The May Day Issue

photo: may day cafe, bd beaumarchais

Spectators or paraders wait for May Day to come down
the boulevard from République.

Including 'Romantic' and 'Deux-Chevaux'

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 7. May 2001:- Welcome to the 'Romantic Deux-Chevaux May Day' issue. Despite its wonderful name, I doubt if this will become an annual editorial institution because the May Day part required me to work both on my 'weekend' and on a public holiday.

Tuesday was called the 'Fête du Travail' - a day when workers are supposed to take it easy by having a 'free' one on the house. I feel a bit like a strike-breaker, although I did manage to fit my 'weekend' stuff in on the same day.

But First the Bad News

This concerns the weather. I will make it short because it is ugly. Last week's weather was exactly the same as the rest of this spring - rotten! - and next week's weather is predicted to be the same - more rotten! There is no indication that this pattern of rottenness will change. Ugly and basta!

Café Life

The Fête du Travail

Last Tuesday was the only day of the week to live up to a slightly optimistic Monday night TV-weather forecast. The sun did not shine much, it was not too cold and I don't remember it actually raining.

For my seventh edition of the May Day parade of workers and farmers, I did not bother arriving early. From past years I know the pre-parade launch is wonderful to see at the Place de la République, but does not display much action.

Instead, I popped out of the métro at Bastille and walked towards the parade coming down the Boulevard Beaumarchais, which seemed to be on time. The cops were clearing away the last confused car drivers, while the parade's leading balloons were in sight.

This year's march was distinguished by the presence of workers in fear of losing their jobs, caused by recent layoff announcementsphoto: lu banner, may day parade by several profitable companies - Danone, Moulinex, Valeo, and Marks & Spencer - plus the employees of the troubled airline, AOM-Air Liberté.

Many of this years' paraders had specific complaints.

Many of these workers were marching in their first May Day parade. For them it was not 'festif' - and they were taking part because they had 'nothing to lose.' For the airline staff, it was a bitter pill because their company's chief stockholder is also the head of the powerful bosses' union in France.

In my eyes, the parade had many more participants than in recent years. But also as in recent years, not all unions were present on the same pavement. The FO and the CFTC marched elsewhere in Paris, and the only major leader in the march from République to the Place de la Nation was Bernard Thibault, head of the diminished but still powerful CGT.

The official 'count' for participants was 20,000. After I had watched the head of the parade pass on Beaumarchais, I returned to Bastille. Looking back towards République, it looked like the crowd of marchers, with their balloons and red flags, was endless.

At the head of the marchers, the usual CGT gorilla squad swept everybody out of the street. After thisphoto: music truck, may day parade formality, anyone watching the parade from the sidewalks was free to join in, as one Café Metropole Club member did with me last year.

This years' sound truck featured a live and loud band playing good stuff.

May Day parades are also supposed to be noisy. I give this years' version a top score for its multi-megawatt music truck. It featured, instead of disco-techno noise - somewhat unloved by actual factory workers! - a Santana-like band, which wouldn't have been out of place in any carnival parade worth mentioning.

Paris' various parades were shown on local coverage by France-3 TV. Their typical close-up shots gave a good impressions of small amounts of marchers, but nothing like being on the spot and seeing a line of paraders fill a 35-metre wide boulevard from curb to curb, from front to back.

The 'War in Syria'

After the march, I was tanking up on café in the Rendez-Vous, idly looking forward to finding some jewels among the parade photos, when an older man next to me at the bar said something like, "That war in Syria will never end."

I glanced up at the TV to see if there were any Syrian wars being shown on it but Internet-zoom Web propaganda was all there was. I assumed I had misheard the guy.

'Syria' in French sounds almost like the word for sawmill - to me - so when he repeated the phase I couldn't help myself from asking him if he was talking about Syria or sawmills. Why he might be talking to no one in particular about either is of no consequence - not in a café in Paris.

'Yes,' he said, he did say Syria. I racked my brains for a week's worth of TV-news but found no Syrian wars. Of course, I miss out on events and there could have been a short one I overlooked.

But, it seemed to turn out, that he was talking about some pre-WWII Syrian war, or he was himself so pre-WWII thatphoto: balloon van, may day he was using the name 'Syria' instead of the 'Middle East,' as it is generally called these days.

This led to finding out he could have been talking about sawmills too, because he had been a carpenter. This had been in the French navy and later on cargo ships - plus in the Rue Saint-Antoine and in Boulogne when it was full of workers in the '30's.

Luckily for the small van, the day was nearly windless.

He thought a lot of what he had to say was quite funny, so certain details got blanked out by laughter. Some of these were serious sea-going tales, such as how it was necessary to drink 50 beers while ashore in Abidjan. It was so hot, he said, that spit would evaporate before hitting the deck.

By the same chance which had me run into him on May Day, I saw him a couple of days later. He could barely remember the 'War in Syria,' but the cargo ships in the tropics were still fresh.

