First Major Spa Honored

photo: group of the week, tom, anita, don

From left, Tom, Anita and Don - but no Mardi Gras today.

Birch Bay Becomes 'City of the Week'

Paris:- Thursday, 6. February 2003:- Despite awesomely negative predictions, the actual weather here has refused to co-operate with its forecasts and has turned out some pretty fine days lately.

Mind you, these are winter days with low temperatures just above freezing, but the highs can be up to six or seven in the afternoon. The 'catch' is the amount of breeze and from where it comes.

Yesterday's skies were mostly blue and so are today's. If you believed the TV-weather news forecasts, you would have spent the afternoons watching the Marx Brothers' in a cinema, instead of maybe grabbing a free chair in a sun patch with a wind-shadow in the Luxembourg gardens.

For this reason I am going to skip the part of the weather forecast that deals with skies - total rain-gloom forecast for tomorrow's opening of the Rétromobile salon - and confine myself to saying that the temperatures are supposed to be right up there around seven or eight. Like today.

Of course, if the weather experts can be wrong about the color of skies they can get temperatures wrongphoto: kir, drink of the week too - and maybe they've been doing this already - but I have not been paying careful attention, and so far we've been lucky.

If, by some freak of nature, none of the above turns out to be true in the near future, you can blame me instead of the TV-weather news people or Le Parisien's weather folks. Even if you decide not to do this, wear a hat or carry an umbrella and take some gloves with you if you are out and traipsing around.

Any club that has Kir as a 'Drink of the Week' is cool.

Today, on the way to the club, I chanced it without my lid, but had my gloves in reserve. As it was, leaving the métro at Saint-Germain, to cruise down the Rue de Seine vaguely looking for the 'lost' painter Philippe Sommer, I didn't miss the hat and didn't need the gloves.

I didn't find anybody who ever heard of the artist Philippe Sommer either. If case this reference to this person is confusing you, I suggest reading this week's 'Café' column. There is somebody in California who wants to give Philippe Sommer a job if they can find him.

The ladies I talk to in La Galerie Visconte - who have never heard of the missing painter - say I should come back in the evening because many galleries in the street are having 'openings' today, and there will be plenty of eatable and drinkable freebies at the vernissages.

But the club calls! When this happens on a Thursday - which is when it does happen every week - I know in advance that I will be writing the meeting's 'report' this evening. Just think of all the free food and drink I have given up because I am the club's secretary! You think about it - I don't want to.

Crossing the Pont des Arts I see that it is bright and fairly sunny but there are not many people sunbathing or having picnics. It is almost good enough for having one or doing the other.

Just before getting to the right bank, two gents in 19th century uniforms step onto the bridge, to cross to the Latin Quarter. They look like they might be late for some ceremony. Like, maybe today somebody is getting a lifetime job being a member of the Académie Française.

These 'lifetime' jobs don't usually last too long because most people only get them when they are 75 or older. But the good part of the deal is becoming 'immortal.' I don't know what the pay is like, or if there is a pension plan.

From the Pont des Arts you can see the club's café La Corona for a long time before you get to it. In case you don't believe this, I have fixed up a canvas on an easel with a direction sign. This might not always be in place, so you should memorize this for the times you happen to come this way.

At La Corona, I check both terraces but there are no footweary voyagers taking advantage of them. Elsewhere in the city many terraces will be well stocked with loungers on a day like this because everybody knows the coming March will not allow it.

In the café's bar area the 'waiter of the week' says "Il y a du monde" waiting for me. I have been through this before - 'du monde' means maybe one member or less.

Well, it is still a good way to start a meeting - with new members eager to sign the members' booklet before the meeting is even scheduled to begin.

But when I get to the club's area in the café's 'grande salle,' I am confused. One fellow is sittingphoto: tom and don where I usually sit and he's covered a table with the kind of stuff you might find in an editorial office out of the office. He looks at me blankly when I ask if he's here to become a member.

Tom and Don talk photography - but do not mention sunlight like a blitzlicht slamming through the café.

A fellow sitting at another table that the club never uses for club meetings with less than 20 members on hand, signals that he might be a willing new member.

We scrunch into a corner between the other guy and the windows. I want to be in a good position to grab the regular table if the interloper leaves.

Tom Birkenhead tells me who he is. When he says he is from Birch Bay, Washington, I almost fall over. This is a place where I have been, maybe three times in my life. It is on the coast of Puget Sound, just a bit short of the border with Canada.

Right away I know it is going to be the 'City of the Week.' Even though there are still 115 minutes left of this meeting for somebody to show up from - say, Bombay - yeah it would have to be Bombay at least! - Birch Bay is this week's 'it.'

In the 1930s my father used to drive his boss down there on Sundays. It was a beach town with open bars on Sundays, better than the ones in the border town of Blaine, and more open than any place in Canada on a Sunday, which was basically closed from coast to coast and from the border to the North Pole.

It probably still has open bars on Sundays, and maybe Canada does too now for all I know, but I'm not certain because Tom says a lot of Canadians live in Birch Bay now - most of them illegally.

I mean, in the new Europe nobody cares which side of a border you live, work, party or shop on - but the United States is known for being pretty uptight about illegal aliens. On top of it, most Canadians are so law-abiding that they hardly have any guns - so it's kind of hard imagining them being criminal illegal aliens in droves.

I guess this makes the 'City of the Week' a generally lawless place. There's another tiny, stranded bit of the United States not far away too.

Americans have to go through Canada to get to Point Roberts. But it is very handy o Vancouver but so remote from the United States that there were periods when it had no police at all, and its border crossing was only manned on weekends, sometimes.

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