Bring Your Own Tapas

photo: saving willy the tugboat

A tricky boating manúuvre in the Tuileries.

'Mardi Noir' Tuesday

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 12. May 2003:- The weather is faithless. It doesn't deserve all the attention I give it and it isn't worth yours either. After all, it is this phantasmagorical scheme of chaos over our heads and trying to stuff it into a describable container is plain hopeless.

This week's coming chaos looks like cool confusion, somewhere in the range of 14 to 18 degrees, with winds from all over, clouds, and little sustained sunshine. If the slice of visible moon rises, you will be unlikely to see it even if it is nighttime.

Tomorrow's skies will be confused and Wednesday's will be more so, but Thursday might be sedated enough to allow some rays of sun before Friday plunges back into near-uniform overcast. You can put it all on a postcard and dump it into a letterbox without a stamp.

As usual, Le Parisien is much more poetic about it all than I am. It starts out with 'good for the grass' followed by good cheer for the Riviera, then on Thursday it is 'good, bad and ugly' with Friday closing it out with 'half and half' - which actually means the southern 'half' of France gets the good stuff and the northern 'half' gets no cookie.

Café Life

Choo-Choo Champs-Elysées

The first episode, I heard on radio France-Info. It said a planned two-hour trip through nighttime Paris turned into a seven-hour convoluted nightmare, and it wasn't until just before sunrise that the convoy transporting a TGV locomotive reached its destination on the Champs-Elysées.

Then here, about 22:30 on the avenue, I was surprised to see a huge transporter hauling some sortphoto: champs elysees 7 may of SNCF suburban passenger car, going in the direction of the city centre from the Porte d'Orléans. Nigel, visiting from Australia, did not appear to be dumbstruck, but he's been in Paris before.

On the Champs-Elysées, for some reason.

On Wednesday we went over to the Champs-Elysées for my monthly visit to the Tourist Office and after it we wandered down the avenue - slogan: 'wide sidewalks and circuses' - to see the sights.

These included some freshly-laid rails with some of the SNCF's latest rolling creations sitting on them. As an exhibition that doesn't officially begin until Saturday, 17. May, the finishing touches are absent. Putting choo-choos on the Champs-Elysées isn't done in one overnight.

Take a look at this week's 'Scene' page for more details, because there is also an artistic exhibition called 'Paris et ses Chemins de Fer' already running, and continuing until 18. July.

Bring Your Own Tapas

Dennis likes to share a pot of red wine in the evenings at the café Le Bouquet, but the kitchen quits in the afternoon after the lunch rush is over - leaving pistachios as the only food and Dennis gets hungry.

There must be something to the mild spring air that draws in the Daguerrotypistas to share these pots, so Dennis arranges to bring some pâté and a baguette, and maybe a plastic sack full of loose olives, and Dimitri lends his all-purpose knife as the lone culinary tool.

No plates are bothered with, so it looks more like a picnic than anything else. Some of the Daguerrotypistas have their glasses of wine and do-it- yourself tapas and leave, and the rest of us stay until we are at the only table without chairs stacked on it.

If it has been successful, then there is only a short block to go before getting to the Village Daguerre café, which has a small but useable terrace, and more liberal open hours.

Dennis thinks Tina had the café's interior repainted in lighter colors in order to attract custom from the snootier cafés in the street, but so far it seems as if it have only become the 'after-hours' mecca of the Daguerrotypistas.

These being the clients of three cafés, there are many happy reunions during these comfortable evenings. There are a half-dozen budget hotels in the area, so some clients from these may drop in too - and maybe wonder if the party is an occasion or not.

Last Wednesday evening, a lone Texan was doing Origami tricks with Eastern Airlines cocktail napkins, for the entertainment of all the Daguerrotypistas present. He might never forget it.

Frog Cooks On Strike

Read this carefully because it is a true 'first' - probably an item destined for the history books. Without anybody informing me, there seems to be a mini-chain of restaurants named 'Frog,' and its cooks have been on strike since Wednesday, 16. April.

Last Saturday about 50 'Frog' employees, supported by CNT union reps, invaded the 'Frog' unit at Bercyphoto: first melons Village, to try and convince the management to conduct negotiations. For the most part, the chain's cooks are Sri Lankans and they don't speak French particularly well.

Maybe not the first melons of the year, but what do I know?

Two cooks were arrested by the police following the invasion of the restaurant - possibly because of an incident concerning tear-gas. The report says the hotel-restaurant union reps have an anarchist inclination, which also posed problems for conducting talks.

According to the Bercy 'Frog' management, the negotiations degenerated. Although the report doesn't say so, I assume the labor stoppage continues 'chez Frog.'

1984 Revisited

George Orwell has a serious fan in Russia named Dag, who wrote to me to ask if he could re-publish some of Metropole's Orwellian musings - I think these amount to one - on his Web site devoted to everything about the 20th century writer who figured out a long time ago what our present 21st century has in store for us.

