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May Bursts Out

photo: cafe pick clops

In the Marais last Wednesday.

Freaks, Montparnos, Sunlight

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 17. May 2004:– I have taken off my sweater and I took off my shirt yesterday and kept it off today. Thus stripped, you may consider my detached clothing as a kind of barometre that should tell you that the weather is pretty fine for late June here.

It is more than just fine. It is stunningly bright and warm. It is the kind of weather you usually only see in old photographs – kind of like fictional or antique weather. The kind that is 'used to be.' The kind that your grandmother – if you had a Parisian grandmother – would say, 'Eh, bien, I remember clearly before the Great War...'

Well, this is today. This will be tomorrow too. There is a whopping great high domed over Europe, and it is supposed to last for a few more days. Right now the sky is nearly dark – dark blue, getting darker. There isn't one cloud in it. The low temperature for tomorrow morning is higher at 14 degrees than the high was just a week ago.

This may not be amazing to you, but it is pretty amazing for Paris. Most years we sit around waiting for spring until well into the summer. In summer we are usually still waiting for it. Usually there isn't any summer either. It doesn't fit into Paris' scheme of two seasons – fall and winter.

Since there is nothing tricky about the next couple of days, all you need to know are the predicted highs. These are 25 for tomorrow and Wednesday, and a bit lower for Thursday, when a bit of low pressure might seep in from the Atlantic.

This may translate into a feeling of damp, heavy air by next Friday. But, from the looks of it, it is going to happen in slow motion. If may be delayed. It may change its mind. It may be beautiful forever. This may be a rare year with four seasons. I can't say it's happened before, but there's a 'first time' even for the weather here.

Café Life

Bad Patch

If I wasn't 'up to par' last week, I haven't fully recovered since then. The good weather hit like a cannonball lastphoto: rue de tresor Wednesday and a story in the paper sucked me out to the Marais, where I had a good tour in the sunshine. However, when it came to sitting down for five hours with my nose in several heavy books, I gave up after a hour and went back out into the sunshine.

The Rue du Trésor, off the Rue du Vielle du Temple.

This makes it about the fourth 'tour' I've done without writing it up to be a feature in Metropole. You shouldn't think I was just outside walking around free as a bird. No, I was going through the motions of doing a 'tour,' including taking all the photos – as ever, too many – and archiving them afterwards.

Then a few days later, I did open the book and I did start to write. But the story oozed out of me like a slow leak and before I could control myself, I was outside without any destination. I know now – I went looking for posters. There weren't any, so I went to the library and read magazines, without my glasses.

This is what I found out – Europe's biggest photo fair – Foire de Photo à Bièvres – for both used and antique equipment and for photo prints, is on Sunday, 6. June. It is suggested that you take an umbrella just in case, and the same thing goes for cash, cards or cheques.

If you want to know which photo equipment has been chosen as best by photo magazines, check out the Tipa Web site. The selection for this year's candidates is closed, and the results will be published in September. Meanwhile, last year's Tipa picks are still online.

Some would think that some of the photos on this page should be on the 'Au Bistro' page and vice versa. If 'Ed' wasn't having a 'bad patch,' I'd agree with this view.

Les Freaks de Mai

After my tour of one street in the Marais last Wednesday, I kept on walking into the 11th arrondissement until turning right at the Boulevard Voltaire and I walked down it quite a long way until I arrived at the Freak Bothers studio, dozing in a side street. It looked deserted but a quiet tap on the door was answered with a briefly drawn–aside curtain, and the door opened.

Pic let me in. Gilbert Shelton was about to be interviewed by the Jolly Green Giant so I reversed to where Pic was cleaning up pages of the coming issue of the 'Not Quite Dead' comic strip.

This is a tedious way to pass the day, but somebody has to do it. You see, at the Freak Bros. studio comic strips arephoto: pic at work, freak studio still hand–made – still drawn in pencil on standard letter–sized paper and then inked. After this the pages are taken to a high–tech standard photocopier, and it is these copies that are colored, with water–colors.

Pic, at his fix–the–comic–strip station.

Actually it is all a bit low–grade. I asked Gilbert if he was saving money by using small, letter–sized paper. He said no. So I assume he is not intending to make a lot of money fifty years from now by selling the individual pages, because I doubt if they'll last.

When the photocopy pages are colored Pic scans them at a fairly large size and resolution, and then he goes through them practically pixel by pixel, and cleans them up. Where color goes over frame lines, he eliminates it. Where color hasn't quite filled a white space, he fills it in. While doing this, he fiddles with the overall color, density, and other fiddly items. I guess a page takes a half hour to get into shape.

It's about the length of time I'll spend on a cartoon after it's been scanned. There are always rogue pixels to whip into shape. Pic stops about every ten minutes to tell me a story or get me an Orangina – "Only for kids!"

No sunlight penetrates into the Freak Bros. studio. Both of us could feel or sense it shining outside. With Gilbert telling the Jolly Green Giant about Janis Joplin's early days in Austin in the main studio, time was nearly standing still in the outer studio. Page 33 – French. Page 34 – English. Pic showed me some photos of his father's sculptures. Wood, stone, metal, Pic has ten or 20 tons of it, that he has to move.

No. Life in the art business isn't all cool vernissages with cold white wine and warm cheese. Sometimes it's dirty work in poor light, sipping Orangina, sensing the sunlight outside, life outside scooting down the boulevard, going somewhere with the wind in its hair.

When I decided to go somewhere else to do nothing, Pic wanted to know which way I was going. I always go to the Métro, so Pic came along too as far as the magazine shop, to get some of the air that was passing both of us by.

