Goofing Off

photo: au roi du cafe, rue lecourbe

The 'Roi du Café' as in coffee - in the Rue Lecourbe.

Part 11, Continued

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 11. March 2002:- Basking, yes, Parisians were basking like seals on hot rocks yesterday in the Luxembourg gardens, in the Tuileries, all over Montsouris, on the Champ de Mars, along the canal Saint-Martin and in the Jardin des Plantes.

If it wasn't a workday today, they would still be basking. For those who aren't working, there may even be some free chairs in the parks and gardens right now. Trees have sprays of green on them, if the light is right.

Tonight's TV-news has even noted that the swallows are back after a winter in Africa - and they are a month early. This is a sign of 'global warming' the TV-news says, adding that the swallows are fewer, becausephoto: cafe table, chairs what man does to nature isn't kind to them. If you like swallows, don't turn that grassy field into a parking lot for a hypermarché!

But getting away from the recent past, the coming week's weather didn't look too good. There will be clouds and some of them will have rain in them. It will not be serious rain.

The Azores high is holding up well for a change, and this is allowing warm air to seep north from Africa and Spain. This should result in temperatures of 15 or 16 in Paris for a good part of the week. You may need an umbrella, but you can forget your gloves and scarf.

So sayth the weather oracle. Do not believe a word of it for more than the next 24 hours. My crystal ball's warrantee has expired. It is election time and anything can happen.

April Fool In New York

When I was in New York at the beginning of the year I was surrounded by Mets fandom, including being close to Shea stadium where it actually flakes off on the unwary. But despite searching in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan, I could not find a proper Mets' jacket, Mets' socks, or a Mets' seat cushion.

Whoever makes these items for the Mets has a horrible sense of color - so in the sense of 'proper' there was nothing to be had. Stadium seat cushions didn't even exist at all!

I returned to Paris Metsless. This situation has been partially reversed by becoming the owner of a high-altitude seat ticket to the baseball season opener at Shea Stadium on April Fool's Day, when I expect the Mets to wipe out the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I have never seen a big-time baseball game, so if the eventual 'report' about this seems a bit strange it will only be because the details may be vague to me. For example, the 'high-attitude' nature of the seat has me wondering if I'll need glasses, binoculars or a high-power telescope.

By good fortune I also managed to get an airplane seat ticket to match the baseball game ticket, andphoto: rear notre dame, dusk the two of them will permit me to witness New York's Easter parade as well. I hope this takes place at a reasonable hour of the day so I don't have to get up in the middle of the night.

The rear of Notre Dame, near sunset last week.

Parades and sports aside, this trip is mainly meant to correct the 'non-stop-tour' mistake made on the last trip - when I saw so much New York that I got the impression I was in smaller-sized Central American country, with an inexplicable Times Square at its centre full of people from 88 countries.

On this visit there will be no list of 49 sights to see. There will be no 'list' at all. My visit to New York will include two Thursdays though. If Café Metropole Club members feel there should be meetings, then there will be. Write to me with suggestions.

Be warned, however, that my main intention is to catch up on sleep I have missed out on since Friday, 21. December 2001.

Easter In Paris - the Club As Usual

In Paris, the jolly and green-thumbed server-lady Linda Thalman has agreed to host the club meetings at the café La Corona on Thursday, 28 March and Thursday, 4. April.

Her notes from these meetings will be transformed into 'reports' that may be Transatlantic in nature. New members can expect to be properly inscribed into the members' booklet, even without the presence of the club's secretary.

The Pause that Wasn't

During my recent so-called 'week-off,' I did not do any surprise reports, and I even forgot to go to the 'Beautiful Cow Show.' The 20 presidential candidates that I expected to have visited it, staggered their visits to co-inside with getting airtime on TV-news every evening.

As it was, the last issue was 'late,' and then it was another Thursday club day, and I forget what happened after that except for going to see an exhibition on a Monday - which I normally can't do.

