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A Packed Café

photo, group carol, scoop, berta, rita

Today's 'Group of the Week,' with Carol, Scoop, Berta and Rita.

It's Paris' Charm

Paris:– Thursday, 30. December 2004:– Remember this from Monday? "Oh, willikers! Hold your hats, scarves, gloves and run for the hills. No! Not the hills. Run somewhere else. Ding–dong! Alert Orange! Alert Orange! From tomorrow morning until 16:37 in the afternoon. Right here, in downtown Paris."

By the time I saw Tuesday's dawn I knew that I'd be writing this. In this town there was no snow on Tuesday, not in the morning and not in the afternoon. In fact the sun was shining most of the time here. So brightly that sunglasses were strongly recommended.

What happened? Tuesday evening's TV–weather news kept up the fiction of the Alert Orange, but said it was further east, where there were bales of snow. Then it showed bales of snow and all sorts of idiotic and whining motorists who didn't watch Monday evening's warning.

Meanwhile in Paris, people who did see the warning were standing around, looking equally idiotic holding great sets of tire chains. If there had been any snow we could have gone and thrown snowballs at France Météo.

After that fiasco, here we go again. The last day of the year, tomorrow, is expected to be cloudy in the morningphoto, food of the week and worse than cloudy in the afternoon. A 60 kph wind will blow up the Channel in the morning, and in the afternoon, it will blow at us. The temperature will start off at 6 degrees, and climb to 11 degrees in the afternoon.

The first 'Food of the Week' in many weeks.

Saturday, the first day of 2005, will have the wind in the Channel and the clouds here. Equally cloudy all day long. For Sunday there may be a few timid sunny periods in the afternoon. If there aren't any, then it will be completely cloudy all day long, with a high temperature of 8 degrees.

The 'Fab Two' Eat–and–Drink Report

When I leave for the club meeting it is damp but not too windy and not cold, since I am wearing my sweater, scarf, and gloves, all of which I wear in bed too. There are not many other people walking in the same direction, but there seldom is.

The Métro at Raspail is another story. There seem to be 25 heavy dudes in my Métro wagon. Who are they? Where are they going? Who are these tough ladies with them? They don't get out at Montparnasse to go someplace else, and more get on. What is this?

More and more pile in at Placide, Sulpice, Saint–Germain and Odéon. Am I wrong again? Or is everybodyphoto, drink of the week going to the BHV to buy a towel or a sheet? I get too nervous to ride all the way the Châtelet and bail out at Cité. The streets are mysteriously packed with crowds. Who are these people?

They are all over. I have to keep hopping off the sidewalk into the gutter to maintain proper Paris cruising speed. After several days of Christmas TV programming, the whole world must have gotten its snout full and here they are – out for a sniff of air and blocking my way.

One of two classy 'Drinks of the Week.'

All the way to the club's café La Corona it is like a broken–field 150–metre rugby dash. I can already imagine Monsieur Ferrat rubbing his hands with glee – 'pleine salle, pleine salle!'

And so it is. The place is jammed to the rafters. The bar is full, the little alcove off the bar is full and there is standing room left for none in the café's 'grande salle.' There are men, women, grannies, teenagers, little kids, babies, orphans, refugees, shoe shine boys, waiters, busboys, Monsieur Ferrat and the 'Waiter of the Week.'

There are also club members, huddling in a niche. My goodness, what have they done to Berta and Scoop Maginniss? Berta says they tried to sit at the club's tables but the waiter said he needed them for 'a group.'

We are 'the group.' When I sit the waiter says he may need the tables 'for a group.' I tell him I am the group. Berta and Scoop move over to their rightful places as club members, so we outnumber the waiter. A little misunderstanding, but I forgive him. Nobody in management ever tells the new 'Waiter of the Week' anything.

But it is touch and go. Sometimes all the tables around are full, and sometimes not so. Then they fill up again. The racket is horrendous. Babies are screaming, plates are clattering, people are yelling. Bedlam. If this is not enough, the Quai du Louvre is full of police vans with sirens howling, and we see one cop dismount with a machine gun. What is this?

Scoop thinks we'll find out about it on tonight's TV–news. I think it is merely the police being nervous because a quarter million people decided to come to Paris today and they neglected to warn the police prefecture. You know how unpredictable the French can be.

Berta orders the 'Food of the Week' and when it arrives she is dismayed to find that it is half bread that she cannot eat. Scoop, who has ordered nothing, eats the bread. This reminds me of the carrots à la marmalada that Berta served last night. If you think plain carrots are boring, try them with marmalade. Delicious!

But in the move from one table to the club's tables Scoop has mislaid their drinks ticket. "It was the first thing I moved," he says. We gaze at the floor under the tables. It is not pretty.

"Twelve years and we've lost our first ticket," Berta observes offhandedly. Scoop isphoto, berta, scoop so worried about it that he drifts off the sleep, despite the noise and the continual excitement. When Berta accuses him of sleeping at a club meeting he says, "I slept through 2004."

The first of two 'Group Photos of the Week.'

There are no guys wearing black hats today, Berta notices. This is good because I forgot to wear my hat. If Don and Josef had shown up, we would not have been able to pull off the triple hat trick.

Instead we do the 'Group Photo of the Week.' I ask Berta to stretch her legs out, propped up on a chair, to make it look like there's more of her – and then I forget to frame it right. Scoop pretends to be awake for the photo.

Club talk gradually winds down to the point where Berta is getting restless, to go shopping. The lure of Samaritaine is a strong magnet. Then there is a tap tap on the window and we see member Rita Martinson outside.

Rita finds the door and enters the 'grande salle,' together with her friend Carol Thompson, who Rita says comes from West Hollywood too. The two of them have been walking around. Carol writes in the members' booklet that, "Paris is the best place to get lost."

This doesn't mean that coming to the club is a way of 'getting lost.' Many new members come on purpose. How many have not been able to find La Corona is, of course, unknown, because they've never shown up to sign the members' booklet.

Carol concentrates on the task, studies the non–obligatory questionnaire, and writes. erta says, "Carolphoto, wine of the week is taking the test." Rita says they skipped the club last week, so they could visit the Loire. The secretary sulks. Scoop nods.

Continued on page 2...
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