horz line

Chinese Red Towers

photo: tour eiffel in red

What it's all about – a red Tour Eiffel.

Plus a Couple of Birthdays

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 26. January 2004:– This morning Radio France–Info said Paris is in an orange–alert zone. Not for high winds, not for floods – although the Seine is inching up – not so much for snow, but for cold.

Well, at first they said it was for snow. If not more than three centimetres were expected in the city, places in the Ile–de–France might get more than 10 centimetres. And there it was, or is, on tonight's TV–news weather. It showed that there's nasty snow out there in deepest Essonne or Yvelines.

But in Paris, some flakes fell but none landed on the ground. It's too warm. Around noon when I was out, the pharmacy thermometre said it was two degrees – above freezing. Enough for snow, just about, but nothing to get excited about. It felt damp though.

Tonight's TV–news weather forecast calls for partly sunny and mostly cloudy tomorrow. The high temperature is supposed to be four. There might be some snow on Wednesday when the high is expected to be three.

Then, on Thursday there will be a replay of Tuesday's weather. The orange– alert is still in place for tomorrow. The forecast in this morning Le Parisien was dire, but it looks like a thaw is coming before anything gets frozen.

Café Life

The Red Tour Eiffel

According to Saturday's Le Parisien and the Année de la Chine Web site, the Tour Eiffel turning red was supposed to begin at the end of the parade on the Champs–Elysées on Saturday, announced as 17:00.

The exact time seemed like it could a bit elastic to me, so I timed Metropole's coverage of the unique eventphoto: porta chair, parade, av foch to begin at sundown, which was supposed to be about 17:33. In fact the sky was so clear that sunlight glinting on windows of apartment buildings lining the Champ de Mars didn't fade out for another ten minutes.

A Chinese–type taxi in the Avenue Foch.

Night fell slowly. At precisely 18:00 the tower began its first sparkle of the evening, but without being any sort of red. By then I had gotten closer to the tower, and then had retreated to the Maréchal Joffre statue. Lots of twinkle, but no red. No photo.

Later, TV–news, with a poor exposure, showed the tower become red – but no time was mentioned. Maybe it was a live broadcast, so it would have been about 20:20. How many people left watching the parade, or left when it ended, to see the tower turn red is unknown.

In honor of China, for the Année de la Chine in Paris, the Tour Eiffel will only be red until next Thursday, from 17:00 to 7:30 in the morning. So I returned last night, to be on time for sundown.

Walking to the Champ de Mars, at first all I could see was the top of the tower. It wasn't red. But on reaching the big field I was relieved to see that the undersides of the giant lower arches were glowing red.

I waited for it to get darker. On Sunday the sky had an interesting collection of clouds, so darkness fell faster and as it did the tower gradually got redder. It was worth the wait – twice. It made me think that as long as the tower is illuminated, it should be done in this splashy way. But in red? Red is great, and is a Paris color – but why not blue?

When the sparkle lights came on at 18:00, they overwhelmed the 280 projected red lights. The sparkles are like camera flashlights going off. Maybe when it's darker it's possible to see both, but I didn't feel like waiting in the chilly breeze.

As things stand, if you have your own photo of the red Tour Eiffel, you should treasure it. This was announced as an effect for this occasion, so it might be a 'first' as well as a last.

The sparkle lights that flash for ten minutes every hour after dark seem – er – flashy. Despite the major effort to install their present long–life version, the emotional content is nil. This is not Las Vegas after all.

But the tower in red – it's marvellous. For once I agree with Le Parisien. The paper, in today's edition, also mentioned that it is something everyone can easily see – unlike the New Year parade on Saturday.

Chintown Gets Ready

Chinese New Year was on Thursday, 22. January, and I should have remembered this before going over tophoto: pho resto, chinatown Chinatown on Tuesday to do a little shopping. It seemed like just about all of Paris' Asian population was there to stock up on food necessary for the fête.

Right here in Chinatown – THE place to get soup.

Mixed in with normal shoppers, it seemed as if there were some buyers for restaurants – or very large families – who had shopping carts piled high with crates of – what? lettuce? chickens? Some people were a bit over–excited in the crush, but all the cashier–ladies were practising zen.

Once the battle was over I stopped at a restaurant for a bit of soup. I had 'ravollis' without noodles, and it was good – so much better than any of the Asian fast–food outlets scattered all around Paris in abundance.

Record–breaking Third–time 59

Every year about this time Uncle Den–Den holds a 59th birthday for himself, so he will have some company while he drinks a number of shot–glasses of buffalo–grass vodka.

He swears by it ever since it cleared up a bout of flu that wouldn't go away. It stayed gone – so he doesn't want to give up the custom.

I think that was three years ago, about thephoto: uncle den den, photo n white time Oleg was trying to get buffalo grass in Kiev and I was looking for it in Little Odessa in Brooklyn. The first thing Dennis said was, "Line isn't coming because she says I didn't invite her."

This was a blow, because no Uncle Den–Den's buffalo grass 59th birthday party is complete without Line's energetic singing of revolutionary songs. If she's not present, the best the rest of us can do is whistle off–key.

Uncle Den–Den in person. Photograph © by Nigel White

Well, that is an exaggeration. Uncle Den–Den knows the words to a lot of songs and Jonathan is a drummer. If there are no drums, he'll use spoons. I forgot to bring the plastic kazoo, but I can't play it yet. I'm a bum hummer anyway.

Instead, Jonathan cut up an orange like a Halloween pumpkin, put some olive oil inside, lit it, and it glowed for a long time before it fried through from the inside.

As a birthday present, Uncle Den–Den handed out a selection of books to the guests. I got a pile of about ten 'last choices.' I thought they might look impressive on the bookshelves in my entry hall, if carefully placed in front of the trash books I have. But when I showed off my treasures that was the last I saw of them.

There wasn't any Champagne so Dimitri didn't knock off any bottle tops. Uncle Den–Den brought out the hachet–looking meat–tenderizer so everybody could imagine Dimitri's amazing feat.

As always the food was prettyphoto: simca of the week, comedia italienne good and some had seconds and some fewer even had thirds. The vodka ran out but Dimitri found another full bottle, but without any buffalo grass in it.

This is not Uncle Den–Den's van. It is the 'Simca of the Week.'

When the cigarettes ran out, most of us left. It was pretty tricky, going quietly down five flights of stairs so polished that they glistened. Out on the Avenue du Maine Uncle Den–Den flagged a taxi in 30 seconds and the interesting lady from Argentina went off in it.

The rest of us walked over to Daguerre to see if the Bistro 48 was open, but they didn't know about Uncle Den–Den's annual 59th birthday celebration and were closed. Everything on Daguerre, except maybe the Zango, was closed. Sundays, around midnight, are like that.

Macintosh Turns 20

Even though very few of you will care about it, the Macintosh computer became 20 years old on Saturday. On the other hand, if your machine has a mouse and you see windows on its monitor, then you have to at least give a nod to Mac, because it was the first personal computer to have both.

Twenty years is doing pretty good in an age when whizzy new stuff is yesterday's throw–out news by the time you get your hands on it. Twenty years is also the amount of time I've owned Macs – fromphoto: original macintosh user manual the original 128 to the present, elderly G3 which was introduced in November of 1997.

If you ask me, I think te basic difference between a Mac and a PC is that I can use some of the same software today that I first used on an underpowered LC model – the 'pizzabox' – which was introduced in October of 1990.

The original user's manual for the first Macintosh.
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