"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.

At 17:10, club member Randy Garrett joins the meeting with a wumpf. Right away the 'after' of the meeting starts popping because Randy says he lived on 'L' street in Newport Beach in one of his former lives.

I immediately want to know why some streets and avenues in the United States don't have names, but alphabet letters - like 'L' - instead.

There are no names like this in Paris. The closest thing to it, is when the numbers are being done and a whole building is overlooked - so they come back and give it a number like '33-bis' or '33-ter,' which come after plain old '33,' if you can find them.

Peg, Jim and Randy think I'm crazy not to love streets named 'L.' After pushing this subject back a forth a bit, they admit that Newport Beach's alphabet streets only go up to 'M.' Where 'N,' 'O' and 'P' would be is under salt water, that stretches beyond Hawaii, to China.

Changing the subject, Randy says, "You have to put in a little effort being here."

"Like, for shopping?" Jim wants to know.

Randy, who is not wearing socks to go with his hand-stitched saddle shoes, says, "It's the city of love. You gotta be romantic."

This is not something you automatically get with the brochures from the Paris Tourist Office on the Champs-Elysées. He is right. Being romantic requires being conscious of more than Napoléon's Tomb or the mummies in the Louvre.

Randy gives out shopping tips. "See my pants? 140 francs at Monoprix. I should have got two pairs! I went back, but they were sold out."

Peg likes shopping at Tati. It's even more chancy than Monoprix. You see something once there at an incredibly low price and if you don't buy it on the spot you'll never see it again. Buy dozens because going back is a waste of time.

Randy tells us about his plan to rent the Tour Eiffel - "Only 22,000 francs!" - for the US bi-centenary in 1986 to hold a barbecue party on its first or second floor for 500 entry-paying close friends - he wanted to see it smoking.

While that great idea fell through due to some local political brawl, he was asked later to cook up 250 kilos of barbecue ribs and chickens for Disney's opening in Paris.

He suggested where to set up his cook tent - it was raining of course - but Disney's people wanted him out of sight instead of at the opposite end of the mall-sized parking lot. They told him, 'nobody upstages Mickey.'

Their 'allowed' out-of-sight spot allowed the barbecue smoke to smog all the invites. "I smoked Mickey out!" Randy says gleefully. Do I have to remind anybody that Randyphoto: randy garrett has something to do with 'impromptu' bridge parties on the Pont des Arts on Thursdays at 20:30?

After the 'after' I am out on the Quai du Louvre and notice a truck illegally parked in the street, while the driver hotfoots it to the café for cigarettes.

I have just seen a regular-looking tow-truck parked in front of the café. But this second one, I see, is also a tow-truck - something in the big, sleek, Mercedes' class of them.

Randy Garrett agreed not to 'upstage Mickey.'

It has a beautiful two-tone paint job, some chromed wheels, and a stainless deck big enough to pick up an entire Mercedes 800 SiLK. It is spotless, plus it has a passenger cabin for stranded Mercedes' passengers.

The driver hotfoots it back. Yes, he says, it has a radio, it has air- conditioning - he cleans the whole thing himself, polishes it all over - who ever heard of polishing a wrecker? - with only 50,000 kilometres on it, and it looks brand-new, never used. Never raced. Never ralleyed. Maybe a new-version Edsel of the future.

The Coming Meeting

The next weekly meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 13. June. This will be a fairly usual 24th Thursday in the year 2002, named for the occasion for Saint-Antoine de Padque. This is not only a 'first' but true as well.

The location details for this meeting are below, followed or preceded by the multiple métro-stop names and all the date and time details, all of which have been identical for years, almost like this paragraph, which is not changed by a word or two this week.

The 'About the Café Metropole Club' Page

To find out how to become a member you may read the page called 'About the Café Metropole Club.' This page explains nearly everything you should know about this club - next to nothing - and its meetings - only a bit more than next to nothing.

'Club rules,' such as they are, suggest that if you feel like giving this 'About' page a pass - do so. All you really need to know is that you can easily become a member of this online magazine's live, free and real club in a jiffy by simply being at a meeting when you are in central Paris on a Thursday.

The 'Coming Meeting' Boilerplate

Meetings of this club in Paris begin at 15:00 on Thursday and continue until 17:00, still on Thursday, in Europe's Central European Time Zone - which is 'CET' for short and not 'BBQ' - and known elsewhere as 3 pm to 5 pm in worldwide zones without 'Metric-Eurotime,' which is now in its metricalor summer version.

The club's secretary will be listening to you at the same time as he is making some 'report' notes duringphoto: pots, glasses the meeting. This is seldom completely successful. Note your name, hometown, and your own email address in the members' booklet in case the secretary forgets to ask you to do it.

The meeting's mystery question - who used all these glasses?

Come with a new 'Quote of the Week' or propose your own 'City of the Week' or dream up any other original or amusing 'Things of the Week' if you want your envious neighbors to read them in a 'club report' associated with your name. 'No-names' is an option you can adopt too. Otherwise and in general, the only exception is 'no rules.'

Things you say may be treated with great respect and may be really appreciated by the other members present, if they hear them - and by all readers of this online magazine, if they read them - if they turn out to be written here.

The café's location is:

Café-Tabac La Corona
2. Rue de l'Amiral de Coligny - or - 30. Quai du Louvre
Paris 1. Métro: Louvre-Rivoli, Pont-Neuf or Châtelet.
Every Thursday from 15:00 to 17:00.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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