Not Short, Not Snappy

photo: cafe le naguere

This café closes at 20:00 sharp, like a ship suddenly torpedoed.

'Café Life' Is Like a Long River

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 18. November 2002:- My regular TV-weather news took a drastic turn for the worse tonight when France-2 TV failed to broadcast any news, and substituted their regular program of political bushwah, catastrophe, war, famine, shipwreck - there have been a lot of these lately - and tributes to Johnny Hallyday, with a dubbed US-made police special task force TV-episode of a hostage per week situation.

So I had to watch the guy on the other channel, and watch the other channel's weather at the end of the news, which had its share of shipwrecks too.

Short and snappy, just like on TV, here it is. Tomorrow will be grey, overcast and a bit chilly in Paris. Same thing for Wednesday, with rain threatening, but a couple of degrees warmer. Ditto Thursday, with the announced rain. We are having the mother of Novembers.

'Au Bistro' Blues

I had five photos ready to go and two major stories. They are, fortunately, now written and 'Au Bistro' is online at long last. Evenphoto: cemetery montparnasse, vavin I was beginning to miss this news column - partly because things are getting wacky in France again - so I did it on my 'day off' and you'll find it in its usual place, right after this column.

My new view, with a moment of afternoon contrasts.

You will also have to be content with re-runs of the 'Scene,' 'Noël 2002' and 'Mois de la Photo' columns. Hey! Did I do all these? What makes me think I can update them all every week? Wretched excess, only wretched excess.

Not exactly as always, my excuses. Or as the French say, 'Pardon!'

Café Life

My 'Exceptional' Landlord

When Wednesday started out, all I had on my mind was emptying boxes. I am playing a long game of musical boxes and I'm not sure I'm winning.

In order to get all the boxes out of the bedroom so the new bed would fit in it on Thursday, I had to empty boxes in the living room so I could put the bedroom's boxes in there, so when the delivery bedmen came they would have some place to put the bed.

After its installation, then I could put stuff I'd taken out of boxes under it. Plus, there's some other stuff that won't fit anyplace else. For example, I have a life-ring from Hamburg that doesn't fit into anything. I cleaned it up and left it in the bathtub - where it kind of looks okay. It wouldn't be much help hidden under the bed.

I also found a mirror and I put it in the bathroom too after cleaning it for 30 minutes. It's not quite high up enough. I can see from my belt buckle to my knees in it.

I was so busy doing this I almost didn't hear my landlord knock on the door. When I finally got to it and opened it, he was looking a bit worried. He didn't know the door buzzer in my last apartment didn't work either. On the way in I pointed out that the buzzer isn't attached to anything that buzzes or rings.

He said that I am supposed to have a key for a mailbox downstairs. The building's management - some offshore company in Panama - has said getting me a key might require changing the mailbox's lock, and this, um, is pretty tricky to do without having at least one committee meeting.

The real reason is if I get a new key - meaning new lock - then all the other tenants without one will want one too. The other missing key fits some mystery door that allows an entry for bicycles into the courtyard, where there is a shelter for them.

I went through the garbage room to park my bike out there. As far as I am concerned, the mystery door is a myth. I have looked for it on the street around the corner and I haven't seen anything that even faintly looked like a door belonging to my building.

My landlord said he will try and get me a key because pushing a bike through the garbage room isphoto: samaritaine window yukky. I agreed with him. It is even yukky to go in there and put garbage in the bins. On Wednesday I had already put 48 kilos of paper into the one for papers, cardboard and empty orange juice bricks.

All Paris department stores have their windows decorated, but I haven't photos of them all.

Next on the agenda was the TV antenna. Up above what must be the eighth or ninth floor, there is a beautifully high antenna - with a 'tabac' sign attached - to catch hertzian TV and FM radio transmitted from the Tour Eiffel. I should get 101 percent reception.

I checked it on the map. From my front window, the Tour Eiffel is just to the left of the Tour Montparnasse. It must be on an eyesight line. I wonder why I can't see it. Maybe it has shrunk. When the fog lifts in February I will try to see it with binoculars, even though they do not get radio reception.

About the antenna that's built in - France Télécom came along and put in their cable. My landlord, in a fit of enthusiasm for 'Noos,' switched the apartment's hertzian antenna off and wired up to the cable - with the result that my reception is less than 50 percent perfect.

While the landlord was showing me the antenna or cable box in the garbage chute room that he 'fixed,' the next door neighbor left his apartment, and they had a big, friendly reunion.

When asked, my neighbor said he gets worse TV reception than me. He gets none at all. He was annoyed. Nobody took me seriously when I suggested getting a little 'balcony' antenna. This ought to work because our front windows are in-line-of-sight with the Tour Eiffel.

But the landlord said he will try and get the building's management company in Panama to allow us access to the building's rooftop antenna. He says they aren't very responsive though. This was all very friendly - I'd already told him I don't mind squatting in an unattributed mailbox without a key.

Like not having a door buzzer, I didn't use my last apartment's mailbox key either. Who would steal my mail? For what? The France Télécom bills? This reminded me to put a sign on the door for the coming bedmen - 'Frappez fort, SVP.'

I showed the landlord how I am going to install a bar in the wardrobe so I can hang clothes in it. He said he took out the one that was in it, just like he dismantled the bookshelves in the living room, that covered the whole back wall, floor to ceiling.

He stood in the living room and admired the view of the sky and the cemetery. He said the view is the same as when he lived here for 20 years. I believe it. Nobody moves cemeteries in Paris anymore and the sky is almost always moving.

He made a list of all the things to fix. Some will get fixed and some will remain good intentions. I've talked to other people and none of them have ever heardphoto: fiat 500 of the week of a landlord who would even make a list.

Then he remembered that he had one spare invitation to Wednesday evening's vernissage of the 'Paris Photo' salon and offered it to me. He gave me name of the guy who handles press stuff for the MEP too.

Say you missed the 'Fiat 500 of the Week.' Say this one isn't the best one around.

After he left for his next rendez-vous, I emptied another dozen boxes, threw big and small books and software boxes on shelves, and cleaned all the hifi speakers and the big TV that is not even plugged in, and found yet another box full of big books. I was getting here - I could see the floor in spots.

Continued on page 2...
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