"Something Pulled Us Here"

photo: grande salle, la corona

The Corona's 'grande salle' on a day when Frence is playing football in Korea.

Why People Join the Club

Paris:- Thursday, 6. June 2002:- The weather is slightly thrilling. Big dark clouds come from the southwest, hanging below lighter clouds, and when they arrive one or the other drops gobs of rain on everything for 15 minutes or half an hour, and then we scurry around until the next batch lands.

Meanwhile the high temperatures are hovering around 18 or 19. Between showers it feels warmer, more humid - as if a raincoat is too much to be wearing. Since the tennis is still on at Roland Garros, I suppose it is perfectly normal weather for this time of year.

To be short and snappy about it, more of the same is expected too - according to today's Le Parisien. I can't be more precise, because I started watching a German film on Arte while waiting for France-2 TV to finish all of its after-news rubbish, and when I remembered to switch back, they'd done with the weather and were showing commercials for no-fat anti-wrinkle slim-girl yogurt again.

The weather was actually important today because France was playing against Uruguay in thephoto: peg whitehead World Cup, and this was being broadcast on outside big screens at La Défense and in front of the Hôtel de Ville.

When I got there, the entire place was full, and the overflow was backed up in the Avenue Victoria. There wasn't anything to stand on to get an overhead look, so I can't estimate how many people were packed into a square metre, but a rough guess says more than one. All you need to do is multiply this by the number of square metres.

Peg Whitehead does not believe the club 'focus-puller' is much of a techno-marvel. Nobody else does either.

Each time a French hero did something heroic, the whole crowd responded with a shout or a groan. It was pretty impressive, and I could still hear them over the noise of traffic at Châtelet when I hustled off to the club meeting.

Sportsfans will probably want to know that France 'won' by beating the Uruguayans, with a tie of zero to zero. On the other hand, this isn't too good for France because it has to trounce Denmark in the next match by two or three goals - or it'll be the end of the World Cup for the Bleus.

One result of all this excitement is the near absence of any customers inside La Corona when I arrive for the meeting.

When I ask Monsieur Ferrat, out on the terrace, where all the noise is coming from, he says it is the football fans at the Hôtel de Ville - which is a bit too far away to hear. I think they are polishing the face of the mint on the other side of the Seine.

Peg and Jim Whitehead are waiting for me in the café's 'grande salle' when I arrive. There are about 65 other empty chairs waiting for somebody too. Your club's café has no TV to distract the meeting's business, nor any to distract the crew of waiters who don't have any business.

Peg and Jim are from Newport Beach in Orange County, California. They became members of the club last year during a meeting in late April. They ask where all of the members are who were at that meeting.

They come to Paris fairly often, but did discuss going elsewhere this year. This didn't get too serious, because Peg says, "Something pulled us here." Yesterday, for example, they went up to Montmartre to look for Amelie's café, and found it.

This involved too much walking for Jim. He prefers riding a bicycle for local transport, but isn't ready to brave Paris' traffic.

I give the good pitch for the shared bus and bike lanes, and the closed speedway, and the routes along the canals on Sundays for folks on wheels, but I think he is going to keep on walking.

From one thing and another, I learn that Jim drives Boeing 757s and 767s for American Airlines from Los Angeles to Hawaii as a dayjob, which sometimes includes night flying over a part of the Pacific Ocean.

So he keeps a personal bike there for getting around during layovers, in addition to the ones he uses aroundphoto: wines Newport Beach. He tells me he got into the flying business by fixing airplanes. I always thought pilots had to be born pilots - like Roland Garros, who learned how to fly by watching the Wright brothers when they were in France.

Beginnings of club meetings usually look cool and under control - almost elegant

This leads, in the usual roundabout way, to learning that Jim may be the only club member who drives an Edsel when he needs to go someplace on an Orange County freeway without peddling too much.

He shows me a photo of it. It is a new-looking 1958 two-door hardtop model, mostly in red with the floopy thing on the rear fender being in white. He shows me the scar he got while extracting something from a junkyard for it.

Since we are short of members to disagree, I think this may mean that Jim is the club's 'first' known Edsel owner and driver. If Linda Thalman were here, I would ask her if she would consider changing the name of the Cadillac Ranch to 'Rancho Edsel.'

I also learn quite a bit of lore about Newport Beach, which is apparently plagued by fickle trees. The city council has voted four times for their removal, and now that they may actually get around to pulling them out so they can have flat roads and flat sidewalks - the tree-huggers are protesting.

I think Peg may have come to the meeting to talk about something else because, after surveying the members present, Peg says, "I guess we are today's only members."

I have a fair experience as club secretary and have memorized that there are 'no rules' until I know them off by heart, so I explain, "Some members only come when they're good and ready, even if it's after the meeting is over. There's time."

The Whiteheads are staying in a hotel down by the Porte d'Orléans, which is not too usual. On the other hand, I was down there yesterday looking at a dump of an empty apartment for rent, so it is not like it is the Siberia of Paris or something.

Their hotel doesn't have cable TV reception - possibly the only one in Paris without it - so I tell them about all the wonderful programming of the free access Arte TV-channel.

Peg looks very doubtful when I extol the virtues of being able to watch really gritty and hard-nosed movies in German or Russian or Turkish, with French subtitles.

Last week while writing the club report I even managed to tape Arte's broadcast of the 'Buena Vistaphoto: jim whitehead Social Club' film by Wim Wenders, which has a somewhat rare soundtrack in a version of Cuban Spanish, with the subtitles in French of course. Even the song lyrics have subtitles. The word for 'Candela' in French is 'bougie.'

Jim Whitehead drives Boeings full-time and his Edsel on weekends.
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