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Bastille, Again

photo: bastille day cafe

French national car on French national revolution day.

Like Clockwork

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 19. July 2004:– Weatherwise I am wiping the slate clean and starting over. This morning started, I think, with a sunrise which revealed the sky to be covered with high clouds – which hung over our heads all day until it got dark. Then it stealthily rained quite hard a couple of times.

This is because there is a strange weather pattern which features a trough of very bum weather stretching from Biarritz diagonally across France up to the northeast corner. Sometimes this gully is kind of wide, so Paris lies in the path of the slop.

For the most it has been fairly warm, somewhere around 25 degrees. The temperatures should stay where they are and by Thursday may even climb to near 30.

But the bad–weather gulch is to stay with us too. Western France might be partly sunny for parts of the day tomorrow, but in this depressed part which may well include Paris, the weather will probably be exciting in a negative way.

Wednesday might be somewhat sunnier here. I had to scribble a completely different TV–weather news forecast on top of Le Parisien's sad little map in tones of gray, and now I can't tell which is which. Le Parisien says, 'Lamentable.'

For Thursday I drew one big sunball right in the middle of France, scribbled a bit of falling rain on Brittany, and wrote 'sunny' in a clear part over the ocean. Regardless of how it turns out here, the Côte d'Azur has a solid forecast for truly sunny weather and temperatures well over 30 degrees. So does Corsica.

Café Life

Bastille of the Week

Matt Rose snagged me while I was passing along Daguerre in a daze last Tuesday. I was glad to stop for a tour de horizon even though I had something that needing doing, because it gave me a chance to find out about the popularity of Bastille Day festivities.

After thinking 30 seconds Matt said, 'No,' he didn't think he would be going to any firemen's balls. Like a lot of people who live here he thinks the music is always cheesy. Actually, Matt confessed, he'd never been to a firemen's ball so he didn't really know what the music is like.

Since the music is often cheesy I told him that firemen were fine fellows and a reason for going was to dance in a firehall, or watch firemen dancing with local cuties. I went to the firehall inphoto: musee d'orsay the Rue Blanche one hot, muggy night, once, and had a good time sitting around with these military type firemen, watching them get loaded on cheap wine and listening to cheesy music. At least it wasn't techno.

The spiffed–up Musée d'Orsay.

Matt had a transparent plastic Monoprix sack full of spaghetti, so I guessed he intended to stay home and be a starving artist, writing about drinking scotch and bombs blowing holes the neighborhood. Joe Fitzgerald came along, out of nowhere, and we talked for a while about flying Phantoms upside down over the Gulf of Tonkin, before I went off to the Monoprix to get my sack of spaghetti.

I would have gone to the firehall at Port–Royal earlier if Arte–TV hadn't had a documentary about Marilyn Monroe. It was mostly a lot of still photos taken by a guy who knew her for a long time, but they weren't well presented.

Then it turned out I didn't know where the firehall was. I thought it was close to the hospital but it was a long way down Port–Royal, near a section where there are a lot of trees, and by then the day was gone, so it was pretty dark. There were also about 150 dance people lined up to get in and they were being filtered through a narrow door, slowly.

There was no big firetruck door I could see, so I gave up on it and walked back to Denfert, promising myself to do better on Wednesday.

The start of it wasn't promising because I slept through the parade on TV. I wasn't worried because some of the army were supposed to spend the afternoon at the Mairie, with a military band and some of their tanks. I went over while the whole world was having lunch and looked at the tank.

It was one with rubber tires. These are handy for city use because they don't tear up the cobblestones too badly. The city is supposedly annoyed with the defense people because all the practicing for the parades – there are two per year – tears the hell out of city road surfaces. The Hôtel de Ville doesn't think Parisians should pay for the repairs, says the Hôtel de Ville. I've never heard anybody complaining about it in the café.

I looked at a scout car too. TV showed kids getting to play with machine guns, but none of the army guys I saw made an offer. So I went to the tabac and played Loto and went home to wait for the fireworks. I knew these would show up better on TV than in person, but I felt I needed to make the effort.

It was the only thing about the fête de Bastille that worked. Unfortunately a great number of other Parisians decided to go early too, so just about everybody in the city was already there when I arrived 45 minutes early.

Usually people think they can just pop out their doors as if they live in a village, and get right to thephoto: pont solferino centre of some big downtown event. But not for the day's parade and not for the evening's fireworks.

The zoomy Solférino footbridge.

My final position was one I could see the Tour Eiffel from, partially, so it was one I struck to. I was in the middle of a large crowd somewhere under the trees to the south side of the Champ de Mars. When the lights changed on the tower, the crowd applauded. Each time they changed, the crowd applauded a bit less, because each sequence of fireworks seemed about the same.

I might have left early, and missed the ultra spectacular grande finale. In the direction I took twenty thousand other people left early too. We filled the road, all doing the quick–walk to the Métro at La Motte. Any stragglers could walk home.

All in all, it was a great Bastille Day. The spaghetti was good enough as usual. The Marilyn Monroe thing wasn't quite great and the firehall was a bit of washout, and I don't think I won the Loto. I guess the high point was the tank. Sarkozy should give the army what it wants. If he did, maybe there could be a couple of extra Bastille Days every year.

Facing History – Portraits from Vancouver

What I was doing on Friday was facing a lot of sunshine near the Invalides, on the lookout for the week's only photos with bits of blue sky in them. After looking at an old cannon I realized I was near the Rue de Constantine, which meant I was near to finding the Centre Culturel Canadien. A couple of weeks ago I tried to find it on a map, but couldn't believe where it was – it looked as if it was in the Quai d'Orsay's back garden.

