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By a Whisker

photo, cafe montmartre, le bar au relais

Light, dark, loungers, on Montmartre.

The Issue that Almost Wasn't

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 1. November 2004:– Tonight's TV–weather news has been exceptionally frank and can be summed up thusly – "What do you expect – it's November!"

Long weekend weather had been been putting up a brave front by tossing us sunny periods after difficult mornings, but collapsed today. Gray morning turned into gray afternoon and for good measure began to rain, making my coat wet. It was not pretty.

I wish I could show you what a mess I've made of Le Parisien's tidy little weather maps. First off, I've drawn a big counter–clockwise loop around France. In weather–speak this is called a depressingly low whirl. It means there will be the nasties out west and out east.

After a gray morning the centre part may be partly sunny, or a quarter– bright. The high will be a low 14 degrees. This is not stunning so on to Wednesday when it will be pretty much the same, except that the temperature will be no more than 13.

On Thursday, it will again be the same but even worse, out east and out west, with the addition of some 50 kph breezes blowing against Calais. If there's any spare room in the centre, it might be partly sunny in the afternoon, but my x's and crosses make it hard to tell for sure.

As Le Parisien puts it, always raining, always cloudy and always no better – followed by Friday when it will be 'rain again.' Friday is officially beyond the scope of this long–range forecast, so I will not second Le Parisien's opinion.

Café Life

Much Ado

I will not say you are lucky to be reading this – because once something gets written in Metropole it tends to stay online forever. I should write that you are lucky to be reading this if you are doing it today.

Late on Sunday afternoon all was rosy in the editorial precincts of Metropole. A lousy hand of street posters and Morrisphoto, jazz band, cafe odessa columns had turned into a royal flush, almost, and there was plenty of time to write lots more of the kind of news and interesting items that you expect.

The sound of music dogs our footsteps.

Nigel, who is making his annual visit, had been out seeing the 'Floating World' show at the Grand Palais, and generally hanging out and taking photos. Back here for a homemade café, he showed me the photos in the little window in the back of his camera.

Ed, being so techno–proficient, asked for his memory card, and with it in hand tried to stick it in the nifty memory card reader. It didn't seem to go in. I tried the other way, and it went in less. When I gave up –without forcing it in any way! – the old computer seemed to have frozen.

'Nothing a little old crash re–start won't fix,' I thought. When the lights came on again the Mac said – silently – 'where's my system gone?'

Also gone were all of this issue's files, including that 'royal flush' of posters and Morris columns. 'Not to worry,' I thought – 'just give it a shot of old SOS–Disk.' Ten shots later I started to worry. It said, 'buddy you got a grave error here.' And about 15 seconds later it would say, 'repair attempt failed. Try again sucker.'

After another 29 tries, I wanted to try something else. Like a huge shot of cognac. Like an original system CD–ROM. With these there aren't many choices, so it only took 15 minutes to run through these, with the Mac still blinking its idiotic '?' at me.

You may not believe this, but this old crate has chugged through the spam and virus wars without a hiccup – for about ten years. That a photo memory card could bring it to its knees I couldn't believe. I didn't even get to see the photos!

On account of an impeccable track record, and poverty, I don't have any software tools for fixing a hard disk, other than the SOS–Disk thing. I usually run it about once a week, just 'in case.'

What to do? Late Sunday, and Monday is a holiday for the saints. I know, I'll – phone Matt Rose. It's a long shot because Matt is angry. But I do it. Matt is home, Matt has a software disk tool, but neither of us have a way of transferring it from his machine to mine. His CD thing doesn't work, I have no Zip Drive, and of course my crate isn't answering the phone.

Who else has a Mac? Hmm, Laurel has one. I phone Laurel and interrupt her busy painting – for her Berlinphoto, montmartre bicycle show this coming week – but the angel says, 'sure, have Matt email the software to me.' I call Matt back and he types up some instructions for Laurel and emails the software to the 7th arrondissement.

Park and walk, up on Montmartre.

It hadn't seemed right to rush over there last night because of the western on TV. As it was, Nigel and I sat and bickered at it. Robert Redford, as a mountain man, somehow managed to run into and endless stream of angry Indians, who really didn't like him. What was he doing out there anyway?

Later, after Nigel left, Arte–TV had a rehash of the 'Battle of the Little Bighorn.' Some of the original cast were on hand, including Mrs. Custer. You all know the story. The combined armies of Indians wiped out Custer and 281 other dudes, and the US Cavalry wiped out a million Indians. Americans spend a lot of their summer vacations going to see re–enactments of this, while sitting down in portable chairs and eating fluff and drinking pop.

Early this morning, before noon about, I was over in the 7th arrondissement looking for Laurel's place. It never is where it was. It keeps moving closer to the Champ de Mars, away from where I think it should be.

The door code didn't work. I can't read my own writing. Decoded, the door code clicked the door open. Into to courtyard, turn left, and find stairway 'D.' Ride the elevator to five, walk up to six, and face a maze of corridors and doors with no names. Sixth sense told me I was going wrong. I backtracked – Robert Redford never, ever backtracked – and followed a corridor right, left, right, to a door with a sign on it and a plastic bag hanging from a knob. The treasure of the Sierra Madre.

After a thrilling return ride on the Métro and a miserable trudge through the rain, I made some café and Nigel came over and drank it without comment.

