Saved! - The Bélière

photo: cafe le parisien, pl rhin et danube

The Café Parisien has a front seat overlooking the Place
de Rhin et Danube.

In the Nick of Time

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 2. July 2001:- The weather has been class-A supergood all day long today and I have been regretting every minute that I have been sitting here somewhat diligently putting the wraps on this issue.

To be absolutely fair, after I sleep this off by some time late tomorrow, a miserable weather front is going to bat into west France and thoroughly mess things up by Wednesday or Thursday by sweeping across the country to the east.

This forecast was so dire that TV-weather news refused to make any guesses about the situation for next weekend. This is bad news here because I do not have any crummy-summer novels handy, to spin away the time while wind, rain, thunder and lightning lash the skies and my windows.

If this seems too pessimistic, see what Météo-France's Web site has for short-term forecasts. The link is on the bottom of the 'Au Bistro' page.

Café Life

Save the Bélière!

A couple of week's ago I mentioned a tour of the neighborhood on an evening when local residents were having local picnics together before wrapping up the year and whizzing off to their main part of the year, which is usually called 'les grandes vacances' here.

One group was parked in a dead-end alley across from an institution known as the Bélière, a music and food joint in the Rue Daguerre.

Although they might not have all been supporters of the 'Save the Bélière' movement,photo: music cafe le beliere the mayor of the 14th arrondissement dropped by to be mildly optimistic about saving the café from the developers, who were threatening it with demolition.

The Bélière, a local cultural landmark, will not be demolished after all.

Monsieur le Maire, Pierre Castagnou, was much more optimistic about the fate of the Bélière than its defender, Patrice Maire, who said there was too little time left - and no funding to buy the promoter off anyway. 'Negotiations' were mentioned by Pierre Castagnou all the same.

The sequel to the 'Save the Bélière' movement was the surprise announcement on Monday, 25. June that Paris' head mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, and national deputy Serge Blisko, had heard Pierre Castagnou's pleas - and had shaken the money loose to buy out the building promoter.

Instead of demolition, the Bélière will be completely renovated - as an example of 'typical late 19th century neighborhood construction' - and also because it is a site of 'animated life and culture.'

This may be a positive a sign that there is new life in city hall. It is being called, translated from French, the 'democratization of daily life,' I was told.

Frankly, I was amazed. I'll admit I know little about the details. To me it seemed impossible that saving this modest landmark would be possible. It is not the Arc de Triomphe after all.

But if this is the way things are going to be - more local 'animated life and culture' for Paris - I am not going to knock it even if I can't help being surprised. Could it be that the era of capitalism and cement mixers is over?

'Faites de la Lumière'

A couple of days ago I got stopped on the street by a local video guy who demanded a selection of my North American photos. This set my memory reeling backwards, trying to fish up something buried in my past - so far past that I couldn't put a virtual finger on anything.

This was too slow for the video guy, who is always moving faster than the rest of us. It turned out he wanted my forgotten treasures so that he could string something together to go with Saturday night's 'Faites de la Lumière' entertainment in the Rue Daguerre.

For the 100th anniversary of the 'Associations' the local 'Monts 14' association thought it would be useful to turn the street into a sort of a home movie show. This could be because the Rue Daguerre is associated - in history - with photos and film, as well as with piano-bars.

'Associations' as a notion in France date to 1901. Another term for them is 'non-profit organizations' and there are many of these in France, and an army of people who get things done that neither the state nor capitalism take care of.

If Le Parisien hadn't been on strike I could have commented on this laudable aspect of French life - ofphoto: cafe bistro 48 people doing things for other people for free - but the newspaper is still having its problems with its distribution.

For the evening of the 'Faites de la Lumière' the Bistro 48 kept its terrace lit.

For Paris though, it was the second weekend of good 'fête' weather, which in itself was enough of an excuse to do it. Other than some bedsheets being hung on walls for projections, many people seemed to think it was an invitation to sit outside - on terraces outside cafés and restaurants, after dark - with or without light shows.

This kind of showed just how many places there are nearby where doing this is possible, if the weather permits it. Imagine - summer with actual room temperatures, and these summer nights - in Paris.

Is It 'True' What They Say About Paris?

What I suspected might be 'a surprisingly active industry busily producing misinformation about Paris' has turned out to be no rumor at all.

According to the material some readers have been sending me it appears as if there is a huge and active off-and-on 'love-hate' relationship between France and some other countries.

How I have managed to be ignorant of the extent of this is unknown to me. My best guesses are that my 'home' country grinds few axes with France, fewer still with Paris, and I have been here so long that if it did grind its axes or teeth I would be unaware of it.

I have so much material now, and it is so new to me, that I don't quite know how to deal with it.

For example, the attitude of some Parisian sales-people has been described in no uncertain terms as being totally indifferent to some customers. To me this is sheer nonsense.

But I have to remember that I have been here a long time. I have to wonder if there are other factors working in my favor - such as looking a bit like a clochard, and therefore like a potential shoplifter. Sales people tend to pay a bit more attention to my kind of 'type.'

Maybe more so than if I was flashing a platinum plastic card all over the place. But I still can't fathom the idea of a sales-person or a waiter thinking, "Ah, les riches! With all their money they can afford to wait until I feel like serving them."

To resume - I want you to keep sending me all of the dubious stories and plain misinformation you come across. Under a heading of 'Is It True?' - if I can figure out what's behind this I will put this material into a question-and-answer format, for our mutual consideration.

As with the occasional Email features, you will be given credit for your eagle-eyes. The only 'fact' I will require is the name of the source, if you have it. If you don't have one, then the item will go into a subsection with the title of 'Is It a Tre Rumor?'

Continued on page 2...
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