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Smart Shopping

photo, parc, square vert galant, ile de la cite

The teardrop in the Seine, the Square Vert Galant.

Colds of the Week

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 21. February 2005:– I am beginning to think that the sky is not going to clear up and become icy sapphire blue like it does sometimes in February, glass–hard and so blue with the air so thin that you think you can fall up to space if you don't keep your hat on.

This means that I have to become reconciled to grey skies hovering not much higher than the Tour Montparnasse. These solid puffs, some looking like black lead, sometimes backed up in stacks on the other side of the cemetery as if they are sitting on a wild mountain range over there.

Tonight's TV–weather news has no relief on the horizon. If anything the outlook is getting worse. The whole north–east of the country looked like a drape of gray, falling ever deeper as Tuesday goes on. Inside the gray, the little hollow circles that mean snowflakes, coming closer, trying to join up with snow or sleet up on the Channel, out in Brittany. To fool people – brief flashes of sad sunlight, most likely in the morning.

Expect overnight to have a temperature of zero degrees, zooming up in the afternoon to a high of 3 degreesphoto, old poste coachhouse, rue boulard before falling back to maybe minus degrees early Wednesday morning, with an afternoon max predicted to be one lone degree.

Former post coach house in the 14th arrondissement.

Add to it a 60 kph wind angling down from the northeast, more of the clouds in the northeast, more of the snow, and the shy peeps of brightness. All of the same is in the cards for Thursday, but less forcefully with a day's high of 3 degrees, less wind, and maybe even more frequent periods of feeble sunlight.

In past years when we had almost decent weather in February, March used to be grim with a glacial kind of frozen climax at Easter. Maybe it'll be reversed this year and the whole town will be yellow with daffodils exactly five weeks from now.

Café Life

Smart Shopping

Clever shoppers plan their visits to the Monoprix. The problem can be too many clever shoppers at once all trying to avoid the dumb shoppers who don't know better or who are unable to avoid them. Me, I think even clever shoppers will be home having lunch at lunchtime.

This afternoon it looked like I'd won my bet as I swung in the door and picked up a basket with an almost clean bottom. Some of the baskets look like shoppers were hauling coal in them, but I suppose it must have been licorice. It just makes me feel better to put clean food in a clean basket, even if it is all in packages.

While in the depths of the small supermarket the PA announced that Monoprix would accept payment in cash or cheques, but not with payment cards. I governed myself and picked up only the one item I'd come for and did not do much scanning for other items, possibly on sale. Thus, without having been in the maze of a place more than four minutes I was ready to check out.

Two checkouts, with grumpy–looking operators, were closed. The other four out of seven that were open, all had long lines – this is where the 'empty' store's customers were lurking. Some smart shoppers looked as if they were doing their weekly chore. The rats!

Waiting in line at first I didn't understand why people were sprinting across the store on the other side of the checkouts. We are waiting here, and they are sprinting there. Some sort of new promo? Fast dashing in the Monoprix?

Time began to pass. Lines grew longer. An old lady jumped the line in front of me, cleverly saying she didn'tphoto, place vosges have much. One of the store workers came along and told the cashier not to accept cheques. Then a lady who had gone through sprinted off to the left. The lady behind her, in front of the old lady, held her place until the first sprinter returned – from across the street, up the block? – and then she sprinted off too.

View from Victor Hugo's apartment.

She came back with a bundle of cash. The old lady went through, hauled out a billfold with eight plastic cards. I held my breath. After a finger–touchy feely of recognition she unzipped a pouch and withdrew some notes. A 10€ note. I began to worry. Maybe 70 or 80 percent of shoppers pay with plastic or cheques. If this Monoprix is strictly on cash, it'll be empty quick.

But they must have planned for the emergency. I handed over my 10€ note and the grouch made change. I scooped up the item in the plastic bag, hauled on my gloves and got out of there. Next time I'll make sure it's rush hour before going back. What they do to clever shoppers shouldn't happen to a dog.

Daguerreotypistas

Even if I go to my café, which I don't do much anymore on account of having café at home, I am fairly unlikely to meet any Daguerreotypistas in it because they usually go to the café that used to be my café but isn't anymore because if I only have a café once a week I'd rather not have it in the shout club.

But, fairly often actually, café at home is weak, pitiful stuff at best, and on a cold and damp day after tramping up Daguerre there doesn't seen anything better in the world than to go in a smoke–filled café where folks are hanging out, drinking, playing the horses, arguing, watching the world pass, have a café myself and maybe read Libération.

So it was with some surprise that I noticed the back of Dimitri's fresh haircut, and found Dimitri's face onphoto, quai du louvre the other side of it. It was a long face, not much rosier for the empty glass of wine on the bar. Dimitri is under the weather. He has one of these winter colds. It is so bad he does not think another wine will fix anything. He is going to get his laundry and then, basta! – into the hole.

The Quai du Louvre on the right bank.

So he is about to stagger off when Uncle Den–Den staggers in. Uncle Den–Den looks like he died in Nice. He went down there to bask in the Riviera sunshine, a brilliant idea, no buts about it.

