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Ne Ratez Pas Mars!

photo: sunday, sunny, cafe, daguerre

Real Sunday with real dubious sunshine that lasts
only 30 minutes more.

And a Little Slumming

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 1. September 2003:- The rains couldn't wait. Only three days left in the month, in the summer, in August, and the rains couldn't wait. They never can I guess. For what sunshine we get we are supposed to feel lucky. The more we get, the worse the rains are when they come back.

To make sure we remember, when the rains came back they didn't come with any hesitant drizzles - they came full, like a waterfall. No letting us make any mistakes, no getting false hopes, no trying a little mist and slipping some sun back in so we could finish the month in beauty.

Well, it was all forecast, but predictions are often wrong. Last Thursday's weren't. Tough luck. The summer of 2003 ended forever on Thursday, 28. August.

Now we have the rest of the year. Autumn has already started. Leaves as crisp as chips are lying around the dry trunks of trees. The rain was heavy but it didn't last long each time it fell, so I guess the trees are still dry. At any rate they are too far gone already.

I was really counting on one, grand, sunny, last day, yesterday. It was how it started out in the morning. Then it got tired and quit between 12:30 and one. It tried a couple of more times and then gave up. Then it did the same thing this morning, and the same thing this afternoon.

It's just as well. If it hadn't stopped being summer we would still be thinking it is still going on. Now there is no doubt that it isn't. Whatever fine weather happens now will be a chance bonus. An occasional present from the sky.

I think we may be getting some of this as early as this week. Both Le Parisien and tonight's TV-weatherphoto: fiat 500 of the week news predict mostly cloudy, partly sunny for tomorrow. The temperature won't be dazzling. If it gets up to 20 C it will be a wonder.

After a long absense, the Fiat 500 of the Week is back!

But Wednesday should be mostly sunny, with a high of 22. If two days can be a trend, then Thursday should be sunnier and warmer - 25 - just like it should have been on the weekend past. According to the paper, it should continue into Friday, with maybe an extra degree of warmth.

Three days should make a trend, even if it seems unlikely to be true because trends here seldom last three whole days.

Café Life

Ne Ratez Pas Mars!

This was a headline in Le Parisien last Wednesday. It was about the planet Mars being closer to the Earth than any time in the next 60,000-odd years, or since 60,000-odd years, give or take a millenium or two.

I first heard about this when I was in New York from a guy named Randy who has a reflector telescope, and Long Island skies for clear views. He said, even a couple of weeks before Mars was closest, that he could clearly see details on it. He said it was really red too.

There are a lot of people, although none living in Paris because there is too much ambiant light, who regularly see Venus. I an envious. I have never seen another planet except the moon, and it is not supposed to be a planet even though it is not big and is very far away.

On Wednesday Dennis was celebrating going off to San Francisco to look for gold. He does not have celebrations for returning from places, like Naples, Ireland, or even San Francisco. As far as this goes, neither do I. Originally this going-away fëte was supposed to be on Tuesday. But one more guest signed on, so he switched to Wednesday. If he hadn't, I'd still be doing last week's issue.

Because of Mars, I took my Russian binoculars as well as the camera. In case Mars turned out the bephoto: non photo mars, 27 august really small, I didn't want to miss anything. This was a lot extra to carry up six flights of stairs, but I toughed it out all the way. After the fourth flight, oxygen was thin.

True photo of Mars which is, unfortunately, invisible.

Dennis promised nothing fancy to eat, but of course he had the usual dozen plus six different dishes. When 'nothing is fancy' chez Dennis, it means there is no half cow as a pot roast, or osterich done up as a turkey. As usual though he did heat something in his minature oven, and this came as as burnt Russian things, somewhat like huge corn chips.

Present where most of the usual Daguerreotypistas, including Line who had just got back from Florida where she had been studying owls that live underground like moles. This farfetched tale was a bit different from the Marx Brothers' plots one usually hears.

Some other guests were passing through, also from Europe to California, or from France to Britain so they could go to California. The worst off was one of us, Matt Rose, who was leaving for Omaha, Nebraska in the morning. I think Matt was pretty excited about it. The next time Dennis goes someplace and has a party, Matt can tell us about Omaha instead of Dennis telling us another Marx Brothers' plot.

At some point, there was singing. There never is a 'why' to the singing - there always is some though. Line sang some English sea chanty, quite clearly and strongly. After three stanzas - are they called stanzas? - and the chorus between each, we applauded. Line hesitated not a note, and sang the other four stanzas, with the choruses.

There were other singers too. Dimitri sang something wonderful in Russian. Singing makes singers thirsty. There is never a shortage of drink at Dennis' going-away parties. Dennis brought out his old Armangac, made by some French geezer who doesn't believe in taxes. Some guests tried it and looked like they lacked oxygen.

Line said she had to go early about 23:30, saying that if she didn't her bike would be too tipsy to roll home. I think she may have put too much into the singing. When I looked next, it was 23:55, so I said I had to go see Mars. None of Dennis' windows faced the right direction.

On Long Island, Randy had said that Mars' direction was south. I went over to the south side of the Gare Montparnasse, where I could see the Tour Eiffel sparkling like orange tinsel. Between two buildings I peeked through a steel mesh overlooking the dozen sets of rails going to the south.

Aside from the lights on the station platforms and the receeding red lights of a TGV train pulling out, there was absolutely nothing to see in the midnight sky. Was I too early, or too late? Was Mars further away than it was supposed to be? Was the sky so dark I couldn't see it was cloudy?

Did Thursday's Le Parisien say what a wonderful sight Mars had been? Did Thursday evening's TV-news show ultra-clear videos of Mars? No. No. No. Nothing, just like Mars on Wednesday night. April fool in August. 'Ne Ratez Pas Mars!'

Slum Crawling with Dimitri

Yesterday, August's last day, and one predicted to be mostly sunny, I set out medium early to photograph Paris. My aim was the 'last day' of summer, with some elements of Henri IV's parts of the city. In fact, except for the weekly posters, I had to get all of the issue's photos.

he situation looked darn good until I ran into Dimitri, who invited me to have a café. I had just hadphoto: dimitri at the gate one, but I figured watching him drink an espresso couldn't do any harm. But by the time he had downed his thimble-sized cup, the situation no longer looked rosy in the heavens.

Dimitri, locked out from a closer inspection, studies possible slum.
Continued on page 2...
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