Late Mardi Gras On 'Black Thursday II'

photo: group of the week

Today's traditional huge group shot, posed on the club's terrace, lacks enough room for the entire caption.

City of the Week' In Dispute

Paris:- Thursday, 5. April 2001:- As regular readers will know, even if they only read this issue, 'spring' was in Paris last Sunday. That was then, and now is the traditional weather build-up for snow on Montmartre at Easter.

This means that a drizzle is getting started as I arrive at the club's café La Corona today, which is also known as 'Black Thursday II' on account of the nationwide train strike. The madame of the café, in its next-door souvenir shop, catches me taking a drizzly poster photo - and mentions that the Louvre is 'on strike' as well.

Apparently, when it is not on strike, visitors get tired of standing in line to get in and come over here to stock up on souvenirs to pass the time. Today they are not doing this. She says the Musée d'Orsay is on strike too. Business is more dismal than the weather.

While all France and Paris' suburbs are suffering from the second 'Black Thursday' in a row, it is a double blow that visitors - trapped in Paris for the day - cannot 'do' the nearby museums.

Getting into the café is easy because not many customers are in it - neither sitting out the drizzle, or recovering fromphoto: chris landry, croque madame their museum or souvenir-buying chores. But a club member is waiting for me - the club never strikes on Thursdays! - and he wants to know if I know who he is.

Golly! I won't say all club members look alike, but after 77 meetings, nearly all the ones with beards do. So Gary Martin lets me off the hook - double-golly! - he is an ultra-charter member, from the original meeting number 'One' on 14. October 1999.

Chris Landry builds up her strength for a 'City of the Week' dispute, with a hefty 'croque-madame.'

Now I remember Gary well. It was his sister, Marion Mann, who said 'Paris has ugly dirt,' one of the all-time quotes of all time!

I am so thrilled by this remembrance of things past, that I declare Gary's hometown of Park Rapids, Minnesota, to be the 'City of the Week.' Its claim to fame is that it is only 16 miles away from the source of the Mississippi, which is marked with a eight-foot high sawed-off tree trunk so you can't miss it if you are in the neighborhood.

By now, at 15:10, it is pouring outside and members are pouring into the café. Chris Landry, who I saw in the Tuileries on Sunday, arrives with a 'croque-madame' in hand, ready to eat, except it lacks pepper.

A 'croque-madame' is a variant of a 'croque-monsieur,' with a naked fried egg on top. As she hooks a salt-and-pepper thingee from another table, Marilyn Burke and Charles Eitel arrive.

"I'm thirsty," Charles says and Marilyn finishes his thought with, "Let's get thephoto: red, white, wine pots party going!" The club's 'Waiter of the Week,' Monsieur Ferrat, quickly litters the landscape of tables with a forest of red-wine pots.

Another club 'first' - two-tone wine pots.

About this time, Lynda Sydney from Toronto in Canada, comes in waving the rain off her umbrella. Before I can get her properly informed of the club's non-rules and other bureaucratic kleinkram, Chris leans over the table to ask, "Can I get a discount on the club membership for referrals?"

Even though the club is absolutely free, I'd love to give her a discount. This seems to be a signal for the entry of - not in order - Bonny Stafford, Brenda Baumgardner, Susan Thompson and Helen Moock, who are all from Baton Rouge, Louisiana - which is at the opposite end of the Mississippi from Park Rapids, Minnesota.

While I'm hearing about Toronto's great 1999 snow-storm from Lynda, in almost one single stroke - four new members from one great place arrive, plus Chris who is from there too - total five! - making it the largest contingent from a single place since the four-member Cissell family from Richardson, Texas.

There is a great deal of confusion with the sudden eruption of these 'firsts,' and another slips in when the Baton Rouge ladies order pots of white wine, thus giving the club's tables two-tone wine pots for the first time.

This would be enough in itself to class this as a successful meeting, but Brenda Baumgardner has also brought a sack full of genuine Nawlins plastic 'Zulu' Mardi Gras beads and in a twinkle strings of them are around members' necks. This is her first trip to Paris and she came to have fun.

I get a string of silver-balled plastic 'Zulu' beads that have a purple dog-bone, that has 'Le Krwe d'Etat' writtenphoto: helen moock, gary martin on it. I do not hear the explanation of this cryptic phrase, because Charles is shouting, "I have an overwhelming desire for red meat."

Helen Mooch and Gary Martin have never met each other before today because they live at opposite ends of the Mississippi River.
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