Only Six Days To Go

photo: place vendome, 18.12

The Place Vendôme at sundown last week.

'Café Life' Is All There Is

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Wednesday, 25. December 2002:- The only businesses open near where I live are the cemetery, my all-round-use-café, and a couple of boulangeries. Well, there are a couple of fruit and veg groceries open too, selling water, but it is not like there is a lot of commerce going on.

It is, since it is not raining, a perfect laundry day. Looking over its coin apparatus carefully, I see it takes notes as well as coins. Luckily I stocked up on coins yesterday, because I have no notes today. My bank is being very tight with them.

Its ATM starts out offering me 300 euros. If I choose this option, it makes a counter-offer for 15 times 20 euros. If I accept this, it says I can choose any amount between 60 and 120 euros. If I choose 120, then it says I have exceeded my limit. Then it spits out the plastic.

Actually, this has been going on for a while, so I phoned my bank about it and they said they would let me havephoto: dehillerin pot shop an additional 100 euros if I waited until Sunday. I got this amount, but yesterday all I could get was 60 euros. Just you try having a magnificent Christmas in Paris with 60 euros and see how far you get.

One of the many pot shops visited a week ago.

Oddly, my landlord phoned the evening before Christmas Eve and asked if the TV antenna was working yet. He said he had sent letters, faxes, emails and had phoned the 'syndic' about the matter. He asked me if I wanted my door buzzer fixed too.

What a wonderful landlord! I thanked him and declined, because the driver-lady who has been bringing the chair I am trading a TV set for, phoned just before to say she really was going to make a dawn pass in order to do the switch.

This time it worked like clockwork. I have my comfortable chair at last, one TV set less, and the TV reception is even a little better - so good that I can read the temperatures displayed by the TV-weather news reports. On top of it, I can swivel really good now.

This issue - which you might notice is not a regular one - began with a request relayed from a Café Metropole Club member - for a photo of the Place Vendôme. His Parisian cat-minder in Hollywood wanted a reminder of Paris at Christmas.

So, exactly a week ago I was in the Place Vendôme waiting for it to get dark enough for the lights to come on. After looking in Bulgari's window, I discovered a Swatch watch shop nearly next door.

Yessir, Swatch sandwiched between Bulgari and Cartier - almost - in the Place Vendôme! I had to go inside the place to find out why, so I kinda of thought this story might become a full-sized article with the history of the place and everything, because there is an exhibition in the place too.

But there was the chair and the TV and the door buzzer and a couple of other things. Ah - the Swatch shop - yes, it is in the Place Vendôme with all these other world-class high rollers because the Swatch watches sold in this particular shop are sold only in this particular shop.

You could say it's the most ritzy Swatch shop in the world. The watches themselves are genuine Swatches, costing no more than at other locations. But. Here's the big 'but.' These Swatches in the Place Vendôme are the only ones exactly like these Swatches. They are 'unique,' as their minuscule brochure explains. This is the only thing it does explain.

I'll skip the part about looking for the beautiful, triangular, yellow sign, that shows a man getting hit by a bolt of lightning, in the basement hardware department of the BHV. I'll skip some other parts too like the display window with Elvis dressed as Santa Claus, and jump straight to my first visit ever - ever! - to a flea market.

This was close, at Vanves, so it was raining. After passing 486 metres of stalls full of junk, I found the exactly right coat rack for my hall - that I hadn't really been looking for. Chromed tubes, with a rack for hats, hooks for coats and an adjustable mirror - perfect!

Being a flea market novice, I cleverly left this heavy treasure to get a good look at the remaining 486 metresphoto: fruits, marche of junk, before returning 486 metres from the far end, searching the opposite stalls. And you know what? Some lousy amateur snatched it away. Then the dealers packed up their fleas and quit for the day.

For people seeking more than tangerines.

On the way home I came across the famous African music shop - actually, only 250 metres from where I live - it's been there all this time. From the few moments I was inside, I gather that there might be a lot of dancing in Africa.

Oh, I looked at pots too. In dozens of places. Paris has a lot of pot shops. This was another day - ah, the day of the almost unfound Place Vendôme and the photo of nostalgia.

Almost equally unfound, was the airport bus stop at Porte Mayo, to pick up my kids from Dublin. If you go in the congress centre there, nobody knows where Air France is - so it seems logical that airport buses from Ireland can be just as hard to find, if not harder.

In town to get low price video games from Fnac, the kids were disappointed to find that we have expensive euro prices here too - a fact apparently unnoticed by the 7945 Parisians crowding the store's four floors.

After skating around the city's lake with an ice bottom at Montparnasse, we went to Tati where we found the baggiest pants in creation - size 50! - for only a tiny fraction of the Dublin price. The day was saved! And equally saved by pizzas the size of '34 Packard limo hubcaps, and a lesser amount of 'Thaifood' the following night.

After the biannual ritual viewing of 'Pulp Fiction' - to memorize all of the dialogue we have a copy of the script as an aid - we watched the longest movie in history of the world, the one that was withdrawn from distribution in the United States because it showed immigrant German-speaking settlers roller skating in Wyoming.

Well, it was a whirlwind visit, topped off by a good game of pinball yesterday. I was told that Dublin has no cafés to speak of, and none of its pubs have pinball machines anymore.

This brings us up to today. I am sitting on my snazzy chair - it swivels in two directions! - but I have not had time to listen to my gift of a used CD featuring Cheech and Chong's 'Greatest Hit.' I can't wait to hear the 'Sargent Sadanko' bit again.

