Last Week's Weather Replays

photo: cafe les tourelles

Between clouds, the sun did pop out - leaving this café temporarily empty.

Rare Art and Rare Sports

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 16. October 2000:- The weather in this area of the world did not change much from last week's weather in this part of the world, so rather than repeat myself endlessly I suggest you read here what I wrote last week here, instead of skipping back to last week's Café column, where it originally appeared.

"During the week the weather here finally made up its mind to pass from early fall to the real thing. It has been flirting with this for some time and I think I've been mentioning it - moaning about it - since August, but now it's really real."

For those of you who prefer winter weather, I can only say that it is sometimes difficult in Paris to tell the difference between fall, winter and spring. Some people insist that Paris has no winter or summer, and since fall resembles spring, there is only one season.

I am not going to say this isn't true. I will only say that there are people around who don't believe it. Meanwhile, it is pouring in Paris on this Monday.

Café Life

Factory Art

Last Wednesday, after my visit to Victor Hugo's house, I was in the Marais with some pretty good weather. This had given me an itch to find some subjects to photograph, but I had the café at Victor's first, wondered why the park in the centre of the Place des Vosges was closed second, and proceeded to become lost.

This comes from carrying inaccurate maps around in my head. I don't mind 'getting lost' too muchphoto: fiat 500 of the week because it lets me get to see things that I didn't know I was going to see - but these are often fragments and will not become articles on the spot.

How many rainy falls has this 'Fiat 500 of the Week' seen in Paris?

I was looking for the Chemin Vert, which is nearby, but I went a long way in the wrong direction before I sensed I was going in a 'wrong direction,' and found a city map on the street to study. From this I learned that the Chemin Vert was nearer my starting point than where I was.

So it was over to the sunny side of the Boulevard des Filles-du-Calvaire and headed back towards Bastille. This was mostly on the Boulevard Beaumarchais, which has new motorcycles and musical instruments and used cameras shops.

The 'factory art' place was found in what seemed to be either an ex-school - unlikely - or an ex-light-manufacturing building of some sort. The reception people declined to take my word that I was there to do a report on their exhibition of factory art, and I declined to spend the price of two cafés for the entry.

This does not happen often. It was a nice day and I had another place to visit, so I left Metropole's address behind and continued on my way to Bastille.

Where the Boulevard Richard Lenoir comes into the Bastille the count-down display is still in place; with all of its numbers set to 'zero.' Luckily, Metropole is carrying on this countdown to the end of 31. December, at the bottom of this page.

At the Grand Monde poster gallery in the Cour Damoye I found Julie Gateau working on the restoration of an original 19th century architectural drawing.

This contained unbelievable detail. Composed of line and wash, it was hard to imagine that it had been done by hand - which was the same way that Julie was restoring it. We discussed the drawing; how long it must have taken to do, how difficult it was - and is - to get the shadows in wash to be uniform, over fair-sized areas.

She was working by daylight, and we imagined how this was once the only light available, and that flat-grey days were better for fine work than a bright days like Wednesday with lots of clouds passing by.

This reminded me of Victor Hugo and his 4000 designs; mostly done before electric light existed. How much more aware of light artists must have been, when it was much more accidental.

Think of all the artists working in northern Europe, with dim and short winter light; think of the Dutch masters and their depiction of light - and the fact that they were slaves to it.

All of which still leaves me curious about the possible nature of the 'factory art' that I did not see. Except in developing countries, I doubt that our funky western world has many loud, dim and dirty factories left - the TV commercial showing the robots painting abstract designs on 'Picasso' cars, also shows a 'factory' cleaner than a hospital's operating room.

There is even background music in the factory scene, which is 'pop' and not factory-grade 'techno.'

Unanswered Questions

Readers send me questions about Paris. Since I can answer a large number of these without looking for too long through my small library, I don't mind doing it.

To answer every question, I would need to have the resources of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris' Bibliothèque Historique and the Archives Nationales; without bothering to mention all of the other couple of dozen specialized sources.

But even with these sources on tap, not all questions about what is happening right now in Paris could be answered. I don't know how many national, regional and civic agencies are engaged with conceiving, promoting or running events at any one time; so I cannot possibly know everything that is going on.

Why are there cabbages planted in front of the Invalides? What is the purpose of the stands of twigs and branches that are stacked around the Etoile?

The city of Paris has its parks department, and this has a subdivision that looks after Paris' truck gardens - Paris' various vineyards may be in this department - but, the Esplanade des Invalides may be a national area and not a city one - so I don't know who may be responsible for the cabbages.

Last summer, somebody was upset with the young people who were playing scratch football on the esplanade - for wantphoto: maison, rue bearn of any other handy place - and the defense against this activity may be a cabbage plantation.

For purists - a splendid example of an unrestored façade in Paris; near Place des Vosges.

But for all I know, it may concern the annual 'Festival des Choux,' if there is such a thing. I will confess that my eye slid over a mention in Le Parisien about it some weeks ago, but I skipped its details. How could I know that cabbages would become a 'vital question?'

And the stands of twigs at Etoile? These have me completely baffled - I've seen them too - 'Twigs at Etoile; so what?' - unless Paris is planning a reenctment of the burning some civic enemy at the stake.


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