horz line

Banana Plate

photo, cafe tabac

Does the glitter disturb the horse–players?

General Winter Visits

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 20. December 2004:– Eagle–eyed readers will quickly note that autumn is over because winter starts tomorrow. It's the same every year at this time. But this year is a bit special because Météo–France has delivered temperatures that are below freezing at night and not much above it during the day.

Le Parisien is beside itself with joy because now it can use the phrase 'General Winter' with wild abandon. And just so you know that France has a sincerely soft spot for it, tomorrow's 'Saint of the Day' is named Hiver.

Well now, what do we have? Tomorrow looks like a continuation of winter, with the country split in two between somber clouds to the west and some bright periods to the east. Paris will most likely be under the western skies with an overnight low low of -2 degrees, with an afternoon low high of +2 degrees.

Despite some westerly breezes the situation will likely remain the same on Wednesday, perhaps with one degree more in the afternoon. On Thursday we are supposed to expect a sort of early winter heatwave, with temperatures rising to 9 whole degrees. The split personality will be over, with nearly all of France being covered by miserable, gray, possibly weeping, clouds.

Café Life

Plate of Bananas

The first time I've seen my next door neighbor in a long time, he was standing outside my door in his bare feet,photo, skate, hoel de ville incoherently shouting that his kitchen was flooding. I hastily locked up and followed him to the next apartment. Water was indeed gushing out from beneath his sink and a big plastic garbage bucket he had there was almost full. Before I could do more than see there was an electric outlet under the sink he turned off the light.

At the Hôtel de Ville.

"Don't touch the electric thing!" he screamed, in French. I was just about to go and get a tool – I have three – when I stumbled on something in the dark. I stopped still.

He came back from turning off the electricity, lit a match, burned his fingers, swore, lit another match, reached under the sink and turned off the water somehow. I stayed where I was until he put the juice back on. I was standing in the middle of a herd of empty water bottles.

With the emergency over he explained that his girlfriend was in Africa. She is the one who normally takes care of these things with somewhat less drama. I guessed that she took all the tools with her. He further explained that his apartment is going through a period of falling apart.

This is why I decided to buy some sugar lumps at the Monoprix instead of borrowing any. I should have written a note though. While trying to remember sugar lumps I ran into Matt Rose, who was looking for wine. There was some rosé that looked like weak tea, so he passed on it. Miraculously I remembered sugar lumps, and remembered where they are.

They were in another aisle of course. The Monoprix has a rats–maze policy of aisle layouts and it seemed like a lot of shoppers had the idea it was Christmas Eve, so it was a proper zoo. In the whole store there is only one wide aisle. Shoppers bulk themselves up to take more space in it, or they all stand sideways, staggered just enough to be as thick as deaf posts like they are in the narrower aisles.

I caught up to Matt at the check–out. He had two bottles of Italian plonk and a big can of cassoulet. I complimented him on his choice. He said it would be better when he added 'stuff' to it. He said it had too many beans in it. The Monoprix also has cans of plain beans, as in 'cassoulet–sans–stuff,' just beans. But there's no cassoulet 'sans beans.' The only other option is sauerkraut in a can.

Matt said he needed to get tape. He said he had already bought all the tape Monoprix had on Saturday and was hoping that there would be some new stock today. After checking out – Matt got three plastic sacks for three items – we crossed to Peret but some lout was standing in our spot at the bar so we went to the Café Daguerre, because I said it would be okay if it wasn't noisy.

In the racket of its bar the guy from tabac next to the McDonald's said he didn't drink. I bet he changes his tunephoto, champs elysees in that hole–in–the–wall tabac when it's 38 degrees. It's like a sauna in there – sorta nice in winter though. Matt took five minutes putting out coins for the cafés, mostly tens and fives and a bunch of ones and two cent pieces. The barman scooped them up and returned seven cents.

For those who can't get enough of the... Champs–Elysées.

Matt said be knew of a bazar that might have tape. We went down the avenue a couple of blocks to one of those places where everything is made in China, or whatever country substitutes for China when China is too pricey. It was a place with smaller aisles than the Monoprix. Matt showed me an alarm clock he bought for two euros. "It still works," he said.

They had four different kinds of tape. They had had five kinds, but Matt bought all of their fifth kind last week. None of what was left was suitable. Matt asked the guy when they' expected to get some more of the fifth kind, and the guy said they'd never had it.

"I have a diploma!" Matt insisted. The guy wasn't impressed. We went to another bazar. Its aisles were identically narrow and its prices were higher than in the first bazar. Matt found some tape, too wide, but said he could cut it down. "It only costs a fifth of Monoprix's price," he maintained.

All the same he wanted to go down Brezin to 'Ed.' "They might have hardware." Ed has low prices and wide aisles. Matt said it reminded him of shoppingphoto, fruit, hediard in Russia. There's not much in the store except space. Monoprix could make a real mess of it.

I got waylaid by a woman near the yogurt. She asked if I could remember why she was there. She said she worked in brain surgery up near the Gare du Nord. You can go a long time before you meet anybody half as interesting in the Monoprix. Matt found some liquid soap instead of tape. He declined another plastic sack and we left. I thought he made a mistake about the sack – he could have had four or five.

Whatever it is, Hediard has it.

Going down Boulard he popped into the smoky tabac. Most smokers avoid the place because it's so smoky. Even the Loto in the place smells smoky. I waited outside to admire the street's decorated lights. Matt was out so fast I doubt he had time to get stinky. Then, halfway down the block a guy stopped him for a light. Matt gave him a match he got from the café Daguerre where we saw the other tabac guy.

After all this excitement Matt said he was going home to weep into his cassoulet. I didn't know. I think those things are pretty salty as it is. I suggested he get another can and come over to my place at Christmas, because I've got a big can of it too, left over from flush times last year. We could have cassoule together, like having a party.

Continued on page 2...
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