The First Day of Fall That Was

photo: cafe le saint amour

Friday's afternoon - in Summer 2001's last hours -
was a late, and surprise, bonus.

Coming Euro Causes 'No Change' Now

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 24. September 2001:- Saturday was an unusual day, in addition to being the first day of fall, because overnight the weather switched from being near winter-like to being a perfect 'first day of fall' which caught Parisians by complete surprise.

While the sun shone on the city the only missing ingredient was a couple of extra degrees of temperature, which was especially noticeable in my own courtyard - which is shielded from the sun by its vertical east, south and west sides. If it were located south of the equator, there could be an improvement of 25 percent in it.

While I try to look on the bright side of my courtyard - although it has none - by noting its function as a natural air-conditioning device, I find it hard to remember how well it works in times when Paris' climate needs the opposite of air-conditioning.

But enough boring moaning. The ultra-shortrange forecast calls for continued sunny periods, with gradually rising temperatures. Who knows? Heading for 19, they may reach 20 by next weekend even though the latest forecast is only good until Thursday.

'Café Life'

'No Change'

Except for the few money-exchange places, this is a sign you see all over Paris these days. I picked an off-time to get two items in my local 'Monoprix' this afternoon, and I may as well have chosen the week's big shopping-hour on Saturday.

The long lines at the check-outs didn't mean there were a lot of shoppers - they meant all of thephoto: student book sales, pl st michel cashiers were having a hard time making change for 50-franc notes. "I'm sorry, but has anybody got a two-franc piece?" one implored to about a dozen people, each with three items totalling no more than 19.50.

Gathered at the Place Saint-Michel on Saturday, students try to sell obsolete text books - for francs no less.

The most annoying was the guy behind me who, in addition to drinking his to-be-paid-for solo can of beer while waiting, mumbled a non-stop monologue concerning Monoprix's sloppy attitude towards big spenders.

This is called, to be polite about it, a part of the reality of the 'count-down' to the euro. Franc coins are getting more and more rare, and many cashiers are now accepting plastic and cheques without bothering with minimums.

Besides the daily wear-and-tear on consumers, somebody is going to slapped with the banking charges on these mini-transactions because the banks are too greedy to 'eat' them themselves. The euro is going to cost consumers a mint.

Meanwhile, my wait came to an end, and I heard the guy behind me say he had 'exact' change. But I think he also had an empty can of beer, and was probably facing starting all over again.

Dimitri Comes Back To Earth

Since about the middle of August Dimitri has been up in the air at one of France's ministry buildings in Paris, laying a bit of gilding on several ceilings' worth of decor about six metres above the floor.

Normally he does the same thing in his atelier, which is located four sets of walk-up stairs above the earth, but once at this peak he can arrange the frames to be gilded on the floor if he wants to.

The other night while dining at Auntie Line's, Dimitri exchanged gilding stories with the painter Raymond Canta - who got his start in the racket in Switzerland where he did the interiors of bank vaults.

This is fine for Switzerland, which is not a republic as far as I know. Gilder's jokes, by the way, are often about how the ultra-light sheets of gold can act like butterflies in a draft, and float out of open windows.

I hope no French taxpayers are reading this, and since I'm one of them, I don't know what the point of this is supposed to be.

I guess what it all really means is - even Socialist-governed republics can afford gilt ceilings and 35-hourphoto: no 'no car day,' 22 sept work weeks, just so long as the public never gets the feeling they are going to get ripped off by all the 'round-ups' that the introduction of the euro will cause.

The Boulevard Saint-Germain version of no 'no car day' in Paris on Saturday.

On the plus side, the euro will not be based on the value of gold. This is a good thing because it is obviously cheap enough to be plastered on ceilings with wild abandon - and Dimitri isn't squawking too much about having to wait four or six weeks to get paid for doing it - in francs.

If you think this is all silly, it is no worse than French conversation at Auntie Line's. Trying to follow it was like riding a verbal roller-coaster on a tilted pin-ball layout.

The Late-Summer Season That Wasn't

Before the summer holidays begin, Parisians and the French in general get together to hold various sorts of public parties in anticipation of being 'on holiday' for a couple of months.

About 12 weeks later - in France there are a lot of over-laps - the Parisians and the French get together again to celebrate their successful summers, and get in the mood for the other season, called 'normal working life' - which only lasts about six weeks before the first school holidays begin.

Anyway, because of the municipal elections last spring and other unforeseen events, nearly all of Paris' 'return-to-work' fêtes were canceled. For this I offer my apologies to all three readers of the mostly-weekly 'Scene' column - which was over-full of these 'events' that did not happen.

As likely as not, when the next readers write to ask what will be happening in Paris next September, I will refer them to this year's 'Scene' columns, but warn that their contents are only 'best-laid-plans,' and what will happen will actually be much better.

For example, the 'first day of fall' was not even scheduled as an event in this year's 'Scene' column. Yet it happened with sunshine without warning on Saturday, 22. September. As far as I could tell, it was much enjoyed by Parisians who were at liberty on account of the canceled 'events.'

The canceled 'no car day' was a huge success with motorists, who took advantage of it in record numbers to completely clog the Boulevard Saint-Michel on Saturday afternoon.

They all seemed to be headed toward the even more clogged Boulevard de Sébastopol, but for all I know some of them probably joined the traffic chaos in the Rue de Rivoli, as a foretaste of a totally plugged Champs-Elysées.


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