, which is like stepping into a 'B' movie.

Building fronts on one side, with paint scaling, facing the railyards and the building cranes. The Ruephoto: le frigo, art hangout Chevaleret is long and fairly straight; at fair intervals there are abandoned shops and closed cafés - the Alfa restorer is gone, the Irish bar is closed.

Les Frigos, just before sundown. Nobody is around, not even cats.

In the newer area of Louise Weiss, it is just as deserted. One public phone on the street is in use, while two others wait their turn - under the streetlights that haven't come on yet, in the darkness under the trees.

The only thing lit around the métro Chevaleret is the station itself. Until the westbound métro train slides into the elevated station, I am the only one waiting for it. The wagons are nearly empty.

At Denfert, it seems like one in the morning but it is only just before ten on Saturday night. Few are about, either on the roads or on the sidewalks. Fallen sun-burnt leaves sound like chips when stepped on.

The café Rendez-Vous looks like a lightship in an empty sea; like an overlit saloon in a ghost town. I have a small drink for a big price - it is enough to last me another two blocks. My street is empty and silent. The dog-walkers have left town.

Even though this foray has been a total flop, I am sure 'dayclubbing' does exist. I should have gone to the Fléche d'Or - 17:00 - the Divan du Monde - 18:30 - or to the Favela Chic - 21:00 - 'the only bar in Paris where you can dance on the tables before midnight!' But not on Sundays. Maybe not in the middle of August either.

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