Amsterdam, Oh, Amsterdam!

photo: group, joe fitzgerald, petrie abberman, don smith

Joe, Petrie and Don find winter sun on the Corona's terrace..

'City of the Week' & 'First'

Paris:- Thursday, 19. December 2002:- The sky over the city has interrupted its about-to-be endless gloom with a surprise day of bonus sunshine and clear air all the way up to where it turns blue, to where the blackness of outer space is prevented from being daylight by our own sun's force which has randomly chosen blue for daylight's color. Thank your stars it wasn't green.

This means that heat is escaping - the breeze is a reminder that winter's official start is only 48 hours off - but it is a 'bonus' day and best not frittered away.

Because, the regular program - the ugly one that has been playing for about a week - returns tomorrow right after the moon finishes being full.

But not before tonight's full moon projects a blue-hued Euclidean skewed parallelogram that evolves into a trapezoid and back into a skewed parallelogram across my bed tonight between 00:34 and 02:18. It will be better than TV, but with very silent music direct from outer space.

After this, the moon will keep up its antics, but to see them you'll have to be flying above the clouds over Paris at about 10,000 metres - and, at the right time, sitting on the left side of the plane, of course.

After this, endless waves of clouds from the west, with maybe a bit of rain - but temperatures a 'bit warmer for the time of year' as the weather people are so fond of saying, without coming right out with how much 'better.'

So, therefore, and-so-on, I walk to the club's meeting today, almost along Paris' meridian line, straight north - past the Closerie des Lilas, into the top finger of the Luxembourg and through the garden itself, past the Senat's palace and under the arcade of the Odéonphoto: luxembourg garden theatre and down the rue after it and across the Boulevard Saint-Germain, and twist into the Rue Mazarine and follow it to the Institut and through the arch and come out in the sunshine again on the Pont des Arts.

The route through the Luxembourg to today's club meeting.

And none of this do I do so fast as to become breathless. Not a solitary soul is sitting out on the café La Corona's sunlit terraces. Not many unsolitary souls are inside either. I find last week's 'Waiter of the Week,' Patrick, and pass on Terri Blazek's Christmas gift to him.

Terri sent a 'care-for-the-club' package to the café last week so I could play Santa this week with its contents. It is not easy to astonish a Paris waiter as experienced as Patrick, but his gift does the trick.

The sun outside is very low in the sky, so it is beaming the dickens out of the café's 'grande salle' and the club's place within it. But it is rare, so it is welcome.

After putting in the meeting's name, rank and serial number - this club has 'serial' meetings in case you haven't noticed - today's edition of Le Parisien takes up my attention.

The Minister of the Interior, 'Speedy' Nicolas Sarkozy, is promising a miserable future for all excessive speeders and red-light runners. This is, if his trusty deputies can nail the evildoers, but the paper doesn't say this.

Before I can see if this is buried in the body text somewhere, Petrie Abberman from Amsterdam arrives. She would rather have sun on her face because Amsterdam is even gloomier than Paris, so she chooses to sit on the secretary's side of the club's table.

I explain the member's booklet to Petrie, and she immediately writes, "Quitter un pays morose pour Paris! Paris joli!" She adds that this is from Wilhelm Apollinaris de Kostrowitzky, who was called Apollinaire for short rather than Willy.

Petrie tells me she is a 'philosophy teacher' who is seriously thinking of switching to singing philosophic songs. This will, I think, put a serious dent in the wordless techno music business.

She also tells me about Amsterdam and its few fine seasons and I believe every word of it because I have been there in at least three of its not so fine seasons - including the disastrous New Years Eve thickly coated with black ice.

Just as Joe Fitzgerald and Don Smith arrive, Petrie tells me the Dutch solution for terminal fall-downitis on black ice - and this is to wear socks outside the shoes. I want to know if Amsterdamers are in the habit of carrying spare sets of oversize socks around in the winter.

Petrie says, "No." 'So much for the clever Dutch,' I think, 'they have to take off the socks they're wearing and put them over their shoes.'

Joe wonders if anybody makes socks big enough to put over car tires. In case anybody readingphoto: ms malou this thinks this subject is silly - in Europe back ice can strike at any time and it can be very tricky if not impossible to walk on - unless you are walking around Sicily.

Today's new, associate, member 'Malou.'

Petrie supplies a remedy for this horrible possibility - not the 'walking around Sicily' part - but by predicting warmer weather for Paris. Yes. Well. Hmm. Black ice seldom happens when it is ten whole degrees above zero.

Just so we 'get it,' she adds that, "Amsterdam may be damp in February, but Venice is worse." Joe agrees with this, but adds that it is difficult to get lost in Venice.

"I get lost there all the time," Petrie says. Then she draws a map of Holland in the reports' booklet, showing the relative locations of Amsterdam, Apeldoorn - no, Amersfoort - and the Waddenzee off the coast of Freisland.

Which leads, of course, to a discussion of how the Dutch handle Mardi Gras. Basically, they don't, but Petrie offers the interesting tidbit that Mardi Gras is an outgrowth of the 'donkey party.'

Don tells us his mission in life while he is in Paris is combining travel photos with food photos by, for example, taking a photo of a chocolate dessert before eating it. He says he 'finds' lot of stuff like this. 'Finds' it on his plate.


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