Brief Heaven for Ducks

photo: resto chez max

Chez Max in the 8th, a block from the Rue Tronchet.

Wine Again and New Features

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 28. October 2002:- On account of writing too much about last Friday's 'duck weather,' today's prediction is short. According to this morning's Le Parisien, today's weather is nice.

I confirm this by looking out the window to my left. There is a bright blue sky with a few fluffy, white clouds in it. This may become a bit dim tomorrow, outright dank on Wednesday, lighter again on Thursday, and semi-wretched next weekend. High temperatures will be about 13.

Tonight's TV-weather news forecast is completely different, because it is from 24 hours later. However it is completely unclear because my TV-reception isn't too good.

Café Life

Weather for Ducks

Normal in Paris is drizzle that can't quite make it to the quality of light rain. On rare occasions there are short but waterfall-like deluges, usually related to rapidly-passing storms. It's black, it's wet, lightening flashes, thunder rumbles, and the sun pops out again and everything is dry in a half hour.

Last Friday was different. It wasn't drizzle, it wasn't the flash-flood of a storm - it was steady and serious rain, coming down non-stop, gushing off overhangs and roofs, with dammed-up gutters, creating lakes around the garbage stacked in the streets because of the strike.

The outdoor marché on Friday was dripville despite the awnings. Awnings that don't quite reach, don't cover all, leaving plenty of holes for the rain to get through. My peanut man said it wasn't good for business, and he had been there since dawn.

When I was a civilian I was an umbrella guy. I had one of those big black jobs with a wooden handle - the kind you see in old newsreels of street meetings in Europe in the '30s. I don't know what happened to the last one I had, which I'd had for a long time.

It only took a couple in months in Paris to realize there is no serious rain here. But when there is, a café usuallyphoto: hediard grocery takes care of it. But I got caught out once and bought one of those flimsy fold-up ones. They are only on sale when it is raining, so they cost an arm and half a yard. I don't know where it went.

Since becoming the Internet reporter for Paris I've needed to have two hands free, so I switched to hats. Paris is a hat-zone so you can wear them everywhere, and keep them on because there are few places to hang them up besides on your own head.

A 'grocery' photo to illustrate the grocery feature that didn't get written.

It's not just kids who wear the baseball-style - or tractor-driver - caps, but all sorts of people, so I guess this is a reinforcement of Paris' status as a hat-zone.

But I tell you, Friday did not have normal rain. The over-sized tweed '20s-'30s style cap I wore kept my head dry, but it doesn't have much overhang. My jacket's pockets filled up with rain. After the turn around the marché and the tour of the shops, I felt like wet turf left out to dry out in an Irish yard.

Friday had the kind of rain that required hanging everything up to dry after the first tour, and putting on another dry set of outer clothes before going out again. It made me feel like one of those fancy gents who change their costume several times a day.

About sundown the sky separated into clouds and sky, and an hour later a nearly-full moon like a milky cookie rose up in the northeast from just to the right of the dome of the Panthéon, and kept going higher in a loop southwards. I felt like an astronomer sighting a 'found' planet for the first time.

Gizmo Heaven

Dimitri paid me a visit the other day. After I opened the door he was outside looking quizzically at my door buzzer that is not wired to anything. At the other apartment it was wired, but stopped working sometime in 2001. They both work the same - they do not 'buzz' or go ding-a-ling.

After admiring my big window's view of the trees and the cemetery beyond them, we stumbled around in the shambles of the bedroom so he could look at the wardrobe that is going to be partly transformed into a closet.

Dimitri said a broom-handle would do the trick. All I would need are a couple of gizmos to support it. Since I use my broom handles as broom handles, I figured I would need some kind of bar too.

After making this difficult rocket-science decision we went out for a café, stopping along the way in a tabac to get cigarettes. Before getting to Le Bouquet, we spied Dennis on the other side of the street striding purposefully along.

When he finally recognized his name he came over, and complained bitterly about waiting a half-hour for a lunchtime no-show. This got us into quite a long pow-wow about life's imperfections in front of a jewelry store. Dimitri fingered some imperfections in its outer woodwork.

