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 True Rumor?'

No New Metropole Photos for You

The screen on my old monitor has been twitching for weeks. This was a sign that it was going to drop dead at any moment, and for the past two weeks I put up special contents pages with a 'delayed' explanation in case it died while getting a new issue together.

A replacement monitor arrived last Wednesday, and I actually got an adapter so that it would work with my antique Mactintosh. However the software that came with the new screen refuses to work with my Mac's antique software.

This, even if it is not a software fault, has resulted in working with a brand new monitor that does not displayphoto: cafe daguerre village black or white. The best it can do is show very dark grey and very light grey. This means that it is worthless for working with photographs.

While neighbors sat on the terrace of the 'Daguerre Village' café, a film about building excavations was projected inside.

On one hand this will explain that all photos in this issue have been treated using guesswork, and on the other hand it will also explain why I can't offer any of the new photos in their large versions. I simply do not know what they look like.

I also do not know if the monitor's manufacturer can supply me with a 'fix' for their 'ultra-bright' and 'ultra-sharp' device, or whether I will have to return it and try another one - plus I don't know how long all of this will take.

The offer of new Metropole's large-size photos grinds to a halt this week, but with this link to last week's photo / image page, which features previously done photos.

In theory, each week one or two 'best' photos - or a cartoon - will be shown on this page. The large versions of these images are for sale. If you see another one you like in the issue, ask for it instead.

More details are on the most recent 'Photo' page to appear in Metropole. Check it out. Any suggestions, advice and comments, will be welcome.

Café Metropole Club 'Updates'

Your club's latest meeting on Thursday had few if any odd incidents because no members were present for the first time in 48 meetings. This was quite a surprise to me but I used the time wisely by having a quiet snooze.

Even if you have anything else to do, you can still read the so-called 'report' about the club's meeting anyway and still get in a short game of snooker before daylight.

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 5. July 2001. This day will be important because it will be the first club day in 2001 on which Saint-Antoine's Day will be celebrated with a full moon.

Metropole readers and some to-be club members are urged take a glance at the current version of 'About the Club,' whichphoto: sign, rue de l'egalite is handy for finding out about the club's raison d'être, its meeting time and location and so on, and other lesser facts such as being free - except for your own drinks' tab - which actually only applies if you attend a club meeting in person, as some members chose not to do last week.

This page also contains expired rules about this club in Paris - and includes its still valid location map - for you, who are either 'Metropole Paris' readers, Café Metropole Club members - or are in Paris for any reason or no particular reason at all.

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 5.27/8 - 3. July 2000 - This week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'It'll Be a Picnic.' The 'Au Bistro' column took another week off while 'Ed' took off. The Café Metropole Club's weekly update was called 'Huge Success of the Week' which was probably quite modest. There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'The 'New' World.' This 'World' was 'new' only in relationship to the peoplephoto: sign, villa des lilas who took a long time to find it even if it wasn't lost.

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 4.27 - 5. July 1999 - The week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'The Guided Blues.' The 'Au Bistro' column was missing, possibly on account of strikes or other natural causes. This issue also had no features other than the 'Scene' column, titled, 'Did I Mention Festivals?' A 'Summer Guide' was featured in two parts - 'Good, Clean Fun' and 'High Life.' There were also the usual four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week had the caption of 'Lifesaver Unnecessary.'

The 'Count-Up/Down' - Version 27.e-minus

Readers may have forgotten what this is about. I'm on the verge of forgetting too. This count 'up/down' sub-feature remains in suspension for another week anyway, partly due to general forgetfulness.

As a reminder though - the 'euro' currency introduction day will be on Tuesday, 1. January 2002 at 00:01 and not two minutes before - so you can forget about buying a Carte Orange with euros for another 5.75 months.

The number of days remaining this year is 182. This means you still have about 211 days left before you should trade in your ship containers full of crumbling old FF's for a lesser-sized thimble's worth of brand-new colorful 'euros.'

One helpful hint here - bring back the French coins you took home last time. We are running out of them, and some cashiers are demanding plastic or cheques because they haven't enough coins to make change. Automatic public toilets in Paris, on the other hand, do not accept plastic or cheques - for an example of an 'extra' helpful hint.

For those uncomfortable with nearly everything in litres, European-style or plain newfangled, you should look at the French government's 'Euro' Web site for clear and succinct information about everything except where to get coins right now.

Nearly everything for sale here already carries 'euro' and franc amounts on the price stickers. You may ignore the 'euro' amount and simply pay, - in cash, if you are lucky - until the end of this year. After then, the prices go up while numbers come down, except the métro people say they will round their fares 'down' instead of up.
signature, regards, ric

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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