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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. Gradually the other four ran down, but they didn't want to quit.

We started early, but we got going late. We all kept out coats on because there wasn't any heat. In the thirdphoto: la coupole hour I started to think we should finish early. I started to think it might be warmer outside, and certainly warmer sitting here typing because I could put more on, or run around a bit.

I didn't leave first, but I did leave before the majority. I guess I shouldn't have gone without fresh movies to talk about, or odd experiences to relate. But I enjoyed listening. Every dinner party should have at least one guest who listens well. I like to think this even if I know it isn't true.

I think I understand now why I got invited to another dinner on 21. August. I think this amount of advance notice is supposed to allow me to catch up with a couple of movies, read a lot of Le Monde and Libération, have a holiday in Ireland, see my psychiatrist a few times, write two chapters of my autobiography and repaint my bathroom.

Right now 21. August seems the same as next year. By then all of tonight's guests will have had their holidays and seen the movies, and done the other things. But not me. I might clean my bathroom, but I'm not going to discuss it. Nothing I intend to do will be worth talking about. Only the things that I don't intend might be worth it.

Soldes d'Eté

The only official date for the summer sales – 'les soldes d'été' – that could concern anybody now is the last day of discount shopping on Saturday, 24. July. If you miss this deadline, you'll have to wait for the 'soldes d'hiver,' coming next January.

Headline of the Week

"PLUIE, VENT, FROID" was followed on the front page of Saturday's Le Parisien withphoto: fiat 500 "Jusqu'a Quand?" After having frightened everybody into buying air conditioning or a fan to combat the 'heat wave,' the paper now says we have the worst weather since 1941.

This week's 'Fiat 500 of the Week.'

Everybody else says this too. For once Parisians agree about something, but the downside to this is listening to everybody saying the same thing over and over. The paper says it is a winter depression, totally out of place in July. Today the paper sums it up with, 'Calamiteux!'

The Latest Café Metropole Club 'Report'

If your life seems hectic at the moment take a peek at the latest 'Talk of the Tour' report. The alternate title was 'My First Macaroon.' A club member wrote to deplore my deprived childhood, which was kind if unnecessary.

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 15. July. The Saint's Day of the Week will be Saint–Donald. This is an obscure saint who apparently lived at Ogilvy in Forfarshire in the 8th century, and had nine beautiful daughters for helpers. Saint Donald was also good at finding hills and wells. But the Clan Donald is the main reason so many are named 'Donald' in Scotland. How this saint came to be on a French calendar remains unknown.

Some few minor and totally unimportant details about the club can be found on the 'About the Club' page. The virtual club membership card on this page is still as free as canned fresh air and remains worth as much. Do not expect much if you want your money back.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago

Issue 8.29 – 14. July 2003 – the headline for the Café Metropole column was, 'In the Tropics.' The 'Au Bistro' column's headline was, 'A New Six–Word 'News' Report.' This feature in this issue was titled 'A Bastille Day with No Score.' Laurel Avery contributed 'Weekend 'Jaw Cramp' Yum!' There were links to the two current Scène columns. The Café Metropole Club update for 17. July was titled, the 'Coincidental Meeting' report. There were four new 'Posters of the Week' andphoto: sign, rue sivel Ric's cartoon of the week was captioned, "You're too heavy!" Nothing against weight, but it was true.

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 7.29 – 15. July 2002 – The Café Metropole column was headlined, 'A Strange Thing Happened On Bastille Day.' The 'Au Bistro' column was 'Is Not Here This Week.' The issue's only feature was titled 'The 14th of July Surprise Party.' The Café Metropole Club update on 18. July was titled as the 'No Rules' Rule Kicks In' report. The two Scènes were titled 'There were two Scène columns, with the first titled 'Paris' Long Summer has More than a Short One.' The summer version was, ' A Lot of It Is Outdoors.' There were four summer–type 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned, 'Beached Parisians.'

'Countdowns' – Suspension Continues

Find the exciting 'countdowns,' if you really miss them, in a recent issue by clicking here. Do not, I remind you yet again, forget to subtract 28 days from all count–down dates. All other expired 'countdowns' should be rolled over into the trash.

150 Years Ago

Today is, of all things, the birthday of Julius Caesar and another famous Italian who lived in France, Amedeo Modigliani. It is not certain whether this month was named after Julius or he was named after the month, but if he were alive today he would be circa 2104 years old. Amedeo would be 120 years old if he hadn't croaked in Montparnasse in 1920.

What was 150 years ago was the birth of George Eastman, who was born in Waterville, New York in 1854. Before George died leaving $100 million for good works to Rochester, he invented Kodak. This was pretty good for a guy who dropped out of school to go to work when he was 14.

George invented Kodak – dry film and a simple, cheap camera – because he didn't want to lug aroundphoto: sign, voie reservee, rue roger a 'horse–load' of a huge plate camera, its glass plates, jugs of chemicals, and a tent as a portable darkroom. George decided he could dream up something better, working at night in his mom's kitchen. In 1880 he shouted 'Eureka!' – and rented a loft in Rochester for making dry plates.

'Street reserved for cyclcists and pedestrians,' on Sundays.

The plates were still too heavy so George invented the Kodak camera in 1888 and the slogan that went with it, 'you press the button, we do the rest.' 'Kodak' was registered as a trademark the same year. The word means about as much as the Saint's Days in this column but the 'Kodak' name is still a great asset. Starting in 1889, George began profit sharing with his employees, and went on to donate a lot of money to schools, dental clinics and hospitals.

Despite making several fortunes out of photography; George Eastman did not like having his photo taken. He didn't like being ill either, and assisted himself out of this world when be was 77.

This Year Becomes Much Less, Even Quicker

After a week there are only 172 days left of this year. This is exactly the same number of 'days left' as at this time in July of 44 BC. We probably have had the best 194 days of any year in our lives so far, if we stop to think of it. Regardless of your choice of days left, if not this year, make sure its 12. July has weather better than we have here.
signature, regards, ric

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