"There's a Lot of Gravity Here"

photo: 1st group, karen, linda, michelle, jeff

This incomplete 'group photo' includes Karen, Linda,
Michelle and Jeff in the Café Lodi.

Who Else Thinks This Club Is 'Funny?'

Paris:- Thursday, 29. November 2001:- I would have woken up earlier today if I hadn't heard the lulling sound of rain clattering in my courtyard. On the second try, the clatter was continuing. This was entirely positive from a weather forecasting viewpoint because it was right on the money.

For a change, it was still raining when I took the waterproof and underground métro downtown to Châtelet, and it was raining on the Rue de Rivoli and over by the Pont Neuf in front of Samaritaine. The cafés along the Quai de Louvre were mostly empty.

In the Café Lodi, which has nobody on its terrace, Karen Carter is calmly waiting to become a club member when I arrive at the club's area in the café. She is sitting right in front of the hot radiator, which also is the only one.

"It's funny," she says.

I think it is 'funny' too, but since I'm the club's secretary I am not allowed to say this out loud. Then I worry - what's 'funny?' Me? The club? This café? Paris? The radiator with heat in it?

"No," she says, "This funny club."

'Aha!' I think. Just for this, I am not taking the 'Group Photo of the Week' right now. Insteadphoto: wet terrace, cafe lodi I ask Karen where she comes from, which is a safe club topic even if it has been repeated more that 112 times.

Even with an outside heater Le Café Lodi's terrace attracts no takers, because there aren't any around.

She says, 'Providence, Rhode Island,' adding, "Just south of Boston." This is good for a 'City of the Week' award even though it is only 15:05. Then she astonishes me by telling me Rhode Island is not an island at all.

Next thing, I expect some new member to turn up from Staten Island and tell me it is a state, like New Jersey - which I think is named after an island actually.

While Karen is telling me that Rhode Island's main claim to fame is its section of Route 95 - which takes up most of the state - the note I'm writing concerning the English equivalent of 'vin chaud' - for the café's management - slips off the table and settles on the floor.

"There's a lot of gravity here," Karen observes.

While I'm leaning over to pick up the paper and thinking how many of the club's members are more clever that its secretary, the server-lady Linda Thalman steps on my hand, which she wasn't expecting to be on the floor.

By the time I get my hand back and my head up to table level, she is introducing Jeff Berner, who is from Dillon Beach, California. Drats! If Providence RI wasn't already... oh well - can it be 'Co-City of the Week?' No one says 'yes.'

When I poke the club's second official Bic pen at Jeff he declines it, preferring to use his own custom-designed fountain pen to fill in his member details - while at the same time sayingphoto: orangina, wine, kodak, club drinks he isn't sure he wants to be a member of a club with 'no rules.' "Reds!" he says.

"No," I say, "Black is the color of anarchy." Looking over his shoulder I see his fountain pen is spewing 'Tory' blue ink all over the members' booklet.

On an onion soup day, members have other liquids instead.

I also see he has written, 'Favorite activity is creative loitering - TM©2001.' To me, not a polit scientist - 'Sciences-Po' in French - this looks suspiciously like anarchy in action.

Michelle Royston has also slipped in about here and parked herself nearly on top of the radiator, while I'm being edged further away from it. She and Jeff trade their Bay Area co-ordinates and then he drops the 'Question of the Week' on the gathering.

"Who was it that jumped off Notre Dame, inadvertently killing a hapless tourist? When? Why?"

As club secretary, even though there are no 'rules,' I disqualify this question because it is three of them. But since they are already in the club's notes before I can do this, here they stay. If anyone reading this has the 'Answer of the Week,' they better have three of them.

Karen comes to Paris often, she tells me, because she can't get enough of the 'Museum of Paris.' I guess it must seem this way in comparison to Rhode Island's Route 95, but I loyally point out that this is no longer the official goal of the new administration at the Hôtel de Ville.

Then she says she intends to cruise the 'puces' at Vanves. People who do things like this know where to buy Paris' 'museum pieces' at 'puce-prices' because they've already sacked the 'puces' at Saint-Ouen and Montreuil.

Ann Warren and Allan Markowitz arrive from the Manhattan borough of New York City and do not add to the meeting's confusion, but do manage to make it more complex.

While I am talking to Allan about the telephone business - actually, asking him if black phones with dials and wires will ever be reintroduced - I hear strangeness from the other side of the table where Karen and Linda are disagreeing about how much metal in a brassiere will set off an airport alarm.

This stunningly vital question somehow gets submerged by Ann and Allan's 'Travel Tip of the Year.' Get this, readers - if you want to fly to Paris on a nearly empty plane, pick Thanksgiving Day to do it. How to get back on a nearly empty plane is left up in the air.

Anne is particularly fond of Suzanne Valadon and they are planning to trip out to Sannois to see the Valadon-Utrillo treasures there. Anne says, "Utrillo fakes are France's fourth largest export item - right after cheese, wine and Airbuses."

As far as I know, by the amount of emails I get, it is possible that Utrillo fakes are a major industry in the United States too. It seems like there are never enoughphoto: ann warren, allan matlowitz to go around. We all agree that his mom was a better painter, but harder to copy.


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