Some readers may recall that there is a 'Café Metropole' sparkling wine waiting to emerge from the wings. One reason it is 'waiting' is that it is waiting for its label, and I worked on this. You can see some of the rejects for it on this week's 'Ric's Cartoon of the Week' page.

While these rejects become cartoons, the wine itself is really real wine. The problem with the label is to get a serious enough version without it looking like it belongs to some really serious magazine about Paris, which Metropole Paris is not.

This can be proved by this week's absence of the 'Au Bistro' column again. There is no excuse for this. I have had a whole two weeks to write 1800 words of Paris 'news,' but have run out of time, again, instead. Serious? Yes, this is serious!

'Café Life'

Mexico's Chickens Come To Forney

I would have seen some of Mexico's 'Art Populaire' in 1964 if certain third-country functionaries hadn't decided I should go to Spain instead of Mexico. So here it is 38 years later that Mexico comes to me - er, comes to Paris.

This exhibition is being held at the Bibliothèque Forney not because it known for its poster collection, but because it is also a centre for collected art déco and artisanal works. This is in the Hôtel de Sens - a construction begun in 1475 which was a pre-columbian date in Mexico, but has a not entirely vague relationship with pre-columbian heroic Spaniards.

The day before the exhibition's official opening date was reserved for friends and friends-of-friends with invitations, and they were not few either. I was a bit too late for the tour for journalists, so I got the full-crowd bump-and-jostle - which will probably be less evident when the public is admitted.

Mexico's 'folk art' is not terribly subtle, but it is very cheery if you are in the mood for bright colors. On hand were some artisans too, to demonstrate how some of the items are made - and there were also a large sprinkling of Spanish speakers to ask them questions.

According to the brochure for the exhibition, Mexico's 'folk art' for retail sale is somewhat organized, with training schools and marketing studies, and heavy-duty sponsors. It is not made by poor people in 'art-squats.' Just the same, it is something different for Paris - especially on cloudy days.

This exhibition continues until Saturday, 13. July. Open from Tuesday to Saturday; from 13:30 to 20:00. At the Bibliothèque Forney, Hôtel de Sens,1. Rue Figuier, Paris 4. Métro: Saint-Paul or Pont Marie. InfoTel.: 01 42 78 14 60.

Stroganoffs At Carnavalet

According to my dictionary, 'stroganoff' means 'sliced thin and cooked with onions, mushrooms and seasonings, with a thick sour-creme sauce.' The unknown part is whether Count Stroganoff dreamed this up himself while he was kicking around at loose ends in his palace kitchen in Saint-Petersburg.

Beginning in the 18th century, the Stroganoffs collected beautiful objects for their household, financedphoto: courtyard carnavalet in large part by their interests in the salt business. In 1742 Sergi Grigorivitch built the family a house near the corner of the Moïka quay and the Nevski Prospekt, which became a palace nine years later.

The courtyard entry to the Musée Carnavalet.

Alexandr was the family's greatest collector, and he lived in Paris from 1771 to 1778. All the following Stroganoffs were dedicated collectors too, and the palace and its contents was opened to the public in 1914. Came the revolution in 1918 and the collection was nationalized, and spread around various worthy institutions.

On show here, are objects from four of these - some of which were also on show in Portland in 2000. A fair number of the items are French in origin, and I suppose this may explain why this exhibition is lodged in the Musée Carnavalet, which is mostly full of Paris' historic objects.

It is all very fine, very rich, stuff. In the old days there were fewer rich people, but they did their best to get the finest of the finest - unlike rich people today, who set up tax-dodging foundations in order to get their hands on current production.

After seeing the ultra-huge bowl of green malachite, supported by three gilded figures, my mind went kind of blank last Wednesday until I found a shortcut back into Carnavalet's regular collection of more ordinary, more interesting, Paris' objects.

'Les Stroganoffs,' until Sunday, 2. June. Except Mondays and certain holidays, from 10:00 to 18:00. At the Musée Carnavalet - Historie de Paris, 23. Rue de Sévigné, Paris 3. Métro: Saint-Paul or Chemin Vert. InfoTel.: 01 44 59 58 58..

