No 'Café Life' This Week

photo: cafe de la place, ed quinet

Café near 'This must be THE place' in Montparnasse.

Desperate 'Count-Up' Appeal

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 12. February 2001:- You know I don't believe in the TV-weather forecasts, and you shouldn't either, but I will pass this one on because it is so hopelessly optimistic.

Totally sunny weather is predicted for late this coming week in Paris. Temperatures should be in the high single-digits without breaking the magic '10' barrier, so there will be no heatwave.

Now I suggest that you forget having read this, just like I'm going to forget having written it. By putting it here I've practically guaranteed that the weather for the coming week will be exactly opposite to the forecast.

I get no glee from doing this. TV-weather never looks back, never apologizes, never says 'sorry' for ruining your trip outside Paris to see the Impressionists in all their colorful glory.

This means that you should not shoot this bearer of this disinformation. The weather is a gamble and forecasting is like giving racing tips - some you win, but mostly, you lose.

This doesn't mean it is hopeless to be optimistic. Optimism is good for the soul, or vice versa. If it is nice out in February, take it as it is - and consider it to be a freak of nature, which it usually is.

It is also helpful to have a good fall-back plan for the day too. Either inwards or outwards, or vice-versa.

'Café Life' Is Suspended This Week

When I think of this really hard, I don't think I experienced any significant 'Café Life' during the past week. Oh, I was in cafés - about as often as usual, but I don't recall much worth recalling.

On Tuesday I was engaged with my washing day's two hours, which began after my leg re-education hour of the day. The first thing I noticed in my laundromat, was the sound of speech in English.

In itself, hearing English in my laundromat is not impossible. In fact I seldom hear French in the laundromat because most of its clients are singles and very few of them talk to themselves. In principle though, any language is permitted to be used in the laundromat.

The two young ladies happened to be Americans and this explained their talking in the American version of English. They were glad I told them I recognized their form of speech because they were having French laundromat problems.

First, somebody had stolen the cut-off bottomphoto: cluny door half of the plastic mineral water bottle that is used for a soap container. When they tried to catch the powdered soap in their hands, it didn't work.

Next, they wanted to know how much liquid soap to use, and where to put it in the washing machines. Even though these machines are German, the instructions for using them are in French and in English.

One of the Cluny museum's mediaeval doorways, facing the mediaeval garden.

They hadn't noticed this. They also hadn't noticed that their liquid soap was really water-softener - which is really necessary around here if you don't want your shirts to come out with iron-proof wrinkles and feeling like a stiffer sort of canvas.

When they told me where they are going to school, and I realized that they had no idea it was only a 15-minute walk away - it made me think that I falsely assume that people do at least some minor homework before moving into Paris to study for three months.

I shouldn't assume anything like this. I should also remember that I thought water-softener was a form of jumbo economy soap at one time myself.

The problem is a bit like the life-boat drills ocean liners used to stage at the beginning of all voyages. Once explained, all the subsequent boat drills are sheer boredom. You think once you've seen one life-vest you've seen them all.

If your ship hits an iceberg at full speed at 03:27 one morning, fifteen minutes after you've hit the sack after spending five hours in the first-class bar, you won't have time to read the directions to your boat-deck station.

Dimitri's Carburetor

Because of the lack of 'Café Life' this week, I asked Dimitri if he intended to work yesterday. He is in the final stages of finishing two very elaborate and important picture frames, and I figured I could get something out of this.

But when I climbed the four floors up to his atelier, he wasn't there. For this reason I can't tell you anythingphoto: stairs to dimitri atelier about the oval frame he has restored and re-gilded - one that is going to have a multi-million dollar Rembrandt stuffed into it in a week or two.

The view from Dimitri's fourth-
floor atelier landing, plus my own tired shoes.

This leaves us with Dimitri's carburetor. He has an old - there are no 'new' ones - 2CV car and last year he went to the Rétromobile salon to get a bigger carburetor for it. In the café afterwards he was pretty excited about it - it was new, in its original box, with all of its papers.

After about six months he got it installed, with a little help from the 2CV car club he belongs to. At first it was paradise - his old 2CV had lots more power, and lots more - say, 10 kph more - speed. Wow! Zoom!

These 2CVs can be fixed with two basic tools and some bailing wire - movers' tape won't do - but they are a bit fussy all the same, and Dimitri's didn't like this new and bigger carburetor.

So many little things began to go wrong that he replaced the new carburetor with the old one, and now the car runs fine again - except that it is no peppier than before.

This year he is in the market for a new set of tires because the ones he has are 20 years old. On account of the frame jobs he has no time to go to Rétromobile, and he doesn't trust those people there anymore.

While not seeing Dimitri yesterday, I remembered all of this and I hope you do too if you look at this week's cartoon.

I did see him in the café on Friday night and I told him about the 2CV 'Sahara' with its two motors - which he knew well. He said this car's other neat feature was its ability to run on only one motor.

So, then - for Dimitri, and all other 2CV fans worldwide - a carburetor so big that the car can only be driven backwards, much faster, and to hell with two motors!


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