Wanted - Spring and Summer

photo: cafe tabac

Meanwhile any warm café will do.

In Exchange for No Fireworks

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 15. January 2001:- As befits this period of the year, winter seems to have arrived and all mentions of 'Paris beaches' you may find in this issue - and on this very page! - are pure speculation intended to shift your attention to other periods of seasons.

Yesterday morning the low in Paris was around zero and the high probably didn't exceed 5 degrees. This was backed up with clear blue skies and some breeze from the northern sector, which includes deep-freeze places such as Scandinavia and the Arctic Circle.

The most recent ultra long-range forecast for three days I've seen called for the Atlantic to send another low-pressure system from the southwest. This should boost daily highs into the four to eight degree region, turn blue skies to grey and maybe turn dry air to wet.

Since this, from today until Saint-Valentine's, is also a slow period of the year as far as visitors getting off planes at Roissy are concerned, this amateurphoto: barbe a papa, cotton candy account of Paris' meteorological prospects may not interest you in the slightest.

Personally I don't care much about it either because it happens every year. What I look forward to is the faint chance that there will be a rare combo of warm high floating up from Africa sometime in late February.

Calling cotton candy 'Papa's beard' isn't as strange as I used to think.

Within the past five or six years this has happened twice - to give February a week or 10 days of clear skies and gentle temperatures. It is something only to dream about because it isn't predictable.

But then, neither are spring or summer. Everybody should pull all the strings they have to help Paris have a spring and summer worthy of the first year of the new millennium - to make up for the Tour Eiffel's lack of fireworks at New Years.

Two weeks after, Parisians are still talking about it.

Café Life

Paris Plage

Intending an excursion from the 5th arrondissement to buy some piece of technical equipment in my quarter on Saturday, Joe Schomburg gave me a call beforehand to see if I'd have time for café.

Almost any excuse to get away from trying to think of what I may have to write for this 'Café Life' is a good one, so I absently-mindedly told him to tap on a neighbor's window instead of my own. Luckily no one was home there and after 15 minutes at the wrong window, Joe tapped on mine.

After getting caught up - since our collaboration on the piece about the Petite Ceinture - Joe admired my right leg, which he had not seen before. With this out of the way, the talk drifted to the underground 'Paris Plage.'

Although a real place, it is not especially accessible and while it has constant weather - always windless - it is also always dark. This doesn't fit my idea of a beach.

The Piscine Deligny, built in 1840, was a swimming pool floating in the Seine. It used to serve as a city-centre beach until it sank. Since then, Paris has fixed itself up with three stone beaches on the left bank - the Quai de la Gare, the landing stage near the Tour Eiffel and at the Parc André Citroën. None of them will sink, but they are all stone.

None of these are exactly designed for lolling under sunny skies - no lounge-chairs - and all are subject to evening shadows. Paris has a crying need for a beach-like beach, and itphoto: place stavinsky, pompidou should be on the right bank to make the most of geography.

My choice for its location is as an extension of the Tuileries garden. If all the traffic now on the quay could be simply continued underground, from the tunnel at the Pont de la Concorde to join the tunnel that begins near the Pont Royal, then the Tuileries can continue right to the riverside along the Port des Tuileries.

On the gloomiest day, check out the Place Stravinsky near the Pompidou Centre for its cheer.

With a little terrace work, some sand and a few palm trees borrowed from the Jardin des Serres at Auteuil, this could be a proper beach and a worthwhile extension of the Tuileries - where a lot of people already sit around sunning themselves on hard metal chairs in suitable weather.

Going one step further - after the creation of the 'Plage des Tuileries' - maybe a tunnel could be built right under the Seine, to handle all the traffic that now pollutes both sides of the river.

Joe looks at me as if all of this is impossible, so we go out in the cold to have a café.

Rumors from Frisco

At Le Bouquet we are having Joe's 'demi' and my café when Dennis strolls in. I haven't seen him since he lent me a biography about Orson Wells sometime in November. I have been anxious to give it back so I can borrow another book.

Dennis hasn't been living in Paris so long that everything has become usual. In conversation the way things are in Paris are compared to the way things were, recently, in San Francisco and he is a keen observer of the differences.

However, San Francisco is not the whole United States and it is not even normal by California standards, and I have been a little careless with keeping these distinctions in mind.

I tell Dennis this and he quickly corrects some of my wrong notions. Joe, who looks like he is about 24, tells us he lived on Fisherman's Wharf for 'nearly a year' in 1988. I am starting to wonder where Joe hasn't been or lived.

As Dennis tells it, San Francisco goes through nearly constant turmoil of one sort of another - enough so that the San Francisco of today has little resemblance to the San Francisco of 35 years ago, when I last heard a lot of rumors about it. In fact, I am five major changes behind the times.

Leaving details - rumors - aside, it seems to me that some San Franciscans have decided that none of its pasts will return, and have settled on Paris as a reasonable substitute.

Dennis is very enthusiastic about Paris, about the way it looks and about the things he can do here. It is good for me to listen to him because Paris has only had a couple of gradual changes in 25 years, and he is seeing a lot of things I take for granted.

In this way, it is rumors from San Francisco that keep me up-to-date here.

This next item of business between us is to fix up a common time to meet next in the café so I can return the book and maybe borrow a new one. This is really tricky, because we have managed not to see each other in the same café for about eight weeks straight.

School for Muscles, Part 5

My leg's re-education is proceeding without extraordinary incidents and I can almost walk normally again. I hope stairs-training will come soon, because the flex on the flat doesn't work at all on the métro's - many - stairs.

The 'mediaeval torture chambre' I mentioned last week has become banal. I even fearlessly asked about the purpose of the muscle-building object that looks like a perfectly ordinary relaxo chair for tiny babies.

This is in fact, a perfectly ordinary relaxo chair for tiny babies whose moms - or dads! - are getting themselves massaged or pummeled or are slinging weighs around or are pedaling nowhere on an excero-cycle. So far, I haven't seen any babies trying relaxo chair out.

My sessions last about an hour and they are pretty borig, especially now that I know what the perfectly ordinary relaxo chair for tiny babies is. What is neat, is getting up the next morning and finding a new muscle ready and willing to be used again.


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