horz line

Freak Factory

photo: cafe l'enclos du temps, rue d'arrivee

The café L'Enclos du Temps is opposite the entry to Johnny's
soon-to-open discothèque in Montparnasse.

And Chicken Farmers

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 22. September 2003:- Officially the last day of summer is today but really, it happened yesterday. Today we have autumn 24 hours early. The glass blue sky is gone, replaced by grey wool and the warmer than room temperatures have taken the chute to the cellar.

Mind you, we've been doing pretty good with over a week of full summer weather, but now we going to get the bill. Not even half way to the cellar, with a high temperature of 25 today. It felt like less, pushed down by a mean wind from the southwest.

Tomorrow - ah - the beginning of autumn. Whack the top, lop the head off today's 25 degrees, gives us tomorrow's high of 19. And down it stays - 18, 19, 18 - but the sky should clear up for a few days. Until Friday.

Sometime on Friday the wind will switch to the northwest and it will blow cold air and nasty clouds down from the Channel. So say goodbye to today's 'Maurice' - the saint of summer's end - and say hello to tomorrow's 'Automne.' To be with us until 'Hiver' on Monday, 22. December.

Café Life

Freak Factory

I was out near Bagnolet looking around for signs of Edith Piaf, partly because of one of the 'countdowns' on this page, but mostly because the weather was great for being way out in east Paris.

Other than the Bar Edith Piaf and a lot of sunshine I didn't find much so when I got to the edge of the 11th arrondissement, I went down Voltaire to where Gilbert Shelton has his Freak Brothers factory. The weather was so warm that the door wasn't locked and it almost opened by itself.

Inside the shop, which has had no sunlight in it since 1958, Gilbert and Pic were waiting for somebody to showphoto: shelton and pic up so they could quit pretending to work. My feeling is that they come back at night or on weekends and do the work, because it does get done. Gilbert showed me the proofs of the postcards they are making out of Freak Brothers comic book covers.

Gilbert and Pic study new postcard's 'sky,' deciding against clouds.

They are somebody else's idea. Comic book covers don't fit on postcards because they all have top spaces left blank for the titles. So Gilbert and Pic have to 'fix' them up, without actually re-doing them. They have about three dozen to do.

Gilbert also showed me another series of drawings which are supposed to be practical tips for motorists. Some of them look like cars Mr. Natural would drive, if he lived in France, and drove cars here.

At one point, 'Tôme 9' of the 'Fabuleux Freak Brothers' is trotted out, still smelling of the ink used by the press out at Saint-Ouen. It is the standard hard-cover European-style comic book of 50 pages. Gilbert said the coming 'Tôme 10' will be a block-busting 150 pages, perhaps marking another anniversary. Thirty-five years of the Rip-Off Press in 2004?

The main computer monitor has turned magenta in hue so Pic is trying to squeeze a postcard out of a borrowed one. The two argue about the sky, and then end up agreeing that the original one was best. Gone are the fake clouds and the deep blue is back.

Gilbert gives me a copy of 'Tôme 9' to read on the Métro going home. I can use it to learn French after the train gets within the 14th. I see that 'Tôme 9' has its 'Dépôt Légale' mention. It means that the Bibliothèque Nationale has its Freak Brothers collection too.

As a bonus Gilbert has thrown in the small poster called 'Starry Night in Amsterdam.' Gilbert did the drawing and Paul Mavrides did the Van Gogh part. It is available at Galerie Thé Troc, 52. Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, Paris 11.

Russian Chicken Farmers

I doesn't matter that I can't remember what day it was or which café we were in when Dimitri told me about Vassili Oupornikoff who had a chicken farm just south of Paris in Villejuif, probably in the 1930s. There was a show here about White Russians recently, and I think he found out about it from Le Figaro.

This was such an interesting story that I forgot to ask him how he came to be reading Le Figaro. Instead he told me about Andrei Korliakov's Le Emigration Russe Web site - which was amazing too because Dimitri hasn't gotten beyond a transistor radio and 78 rpm records.

Dimitri gave Andrei Korliakov a phone call and learned that Vassili Oupornikoff is longer in the chicken business. Dimitri's interest is that his grandfather was in the same business, and indirectly, this is how it was possible for Dimitri to end up living here. For a long time I thought the only things Russians had in common was Buffalo Grass.

Spacy Patrimony

For 363 days of the year there is too much going on in Paris. Then there is the weekend of the Journéesphoto: standing on paris, spot photo Européennes du Patrimoine when there are far too many things 'going on.' This last weekend saw hundreds of thousands turn out to look over - many spiritual - sites, many that aren't normally open to the public - which is the main purpose of this weekend.

Space-age patrimony fan, standing on the right-bank of the Spot-photo.

It would take an army of reporters to cover this 'event.' Without one, a choice had to be made, and I chose the CNES, which is the 'Centre Nationale des Etudes Spatiales.' This is not located in southern France or in South America, but right beside Les Halles in the centre of Paris.

Space exploration is supposed to have its spiritual aspects - as in, what the heck are we doing here somewhere in space which is a pretty darn big place? The 'conquest' of space is supposed to find this out.

Meanwhile, there are useful offshoots of the deep-space probes. For example, the little satellites we have looking at the earth, taking their photos, giving us accurate information we can't get with our feet on the ground.

For the patrimony weekend, the CNES not only opened it doors for the first time, but as sort of a doormat had a satellite photo installed in front of its entry. This was a photo of the Ile-de-France, six by eight metres in dimension. It was taken by Spot-V, showing details as small as 2.5 metres.

Thus I was able to count the tombstones in the cemetery across the street from my apartment, and to see exactly how close the Cadillac Ranch in Essonne is to the prairie. The prairie starts beyond the ranch's fence, but I could not identify the shadow of the water-tower that overlooks the ranch - probably because the photo was taken at high noon.

Short Car-Free Day

Today has been, and not for the first 22. September, a 'car-free' day for Paris - and quite a numberphoto: fiat 500 of the week of other towns and cities around France. The 'day' was a bit short because the initiative only lasted from 9:00 to 19:00.

Short 'Fiat 500 of the Week' for short car-free day.

Despite warning signs being up all over the city for the past ten days or so, many automobilistas were caugh by surprise as they tried to enter the city centre only to be stopped by barricades. Most of four right bank arrondissements had no access, as well as parts of three left bank arrondissements - plus all of Montmartre and the Villette area.

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