Surprise 'City of the Week' - Antwerp

photo: club group photo

Fewer members only just fit, by squeezing, into the
week's group photo.

Attention Blonds - It's Where the
Diamonds Are

Paris:- Thursday, 1. March 2001:- Bernadette Costello is nervous because she has been waiting a long time to join the club, so I'll skip today's weather 'report.' It isn't anything much worth mentioning today. The blizzard was on the Riviera anyway.

Bernadette is a life-long pal of Marilyn Burke, even if she left New Jersey for the paradise of Teguesta, Florida, which is some minor part of Palm Beach or one of those other balmy Florida places.

"You can get drinks refilled in this café," Marilyn says, to reassure her friend. Charles Eitel marches in and immediately resumesphoto: bernadette costello moaning about how he's got to get a dog, which he thinks are much better than kids because their university fees are so low.

Meanwhile, Marilyn snatches the members' booklet away from Bernadette. When I raise my eyebrows, she says, "It's okay, we've known each other since we were three," as if this is a good-enough excuse for rowdy club behavior.

Actually, Bernadette got dragged to the club by Marilyn.

Before I can cite a nonexistent 'rule' about booklet snatching, new member Edgard Hubert is on deck, invited to sit down and join the club. It's a lucky thing I don't try to 'invent' any 'rules,' because Edgard has brought print-outs of the last dozen club meeting reports with him from Antwerp.

I had a girlfriend once whose name was Antwerpen, so this is why it becomes the 'City of the Week' instead of some Palm Beach suburb. Edgard wants to know what pedestrian areas in Paris are called, besides 'rare.'

While I am thinking hard about Edgard's question, one of my ears is hearing Bernadette saying how much fun she and Marilyn had with flashlights down in the catacombs, looking for Bernadette's great-grandmother.

This reminds me I should make the 'Public Announcement of the Week.' The catacombs closed on Wednesday evening and will stay closed until late June. The city is installing some electrical stuff, so that Charles won't have to go to Tampa for new flashlight batteries.

Because Edgard seems to be a very big fan of the club, I ask him why he's sent no emails in advance. "I didn't know 'Ed,'" he says. Apparently Edgard is joining the club because he intends to come to Paris most weekends, even though club meetings are usually on Thursdays.

Bernadette is also sort of a 'Hubert.' It was her grandmother's name before she married an American soldier and lived happily ever after in America.

The meeting is perfectly 'transatlantic' as I've always hoped they'd be. "For a European, it's better to visit Norway than Québec," Edgard says.

"My father was in the navy," Bernadettephoto: marie france billot says, adding, "He was riding around the Etoile on a bike in a blizzard and he was hit by a car. Parisians and the car's driver rushed him to a nearby pharmacy, and got him fixed up."

I must explain that this was in the '50's when blizzards were common in the Etoile area. It was also a rare time when car drivers would actually touch a fallen bicyclist with their hands.

Marie-France is happy that a waiter complimented her flawless Parisienne accent.

But even today, if you do have a 'bobo' in Paris, you can still get some first-aid in any pharmacy. These are signalled by hideous flashing green-cross signs. Navy guys riding bikes around the Etoile are as rare as ever though.

The next comment, from Edgard of course, can be classified as sort of mid-transatlantic. "Dogs are forbidden in Iceland," he says.

I ask Edgard if he would like to become assistant club secretary, because he obviously knows quite a bit about making useful public service announcements. But he skillfully declines, and the next thing I know, Switzerland is being nominated for having the best 'countryside.'

When Edgard says he plans to interrupt his Paris adventures in order to visit Australia in the fall, Marilyn says that she was there once, for 15 days. "That's better than nothing," she says.

Doug Fuss, the club's ambassador from Savannah, has come in a long time before now - and while Marilyn interrupts herself to introduce new member Marie-France Billot, from one of Paris' 20 arrondissements - Doug, Edgard and Charles get into a mid-depth philosophical discussion about how to be 'at ease.'

This is useful to know if you happen to be unemployed or retired, or some happy combination of both. While I would like to know more about this 'ease' business, my hearing is tuned into the other end of the club.

This is how I hear Marie-France say, "I know I sound French." This is what she said to a waiter, in French, when she as out having a dinner with Marilyn, and she was complimented on her mastery of the language.


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