Time to Oil My Skates

photo: cafe le bougnat

Looking for authentic? Here it is.

Claude's Reading Room

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 4. September 2000:- When it happens exactly, I don't know. People slink off on their holidays and it takes a while to realize that there aren't so many Parisians around.

In summer, rain or shine, I can step out of my door any time on any day of the week, and not worry about getting rolled under some novice roller-folk from the wheelie shop up the block.

Just now, up on the avenue, I sensed rather than saw how Paris has changed from its sleepy, summer village-like self, and is roaring hell-bent for someplace again. Cars on the avenue are honking at each other, fighting for their own railways.

When this fades away a bit, a quick glance is all it takes to see that the stoplights have hung it up and it's okay to cross the avenue in the middle of the block. In summer it's so drowsy that it's hard to tell whether the traffic is moving or not.

Technically, I'm not drowsy. Laid-back a bit is all it is. Doing the 'Scene' column, I thought the Fêtes de la Seine are weeks off, or at least two weeks away. This weekend event sort of starts off the season, and then the full-tilt calendar gathers up steam like a snowball.

Surprise then, this weekend is next weekend. Between now and then, less than seven days. I'd better oil my skates!

Café Life

Unlike grass, hair grows all year long, if you have any. There is a style with men now - I don't think many women do this - to pretend to be bald. I thought this was something people avoided as for long as possible.

I find it hard to imagine getting up in the morning and shaving a whole head, from side to side and top to bottom. Try to guess the sort of mirror necessary to do a clean job on the back. Maybe there are extra-sensitive robot reverso-razors for doing this.

Not only does my hair grow all year long, I suspect it grows fast. The last time I went to see Claude the coiffeur I wanted an all-summer clip. As usual, things got out of hand and he left it longer than usual - giving it a head-start to fall in my eyes.

Last week it was in my eyes again. After a year, I refuse to be surprised every time I go into Claude's Salon de Coiffeur. As usual, it appeared that six persons were already waiting their turns.

As usual, again, it turned out five were spectators. I got a couple of the junk magazines he has and tookphoto: cafe on oberkampf a free chair, without much hope of reading them. But Claude's is the only place I might even get a chance to look at them, so I gave it a whirl.

Doesn't this look like drowsy summer? Last week it was - on Oberkampf.

When my consciousness resurfaced from the klatsch, Claude was singing the theme song from some '60's Italian movie, in French. He has a guitar - and an amplifier - down by the shampoo sinks, but I haven't heard him play it yet.

He saw I was out of it so he decided that I should know the origin of the magazines. As I mentioned, the magazines are junk, and I can't imagine anyone buying them.

For apartment buildings, we have two kinds of green garbage bins. The ones with blue lids are for papers and the regular ones are for everything else; including the plastic that wraps some of the papers.

We're supposed to haul our bottles down to the avenue and toss them into the green bottle-bulb there. The city is promising more containers for different classes of garbage, so we can all be extra ecolo.

Claude claims he gets all of his salon's magazines from the blue-top bins. Somebody must toss out these junk magazines wholesale, because Claude's selection is nowhere as good as my dentist's - where I sometimes have time to read two whole pages at a time.

Without warning it was my turn to sit in the chair and see everybody else in the salon in reverse. This was after a record-breaking short-time shampoo that left soapy water dribbling down inside my shirt to my shoes.

Whatever it was, the conversation was so interesting that Claude started with the hair on top first, which I thought was optimistic because sometimes he doesn't go near it.

I decided to watch him this time. After doing half the top he took a couple of random slashes at the sides. In a blur he decided he was finished and ended up with a bit of a bonus razor job on my beard - which I like because the kitchen scissors I use are not very handy for doing this.

The conversation shifted and while I wasn't paying attention Claude managed to bomb me with spray-glue. Then he got the hair on top to stand up straight - like a five-centimetre high brush-cut. It was too late to do anything about it.

I checked the floor to see what the score was, and there was hardly any hair on it. Oh no, I thought, I can't afford a long haircut. With hope, I asked him if he hadn't swiped some of my ex-hair. Maybe swept some away while I was elsewhere?

With the glue-job, I couldn't tell what he'd done. When I tried to pay - mostly for the entertainment - he couldn't make the change. He said, "Pay me the 20 francs later."

Later when? I found a ten-franc piece and gave it to him. "How about," I suggested, "I justphoto: le mecano, oberkampf come in and pay 20 francs every time I come this way; like a subscription?"

Everybody immediately began to argue the pros and cons of this idea. Just keep paying Claude a little bit every day and come in anytime for a clip. Sort of like having a season ticket.

The Mécano is just as dozy - also on Oberkampf.

During all of this time, several other people had made prolonged exits. One lady had run a 15-minute monologue going ou the door. This involved at least six re-entries.


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