Doze Turns To Daze

photo: cafe le buci

More happy voters rewarding themselves for doing
their civic duty.

Shocko Horror Election Show

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Tuesday, 23. April 2002:- It is a good thing I got too sleepy to write about the weather yesterday. If I had, I would have repeated the predictions for beautiful weather, sunny, over 20 degrees, from today to Thursday.

Seeing the weather forecast last night made me cautious though, because the skies beyond Thursday were blank. That was a bad sign, a sign that 'beautiful' weather predictions don't have much shelf-life. And what lies beyond Thursday could actually creep-back to Wednesday.

By being a day late I don't have to revise the forecast. It is now downwards. I now have 'beyond Thursday,' and it is not pretty. Expect a five-degree temperature dump for Friday, down to the mid-teens, accompanied with murky skies for the coming weekend.

If it turns out better than this, pretend I said so and give credit where it's due. If you don't want to do this, see this week's photos - of last weekend - and pretend that they'll come again when you happen to be here.

Shocko Horror Election Show

This was Sunday night's TV fare, which featured the surprise results of the first-round presidential electionphoto: cafe deux magots on Sunday. Yesterday the papers were full of horror, shock, and rejection of the unexpected results - that showed Jacques Chirac in the lead to succeed himself, facing a 'come-from-nowhere' ultra right-wing Jean-Marie Le Pen.

By this morning the first answers to the question 'why?' have begun to appear in the press. A hint of what is to come was on last night's TV-news.

Saint-Germain in the grip of a sunny Sunday.

But first, the past needs a closer look. While late polling results showed a significant rise in the intention to vote for the National Front leader - it seems as if nobody, me included, bothered to go out to the 'province' and find out what the ordinary folks are thinking about.

Last night's TV-news showed a clip of a village to the northeast of Paris where Le Pen's score was about 35 percent. Eager reporters talked to the inhabitants on Monday and none would say who they voted for.

One can assume that if they have been reached by any polling organization before the election, they would have been equally mum.

So the questions were rephrased. 'What was bothering them?' The few who would talk said, 'immigration' and 'security.'

The word 'immigration' in France does not mean thousands of 'boat-people' landing on French beaches daily. It means people who do not look like a stereotype of somebody French. In other words, 'immigration' is word implying fear of strangers. The people who talked to the TV reporters could not point out any strangers in their village, other than the TV people.

The word 'security' in France really means a fear of 'insecurity,' of the sort to be found in the vertical slums looming outside most of the larger towns in France. These can be 'insecure' because there is nothing much for youth to do in them.

The village visited by the TV reporters had no slums around it or in it, and its mayor said it was a pretty quiet place. It looked like dogs would be perfectly safe dozing in the noonday streets.

In any case, even though these two keywords are favorites of Le Pen's, he did not harp on them during the election campaign. People remembered - long memories! - that these have been his constant themes for the past 46 years.

Le Pen Causes Insecurity

The first effect of Jean-Marie Le Pen's score on Sunday came that night when spontaneous anti-Le Pen demonstrators filled up République and Bastille, and the Boulevard Beaumarchais that joins the two places. Other gatherings occurred in many major French cities and there were no major incidents.

The anti-Le Pen demonstrations, mostly by youths, continued around France on Monday. At Bastillephoto: 2 fiat 500s of the week & one mini last night, a gathering of more than 10,000 - this time accompanied by CRS riot police - degenerated into street fights, with bottles being thrown at the police and the police responding with tear gas. A dozen were arrested.

Two Fiat 500s braket a Mini, for a major triple 'First of the Week.'

Outside of Paris, it has been estimated that 100,000 took part in demonstrations yesterday. In Tours, there were 12,000 in the streets, and José Bové urged them to be there daily.

While the first street demos caught the police by surprise, they are now prepared for them. Perversely, it is these political displays that will attract 'les casseurs,' who will show up merely to break things. The police will make no distinctions for those caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

An 'Interesting' May Day In View

This year's traditional May Day parade by students and workers is likely to be hugely amplified by political events, coming as it does only five days before the second round of the presidential election, on Sunday, 5. May.

Jean-Marie Le Pen has also called for his party's faithful to take part in the Front National's traditional May Day parade in Paris, from the statute of Jeanne d'Arc at the Place des Pyramides on the Rue de Rivoli, to the Opéra.

Jospin Quits

This has been explained as the reaction of an honest man to a severe political 'slap in the face,' for which he has decided to take personal responsibility.

Ordinary voters, not just PS supporters, see it differently. They think he is wrong not to fight back. There are many who feel abandoned, left with only the choice of voting for the right in order to prevent the election the extreme-right.

A final note - out of 28,502,455 votes cast on Sunday, Jean-Marie Le Pen only attracted 194,558 votes more than Lionel Jospin.

'Café Life'

Lit. Life In the Bouquet, II

The romantic 'Lit. Life' continued in the Bouquet last week with the reappearance of Elizabeth Wassell and John Montague to sign Dimitri's copies of their books. This could have been quite interesting if it hadn't been 'shout night' again in the café.

As far as I can tell 'shout nights' are unplanned occasions. Normally there is a fair crowd in the café in the evenings, but occasionally more arrive than usual for their final going-home beverages, and the animation becomes so vibrant that it becomes an impromptu party.

Having serious lit. discussions under these circumstances is almost impossible without doing them in a shout. I find this hard on the nerves, or hard on the hearing, or just plain hard.

In contrast, the many other cafés in the Rue Daguerre are quietly reasonable, and mostly pretty boring. The worst of all are the ones where everybody is supposed to be self-conscious.

