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Poison Blow–fish

photo: group, barry, eva, doug, diana, laurel, lewis, ana, tomoko, david, james, joe

This Week's new 'Group of 11 Photo of the Week.'

'Food of the Week'

Paris:– Thursday, 5. February 2004:– There were no loud booms last night heralding any blizzard today. The morning view from my window overlooking the Montparnasse cemetery was full of weak sunshine, about to become stronger.

We have been having Paris' 'beautiful February week' for about a week now – since last week's club meeting This freak weather happens every other year, more or less. The difference this time around is that it is not only sunny but warm too. Usually it is as cold as frozen brass and the sky looks like blue steel.

But it is okay as it is. Folks are sunbathing at the seaside – especially if they are near Biarritz – and all the café terraces with good views in Paris are full. The ones without good views, or in the shade, are not so full.

But 'beautiful February week' doesn't last forever. According to tonight's TV-weather news there will be some clouds ranged along the Channel, being pushed northeast by 70 kph breezes. Still, Paris should be mostly sunny tomorrow, and the temperature will be right up there, about 16 degrees.

The sky might stay about the same on Saturday, but the heat is going to leave us cold, with a dump to a high of ten degrees. The light wind from the north will shift on Sunday to a 60 kph breeze from the northwest, and this will give us partly cloudy skies while knocking the temperature down to 'about right for the time of year,' to six lousy degrees.

Today's Le Parisien says next Monday may be sunny, but the temperature will 'stabilize' – to stay locked on six. Consider this a long–range prediction. It won't hurt to believe in it, but it won't do any good either. It may be an appropriate time to 'sortez les muffles!'

The 222nd Meeting 'Report of the Week'

Instead of trying out a new route to the club's café – such as, by way of Bastille – I do the same old thing again and walk over to Raspail and get on the Métro there and ride on it down to Châtelet where I get off as usual, glance at the Rue de Rivoli, and saunter over to the Pont Neuf.

Workmen who tore up the sidewalk along the Quai du Louvre a couple of weeks ago, have called in a special crew to putphoto: frozen japanese blow fish the paving stones neatly back in place like they're supposed to be. The bumpy hack–work they left behind is getting leveled out. I wonder how many high–heeled red shoes have been wrecked along here recently.

Frozen poison Blow–fish, straight from Osaka.

But I don't brood over this. I go into La Corona and shake hands with the acting boss, Mr Naudan, fils. There isn't anybody else around. The café's 'grande salle' has more people in it than nobody, but not by much. I get to the club's area before I see Ana Escomel, sitting off to the side by the 'no smoking' sign.

Ana wants to know if I want to hold the meeting there, out of the bright sunlight. But, for the meeting's beginning, the secretary should be visible, even if blinded by sunlight – and anyway, it is not all that bright today.

I think, 'aha!' – I am going to get to talk to Ana today, and find out all about Lima. I no sooner open my mouth to ask the first question when Tomoko Yokomitsu arrives. She begins showing me the frozen Blow–fish she's brought all the way from Japan – yesterday – when member Jim Donatelli arrives. He reminds me that he is a game warden from Wilmington, based in Mercer, Pennsylvania.

I no sooner ask him how to spell 'Wilmington' when Laurel Avery arrives – no, sorry – Barry Wright comes first, then Laurel, almost together with Eva Lee. My mouth is still open to ask Ana a question – but I am writing the members' names down as fast as I can – when Lewis Rosenthal arrives.

By this time Tomoko, who is severely jetlagged, is asking the 'Waiter of the Week' for a knife so she can open the Japanese cakes she's brought. Then I am eating a cinammon one and others are trying the tea cake ones – and I'm telling Tomoko we'll park her over by the 'no smoking' sign if she passes out.

My cake looks like a brown wonton. For some reason Tomoko tells us the location of all the major Chinatowns in Japan. There's one in Kobé, for example. New member David Pitt arrives in the midst of this, but without appearing to be confused because he's read a lot of the club's 'reports,' he says he is from Yosemite. I am surprised to learn that it is in California.

I don't know why I thought Yosemite is in Arizona, no, New Mexico, and all the members say, 'no no,' it really is in California. It is also the meeting's 'City of the Week,' so California is a winner today, not Arizona and not New Mexico.

But to listen to several of the club members, it is all about in the same place, right up there at 9000 feet elevation, orphoto: club wines even higher in nearby Lima, Peru. Laurel says, "I've never been in Yosemite." Neither has the club's secretary – not Arizona, not New Mexico, not California, not Lima, Peru, and not old Mexico – which is where I was going when I arrived in Europe.

A forest of glass full of wine is a club fixture.

Well, well. David Pitt, the club's new member, ran a bookshop in Yosemite for about 25 years. What with the Internet and all, even though he kept his regular customers who really like books, it fizzled out. Lately he been working on a board game, that he started about 30 years ago and has returned to it again.

Before he can divulge secrets about it Joe Fitzgerald arrives. He says, "I don't think I've ever seen 11 members at a club meeting before." I assure him, writing as fast as I can, that it is getting pretty common, and then return to counting the traffic and playing catch–up with the names. There are 12.

Either before or after Susan and Doug Fuss arrive, Diana Rushing is here too. Is James Donatelli in here? – because he was here before – oh, before lots of others.

While David is saying something about bringing native American art to Europe, he is also engaged with Barry about the art scene in Santa Fe, which sounds like Renaissance Florence compared to, for example, New York City. Is it number two or number three? I don't hear what Barry says.

I do hear Barry say that Raymond Chandler writes like a 'slumming angel.' This may be a leftover quote from last week, but this week Barry has the book with him.

Being a government law enforcement person, James i saying something about his wildlife conservation office being up the spout because its 30 year–old printer doesn't work because nobody can locate any fanfold paper for it. Or, if they can, it is government policy to have no twophoto: tomoko opens cake forms the same size – so what's really required are these dot–matrix printers of different carriage– widths – that have disappeared from the face of the earth.

Tomoko, carefully hacking open cake, with borrowed knife.
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