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Men In Black

photo, group, tomoko, scoop, berta, rita, joe, don

Today's jolly group, from left, Tomoko, Scoop, Berta,
Rita, Joe and Don.

'City of the Week' Ouagadougou

Paris:– Thursday, 25. November 2004:– I was out in the air yesterday, and I wasn't in to see the TV–weather news about what the weather would be like today, on account of having Thanksgiving, without the turkey, without the cranberries, without the relatives and without the funny hats.

So the sun shining today kind of caught me by surprise. It was a bit cool too. I see now that Le Parisien was predicting 7 degrees. That's why my fingers were constantly tightening my scarf.

The first thing the TV–weather news lady said tonight is the weather isn't going to be the same. The high we had has gone east and the low will be here in the morning. It will deck the northwestern corner of France with clouds and will gradually spread east. The high should be 11 degrees tomorrow.

More of the same is predicted for Saturday but it will be a worse sort of 'the same,' and cooler with a high of only 10 degrees. Even if the sun peeps out occasionally, you won't be about to expect the same for Sunday when all of northern France will be lying under solid clouds, and the thermometre will only struggle up to 9 degrees.

Le Parisien suggests that you might want to go out to sniff the wet dirt, which will certainly smell like ordinary wet dirt and not like warm baguettes, even if it is France. Avoid dirt and go to any boulangerie to smell the warm baguettes, while they last.

An Ordinary Club Report of the Week

This starts in Montparnasse with a typical 're–bof' on account of it being Thursday again. Radio France–Info said the rail folks are demonstrating in Paris today, starting from Bastille.

Before you all groan, be informed that the rail people are not on strike today. Nossir! All thephoto, big cafe of the week trains in France are running normally except for the ones affected by local strikes. Today's demo is a national affair, manned entirely by workers and retirees who have the day off for some reason.

The swimming pool of 'Café of the Week.'

But I resist the urge to spend a day in the long and low sunshine assisting the railroad demonstrators, and ride the nearly empty Métro from Raspail to Odéon, to the Quartier Latin where sunlight is streaming down some streets out of a haze in the not so far distance.

Over the river on the Pont Neuf there is a lot of blue sky, with the renovated statue of Henri IV outlined against it. Boats are turning in the Seine and colorful flags are fluttering in the easterly breeze, and the Quai du Louvre is empty between traffic light changes.

Uncle Den–Den said he came by the club's café on Tuesday or Wednesday and it was closed. If it is closed today it will be perfect weather for waiting outside it for members who are coming to today's meeting.

On arrival, La Corona is not closed at all. When I ask, Monsieur Naudan says the café was closed on Tuesday for the replacement of a few tiles. "But never on Thursday," he says, in French. This worries me. There's all these exceptions all the time in this exceptional land.

Behind the bar in the café's 'grande salle' I find Berta and Scoop Maginnis eating sandwiches. Berta offers me her sandwich because she is allergic to bread. "I should have ordered a salad," she says. I think, I shouldn't have had breakfast so late.

Scoop wants to know why I have breakfast so late. I don't feel like explaining how a late breakfast can enable getting away with only two meals a day, even if both of them are breakfast.

I leave the members to their lunch or whatever it is, to get the club's meeting underway. In passing I ask the civilians who are sitting at the club's tables and chairs if they are club members. They deny it. How little they know.

Don Smith is sitting down before I get a chance to write 'meeting number 265' in a club booklet. Apropos of foie gras in the Gers, Don says, "If I ate another duck I would have exploded."

I knew that would happen but he had to go off down there and find out for himself. Some club members lead risky lives. Berta and Scoop finish their sandwiches before they can become 'Food of the Week,' leave their sun–drenched window table, and install themselves at the club's spare tables.

"Scoop has arrived with his 'meal ticket," Berta says, as Scoop lays his copy of 'Paris Turf' on the table. Himself, Scoop says he didn't have breakfast early enough to study the paper and get to the PMU in time to make any wagers on the nags.

Back from a trip to Africa, Rita Martinson – on leave from West Hollywood, California – arrives, and meets everybody. Rita is still staying here 'for the next ten months.' "The dollar!" she says, "It becomes less every month."

Rita continues, "I have a pioneer approach – I go out to search for food every morning." Don, who isn't thinking of eating anything, says "Pretty soon it'll be time to pick out a cemetery."

My eyes are blasted by sunlight. Scoop offers to change chairs to block the sun streaming in the windows, but he is too short. In his new spot I can't see him at all. We give up the experiment.

Berta has been talking to Rita and Don who have both spent a lot of time in Paris. "Between us we've got a million years of Paris," she says. I don't have to say anything.photo, paper paris turf, hand

Then everybody tells a story about snow here. Rita says it definitely snowed 35 years ago. In more modern times most remember the blizzard one Saturday morning in January, of 2002. It was a bonus blizzard and not the annual one which doesn't happen most years.

Don is telling Scoop about his Web site, Visit Paris. Scoop says, "If I were an average guy living in America – I'd see what?"

The 'Paper of the Week' – 'Paris Turf.'

"How many different 'Drinks of the Week' have you?" Berta ask me. Some members like the club's statistics, like how many members are dogs or babies, but she suspects that the secretary may not be competently keeping track of members.

In fact Berta and Scoop are members 25 and 26. I remember it like it was yesterday even though I need to look it up. If I had this information at my fingertips members would be asking all sorts of questions, so I always claim I don't remember.

Rita suggests that 'urban decay' is something that we can talk about. "It could," she says, "Be the 'Subject of the Week.'" Everybody thinks about 'urban decay' for about 30 seconds. I saw some on Wednesday but it wasn't impressive.

Scoop says, "I still have the umbrella I found in the trash." When I look blank, he adds, "Youphoto, tomoko's tea put it in the club news three years ago."


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