'Tootsie Roll of the Week'

photo: fr left, mike, ray, priscilla, donna, larry, edna, bob, eva, marilyn, tom

From left to right - oh, forget it - here are
today's ten members.

And Not Many Other Matters

Paris:- Thursday, 24. May 2001:- Today has the good fortune to be the third in a row of a trend to have room temperatures both inside and out. For this reason many more people than usual are gasping their way through the throngs on the Rue de Rivoli, when they could be lying around doing nearly nothing in any handy park.

In the area of the Quai du Louvre, past Samaritaine, all café terraces are full of happy soldiers taking in lungfulls of the exquisite gases given off by the steadily replenishing traffic clogging the roadway.

To make it to La Corona I have to hold my breath a bit longer than I'm used to, but I do it because the city does not provide air capsules for pedestrians - like the ones some automobile drivers have.

When I ask 'how many?' after Patrick tells me "Il y a du monde," he shouts back over his shoulder, 'two.' Two is twice as much 'monde' as last week. Um - maybe it was the week before.

Anyway, I am saying 'welcome to Paris' to Priscilla and Ray Garcia, who live in Paris, before I can write the vital meeting number and date in the members booklet and in the 'report' booklet.

This is very important because I've just discovered, after 84 club meetings, that I forgot to add this information to the very first meeting's booklet entries - which makes it a bit hard to tellphoto: beers of the week new members the club's inaugural date.

Saying this is the club's 85th meeting doesn't help much, even if I am pretty sure it is the 85th meeting, more or less.

Before I can follow this line of philosophy very far, Donna Norris arrives from Evanston, Illinois, immediately after Edna and Bob Bradley, who joined the club for the first time in their lives last week.

The club's two hours was a heavy shift for today's 'Waiter of the Week.

Donna tells me she has written several emails, which I don't remember. Maybe she wrote them to some other online magazine in Paris which has the only club for readers - but this is obvious nonsense and I wonder if she has written using a 'nom de plume' because Norris is not a forgettable family name.

Somewhere here I have to give up this deep thinking because new members are pouring in. While another one is merrily writing all sorts of inventive fiction in the members' booklet, Michael Muhlenkamp is confusing the hell out of me by calling me Ed.

Michael is from Pacifica, California. I suddenly remember who 'Ed' is, and Eva Lee shows up from New Jersey and orders ice cubes to go with her white wine - while today's 'Waiter of the Week' is plunking down huge one-litre glasses of beer all over the place.

Eva has brought the club a 170-gram bag of 'midgee' Tootsie Rolls, so these become the 'Tootsie Rolls of the Week.' And, excuse me, but to hell with it - the club has another 'first' by having both Evanston and Pacifica as the 'City of the Week.'

I am anticipating members' protests about this, but it is a bit unfair for so many new members to show up all at once and confuse me with 'Ed' names and emails.

The air clears for a moment briefer than a lightning bolt when Marilyn Burke arrives with Mr. Tom Burke, who has decided to join the club because they are leaving town. For all of Marilyn's fans the good news is that they are not going to Britain after all.

These long-time Paris residents are hunting for house on the Costa Brava instead. Score - UK, zero - Catalonia, one!

The fellow opposite where I'm sitting - the one writing fiction - suddenly realizes the club's area of the café La Corona is full of accents, and so is he.

While I'm no less than 13 vital 'notes' behind, suddenly he is babbling in a Jersey accent, a Chicago accent - &quot:How do you say 'orange?'" and all the other members arephoto: big skol of the week making him guess their accents.

Then the game switches and he rattles off a whole series of regional accents - all Yankee ones - oops, he does Canadian ones too - and Australian, he says, "These people from Oz thought I was a Brit." They probably still think so.

Before the first mutual clink, some beer has already evaporated.

Everybody is yelling garble at John, trying to guess if he comes from a 'City of the Week' or from Nebraska or North Dakota - he wants us to guess 'North Dakota' so obviously this is not it.

Donna says, "A horse was a wedding guest too," as if this is a sufficient explanation - they met at a wedding in the Dordogne - the 'Dordogne' is some vague place in the middle of France where everything interesting happens, but the people who it happened to can't remember exactly where they were.

It is sort of France's equivalent of Nebraska, with the difference of it having a lot of foie gras and weddings that take at least two days to get through. The 'Auvergne' has this sort of thing too, with the curious difference - ofmost of the Auvergnats being in Paris running cafés.

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