A Small Issue, For a Change

photo: cafe deux magots

Cozy St. Germain, where everybody used to sneer
at Santa Claus.

Chaos On Haussmann

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 9. December 2002:- The weather here has been truly unremarkable. Day after day the sky is grey and low and it is getting colder by degrees. One degree less than yesterday, and one degree less tomorrow. Slight differences of feeling are caused by the wind.

The nights are unremarkable too. They are simply dark. If it were otherwise, the nights would be remarkable. I haven't been going out to check the nighttime degrees, but I suppose they are less than the daytime ones.

Tonight for example, degrees are supposed to be minus one. I can believe it without going out. There is a little wind from the north, so a little bit of it is coming in from the direction of the cemetery. It is keeping my ankles cool.

Let's see what else there is. The low clouds are affecting the TV-news weather reports. These are so blurred that I can't see the little round dots with the temperatures anymore. I can't see if they are blue 'minus' dots either. Sometimes all the color disappears and there's just horizontal black and white lines. When it does this, there is no sound either.

So I look in today's Le Parisien. This is getting good reception and its weather forecast is in true newsprint color. Its audio part needs perfection though. The five cent raise didn't improve the paper. But its still a better deal than the Figaro.

Oops. It says minus three for tonight. Plus two for tomorrow. There's a strange arrow that indicates that France is blowing wind at the channel. I wonder if this is the same wind that was in my face when I walked down to Denfert.

There's a joke in this. Wednesday's map shows a sunflower-like sunball over Paris. From what littlephoto: rue daguerre I saw of the TV's guesswork, Wednesday will be characterized by clouds of black smoke over the entire centre of the country - except up by the border of the country next to France.

The Rue Daguerre tests its new set of lights.

Once when there was no visual on TV, I heard it say 'rain from the west' for Wednesday. This was followed by another joke which said sun from the west on Thursday. By long-standing custom, Thursday is Paris' bad-weather day. If kids are let out, they should wear life-jackets.

In Le Parisien, each day's weather map has its own little headline. Whoever does this has to do it daily, and has to think up something new every day even if there is nothing new. If she or he sees one sunball in the region of Calais, the headline says, 'Le soleil fait de la résistance.'

In the rest of the country, even the half-covered sunballs are grey. It means that I can begin taking nighttime photos anytime after 15:00. If you are a fan of winter, Paris is a good place to visit right now.

Café Life

Chaos On Haussmann

If I were a private person I would only go to see the department store Christmas windows on 15. August. This is the only date in the year when you can be sure that they won't be mobbed.

But I am not a 'private' person anymore. So each year at this time I trundle around to all of the shopping palaces, to try and capture the essence of them as they try to bamboozle consumers into the Christmas spirit of having loose wallets.

It seems to me that when I started this some years ago I was somewhat disappointed with the Christmas windows in Paris. The department stores seemed to rent one window to toymaker 'A' and another to toymaker 'B.'

This is not the case anymore. The stores either let their own window dressers pull out all the stops, or they bring in hired-gun designers to do their windows. Even the BHV has three or four decorated windows - none with an explicitly Christmas theme. Just decoration.

Anyway, since I am doing these rounds, I didn't bother to think about the implications of going to the Boulevard Haussmann on Saturday afternoon. I'm not sure if the other 100,000 people who were there did either.

But there we all were. With the low clouds it gets quite dark before the street lights come on. The sidewalksphoto: printemps, saturday are narrow and cluttered with construction wreckage. The street is wide and full of mad motorists. Pedestrians were using the bus lanes.

And within this seething mass of humanity there were parents who had brought their very young children, to show them the windows. Humanity can be quite fearless at times.

In the thick of the Saturday battle of the Christmas Windows on Haussmann.

Somehow nothing bad happened. I didn't step on anybody and nobody bumped me too hard. It's amazing how many people can squeeze into a fairly small amount of space, get to see what they can, and live to tell about it - if they remember it being unusual enough to be worth re-telling.

