Limited Indestructible Sunshine

photo: cafe dame tartine

Café terrace with its feet almost in water.

Special 'Wordless' Issue

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 24. March 2003:- 'Indestructible sunshine' has continued here against all custom, against all forecasts and predictions for it, against the law of the centuries, against the specific law of March, against the 'rule of sevens,' contrary to - against the 'rule of sevens?'

Has it been two times seven? Except for last Friday when the sun couldn't quite burn off morning smaze, the current good weather goes back to, to - back to before last week. If it doesn't make 14 days already, it just very well might before the month ends.

Today's Le Parisien says, 'On ne change rien.' This is wrong because the temperature got to a new high, maybe 21 degrees. When the blue skies started some time ago we were pretty pleased with 12 degrees. Look at where we are now. Hey!

Okay, the Azores High is trying to get back its position of dominance. This is where, out in the nowhere middlephoto: paris contre la guerre of the Atlantic, somewhere between Lisbon and New York, this tiny little island group has stupendous weather because a 'high' just sits there, and crummy weather twirls all around it - usually sending continual waves of mucky weather washing over France and Europe.

On the parvis in front of Paris' Hôtel de Ville.

So our 'sevens' are numbered. Next Thursday is the day when the Azores High shoves against the Atlantic coast - give or take a day - and our bowl of good weather starts to acquire a ragged slop of soup with a slight drop in temperature.

As usual, I expect snow for Easter. Or I would if Easter wasn't so late. Last year it was on 31. March and it was cold in New York when the Mets won their season opener at Shea Stadium the following day. This year Easter falls on Monday, 21. April, three weeks later than last year. This is so extreme anything could happen. Prepare yourselves. Maybe for summer.

Café Life

Wordless In Paris

There might be between 1,775,000 and two million words in Metropole - there may even be more - so last Wednesday I simply decided to go to Trocadéro without looking for more words - just to have a look at the Tour Eiffel in the sunshine.

I had hardly started out when a white water-cannon truck zoomed down the Avenue du Maine towards Montparnasse. It looked like one of those big armored personal carriers, with two cannons at the front. It went by too quickly to get a photo of it.

There were posters all over town calling for a demo at the US Embassy, in the Place de la Concorde. The posters called for everybody to come out to protest against the war. But last Wednesday was 24 hours before the deadline set by the US Government for Iraq to surrender unconditionaly.

The beauty of Trocadéro is the high view it gives of its gardens, the Tour Eiffel and the Champ de Mars beyond. It must be one of the biggest clear spaces in Paris, andphoto: snack bar, tour eiffel on a clear day there is a lot to see, both near and as far as Montparnasse.

The permanent crowd of onlookers were in place in the foreground, and in all of the backgrounds, both middle and distant, with some sort of yellow balloon way off by the Ecole Militaire.

After watching for a while I noticed a puff of smoke beyond Montparnasse grow into a black and grey mass that rose high in the clear sky, and drifted slowly in a southerly direction. Just in case it might be news I photographed it.

A snack stand is always where you need one.

After lingering in the sun a while longer I took the métro to Etoile, where the customary masses of the world's citizens where grouped between the métro exit and the underground entry to the Arc de Triomphe in the middle of the big circle. The vital business of taking each other's photos was in full swing.

The Tourist Office on the other side of the avenue was nearly empty, having been vacated for the fine weather outdoors. As usual, most pedestrians were on the avenue's north side to be in the sun, and they were not few.

At Rond-Point two traffic policemen were stopping all cars, city buses, motorcycles and trucks, from trying to go up the avenue towards the Etoile. At first I thought they were clearing the way for a motor cavalcade from the nearby Elysée Palace. But there were no flags flying on the avenue, except for the big one languidly waving in the centre of the Arc.

Rather than go back, I continued down to Clemenceau to catch the métro there. I flirted with the idea of going all the way to Concorde to see if events had called out a demo a day early - but the traffic I saw being blocked, was for the wrong direction.

Back in the office, flipping on radio France-Info told me about a 'surprise' demonstration happening at Etoile. The following day's editon of Le Parisien did not mention any cause of smoke in the 13th arrondissement, nor any demonstration at Etoile.

Still Wordless In Paris

By the time I got underway on Saturday the world had changed forever and history had started again after a pause of more than a decade. The United States' war with Iraq had begun about 18:00 on Thursday, Paris time.

In anticipation, students in the Paris area began assembling at 14:00 at the Place de la République. Byphoto: pompidou centre 16:00 some had reached Concorde and were already cooling their heels in its fountains. The Communists showed up with their sound truck and there was dancing.

Another group started out from an assembly point at Saint-Germain-des-Prés. By 18:30 Concorde was occupied, if not with bursting seams. The ritual burning of flags was carried out. The demonstrators swept up the Rue de Rennes to Montparnasse, and everybody went home at 21:00.

The Pompidou Centre is as popular as ever.

Of the four recent demonstrations totalling about 200,000 participants, there were few arrests, perhaps because of a large presence of union security units, and many police of course. Near the end of the last demo, a McDonald's restaurant was trashed - possibly for provocation, almost certainly by hooligans.

The Paris crowd, estimated by police as about 80,000, was handily outnumbered by similar demonstrations in Athens, Milan, Rome, Barcelona and Madrid. There were smaller groups of protestors in London and Genoa and many other cities in France and Germany.

I had given Friday a rest because of a dip in the weather's quality. A return of the advertised climate on Saturday sent me forth again, to prowl between Les Halls and Beaubourg, where more citizens of all the world were behaving as if the sun was shining in Paris - by filling the space in front of the culture factory and all the café terraces around it.

A merry-go-round was twirling in front of the Hôtel de Ville. Most of the place in front of Paris' main city hall was occupied by a tent, for the annual Fête de l'Internet. On the Rivoli side, there was a 30-metre long panel, illustrated by graffiti artists with the slogan, 'Paris Contre la Guerre.'

As proposed by the Communist faction of the city council, it would had read, 'Paris Pour la Paix.' Oiginally intended to be in place just for the weekend, its stay is now expected to last a while longer.

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