A Strange Thing Happened

photo: cafe de la place, edgar quinet

At ease on Bastille Day at Edgar Quinet.

On Bastille Day

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 15. July 2002:- Two weeks ago I was moaning like I always do about July's start-up weather and if there had been an issue last week I would have been doing more of it.

This must be pretty tiresome to read week after week and if you are thinking of coming here to get a tan I am pretty sure you will be somewhere else by now. Of course, if you live in some nice-weather zone you might prefer Paris' decidedly temperate climate - partly because very little of it needs to be air-conditioned.

Even the TV-weather news people have got the glooms Their summer replacements haven't shownphoto: jeep of the week, montparnasse up yet and they are having a hard time sustaining their 'nice-weather- is-around-the-corner' optimism. Their grins are cracking.

The 'Jeep of the Week' - on Bastille Day no less.

Since I may have you pretty depressed by now, just let me say that - traditionally - nice-weather is 'around-the-corner.' Why, only tonight the forecast is for the west to clear up and for the temperatures to rise above 20.

For part of the coming week, rotten weather will be thrashing eastern and south-eastern France. As far as we are concerned in Paris, these places may as well be in Siberia - and they probably wish they were.

Let's see now. I've got highs of 24 from tomorrow to Thursday, with a fair amount of bright skies. The warmest place in France on Wednesday should be Nantes. If you don't know this town is exposed to the chilly Bay of Biscay, then you should look it up.

On this upbeat note, I will leave you to think this positive news over, and go and haul out my flimsy summer shirts and begin scraping the rust off them.

Café Life

The Flat Hunt XIV

Since this was on the top of my mind two weeks ago and in the lead position here, it may be as annoying for you to read about it again as it is for me to write about it.

So I will make it short. I saw some apartments for rent. Some I saw on purpose and some I saw by accident. I also got my tenant's 'dossier' in the best order possible - for me - and no sooner had I done this - on the same day I was told it was worthless.

This was something of a majorphoto: creperie of the week setback. You can't get an apartment here without having the equivalent of a financial 'BAC.' To get one of these you don't have to be incredibly smart but being very rich helps a lot. In fact the best 'BAC' for prospective tenants is being able to buy the apartment you want to rent.

I put this nonsense out of my mind and went to the library and got an incredibly thick and incredibly badly-written 'airport' book. It is so bad is isn't worth burning, but it is perfect for putting me to sleep quickly.

Crêpes on the street - instead of hog dogs.

Unfortunately, doing the above for the past two weeks rendered my awareness of the rich fabric of 'Café Life' down to almost nothing.

The actual high point of it was Dimitri showing me a postcard a friend of his made up and mailed to him - that used the cartoon 'A Postcard from Dimitri' that ran in this magazine late last summer.

So long as I am managing my time so poorly that I can't do new cartoons some weeks, this has given me the idea of re-running the original one, followed by the 'borrowed' one.

In fact, I am seriously thinking of dropping this whole crazy one-man magazine idea, and just doing postcards of 'Café Life.' With this modest ambition, I might actually get to actually live some 'Café Life.'

And this reminds me to warn you that the photos in this issue, if they look like they were taken on sunny days - they were. There were two of them I think. They might have both been yesterday.

Again, also, despite good intentions, there will be no 'Au Bistro' column this week. Until yesterday there wasn't much in the way of silly news - except for the eternal discussion about a possible amnesty for José Bové.

This leaves the one item, and it is:

A Strange Thing Happened

A good number of televiewers got up early enough yesterday morning to warm up their TV sets so they could see the annual Bastille Day parade in Paris. I wasn't quite to fleet of foot, so I think I only saw the last 20 minutes.

Not so strangely, it looked like the parade last year, and the year before that. But somebody interrupted the standard parade commentary for a split-second, to almost casually comment that the guy who had taken a pot-shot at Président Chirac, was safely in the hands of the police.

This slipped-in comment was followed by a continuation of the standard parade-fare of chit-chat and then the bearded Foreign Legionnaire engineers marched past the presidential viewing stand and the ceremony was over for another year.

Jacques shook some hands, got in his presidential car and whizzed off to the Elysée Palacephoto: sidewalk cafe of the week a couple of blocks away, to host a garden party for about 5000 close friends who mostly had medals of one sort or other. Other distinguished guests included the cadets from West Point and the visiting NYFD officers and men and their families.

Remembering the little aside, I paid more attention than usual to the evening's TV-news. It featured highlights of the parade and key parts of the interview the Président had given to the three main TV channels shortly after noon.

Paris has sidewalk cafés so long as there is enough sidewalk.

I don't remember much about the rest of the 'news,' but the incident of the shooter was probably aired in 45 seconds or less. A voice-over did say none of the three journalists had the nerve to ask him how it felt like to be shot at during their interview with the Président.

Today is another matter. All the front pages say something like, 'Attentat Contre Chirac' in very big and bold type. this type is not so big as the typefaces used by the British tabloids - it is probably not much bigger than the New York Times' biggest type.

The shooter is now being held in the criminal police's psychiatric lock-up. The reports say this is to find out if he is nuts, and whether he is or not, to prevent him from bumping himself off.

The guy, whose name is supposed to be Maxine Brunerie, legally bought a small bore semi-automatic .22 rifle and two boxes of .22 Long-rifle shells for it a week ago. He test-fired the gun and returned to the same store and bought another box of shells.

