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A 'Yankee Swap'

photo: cafe au sauvignon

A sunny Sunday terrace in the Quartier Latin.

Weather Precedes Fluff

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 29. March 2004:– A correspondent in Amsterdam wants to know if spring has arrived here. It certainly has – it was here in glory yesterday, perfectly on time to accompany some tens of millions of French voters to the polls for the second Sunday in a row.

After the heavy duties of giving two black eyes to right–wing parties in the regional elections, everybody who could was strolling around by the Seine or in the Tuileries, looking in vain for an empty chair to idly lounge in.

The election is over and the results are in, but the sun will keep on shining, for a few days more. In case tonight'sphoto: batobus TV–news decided to spend the whole evening analyzing the right's ordeal, I tuned in early and was lucky to catch a pre–news weather forecast.

The Batobus resumed service this weekend.

Tomorrow, for example, should be sunny in the morning and sunny in the afternoon – which has gotten longer because Europe set its clocks back an hour on Sunday morning, to give us an extra hour of daylight in the evening. Or maybe it's a longer afternoon.

Tuesday will also be good for hanging out in parks, because the Seine–side speedways will be monopolized by the automobilistas until being barred again next Sunday. Ah, the other reason for being in a park, will be a predicted high temperature of 17 degrees, which is not shabby at all for late March.

Wednesday might even be a degree warmer, but will also be the day when cloudy weather begins to push its way across France from the southwest. It should be partly sunny at least, if not more. For Thursday we will have most of the Atlantic's attack of clouds, and the high will drop to 16. This may have cleared by Friday, but the temperature probably won't rise above 15 degrees.

Café Life

'Yankee Swap'

At the Café Metropole Club I quite often get to meet visitors on the same day as they get off the plane, so I am used to seeing people in the grip of their first impressions here.

But I was invited to the official 'going–away' party of club members Lauren and Steve Camera–Murray on Saturday evening, so I decided to go along and see how things looked going the other way.

But mainly I went because Steve told me they were going to organize a 'Yankee Swap' for the guests. One of these can be explained in a few words, but once they are mulled over a bit, you need a re–explanation or you might as well forget it.

But first I had to get there. I know where the Cirque d'Hiver is, but I checked the Métro map just to make sure there was nothing tricky about getting there. On my first and last glance, it looked like one change of line would be necessary at the Place d'Italie, where one is enough anybody for a week.

Sure enough, I had to check another Métro map in a tunnel there or end up at Oberkampf, and by then I was beyondphoto: capri of the week the signs pointing to where I should have turned. A while later I found the train to Bobigny, and accepted the fact that I'd have to change again at Bastille, unless I wanted to do some on–foot cross–town dash from Oberkampf.

The 'Capri of the Week,' a clean exmple from the 1970s.

Crossing my fingers about making the change at Bastille did no good. A good question to pose is, might it not be better to make some on–foot cross–town dash from Oberkampf rather than some stiff ascending and descending underground at Bastille?

If you are doing this, you should make up your mind long before you get to Bastille. When I eventually emerged from the depths, I was rewarded with the sight of the Cirque d'Hiver all lit up at night. Then all I had to do was find a dark street and a darker doorway, fumble in a door–code and once inside do it again with the same numbers but in a different order.

After that, walking up five flights of highly polished wooden stairs was a snap. Well, there was a tricky part when the lights went out and I had to run my fingers along a curved wall, past a window, and turn on my radar until finding the floor of the next landing.

In the dark, the light switches usually glow a bit, but it's impossible to tell if they aren't doorbuzzers. The next four flights passed without incidents, and Lauren and Steve's door – on the 6th floor – was marked with a colored paper sign saying something I now remember I've forgotten.

Its buzzer turned out to be a buzzer and not a light switch. Buzzing it brought Lauren to the other side of the door, which she opened. In I went and joined the other people there ahead of me, who must have come on time by some other way than Bastille.

Lauren has been teaching English so some of her students were there. Club member Jason was there too, and Tomoko came along a bit later. A lot of other people seemed to be from a part of Ireland where trans–standard 'west–Brit' English is not a common tongue.