Café Metropole Club 'Updates'

To acquaint yourself with last Thursday's club meeting, read the club's true first 'Club Mutiny' report.

The coming meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 14. March. Thisphoto: flooded speedway, right bank will not be identical to last Thursday because every week has a brand-new one, with this particular one having a Sainte-Mathilde's day.

The right-bank's speedway last week, before the Seine began to drop.

Metropole readers with an urge to become real club members can see the few details available about this free club by speed-reading the large-sized fine-print on the 'About the Club' page. This page still needs its pre-updated map to be restored even if the updated one it has isn't terribly out-of-date.

How to join? Simply by being here! Being here on a Thursday is better.

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.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 6.11/12 - 12. March 2001 - This issue started with the week's Café Metropole column, titled, 'About To Go Missing' - already, yet again! - and the 'Au Bistro' news column was titled, 'Historic' Win for Left In Paris.' This issue had one feature titled 'Paris 'Thephoto: fire alarm post, sapeurs, pompiers Nearly 'Best' Café.' This double issue's first update for the Café Metropole Club meeting on 15. March was called the 'First 'Urban Legends' Report.' The 2nd update on 22. March was titled the 'Crawfish Are Fit to Eat' report. The week's 'Scene' column was titled 'Two Weeks Worth, No Less.' There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned, "Attention! Fingers!" The on again, off again 'Photo Page' appeared, titled 'The Passage des Marais.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 5.11 - 13. March 2000 - This week's Café Metropole column was titled '5 Years Online.' The 'Au Bistro' column was titled 'Here Comes the Queen Mary II.' This issue had three features, titled 'Exhibition: Front-Page Freedom,' 'The Whipped-Cream Strawberry-Topped Deep-Fried Mars Bar' and 'Music, Rum, Music, Sun, Fun and More Rum' by Linda Thalman. The Café Metropole Club update for this issue on 16. March, was called 'Cuba Libre' At the Club.' A club page announced, 'Not Bubbleware, Champagne.' The 'Scene' column was very exciting again with, 'Fous' In Fayetteville Help Replant Versailles.' The usual four 'Posters of the Week' were viewable too and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was completely philosophical, with 'Don't Monkey With the Press.'

This Year's Struggling 'Count-Down'

There are only 295 days remaining in this year. This means the 'euro 3 signuro' currency has been around for a whole 70 days and as of a couple of weeks ago, it is France's and Europe's only currency, except for exceptions.

Many week's ago reader John McCulloch proposed some new count-down topics. His suggestion of Victor Hugo's 200th birthdate need no longer be kept in mind because it was on Tuesday, 26. February - which is, as you will surely note, now past. John also proposed counting-down to Alexandre Dumas' - the elder! - birthdate.

Now Jim Auman has come along and congratulated Metropole on having a 7th birthday while adding the Dumas name, so I will add his mention of Alexandre Dumas too this week. It could catch on.

Jim writes, "Another possibility for a count down - the year 2002 is the 200th anniversary of Alexandre Dumas père, who was born on Saturday, 24. Julyphoto: sign, rue sevigne 1802 at Villers-Cotterets.

"Although his son is better known, Dumas père is the author of the 'Trois Mousquetaires,' which according to the 21. February edition of L'Express, is the second most widely read book in the world after the Bible. Another countdown is the date of the possible transfer on Dumas' remains to the Panthéon this autumn."

From today, Dumas' birthdate is 162 days off. About the 'possible' body transfer in the autumn, the number of days until this happens is a bit cloudy, so the number to remember, at least until tomorrow, is 162.

Okay, readers! I want every one of you to get at least 93 percent behind this 'Three Moustaches' countdown. It may not change your life, it may not change your perception of Paris, France or the French or the quality of 'frites' here. The idea is to have a honest countdown with a real person - who happens to be dead, but is still a best-selling author - without tricks or flim-flams.

Set your watches, turn over your egg-timers, tune your video-recorders, get a red marker to 'X'-out days on your calendars, and start counting- down now!
signature, regards, ric

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