Bouncing Back

photo: cafe terminus du chatelet

A right-bank café near the very heart of 'oldest' Paris.

Elvis Was Here

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 30. April 2001:- I know perfectly well what I wrote here last week about the weather but I am not going to be churlish and ask you to look it up in 'All Past Issues' because it would be cruel and unusual to do so.

In fact, this last phrase fits last week's weather to a 'T' and applies to the coming week's weather as well. Even for Paris, even for May, it is cruel and unusual. The only semi-positive thing I can say is, the 'high' temperatures might be over 15 degrees. They will definitely be under 20 though.

Tomorrow is May Day. This is a traditional day for either carrying around little bouquets of Lily of the Valley - shouldn't it be plural? - in French, 'muguet' - or giving them to other people for some symbolic reason, such as the fact that they are supposed to 'flower in May.'

TV-news has been showing the damp difficulties encountered by traditional 'muguet' harvestersphoto: plage solaire sunlab harvesting 'muguets' in the rainforests in April in anticipation of May Day, and these have not been pretty scenes due to all the rain drops on TV camera lenses.

'Beach,' 'Sun,' 'Sunlab' - Institut de Beauté - all dreams last week!

Slightly less sad, is tomorrow's forecast - which may allow the traditional May Day parade of workers, artisans, midwives and civil servants to march from République to Bastille and on to the Place de la Nation, with dry hats and red flags. For the Fête du Travail, I hope so.

Café Life

Paddle-Ball

One thing I notice in cafés is that sometimes I don't know anybody in them. Oh - I know the three waiters and the owner and the owner's father and the owner's big dog and the owner's wife, and even the cook nods, and I vaguely know the other habitués, the usual noisy crowd of loud talkers and big laughers. The ones who get on Dimitri's nerves sometimes.

What I mean, is sometimes I go to the café - my weekday one - twice a day from Monday to Saturday, and I don't see any Dimitri or Dennis or Jonathan. Sometimes a whole week goes by before I realize this.

Sometimes it takes even longer to remember that they've gone to Pisa, to Connecticut and to Chicago and San Francisco. Usually I don't remember this until they come back and I happen to be in the café at the same time, and they tell me where they've been and how long they've been away.

For some reason this always surprises me. I know there are people who travel and that they go on trips. Dimitri, for example, moaned about the fare to Pisa until somebody found him a cheapo flight. When he came back, he moaned about how a 90-minute flight from - Pisa? - took him 18 hours.

There were so few passengers that they kept canceling the flights, and he got bumped from one to the next all day long. He probably has a very low opinion of Web-based discount flights now. I think his first airline was Air Libya, and the second, Maltese Falcon.

Dennis went to Chicago to see a play I think he might of translated, or hacked out of prose into a script. He loved Chicago. When he went on to San Francisco, his home town, it paled in comparison to Chicago. He is a big Chicago fan now. It was like love at first sight.

Jonathan said it was too cold to swim in Connecticut, even though the weather was great. He said the Gulf Stream hadn't kicked in yet. He didn't say he'd gone there expressly to swim, he just said it was too cold to do it. He didn't say he took a bathing suit or anything like that.

While I have a bad memory and have a hard time keeping track, Jonathan remembers about the 'Sounds of Paris' we werephoto: storm coming talking about - when? - when was that? He even remembered the sounds ambulances make, but I've forgotten this already. Again.

The only trip I took was to the 1st. In a café there, a lunch crowd was still sprawled around a table, with the time going on for four. They were pretty mellow. The whole tiny place was pretty laid back.

In my street - just before the sky fell in it.

To go to the toilet I had to step carefully over some legs, squeeze past some crates and boxes, to arrive at the top of a very narrow, tiled stairway. It went down a way and turned, and went down some more, and turned again. At the bottom, the low ceiling was full of angles.

It must have been two floors underground. I figured it was below Roman Paris, which hadn't even been in the neighborhood. I listened to hear if it was quiet but it wasn't. It must have been the métro, at least two blocks away. I felt I should have had a hard hat with a lamp, for cave exploring.

Going back up the stairs was like coming out of a cave too. Some steps and turn, some more steps and turn again. Lurch against a wall at each turn and there seemed like 15 of them.

The lunch crowd were leaving - their three-quarter-hour departure effort finally on the move - so it was no easier to get out of the place. It was neat though - right across the Rue Saint-Honoré from a butcher shop I photographed in 1989.

I don't think anybody in my number one café noticed that I had been on a trip. I guess it's too soon for them to know. I think it was on Friday, but it was so long ago that I'm not sure.

Oh. 'Paddle-ball.' You know the small paddle with the ball attached with an elastic? This is what these trips are like. Everybody bounces back. It happens so fast that they're back before I know they've been gone.

Café Metropole Club 'Updates'

The club meeting last Thursday featured a return visit of Member Number One, from Antibes, which was two true 'firsts' of significant importance. Although it was pure chance that Heather Stimmler registered herself first, and then moved away to Antibes - having her back was a treat.


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