'Mardi Noir' To Continue

photo: cafe rendez vous

When at a loss for a name, always meet at the café Rendez-Vous.

Revenge Weather

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 19. May 2003:- Last week I called the weather 'faithless' and it has been getting revenge since then. I should have said it is very reliable. About every ten minutes it sends over a darker cloud and it dumps a zillion litres of water on everything then it stops for nine minutes.

Occasionally, if you glance out a window, you will see no sign of any clouds. There is empty blue sky, and the sun may even seem to be shining unless it is after dark.

This is a trick. If is meant to fool you into going outside without wearing your stoutest North Sea rough weather gear. You are supposed to leave your umbrella at home. Don't do it! Carry it at all times.

On top of it, the temperatures are only fair for late February. Monsieur, the TV-news weatherman, qualified this type of weather as 'yoyo.' I never knew this was a French word before tonight, so I guess the situation is serious - except for the lack of any drought in sight.

Here is the outlook for the next couple of days - it might be a bit sunny tomorrow for about two minutes around 14:27. It depends on whether the weather fronts from the Atlantic arrive 'on time,' at the 'right time,' or not.

The sunny period might be sooner, it might be later, or it might be in Montpellier. In fact, it will probably be in Montpellier all week. It might even be 23 degrees down there, but up here, where we are, we will be lucky to see the thermometre top 15.

Wednesday might only be cloudy, but it is more likely to be periodically rainy. Thursday. Well, Thursday is not going to be a brilliant day to remember in Paris. The weather appears to intend to be faithfully rotten. My fault, my excuses.

Café Life

'Mardi Noir' Bis

I have had more explaining to do about last week's 'Mardi Noir' than I expected because it continued on Wednesday and Thursday, and replayed again today. There are some folks in France who are seriously dissatisfied with the government's plans for their pensions.

This is a subject I have not been following as carefully as I should so it is kind of hard to explain. It seems that the government is willing to accept two unpleasant 'facts' as 'laws' that it cannot ever change.

One of these is a high unemployment rate, another is a growing under- employment rate, added to the notion that salaries will never rise at any rate higher than inflation. The trend is towards the minimum wage instead of the other way.

In effect, this means that the government believes that the mass of salaries will decline while the number ofphoto: street cleaner, rue du prevot workers decline and the number of retirees increases. Since retired ex-workers live longer than they used to, there isn't enough money being collected now to pay the pensions of workers who will be retiring in the future.

Street cleaner built to fit one of Paris' 15th century streets.

The government has proposed that everybody work a few years more. Workers who are about the retire tomorrow do not necessarily feel like working a couple of extra years - to help pay for a full pension agreed to years and years ago.

In France, a huge number of public employees - teachers, medical workers, social workers, prison guards - are those who purposely decided to spend their entire careers earning lower salaries in return for respectable pensions.

Now they are joined by many private sector workers who are being pressured to produce ever more, but for hardly higher pay than public sector workers. But by not being in the favored public sector, they are expected to work at least a couple of years more for their pensions, and they are facing the amount of these being whittled down.

The government - the management's - problem is that its best solution is to spread the misery. Most people running France have gone to special schools in order to learn how to do it. I think a lot of them must have skipped classes on the days when courses in 'mankind's progress' were given.

The same issue came to a boiling point in 1995, and it caused a conservative government to fall. Here we are again with the same problems - plus eight years - and with a conservative government - one apparently with the same ideas as it had back then.

The next 'Mardi Noir' is scheduled for Sunday, 25. May. If today's street turnout throughout France - not even semi-officially a 'Lundi Noir' - is any indication, then we will be having some interesting times.

Instead of these, it would be more to everybody's benefit if we could have some 'progressive' times instead.

59th Birthday Rehearsal

For no discernable reason, Dennis decided to have a dinner party last Tuesday evening. It was not his birthday and it wasn't a vodka-with- buffalo-grass occasion, although Dennis had some handy and used it. I guess it was a 13. May occasion.

My contribution to the whole evening was a baguette, and I never saw it again. It was one of the pricey, super-baguettes too. The food was very good. I don't know how he does it because lives on the fifth floor of a highly-polished stairs walkup building, and good food is heavy.

There were the usual gaggle of guests with the exotic wild cards for spice. John the Poet challenged us to guess who Dennis looks like, but insisted we wait until after the roast before putting our cards on the table.

I think it was Jonathan who led off with Benjamin Franklin as his guess. Everybody except John the Poetphoto: red fruit days, marche thought this was a fine choice, including Dennis, but he wasn't allowed to look like Benjamin Franklin, maybe because he was wearing his Cossack shirt.

In fact we were so sure that Dennis looks like Benjamin 'Marx Brothers' Franklin that we forced the issue a bit by refusing to guess any other look-alike possibilities. There was still a lot of wine to get rid of and cheese yet to come.

Here it is again - red fruit season at Paris' marchés.

Caught in a crossfire of doubt or stubbornness, John the Poet finally gave us - William Shakespeare - as the Dennis look-alike.

Jonathan is very open-minded and was willing to consider this. Myself, I know perfectly well that nobody knows who William Shakespeare looks like because nobody knows what William Shakespeare looked like - or even if William Shakespeare is William Shakespeare. Dennis is more real.

While we were arguing about this Dennis slipped out to his library and returned with his entire Shakespeare collection of about 25 books and dumped them all in the middle of the table, nearly in the roast's pot.

