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Real Conversations

photo: group, larry, tomoko, stan, diana, lewis, juanita, dolores, laurel, dimitri

The 'Group Photo of the Week' seldom needs translation.

Lost In Translation

Paris:– Thursday, 19. February 2004:– It's a cool, fickle wind that doesn't blow somebody some good, but most people in Paris today wish it were blowing someplace else. It is a cruel, tricky wind.

Officially, it is blowing in gusts of up to 60 kph from the east. Just when you think you're going to get out of it by turning a corner, then it is blowing at gale–strength from the south. It creates vacuums in wind– shadows, and the wind barrels in there when you don't expect it, slamming windows shut.

The high has probably been seven or eight degrees. If there were no wind it would be 'right' for the 'time of year.' The wind is expected tomorrow too – to blow from the northeast at 60 kph in the morning, and switch to puffing at 50 kph from the east in the afternoon.

Friday morning might be partly sunny – mostly cloudy in other words – and maybe more sunny in the afternoon, when the high is supposed to get up to nine degrees. For Saturday, all of France somewhat north of the Seine is expected to be mostly sunny, with a high of 11.

Unfortunately the line dividing the good from the ugly runs through Paris, give or take 50 kilometres north or south. But no winds are forecast. On Sunday the 'dividing line' is supposed to drop its western flank, to expose Paris to mostly sunny skies. The trade–off is a predicted high of only eight degrees.

So sayth tonight's TV–weather news. This morning's Le Parisien is hardly in agreement, with more sunshine forecast for Friday, less for Saturday and next to none for Sunday. The paper says Sunday will be having a 'pagaille hexagonale.'

This Week's 'Report of the Week'

Due to various circumstances it is not until I am making my way out of the Métro at Châtelet that I buy today's paper. It is also here that I find a copy of the Métro's newspaper 'A Nous Paris II.' I am a bit early today and if all goes well I will be able to get both papers sped–read before any or no club members arrive for today's meeting.

But first I feel a need to sidewalk–superintend the Joes hammering the sidewalk paving stones back intophoto: wine jug, glasses place along the Quai du Louvre. The ditchdiggers left a mess of uneven stones along the whole block – no doubt causing many broken high–heels and other minor or not–so–minor disasters.

Tilted red wine is today's 'Drink of the Week.'

What was so easily taken up with brute force takes quite a bit of finesse to put back right, flush, even, nearly smooth. Paris is lucky that there still are strong–armed craftsmen able to do this exacting work. If not, it would be pour the concrete or lay down the asphalt in a jiffy and be back a week later to bore through it again with compressed–air chisels.

All is quiet in the club's café La Corona when I arrive, except that a member has arrived before me. Laurel Avery tells me she's been here since 14:00, having a fine old time reading a good book. I don't bother taking the newspapers out of the bag.

Laurel tells me that the American Library often has books for sale for as little as 1€ or 2€, and if these don't sell, then they are moved to an outside rack to be taken away for free. I wonder if it is an 'urban myth.' My Paris Bibliothèques card is free too, but my local library's selection of books in English is not vast.

Juanita St. Pierre is the first new member to arrive. Contrary to normal trends, Juanita started out in Orlando in Florida, as a crewmember for Northwest airlines, and then moved to Detroit. With additionalphoto: lewis, diana, stan seniority, she got to choose her homebase, and it is now Paris. The club, I tell her, has members in all three cities.

Last week's new member Larry Frame arrives, closely followed by Dimitri Shipounoff, who promptly orders a jug of red wine. There suddenly seem to be several of them, from full to empty.

Lewis, Diana and Stan at one end of the club's tables.

Other early arrivals are Margaret French and Erik–Gustaf Brilioth, who only decide to become new members about a hour later. They say they heard about the club from a friend of member Alvin Stilman, who is supposed to be back in San Francisco.

Another new member today is Dolores Lilley, who comes from Ottawa, Ontario. Ottawa missed a chance to be the club's 'City of the Week' about three years ago, but gets the honor today.

Other members arrive. Tomoko Yokomitsu asks me again if I ate the poison 'blow–fish' she brought from Japan. I tell her I kept it frozen until I was forced – yesterday – to defrost my frigo. Tomoko think this is quite funny.

I give her the 'Home–girl' figurine that member Gary de la Rosa brought to the club for her from South Los Angeles about five meetings ago. I think it looks like Tomoko, but Tomoko looks doubtful about getting gift figurines from members she hasn't met because she was on holiday in Japan.