Le Mai des Montparnos

Whatever it is, it started in 2000. Back then I think I had trouble figuring out what it was. This last Saturday andphoto: hotel rohan Sunday we had open artists' doors in the 14th arrondissement, but I saw a sign or a poster somewhere for 'Le Mai des Montparnos,' for Sunday only, all day in the Rue Campagne Première.

This isn't far away, in downtown Montparnasse, in a street that runs through from Raspail to the boulevard. Of course, I still didn't have anything much for posters and nothing at all for the Morris column photo on account of two movies and one lingerie firm monopolizing all the ad spaces.

The entry to the Hôtel de Rohan.

So 'not far away' included a fair tour around half of the likely spots to try and get the poster shots. I didn't add to my score though. I looked all around the lion at Denfert and then went down Raspail, past the Cartier place which was closed. Despite the 'open doors,' the photo place across the boulevard was closed too.

Things picked up at the Passage d'Enfer. Way down at the other end there were eight colored balloons floating against the backdrop of the pastel paint on the old buildings. At the corner of the boulevard I saw that the street was completely closed. Halfway down it the whole quartier was out in the street, under swoopy white banners stretched across from side to side.

Up close, there were little desert–like white peaked tents, each holding a display of photographs. There must have been a couple of dozen of them. But the street, in front of the couple of restaurants and two or three cafés, was full of people sitting down and eating, or watching a guy showing a mark from the audience how to do juggling tricks.

It seemed like everybody from the street was in it. Usually these affairs attract only a few residents, but maybephoto: symposium, american club of paris Campagne Première is different – maybe there were many more people there who are left over from the old days in Montparnasse when Vavin was the 'centre of the world.'

At the symposium organized by the American Club of Paris.

I went through and went out on the boulevard, first towards Port Royal and then all the way back to the Vavin corner, still hoping for one good poster. It sure was a warm, clear day, with a bit of wind to keep it lively. It brought me back to Campagne Première and its white drapes, and I stopped in one place for a café. Many of the shops were open, also showing photos.

This is the street that Eugène Atget last lived in. May Ray lived up near the Raspail end, and 'discovered' Atget a couple of years before he died. This is, between the two of them, probably the photography connection. The gallery, Atelier An. Girard, has a photo expo and it will be followed by another one in about ten days. The 'Old Time' shop has photos too, but it was closed.

The sun had moved west enough to pour on the street like a waterfall over everybody sitting or standing in it. Beyond the white drapes in the sky, tops of buildings in Raspail were sunbathing. It was pretty good. The shadows cast by the buildings on Raspail's west side were green under the new leaves. I think it was the first time there was a clear sky for 'Le Mai des Montparnos.'

Laurel Avery Less Missing

Laurel tuned in to say that she will be writing something new now that she has decided to remain in France in order to become a successful artist, painter, and writer if she has the time. She may only write one column a month for a while, but the next one should show up in Metropole in next week's issue.

Last Week's Café Metropole Club 'Report'

If your periods of doing useful stuffphoto: olivier giscard d'estaing are still intermittent you may have enough spare time to take a look at the latest version of the 'Big Moment of the Year' Bungled' report. The meeting was highlighted by the presence of the bumper–sticker slogan contest winner, and dimmed by the club secretary's failure to present the contest's 'grand prize.'

Mr Olivier Giscard d'Estaing, at the symposium on Friday.

The coming meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 20. May. The Saint's Day of the Week will be Saint–Bernardin. This one is actually 'found' and refers to a Franciscan born at Massa Maritime in 1380. This saint travelled around Italy, spreading the word about reformed morals, until 1444. How he got on my French calendar is unknown.

Some minor and unimportant details about the club can be found on the 'About the Club' page. The virtual club membership card on this page is as free as air and is valid for your whole lifetime, no matter where you are.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago

Issue 8.21 – 19. May 2003 – this issue opened with Café Metropole's 'Revenge Weather.' The 'Au Bistro' column's headline was, 'In 6 Words.' The single feature was titled 'Rail Days – Wheels of Steel.' The repeat Scène column was titled, 'Choo–Choo Champs–Elysées.' The Café Metropole Club update for 22. May was titled the "I Need Help from an Expert"photo: sign, impasse de l'hotel d'argenson report. There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's cartoon of the week was captioned, "42 Years? Let's Strike!"

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 7.21 – 20. May 2002 – this week's Café Metropole column was kind to pets, with 'Don't Forget to Feed the Canary.' The 'Au Bistro' column's headline was 'Only 8474 New Candidates.' The Café Metropole Club update on 23. May was headlined as the "It Has More Cows Than People" report. There were four new 'Posters of the Week,' and Ric's cartoon Caption of the Week revealed 'Ricolitti's Last Design.'

Headline of the Week

"Tarantino est un Génie" is at the top of Le Parisien's page 34 today. Quentin Tarantino's 'Kill Bill 2' starts todayphoto: sign, cul de sac dargenson in 600 cinemas in France, while Le Parisien gives it the highest rating of four stars. I should say, 'only 600 cinemas?' The poster is plastered all over Paris, both as a street poster and on Morris columns together with the poster for another film, 'People.' With two versions of the Aubade poster, very little space was left for any other posters. Tarantino, meanwhile, is busy in Cannes, heading the jury for this years' selection of new films. 'Kill Bill 2' is being shown there but out of competition.

The 'Countdowns' – Suspended

Should you desperately miss this wonderful feature, you can find it in last week's issue by clicking here. Do not, I remind you, forget to subtract seven days from all count–down dates.

2004 is Barely Worth Mentioning

As of now there are 221 days left this year. This is more or less the same number of 'days left' as at the same time last year but seven less than were here in this spot last week. Time has this habit of waiting for no one. It just keeps ticking itself away, although I have this feeling it was a longer week than many other recent ones.
signature, regards, ric

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