A lot of people think Cheech and Chong made stuff up, but I know Tommy Chong was there in person whenphoto: kids shoes Sargent Sadanko led the Horsemen's undercover narco squad, helping to stamp out terrible crimes committed by enterprising young lads working their way through college.

New bags hide shoes just as well as old bags.

It has been a wonderful Christmas here in Paris. Maybe it has been a bit too wonderful - I have 78 photos of it all, and all of them have to fit into this 'Café Life' column, because this is all there is going to be.

For readers who have been wondering about the weather, I have mixed news. At the flea market last Saturday it looked awful, but during the pinball yesterday it was great. Today is just so-so without rain, without sunshine, without being too cold at all. Isabelle, on France-2 TV-weather news tonight, says it will stay the same.

Café Life - Is Above

Metropole's Holiday Issues

Last week's thin issue 7.51 is merged this week with issue 7.52, which consists of holiday related 'Café Life,' entirely on this page. There are two new posters too, on a different page.

The following issue 8.01 straddles 2002 and 2003, but for unrelated reasons it may simply appearphoto: iceskate montparnasse as an update to the double issue 7.51/7.52, thus making it Metropole's first three-issues-in-one in the history of the Internet.

Free skating at Montparnasse, with 5euro 3 sign for skate rental.

'Ed' suggested that the club's secretary would be 'on holiday' for the meetings scheduled for Thursday, 26. December and Thursday, 2. January. A couple of club members wrote to say the secretary should 'get lost' and hinted they would 'get even' later.

The first 'complete' issue of 2003 will be number 8.02 and it will appear on Monday, 6. January. This will probably be a multiple-week issue too, with highly interesting reports and features from New York City, including some of its famous boroughs like Coney Island.

See this issue's 'contents' for information about the Café Metropole Club as well as the most recent club report. Also see this page for a link to the latest news about Café Metropoleô Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine. Ditto for the 'Extra-Special Multiple-Time Offer.'

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 6.51/52 - 17/24. Dec 2001 - This issue, like all others, began with the Café Metropole column with the headline, 'The Weather, Coluche and the Euro.' The 'Au Bistro' column's headline was, 'More Than You Wanted To Know About You Know What.' The update for the Café Metropole Club meeting on 20. December was called 'The Big 'Oops' of the Week ' report of the week. This double issue had a second club report for the meeting held on 27. December, called 'The Stereo New York-Paris' report. The issue's 'Scene' column doubled its value with two columns crammed into one, with, 'Christmas - and New Year's 2002.' The week's four new 'Posters of the Week' were present and Ric's 'Cartoon of the Week' had the caption, 'Seasonal Greetings, Sincerely.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago + Week

Issue 5.51 - 18. Dec 2000 - This week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'Bigger Than My Head.' The 'Au Bistro' column was absent again on account of legless legwork. There were two features, titled 'Paris' 'Little Belt' Tram Line' and 'Réveillon' - Midnight Supper.' The Café Metropole Club had two updates in this issue, for 14. December, with the oddly titled, 'Adrian Leeds' report and on 21. December with the '"What Happened To Roissy's Rabbits?" report. The 'Scene' column was replaced by Eva Lee's 'Conspiracy of Flop' email musings. Thephoto: sign, fin du marche des puces four new 'Posters of the Week' were featured somehow and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Watching Out for Speedbumps.'

This Was Metropole Exactly Two Years Ago

Issue 5.52 - 25. Dec 2000 - This week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'Minuscule Holiday Issue.' The 'Au Bistro' column was absent again on account of mininess. There were no features, but there were two 'Scene' columns titled, 'Better Late Than Nothing' and 'New Years 2001.' The Café Metropole Club's update for 28. December, had the "Look for Our Photos!" report. The four new 'Posters of the Week' were again featured somehow and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was mis-captioned 'Metropole's Greeting Card.'

Next-to-Nothing Count-Down

The number of days left to go until we get a new year, which is almost dead-certain to be 2003, is only six! This is really very few days left to go and frankly, doesn't allow time to start a new count-down here or now.

Even though this feature of your weekly online magazine about Paris is one of the most popular, it hasphoto: pinball wizards only one known reader - who is also its main contributor, besides 'Ed.' This is completely normal for Internet Life and for the time of year.

On behalf of the entire staff of Metropole Paris - online since 1996! - I wish to thank all readers and all readers who have written to express their appreciation of the magazine, or ask tricky questions like 'what pay can they expect if they work here.'

Free games galore for pinball wizards from Dublin.

The Café Metropole Club is thriving, and its members number 437, more or less. This may not seem like a big number but if you consider that all of you converted yourselves from being spacy electron-like virtual readers of an online magazine into being real, live members of the magazine's club in Paris for its readers, then the number is still 437. The club's secretary is not sneezing at it.

It has been a difficult year for the magazine, partly because it remains seriously unfunded, but mostly because it took about six months to find a new physical home for it. The search ended successfully, and the new chair will make a great difference too.

In November, Metropole Paris lent its name to the new Café Metropoleô Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine. This is made by expert winemaker Allan Pangborn, who is a long-time reader of the magazine as well as being a paid-up member of the free Café Metropole Club. Shipping problems and less than instant payment methods should be resolved positively early in the coming year - which means soon.

Meanwhile, there is room for improvement of the content of Metropole Paris. I hope to get around to this soon or one of these days, whichever comes first. Along with a lot of readers, I hope 2003 will be better for all of us than the present year has been for some of us. Thanks for reading - and thanks for your support.
signature, regards, ric

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