Then, yesterday morning, he carried the rifle in a guitar case to the edge of the Etoile, where the stairs go down to reach the Arc in the centre, and waited for Jacques Chirac to ride past, standing up in the open jeep-type army vehicle.

This tour of the Etoile is done in the opposite sense of the normal traffic flow - clockwise - so the president's jeep passed fairly close to the point where the shooter was waiting.

At the right moment he opened the case, raised the rifle, aimed, and fired twice in the direction of the president.

Three bystanders instantly hitphoto: saddest fiat 500 of the year the shooter on an arm, a Canadian tourist named Mohamed Chelali slapped the barrel of the rifle and another pushed it high. The shooter clung to the rifle. So did the bystanders, and one grabbed him by the neck.

Right here, one time only - the sorriest 'Fiat 500 of the Year.'

Several CRS troops were nearly as instantly on the scene and they plastered the shooter to the ground. He was handcuffed and quickly bundled into a CRS 'salad-basket' and whisked off to the Quai des Orfèvres.

There he was examined by a doctor who decided he wasn't injured physically. Upon questioning by Police Judiciaire investigators, the 25 year-old shooter apparently said his intention was to shoot the president and then himself.

This is not normal behavior for citizens of France, so he was handed over to the psychiatric unit instead of being placed directly into police custody, or 'garde à vue.'

The Président was unaware of the incident and was only informed by telephone 90 minutes afterwards, by the Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy. Chirac, riding towards the Elysée in his bullet-roof Renault, is reported to have said, "Ah, bon?"

The distance between the shooter and the president might have been 100 metres, or 150 metres as reported by tonight's TV-news. A bit far with iron sights, but close enough.

TV-news played a clear recording of the shots, wondering if the second one wasn't a echo of the first.

When Jacques Chirac was first elected Président in 1995, I was at the Etoile and on his round of hand-shaking, I was within 20 metres of him, with all exposures in the camera already taken.

The beginning of the investigation today has turned up that the shooter has a fairly long history of belonging to extreme-rightist groups. Nicolas Sarkozy has demanded a complete report within eight days. The PJ and who knows how many spooks started tearing the country apart yesterday.

Café Metropole Club 'Updates'

If you are again distracted by sports news, I can understand why you haven't had time to read last Thursday's club meeting 'report.' In case this is the case, you can catch up with your club's news by hitting this link to 'A Bungle of a 'First' report, and nobody will know the difference.

The coming meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 18. July. The club's 'Saint's Day of the Week' next Thursday is Saint-Frédéric's day.

Readers who want to become real club members can scan the few minor details concerning this freephoto: bike of the week club in 14 seconds by reading the large-sized fine-print on the 'About the Club' page and maybe scraping the virtual membership card off the screen.

Some Parisians treat the Fête Nationale as any normal bike day.

Joining is no more than easily simple. Do it by being here! Being here on a Thursday is even better. Keeping up with club 'news' is no great chore either, because the reports about it go online right after the meetings, right after I finish writing them slowly. You can read them in this magazine, which is online too.

Save 'Metropole Paris' as one of your favorite bookmarks to avoid mistyping its overly-long name every time you feel like reading a club report, or a regular edition like this one.

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This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 6.29/30 - 16. July 2001 - This double issue began with the Café Metropole column's breathless 'Bigger Yawn Than Last Week.' The 'Au Bistro' column raved about the 'Lost Rave Party Found.' This issue had no features ofany kind. But it had updates for the Café Metropole Club meeting on 19. July, called the 'The 'Frites' of the Week' report, followed on 26. July with the 'Steamy Meeting' report. The week's 'Scene' columnphoto: sign, rue andre gide was headlined 'Something for You Rain or Shine.' There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned, 'Is It 'Ed?'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 5.29 - 17. July 2000 - This week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'Travel Tales.' This week's 'Au Bistro' column headline was 'Incredible Weather Bombs Picnic.' The week's feature was about Canada for a change, with the title 'More Trees Than People - Oh! Canada In 2000.' This started the 'more trees than...' wave. The Café Metropole Club first update for this issue featured Linda Thalman's report, "Full House." The following 20. July meeting's report was, 'Métro, Clubo, Dodo.' The 'Scene' column was skipped on account of jet-lagism. The usual four 'Posters of the Week' were on view nearly as usual and Ric's Cartoon of the Week had the caption of 'No Smoking, Remember?' Nobody in France is responsible for anything after 15. July.

Silly Countdown To Sunday, 13. July

Despite a couple of semi-important upcoming dates that could be suitable 'countdown' candidates - only two of them are here this week, both for cultural reasons.

As of today, there are only 169 days remaining in this year. This means the 'euro 3 signuro'photo: light pole decor currency has been around for a whole 196 days now - more than exactly six whole months! - more than long enough for everybody to treat it like regular old money.

This week's second countdown is to Sunday, 13. July, which is only 364 days off. This date is the eve of Bastille Day 2003, when most of the cultural street parties and techno sessions take place, regardless of the weather permitting, with the official stuff happening the following day.

Of course, if you've just gotten through this year's festivities, I can understand why you might think this countdown is a complete bathtub full of hogwash, which it is.
signature, regards, ric

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