"Don't Forget Napoléon!"

photo, group, chris, joesph, polly Chris, Joseph, and Polly, unprepared, in the Group Photo of the Week.

First for a Number of Major Firsts

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Thursday, 29. August 2002:– It could be the most dismal Thursday in August this year. Nobody knows what to do about it. Neither does the weather.

As these reports usually do, they take the weather by the neck and wring it. It is important to do this today because it is undecided whether it should be flat, boring grey, or clear up as if nothing was wrong, and beam on the city like it is a lily.

It is really struggling to do this as I am on my way to the club. Underground in the métro it is not easy at all to see this heavenly tussle going on, and when I emerge from the pits of Châtelet I see that nothing much has changed since Denfert, and the struggle is still going on – although there is nothing whatsoever to actually see because it is overcast.

The big but involves the temperature, which has, as predicted, climbed quite a bit above 20 degrees and might even be hovering around 25. Maybe this will help the clouds dry out.

The other part of dismal today is that nobody knows what season we are having. Quite a few people on the Rue dephoto: chris landry Rivoli look as if they've showed up late for the summer sales, or they are a week or two early for buying their back–to–school, return–to–work, duds.

They walk along, half looking in the display windows, and some even stop and return for a closer look. But, as if they are near–sighted, as soon as they see the display is neither 'back–to–school' or 'return– to–work,' they return to their semi–aimless window un–shopping.

Like many others, Chris wishes one–euro pieces were paper notes.

By the Pont Neuf, visitors are standing around with more indecision. Should they cross the street and look more closely or not? The few of them, wait patiently for the 'green man' signal.

Drivers on the Quai du Louvre are equally listless. Without being plagued by 'Paris Plage' they seem undecided about whether they are angry with the traffic or not. If there are visitors who have finally decided to cross the street with the 'green man,' they don't even bother to nearly clip them.

Along the Quai du Louvre the terraces of the cafés are sparsely occupied by people too listless to get up and cross the street. Three–quarters of the Café Corona's terrace tables are empty, but when I arrive, the sun has finally overcome its feebleness.

I glumly enter the café, remembering that I haven't even brought any train timetables to pass the time with. The café's grande salle – henceforth to be called the 'salle du club!' – would be empty except for three lingerers who haven't raised the energy to leave yet.

This morosity is dispelled three minutes later by the arrival of member 199, Chris Landry, who joined the club on 22. March of last year.

Her number–one reason for being in Paris in this odd season is, she says, "To buy dishwashing fluid. I was washing the dishes in my sink in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and I saw I needed some more."

She also says it is humid in Baton Rouge, and that she doesn't have mosquito vaccine. "Nobody walks there anyway, so I go to a place to walk on a treadmill and walk up and down a stair–climber, in a little closet," she adds. "It is so boring. But not in Paris."

Then, since she became a grandmother two months ago, she shows me a lot of photos of herphoto: wine of the week, water granddaughter, who looks content about not having to walk on any treadmills. Chris says she doesn't like her booties much either.

New member Joseph arrives. He emailed me a couple of weeks ago from Honfleur, where he was waiting for some erratic slow boat to bring a container of furniture from the United States to Le Havre – to fill up his new apartment.

Unbidden, today's Waiter of the Week brings free café tap–water. Honest.

He tells a harrowing story about being in Harry's Bar on presidential election night from four in the morning until seven – waiting for the announcement of the winner. This shows that Joseph will be a good club member, because he didn't stay there a month until the results were final.

For the moment Joseph is retired from fixing up screenplays for folks in Hollywood. He says he is 'at liberty' to take on sailboat delivery jobs – and claims he prefers doing this to helping to write major 'cult' movies.

Chris tells us about the trip she is going to make next fall, to Helsinki, St. Petersburg and Moscow. Joseph offers friendly advice, "Don't forget Napoléon!"

He also has things to say about Paris. "Of all the big cities in the world, Paris is the most geared to pedestrians." Chris has more or less already said this too, but Joseph adds, "If I were Emperor of France my first decree would be to ban cars from all single–digit arrondissements!"

Another observation of his – "Americans don't always realize that small hotels here are not equipped with complaint departments like the Hyatt. And, if they borrow a towel to take home, they wonder why the French can think it rude."

This goes along with a different 'awardphoto: joesph system' theory. Small French hotels do not base their prices on tenants 'awarding' themselves with the hotel's towels, while American hotels include the cost of them in the room rates.

Just before five, at the far end of the 'salle du club' I see several–time 'Waiter of the Week Monsieur Ferrat pointing out the club's meeting location to a new member, who turns out to be Polly Platt.

"Europe's award system," Joseph says, "Doesn't include 'gift' hotel towels."
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