Birthday Vodka Chez Dennis

photo: le globe cafe, av d'italie

Café Le Globe, about where it should be on the
Avenue d'Italie.

Triangle de Choisy Parade

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 29. January 2001:- On Saturday I managed to break the mediocre weather spell by missing the TV-weather forecasts for both Friday and Saturday. Friday was grey and grim, but Saturday didn't know it was supposed to be too, so it wasn't.

It wasn't warm, but then it isn't expected to be in January. On Saturday I was even worried that there might be too much sun, which would make photos chancy - but clouds managed to cover the sky without fanfare.

Somehow, I failed to pay attention to last night's TV-weather even though I watched the whole thing. It was something like a series of endless low fronts peeling in from the Atlantic with their clouds, some rain and winter temperatures. More routine weather, in other words.

Café Life

The Chinese New Year

Some years ago I went to Paris' Chinatown to see what it looked like, more or less by accident. I happened to find a good guide and was invitedposter: chinese new year to return for the New Year celebration, but I never got around to it on account of living in a far western suburb.

This year Paris' media have given a good two weeks' advance notice of the Chinese New Year. Estimates of the number of Asian and Chinese residents in the Paris region range from 100,000 to a quarter-million - with about half being French nationals.

The largest concentration is in the 'Triangle de Choisy' in the 13th arrondissement, with two lesser neighborhoods in the 3rd near the Mairie and the 11th arrondissement's Belleville area.

The Popular Republic of China has been behind a special cultural program that began last October, and is just ending. Locally, the celebration parades are held during the day, which means they are more accessible to Parisians than the regular New Years night time festivities.

The most direct way for me to get to the 'Triangle de Choisy' - instead of taking the métro - is to walk down to Alésia and take the 62 bus east. On Saturday I left a bit late, to find many people at the same bus stop with the same idea.

Then three buses came together, and they took us somewhat short of the mark - due to being re-routed on account of the celebrations. At the Tolbiac intersection, one of the 'Triangle de Choisy's' angles, the crowd was huge and it thickly lined the Avenue d'Ivry.

I threaded down the avenue to the area of the big supermarkets. The street hadn't been entirely cleared of parked cars and all ledges and high viewpoints were already well-occupied. Without being very pushy it was impossible to get any sort of clear view of the parade.

This area is full of high-rise apartment buildings. In the closed spaces between these, festive types were letting off strings of firecrackers - which produced an audio effect similar to Beirut on a wild day during the civil war, with the buildings magnifying the rattling explosions.

I was only able to see higher parade objects, above many heads in front of me. Either I missed the dragon and the serpent entirely, or they were reserved for Sunday's repeat of the parade.

After watching tops of heads for a time, I clipped the triangle by going over to the Avenue de Choisy and getting a good clear spot, on top of a small post. But after a time of getting colder on it with no returning parade in sight, I abandoned the vigil.

On the way back, on the other side of the Avenue d'Italie, the re-routed buses were nowhere to be found, so my work-related injured leg had its daily share of re-education on the pavements on its nominal day off.

Anniversaries Chez Dennis

This started simply enough in the Bouquet a couple of weeks ago with Dennis saying there would be Russian caviar and Russian vodka. This was the absolute minimum necessary for ex-San Franciscans Dimitri and Dennis to co-celebrate their birthdays.

A week ago this plan began to acquire serious elaborations, with special breads, kilos of smoked salmon and elaborate plans for freezer space for the vodka - lots - plus five other guests. It was to be a real party, not just a vodka drinking contest.

'Café Life' is exactly what it means - life in cafés. Usually, what people do in their private bolt-holes is private, and it is rare to get a glimpse of a café lifer's hide-out.

I didn't bother speculating too much about the possible reasons for this rare occasion - especially not with visions of whole pots of caviar. Interrupting an addiction for over 30 years is not easy to bear - and interrupting worrying about all of our other polluted foods would be an extra treat.

In anticipation I rearranged my whole day, doing chores early and getting ready to go last, timing my arrival to be 20 minutes late.

Even after climbing the five flights of spotless and highly waxed stairs, with the bum leg commencing tophoto: new year flags complain between the third and fourth floors - I still managed to arrive first, which is a terrible faux-pas.

It is a fine science in Paris to arrive neither first nor last. Being last is unremarkable but being first is a sign of true boobyism. It don't think Dennis noticed my distress.

He had a big table already set with a vast variety of snack food - none of which had come out of a box or package - but I saw no caviar.

I did see the apartment though and I have never seen another one so neat and tidy, both compact and spacy. It made my place look like a junkyard dog with a bad run of luck.

Most of the other guests turned up while it was still Saturday, with the caviar pusher just making it in before the deadline. The ice-cold vodka had come out long before. I was disappointed not to see anybody tossing empty glasses in the fireplace.

This was made up for by one lady singing an Irish drinking song for a half hour. There was a fair amount of good wine but nobody bothered it much. Everybody got some caviar with itty-bitty pieces of pancake and smoked salmon and a lot of the other stuff, some of which I'd never seen before.

The music was left to run out. There was confusion when we were asked if we wanted dessert and cheese, or one or the other. Normally there is no question about having both. I guess the birthday cakes upset this scheme a bit, because these were on hand too.

I can never be sure how oiled people get because I don't try to keep count of the drinks I don't have. I deliberately don't count the grape juice I usually drink either.

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