horz line

''The Best Frozen Food''

photo: group, betty, jerry, philip, nancy, jason, tomoko

Today's group from left, Betty, Jerry, Philip, Nancy,
Jason and Tomoko.

''What's That Smell?''

Paris:- Thursday, 11. September 2003:- The weather hasn't lived up to its exciting forecast. According to the last TV-weather news prediction we were supposed to big waves of weather rolling over us from the Channel - rotten, rotten - and then from the Atlantic - less rotten, but crummy all the same.

Instead we have been having a piffle, and it even started with sunshine. After a half-day of sunshine when there were supposed to be big waves of dense gloom, it was only slightly cloudy. If it rained, it did it when I was asleep - which wasn't the whole time.

Temperature-wise, I am finding it hard to tell the difference between 18 degrees and 22. To me it feels like 22 all the time except when I'm writing this. My feet feel like it is no higher than 15 right now.

That was the weather that was. 'Exciting weather' has not been forecast for the near future. Tomorrow is supposed to be cloudy in the morning and partly sunny in the afternoon, with a leeway of 12 hours in either direction. Cold it will not be if the high of 24 is reached.

Saturday should be even sunnier. No 'big sunball,' but somewhat sunny all the same. Same too, the predicted high. Sunday has an even better outlook, at least from the vantage point of Thursday night. One degree less of a high for the day though.

What is the believability factor here? Given that actual weather can be on the button by plus or minus 500 kilometres, plus or minus 12 hours, I would say that the probability of the forecastphoto: member's loc map, by nancy coming true is pretty good. There will not be, for example, much sunshine around any coming midnight. Even if it rains on Sunday when the sun is supposed to be shining, the forecast is still within its prediction window because of the plus or minus 500 kilometres and plus or minus 12 hours.

Nancy's map shows where everybody is from, but not where everbody is.

If you don't like rain in the daytime, go out at night. But take a flashlight.

Today's Club Meeting

This starts off as usual with a ride on the Métro. Several million people do this every day in Paris without much in the way of incidents, and your club's secretary doesn't have any on the ride from Raspail to Châtelet except to note how helpful other Parisians are, giving Métro directions to travelling visitors.

If they end up at République instead of Galeries Lafayette it isn't the fault of the helpful direction-dispensers. Small visitor-type Métro maps are not always all that clear without a microscope. But all turns out well, because the direction-dispenser says he will tell the visitors where to get off the line four to change Métro lines. Then they can get lost in the tunnels.

Before you start to think it may be difficult, just remember that the Paris Métro system does not have three different stations on three different lines, called 'Avenue U,' in, for example, Brooklyn. In Paris there isn't even one 'Avenue U' station, or any alphabet Métro lines. The alphabet lines are reserved for the RER.

There is nothing special about the Rue de Rivoli today, even though I don't look at it closely. The Pont-Neuf seems to be its same, very old, self too. So does the Quai du Louvre. There is a medium sprinkling occupying terrace tables along the whole block, until La Corona's 50 or 60 chairs seem to be empty.

At the bar young Monsieur Naudan tells me business is good today. He might mean it was, up until aboutphoto: metro map, tomoko five minutes before my arrival. A lot of people have lunch in the café, but they leave as soon as they know I've left the Métro exit at Châtelet.

Patrick, today's 'Waiter of the Week,' says club members are waiting for me. "Il y a du monde," as he puts it. it's a lot better than him saying there's 'personne,' even if it isn't even 15:00 yet.

Tomoko shows off her near-microscopic Métro map.

So in the 'grand salle' I have a choice of 24 different chairs and 12 tables, but choose a set of one of each beside Nancy Maklin, who became a club member in February. She remembers everybody who was at that meeting, but I have to look it up. Nancy has to read the members' booklet to help me out.

This isn't on account of the 'official' notes being unreadable. Often a remembered club date turns out to be a week off in either direction, and I am a slow reader. Rather, I am a slow writer, because today's date has slipped my mind and I've got to get this right or no club member reading the booklets will be able to figure anything out.

At Nancy's first meeting she only had a chance to say she is from Illinois. Almost before she can tell me her hometown is Belleville, Betty and Jerry Blizin arrive. Jerry says visitors to Paris, based on his 'street experience,' are off by 15 percent.

Tomoko Yokomitsu, the club's only known actress, arrives. She says she went to the Sorbonne to learn French - 25 years ago. Jerry says, "Je parle 'Franglais.'" Tomoko offers to teach him French.

While Nancy is telling us about the ups and downs of East St. Louis, Jerry is explaining about the Greek sponge fishermen who live in Tarpon Springs, Florida. "They all came from the Isle of Kalymonos," he says, and adds, "If they leave Tarpon Springs, they only place they ever go is home for a visit."

To fix this firmly in our memories, Jerry says the name of the movie was '12 Mile Reef' and that it had John Gilbert in it. Member Jason Hraynyk arrives with Philip Bentley, originally from London. Aha! a new member. I hand across the club questionaire and the members' booklet to Jason and ask him to tell Philip the details, but Jason doesn't know them, or isn't used to acting as assistant club secretary. I tell Philip the standard warning.

Jason says, "What warning?" Then he says he's found out more about cricket. He thinks there are matches in the Bois de Vincennes every weekend. But the club member who wanted to know this isn't here today.

"What smells good?" asks Betty. There is a smell of burnt croque monsieur in the air. Willy the Sparrow flies in and finds a pile of fresh crumbs on the floor behind Jerry. When he turns to look, the table we are sharing tilts.

We arrange to each put a shoe on its appropriate legs and it stabilizes. Jerry used to work for the Washington Star, before becoming the Washington correspondent for the St. Petersburg Times. He says, since he and Betty always stay in Paris from four to six weeks, that they get their apartments here from an agent in Seattle.

The Blitzins prefer staying in apartments. "Picard has the best frozen food of any country," Jerryphoto: good bye lenin, jason exclaims. Then the talk turns to opera. While this is going on at the north end of the tables Nancy is drawing a map for Tomoko to show where Belleville is in relation to North America, and even to London, Philip's hometown.


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