The Return of Bongo

photo: group, bob, barbara, chabli, maureen, terry

From left, the 'Group of the Week' - Bob, Barbara,
Chabli, Bongo, Maureen and Terry.

Faux-Pizza 'Food of the Week'

Paris:- Thursday, 10. April 2003:- Scattered reports from North America - some snow in New York, worse in Chicago, 80 in California - tempt me to skip the weather here because it isn't too extreme for - January. At noon the pharmacy's green neon sign said six degrees above zero in red neon.

Passing it again about six hours later, with the wind in my face also blowing rain on the awnings towards the east, the pharmacy's green neon cross signaled a red four degrees.

So much for Monday's fairy stories about the temperature rising a degree per day. From now on all good weather predictions and forecasts from here are fiction.

Get this - Le Parisien's morning forecast keeps it up! Ha! Today's high is supposed to be nine degrees. Tomorrow's is supposed to be 14, Saturday's 15 - golly! they are re-running last Monday's bilge - then Sunday is supposed to have a high of 19. It is comedy?

Tonight's TV-weather news seems a bit more realistic with a forecast of 11 for Friday, although this does seem to be quite a stretch too. I didn't bother taking notes, but if I remember correctly I think there is some sun predicted for tomorrow, but less so on Saturday. Of was it the other way around?

But Sunday - ah - Sunday. This is supposed to be kind of sunny. For this Le Parisien in predicting 19 degrees. It's fiction, right? So guess what TV-weather news is saying. Yes! More better fiction. A fictional 21 degrees is what they have forecast for Sunday.

So far my building's heating has kept up with these fictions more reliably than the paper or the TV forecasts. Myphoto: brasserie bongo 251 building heeds no newspaper of TV fictions. It is a good building even if my doorbell buzzer won't stay stuck to the doorframe.

Maybe it is a 'smart' doorbell buzzer. Maybe it senses that I am about to receive a visit from some very short people who will find it more convenient lying on the hallway floor.

'Brasserie Bongo' is either Bongo 250 or 251.

With this thought uppermost in mind I go down the stairs and out the door and down the street as far as the 'Chez Papa' sign and turn left and walk down Paris' only street without house numbers to the métro at Raspail, where a number four train arrives a minute after and whisks me through underground tunnels to Châtelet, with only a slight pause after leaving the Odéon station.

Downtown the air is full of pre-rain gloom. This is more imagined than anything else, because it occurs to me that the semi-desolation is on account of these days being school holidays, and there aren't a lot of kids around playing hooky like there are when schools aren't on vacation time.

Between Châtelet and Pont-Neuf I see nothing to report. On the paper kiosk at Pont-Neuf I see the first 'poster of the week.' I am not even sure if it is one - I'm only sure all the others I've seen so far, aren't.

The sky begins to sprinkle in front of Samaritaine. I double my pace. In the club's café La Corona there is nobody in the bar other than the morose staff. None are pretending to be jolly. Tips must be in the pits.

Nearly in the club's area there are two ladies I have never seen before. I sense that they are not waiting to become members, but before I can find out for sure two real members do appear. There will be no newspaper reading this week.

It is not quite 15:00 either. Maureen and Terry Cooper are back in town, with a new 'Bongo.' This one is 'Brasserie Bongo,' picked up I believe, in Munich, on a round-about flight to Paris via the Bavarian capital - for he has a Hofbraühaus pin.

An earlier 'Bongo,' with 'Beanie' for surname, was at a club meeting in November of 2000. At the time he was 'Bongo' number 150. Today's 'Brasserie Bongo' is numbered about 250. Maureen doesn't say the other 249 'Bongos' are back at their hotel.

The Coopers, who are from San Francisco, did do part of the marathon last Saturday. The secretary is surprised because the marathon was on Sunday. "We did the five-kilometre one on Saturday," Terry says.

"But we took the métro part of the way," Maureen adds. Apparently there is anphoto: food of the week 'honorary' marathon for anyone willing to pay five euros. On Sunday, in the extra-cool morning, the Coopers watched the real one from a good spot on the Rue de Rivoli.

Twice 'Food of the Week' - faux-pizza with real wine.

I am really proud of these club members. Sunday night's TV-news showed exactly eight seconds of video of more than 30,000 people running around Paris for several hours. Then they went to Trocadéro or the Tour Eiffel on Monday and saw the vintage car pre-race show-off. I remember its eight or six seconds of video on the TV-news too.

"How do you order a soup-bowl of café?" Terry asks. It is a good question but the secretary doesn't know the answer even though club members have them all the time.

I think, whoever the 'Waiter of the Week' is - this week it is Monsieur Chadli - knows automatically to bring soup-bowls of café for any member who asks for anything other than wine, water or beer, and bring the club's secretary a double-espresso at 16:00 without being asked. Or by 16:30 if asked.

Thus, I have no idea what a 'soup-bowl of café' is, in French. In Spain they were a 'café-grande,' but they never came in anything so big as a soup- bowl. Terry and Monsieur Chadli discuss its composition and arrive at an understanding, but neglect to tell me its name.

Maureen gets a Russian tea glass full of hot wine with a lemon slice floating on top. She says it is a 'vinchaude.' Together they share a huge door-stopper slab of an Italian faux-pizza.


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