horz line

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.

b>Facing History – Portraits from Vancouver
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