Not at the Rendez-Vous

photo: group, winnie, tee-ag, heather

Winnie, Tee-ag and Heather don't feel like doing the
'Mardi Gras Group Photo of the Week.'

Where's the Storm? What's the Fuss?

Paris:- Thursday, 30. January 2003:- Last night's TV-weather news forecasted a severe blizzard for most of France, from top to bottom, from the west of centre to the eastern Alps. Practically the whole country was on Orange Alert status today.

When I looked out of the window about 20 minutes before sunrise this morning, sunlight was glinting off the higher floors of the Tour Montparnasse. So right! Bright winter sunshine before the storm slams us at 16:00, before the country is brought to its knees by General Winter.

But, ha-ha, this time we are ready! We have our Orange Alert, we had last night's TV-weather news before the Loto spin of the ping-pong balls, we are well and truly warned and we are ready.

Today's first report comes from a courageousphoto: lunch of champions advance scout - at about 11:00 the server-lady out at the Cadillac Ranch says snow is falling in deepest Essonne. She has her shovel ready, the roads are sanded, the runways are de-iced. We are more than ready.

The Club's first photo of the French national 'Sandwich of Champions.'

At 14:15 when I leave for the club meeting, something wet is falling from the sky. But it is invisible. Can it be rain? It is damp, it is cold - but is it freezing?

The métro train doesn't come. What can it mean? When one does finally come, it slides through the station without stopping. Is it to pick up passengers stranded on the quay at the Cité station by the demo there? Waiters for the train are uneasy.

Our train is nearly full when it arrives. At Montparnasse it is full. The train skips Saint-Michel which is closed for renovations, and skips the Cité station, as announced. It is not easy to get off at Châtelet for people not used to barging through unpenetratable crowds trying to get on.

On Rivoli the air is full of snow. A BMW's convertible roof is covered with it. It is wet and damp. Parisians scuttle about, huddled over, trying to be small. Will it be knee-deep by the meeting's end at 17:00?

At Pont-Neuf motorists feel the urgency too, and will hardly let pedestrians cross with the 'green man.' Sittingphoto: club statue of the week on their warm leather, listening to their rumba CDs, they will not let us civilians have our fleeting right-of-way. Curses on them all!

A snow-flecked poster announces Chinese New Year, beginning this coming weekend. 'Year of the Goat' it is. To begin with snowdrifts. Goat weather. I go straight along the Quai du Louvre without deviations to the café La Corona and enter its light and warmth.

Does a club with 'no rules' rate 'classical' décor? Why the dickens not?

The café is not full of refugees. Maybe it is one of the last days of the 'Soldes d'Hiver.' Last chance to gear up on the cheap for General Winter's worst shot.

When I calm down from the vivid experience I have just had, a lady sitting near the club's usual station asks me if I am the 'club.' Heavens! A brave member-to-be is already here. Through storm, hurricane winds, earthquakes - do Café Metropole Club members come.

Not only this, but this particular lady wrote to say she was expecting to come last week. Has she been trekking eight days? "No," Winnie Shaddox says, "The plane was a day late." This is no surprise, coming from California, bringing Winnie from Los Gatos. Planes start from there one day and arrive here on another. A day later.

She has ordered a ham sandwich - 'Lunch of Champions!' - and a double- café, like mine. She thinks I am looking down on her lunch - "I do a lot of 'brown-bagging,'" she says.

Not at all, I insist. The ham-on-baguette sandwich is the French national food, usually available everywhere 24 hours a day, even during catastrophic snowstorms. It's right up there with blue-white-red frites and snails and foie gras.

Winnie has been doing a lot of shopping she says. She and her husband are in the antique business, and she alwaysphoto: glass of the week does a lot of shopping - or selling. She says she was going to treat herself to 'high tea' on Sunday, her birthday, but bought two watercolors instead. Then he had a salad at a handy McDonald's.

This could have been the 'Drink of the Week' if the secretary had been more observant, sooner.

She has been to the fleamarket before, at Saint-Ouen. Last Sunday she was at Vanves for the first time. She says when shipping is calculated, Saint-Ouen items are often too expensive. Vanves is more reasonable.

We are discussing her new truck when a well-wrapped up Sambamurthy Thyagarajan arrives, from Albany, New York. Or maybe from Montmartre where he has an apartment.

Winnie says her husband told her to get any kind of new car she wanted, so long as it was a truck. We were discussing how big this truck is, but it seems not to be as big as ones I saw in TV commercials in New York recently.

Anyhow, by now I have done a search with no Albany, New York turning up, so we have our 'City of the Week.' Sambamurthy Thyagarajan says he should be called 'Tee-ag' and that Thyagarajan is a southern India name, not Armenian.

He says he is retired from the city planning business. So am I. He was in it 80 times longer than I was, but we never do discuss this mutual aspect.

Winnie wonders where the artists at the Place de Tertre have gone. She wanted to get a silhouette done. There has either been a crack-down on freelance artists - known here somewhat as 'intolerance' - or they have moved to famous Amélie's corner of Paris at Abbesses.

I have already explained the membership booklet like I always do by pointing out member number-one, Heather Stimmler's entry, so it is certainly an omen of some sort when herself walks in to the café. "The 15 degrees on the Riviera were getting hard to handle," she says, then shivers.

Heather tells us about the typical Parisian food she's had to eat since this morning. Mainly it was an 'applephoto: not the group photo of the week crumble' - "And a big pretzel," she adds thoughtfully. The kind of delicacy, she says, one can get from Schmid across from the Gare de l'Est.

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