It was a roomy apartment with two living rooms, and In one of them some guests found a big TV set in time to see France beat Britainphoto: stairs, pont alexandre 3 with a rugby ball. It was the sixth place the Camera– Murrays have lived in, in 18 months. Steve told me there was one really nice place they found where they could have stayed for six months, but the owner came back after a week.

The stairs lead from the quay up to the Pont Alexandre III.

More guests arrived. Two tall, blond young ladies were not from California, but from Cork. The Monsieur of another couple said he is security joe for SNCF. He looks after freight wagons, which are not often seen around Paris. He told me that the SNCF has 32,500 kilometres of rails, and these are getting a lot of inspections these days.

The rugby game ended and since some guests seemed to be on the edge of leaving, Steve moved the 'Yankee swap' forward on the events timetable. In the room with the TV there was a table with a bunch of gift–wrapped packages on it. Lauren wrote numbers of little rectangles of red paper and handed one to everybody.

Number one chooses a package and unwraps it. When number two unwraps theirs, they can demand an exchange with number one. The same with number three, four and so on, up to about 18. The idea is to offload a crummy 'gift' on someone else who had to give their good 'gift' to you.

The idea is to make the recipient as unhappy as possible – stuck with the most worthless trash on earth. There was a fair amount of trading over a bottle of very dry Champagne. More usual were somewhat used telephone cards, but there was one used Ville de Paris parking card, with some parking time left on it.

My 'gift' turned out to be a year–old Michelin map of France. I traded it for a two–year old copy of 'Paris Pas Cher 2003.' Nobody understood Steve too well. Nobody looked as miserable as they were supposed to look. For example, myself, I wanted to keep 'Paris Pas Cher' because my own copy is a 1996 model.

As each opened their useless 'gift,' I waved 'Paris Pas Cher' at them, but got no takers. If somebody would have taken it in exchange for, for example, a broken kazoo, and they hated it, then I would have been the champion – according to Steve's rules.' But it did not work. Most people were too polite to exchange their rotten 'gifts' for less rotten ones.

Lauren came to her first club meeting last year on 1. May. Now that I've been at their near–last party in Paris, I have my treasured nearly new 'Paris Pas Cher' still, and it was time to leave – until the next time, somewhere.

I got no further down the stairs than a half–flight when I met a shouting man coming up, complaining about the noise coming from the Camera– Murray's apartment. I told him not to worry and it's okay because they are going away, all the way to the Pacific coast. Besides, it was not even after midnight yet.

This was not an answer he was expecting. He quit shouting, and I kept on going down, wondering if the lights would stayphoto: tuileries forest on until I got to the ground floor. By the Métro entry across from the Cirque d'Hiver a man talking on a portable phone asked me for a cigarette. He selected one, but saved it while he continued his conversation.

The Tuileries, with an almost forest–look.

I took the Métro towards République instead of Bastille, and make a pretty easy change at Sébasto and rode south towards the Porte d'Orléans. It took about half the time of the Place d'Italie route. Or maybe I didn't notice the time because 'Paris Pas Cher' is so fascinating.

At Denfert I placed the book on the bar of the Rendez–Vous and ordered a short café. The book did not entitle any discounts in this café, and none were offered, but the Madame of the cash said 'Bonsoir' all the same.

Headline of the Week

More words in today's headline on Le Parisien's front page has reduced the height of the type to only 30 millimetres from last week's 40. However, there is a photo of Président Chirac, looking worried after yesterday's election results. "But What's He Going To Do?" the headline asks. This is also the 'Question of the Week' and I expect we shall know the answer soon.

The Last Semi–Annual Repeat of Plugs in March

Push this link to a recent issue's 'Café' page, where the usual plugs encouraging 'support for this magazine' and its 'Lodging' page are waiting patiently for you to visit them.

The Recent Café Metropole Club 'Report'

Take a look at the last meeting's text and photo version of the 'Portland, Oregon Ties' club report. The 'tie' involved Paris, Texas. A new member thought he might have a cousin living there, and research showed that Portland had never been a 'City of the Week' before.

