"Smoke In Dreams"

photo: eva lee, christine mclaughlin

Eva Lee and Christine McLaughlin study a new, improved
version of a Paris streetmap.

'Strike of the Week'

Paris:- Thursday, 1. February 2001:- It is another winter day in Paris but it is not typical for two reasons - the sun is half-way spreading its weak rays over the landscape, and the métro is trying out a 'total strike' on residents and visitors.

I should have put up a 'strike alert' last night. But before they are actually happening, it is hard to tell whether they are really going to be 'total' or not. If not - and these are normal - you can halfway get around.

So then, with today's dawn, a surprise 'total' strike has struck. Everybody copes - those that don't stay home, try to cram onto the 50 percent of buses that are supposed to be running. Optimists try to cram on the zero percent of métros that are running.

On my bus line, on my way to the club, they are cruising down towards the Porte d'Orléans. Ten minutes' wait makes me think they are cruising beyond the Porte d'Orléans, maybe all the way to Orléans itself.

It is not entirely an accident that I live where I do. I can almost close my eyes and walk straight north, past the Observatoire, Port Royal, through the Luxembourg gardens, down to cross the Boulevard Saint-Germain, turn onto Dauphine at Buci and cross the Pont Neuf - and here I am, at the Café Metropole Club, almost.

Patrick, today's 'waiter of the week,' got to the club - long before me - by walking from Saint-Lazare. Today's attending members have taken other routes - including the métro - which is not quite so 'totally' on strike as advertised.

photo: club windowThese initial members include Marilyn Burke and Charles Eitel, who have survived métro adventures. Eva Lee, from Tranquility, New Jersey, is right on their heels - although I believe, via overland like me.

I don't know why, but cemeteries in Paris are a favorite conversational subject. Marilyn takes this a step further today by asking for details about the part between death and being installed underground.

Before members arrive, the source of my sunrays in the café's interior.

Frankly, I do not know these details and I am happy when the number-one subject comes up - eating food, even though I know about as much about this as the average sidewalk superintendent.

"Admit it Eva - don't you come here primarily to eat?" Marilyn suggests cheerfully.

Eva admits it, also cheerfully enough. As the names of restaurants are fired off at Gatling-gun speed, Eva calmly consults her own personal hand-written Paris restaurant guide notebook - adding notes and updating others.

For me this is kind of dreary until new member Christine McLaughlin arrives with very cold hands, which are a sign of coping with today's near 'total' transport strike.

Christine comes from Los Angeles - this week's 'City of the Week,' because there are no other candidates - several times a year, and is here at the club by accidently finding Metropole online after losing it a year or two ago.

"Paris is France's only real city," she says, because she visits Bordeauxphoto: marilyn burke often. After a bit of general discussion, Marseille gets added to the 'real city' list too.

Besides cemeteries, 'frequent flyer miles' is another dreary subject that pops up too often to be occasional. Apparently, the goal of these is to get free flights to Paris and you can get them by flying to Paris even if you want to go to Portland, Oregon. I guess this explains why more people come to Paris.

Marilyn gives off sunrays and food tips inside the club's café even on cloudy days.

Charles, who has ordered lots of refreshments at the beginning of the meeting, says, "The only thing I look forward to is Thursday."

Eva claims being in Paris makes smokers out of visiting non-smokers. Charles says people who are already smokers, smoke more. "I used to have dreams about sneaking a smoke," Christine says, who is resisting falling off the smoke wagon successfully.

Because of the club's mid-afternoon meeting time many members are sandwiched between a Paris lunch and a Paris dinner, so the subject of meals comes up again. "It's a conspiracy to go to restaurants," Marilyn says.

Eva says something odd is going on in Paris. Every time she asks a Parisian for directions, they guess she is American and ask her about George W. Bush. She knows as much about him as Charles 'Lower Taxes' Eitel does, and thinks it strange that Parisians are so curious.

Indirectly, this prompts Charles to flaunt his concealed license to carry concealed weapons in the state that elected Mr. Bush. Since this license is expired, it doesn't create much excitement even if it was concealed.

Today's members all live in Paris either full time or part time. Marilyn explains what a hardship this can be, if you happen to have an apartment with three bedrooms like she does.

"Guests," she says, "Expect you to go out to restaurants with them - they aren't paying rent, so they can afford it. And they won't go out by themselves."

Charles has a 'rule,' "No more than two at a time and no more than four to seven days!" He adds that a certain niece is persona non grata in France on account of having attempted tophoto: charles eitel extend a stay to eight days.

With this we have extended the club's time into overtime by about five minutes. As everybody leaps up to get a headstart on walking to restaurants, swirling coats sweep a couple of empty glasses on to the floor.

Charles gives club members his impersonation of Tranquility, New Jersey.

This reminds me of a half-full pot of wine that had the same fate last week - which I forgot to dignify with the 'Splotch of the Week' award.

Patrick the waiter is unconcerned about the glasses, so I decline to give them any award whatsoever. I don't want to start any new, unstoppable, trends.

Final Repeat Shopping Tip, Ever

Paris' Winter Sales - have been mentioned here so often that it is clearly redundant to do so again.

The 'About the Café Metropole Club' Page

Historical details about your Café Metropole Paris Club, some of them true ones - as opposed to recent 'reports' - in Paris, can be found on the 'About the Café Metropole Club page,' which is about your club and has a link here, and on each issue's 'home' page in case you forget the one here.

Date, Time and Location of Next Meeting

Ignore the 'about the club' stuff if you want to but you should read this about the next Café Metropole Club meeting - it will be held on Thursday, 8. February 2001.

If you are in Paris it will be Sainte-Jacqueline's Day - which will be followed by Friday, which will be just another ordinary day for Charles to get through as best he can.

The café La Corona meeting place will be open as it is every day and every Thursday. Your club's meeting time will be from 15:00 to 17:00 in Europe'sphoto: club refreshments Central European Time Zone - 'CET' for short and not 'FIBAR' - but otherwise known as 3 pm to 5 pm elsewhere.

A partial view of today's club refreshments.

The club's normal secretary will be taking 'report' notes during the coming meeting. This is a slow season, so regular club members may tend to repeat themselves. For this reason, new club members with new conversational subjects will be highly welcome. Bring a 'Quote of the Week' or a new 'City of the Week,' even if it isn't one in a normal free-flyer-miles zone.

And remember, even if next Thursday is another 'Strike of the Week' day, you can still probably get at least halfway to the club, on foot.

The café's location is:

Café-Tabac La Corona
2. Rue de l'Amiral Coligny - or - 30. Quai du Louvre
Paris 1. Métro: Pont-Neuf or Châtelet.

A bientôt à Paris,
signature, regards, ric

Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini