''We've Just Hung Up Our Sleds!''

photo: group, stephen, lauren, marion, doug, don

From left, the 'Group Photo of the Week' with Stephen, Lauren, Marion, Doug and Ron.

Double 'City of the Week' Week

Paris:- Thursday, 15. May 2003:- I have no doubt all readers and club members are eager for the weather forecast or prediction or whatever it is, so I'll just get it out of the way before skipping on to the real question of the week, which is - Is Paris Open?

Therefore first, the miserable weather. Oh golly! Today's Le Parisien is off its head. I only got the paper by a superhuman effort of memory at 17:30, so most of today's weather is already over. Here is what it was supposed to be - 'Apollon parade' and ' Préavis de soleil.'

To be fair it did not rain on me while I walked to the club earlier in the day. It was probably even warmer than the predicted 18 degrees. But a day of 'Apollo on parade' it was not.

It was the Ecole Polytechnique parading their 'Salome de Bahia' to advertise their 'Point Gamma' Sinsemilia 27 bars and restos Nuit F. Bubosc Blue Crush Impro Scène Rock, for the modest PAF of 23euro 3 sign if you get the tickets before Saturday, 24. March.

This I heard while - but first the weather. Tomorrow Le Parisien expects an attack by clouds, with a high temperature of 21 degrees, according to tonight's TV-weather news. The clouds willphoto: cuppa du cafe remain in attack mode through the weekend, also according to TV-weather news, but with cooler temperatures on account of all the Bahia sounds on the Pont-Neuf.

Arty-type photo of the 'Empty Café Cup' of the week.

Not much earlier in the day I caught scraps of news from Radio France-Info. The first item, traffic jams exceeding 300 kilometres didn't make it hard to imagine what might be causing them - transport strikes. Yes!

For those who may have slept through Tuesday's near-total strike of everything except tour buses chartered to haul in street paraders from all sorts of hithers and yons, we had Wednesday as a lesser replay, and lo! and behold! - we are having it again today. The commuters are not happy with their enforced camping.

Club member Dinny Moyer called from the upper 15th to report line number six métros flying past her balcony, but later phoned from the area of the Tour Montparnasse to say the sidewalks were on strike and she didn't think she could make it as far as the cemetery this week.

This must have been a crushing blow after her excursion to Blois yesterday which did not even begin at the Gare d'Austerlitz because métro line ten was immobile. I forget exactly what she said about taking the Batobus there.

Anyway, it seemed nice enough to walk until I got to a locked gate at the Luxembourg gardens - the shortcut of preference for all leftist bankers. But again lo! and again behold! - the gate by the place of the pétanque players was open and I got through the nearly deserted park - accompanied by the serenades of police and fire sirens, and a whacking great thumping techno sound coming from the direction of the Boulevard Saint-Michel.

Outside the park I saw groups carrying protest posters and flagpoles going every which way while I sliced right through them, past Odéon, and down the narrow Rue Dauphine to the Pont-Neuf - to arrive there just as the Polytechnos and their bandwagons were rounding the corner to cross the bridge.

At the café La Corona, out of breath, I am only two minutes late. But I have forgotten to buy today'sphoto: paris maps paper, about three times. After all, with all of Paris' good-hearted chaos, I can hardly expect any members to show up, can I?

However there is no stopping club members. I have got my fingers only through half a twiddle before Lauren Camera-Murray shows up, surprised to see the club secretary in the customary place on the club's own banquets.

A common sight at meetings - the maps of the week.

Lauren has come straight from the Village Voice bookstore, but she has no book to show me. It doesn't matter because she is closely followed by new member Ron Sellers from San Antonio in Texas, and only minutes later, by Marion and Doug Gellatly from Port Hope, Ontario.

They say Port Hope is somewhere near Rochester in New York State, but I think it can be 'City of the Week' no matter where it is. A quick check shows that San Antonio can be 'City of the Week' too - it's got the Alamo after all! - so this is the first club meeting with two cities of the week. Another engraved-in-stone 'rule' broken.

The good news about Port Hope, according to Marion, is "We've just hung up our sleds!" Ron tells us that San Antonionians don't have sleds because the last snowfall there was the big blizzard of 1985 and nobody survived it except the Alamo.

However, San Antonio is known locally as the "Venice of North America," Ron says. Another interesting fact about the Alamo is that it is right downtown, next to a spiffy mall - so visiting it doesn't require a rental car or ice skates, if the canals are frozen over.

Meanwhile, in Paris which has canals too, but isn't the 'Venice of Anything,' the Gellatlys tell us about their adventure of getting to the city yesterday, overland, slowly.

Also meanwhile, Stephen Camera-Murray has arrived. He is so excited about Paris today that he quotes a line from George Orwell's 'Down and Out In Paris and London and Other Places' - "The surest sign of a bad restaurant is to be frequented by foreigners."

George, as everybody from Hawaii to Saint-Petersburg knows, worked as a 'plongeur' at the Ritz or the Crillon or some other palace - in the 1930s - so what may have been right then is no longer true. 'Freigners' have better plastic these days.

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