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"I Took the Tree Down Today"

photo: albert, barbara, berta, scoop, laurel, dimitri

From left, informally, Albert, Barbara, Berta, Scoop,
Laurel and Dimitri.

Lots of Foie Gras On Toast

Paris:– Thursday, 1. January 2004:– New Years Eve weather was bone– chilling, which was probably noticed by a half–million revelers on the Champs–Elysées, because some of them warmed up by tossing empty bottles at the police after all the other 499,239 good folks had gone home to warm up in more conventional ways.

My second view of 2004, in dim daylight, was brief. Snow was falling on the tombs in the cemetery across the street so I went back to bed. Ninety minutes later, it was still falling on the tombs across the street. This possibility had been given an orange alert on last night's TV–weather news, but it didn't look like 'orange–alert' snow. It wasn't like last years' half–day blizzard.

If there were a Le Parisien with a weather forecast today, I didn't see any news kiosks open to sell it. Tonight's TV–weather news seemed to predict rain for tomorrow morning and rain for tomorrow afternoon. Keeping in step with this equality forecast, tonight's low is supposed to be two degrees and Friday's high might be three degrees.

Good news for Saturday worshipers through. It should be sunny, I think, and the thaw will continue with a high of four. Enjoy it while you can, because Sunday is expected to regress to mostly cloudy and partly sunny – maybe – but with temperatures up around the five degree marK.

This is all completely normal for any average month in Paris that is colder than January. Sad to say that are no 'average' months colder than January, on average. This means, taking global warming into account, that things can only get better.

The Only 'First' Club Meeting of the Year

Appropriately, this begins on an absolutely deserted Rue de Rivoli, after an exciting ride in a Métro train full of faux–Italians. They may have been real Italians because therephoto: soup bowl of cafe seems to be more of them around than Parisians, but I wasn't keeping score and the 'truth–in–reports' rule requires that every fact that isn't 100 percent true, be 'faux.'

Proper method of stirring soup–bowl of café – anticlockwise.

As hinted at already, on the Rue de Rivoli there are no Parisians and no Italians in sight. New Years Day must be the only one when it is possible to walk on either sidewalk with the arms wide out like a penguin. But for warmth, I keep my arms tucked tight to my sides.

All shops seems to be closed, except for the cafés along the Quai du Louvre. These might be empty too, but it is hard to tell through their steamy windows. There are – I don't believe this – there are people on La Corona's terrace, who look like they are trying to decide where to sit down, or come back in six months and sit down.

Inside the café, past its steamy windows, the bar is full. The 'petite salle' is full. The stairs downstairs are full. I have a double–espresso at the bar – learning that La Corona's prices are somewhat high - before venturing into the café's 'grande salle' – translation: 'large room' – which is chock–full.

C'est formidable! Jamais vu! The waiters of the day are whizzing around with gigantic platters of frites, onion soups, tureens of café – whirling around obstacles, dodging backpacks carelessly littering the passageways and racing back to the commando central at the bar to order more frites.

My little pause has been just enough to allow six paying customers to clear out of the club's space. As I sit down and get out the club's official documents and tools, all around there are hordes of refugees from the cold tucking into all the best of what France and La Corona has to offer – mainly huge plates full of thick frites.

The first club members to find their way through the crowd are Barbara and Albert Roldan, from Sanphoto: two time watch Francisco. They arrived in Paris on Wednesday, watched New Years in San Francisco on CNN, and here they are at their first club meeting since 28. November 2OO2.

Six minutes later, club members Berta and Scoop Maginnis arrive at their first meeting since the last one they attended two weeks ago. The four members present agree that this is not only the first meeting of the year, but it is also the first with snow, and the first time that Berta and Scoop have been six minutes late.

Berta's two-timing wrist clock.

Scoop's news is that everybody else in the Maginnis family did better than he did at the Christmas Day race meeting at Vincennes. "But it was better than no racing at all," he adds, philosophically.

Berta's news is that she received an email from Tomoko Yokomitsu, who is absent from this meeting on account of being in Japan. Berta says, "She's the club's Garbo" – which is a reference to Tomoko's illustrious screen career.

Then Berta is on to domestic matters. "I took the tree down today," she says. She adds that dismantling the 'tree' on New Years Day is a Maginnis family tradition, and does not care a fig that French tradition leaves trees up until all their needles are on the carpet. Until March if necessary.

Whether her wristwatch showing the time in Washington DC and Paris has anything to do with Christmas, she doesn't say. Laurel Avery and Dimitri Shipounoff arrive at this juncture, and Dimitri observes that trees may still be up at Easter, if it is in April.

Scoop says, "I fought off the urge to send you a blazing email," to Laurel. What about, we do not learn, but Laurel does offer that her heating is fixed, but now the heating in the bedroom has gone on the fritz. She says she fixed it by getting a space heater.

Everybody else with an apartment in Paris says they've 'fixed' their heating problems by getting a space heater, except Dimitri who has a wood stove, and the club's secretary, who puts on more clothes.

About New Years Eve in the 16th arrondissement, Scoop says it was pretty lively, "On the one day they're allowed out." Apparently there were private fireworks shot off on both sides of the Seine. The club's secretary is the only one to hear Scoop mutter, "The mayor spent the money on Paris Plage instead of fireworks."

Instead of sleety rain, it is visiblyphoto: bic, france,world cup, 98 snowing again at 15:30, and Scoop is saying he got a bicycle – for Christmas? – to ride to the PMU, so he doesn't have to waste a lot of time going and coming from betting.

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