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.' Originally intended to be in place just for the weekend, its stay is now expected to last a while longer.

On a whim, I entered the Fête de l'Internet tent in order to be frisked by the watchers. This was held inside the Hôtel de Ville last year, but I saw a file of citizens waiting to enter the building for some other reason.

Apple had the whole affair supplied with the latest Macintoshes, and it seemed as if no machine was untended. One young man offered to check Metropole for its readability by blind people and the site scored ten out of ten - but only after the operator had overcome the difficulty of Apple's new UNIX system, a key-layout unmatched to the system or the keyboard, PC software and an iffy connection with the testing software.

The city is making the Internet widely available, in centres for youths - for checking on job chances, and most public libraries also have free access.

From the Hôtel be Ville it is only a short bridge-hop to the Ile de la Cité, and in front of Notre Dame it seemed like a great number of people had showed up for Easter a few weeks early.

I took a pass by Paris' oldestphoto: resto apollo, rer denfert rochereau or second oldest tree to estimate its health. With its concrete props and decor of ivy it is hard to tell if it is alive, and it may be too soon because only a few buds are springing into green on other trees.

Going past the Cluny's mediaeval garden on the Boulevard Saint-Germain I tried to find a good angle for some tree blossoms, but couldn't.

The Apollo restaurant is next to the Denfert-Rochereau RER station.

A few blocks further west I came across the new FNAC 'digital' outlet near Odéon, and eventually found the Macintosh ghetto within it. There I had a friendly, bantering, conversation with a salesman for cable-Internet.

He didn't have it himself because he lives in a suburb without the cable - a suburb deemed by the press and Ministry of the Interior as being 'sensitive.' Too 'sensitive' to have community centres, accessible sports fields, and the cable? They've gotten more police instead.

While doing my wordless researches, 100,000 anti-war protestors were marching from République to Nation in the sunshine - following last Saturday's route in reverse with slightly higher numbers, bigger banners, better slogans.

Back in the quartier, I couldn't resist walking up Daguerre for the company of all the strollers and shoppers. This is how I met Dennis, who was on a mission to buy some dirt to fill the pots he'd bought in the morning.

He is starting a plantation on his balcony, which is about 30 centimetres wide - if it's the one I remember almost seeing. A few weeks ago he was talking about moving to a Daguerre-type neighborhood in Rome, but learned that prices are as high there as here.

The best part was standing on a street corner, slightly out of traffic's way, having a conversation that could have been without end, except for his mission to get some French dirt.

No Anniversaries This WeeK

As an exception and for the first time in several weeks, there are no significant anniversaries or birthdays for Metropole to celebrate this week. Instead, I may continue being 'wordless' for another week.

'About' Café Metropoleô Blanc de Blanc

The last report about the Café Metropole Blanc de Blanc was about its label and why it is like it is and why Allan likes it. Maybe it will fit on a small t-shirt.

Readers eager to try the Café Metropole wine made by Allan Pangborn have had to use cheques to acquire it. Allan recently wrote to say that the Moonlight Sparkling Wine Cellar Web site is being set up, and it will accept the usual cards as a medium of payment. Coming soon, once the bugs are ironed out.

Café Metropole Club 'Reports'

Hit this link to last week's 'Nutley of the Week' club meetingphoto: sightseeing boat, seine report. There were members from other states present, but New Jersey is on a roll that seems to put a new 'first' into every club report.

Of Paris' two 'banks,' the right one is ideal for the sun.

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 27. March. There is no saint's 'Day of the Week' next Thursday. Instead it will be Mi-Carême, which translates as 'mid-Lent.' The dictionary says it can be dismal - which I guess fasting is, especially the middle part.

Practically all of the details concerning the club - actually only the club's address is useful to know - are handily placed on the 'About the Club' page. The virtual membership card on this page may be useful, especially if it is printed and laminated.

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 6.13 - 26. March 2001 - This week's issue began with the Café Metropole column's 'Ed's Little Tours.' But not this wordless year! The 'Au Bistro' column's headline was 'New Paris Mayor, Bertrand Delanoë.' There was one feature titled 'Spring' In Blois?.' The update for the Café Metropole Club meeting on 29. March was titled the "Could be Worse, Could be Green" report. This issue's 'Scene' columnphoto: sign, rue du cloitre saint merri belatedly had 'Spring Events Begin.' There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's 'Cartoon of the Week' had the caption, 'The Weather's Fault?' The Photo page was titled 'Looking for Spring.'

This Was Metropole Three Years Ago

Issue 5.13 - 27. March 2000 - The week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'Winter Takes a Spring Break.' The 'Au Bistro' column's headline was 'Multi-Demos In the City.' The feature of the week was titled 'A Kind of 'Grand Tour.' The Café Metropole Club update for this issue on 30. March was the 'New Members! New Members!' report. A companion feature about the club stated 'No News' Is Not 'Good' News.' Really lame. The 'Scene' column had 'Nuts and Bolts at Arts et Métiers.' Very exciting! There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon was captioned 'The Grand Tour Taxi.'

Hector's Boring Count-Down

Since this is a 'wordless' issue, the following remains somewhat unchanged word-wise, except for the numbers, which aren'tphoto: sign, la dernier goutte actually too exciting. But something has to surround this week's second 'sign of the week,' so no grumbling.

Whatever else happens, don't forget that Hector Berlioz will have his 200th anniversary in 263 days.

1803 was also the year that France sold Louisiana to the fledgling United States for the mere chicken-feed sum of $15 million. But if you spend 15 seconds to look up '1803,' you will probably fall on Hector Berlioz instead.

In his time Hector was not an especially popular composer. He started out as a medical student and later worked as a critic and writer, and it may be for these reasons that much of his music has themes from literature.

The number of days left this year is 282. This may seem like an excessive length of time until 2004, and still seems to be a long time until summer, which is 'officially' 90 days from now. Just around the corner.
signature, regards, ric

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