With all of us searching, a supposed likeness of William Shakespeare was eventually turned up, in book number 24. It is true, Dennis has a non-haircut that looked like the haircut in this spurious engraving of William Shakespeare.

Some people wanted to argue that this William Shakespeare engraving didn't look like William Shakespeare's other likenesses, but we couldn't find any for comparison. To defuse the situation, Dennis played a tape of John the Poet reading his works a long time ago. He doesn't sound like he does today, but who does?

This called for singing and the singers sang. Jonathan played the spoons and sang too, but nobody really knew the words. Luckily by then, it was cheese time.

Dimitri's Political Fashion Tips

Minding his own business, Dimitri was accosted in the Rue Daguerre by a TV crew who wanted to know his opinionphoto: trabant of the week, 501 s about how politicians dress. It must be pretty obvious that people wandering around in the Rue Daguerre are probably thinking of something else, but Dimitri took some time off from his life to answer the burning question.

Here it is for the first time - a fairly rare Trabant 501 S. Model year unknown.

"I think as much about the way politicians dress as the way they think," he said. Then the TV people wanted to know if Dimitri thought Président Jacques Chirac should have a beard like Dimitri's. Before he could answer, they asked if politicians should be 're-lookée' - which will give you an idea of the utter depths of 'Franglais' these days.

"Si, bien sûr," Dimitri had a ready answer for this, "Chirac's beard? He should have one like Napoléon III."

I can prove all of this because I have a photo of the encounter taken by Ludwig, but it doesn't quite show Dimitri's Alexander III-style goatee, so it is not here. Maybe you can catch it all when it is broadcast on TV's France-2.

'About' Café Metropoleô Blanc de Blanc

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

Café Metropole Club 'Reports'

Tap this link lightly to get last week's "We've Just Hung Up Our Sleds!" club meeting report. This was one of the ultra rare club meetings with twin 'Cities of the Week,' unless the club's secretary thought San Antonio had been one before. It hadn't, so it is.

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 22. May. The Saint's Day of the Week will be Saint-Emile, another saint who seems to be quite unremembered by my aging but Nouveau Petit Larousse. For concerned club members and casual readers I will blind-pick a saint at random with one of my fingers. Poke. There! As far as we are concerned, next Thursday should be Saint-Fons day. It is named after a southern suburb of Lyon.

A few of the minor details concerning the club can be found handily grouped on the all-purpose 'About the Club' page. The virtual membership card on this page may also be useful, but no member except one has ever said so.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 7.21 - 20. May 2002 - This issue started as usual with the Café Metropole column, 'Don't Forget to Feed the Canary.' This issue's 'Au Bistro' column's title was 'Only 8474 New Candidates.' The lone feature was about the 'Lone Eagle,' in 'Lindberghphoto: sign, best crossiant, beurre aoc charentes poitou Flies from New York to Paris Non-stop.' The update for the Café Metropole Club meeting on 23. May was a quiet moo of a quote with "Has More Cows Than People." There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's 'Cartoon of the Week' was curiously captioned, 'Ricolitti's Last Design.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 6.21 - 21. May 2001 - This issue's Café Metropole column was headlined, 'The Edition With 'l'Addition.' The 'Au Bistro' column's headline was, 'Speedways for Roller Folks?' The feature of the week was titled 'An Afternoon of 'Café Life' With Dennis.' An email featured self-help with 'Lost and How-to-Find,' by Tim Stanton. The Café Metropole Club update for this issue on 24. May had some sort of 'Midget Tootsie Roll' report. The 'Scene' column headline was, 'May's Holdovers Run Into June.' There were the four beautiful new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon performed a public service with 'For Men, Paris Fashion Tips, Not Funny.' This issue's Photo Page featured 'Sunday On Daguerre,' because it was close and easy to shoot.

Worldnet.Fr Finally Kicks the Bucket

This unusual countdown began, perhaps as long ago as Easter of 2002, when Worldnet's Web sitephoto: bombardier 415 said that Worldnet had ceased to exist. This is of little importance except that Worldnet has been my ISP since January of 1995.

The same Canadian company that makes parts for métros, makes Bombardier water bombers for French forest fires.

Worldnet was one of France's first ISPs, and in its early days most of its subscribers were journalists. It never went after big numbers, never tried to be an universal portal. But it sold itself to a larger, business-oriented operator, and this one got swallowed up by an even larger one - one that also appears to be in competition with France Télécom.

Now, after being non-existent for 15 months, they have decided to kill off Worldnet for good. Its service will cease in August. As far as I am concerned, its service ceased some time ago - getting Metropole uploaded for the past six months has been taking hours instead of minutes.

The result will be a sign-up with a new operator. Times have moved on while my equipment hasn't, so I havephoto: sign, capacity 36; 40 hommes, 8 chevaux, boxcar no idea if the changeover is going to be smooth - not to mention the furniture I am going to have to move on Wednesday to clear a way for the new wire's installation.

Even if next Thursday's club meeting report is delayed, access to Metropole will remain unchanged. What will change is my email address. The new one will be posted here. The 'mailto:' one on every page of Metropole will be changed - I hope, successfully - behind the scenes, on more than 3500 pages - and in some if not most of your address books.

So then, a short countdown to incroyable turmoil. There are two short days left to go. I will sleep first and work later.

For fans of European anythings, the number of days left this year is 225. This may seem like a long time until 2004, as if anybody cares. But it is no time at all until summer, which is 'officially' only 34 short days from today.
signature, regards, ric

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