horz line

Flash–Dash Visit

photo: cafe bar le notre dame

The café Notre Dame is a good rendez–vous spot
near Notre Dame.

Stroke of Midnight

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 5. January 2004:– With a brand–new year we start out with brand–new weather which looks suspiciously like last year's weather. But looks can deceive – this year's version of the weather is worse than last year's looked.

For the past few days the temperatures have hovered around freezing, with little difference between the highs and lows. The only relief has been the lack of wind, but gloves are necessary all the same if you intend to walk further than the distance from a Métro exit to a museum entry.

Today's weather map in Le Parisien looks like the diagram of a football game gone crazy. A 'zig' here and a 'zag' there, and 'gazoop' looping down, a twirl through the centre, and sunshine in Ajaccio.

Tomorrow's map is a lot simpler. In Paris we will be treated to clouds, clouds and more clouds. Rain may fall from some of them, but tonight's TV-weather news didn't think this would happen to Paris. Le Parisien thinks the high will be nine, while tonight's TV-weather forecasts seven degrees.

For Wednesday, there is a wierd bulge from the north, supposed to contain sunshine. Both the paper and TV think the temperature will be seven. Mostly cloudy looks like the Paris forecast for Thursday, with temperatures at seven again. It will seem balmy.

Café Life

One–Day Flash–Dash Visit

I always knew that some people visit Paris for short periods, but for just an afternoon is cutting it fine. This was with the lady with the bottomless swimming pool I met in Maine last summer. She had had a Christmas in Normandy, and was to shortly whizz back to America.

In fact, my instructions were clear. Get from the Bastille to a café on the corner of Saint–Jacques, opposite Notre–Dame, by 17:30. By Métro this can be done in ten minutes, so the trick was to do it in about three hours without freezing to death while seeing as much of Paris as possible.

We skipped the Bastille by crossing it by the most direct way and popped into the oasis of the Courphoto: arcades, place des vosges Damoye. Then we swung around to the north and cut west, which brought us to the Place des Vosges, flooded with sunshine. On the way around we almost went in the back door of the Hôtel de Sully.

Under the arcades at the Place des Vosges.

But we got out of that one and had our first warm–up pause in the Rue Saint–Antoine. After café, cakes, pies, we left by the side door and passed a Monoprix that had something vital in it. I waited outside and a couple of New Yorkers almost came out but returned inside to look for chicken bits.

Then it was going–west some more on the Rue Charlemagne – zillions of years old – and down by the Forney to peek into its courtyard, and walk around its side to get to the Pont–Marie.

We stayed on the north quays of the Ile Saint–Louis – hundreds of years old – to avoid the circus in the Rue Saint–Louis–en–l'Ile. A pass by the Oasis was impossible to avoid, as was crossing the Pont Saint–Louis to the Ile de la Cité.

Luckily nobody asked for details about this 30–chapter subject, so we were able to quickly get to the Pont au Double, visit Paris' oldest tree – in semi–darkness and in winter – pass Shakespeare & Co. with hardly a glance, and there we were, across from our destination café.

As is often the case these days, cafés are full of Italians, but we squeezed into a booth and had more cafés and captured some of the café's warmth.

If I did this kind of thing for a living I would call it eight centuries in 90 minutes. But since I did it for free and without notes, everybody was satisfied and we all agreed to meet at Marienbad next year.

The Stroke of Midnight

Daddy Warbucks called a couple of days ahead of time, to say he would have finger–food on New Years Eve. This was to be a welcome change from all of the six–course meals we've been having lately, even for breakfast.

Some of the regular Daguerréotypistas were not present on account of being absent, which reduced thephoto: brick, dimitri evening's musical possibilities. These occasions make me nervous anyway, because I'm always unprepared to sing, and don't know any words.

Buffalo–grass vodka was definitely in the cards. Compared to a couple of years ago, it is getting really common. With a hundred– year supply of the weed, it might be time to move on to something else exotic or rare.

Without hatchet or saber, Dimitri tries brick first.

Dimitri did not spend all day making blinis for this evening. Nobody else did anything else all day in order to get ready for this evening either, except maybe Daddy Warbucks, who had arranged for us to have two dozens kinds of finger–food. Four of this, three of that, two of the others, not counting the cheeses.

Around quarter to twelve I heard Dimitri mutter, "Should I go home and get my axe, or the saber in the back–seat of the car?"

A completely unplanned bottle of Champagne had been brought, and Dimitri immediately planned to whack off its top. He changed his mind about going home for his axe, and decided to try it with a fireplace brick.

So there he was, with two minutes left to go, with a brick in one hand and the Champagne bottle in the other, pointed at Henri the professor sitting by himself on the opposite side of the room.

Warned in time, professor Henri moved to safety. The count–down began. Sixteen, 15, 14, 13, and Dimitri readied the brick to strike. Then, midnight. Then nothing. The brick trick didn't work.

Daddy Warbucks slipped out of the room and speedily returned with a home–made meat tenderizer, looking vaguely like a hatchet. He said his mom made it. Dimitri grabbed it, took a reckoning, and struck.

The top of the Champagne bottle popped neatl off and flew across the room like a bullet, putting a dentphoto: champagne top and cork, dimitri in the plexiglass covering a drawing on the opposite wall – about 20 centimetres above where Professor Henri's head had been quite recently.

Continued on page 2...
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