photo: cafe des phares, bastille

'Philosophers' watching the Saturday demo at Bastille,
in comfort.

Meet Flat Stanley

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 29. April 2002:- I guess everybody is anxious about the state of politics in France and I should start with it first instead of bothering with the weather forecast because it isn't much good anyhow, but old traditions are often the best ones even if they are old and die hard, and besides - you may be wondering what to wear on May Day if you are visiting in town and intend to help out with the May Day festivities, which I think you probably should do if you haven't ever taken part in any street demonstrations with about a quarter-million other people lately. A chance like next Wednesday's doesn't come along every day.

I've already said the weather isn't expected to be much good on May Day. Only yesterday the TV-weather guy was holding out a bit of hope with a 'partly-cloudy,' but as of today this feeble optimism has evaporated - possibly because the weekend weather guy has finished his shift - so the regular guy is back on, without good news, without trying to put his best face on it as he usually tries to do.

Inside the red circle I've drawn with a Bic pen around Paris on Wednesday's weather map there is rain falling in the north, and a cloud with aphoto: metro train, line 6 lightning bolt lying on top of it in the southeast, and the edge of a cloud in the east, another in the west - and right in the middle there's a weird arrow making a left-hand curve from west to north, and below it some type says '70 km/h.'

See this week's 'Scene' column for another way to ride the métro's line 6.

Then there's an oval with a nine in it on one side, meaning nighttime, and a 15 on the other side, which is blue, meaning daytime. Add it all up, and it comes to average weather for April showers, if a bit on the chilly side.

Mind you, this is the best forecast for the week. Tomorrow is crummier, and Thursday - well Thursday just shows everything sinking into a drizzle of printed grey with falling temperatures. For Friday, the grey is more morose, and the logo for rain is back, with one lump of it lying right on top of where Paris would be if there were any place names on the Parisien's weather map.

It looks like the return of the dark ages, but the forecast stops on Friday - so it is impossible to tell if it might be total night by the time polling day arrives this coming Sunday.

Could the Parisien's little headline be right? 'Vous ne verrez aucune différence.' Or does it only refer to Friday?

Café Life

Flat Stanley

Most of France was in a daze last week, so there was all the more reason to have a bit of idle and harmless 'Café Life' especially since it wasn't programmed. As it happened, it was a continuation of the previous week's 'romantic Lit. Life' in the Bouquet, continued a bit further.

This probably occurred because it was 'shout night' again in the café. I had no way of knowing or knowing if this was a co-incidence, and Dimitri is so used to it that he can't tell whether it is happening or not.

The visiting 'Lit. people,' Elizabeth Wassell and John Montague, thought it was loud, and said so. When it is 'shout night' it is about the same as trying to have a conversation while your car is at the wrecker's getting crushed, and you are inside it.

I did manage to hear that Elizabeth's niece Melissa had sent her 'Flat Stanley,' because she wanted him to see Paris. If I heard right, Stanley got flat when a heavy piano fell on him.

This of course made it easier to put him into an envelope and mail him to Paris instead of buying him an airplane seat ticket. Elizabeth thought it would be neatphoto: elizabeth, didier, flat stanley, vin des rues to turn Flat Stanley into a kite and fly him around the Luxembourg a bit, but in the end we took him across the street to Au Vin des Rues, because the food is better and it is closer.

If I compress this story a bit, I'll say I photographed Flat Stanley in front to the restaurant and sent the photo to Melissa because it was her 8th birthday. She had sent a complete biography along with Flat Stanley, but it has escaped me on account of 'shout night.'

Didier holds Melissa's Flat Stanley For Elizabeth in front of the Vin des Rues.

At first I thought I was going to take him to a Café Metropole Club meeting so he could become a member, but on thinking it over I decided that the limit should be babies and dogs. Of course, since the club does have dog members, if any cats show up they will get equal treatment.

What 'They' Are Saying

If this column started off with 'daze' in the weather section, this is a good place to add 'bewilderment.' While organs of the press have taken the trouble to tell the French that France got on the front pages of the New York Times and USA Today, both in the same week, and for the same reason - most people I talked to seemed to care more about what is happening here than what the New York Times thinks is happening here.

Less thoughtful people - such as students who are too young to vote - and who probably didn't pay much attention to what their parents intended to do, or not do - suddenly popped up all over France carrying signs saying 'Shame.'

Other people, newspapers, radio and television, solemnly reminded each other that it is well-known that France has a permanent 20-percent segment of the population that is very conservative, very afraid - of the future - and extremely angry.

Since everybody 'knows' this, it shouldn't be too surprising that more extreme political movements get more votes fromphoto: book, the thing he loves, by elizabeth wassell everybody who may be 'dissatisfied,' especially when voters think the first round of a two-part election process is a mere rehearsal, rather than an elimination, for the second round.

Elizabeth's book - buy it, read it.

So, a week ago Sunday, a lot of 'dissatisfied' voters decided to send 'signals' to the people who run France. However, mathematics stepped in and short-changed one of these 'signals,' allowing an unwanted one to get enough of an edge to slip through.

The students picked up on this, and since they were on holidays from school anyway, they took to the streets all over the country. Some towns outside of Paris had their biggest street demonstrations in 40 years.

In my own corner of the planet, in Paris' 14th arrondissement, Lionel Jospin led the polling, closely followed by Jacques Chirac, and very distantly followed by Jean-Marie Le Pen. The green candidate, Noël Mamère, out-polled the leading far-left candidate by over 100 percent, and was only slightly more than one point behind Le Pen.

All in all, leftist parties out-polled all parties of the right by more than four points. The big, and surprise, loser in the 14th was the Communists' Robert Hue.

Aside from this poor showing, voters in the 14th seemed to be truly surprised at the national outcome of the first round of balloting.It would seem as if this 'corner of the planet' does not know what is going on.

Continued on page 2...
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