"I Learned to Read and Write"

photo: group, joe, anita, doug

Joe, Anita, and Doug's names all fit into this 'group
photo' caption, for a change.

'Thing of the Week' Is a True 'First'

Paris:- Thursday, 23. January 2003:- When I got back from New York yesterday it was still dark because it was about 05:30. At first it seemed as if France was 'closed' at Roissy's airport, but the frontier police finally decided to ignore whatever was bothering them, and let about 200 of us all-nighter flyers into the country.

I was even more surprised to learn that not much is open early in the morning. Luckily the most important establishment was, and I was able to have my first café in 16 days at the Café Rendez-Vous at Denfert. Whew! Now I know what drought is.

It was, therefore, some time before I noticed the weather conditions. Since these do not resemble New York's often blue-sky sub-zeros, I still don't know for sure about the weather except that there is no cold wind blowing crosstown from the East River to the Hudson in Paris.

Today's forecast in Le Parisien looks dubious. Tonight's TV-weather news looked even more dubious a few hours ago. Will this week's one sunny day be tomorrow or Saturday? Whichever day it turns out to be, I will be out in it taking the week's photos - to backup the next issue's photos, which were mostly taken in New York.

If it wasn't the Café Metropole's Club's meeting today I could tell you something aboutphoto: anita bennett these photos - something more than how my skinny fingers got cold taking them - but today is club meeting day, so they will have to wait until today's 'report' is 'in the bag.'

To the task at hand then - today's skies have no particular contours so nothing is missed by taking the métro to the club. In case I do not mention it elsewhere, the métro line four's station at Saint-Michel is closed for renovations.

Anita is taking wine courses at the 'Cordon Bleu' and looking forward to trying the Café Metropole sparkling wine.

The surprise about this is that when the train goes through the station there are actual workmen to be seen who appear to be working. This was never the case when the Cité station was closed - it is now open - but the train goes slightly too fast for underground 'sidewalk' engineers, so I'm not sure it is worth it to make continual round trips between the Cité and Odéon stations.

Anyway, as I was saying, I left town the day the 'Soldes d'Hiver' didn't start, and in New York I didn'tphoto: cordon bleu, vins find everything I wanted in the all-year 'Soldes de Toujours,' so I pop into Samaritaine where they have 20-percent off the 'Soldes d'Hiver' prices, and manage to find a sweater that has nothing off - full non-soldes' price in other words. What the heck! It's a nicer sweater than I could find in non-soldes times.

But she forgot to tell us how the 'course' tastes.

This reminds me of another thing about New York prices. I was going around thinking 'gosh, everything is so expensive here' - for about ten days until I realized that I should convert all dollar prices into euros. Golly! Some things are really cheap in New York! Four-block rides in Lincoln limos for only six measly euros, with Latino music thrown in for free.

The 'soldes' cause me to be late for today's meeting. It won't happen again. Soldes will, but I won't.

At 15:05 members Anita Bennett from Boston and Joe Fitzgerald are in the club's section of the café La Corona's 'grande salle' waiting more or less patiently for me.

Shortly after a short bit of chit-chat Joe says, "Ahh, that's good café!" I think, the club's secretary thinks, golly! At 15:10 we have the 'Quote of the Week' just because Joe has a café.

Joe asks Anita how she liked her lessons at the Alliance Française. She says they were hard - her class was driven hard. Joe agrees with this because he tried it too, until switching to another school in the 14th arrondissement. To myself I wonder, 'does the 14th lack for nothing?'

He says, "I learned to read and write."

Except for the club's French and Parisian members and my own kids, I have never heard of anybody learning to write French and I tell Joe this. While Joe finds this hard to believe - let me interrupt myself here to declare Joe's writing in French is the 'Thing of the Week' - he also says the 'dictée' is unknown to him. Anita hasn't heard of it either.

Anita says, "Why go through all that work when I have to go back to the USA?"

This may look like a 'quote of the week' but it is actually the 'Question of the Week.' Anybody who can write in French is practically a shoo-in for the Académie Française, even if they are never required to do it in the United States.

Joe changes the subject by mentioning a good wine he found at a Monoprix. He bought a bottle and it was good so he went back and bought a case. When that was finished he returned to get a truckload, but the Monoprix had run out of it.

When it comes to good wine, when Monoprix runs out of it, that's all there is. Joe says he's foundphoto: joe fitzgerald a good replacement at another chain, named 'Ed l'Epicier,' which is well-known for basic foodstuffs at low prices. This 'Ed,' by the way, is not related in any way to the secretary's boss.

Doug Fuss picks this moment to arrive and as soon as he shakes hands all around and sits down he says he's leaving because he's busy measuring the temperatures in his refrigerator.

Joe is the only man in Paris wearing next year's ultra-hip two-button jacket style.

He rented it along with the apartment he rents, and he has had to get it fixed, and this has not turned out to be easy. He says it is warmer than New York inside it. In fact, it is warmer inside his 'frigo' than Paris is outside today.

He is worried about it because he has to return to the USA soon, and he doesn't want to leave the 'frigo' in disrepair, because then he might be forced to seriously fix it by buying his landlord a new one.

Doug has a digital thermometre inside his 'frigo' and he is monitoring its temperature, to find out if it is changing temperatures at odd times, or having odd temperatures. All of this is so he can tell the repairman the symptoms, because the first 'fix' didn't take and the repairman obviously can't hang around all day measuring temperatures.

Then Anita says she has to go because she has to lug a ten kilo six-pack of water up six flights of stairs, because somebody else - a friend - is taking over the apartment where she's staying.

Doug says this should be called 'The Humanitarian Gesture of the Week' and Joe agrees. So Anita goes off and Doug and Joe talk about how romantic Venice is, especially if you take an overnight sleeper train to get there.

I don't know how 'romantic' this may be because both of them go into all their stories aboutphoto: doug fuss the types they've shred sleeper compartments with. In some classes, on some trains, there may be as many as six in one compartment.

Doug has 'cold-places' stories warmer than the club secretary's.
Continued on page 2...
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