As it turned out it was easy to spot because it had a very large red and white flag hanging over the door. Inside, it was cold, like Canada. On a hot day, around the bare plains of the Invalides, it is worth visiting just for the air conditioning.

I was curious to see the portraits, 'from 1950 to 2000,' to see if I recognized anybody. Yes, there was 'lucky' Pierre Tredeau, in about 1968, and there was Chief Dan George, probably from about the same time. I thought I recognized a diner on south Granville, but it might have only been on account of looking at so many cafés here.

My 'history' was restricted to a few of the photos taken before 1969. The bulk of the photos were as familiar to mephoto: pool tuileries as the landing on the moon, which I didn't become aware of until about 1971. There wasn't one photo of any Joes leaving shiftwork at a sawmill, or trance dancing at the Black Spot on West Broadway.

Not upstairs and not in the basement. It was nice and cool everywhere though. I guess if the exhibition of photos was meant to show the inhabitants of Vancouver, everybody else moved there after I Ieft.

Lazy times in the Tuileries

There was one guy though, the Foncie. He had some kind of street camera and he took photos of everybody, mostly in the rain. You wouldn't even have to break stride and he'd hand out a ticket and you could get a print later the same day if the shot had been early enough. I think everybody in town had a least one Foncie photo. I'm glad they had him in the exhibition.

At the Centre Culturel Canadien, 5. Rue de Constantine, Paris 7. Métro: Invalides. InfoTel.: 01 44 43 21 90. Until 18. September, on Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 to 19:00, until 21:00 on Thursday, and from 14:00 to 18:00 on Saturday. No entry charge.

Paris Plage 2004

If case you don't notice, this year's edition of Paris by the Seaside begins on Wednesday. It will last for a month, then it will be dismantled and put away, until it's time for Paris Plage 2005.

Headline of the Week

"Cette fois, ils sont partis!" was the mysterious headline on the front page of Saturday's Le Parisien. It went on to say nobody was surprised to see beaches, hotels and restaurants deserted. 'But,' the paper says, 'vacation time seems to be here. This year, the Juliettists decided to go at the last minute. Most of them took to the roads Friday.'

No summer is complete without gigantic traffic jams, even if it has to start in the middle of July while the weather is still lousy. A week ago the paper summed it up with, 'Calamiteux!' As of this week, no change.

The Latest Café Metropole Club 'Report'

If your life seems tedious at the moment take a peek at the latest 'Only On Thursday'photo: fiat 500 of the week report. Eleven were on hand, some to become new members, some from the frozen north woods in the area of Winnipeg.

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

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 22. July. The Saint's Day of the Week will be Sainte–Marie–Madeleine. Everybody should know who this saint is even if she became one a really long time ago, because she was Lazarus' sister, while he was Marthe's brother too. A classic saint in other words.

A few minor and totally irrelevant details about the club can be found on the 'About the Club' page. The virtual club membership card on this page continues to be as fresh as canned heat and remains worth as much. If you want your money back you'll need to show proof–of–purchase.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago

Issue 8.30 – 21. July 2003 – the lead for this month–long Café Metropole column was, 'Django, Johann, and Edith.' The 'Au Bistro' column was only a headline. The initial feature in this issue was titled 'No False Modesty for Paris Plage.' Laurel Avery contributed 'Tiny Points of Light.' There were links to the two current Scène columns. The Café Metropole Club update for 24. July was titled, the 'Nearly All Sports' report. There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's cartoon of the week was captioned, "Where's this beach we're going to?" This issue also contained the restphoto: sign, rue tallyrand of the summer's club reports, more 'Paris Life' from Laurel Avery, and a couple of other pieces written in New York and New England.

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 7.30 – 22. July 2002 – The Café Metropole column was headlined, 'There Was 'Happy' Weather.' The 'Au Bistro' column's headline was 'The Postman Rings Again.' The issue's sole feature was titled 'Todo El Mundo – Vamos a la Playa!' The Café Metropole Club update on 25. July was titled as the 'Two Real Members Really' report. There were four summer–type 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned, "You Said, You Promised..."

'Countdowns' – Something Continues

If you really miss them, which I find difficult to believe, you can find the exciting 'countdowns,' snugly tucked into a recent issue by clicking here. Do not, I remind you for the fifth time, forget to subtract 35 days from all count–down dates. If you want, subtract the whole thing.

Fond Memories of Today

We should remember this day inphoto: sign, paris plage 2004 1941 because it was the first time Winston Churchill held up his fingers in a 'V' and nobody put a cigar in them. He converted the minor gaff into a war–time signal still occasionally seen. Contrary to rumor, it had nothing to do with the Franco–Prussian War, which began on 19. July 1870, a Tuesday.

Edgar Degas could be remembered today for his birthday in Paris in either 1832, but most likely in 1834, as claimed by my saint's book. Whichever year it was, it was on a Saturday that his parents gave him the additional first names of Hilaire and Germain. Edgar was a great painter but a poor subject for biographers. After his eyesight failed he lived as a lonely hermit, but before that he ran up a big tab at the Café Guerbois in the Avenue de Clichy. Edgar died on Friday, 28. September 1917.

Less Year, Even Quicker

There are only 165 days left of this year. This is exactly the same number of 'days left' as at this time in July of 1533, when Lady Jane Grey was deposed as Queen of England after a kind of reign of nine whole days. Mary Tudor, Henry VIII's daughter, got the job next and managed to reign for the year's remaining 201 days. Then she married Phil II and moved to Spain, and inherited America.
signature, regards, ric

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