With the chat business completed we were ready to continue the trek to the end of the block to the café, but the lady who runs the jewelry store came out to ask Dimitri what was wrong with it. Some nails or screws hadn't been counter-sunk properly. Good old Dimitri - he didn't offer to fix them on the spot.

Because he had a lunch date with the playwriter - whose play I haven't read, because Dimitri has toldphoto: garbage strike me it has had two more revisions since I got my copy. We had a long discussion about 'what to wear' in Moscow in December before I remembered that I should seek out the gizmos.

As soon as I took the 'garbage' photo, the good fellows called off their strike.

I wondered if maybe I could get these at a fairly near hardware shop, but in the end decided that I only wanted to look for them once - so I took the métro downtown to go to the BHV's basement hardware department.

If this is online when you read this, it is because I found some bar supports almost immediately, and near them I found a variety of metal rods, both solid and hollow. But I figured wood would be easier to cut to size, and I had to look around a bit to find poles or rods.

Luckily this did not take all day either. There are people who have gone to the BHV to buy a nail and search-and-rescue has been required to find them again.

The standard-diameter metre-long bar I found turned out not to have the same diameter as standard gizmos, but I figured it only has to support some shirts, so it doesn't have to be as solid as a Tour Eiffel girder.

I couldn't have been in the place more than 38 minutes, but it tired me out - yes, I did look at some other things I have never seen before in my life and don't know what they are for - so I forgot to bother going up to the first floor to buy a pencil.

If you are a 'tool' person if must be very difficult to stay focused in the BHV's hardware department. The place has everything, including a lot of non-household items. I was very tempted to buy a self-gluing yellow triangle sign for my bathroom door, with a warning something like 'danger high tension,' or 'no parking, sortie, day and night.'

But I didn't. I have one from New York here someplace that says, 'employees must wash their hands.' I had one from a hardware shop in Spain, saying 'Muy Peligroso!'

So I forgot the pencil. This issue doesn't need a cartoon. So I forgot to look for towel racks. I can keep using the broom handles for this for a while.

But on Sunday, because of the time being set back an hour, I got up earlier than usual and washed all the bookshelves in the bedroom and moved them into the hall, thus creating not only room in the bedroom, but places to put the books filling all the boxes that fill up the bedroom now.

This also creates room enough for Dimitri to screw the gizmos into the wardrobe, and then I can put the shirts in it and maybe have enough space to wash the rest of it before filling it with stuff I don't want to see again. I wonder if Dimitri wanted me to get the screws too.

Cocktails and Accordions

It was my innocent intention to have a café to break during a long Sunday afternoon of writing, when I ran into Dimitri in the Rendez-Vous. Looking irritated, because he was listening to a painter I have never talked to because somebody told me he's always complaining.

On my left were three jolly fellows. Two of them had their glasses refilled with Sallers, and Dimitri asked what it was like. The burley one invited him to have a taste and he said it was bitter - as anything made of the yellow-flowered Gentian, with the bitter roots, would be.

The drink identified them as possible Auvergnats, so Dimitri asked them if they knew the accordion museum inphoto: quais, bikes, rain Tulle. Part of this has the original shop transplanted from the Rue Saint-Martin, the 'Maison Cayla,' in it - which Dimitri knows because he has a big collection of 78 rpm Martin Cayla recordings.

But photos alone didn't stop the rain on Friday. It stopped when the garbage strike ended.

Two of the jolly fellows knew some of the words off by heart and let the whole café know it. Martin Cayla is a legend in the Auvergne and along the border of the Corrèze, even through he died in 1951.

When Dimitri mentioned the accordion maker Maugein, all three of thejolly fellows knew of it, and of some very strange stringed instrument with a crank, popular in Brittany. Later I tried finding all of this on the Web, but while Martin Cayla was 'findable' he doesn't seem to have quite the fan club that Dimitri seems to be.

Continued on page 2...
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