The coming meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 1. April. The Saint's Day of the Week will be Saint–Hugues. There are several Hugues to consider and one is even a saint. This is 'de Cluny,' but the date is wrong. Then we have a choice of 'le Grand,' a Capet, 'de Payns,' and a 'de Saint–Victor,' who was born in Paris in 1141. Hugues de Payns founded the Templars in Jerusalem in 1118 or 1119.

Some minor details about the club can all be found on the 'About the Club' page. The virtual club membership card on this page is as free as standard air and valid for your whole lifetime, everywhere in the world.

This Was Metropole Three Years Ago

Issue 6.14 – 2. April 2001 – the issue began with the Café Metropole column's 'Springtime for Museums,' followed by the 'Au Bistro' column's 'Jacques Gets a Summons.' The lone feature was titled 'A New New–Age 'Startup.' The Scène column's title was 'A Run Around Paris.' The Café Metropole Club update for 5. Aprilphoto: sign, quai francois mitterrand was titled the 'Late Mardi Gras On 'Black Thursday II' report. Four 'Posters of the Week' times were on view and Ric's cartoon of the week was captioned "What Kind of 'Ed' Are You?"

This Was Metropole Five Years Ago

Issue 4.14 – 5. April 1999 – began with the Café Metropole column's 'Surprise Easter In Paris.' The 'Au Bistro' column was titled 'Lost' News Isn't Here.' There were two unrelated features, titled 'Not Finding Paris' Oldest Tree' and 'Model Salon: On Land, On Sea, In the Air: In Scale.' The Scène column's title was 'When in Rome, Do Paris.' There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's cartoon caption of the week was captioned, 'No 10,000 Lira Notes Please.'

Countdowns – On Hold

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Frédéric–August Bartholdi, the designer of the Stature of Liberty. His death occurred on Tuesday, 4. October. This is 190 days from now. Learn more about Bartholdi's life and works by visiting the virtual Musée–Bartholdi, plus the real one as well if you happen to be in France.

For a major literary dude, we can also be 'counting–down' to the 150th anniversary of the birthdate of Jean– Nicolas–Arthur Rimbaud, which is on Wednesday, 20. October, 206 days from now.

An even bigger literary razzle–dazzle will be made this year for George Sand, who was born 200 years ago on Sunday, 1. July 1804. This year will officially be the 'Année George Sand' all year long. For lots more, Cécile Pichot's Web site is worth a visit as is the one run by Marc Nadaux. This 'countdown' lasts 95 days, until 1. July.

The date of the Normandy landings in WWII was on Tuesday, 6. June 1944. The 60th anniversary of this fateful day for 2,846,439 allied liberators is 70 days from now, on a Sunday this year.

Another WWII event 60 years ago to note is the Liberation of Paris. Its official date is Friday, 25. August 1944, which will be celebrated 150 days from today. The 'Liberation' started on Tuesday, 15. August, with a strike – by the Métro and the police – followed by more strikes until the shooting was over. Some sporadic strikes still continue.

Some Olympic Fans may be out of their heads with joy to learn that the Olympic flame will be hustledphoto: sign, batobus, champs elysees through Paris by a series of torch–bearers on Friday, 25 June – as part of its journey back to Athens for the summer Olympics – which are called 'JO' here. This is only 89 days from today.

After getting hired flunkies to vote in favor of inventing the title of Emperor for Napoleon on 3. May 1804, the Senat passed the measure on 18. May. A plebiscite was held and 2569 reckless souls voted against it. The results were announced six days before the coronation that took place on Sunday, 2. December.

Part of the official record is David's painting of it. But slighted by getting only two entry tickets for the ceremony, the artist depicted Napoleon crowning Josephine instead. David also added his own inlaws who were not there because they were not invited, and Napoleon's mom, who was sulking in Italy at the time. The 200th anniversary of this dubious event is 256 days from now.

Melting Away, 2004

There are still about 277 days left this year. But 89 days have already dribbled away. Nothing in Paris is still getting any younger by the minute, just as it has been not doing every day for over 2000 years.

I clearly recall that there was very good weather for 'Ric's Day Off' last week but none of it was spent in a small park sitting in the sunshine watching some sort of strange bird build a nest. After catching up with last week's issue, no time was left for frivolous pursuits.
signature, regards, ric

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