Two Astonishing 'Firsts!'

photo: club mascots of the week, from fischer, smith

Two mascots are easier to fit in here than nine
names of members.

Unusual No 'City of the Week' Meeting

Paris:- Thursday, 22. November 2001:- The long and short of the weather for today and the forecasted weather until next Monday, is lousy. If you are coming to Paris at this time of year put away any ideas you have of doing a little water-skiing.

Before installing myself in Le Café Lodi for today's meeting of the Café Metropole Club, I check out the club's regular café - La Corona. Workmen are crawling all over it, dragging out rubble, and putting spanking new stuff inside. It is too soon to tell how it will look when it is fully renovated, but the signs of considerable activity are encouraging.

With my sidewalk superintendent duties over, I stroll the 50 metres or so to Le Café Lodi. I will remember this brief interlude of calm, because there won't be any more of them.

I get my cap, gloves and scarf off but I don't get to sit down before members Joanne Fischer and Paul Smith - their real names! - arrive from Houston. This is the second or third of their visits to club meetings - at one-year intervals.

They have big news. They got married in 'absolutely fabulous' Park City, in Utah. This is not good enough for the 'City of the Week' honor, but it is still big news because they did this thing after being not married together for 23 years.

Joanne says, "We believe in long engagements." She does not say they believe in sharing lastphoto: newlyweds, fischer, smith names though. This saves me from the tedious chore of adjusting their club membership records.

A club 'first' - members Joanne and Paul got married in Utah after 23 years of being 'good friends.'

While this is sinking in, while Paul is telling me it is possible for men to get married multiple times in Utah where divorce rates are low, Michelle Royston arrives. The first thing she says is that she's not staying long on account of it being Thanksgiving, and she has a big meal to cook for it. She keeps her coat on.

Then the server-lady, Linda Thalman, arrives. She is like a secret signal for other members lurking out of the grey Quai du Louvre, signalling them to come in all at once.

Our club-space in Le Café Lodi is not expansive. We turn sideways tables longways, shift a bunch of chairs, annoy some nearby innocent civilians, and pretty soon we have a tidy but tight setup that seats ten, if one remains standing.

For this reason, I never do take my coat off. I hope the members present today will forgive me if this seems offensive and I have their order of arrival wrong. I don't think well with my coat on.

Dinny Moyer arrives with Mary Kvitashvili. This simple act creates an incredible 'First of the Week' - Mary is the 'mom' of Scruffy, the neat little dog who joined the club on Thursday, 23. August, and who was incorrectly identified as 'Schrumpy' by the semi-deaf club's secretary, who is me.

The first 'First of the Week' is Mary being the first club member to join the club after her dog became a member. To tell the truth, I think getting married in Utah - it cost 50 bucks by the way, with 'no waiting!' - after a 23-year engagement, is a pretty good 'first' too.

When the tables and chairs have settled into their new arrangement I find that I have to make a diagram, because new members Allison and Etienne Stettler - from Washington, DC, and newphoto: club drinks of the week members Patricia and Frank Emerson - from Manhattan in New York City, are sitting in some of the chairs.

Standing up is also an aid in getting the members' booklet passed around for the new sign-ins, and I even remember to warn new members not to let me use their photos if they are being sought for crossing the ocean illegally, or some such other infraction.

Some the many 'Drinks of the Week' that I've forgotten.

The Stettlers live in some part of Washington, which is not near Rock Creek Park. The Emersons live on the 'Upper West Side' of Manhattan. Neither of these count as a 'City of the Week' so this honor is held over until next week.

Sometime between noting that some Texas bird named guinea fowl is no longer known in the Houston area as a 'trashbird' and is now known as a 'watchbird' - "Bigger than a chicken, smaller than a turkey," says Joanne - sometime between noting this, and -

There's two blank pages in the 'reports booklet.'

And noting, "I haven't got any, only a real unripe lemon," which turns out to be wrong, because it is about a piece of lime floating in a glass of Corona beer. Um, limes in France are often called 'citron-vert' and if there aren't any, according to Dinny, any kind of unripe lemon will do -

But! When I look this up and find out I've got the crucial word wrong, I discover my antique 'Nouveau' Petit Larousse doesn't even have 'citron-vert,' but has the word 'lime' instead. This usually means 'nail-file' or any kind of file. I give up. French is too exceptional for me.

Suddenly, it is hours later and Michelle still has her coat on. She finally gets around to 'leaving early' to go home and finish doing her turkey, and, she says, after thatphoto: half group of the week she will go to a movie and eat popcorn. "It's a family tradition," she says. Usually her family numbers about 70 people stuffed with turkey.

One-half of the 'Group Photo of the Week' shows some members less than clearly.

While I am beginning to mull over why club members choose to tell me their most intimate family secrets, Joanne plunks down the Fischer-Smith family mascots, 'Gumpy' and 'Pokey,' who have been to about half the countries in the world as well as the quickie- wedding state of Utah.

These two mascots have been to a club meeting before, maybe twice, and here they are again. It seems like a thousand years since I've seen them last.

Somebody says, "Eddie Murphy is not a member of this club," and, for some other unknown reason, Etienne says it snows too much at Park City for the winter Olymics to be held there.


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