My only bit of advice is to try to view the windows on Haussmann sometime between eight and nine in the morning. If this sounds unlikely, then head for the Bon Marché on the left bank.

It has more decorated windows and a wider sidewalk, and there are not so many other big stores next to it. But don't - don't - try to drive anywhere near it for the next two Saturday afternoons.

'Strike of the Week' Squeaks In

While making breakfast yesterday morning I was running the day's photo assignments through my head, vaguely thinking I had better hurry up or I wouldn't get the 'wine shots of the week' if I let the marché close without getting them.

Absentmindedly I turned on the radio to France-Info. Just in time to hear that disgruntled teachers and 'angry' parents were gathering at Denfert-Rochereau for their 'Demo of the Week.'

On a Sunday? On a cold, damp, grey Sunday, maximum three degrees, nearly no light and only 17 shopping days until Christmas, including the open Sundays, the first of which was yesterday. If sensible people weren't going shopping they were probably staying in bed all day.

Down at Denfert, thirty minutes before the announced start, the place was mostly empty except for a fringe of early arrivals and their balloon trucks and some grilled sausage stands. Civilian cars were still filtering through - very carefully - because some of the marchers were acting as if they already owned the place.

There must have been 15 police motorcycles neatly parked in front of the place that used to be a big pizzeria, but is now some kind of 'Indiana' restaurant, without a bar. The cops were on the avenue in force directing the arriving buses where to unload their demonstrators, and where to go afterwards.

Teachers and parents seemed to prefer buses, because I didn't see any hordes strolling downphoto: teacher demo, denfert, sunday my street from Montparnasse to Denfert. But hordes were pouring out of the métro exits and congregating in departmental groups, or according to which union they belonged to.

The rails guys had red flares, the teachers have pastel balloons - but it's still a 'demo.'

Of course, with far fewer cafés open, it took determination to get space enough to have my Sunday café in the café Rendez-Vous. Regularly groups of a dozen wearing badges and carrying flags would cram in the door, to either find a rare spot, or turn around and leave empty-handed. It was - er - like a bus station.

After I finished my marché photo business and was up at the upper end of Daguerre getting my Sunday bread, I could hear the sounds of the 'Demo of the Week' half a kilometre away.

News reports later said the score was 'only' 30,000 for the parade. However this was a good turnout for a crummy-weather Sunday in December.

This was a relief for the Minister of Education, Luc Ferry, who said it wasn't a strong turnout. He could have left it like this, but felt it necessary to add that the parade had included 'Trotskyist leaders' and that the movement was divided between extreme leftists and leftist-liberals.

This is the minister who has just sacked 5000 young school-watchmen and 20,000 teacher's aides. Many young people with these five-year contracts were expecting them to be rolled over into permanent jobs in the education branch.

Now, with many just short of the age of 30, they face unemployment with exactly no credit for anything, and next-to-nothing for unemployment benefits because they were paid the minimum wage or less.

The right's logic on this is that they are better off unemployed than under-employed. The watchmen are being replaced with video cameras because the right's uppermost preoccupation is 'security.'

'About' Café Metropoleô Blanc de Blanc

There are a few more words about Café Metropole Blanc de Blanc in this issue. Winemaker Allan Pangborn took some Café Metropole Blanc de Blanc to Las Vegas for a holiday, away from the boring 'Shed.'

Café Metropole Club 'Updates'

Follow this link to last week's extraordinary "Rock of Cashel Set On Fire!" club meeting report, especially if you are interested in Ireland more than in club 'lore.'

All the mundane details concerning the club - actually somewhat useful - are handily available on the 'About the Club' page. If you think the virtual membership card may be valuable, you can attempt to pry it right off the screen and keep it next to you.

Joining your own free club is also mentioned on the same page. To save you a short hyperlink trip to it, all you need to know is - be up at the café on the Quai du Louvre in Paris known worldwide as the Café La Corona on any Thursday.

