Techno BOOM Techno BOOM

photo: cafe atmospheres

A café handy to the Canal Saint-Martin, but not
right beside it.

Potluck at Alice Gray's

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 16. September 2002:- At noon today the sky is cloudless, from top to bottom, from edge to edge. This isn't what the newspaper's map showing the forecast suggests it will be, but reading the little blurb that goes with it says otherwise.

For northern France, this is the paper's prediction for the whole week. Temperatures will not be high. You can expect them to reach 22 and fall off to 20 by the week's end. For the southern half of the country the outlook is less rosy, with poor weather sneaking along the edge of the ridge of the Pyrenees, from west to east, to dump on the Mediterranean as far as east of Marseille.

Tonight's TV-news weather is about the same, but doesn't go beyond Thursday. It starts out with a narrow end of a funnel south of Brittany which widens out from Alsace down to the Alps.

During the week this funnel comes under poor-weather pressure from both north and south, making it narrower - and cooler. Sunballs go from mostly big and fuzzy down to mostly covered with clouds.

As usual, the actual weather may turn out to be better than this sounds. It usually does. But after Thursday it will be better or worse. I promise but make no guarantees.

Café Life

The Triple-Boom Show

Saturday was - another - bit of summer displaced into September, but there was thunder in the air as if an Airbus was attempting a landing in my courtyard. This was puzzling at first, mainly because I doubt more than a nose-wheel would fit in the space.

Under a gloriously blue sky above the avenue I only slowly became aware that the 'thunder' wasphoto: balloon, bon concert coming from the Place Denfert-Rochereau, Paris' number two launch spot for street craziness.

Up by the newspaper kiosk it dawned on me - this is before I've had any café jolt, the essential kick-start fluid - that it was Techno day.

I quickly did my shopping for Saturday night's Loto ticket, cheese - skipped the bananas because the line was too long - but got enough apple pie to last until Tuesday, and supreme of supremes, got my café.

Thus fixed, I threw myself into the Techno Parade 'coverage.' Rivers of fans pouring out of the métro exit explain why Denfert is a choice spot for parade launches - east-west, north-south, métro lines and the RER's 'B' line cross here.

Unlike the parade formerly known as 'Gai Pride' with its 'issues,' the Techno Parade is only about very loud noise. By 'loud' I mean somewhat way beyond the health-warning level, somewhat like water-skiing behind a fully-tanked transatlantic 767 using full-gas on takeoff, with its afterburner turbo-chargers cutting out and in.

And all these city kids and kids from the suburbs being there, to be covered in layers of an illegally-loud sound-wall, protected by dozens of flics, emergency medical services, city street-cleaners and dozens of hot sausage vendors and peddlers of Techno Parade t-shirts.

It's a hellva way to start a good-weather weekend. Twenty semi-trailers loaded with huge speakers driven by tens of thousands of watts of amplifiers, four-metre high stick people, balloons, messages to George W, anarchistic 'statements' of dance power - wow! - the whole thing sanctioned by the city and the Min. of Cult, not forgetting to mention Techno's patron saint, Jack Lang.

C'mon Paris, it's a beautiful Saturday in September and we're all back in town, fully rested after a strenuous summer in the sun - it's time to boogie to Bastille - show the Louis' the 'why' of the Révolution. "Laissez Nous Dancer !!!" - yes! - with three exclamation marks. Like boom, boom, boom.

Today's reports have said 200,000 took part in Saturday's parade, and some probably went on to the dozen of more 'afters' that were programmed, including ones that presented prizes for the best 'boom-booms.'

Potluck Chez Alice Gray

The invitation advertised 'multi-cultural,' and following details asked for food, so I took a semi-kilo of big olives, half from Nice and half 'Andualucian' - meaning they contained about the same large amount of garlic.

Alice Gray's métro station closes at 20:00, so I came out of the Europe station, not hearing Heather and Claire behind calling my name because they were whispering it instead of shouting 'hey! stupid!' which might have got my attention.

We found the right 'alley,' did the left turn at the end of it, punched in the code beside the green door on the right, went through halls, courtyards, followed paths - until we were no longer in the 8th corner of the 9th arrondissement, but in the 'Nouvelle Athènes' part of it.

This brought us up to a house in a garden with a huge cobblestoned patio, open doors, lights, lots of on-timephoto: techno float people and an incredible selection of food and drink, as well as one of the hefty Chihuahuas - a 'club' member! - with a four-color fluffy tennis-balls thing that it didn't really want anybody to throw, so it needn't chase it.

One of the boring floats - they are called 'chars,' which means tanks.

Right away a new arrival let her poodle lick my nose. It licked every nose that got close enough. There were either more people than food or the other way around, so I had one of my olives for a half hour. My glass of grape juice lasted the same amount of time. When I went to get more, the plastic jug was gone.

Almost everybody there, mostly between the ages of 25 to 35, but going up to 85, were multi-cultural. This meant their southern accents - southern France, southern Central Europa, southern USA - were all modified by Manhattan experiences.

All except for one French fellow who had spent a lot of time in darkest Africa in the oil game. He was the only one I met with a Bombay gin-and-tonic moustache - "Without it, I've got nothing!" - who had mutated himself into the TV producer trade. He will be trying to raise money for 'French Exception' productions.

I think the ladies outnumbered gents by two to one - like Paris, like Manhattan - and more were arriving at fashionable 'on-times' for Paris, so some of them told me a lot of their stories, but it wasn't a 'club' meeting and I didn't take notes.

Ah, one - I have it on the highest authority that the capital of China is named Beijing because it is Mandarin, and is not 'Peking' because Brits think it should be Cantonese, and persist with it, even though the Mandarins reclaimed Hong Kong some years ago.

But mostly, there were a lot of people getting to know a lot of other people. This means that many conversations were about where everybody else was from rather than where they were.

For example, Anna Eicher was born in Austria, went to school in Munich, grew up on Manhattan's west side, and decided she preferred to be a European who helps multinational companies find lodgings for their managers in Paris. Our common reference was Seimens, for whom I was once a 'gastarbeiter,' and for whom Anna now finds suitable flats.

It turned chilly on the cobblestones. Getting out of Alice Gray's hidden paradise was harder than getting in - who could remember the directions backwards and in the dark? Then I couldn't get the pedestrian gate open to get out.

I was rescued by an attractive lady lawyer - from Manhattan - who showed me the gate for cars was open. Because the nearest métro station was closed, we walked down the Rue d'Amsterdam to Saint-Lazare, found the métro entry with a bit of bystander help, and took the same train to the Quartier Latin, and I stayed on it to Montparnasse.

If you ever get invited for 'potluck' at Aive Gray's, make sure to carefully write down the directions before going there. Be prepared to meet a lot of ex-Manhattanites. Some were born in the Bronx and some speak Mandarin, and some are both.


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