Dag got into this line in 1997 when he put a text by Orwell online. This caused some problems, which promptedphoto: pizza fiat 500 of the week him to look around the Web. He wasn't happy with what he found, so he launched and has been steadily adding to it - so that, six years later it is possibly the Web site to hit if you are seeking exhaustive source material about Eric Blair, who wrote under the name of George Orwell.

You guessed it! Metropole's first 'Frozen Pizza Fiat 500 of the Year.'

Besides the purely literary aspect of Orwell's writing, some people are saying we are living in times that seem somewhat Orwellian, so you may want to refresh your memory, as a sort of reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same for a far longer time than you think.

'About' Café Metropoleô Blanc de Blanc

A recent issue featured a report by Allan Pangborn about taking Metropole's wine to the 'Taste Washington' exhibition in Seattle, where visitors to the Moonlight booth had to stand in line to get a taste. Use this link to take you to the latest news about Metropole's sparkling wine, with vague links to all the previous 'news' about it.

Café Metropole Club 'Reports'

Click this link to last week's 'Somebody's Swedish Grandmother' club meeting report. This was one of those club meetings without any theme other than fun, just like all the rest of them.

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 15. May. The Saint's Day of the Week will be Sainte-Denise, who seems to be quite unremembered by my ancient Nouveau Petit Larousse. She should be between Saint-Croix-Volvestre and Sainte-Enimie, which is a tourist centre in the 'Gorges de Tarn' - which Nigel said were quite a sight to see.

A few of the minor details concerning the club - not much more than the club's address is useful to know - can be found tidily grouped on the one-stop 'About the Club' page. The virtual membership card on this page may also be useful, but is not good for a discounted club membership because these are free anyhow.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 7.20 - 13. May 2002 - This issue began with the Café Metropole column's 'Roller Days Are Back.' This issue lacked an 'Au Bistro' column, but had a feature titled 'Oyster Opener of the Year, at the Foire de Paris.' The update for the Café Metropole Club meeting on 16. May hung on the quote, "Twice As Much Caffeine?" This issue's 'Scene' column had 'Wondering What Tophoto: sign, avenue du general leclerc Do Next?' There were four wonderful new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's 'Cartoon of the Week' was inventively captioned, 'Get Ideas.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 6.20 - 14. May 2001 - The week's Café Metropole column announced, 'Spring' Is Official But Short.' The 'Au Bistro' column's headline was, 'The 35-Hour Week 'Fiasco.' The feature of the week was titled 'Spring' Arrives In Time for Summer.' An email feature's subject was 'A Fragile Deux-Chevaux,' by Dana Shaw. The Café Metropole Club update for this issue on 17. May had some sort of 'Nobody Is Perfect' report. The 'Scene' column headline was, 'Dithering While Events Roll On.' There were the four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon warned, "Don't Trip Over a Pigeon" This issue's Photo Page featured 'The Fontaine des Mers.'

Short Countdown to 'Mardi Noir'

This 'Mardi Noir' is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, 13 May - so you won't need to use all of your fingersphoto: bee people in luxembourg 'counting-down.' This is an item that should be in the 'Au Bistro' column - or in the 'Scene' column if you think of it as a cultural event - but is here because it is almost right now.

Just when you aren't expecting them, the 'bee people' show up.

Le Parisien's preview of it starts off with, "Not since 1995..." This is a reference to what happened in November of 1995, the last time a conservative government tried to fiddle around with the way pensions are handled in France. What happened back then was massive strikes by just about everybody except those who are so well-fixed that they couldn't care a fig for their state retirement pensions.

So then, to be on strike on 'Mardi Noir' - the métro, the buses, the RER trains and all SNCF operations except for the Eurostar. Air traffic will be affected, but intercontinental flights should be normal. Teachers will be on strike too, so the Parisien suggests that everybody with kids should stay home. The strikes will be France-wide to ensure that the government gets the message.

The strikes will not be total. For example, maybe one out of three or four métro trains may be running on any given line. Because of the irregularity, rides are free, if you can get on a train. It is also expected that there will be some form of street demonstrations, but there are no details in the paper.

For the first time I can remember, the SNCF has taken a full page ad in Le Parisien that details which of its services will be operating, plus how frequently, with the numbers of the trains and their departure times, both to and from Paris.

Bernard Thibault, head of the powerful CGTphoto: sign, passage interdit, attention abeilles confederation of unions, foresees that private sector employees will take part in the strikes too. For example, some banks may be closed. The latest polls show that public opinion is even more against the pension 'reforms' now than it was in the winter of 1995.

If you are inconvenienced, just remember that this national 'Black Tuesday' has already started this evening, and will be over by tomorrow evening. There is no need to write to ask if this particular strike is still happening.

For fans of European centennials of any sort, the number of days left this year is 232. This may seem like a longish time until 2004, but it is no time at all until summer, which is 'officially' only 41 short days from today.
signature, regards, ric

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