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Better Than a Dog Fight

photo, place des vosges

Home of the famous in the 17th century, the Place des Vosges.

Celestial Cement Mixer

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 14. February 2005:– At 12:30 yesterday the sky got very dark and the wind began to howl, and a great wash of rain, sleet and hail crashed down on the city and against my north–facing windows. For good measure, thunder boomed and the sky churned like a celestial cement mixer.

It did not last long and the sun peeked timidly out later. But it marked the end of unseasonably high temperatures to usher in a period of real winter – Paris style. If the temperature today managed to reach 6 degrees, it was just one step lower on a downward slide.

Tomorrow morning mayphoto, weather report, sleet give us the sense of winds from the north of 70 kph, which will hold the thermometre to no more than 5. It may be partly sunny sometimes, probably for no more than short periods.

Saturday midday 'Gloop of the Week.'

Wednesday is forecast to be about the same, or worse. If it is sunny at all the downside will be a high of no more than 2 degrees. For Thursday more northern weather will be swiping diagonally across France from the Channel with waves of clouds and maybe some timid glimpses of sun. The high may be up a little bit, at 4 degrees.

Café Life

Sounds of Reality

Howling, screaming, grinding, moaning, a cranking torrent of racket, the everyday background of free sound that I've been spared for two weeks, is back. Out of a soundless cocoon and into hell's brass pit, this audio steelmill full of rusty ball–bearings and random nails we take for granted.

What's that noise? That clicking. Is it the harddisk on its last spin? No, it's from further away, from the kitchen. The café machine doing its gurgle. Write this, typing, the keys go down sounding like a flat stick hitting a garbage can lid, with a follow–up rebound echo. The floor boards squeak everywhere – is this a treehouse in a gale?

Should I go back and ask for wax to be stuffed in? No, no. That silence was deafening, with some casual sounds getting through. One morning I set two radio–clock alarms and arranged for a phone call as a backup. As it was I got up early to make sure they worked.

Bucket of Borscht

I don't know what the occasion was or if there was any particular reason for Uncle Den–Den to invitephoto, bucket of borscht us over for a feast of borscht. The one certain thing was that he made enough of it for many more than we were or for many days, or both. He does like his soup, but he usually gets it ready– made at a Pho shop around the corner.

The no–kidding bucket of borscht.

Maybe it was just that he wanted a couple bowls of it, but it's not worth making in modest quantities. Anyway, we were there the Saturday before last and we did our best. Eight at two bowls each, and we only polished off a third of it. Maybe there was too much other soup, vodka, wine, Armangnac.

He called up and said there was borscht left. The trouble with a couple of litres of soup with things in it, is it doesn't fit in anything. It's one thing to have a big pot, and it's another thing to take five litres of it to Nice for a week. Dimitri and I showed up as summoned and had some more borscht. We must have got it down to the halfway mark, and it had improved with age.

But still. Borscht may be the Ukrainian breakfast of champions, and everyone knows we've been in training with the buffalo–grass vodka, and we have a lot of will, but still.

The good part of it was the guy who blew in from the Falklands, who was good enough to tell us about all the exciting sheep they have down there. There's nothing like the tales of the South Atlantic to pass the time while slogging through bowl after bowl of borscht. He declined a whack at it, perhaps fearing it was full of sheep.

The Server–lady Visits Town

Linda Thalman is not devious. She lives out of town in a place I call the Cadillac Ranch on the edge of thephoto, terrace dining prairie that runs down from the Ile–de– France to Chartres. It is flat and there's a lot of sky and if it's raining, it isn't shy about it. It can be pretty quiet too. It's not necessary to be deaf to not hear anything.

We dined on a terrace in February.

She said, "Find something for us to go and see." I looked in Metropole's Scène column, lifted three items and sent them off for her to choose one from. She picked one and I set my radio–alarms and we met near Victor's house in the Place des Vosges.

We toured the exhibition, which consisted of mostly tiny photos taken around 1850, of Victor Hugo and friends, and photographers, and their friends. It was dim, hard to read the legends, and I was 90 percent deaf. I had no comments to make. If you have a 'Brownie,' you might have similar photos.

Linda kept saying it didn't matter. The lunch was on her so I steered us to a nearby brasserie. We took our time because the service was slow – a popular place – it was empty when we finished, with only us taking the two–hour lunch.

It is harder talking to somebody who is deaf than listening hard when you are deaf, but Linda did her best. For what are probably obvious reasons, she wants more subscribers for her Paris In Sites Newsletter. I am perfectly willing to say that this free newsletter is full of interesting information because Linda writes it.

We tried to think up some special 'hook' as a reason to put this in here. But, this is February after all – there isn't much exciting going on except the weather. Better than a dog fight I guess. The weather I mean. If you have the same weather where you are, you could subscribe, and have a little more Paris in your life.

Irene's Flowers

Irene Benavente, who is an art photographer, does award–winning photos of flowers so real that they look like paintings, as you will see in her first exhibition in Paris. Beginning on Tuesday, 1. March, until Tuesday, 15. March. Except Sunday and Monday, from 14:30 to 19:00. At the Galerie Arcade Colette, in the Jardins du Palais Royal, 155. Galerie de Valois and 17. Rue de Valois, Paris 1. Métro: Palais–Royal. InfoTel.: 01 42 86 05 38.


The Furne edition of Balzac's 'La Comédie Humaine,' the only one proofed by the author and published in his lifetime, is now online. It includes the entire text of the novels, many engravings, and additional notes are available. There is also a search motor for finding your way around. Here are thephoto, bar, marais URLs – Maison de Balzac in Paris and the University of Chicago's ARTFL group.

