horz line

'Big Moment of the Year'

photo: francine, robert, amy, gay, ron, tomoko, heather, brenna, stan, bill

The 'Group of the Week' lineup, from left – Francine, Robert,
Amy, Gay, Ron, Tomoko, Heather, Brenna, Stan and Bill.

Is Muffed by Club's Secretary

Paris:– Thursday, 13. May 2004:– After a perfectly fine and good spring day yesterday, the weather just can't keep it up today. There's a wind hustling across the city from the west – perhaps pouring out of some cool offshore bank of fog, for it is not warm.

Despite being cooler than predicted, tonight's TV–weather news is forecasting clearer skies and much warmer temperatures for tomorrow, and especially for the weekend.

Friday's semi–sunny outlook will be threatened by a wave of clouds coming from the western ocean. If it doesn't quite get here, we should have temperatures around 19 degrees. The TV–weather news didn't say what we'd have if these clouds do get here. Maybe a high of 13 is my guess. I hope I'm wrong. I've been wrong more than once before.

Mostly sunny for Saturday and Sunday should push the temperatures above 20 degrees. The TV–weather news seemed pretty certain about this, with an out–on–a–limb forecast of 22 degrees for Sunday.

This Week's Only 'Club Report of the Week'

Because of a slight chance of the 'France–Is–Good' bumper–sticker slogan contestphoto: hot chocolate of the week winner being at the club meeting today, I put the winner's first prize in my bag last night so I wouldn't forget it. I even found an envelope full of 4th–place prizes, and put them in my bag too.

Thus armed, with nothing forgotten, I set out for the club. Wind blows me down the sidewalk to the corner of the cemetery where I cross the street and go between the two parts of the cemetery, to the Métro at Raspail.

The 'Hot Chocolate of the Week.'

At Châtelet I skip all thoughts of strolling along Rivoli. This week I am avoiding amateur walkers. I glide through my alleys, right, left, right, left, right, and join the quay beside Conforama and scan the posters while crossing in front of Samaritaine.

There are no hardy types getting glazed on the terrace of the club's café, La Corona. It is too fresh for it. In the café's 'grande salle' there are more after–lunch lingerers than usual. The 'Waiter of the Week' confirms his order to bring my double–espresso cup of café at 16:00.

In the club's area I find Stan Fleener. He says his daughter will be with us shortly. Brenna shows up, borrows 20 cents from Stan and disappears again. When Brenna returns for good I learn that she lives in Rome and plays water polo in Florence.

And in Rome she works for an online city guide called Context Rome. She says all she sees in Florence is the pool. I guess that Brenna is having a busman's holiday in Paris.

Stan says he's been batting around in the bottom of the 14th arrondissement, down by the Parc Montsouris, which has made him think of Henry Miller and Lawrence Durell, and the 'Alexandria Quartet.' When I have been down there, not so far away from where I am most of the time, it has never occurred to me to think of Henry Miller. Instead I think of V. I. Lenin having Sunday lunches in the park.

Heather Stimmler–Hall arrives and begins telling us about questions she receives from her readers – like, 'where to find jazz for nothing for broke people.' Meanwhile Stan plugs the Depardon photo expo about the Olympics at the Hôtel de Ville – et voilà – free expos for people who aren't broke.

Gay Sickles and Ron Sellers arrive. Both are from Texas and both became club members last year, but not at the same time. Gay is the last member to have answered all of the club's informal questions, so she skips them entirely this time. Most members skip them entirely all the time.

Then there is a lady who looks familiar, but turns out to be at the club for the first time in either of our lives. It is Francinephoto: heather, contest winner francine Harcourt Caplan, the one and only 'France–Is–Not–So–Bad' bumper–sticker slogan contest grand prize winner. Wow!

Heather pretends to give Francine the 'grand prize' which Francine pretends to accept.

Francine is with Robert Caplan, of New Haven, Connecticut, and Amy Caplan, of Paris. A check shows that New Haven is eligible for the 'City of the Week' award too. Francine and Robert aren't here only to visit Amy, but also to attend the symposium being put on tomorrow by the American Club of Paris.

Another new member arrives, and it is Bill Kosar from Sarasota, Florida, who says he has read the 'About the Club' page. For this I decide to name Sarasota as 'Co–City of the Week,' which is a 'first.'

And now I get to show just how organized this club is. I dip into my bag and smartly haul out the dark blue France Montgolfières ticket envelope. Before presenting it to Francine I glance inside it.

Inside it there is a brochure, but no ticket, no first prize. There is no ticket anywhere in my bag. How humiliating! This was to be the 'Big Moment of the Year.'

The ticket is not lost but it is not at the club meeting today. Francine looks a bit worried. She's come all this way from New Haven and she's already booked the balloon flight for Sunday, and she wants – no, needs! – deserves! – the prize ticket. I haven't a clue wheregraphic: liberte started here, winning slogan it is if it isn't in the envelope, and it isn't in it.

Francine's winning slogan.

All the same, Francine agrees to the staging of the 'winner receiving the grand prize' photo together with Heather. I am so rattled that it takes four shots. We agree that I am to bring the ticket tomorrow to the symposium at the American Club and hand it over. This will be cutting it fine – where is the dern thing?

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