Metropole Offers Its Photos

The offer of Metropole's large-format photos continues with a new photo / image page, which is included in this issue. However, the photos are a re-rund from a previous issues - mostly due to rotten weather conditions

In general, one or two 'best' photos - or a cartoon - will be offered each week. Many of Metropole's weekly crop of other photos will match the 'best' one for interest and quality. If you see another one you like, ask if it is available.

More details are on this week's 'Photo' page. Check it out. Any suggestions, advice and comments, will be welcome.

Café Metropole Club 'Updates'

Last Thursday's club meeting featured Montréal as the 'City of the Week' - and this had nothing much to do with any members' state of jet-lag.

After five week's of silence, Eric Rathbone has written to point out that I wrongly attributed his quote, "The first thing I do in Paris is light a candle in Notre Dame, in thanks for being back" to another member - one who left the meeting before signing the members' booklet.

Let this stand as an apology and a correction then - it was Eric Rathbone who really said, "The first thing I do in Paris is light a candle in Notre Dame, in thanks for being back."

If you have nothing better to do, read the 'report' about the club's most recent meeting. It's details may seem less boggled than hinted at above, but both are entirely the secretary's doing.

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 10. May 2001. Although boringly routine by now, this particular meeting will be amazingly unique even if it isn't a holiday in France. If you miss it, it means you can try again any other Thursday, for years to come at least.

All readers and prospective club members are urged take a look at the current version of 'About the Club,' whichphoto: balloons to bastille, may day is handy for finding out about the club's reason-for-being, its meeting time and location and so on, and other lesser facts such as its being free.

Marching towards Bastille is still popular in Paris.

This page also contains other vital 'notions' about this club in Paris, which is the only one this magazine will ever have - for you who are either 'Metropole Paris' readers or Café Metropole Club members, or are in Paris for any reason or no reason in particular at all. If you do not fall into any these categories, think up any reason you want.

Metropole's Affiliates

The following product or service providers have chosen Metropole because their offers may be of value to you and I agree with them.

'Bookings' has a reservation service for a wide selection of Paris hotels. Check out their offers and make your choice long before your arrival in France.

'HighwayToHealth' provides a 'city health profile' as well as travel insurance for potential Paris visitors. If you've signed up for these services before you need them suddenly you will benefit from them. I hope won't be the case but you can never tell.

'Petanque America' imports quality Obut boules from France and will ship them to you anywhere in the Americas - which will save you the effort of carrying them all the way from Paris. Be the first on your block to introduce the game of pétanque - or boules. Nearly everybody can play this game, nearly anywhere.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 5.19 - 8. May 2000 - This week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'Another Darn Long-Weekend.' The 'Au Bistro' column's title was 'France's Dubious Record.' This issue had three features, titled 'A Pair of Nude Twenty Years In Montparnasse,' 'Sitting Around Paris, a Bit' and 'Euro Road Tips' ably written by Badger. The Café Metropole Club got serious (!) with 'An Authentic 'First.' The club's weekly update on 11. May featured the 'Question of the Week,' 'What Is a Paris Monsoon?' The 'Scene' column's title was 'In the Place Vendôme...' with disgusting little dots. There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Pardon! Gaston.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 4.19 - 10. May 1999 - The week's Café Metropole column asked, 'Is This How the 'Café Metropole Club' Begins?' The 'Au Bistro' column posed another question, 'Is Corsica Burning?' This issue had one feature, 'The Rue du Faubourg du Temple.' 'The 'Best' and the 'Finest' was the subject of an eMail from Mike Kotch. The 'Scene' column was titled, 'Asterix Park Reopens for 1999.' This happens every year about this time. There were also the usual four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week had the caption of 'That's Not a Train Whistle.' It was probably a Deux-Chevaux beeper.

The 'Count-Up' - Part 19

Metropole's new count-up person is Charles A. Lindbergh who arrived in Paris at Le Bourget airport on a one-way ticket at 22:22 on Saturday, 21. May 1927.

Bill Hilton supplied the name and the URL of the Web site. He also took a lot of work off my hands by calculating the number of 'count-up' days. He wrote, "Applying Astrology, Theology, Texology and a flop-eared text book assiduously, I find that the true count-up total will be 27,014 days and some 12 hours or so."

A check of the Tour Eiffel's 'count-down' display yesterday seemed to indicate that no action is yet evidentphoto: not the car of the week of any attempt to re-start the count-down, to the 'euro's' introduction day, which will be Tuesday, 1. January 2002.

As much as it may look like it, this is not the 'Car of the Week.'

To keep you up-to-date with this, until it is decided to spend a lot of taxpayers' money on it or not, the number of days remaining this year is 238. This means you still have about 267 days left to trade in your hoard of old FF's for a lesser bunch of brand-new 'euros.'

'Euros,' by the way, will be valuable throughout Europe except for weird countries like Britain and Switzerland. One face of the notes will be common to all, and there will be national designs on the reverse side. After a short time, a confetti of money will be common - but all of it will be worth about the same as a boringly grey-green US dollar.
signature, regards, ric

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