Members Stan Fleener, Diana Rushing and Lewis Rosenthal arrive and settle themselves at the end on a long line of tables in the club's area. Altogether, we stretch from near the windows to the café's back wall.

Lewis says that he and Diana got their passports stamped twice by taking the Eurostar train under the Channel to London. This answers a question posed at an earlier meeting – how to prove how long, or how short a time visitors have been living in France.photo: larry frame, powerbook

Dolores is listening to all the chit flying one way and all the chat being batted back. Satisfied, she concludes, "This is not a speed–dating club."

Again, as has been the case for the past several meetings, all members present are full or part–time residents of Paris. The number one topic of discussion – and exchanges of notes – is how to learn French fast and without excessive pain.

Larry watches his PowerBook make a CD–ROM for Stan.

For the first time I hear about Konversando, which is a language club – meaning that it is mainly for speaking practise, with other people who may be French, German, Italian or Spanish.

Just as club members may be studying at a school to learn French, there are Parisians who are learning English – and Konversando offers an opportunity for students of each language to talk to each other – for example, for one hour in French and then one hour in English, and everybody benefits from it. There is a free 'trial' session for anybody who wants to find out how it works.

As one club member puts it, 'It's a perfect way to have a real conversation rather than a make–believe one.'

All the conversations at this club are real enough, but when there are about a dozen members present it is no easy task for the club's secretary to note all of them for the record. Actually, some of the conversations are definitely 'off the record' so they are not here anyway.

This lame excuse for falling behind with the club notes can only be really glossed over – by calling all members to attention for the 'Photo of the Week.' Dolores says, "Ohmygod!" Diana says, "It's too cold to go out on the terrace!"

The club's official photographer also feels like he's done this 223 times before, but each and every week it is like a newphoto: cafe, ticket challenge. The café's intensely un–camera–friendly color scheme of mainly yellow and red has to be mastered yet again – whatever happened to the new upholstery that would have reduced the red hue?

Arty, sideways view of soup bowl of café, and money dish.

The members willing to be captured in an image arrange themselves in the unlikely space of the meeting area, keep their eyes open and hold still enough for long enough – which is short this week.

And there we have it. It is 17:00 or a bit after, and another session of the Café Metropole Club gradually unwinds as members gradually wrap themselves up, to get ready for a variety of windy evening excursions to various destinations.

About the Café Metropole Club's About Page

photo: cafe, wineThis 'report' about today's club's meeting is less detailed than other recent ones, but those who have been at the meeting will know only if they have been at some others too. The 'About the Café Metropole Club' page will not say why the club's secretary bothers to mention this, but it does contain some facts about the club.

La Corona's new version of a wine glass.

The only vital fact you need know is – there aren't many any others. You can become a real lifetime member of this online magazine's live and free club by simply becoming a member by attending any of its meetings in Paris, for free. If in doubt, you can also attend meetings on a trial basis.

When? Hey! Where, Who, What, Why Not, How?

The Thursday club meetings start about 15:00 sharp, always on a Thursday afternoon. They continue until about 17:00, in the European Time of Paris' annual 'semi–real winter' – which is really 'CET' for short and not 'les vrais mauvais temps de février' although true – and known elsewhere as 3 pm to 5 pm. All of these meetings are in Paris.

Doing something clever at a meeting – like coming to one – is considered 'chic.' True 'firsts' are welcome, with 'first' having a strong edge in 'report' value over 'true.' Don't get the wrong idea – 'true' is fine too, especially if it's farfetched.

One note of caution – you may have any one of a thousand personal reasons – for not being traceable viagraphic: club location map the Web. If so, be sure to inform the club's secretary that you prefer to be '404 – not found' by Web search engines before being recorded in a club report.

Former 'rules' are 'former' and have been removed from the club's chronicles except for all the latter ones still online. All 'exceptions' to any other 'rules' have been temporarily suspended forever, just to cover all the possibilities.

Talking in local languages at meetings is fine. If there's a free chair sit – optional – wherever you like, or haul one over from another part of the café. If they are listening, whatever you say may be truly appreciated by the other members present, and there usually are some – and if it happens to be written here, it could be read by all the readers of this online magazine, as some of them do part of the time.*

*The above paragraphs are unchanged since last week because the club's secretary can't think of any new excuses to write here this week.

The café's location is:

Café–Tabac La Corona
2. Rue de l'Amiral de Coligny – or – 30. Quai du Louvre
Paris 1. Métro: Louvre–Rivoli, Pont–Neuf or Châtelet.
Every Thursday from 15:00 to 17:00.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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