Informal Survey

While big news organizations can put platoons of reporters into the field to get the measure ofphoto: car free expressway, right bank, sunday the public's pulse, this magazine has no such resources.

All the same, I felt it was my duty yesterday to gather public opinion about Sunday's election result. The first I asked, one of my neighbors, said he had voted for Arlette Laguiller because she fought the good fight and deserved a reward for running for president five times.

Then he added, "I think I may have made a mistake."

Paris' right bank speedway is open to strollers and rollers again on Sundays.

Dimitri, who is ineligible to vote, wondered if he shouldn't move to... "Where?" Then we discussed the problems he is facing with his project to gild the horsemeat butcher's horseheads, decorating the shop's awning.

The third opinion was, "A safety-valve popped open." I'm still trying to figure this one out even if it seemed to make sense at the time.

Events In Paris

This year's presidential election seemed, before Sunday's upset, to be a straightforward affair - to be followed by the usual straightforward hoopla of parliamentary elections.

The last time Paris had a springtime like this was in 1995. François Mitterrand stood down and Jacques Chirac fulfilled his lifetime dream of becoming Président of France.

Events this year are likely to be singular, if not exciting. While the final outcome may not be a big surprise, what happens between today and Sunday, 5. May might be worth, may demand, more frequent updates to regular issues of this magazine.

According to French news sources, foreign media reports may be somewhat alarming. 'Newsweek,' for example, has a full-time journalist here who regularly files reports from France, but 95 percent of these are 'spiked' by editors in the United States. The other five percent are rewritten there, according to offshore perceptions of France.

To the press in Britain, so close, so far - France and the French remain largely incomprehensible. This is understandable because the French are not British, Britain is not 'on' the continent, and because of Waterloo anyway.

While the United States and Britain have chosen what they perceive to be their 'futures,' France has not yet done so. At this moment it is unknown if France will make a choice this spring, or put it off until another date, or put it off forever.

If this spring is going to be a real thriller or be like a flabby gasbag with a slow leak, is yet to be seen.

Café Metropole Club 'Updates'

If you missed last Thursday's club meeting 'report' you can catch up with club news by hitting this link to the first 'Extinct Volcano' report.

The coming meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 25. April. The club's 'Saint's Day of the Week' next Thursday is Saint-Marc's day, which is no longer Victor's Hugo's birthday as everybody knows perfectly well.

Readers with an irresistible urge to becomephoto: place dauphine real club members can easily grasp the few minor details about this free club in 29 seconds by reading the large-sized fine-print on the 'About the Club' page.

A 'village' in the heart of the city - in the Place Dauphine.

Want to join? Do it simply by being here! Being here on a Thursday with a saint's name is even better and every Thursday has at least one. How to keep up with club 'news' is even easier, because the reports about it go online right after the meetings.

Record 'Metropole Paris' as one of your favorite bookmarks to save yourself typing out its overly-long name every time you feel like reading a club report.

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.

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'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.'

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This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 6.17 - 23. April 2001 - This issue began with the week's Café Metropole column, titled, 'Lucky Poster Tour' and the 'Au Bistro' news column was titled, 'The Bridges of May.' This issue had one book report and interview, titled '21,173 Meals In France' adds up to 'French Fried' by Harriet Welty Rochefort. This issue's update for the Café Metropole Club meeting on 26. April was called 'The 'Sidewalk' Is Not Cricket' Report. The week's 'Scene' column was titled 'Paris Tangos Again.' Therephoto: sign, pont neuf, 1834 were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned, 'How French Toast Was Invented.' A photo page featured 'The Tower and the Flame.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 5.17 - 24. April 2000 - This week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'Update: Promenade d'Australie Opens.' The 'Au Bistro' column's title was 'Blast Kills McDonald's Employee.' This issue had three features, titled 'Galleries That Aren't,' 'Quercs' of The French' by Badger and 'Olive Oil Is Good for You' by Catherine Thevenin. The Café Metropole Club report for this issue on 27. April, was called 'Two of New York's Boroughs Honored.' A club page announced, 'A New 'Class' of Members.' The 'Scene' column was numbered again with, 'One Two, One Two Three.' The usual four 'Posters of the Week' were on view too and Ric's Cartoon of the Week had the caption of 'Our Late Egg-Bunny.'

This Year's Snivel of a 'Count-Down'

If this were yesterday, there would be only 253 days remaining in this year. This means the 'euro 3 signuro' currency has been around for a whole 113 days now and is not yet eligible for the 'first 168 days' routine.

Despite other pressing event dates, a count-down for Charles Lindbergh's solo arrival in Paris after a 33-hour non-smoking flight without movies or commercials from thephoto: tiles, atelier, rue campagne premiere United States is currently underway. He landed without a visa for France at Le Bourget, on Saturday, 21. May 1927. This was 75 years ago and this anniversary is 28 days from today.

For another, closer, date, the second round of voting for France's next Président is only 12 days from now, since it is Tuesday already. Newspeople here are no longer asking Arlette if she'll feel bad if she steals votes from Lionel Jospin. She isn't talking about it anymore.

The 14 other candidates have finished slugging it and have returned to their regular professions as civilians or politicians. This magazine thanks all of them for the show they put on, proving that France is neither black nor white.

Wind your clocks right up, turn over your egg-timers now, get a black - Black! - marker to 'X'-out days on your calendars, and start counting-down. Especially if it is until the time you arrive in Paris.
signature, regards, ric

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