About To Go Missing - Your 'Ed'

photo: le bouquet, sunday

My own corner café spends Sundays by itself.

A Bunch of Election Stuff

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 12. March 2001:- Last week the weather here seemed to be pre-spring-like. The predictions for sunny periods turned out to be overly optimistic, but the rain and temperatures in the 10 to 15 range were correct.

As far as I can remember more of the same is forecast for the coming week. I don't know what I was thinking about while I was supposed to remember to remember the forecasts, but I distinctly do remember not seeing the weather-gent wearing a scarf.

The ladies wore their usual studio costumes. They change these often, so if the mind isn't focused on the weather it can think about what average ladies who-do-the-weather-on-TV wear.

France-2 TV has three ladies and one weather-gent handling this important bit of programming, so in an average week I get to see a lot of different costumes. This is the reason I sometimes forget to remember the weather itself.

If this 'weather-report' of mine leaves you somewhat at a loss, you can note from the date that Easter and its snows are still about a month off in the future. Between now and then, dress accordingly.

Metropole's 'Ed' Takes Off

With the huge staff of one that Metropole has it is not easy for the magazine to continue if this wretch insists on 'taking some time off,' but the European labor laws do insist that he must 'bug out' occasionally - especially as he is not allowed time off for Christmas, New Years, any public holidays or on any of his birthdays.

This necessity does not suit Metropole's management - the 'MGT' - one tiny little bit. The magazine's readersphoto: av leclerc, sunday will not like it either. On top of it, he has chosen to be absent just when Paris is going through an exciting - and rare! - period of municipal elections.

Some rule says all polling days are rainy.

The first round of voting for these was yesterday, and you can see the results in this week's 'Au Bistro' column. The first round either elects new municipal councilors outright, or this happens in a second round - on next Sunday, 18. March.

Also, the Café Metropole Club can not just be canceled on the arbitrary whim of its secretary, so you can expect the meetings to take place as scheduled, and their 'reports' will be posted as updates to this issue - at the same 'late' times as usual.

These will include the meeting this coming Thursday on 15. March and the following meeting on Thursday, 22. March. Between the two meetings, watch for an 'election update' to the 'Au Bistro' column, which should be online sometime on Monday, 19. March.

Even through Metropole's only employee wasn't asked, he was heard to mumble, "It sure seems like an odd way to have a week off." For this cheek, the MGT says he will work on the coming Easter Friday, Sunday and Monday - regardless of the weather!

Café Life

My First Cell Meeting

A lot of people have been standing around handing out election propaganda to anyone that will take it. Last week one of these tracts was jammed into my hand. It said, "Français, Résidents, Sans-papiers - Tous Citoyens! Prenez la Parole!"

After reading this I realized that the Monsieur who had given it to me is often in my habitual café. Between this and thinking it might be my only election rally, I decided to go.

At 19:30, in a light rain, I turned up at the given address. Even in Paris, it could be considered a slum building, but I found my way in through a cracked hallway to a tired room of about 30 square metres.

The room contained five people, two women and three men. Idly, they mentioned who else would be coming. For a while nobody did, so as a 'filler' I learned that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the 'right to vote' - or the 'access to citizenship.'

This was not, strictly speaking, an election rally at all - but one called by the Communist Party's Rue Daguerre 'Cell' to discuss - debate! - France's uneven welcome to potential voters who live in the country, pay taxes in the country - but have little chance to vote for their representatives.

These are supposed to include some four million 'immigrants,' some of whom have had French nationality for 30 years - and some who have not bothered to get it for 30 or 40 years.

According to one speaker, candidates in the current municipal elections are not overly concerned with the participation by these potential voters.

At a national level, the issue is not a burning one either. When the subject comes up, the government always saysphoto: la rotonde, bastille it will get around to the problem 'before the next elections.' One says that the Socialist Party has had this issue as part of its platform for 20 years now. The eternal answer is 'next time.'

The times were brighter last Wednesday near Bastille.

By 20:10 we are eight persons, including myself. There is one other European 'foreigner' present. 'Immigrants' as a word usually means Algerians, and includes refugees from the time of Algeria's independence from France, as well as everybody born in France with refugee parents.

Anybody born in France can choose to have French nationality at age 18, and a great many 'immigrants' have done this.

It is as if everybody who has come to France - from Algeria, from Vietnam, even from France's offshore colonies - is meant to remain an 'immigrant' for life. Immigrants from the European Union are labelled as 'foreigners.'

I don't know what classification the shipload of Kurds who arrived last week will eventually get. All of these were reported to be 'sans papiers' and there are already fair numbers of these in the Paris area, some who have been here for decades.

A lot of these people may hope that the 'next time' may be soon. The French Communist Party deserves some recognition for calling a meeting to debate the issue right in the middle of an important election campaign.

When I leave the meeting after 90 minutes, there are nine people present, excluding myself.

A Foreigner Votes

According to a headline in Saturday's Le Parisien my status has changed from 'foreigner' to 'Européen.' Yesterday, I found what papers I have concerning my local voter registration, and loped over to the nearest school to vote - for the first time in 32 years, in a municipal election.

A sign on the door said I should have my 'voter card' with me. This I didn't have - never received - but it seemed that my residence card would do the trick.

The initial problem was that I was at the wrong polling station. I was supposed to be at the city's kindergarten, slightly further away, in the same street but in the opposite direction.

After not reading all the broadsheets of voter information and dire warnings, I presented myself and papers to an election official. He matched my papers to the polling bureau's voter's list and gave me the go-ahead to pick up the ballots - which were half-sheetsphoto: bureau de vote of paper, each one containing a party's 'list.'

There were ten of these. I was given a tiny envelope, I went into a curtained booth, and put one of these 'lists' into the envelope. I guess I was supposed to eat the other nine 'lists,' but I didn't.

Beside the clear plexi-glass ballot box there were three master voter-lists. One for A to H, another for I to Z and a 'Complementary' list for us 'Européens.' There were 10 or 15 names on this last list.

My name was found, my papers were examined and one had the date stamped on it, and then I was invited to dump my envelope into the ballot box. After this I had to sign the voter'slist.

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