The 'Café Life' Issue

photo: cafe the frog & rosbif

Dennis' first stop in a day of 'Café Life.'

The Edition With 'l'Addition'

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 21. May 2001:- Now that the city is fully in the grip of 'spring,' the weather continues much as it has been in the past - with a combination of partially cloudy days, partially sunny days and with a few short, sharp storms thrown in for variety.

Temperatures have been bobbing up and down according to whether the Azores' 'high' or Iceland's 'low' has the upper hand. Paris seems to be on a frontier between the two, so the ups and downs are not great - more like 'tilts' rather than 'bobbing.' Let's say, more than 20 and less than 26 degrees can be expected within the next 18 hours. Both newspapers and TV-weather news are forecasting a sunny week for northern France.

I think it is also pretty safe to say that you can leave your fancy and warm winter-sports outer clothingphoto: trabant 1.1 cabrio and fur coats at home. Of course, I am personally 'safe' saying this, because my rotten weather gear is hanging in a handy closet.

Another one of the little 'perks' of living in Paris is having closets instead of cubical wheelie bags.

This rare ex-East German Trabant cabrio is the 'Car of the Week.'

Concerning the 'Question of the Week' - the palms in the Luxembourg are not 'native.' The Senat has borrowed them from the palm park at Auteuil. If there is a cold snap, they can be trucked back to their greenhouses in a jiffy.

Café Life

In this week's issue there is a lot more 'Café Life' than usual. Dennis Moyer really lives it, in comparison to my own pretensions, and he took me on a tour of his which forms this issue's main feature.

Sampling Dennis' 'Café Life' took about five hours on Wednesday. There is not enough space to put in everything we did and saw, or even a fraction of the conversation we had together. Therefore here are a couple of 'extras.'

The Village Voice Bookstore

Both Dennis and Dimitri swear by this bookshop, which I have been largely unaware of for 19 years. Oh, I have been through the Rue Princesse more than once during this time - I have photos of it - but I guess I wasn't in a book mood on these occasions.

The store is owned and operated by Odile Hellier, an intense Frenchwoman who thinks books by writers in English are insanely great. But, in order to carry works by Gertrude Stein beside John Grisham's legal potboilers, the Village Voice stocks 25,000 titles instead of having towering piles of any current bestsellers.

This means that the wider your taste is, the book you want is most likely to be in stock. Those that are not, can be ordered - and both Dennis and Dimitri often do this.

In the book-trade scheme of things, Odile is near the bottom of a commercial totem pole. Knowing her customers, many of whom are French, keeps the shop alive - against the trends of a formidable industry devoted to selling books like disposable and discounted diapers.

The two-story shop is not huge. It is full of books and tidy, and did not seem cramped. For crime and detective fans, there is an impressive selection, which includes Raymond Chandler's elegant short stories beside James Ellroy's LA thrillers, written with a chainsaw.

For visitors, books with Paris settings are prominently featured, such as Howard Engle's 'Murder In Montparnasse.' This is not far from the Rue Princesse, which is one short block long, dates to 1630 and is named for one of the Guise family's princesses.

Short Change

The neat little old lady is always dressed in black, with a black scarf, and I guess she is between 95 and 100 and she can barely see over the bar. I see her in the Rendez-Vous on Sundays, nursing a large balloon glass of rouge, with a carafe of water to stretch it out.

Yesterday she already had her wine at her usual table and was standing up at the bar, strewing it with small coins. The amount was a bit short the barman said, when she asked if it was right. He said she could pay the rest later.

Not making the total disturbed her. At her table she searched through her little black bag and camephoto: renault 4cv back to the bar, with a wadded collection of keys and other handbag contents. The barman said, "C'est bon -" meaning, 'that's okay, forget it, some other day.'

The bonus 2nd 'Car of the Week' is a classic Renault 4CV.

For the little old lady it was not 'bon.' Instead of spending a hour to polish off her balloon of rouge, with extensions of water, she had it nearly finished as my café came to an end.

Usually when I see her I think she has been sitting at her usual table on the indoor terrace since before the café was built. Not making the amount for the wine was certain to spoil her Sunday - unless she decided to go home and return with more cash.

This is what she will do, I thought. Her Sunday wouldn't be complete without the full hour on the terrace, 52 Sundays a year, in all seasons.

Restaurants and Single Ladies

I have been hearing that single ladies have been having uncomfortable experiences with some restaurants in Paris in the evenings.

By 'restaurant' I mean a places to dine - ones that are usually only open for midday and evening meals. Cafés and brasseries with non-stop service are not included in this definition.

Also by definition, all restaurants are set up with tables having a minimum of two chairs. So a 'single' of any gender will represent an empty seat, one meal not consumed, to any restaurant.