Headline of the Week

Yet another super headline from Le Parisien today screamed "Libérés!" The home town football team has fallen so low, fired their trainer, whined, and whimpered, that it's gone beyond bottom. Paris–Saint– Germain snatched victory from defeat on Sunday evening by thrashing Bordeaux 3–1. Le Parisien says, 'PSG's first victory over a professional football club in 2005.' Meanwhile, on other wet turf on Sunday, the French rugby team stole a victory from England, by a whisker of 18–17.

The Latest Café Metropole Club 'Report'

The last club meeting's 'Speak Up of the Week' clubphoto, fiat 500 of the week report is more sublime than it sounds because the club's secretary failed to hear 90 percent of the audio portion, but lived to write a lot of words based on lips.

After an over–long absence, a 'Fiat 500 of the Week.'

The coming meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on a Thursday again. The Saint's 'Day of the Week' will be Saint–Alexis. Alexis Falconieri and six rich merchant pals were obnoxious Florentines who gave up their lush way of life in 1233 to copy Francis of Assissi, by founding the 'Servites de Marie' holy order.

Other, mostly true facts about the club can be found on the 'About the Club' page. The design of the real edgy club membership card on this page looks as much like contemporary art online as feeble reproductions of it. It is far too good to be true that the club membership itself is free too, but it really is though.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago

Issue 9.07 – 9. Feb. 2004 – the Café Metropole column started with, "Too Easy To Quit." The news in the 'Au Bistro' column was, 'in 5 words' – 'Drugstore Reopens On Champs–Elysées.' There was a feature titled 'Way Out West' – a Fine Matinée That Was' and another titled 'A Window of the Past – Martin Vaughn–James Exhibition.' Laurel Avery's 'Paris Life had 'A Good Bowl of Matzo Ball Soup.' The repeat Scène column was titled 'No Duck Soup and No Nuts.' The update for the 12. February meeting of the Café Metropolephoto, sign, place roger priou valjean Club was titled, the 'China Lake Gets On the Map' report. There were four terrific 'Posters of the Week' and the caption for Ric's weekly cartoon asked, "No White Hat?"

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 8.07 – 10. Feb. 2003 – the week's Café Metropole column began the issue with 'Buzzer Dayz, Signs of Too Many.' The sole feature was titled, 'Rétromobile – Wheels of Fire, Real and In Scale 1:6.' The repeat Scène column's headline was 'What Isn't Rétro Seems Very Modern.' The report for the Café Metropole Club meeting on 13. February was headlined, 'Chocolate Frogs?' There were four hot–type 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week had an apt caption, "'Cause I Love 'Em"

Valentine's Birthday Today

For once, a saint who is really on the calendar. This is of course the obscure 3th century Roman named Valentine who was asked to heal a notable's kid, which he did successfully, but got offed anyhow. According to French legend, 'les Anglais' decided Valentine should be the patron saint of lovers, because 14. February is the date that the birds do it. But in 1401 France's Charles VI founded a 'cour d'amour,' which was a poetical circle meant to prolongphoto, sign, clown, saxophone the Middle Ages and chivalry, gallantry and honor, and fleurs and boxes of chocolates, of course.

Club member, Jules Verne fan and New Jersey snow expert, Jim Auman has emailed news about Christo's 7500 saffron gates in New York's Central Park. Since Saturday normally crusty New Yorkers are going gaga over it and even Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been talking about 'all the money' thousands of extra visitors to the city will spend in the couple of weeks the 'Gates' are on view. Paris had the Pont Neuf wrapped by Christo too, and Berliners remember the tidy job he did on the old Reichstag. On view in Manhattan until Sunday, 27. February.

Today is also the 126th anniversary of 'La Marseillaise' becoming the French national anthem. It was written one night in July of 1792 by Claude Rouget de Lisle and became the 'chant national' in 1795, but nobody bothered remembering the words. It began as the 'Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin,' and was picked up the revolutionary troops from Marseille who sang it as they marched into Paris in July of 1792, so Parisians hastily called it 'La Marseillaise.' Two 'republics' later it caught on, in 1879.

'Countdowns' Return to Mercury

The 'Quote of the Week' belongs to Saturday, and is attributed to Arthur Miller. He said, "The apple cannot be stuck back on the Tree of Knowledge; once we begin to see, we are doomed and challenged to seek the strength to see more, not less."

Today's 'Countdown' Here On Earth

photo, sign, place diaghilevThe 100th anniversary of Jules Verne's death on 24. March 1905 is a mere 46 days from now. Publicity drums have started to roll for this event, with TV news showing clips of premature space travel and other dark trips to the centre of the earth, plus solar–powered airplanes unforeseen by famous foreseers Jules Verne and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Dubious Anniversary of Note

This date, in 1929, is remembered in Chicago's history for the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. This name marks the mow–down of seven members of 'Bugs' Moran's North Side Gang. The gangland execution took place in a beer warehouse at 2122 North Clark Street. Four men, two dressed at police officers, lined up the victims and opened up with Tommyguns, leaving no witnesses, and 160 empty machine gun shells. Not since Dion O'Banion was wiped out in 1924 were so many rubbed out at once. The police were stunned and annoyed.

Today's Other 'Notable Dates of the Week'

There are only 320 days left of this year. This is exactly the same number of 'days left,' as at this time in 1918 when 'Tarzan' first appeared onscreen. This is completely unconnected to the fact that this year has used up 45 days, the same number that 1989 had when James Bond, an American ornithologist and the model for the fictional spy, died at the age of 89.
signature, regards, ric

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