After calming down it was time to try the Matt–Laurel CD. The old crate couldn't 'see' it. Nigel helpfully explained that PCs can 'see' everything even when there's nothing there. "Look at your 'C' drive," he said.

You can't take these things personally, even if it was his memory card that kicked my hard disk to shreds. One other hard disk has quit answering when it hears 'knock–knock.' That left the oldest one, but it cranked up, wheezily.

After a couple of tries it allowed a new system to be dumped into it. After some more fiddles, it even decided to 'see' the Matt–Laurel CD, and with it, the hard disk software. A quick read of the 'Read–Mes,' and I gave it its shot.

Whir, whir, grind, grind. 'I fixed your hard disk,' it said. Then the only problem was that it itself had a problem. It wouldn't turn off. It wouldn't permit switching startup disks.

There are cunning ways to get around a problem like this and I will write them down some day if I ever rememberphoto, fiat 500 of the week them exactly. As we've had the long of it I may as well make this short. I weaseled out of the trap of the endless loop by way of illegal shutdowns, slaps, kicks, and spitting in the diskette slot.

Long time no see, 'Fiat 500 of the Week.'

How sweet it was when the turquoise swimming pool background appeared again after the raspy 'bong.' It was so great I immediately went out and bought some orange juice and had a victory café in the Rendez–Vous.

This was a smart move because when Nigel returned he didn't want one of my homemade cafés. Neither did I. He said that he had to wait outside the Grand Palais a long time to get into see Turner, Whistler and Monet because of all the people who skipped their cemetery visits on account of the rain.

Headline of the Week

This morning's Le Parisien led with another major–type headline, with "Téléphone : grosse panne !" splashed across the front page. Callers in northern and western France discovered their phones weren't working when they tried to contact firemen, police, and emergency medical services.

Contrary to my usual notions, the mysterious phone outage did not concern portable phones. It was the phones–for–the–rest–of–us that conked out and became incapable of making reliable connections. France Télécom thought it was caused by a 'bug' but they haven't tracked it down.

The Latest Café Metropole Club 'Report'photo, pumpkin, maison chez ali

Last week's 'What's In a Civet?' club report is still online, by popular acclaim. The several members in the club's area of the 'grande salle' almost simultaneously cleared up the recent confusion surrounding the French food, 'civet,' by agreeing that Bob's photocopy portrait of one didn't look like any kind of rabbit.

For traditionalists, find them Chez Ali.

The coming meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 4. November. The Saint's 'Day of the Week' will be Saint–Charles Borromée. At 22 in 1560, he was named Cardinal, on account of being the Pope's nephew. As bishop of Milan he was a big leader of the counter–reform, but did not become a martyr in any deserts in Syria.

Other tedious facts about the club can be found on the 'About the Club' page. The mediocre graphic of the virtual club membership card on this page looks several times better online than printed, but is free either way. The club membership itself is totally free too, even though the club's secretary is not perfect.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago

Issue 8.45 – 3. Nov 2003 – the Café Metropole column's title was, 'How To Not Dine Out.' Then there was, 'Readers Like You – Can Support Metropole,' which has had some welcome response. This was followed by Laurel Avery's 'Paris Life' column titled "Probably Next Week" The week's Scène column was titled 'Two Picassos for the Price of Two.'photo, sign, rue de seine The Café Metropole Club update for 24. October was obviously called 'Cappuccino of the Week' report. There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and the caption of Ric's weekly cartoon was "'Treat' is Over but Ticket Isn't?"

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 7.45 – 4. Nov 2002 – the Café Metropole column began with 'Amok and Out of Time.' Metropole's 'Wine News' followed with 'Cold Snap Makes Moonlight Light Its Stove.' There was one tiny little Scène column titled 'Only Ordinary Attractions.' The Café Metropole Club update for 7. November resulted in the "Eeek!" She Said' report. Another item was called 'Le Mois de la Photo 2002,' the November of Photos.' There were four average Paris type 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned, "Wouldn't You Rather?"

The 'Countdowns' Went to Arizona

The new feature 'Quote of the Week' is not appearing here for the third time in history because there are no famous quotes with a connection to today. There are some infamous ones that nobody bothered to record and I see no reason to pass them along.

However you might be interestedphoto, sign, alexandre tcherepnine lived here in learning that Toussaint was started by Pope Boniface IV in 610 to honor the Roman martyrs when their remains were transferred from the Catacombs to the Agrippa Panthéon – in Rome, not Paris. The Day of the Dead, tomorrow, is after Toussaint so that they are close together, to afford protection to the ordinary dead, by the saints.

Semi–officially, Hallowe'en is supposed to be a very old Celtic–Irish fête, dedicated to the God of darkness and winter, Samain. Needless to say, this one isn't on my calendar. It just says 'Défunts.'

Famous Anniversaries of the Week

It may seem longer, but it was only 52 years ago that the first hydrogen bomb was exploded, at Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands. They never recovered. Two weeks afterwards the Atomic Energy Commission continued to be coy about its exploit. Not so coy, it is also Larry Flynt's birthday, and he has the same age as the hydrogen bomb.

Today's Other 'Significant Dates of the Week'

There are only 60 days left of this year. This is exactly the same number of 'days left,' as at this time in 82 BC, when Sylla vanquished his opponents at the Colline gate, thus provisionally ending the Roman civil wars. This is totally unconnected to the fact that this year has used up 306 days, the same number that 1414 had when Germany's emperor opened a peace conference at Constanz meant to end the Grand Schism.
signature, regards, ric

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