Low-Key Café Life

photo: cafe le petit journal, bd st michel

This café in the Boulevard Saint-Michel has recently reappeared from behind a years-long building site.

With Possible Zeppelins

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 18. February 2002:- Owing to the usual form of short-range forecast last week I was able to tell you that the weather would be semi-crummy, but I was not able to foresee that the end of the week would be absolutely brilliant.

To be totally honest, I didn't know about it either until I went outside on Friday and looked up at a sky with the unfamiliar color of blue.

As of tonight's TV-weather news, the forecast for the coming week goes like this - not that I believe a word of it - but it was the neat bird that said it and I have to believe everything she says even if it is about the weather.

She said, and I paraphrase here withphoto: doorbell 214 inadequate English - 'You poor people living in France can expect pretty good weather for this time of year except for the daily periods of low pressure, that will pass over the country in waves - of one per day.' And then she looked sad for us all for seven or eight seconds.

If you find this prospect depressing, there is hope in the less reliable forecast in today's Le Parisien. While it doesn't show the daily waves of low pressure, it doesn't show many sunflowers either.

No - Le Parisien is into temperatures. Predicted high for Tuesday is 15, for Wednesday it is 16, and this is all you need to know because on Thursday the temperatures are not so flaming hot - ending up on Friday below 10. I think we may of had our fake-spring in February.

'Café Life'

Claudio Is Going Home

It must by the time of the year. There is something in the air. At Claudio's hairdressing salon and guitar palace on Tuesday I got a chance to catch up on 'real' Paris events by glancing through a six-week old copy of 'Paris Match' while waiting for my turn to be clipped.

Claudio always has a lot of magazines, and some are not as old as six weeks, but customers are not really supposed to look at or even read them, because the salon is meant for conversation.

You can find this out in ways that are not always pleasant. For example, before a clip there's thephoto: pont notre dame, seine quai shampoo, sometimes accompanied by a few bars of guitar. And there can be quite a bit of time between the shampoo and the clip, while long wet hair lets drops of cool water slide down the neck inside the collar.

"Look, Claudio, can we get this clip on the road before my shoes fill up with soapy water?" Ah, yes. One snip here, one snip there, and then the hands must be free to resume the conversation and the drip continues.

The Pont Notre-Dame where it joins the Ile de la Cité.

For this reason it is best to plan a trip to Claudio's salon with a calculation for a lot more time than it takes for a haircut. For this reason, and because the price is now in euros, I don't go often.

But it's a good thing I went last Tuesday, because Claudio intends to spend some time in Italy this week. He must have missed Paris' recent three glorious sunny days that ended yesterday - but if he's in sunny Italy, I'm sure he is not complaining.

Talking, yes. Playing the guitar, maybe. Eating a lot, for certain. Giving shampoos, clipping wet dripping hair, not likely.

Dennis Is Happy

The other night in the café, Dennis said he was happy because he went to a movie at nine in the morning, to share a silent black and white Charlie Chaplin film with a cinema full of little kids.

He thought they were very clever kids because they 'got' all the sight-gags, roared with laughter in the right places, and generally had a good time seeing a movie without color or sound, without million-dollar visual effects or robots, without elaborate locales, without anything that we routinely expect from movies these days.

Dennis was happy because it meant that the last 84 years' worth of cinema technology can be tossed out, and an audience can still be captured with inspired acting.

After telling me this, he said he was going to go to Kiev and seek out the market lady there who has the Buffalo grass. I thought we had this more or less under control. But there's no telling what sort of an effect a cinema full of Charlie Chaplin fans can have on a person.

Dimitri Is Optimistic

On Friday I found Dimitri sitting by himself in the café, leisurely trying to decide whether to have another balloon of Côtes-du-Rhône. As a conversation starter, I asked him what was troubling him.

I did this because something is always troubling Dimitri. I think it has to do with being Russian in his soul. He gave the question some thought, while looking at the nearly empty wine glass, and finally said nothing was bothering him at all.

This is very good news even if it is rare. The state of the Paris part of our funky western civilization must be in very good shape if Dimitri is optimistic. This is the 'good news' of the week.

Tobias Has a Project

Some time ago Tobias Kreutzer wrote to me to say he'd read the article I had written about the very long street in Paris named Vaugirard. He thought it could form the basis of a subject for a multimedia treatment that he has to complete as a thesis for the school he is attending in Austria.

While I was expecting Tobias to contact me about this, I hadn't expected him to phone last Friday about noon from the Porte de Versailles, which is where the 4360-metre long Vaugirard ends in Paris before going out of town to Rennes.

When we met in the café near here, itphoto: tobias kreutzer seemed clear that he had found a great deal of Vaugirard to be less than exciting. Tobias could have asked me, but it is just as well that he found this out for himself.

Tobias takes on some 'liquid bread' to avoid falling asleep Friday afternoon.

Feeling a bit responsible, it seemed to me that I should propose an alternative. Tobias has the luxury of doing whatever he wants to do, except put digital stink into his multimedia production, so I suggested the Rue Saint-Jacques.

I have written about only a part of this street, so we started out on this part at the Boulevard de Port Royal - after we found it - and walked north to the Seine with the sun on our backs.

Tobias immediately preferred it to the Rue de Vaugirard. Even the part after the Rue Soufflot, with the long side of the Sorbonne on the west side, is interesting because of the long view all the way to the Ile de la Cité.

The other thing about it is it used to be the Romans' main street in Paris, and it is possibly the route they were on when they first came to visit in 52 BC.

When we got to the Seine at the Petit Pont we pulled into the café on the corner. Tobias had flown into Paris Friday morning, walkd the entire length of Vaugirard, and we had done Saint-Jacques' 1550 metres.

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