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.
Continued on page 2...
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