Less Than All Blue

photo: cafe universel, rue st jacques

Jazz club extraordinary - the Café Universel in
the Rue St-Jacques.

Jazz On Black Vinyl

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 10. March 2003:- For the past several days various weather forecasters have been predicting beautiful weather for the coming week. As recently as last night's TV-weather news, an all-France alert for a gigantic sunball over almost the whole country was predicted.

Today is supposed to be as brilliant as yesterday, with temperatures in the same region - 17 Eurocents. The only problem so far with this forecast is the fact that the sky is not blue. It was almost blue yesterday out at the ranch, but exposed areas on the edge of the prairie suffered from cool breezes.

Great blue skies are predicted for the rest of the week, with a slight temperature hike tomorrow, before falling off to 'below normal even- for-March' by next weekend.

So much for the official forecast. I hope, if the all-blue skies are wrong, that the coming low temperatures are wrong too. But I am not going to pretend to predict anything so rash.

Café Life

On the Lonesome Prairie

This issue isn't like most others because I am riding herd total solo on the Cadillac Ranch, where I'm supposed to water the plants, feed the fish, collect the mail, delete tons of spam email, process Web orders, shop for food, feed and be a companion to Tiger the cat, feed myself, answer some phones, play DVDs, and do this issue of Metropole.

These stints at the 'Ranch' is all pretty routine by now, so I've brought some Metropole work withphoto: bicycle, pantheon me too. But, after being here three days, I am finding that I have to learn a new - new to me - wordprocessor and key layout, and I am starting to think that the absolutely essential Metropole work I have with me isn't going to get done. Why am I here?

Better yet, if I'm going to be here, why don't I have some portable means of doing what is essential? Some people may love their PCs and get a lot of work done with them. Some people may not love them and get the work done anyway.

I should say that my sessions with them are adding up to experience, and since I sight-type, getting words out of them isn't too strenuous once the word-wrap works.

Of course it is March on the edge of spring, on the edge of the prairie where the Cadillac Ranch is located. Despite the nearly nice Sunday weather yesterday, I kept my coat on. Last New Year out here, the heat was on sporadically - but now there seems to be none. It is, as the French say, 'fresh at the ranch.'

It is also very quiet. I miss the sound of traffic piled up beneath my window. I miss the cemetery guardian's whistle, tweeting the closing hour of the neighborhood of the dead across the street. I miss my 20 year-old ghetto-blaster and radio FIP. All there is here, is the wind puffing across the prairie, rattling the leafless trees in the garden.

There is - the opposite from 'also' - no street life and absolutely no Café Life. None close enough to walk to. I have a car to use, but the big question for it today has been where to stash it so I can ride the RER into town and put the issue together. At my place in the city, the parking-metre ladies have their HQ right around the corner. France is a big country but there's no free parking in it.

I went to the marché in Limours yesterday. It reminded me of other suburban marchés. Oh yes, all picturesque - beneath the town church, in the centre of the village - all the colorful food, inexpensive textiles waving in the wind and the striped stall awnings - and all the suburbanites, with all of their cars clogging surrounding streets. I felt like a Martian visitor from the 14th arrondissement. In contrast it is a paradise, of course.

I guess, after my 18 years of suburban life here, that it is something impossible to go back to with affection. All this open space out at the 'ranch' and it feels like prison. Only another five more crabby days to go.

Jazzed Up In Paris

Last Wednesday Dennis said he wanted me to show him how to use a 'camera like mine.' 'Like mine,' being digital. A camera is just a camera I thought, but I didn't say this. Last Wednesday was good day for it, an especially sunny day for Paris in March.

We arranged to meet by the big pool in the Luxembourg. Dennis had a rendez-vous there, with aphoto: crocojazz shop lady, and this was to end at 15:30, and uncharacteristically, it did. Dennis is losing his romanticism. On warm and sunny days in the garden, a rendez-vous is supposed to last forever.

Need loud, rocking music, right now? This place is it.

I saw the end of it, and then moved around to the far side of the pool and came up behind him, using the standard greeting, "Hey man, wanna buy a watch?"

The camera belongs to his daughter. It was a newer model than mine, but it had an option named 'P' which I assumed meant 'program' and we left it set on that. Dennis said he didn't want to read the user's manual - again like mine, but with 20 extra, small-type pages. I didn't want to read it either. I took a photo of Dennis with the camera, to demonstrate the close-up and spot-focus features. Then he stuffed it back in its sack.

He suggested that we walk over to a used record shop. Having enough recent Luxembourg photos, I had no objections. We left the garden and went up the Rue Malebranche to Rue Clotaire and turned towards the Panthéon. There is a mural in the Mairie of the 5th and we went in to look at it, but the 'stairs of honor' were partly closed off and we couldn't see all of it.

Boys were kicking a lopsided ball around in front of the Panthéon, right under the windows of the arrondissement's city hall, but not in a place that politicians might think is suitable for football. It is a triangular area paved with stone, with the big park only three blocks away, but no football is allowed there or hardly anywhere else.

Part of a street demonstration was coming out of the Place Sainte- Geneviève beside the Panthéon, and was squeezing itself into the Rue Cujas. We went along and tuned left in front of the church Saint-Etienne du Mont and headed down the Rue de la Montaigne-Sainte-Geneviève. The first record shop was halfway to the first corner and the second was directly across the street.

Beside the entry of Crocojazz there was a photocopied poster by Crumb in the window, with one of his eternal sadsacks thinking, "No matter how many records I get I'm never satisfied; I gotta get more. I've tried to quit but I can't. What am I gonna do? This is like being a junky!!"

Inside the small shop, some good jazz was charging, rolling, bopping along, good and loud. The shop had new and used audio-CDs, but mostly it was full of used, black, vinyl disks.

This shop is like the place you need to come to when you finally get enough money to buy all the records you really liked between - oh, say - 1955 and 1980. For three or six euros you can buy your musical past - assuming you are old enough to have a past. Having a record player is a major incentive.

Most of the wide selection was jazz, rhythm and blues and soul, with some Motown and a lot of other stuff including Dean Martin oldies. After a bit of a search Dennis found a Thelonius Monk side called 'Guerilla' and it set him back six euros. The album cover alone was worth 20 euros. T. Monk, always revolutionary.

Then we went across the narrow street to La Dame Blanche, to see its classical collection of new and used audio-CDs and vinyls. This shop wasn't so loud - playing a bit of Eddie Mitchell when we entered - but was even more crammed than its cousin opposite.

At first we were the only browsers in the place, and this allowed Dennis to exchange views with the owner about the sad times we live in, with the wo being mostly in agreement. The main problem today being the weakness of the communists, which used to be sort of a stabilizer.


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