Generally, people do not eat alone in Paris. But single people do exist and we get just as hungry as couples. Restaurants are public places which are supposed to be free of discrimination - so, even if you have no companion you have as much right as anybody to have a meal.

Since you are coming to a restaurant because of hunger there is no need to pretend to be starving. The trick to being acceptably single is to carry a 'prop,' to indicate that you are really a diner and not some sort of nosy voyeur.

Generally, acceptable 'props' are newspapers, magazines or a book, or all three. With these obviously in sight, you will appear to be a 'literary' diner - and, of course, to be this sort of diner it is normal to be single.

If you think having a 'prop' isphoto: fete rue de seine, cadillac insufficient, adding a bit of 'attitude' to your role will help. Keep in mind that you've chosen whichever restaurant it is because you think its food will be good.

Walk in with your head up and immediately seek out the person who distributes seats at tables.

No gallery 'fête' in the Rue de Seine is complete without a pink Cadillac.

When you have your eyeballs fixed firmly on this person, say something like, "I've heard you have very good food here."

This is a good opening - food is the main thing. But let your 'literary' side show while you are anticipating the delicious meal you intend to have.

Metropole Offers Its Photos

The offer of Metropole's large-format photos continues with a new photo / image page, included in this issue. Due to improving weather in Paris, two new photos are presented.

Each week one or two 'best' photos - or a cartoon - will be offered. 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 for it instead.

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 Euclid, Ohio as the 'City of the Week.' New member Diane Frances slept off her jet-lag and arrived at the meeting after it was technically over, which was a good thing for Euclid.

Even if you have better things to do, read the 'report' about the club's most recent meeting. It's details are actually about as amazing as usual, partly due to my failure to keep track of the modest numbers of members present.

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 24. May 2001. This particular meeting will be amazingly unique because it will happen on Ascension Day. If you skip it, it means you can come again any other Thursday, even if they are ordinary Thursdays.

All readers and prospective club members are urged take a look at the current version of 'About the Club,' photo: bodega de la soifwhich 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.

A bar that makes no bones about its purpose - your thirst.

This page also contains other vital 'wild and crazy ideas' about this club in Paris - such as a location map - 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 fall into all of these categories, but still cannot find the club, rip the map off your computer screen and glue it into your passport - right beside your membership card.

If you don't do this, and you don't read 'About the Club,' then you might have a terrible experience, such as the one described in Tim Stanton's email in this issue.

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 5.21 - 22. May 2000 - This week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'Unheated Starving Artist's Garret.' The 'Au Bistro' column's title was 'French Take To Cashless Mode.' This issue had one feature, titled 'The Big Doze In Montparnasse.' The Café Metropole Club flubbed its flub with 'Membership Category Shambles.' It was the dubious beginning of 'no rules.' The club's weekly update on 25. May featured, I think, the 'The Club's First Hat Day.' Hat Day? Thephoto: sign, rue d'argout 'Scene' column's title was 'Our Beautiful Balloons.' There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Low Chance Charters.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 4.21 - 24. May 1999 - The week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'Techno Bubble Explodes.' The 'Au Bistro' column was titled, 'State Museums Hit by Strikes.' See? Nothing changes much. This issue had two features, 'The Rue Cler Is Not Funky' and an eMail from Johanna Shirley, asking, 'Does Paris Stink?' The 'Scene' column was titled, 'Paris Issues 'User's Guide.' There were also the usual four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week had the caption of 'Is the Champs-Elysées Ready?' All these questions!

The 'Count-Up/Down' - Part 21.9

Metropole's current count-up person Charles A. Lindbergh continues this week because it is the 74th anniversary of his arrival in Paris today. He landed at Le Bourget airport at 22:22 on Saturday, 21. May 1927.

Bill Hilton is responsible for nominating this 'count-up' person and for reminding me about the anniversary. He also calculated that the true count-up total will be 27,028 days and some 12 hours or so - since Mr. Lindbergh first became a Paris visitor.

Meanwhile, a new 'count-down' movement in Paris is really gaining momentum - the server-lady asked for the URL below, which I had forgotten I put here last week. Everybody is in the act of getting ready for the 'euro's' introduction day, which will be on Tuesday, 1. January 2002.

The number of days remaining this year is 224. This means you still have about 253 days left to trade in your hoard of old FF's for a lesser bunch of brand-new 'euros.'

For those uncomfortable with nearly everything foreign, you are supposed to divide 'franc' amounts by 6.55957 exactly, and in your heads - no finger-counting! - to find out the, to become, new 'euro' equivalent.

Nobody has explained exactly why we should want to waste our time doing this. Almost everything already carries 'euro' prices on the stickers.
signature, regards, ric

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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