The coming meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 12. December. Thephoto: skating rink, montparnasse official 'Saints' Day of the Week' next Thursday is an extremely long name that nobody here can remember. Not this late on Monday, at any rate.

On ice in Montparnasse.

New readers of 'Metropole Paris' can save its URL as one of your favorite bookmarks to avoid snarl-typing its overly-long 'URL' name of www.metropoleparis.com every time you have an irresistible urge to read the club report about the meeting you attended, or a strike-bound regular edition like this one.

Multiple-Time Extra-Special Offer

The server-lady's 'Paris In Sites Newsletter' has not been plugged here for a really long time, and my 'café-credit' for doing so has expired and with the high price of café these days, I need a thousand new subs fast. 'Ed' in withdrawal is not a wholesome sight.

Linda Thalman serves no food or cafés as such, but runs Metropole's Web server. On the side she produces a Paris In Sites newsletter and a companion Web site. Hit the first to subscribe and the second to see the fuller Web version.

Linda writes about language, tourism news, events and stories from and about Paris and France. She also reports about her various travels around the world and to Saint-Rémy - hardly ordinary places. The free newsletter is sent by email every month and is worth much more than it costs. The coming issue is currently scheduled for emailing tomorrow.

The Web site version is more complete as well as being 'in color.' However, I only get the café-credits for subscriptions to the newsletter, so sign up for one tonight.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 6.50 - 10. Dec 2001 - This issue, like every other one, began with the Café Metropole column's 'Under the Weather Week.' The 'Au Bistro' column was substituted by 'A Christmas Present from Paris' Mayor.' Not this year though. This issue had one Email feature titled "Down, Way Down, Way Way Down." The update for the Café Metropole Club meeting on 13. December was called the 'Moyer-Moyer 'Meet of the Week' report of the week. The issue's 'Scene' column doubled its value with 'Two 'Scenes' for the Price of One,' followed by 'Thephoto: sign, promenade rene capitant Christmas Scene' to make a threesome. The week's four new 'Posters of the Week' were presented and Ric's 'Cartoon of the Week' had the caption, 'Was Only a Dream.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 5.50 - 11. Dec 2000 - This week's Café Metropole column was headlined 'Global Warming Rant.' 'Ed' was in a bad mood. The 'Au Bistro' column was absent for lack of legwork. There was one feature, titled 'Walking Like a Penguin,' which was about faulty legwork. The Café Metropole Club update for this issue on 7. December, was oddly titled, the "Mostly To Eat!" report. The 'Scene' column's headline was 'Last New Stuff of the Year' and Scene 2 had 'Paris Christmas Season.' The four new 'Posters of the Week' were featured but Ric's Cartoon of the Week was 'no show.'

'Butt-saving' Count-Downs

The number of days left to go until we get a new year, which is almost certain to be 2003, is only 22. This may not seem like many days left to go, and really isn't if you are counting them until the next time there are fireworks at the Tour Eiffel.

The count-down that was - was suggested by Jim Auman. He has been the inspiration for many past count-downs and some of the few popular ones, but in this issue he explains why there is no new famous event countdown in this issue because he is 'on strike.'

He got ticked off at 'Ed's' strike threat in last week's issue and I can't say I blame him. But when I look around here right now, I see that the planned 'Au Bistro' column is without one wordphoto: sign, bach, hendrix written yet - ideas, yes, but no words - the 'Noël 2002' events column is not complete, and I still have to write about the Café Metropole wine's visit to Las Vegas without ever having been closer to it than Seattle.

As a precaution against bleary eyes at 04:00 on Tuesday, 46 photos and images have already been uploaded to Metropole's server. Later this week the club 'report of the week' will be added, with its additional five to seven images.

I am not 'on strike.' It didn't used to seem like a lot to do two columns, two features, two events columns, a couple of poster pages and a weekly cartoon, with 50 other images, plus the various updates and archiving, but tonight it does. Luckily for me, it is Jim who has written about being 'on strike' in this issue.
signature, regards, ric

Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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