horz line

Hairy Marmalade

photo, cafe royal opera

Café near the new Tourist Office.

Some New Stuff

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 13. December 2004:– It seems to me that several years have passed since we've had really miserable winter weather in winter, or the December part of it. The TV weather–lady has been saying we've got a high pressure system sitting on top of wet clouds, squishing them down on top of us.

So it isn't raining but the sky looks as heavy as lead, and it's damp. It feels colder than it is and if a bit of a breeze is running around it isn't long before noses start to dribble. As each day goes by, the high temperature ratchets down a notch.

In the midst of this we are supposed to believe that tomorrow is going to be a missing link to this chain. Maybe it will be a bit bright in the morning and more bright in the afternoon, but whatever happens it's not supposed to get higher than 3 degrees, after a overnight low of zero.

Then on Wednesday, with a southwest wind rippling up the Channel, we are supposed to expect a return to the leaden skies, but with a huge temperature jump to 8 degrees. Thursday is foreseen as being even cloudier, with the same winds, but with a slight dip to 7 degrees.

Monsieur TV–weather news didn't do Friday. Le Parisien thinks it will be cloudy too. Before you say 'bah' just consider that the paper is promoting a temperature of 10 degrees, which wouldn't be too shabby from this perspective.

Café Life

A reader wrote to say that I am not alone in losing the notes I make so that I won't forget anything. This makes me think that there are two of us, but it doesn't answer the question of whether I should write notes saying where I left the notes. I should just do it and not worry about losing them. They might come in handy a couple of years from now.

Clip Job of the Week

My hair was getting darn shaggy and I was beginning to look like a Yukon trapper after a long weekendphoto, popcorn st germain looking for lost notes in the snow. Without warning some money turned up in my hand so I dropped what I was doing – hibernating – and dropped into Claudio's trim salon without a rendez–vous.

Year–round but festive popcorn kiosque at Saint–Germain.

As usual Claude was staring out his decorated window, wistfully wishing that he'd learned to play the guitar in Italy instead of coming to France where his teacher rapped his knuckles because he said 'confiture' Italian–style.

"Say 'confiture," he urged. I said 'confiture.' "You see, 'confiture,' 'confiture,' there's nothing to it!" he exclaimed. I had to agree with him. It sounded like 'confiture' to me.

It was a rare afternoon in the hairdressing salon. There was nobody else there. Usually there's a half–dozen neighborhood types hanging out, having a chat, or reading the magazines. I don't know where he gets them but most of them are fairly new.

Without anybody to wait for, we went to the sinks in the rear for the shampoo. As usual he forgot to dry off and the usual water ran down my neck. Luckily nobody else was there because he usually forgets to start cutting too, and it dries all spiky before he gets to it.

A monsieur came in and then went out again, to the café across the street for a drink. For a change Claude was bustling along. We were talking and I got careless and quit listening and started talking too. I was out of practice of account of the hibernation. It's my story and I'm sticking to it.

The monsieur came back, announcing his return as if the café was a very difficult place to get out of, or the hairdressing salon was some kind of haven from cafés.

Also as usual, Claude seemed to get a bit hot when I didn't use enough extravagant Italian phrases, to praise the clip job he'd given me. Or maybe he didn't like how I casually brushed off about a half–kilo of loose hair onto his floor when I stood up.

"Say' confiture,'" he said to me. I said 'confiture.' He turned to the monsieur and said, "He's been a customer here for five years and he still says 'confiture' like 'confiture.' It's unbelievable!"

I couldn't believe it either. I thought we'd agreed that the French were altogether too fussy about words for jam. We had agreed that everybody in France should say 'marmalade' instead. Marmalade is kind of a universal word that even the French can say.

I can just imagine him stewing about it, and sometime when I have money again in 2009 and walk into his shop for a clip he is going to ask me to say 'confiture' again. But marmalade is burned into my memory now and I am going to remember it even without the note I'll lose.

Winter Folies

Hibernation has also been keeping me from my little rounds. At this time of year I try to get around a lot so therephoto, chocolate bombs are a fair selection of photos that show the season. But because the weather can be a bit stiff it's better to do it in small lots, and gradually arrive at a full set.

Holiday chocolate bombas.

I made a special trip to the Bon Marché weeks ago, but it didn't have its windows done yet. Samaritaine's windows have been done for a long time but don't look especially like it. I decided to skip the Tour Eiffel's ice rink because it's the only subject in that part of town, and paying 3€ to walk up for the photo isn't in the editorial budget.

On Saturday there was no putting it off. I jumped in the Métro and rode to Saint–Lazare, and then back to Madeleine on another line. High–end mobs surrounded Fauchon and Hediard and were thick on the sidewalks leading up to Haussmann.

There were so many families and other shoppers trying to see the windows of Printemps and Galeries Lafayette that the street should have been closed. Strollers banged my ankles and parcels crashed against my elbows.

In the Tourist Office in the Rue Scribe a couple there wanted to know what all the fuss was about. They thought it was some sort of Parisian riot. But I noticed that Capucines was almost deserted and there were only a few in the Place Vendôme wondering about the big reflecto balls.

The yellow lights came on as the sky eased from dark blue to black, and the Rue Saint–Honoré was only a bit less deserted than Capucines. On Pyramides I swung left and found the new HQ of the Tourist Office to be open.

It is a clean, well–lit space, sleek and practically empty. There's no souvenirs, and it seemsphoto, rue castiglione like the main business is turning up hotels for visitors. The hotel reservations in the old office were in a dim ghetto in the back somewhere, while the front used to be like the lobby of the world.

The Rue Castiglione just after the lights come on.

I guess the best thing that can be said for it is location. The new Tourist Office is on the way between the Opéra and the Louvre.If you are between neither, then it might seem a bit offside. Maybe it'll pep up the Avenue de l'Opéra a bit.

Continued on page 2...
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