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The Giant Sunball

photo: cafe au vrai paris, rue didot

Last week's gloom is this week's Indian Summer.

Techno Über Alles

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 15. September 2003:- At noon one of the waiters tells the customers camped at their habitual table that he's going to open the café's windows. With only a little grumbling they make way, allowing the floor to ceiling sheets of glass to be unlocked, and folded away like an accordion into their corner.

It only takes about three minutes to transform the café's indoors to outdoors and back to summer. After a weekend - imagine, a weekend! - of perfect weather, today promises to be a continuation of bright times, predicted to last all week. At noon the temperature is 20 degrees - about 69 F - and the forecast calls for totally clear skies and a high of 26 degrees.

It will be that rare thing - temperaturesphoto: palms, orangerie, luxembourg about five degrees higher than 'normal for the time of year.' When asked, the weather pros at France-Météo say there is nothing to match this years' weather in their records.

Next to the Orangerie in the Luxembourg garden.

Tonight's TV-weather news confirms the suspicion that we are going to have summer-bis, or a real 'Indian Summer.' Gosh! The forecast for Tuesday, 16. September is one big, great sunball - for all of France. High temperature is supposed to be - get out your suntan oils - to be, 27 degrees!

The rest of the week is supposed to be pretty much the same. The interesting thing to note is the predicted low temperature of 15 - for all week - which is high considering that the skies will be clear at night.

None of this has ever happened before in mid-September. Le Parisien calls it, 'Soleilissimo!' To this, I have nothing useful to add.

Café Life

Au Vrai Paris

Last Thursday after the club meeting, I decided to do something 'extra' - but within reason - and catch the pre-vernissage of a modest show called 'Retour (de) Métropotamie' at the café Au Vrai Paris. As soon as I got out of the Métro at Alésia it began to rain.

The Rue d'Alésia, with its thickly overhanging acacias, is gloomy at the best of times. But with rain and evening traffic both on foot and on the road, I really wondered if I'd picked the wrong place and date to do 'something extra.'

Gérald, the 'webmaster' of the café's Web site, wrote a note about the café, which has had several glancing mentions in Metropole going back to 1998.

This started off with "Nothing captures the feeling of the area more than the run down café Auphoto: old morris col, popeck Vrai Paris." Gérald added to the story, "That was back in the days of the former owner Mohamed Hosni, one of those beaten down Algerian immigrants who worked from eight in the morning to midnight seven days a week and earned nothing. He went bankrupt four years ago.

There are still a few of these older 'Morris' columns around.

"His son Ali, as French as you can get, left his career at the Lycée Autogéré de Paris - the concept of which was invented by Gabriel Cohn Bendit - and took over his father's place as a rendez-vous for artists. He runs it with his sister Nadia, an ex-cashier from an Atac supermarket, Vincent and Elliot and a few others. It has become an oasis in an otherwise deserted area."

About the exhibition, Gérald wrote, "Alain 1st was indeed a Paris institution in the 1980's, just like le Professeur Choron of Hara Kiri, selling his wares in the streets of the Latin Quarter."

In the café, before the vernissage, Gérald tells me it is not going to be one with free wine and olives. The paintings - from which the postcards were made - are bright patches on the walls, made brighter by Ali on a stepladder replacing dozens of little light bulbs that hang below the ceiling in an endless string winding around the café's roomy interior.

Gérald says that Saint Sébastien de Métropotamie, one of the two artists represented, is no longer on the planet. Alain 1st is among the living, but not present. The exhibition continues until next Sunday.

i had the club report to do. Outside the rain had stopped, but it was darker than it should have been for thephoto: letter from mail-art time of day. All in all, the café Au Vrai Paris, with its modest exhibition, was the sum of what it is. This is a rare thing - in a Paris ever accelerating blindly and out of control into the 21st century - a place staying where it was in time, just as if it never passed.

An invitation to 'Mail-Art's opening arrives in the mail.

True too that nobody likes to be in a 'deserted area,' or working 16-hour days. Two days plus three hours and there's the 35-hour weekly limit. When I write it down it seems to be out of synch with reality, while Au Vrai Paris stays in synch with a Paris that was, somehow.

Techno Über Alles

I have set myself the task of treating Jean Cocteau, but the weekend sunshine dragged me away from this project. The idea was to speed-read the book and other material, and then do the photos of sites relating to Cocteau's life.

But upon seeing police blocking all traffic going towards Denfert-Rochereau reminded me - plus the ever increasing noise - that Saturday was the day that Paris decided to impact itself with the Techno Parade. So I took a few photos at Denfert, did some shopping, and tried to get into Cocteau.

This didn't last long. There was too much light outside. I had no addresses but I went out anyway. Through the cemetery, through Montparnasse, to the Luxembourg, and then over to the Boulevard Saint-Michel. All the air within the garden was full of techno sound. Paris was hostage to a moveable steel mill.

The Boul'Mich opposite the Sorbonne. Thousands of techno people following a few flatdeck trucks freighted with meagre decor and overwhelming amplification. There were many curious too, but none daring to look out of surrounding windows. They were all closed and locked.

Boom, boom, boom. Endless, mindless, booms. Dancers on the flatdecks trying to keep it up, while right behind the trucks the hardcore boom-freaks were keeping it up - hopping, hopping, hopping, with arms writhing like snakes in the air. The flatdecks were bouncing too.

The trucks - supposed to be decorated floats - halted for long periods. But not the amplification. Never. Boom-squared, boom-cubed. Nobody would work in a factory with that sound-level without earplugs, ear-covers.

Techno fans were on the tops of bus shelters. There's an extra long one at Luxembourg, and they were hopping on it on time - on its glass surface, its steel frame fixed like a sideways diving board, bending with each hop. Decaux - your bus shelter passed the ultimate stress-test! It's techno-proof.

Supposed to be a 'festival of electronic music.' Nobody has ever tried the same thing - with the same amplification - with jazz, or rock-and-roll. Of all the types of music there are, why does it have to be the least musical? Why does the least musical have to be loudest?

I quit near the end, while the beginning of the 'parade' had probably reached Bastille. It would take another three hours for the last over-amplified flatdeck to get there. Right behind the last one, a flotilla of the city's green-squad equipment was in position on the boulevard, to sweep it all up and wash it down. Make it seem like it never happened.

In the evening, TV-news showed some of the people, ones with actual costumes, from the Techno Parade. Otherphoto: apres techno, street cleaners supporters, the mayor, Bertrand Delanoë and ex-culture czar Jack Lang, were shown too. Jack was France's first techno fan - he practically brought it single-handedly from Berlin 10 years ago. TV-news did not bother to 'show' the boom-boom part. Nobody's TV set could handle it.

City crews erase all traces of th Techno-Parade only minutes after it passes.
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