horz line

I Am Not a Duck

photo: cafe petite rotonde

A dry spell on Saturday night in Montparnasse.

Pluie, Vent, Froid

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 12 July 2004:– All the casual whine I made about the weather is coming home to roost. There I was, doing the weekly grizzle when it wasn't half bad – what am I supposed to do now that it's completely terrible? I overplayed my hand.

Some of those slightly grey winter days would be welcome now. Now is colder than then. Now is raining more than then. Now it is doing it several times a day – wind, rain, cold, semi–bright, more clouds, wind rain and cold. On and on, day after day. More than then.

Nobody expects the weather to be terrific in Paris. It is way up north here. People like to pretend there is a Mediterranean climate here by the Seine, but it is more like – more like, ah, Charleroi, or some place. This is definitely not super.

And 'not super' is what we have. Sure thing, it is lucky the summer sales are on. You can buy a hat. You can buy an umbrella. But you can't, because all the hats were sold out three weeks ago. And umbrellas are never 'on sale' because they know sooner or later we are going to have weather that will force you to buy one. 'On sale,' never!

Tonight's TV–weather news lady has promised that there is a blue lining coming soon. She hasn't gone out on any limb. She said 'maybe,' and 'it could happen.' Just saying these things is a vast improvement. There is hope.

She expressed timid hope about tomorrow. I looked at her TV–map and I wondered where she isphoto: slick streets getting it from. Maybe angry televiewers are besieging the station. For what it's worth – horrible clouds in the whole east half of the country, and a new gang of horrible clouds coming from the west, to touch Brittany. In the tiny gap between fronts, some half–hidden clouds. Low tonight is supposed to be 11 degrees, and the high tomorrow might be 22.

For Wednesday the Brittany front will have expanded, and the other clouds will have moved further east. This leaves, in purest theory, a small band of semi–nice to maybe glow in Paris. Maybe it will be 23 degrees.

All of the northwest half of France is supposed to be partly sunny on Thursday. Everything to the southeast of this is supposed to be very sunny. It's a creep–up from the Côte d'Azur. A high of 25 is forecast for here. It seems like a joke.

I shouldn't say that it looks too good to be true, but this is exactly what I think. Last Friday had a forecast high of 17, which is kind of low for July. We aren't told often what the temperature was, but last Friday's high of 15 degrees was worth mentioning. The last time it was close to this was 10. July 1941. Otherwise, you have to go back to 1907.

Café Life

I Am Not a Duck

In principle, crummy weather doesn't bother me. The weather changes so often in Paris that there's seldom a week that doesn't have its fine periods, most lasting at least a day. The exception has been the last few weeks. No matter how blue the sky looks, it'll be raining in 55 minutes. It may not rain for long, but there's a good chance it'll rain heavily. It reminds me of a story I read about Ireland.

Normally, if the forecast is for rain tomorrow I can count on it being mostly sunny next Friday or Saturday.photo: le select Occasional rainy days are even welcome. It doesn't hurt to get some photos of rain to balance all the ones with sunshine in them.

On the Boulevard Montparnasse.

But if I feel like taking a walking tour I don't want to be interrupted because of seeking shelter every 55 minutes. For the past several weeks I have given up on even thinking of any tours. I might only go out for a café two short times a day, and I've gotten rained on during both sorties.

All of this is a way of leading up to saying that I haven't been going out on tours, there's nobody around having 'café life,' and I am being a hermit.

This is the reason I accepted the invitation to dinner last night. Usually I sit here on Sunday nights and tap my thin fingers to the bone. But instead I put on a winter sweater, my winter coat, and went out to have dinner.

When I got to the place everybody was out on the terrace watching charcoal get hot. After a few minutes it got smokey too, and because it was raining, we stood under a parasol which captured the smoke nicely. Everyone else was wearing winter coats too.

It took about a hour to do the chicken pieces. The others kept shifting around to avoid either the smoke or the rain or both. There was room for all of us under the parasol if nobody touched the broken chairs holding it up. It was a long hour.

When the chicken was done, I guess, we went inside and waited 45 minutes for the last guest to arrive. We gave up waiting and started with the tomato salad, and the final guest arrived in the middle of it. Oily lips for the bisous.

At one point, to 'pay' for my dinner, I was asked for one of my usual nonsense stories. I usually have something nutty in reserve, but these have been thin times. I made some lame excuse, or I would have if I could have thought of one.

It is very bad form to be invited to a dinner in France and show up with nothing to say. With four French people, Parisians, there wasn't any lack of talk and I passed the time tearing a chicken leg apart and listening carefully to it.

One reason Parisians go to so many movies is so they can talk about them at dinner. When asked what interesting movies I have seen lately, I said I thought they are too expensive. Half of those present agreed, and talked about buying cheapo DVDs. They all had old, favorite movies, and getting copies of them on DVDs makes sense. I think they are too expensive too, but I didn't say this because they were talking about movies I never heard of.

The last time I was in a cinema must have been six months ago, but I didn't say this. They might have thought it was rude of me not to go to movies, like not drinking wine.

I liked listening to the talk about politics. But only one lady seemed to have a good handle on this. I sensed that she thought nobody else wanted to contribute much, so she let it go. She knew all the right nicknames and I would have liked to hear these.

There was, as usual, a bit of poetry reading. I enjoyed this too and thought how nice it was to listen to somebody reading poetry in a good voice. Gradualy the other four ran down, but they didn't want to quit.

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