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, walked the entire length of Vaugirard, and we had done Saint-Jacques' 1550 metres.

In the café we spent some time discussing how to turn Paris into a multimedia production. This trip of Tobias' was not to do the production, but to get the basic idea for it. He'll come back later to wrap up the details.

But on Friday afternoon he was a bit wrapped-up himself. We talked a bit about his home area beside the Bodensee - Lake Constance - and my trip through Meersburg on my way to a wedding in the Schwarzwald, which wasn't the shortest way to get there.

I asked him how the Zeppelins are coming along, and he said the first flight was booked out. A quickie Web search didn't find the modern Zeppelin, but I turned up the Zeppelin Museum and the German Air Museum.

If I can get a ride to Rio on one, it will complete the elliptical circle of my life, with a Zeppelin being considered a slow-boat way to fly.

This Issue's Photos

Friday's stroll down the Rue Saint-Jacques also reminded me that the story of this street needs to be completed, so I went back on Saturday and walked the part not yet done, from the Ile de la Cité up to the Rue Soufflot.

Two hours of writing yesterday still had me in the Rue de la Cité, just a bit short of the Petit-Pont. With this issue's other items, there is not enough time to get the words across the bridge - but I hope to have them all here for the next issue.

Meanwhile, most of this issue's photos were shot on Friday and Saturday, on the Rue Saint-Jacques or within 100 metres of it.

Café Metropole Club 'Updates'

To catch up with last Thursday's club meeting, read the club's first Valentine's Day report.

The coming meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 21. February. This will not onlyphoto: hotel senlis be the same as last Thursday because every week is brand-new. Other than this it will be another ordinary Thursday-type day, which will also be Saint-Pierre Damien's day.

Nothing special about the Hôtel de Senlis, except its reflections.

Metropole readers wishing to become real club members can get most of the details about this free club by memorizing the large-sized fine-print on the 'About the Club' page. This page needs an update even if it isn't terribly out-of-date.

It explains how to join - simply by being here! - the meeting time and so on, and other true facts such as being free. This page also contains an out-of-date location map for the club's café La Corona. The map is still good though because the café is in the same place.

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 extended their reservation service for a wide selection of Paris hotels. Check out their wider offers and make your choice long before your arrival in France. Try this one. Other Metropole readers have.

'HighwayToHealth' provides a 'city health profile' for Paris as well as travel insurance. If you have signed up for these services before you need them suddenly, you will benefit from them. I hope won't be the case, but 'Things Happen.'

'Petanque America' exports 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. Everybody can play this game, nearly anywhere - such as on the vacant lot I saw between the subway exit and the boardwalk at Coney Island.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 6.08 - 19. Feb 2001 - This issue started with the Café Metropole column, titled, 'Douce France' Day' and there was no 'Au Bistro' news for the week. This issue had two features titled 'Hanging Out In Oman' by Linda Thalman and 'In the Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière.' A selection of readers' emails were gathered into, 'Throwing Down Gauntlets.' This issue's update for the Café Metropole Club meeting on 22. February was called the 'Zulu' Beads of the Week' report. The week's 'Scene' columnphoto: sign, place louis lepine was titled 'Steak-frites On the Billboard.' There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned, "Feel the Difference?"

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 5.08 - 21. February 2000 - This week's Café Metropole column was titled 'An Expo Too Soon.' The 'Au Bistro' column was titled 'Funeral In Saint-Tropez.' This issue had two features, titled 'Champagne, Champagne!' by Allan Pangborn and 'My' Corner Café Re-Opens.' The Café Metropole Club update for this issue on 24. February, was called the 'What Demo Was That?' report. A separate club page asked, 'Alpharetta - as 'City of the Week?' The 'Scene' column picked up with, 'Cow and Cheese Show Coming Up.' The usual four 'Posters of the Week' were on view and Ric's Cartoon of the Week presented a vital answer, which was 'Never Raced.'

This Year's 'Count-Down' Heats Up

There are only 316 days remaining in this year. This means the 'euro 3 signuro' currency has been around for a whole 49 days and as of today, it is France's only currency.

Two week's ago reader John McCulloch proposed some new count-down topics. His suggestion of Victor Hugo's 200th birthdate should be kept in mind even if it is a mere nine days from now, on Tuesday, 26. February.

Metropole reader and Café Metropole Club member Jay Barrios has forwardedphoto: sign, rue cujas this vital - and rare! - information. In a few days' time we will be treated to the once in a millennium opportunity to have the following time, day, month and year - like this:- 2002 2002 2002.

Yes folks, for exactly 59 seconds in our lifetimes - but only in 'Eurotime' zones of the world - we will have the above figures for the coming Wednesday, at 20:02, on 20. February 2002.

This information has been relayed to Metropole from the United States - where possibly the armed forces will be the only ones to enjoy this unique but brief event - because for most people there it will merely be 8:02 pm on Wednesday, February 20, 2002.

This singular event has not happened since 1001 1001 1001, which was 10:01 on 10. January 1001, which was also a Saturday as I'm sure you'll clearly recall. The time, day, month and year of 3003 3003 3003 will never happen because our non-digital time-scheme taps out at 23:59:59.

Wherever you are next Wednesday at 20:02 - make the most of this 'once-and-only' event while it lasts.
signature, regards, ric

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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