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'Wisconsin–sized Dinner Plates'

photo: betty, eva, fred, diana, barry, lewis, laurel r, laurel a

The publishable version of today's 'Group Photo of the Week.'

Feet–and–Toes Heaven

Paris:– Thursday, 8. January 2004:– After the cold weather we've been having I don't feel like looking up Monday's forecast to see how far off the mark it was. Yesterday was sunny and warmer, and today is even warmer, but there is a lot of rain falling all over the place, more on than off.

I can look at today's weather maps in Le Parisien with my eyes all squinty, like Dustin Hoffman's big sister in 'Little Big Man,' and see that the maps for all four of the coming days are blotted with dark cloud lumps. Saturday's 'exception' has one of the ridiculous curving vertical lines through France – meaning, sometime during the day there will be dark cloud lumps right over our heads.

For all the other days, the dark cloud lumps will be over our heads all day long. There are no predictions for partly sunny periods, with Saturday as the feeble 'exception.'

The good news is that the coming temperatures are supposed to be in the low double–digits. This morning's Le Parisien says 11, 10 and 11. Tonight's TV–weather news said 12, 12 and 11 degrees for Sunday. This is about 50 degrees on the 'F' scale, and is probably 'average for the time of year.' Some breezes tomorrow might make it seem colder, but this will only be in your imagination.

Today's Club Meeting 'Report'

The winter sales officially started yesterday, but today's Rue de Rivoli does not seem crowded with bargain–hunting shoppers. I suspect they are all inside shops, flinging their plastics around with wild abandon, while avoiding the rains and January's glooms.

Except for occasional clotted mobs waiting at crosswalks for the 'green man,' the sidewalks are pretty deserted. I do not overhear anybody speaking Italian for the first time in weeks, but I do not overhear anybody else speaking any other languages either. I am glad I brought a copy of today's Le Parisien to read in the club's café, La Corona.

On the Quai du Louvre, about 100 metres from the café, I wonder if I'll be able to hear myself read. There isphoto: boot of the week a short joker with a jackhammer pounding away at the joints between the sidewalk's paving stones. Just opposite the club's area in the café, an industrial compressor is throbbing. Red dots mark the paving stones meant to be extracted. They look like slick dominos, all aces.

The week's 'Boots of the Week.'

Unlike last Thursday, which was New Years Day, the interior of the club's café is nearly deserted. If its seven customers left, it would be completely empty. Where have all the crowds of early this yesteryear gone?

The other four customers are in the café's 'grande salle,' and they do look like they are about to leave, except for the guy doing the crossword puzzles. The café's 'grande salle' is his gameroom.

Laurel 'Doggie Bag' Avery is sitting in the club's reserved area together with Barry Wright. They would be happier to see the club's secretary arrive if they hadn't already seen him outside, counting the red dots on the sidewalk's paving stones.

Laurel's big news is that she's already struck paydirt with the winter sales. "I got myself some boots – exactly size 38 and a half. They had half–sizes! No pointy toes, nophoto: beer of the week stiletto heels!" she says, almost overcome with joy. "Half–sizes," she says, "Of course, they're Italian."

She looks like she's in feet–and–toes heaven. Laurel started early yesterday, by getting a winter sweater for 16€, a long black wool winter coat, and a black leather bag for fun.

I am very pleased. There's nothing like having a full wardrobe of brand–new winter clothes to make the temperatures go up and stay up. Barry is grinning like he's just eaten his own canary, but he says he hasn't bought anything in the winter sales. Neither have I.

This week's 'Beer of the Week.'

All Laurel lacks now, she says, is some mink oil. Do I know where to get some? Hardly. I never heard of it before. It is explained that it is perfect for keeping leather supple as well as waterproof. I still never heard of it before.

New arrivals appear before us and are invited to join the club. They are Betty Feldman and Fred Forrest from Los Angeles, California. LA has been a 'City of the Week' before, so they say they live a 'block away from West Hollywood.' West Hollywood has never been a 'City of the Week,' but a 'block away' from it is still in LA and gets us nowhere.

But Betty comes through to save this club meeting, by remembering that she was born in Sylmar, California, and lived there until she was four. The club has never had Sylmar as a 'City of the Week' before, and now it does.

It doesn't matter that Sylmar has smog as bad as Los Angeles, which some club members claim isn't as bad as it used to be. Everybody except the club's secretary has a smog story, because I have never been in Sylmar or Los Angeles. Never even in California even.

Fred says what he does in Los Angeles and Betty doesn't, and Barry says no matter where he goes, he feels good when he 'fitsphoto: ice and water of the week in' and natives think he is one of them. He says this was easy to do in Amsterdam, but it was harder in Mexico. Listening between the lines, I think it was impossible in Mexico.

Fred says he does not speak Spanish – Betty says she does – Barry lived in El Paso and doesn't, and Laurel doesn't say. To change the subject, Barry says he didn't 'fit in' in Wisconsin either because there are no average–size people there.

The week's glass part–full of 'Ice of the Week.'

This causes the club's 'Idea of the Week,' which is to make dinner plates 'Wisconsin–sized,' so that the steaks there don't hang untidily over the edges. Everybody except the club's secretary makes a note to call their patent attorneys tomorrow, first thing.

Long–standing club member Eva Lee from Tranquility, New Jersey, arrives and sits down. Everybody gets introduced to everybody else. Then club members Diana Rushing and Lewis Rosenthal arrive from their trips to France's Normandy and we do it all over again.

After a further ten minutes of here–and–there chit–chat Lewis notices that nobody has anything to drink. He is right. The club's secretary scans the café's grande salle' and sees that it is empty except for thirsty club members.

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