But, if I remember correctly, Uncle Den–Den came back from San Francisco suffering, and it took him a while to get out of that. Then he went away at Christmas and came back on death's door, or wagon, and that took its time too. Here it is again, croaking before my eyes.

And what I don't understand is why both of them are in 'my' café, because neither of them like it. I don't even like it, except perversely, and for Libération. It looked like both of them might just stay, in this anteroom of the cemetery, so I went home to make some weak and tasteless café and tried and figure out the sense of the world.

The next day Dimitri phoned to ask if he could come over to borrow some pulp fiction to while away his hours, days, of illness. I pointed out a nice selection for him and urged him to take five instead of three, because they are fast reads. I am worried about the Daguerreotypistas. They usually read Uncle Den–Den's books. I prefer them too.

Headline of the Week

Another super headline from Le Parisien last Thursday shouted "Ce qui peut vous arriver dans un commissariat." Apparently, in the home of human rights, the last place you want to find yourself is in the wrong part of a police station. The paper's advice is, if you are hauled in for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, be very polite and have a lot of respect – and maybe you'll be allowed to make a phone call, avoid getting strip–searched, and handcuffed to a radiator.

The Latest Café Metropole Club 'Report'

The last club meeting's 'Mastodon's Dentist' clubphoto, dead end, montparnasse report is more sublime than it sounds because the meeting really concerned food photos and had, as far as I can remember, absolutely nothing to do with mastodons or their dentists. Plus, none of the members present at the meeting were dentists, either.

A deadend in Montparnasse.

The coming meeting of the Café Metropole Club is always on a Thursday again. The Saint's 'Day of the Week' will be Saint–Modeste. This 'Saint of the Day' was the bishop of Trier, in the Rhineland, sometime in the 5th century, and was a saint for a reason probably known somewhere by somebody.

More, largely true facts about the club can be found on the 'About the Club' page. The ace design of the extra edgy club membership card on this page looks as much like brown paper art online as the Monoprix's brown paper. It is good enough to be true that the club membership itself is free too, for which all rejoice.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago

Issue 9.08 – 16. Feb. 2004 – the Café Metropole column began with, 'Saturday Night On the Champs.' The news in the 'Au Bistro' column was, 'in 9 words – Air Controllers Strike at Orly, Then Maybe at CDG.' One feature was titled 'A Lot of Clean Metal – Rétromobile' and another was titled 'A Four–Star Test, the Hôtel Chambiges Elysées.' Laurel Avery's 'Paris Life urged, 'Stop the Sushi!' The repeat Scène column was titled 'No Duck Soup and No Nuts.' The update for the 19. February meeting of the Café Metropole Club was headlined, the 'Real Conversations Lost In Translation'photo, sign, rue danville report. There were four average 'Posters of the Week' and the caption for Ric's weekly cartoon stated, "First Africa, then Bagnolet!"

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 8.08 – 17. Feb 2003 – this week's Café Metropole column opened the issue with 'Beware of Avalanches.' The Au Bistro column had, 'Decree Days are Back.' The repeat Scène column's headline was 'What Isn't Rétro Seems Very Modern.' The report for the Café Metropole Club meeting on 20. February was titled, the 'Christmas In February' report. There were four, again average, 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week posed an apt question, "Is this a Hustle or Not?"

Jeanne Calment's Birthday Today

For once, this is not about a saint. Jeanne Calment was born in 1875 on this date and she died, in peace, on 4. August 1997. The reason for remembering this is that in between, 122 years and 164 days passed. When she was 90 in 1965, she sold her house 'en viager.' The buyer agreed to pay a monthly sum until her death, when the house would become his. However he died first, after 30 years, and his widow had to pay Jeanne for another two years.

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 a week ago normally blasé New Yorkers have been going gaga over it and Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been nearly counting 'all the money' thousands of extra visitors to the city will spend in the couple of weeks the 'Gates' are on view in Manhattan until next Sunday, 27. February.

Today is also the 80th anniversary of 'The New Yorker' magazine. This is a city magazine so cosmopolitan that it read beyond New York City, mainly because it is available in malls throughout the land and overseas. When Harold Ross started it, it was not meant to be read by any 'little old lady from Dubuque.' This is a smaller city in eastern Iowa on the Mississippi, with malls, but without being near any cosmopolitan coasts, east or left.

'Countdowns' Return to Venus

The 'Quote of the Week' belongs to about now, and is attributed to Jeanne Calment. She allegedly said, "I've only got one wrinkle, and I'm sitting on it."

Today's 'Countdown' Under the Sea

The 100th anniversary of Jules Verne's death on 24. March 1905 is a mere 39 days from now. Publicity drums have started to roll for this event, with magazine covers showing premature space machines and other gadgets for travelling to the centre of the earth, plus solar–powered submarines foreseen by neither Verne nor Da Vinci.

Dubious Anniversary of Note

The date, in 1431, is remembered in France's history for the Saint Joan's Day trial, during the Hundred Years War. Poor photo, sign, rue sivelJoan, aka Jeanne d'Arc, aka La Pucelle d'Orléans, was sold down the river after defeating the English at the Battle of Orléans, thus enabling the coronation of Charles VII. Captured by the Burgundians, and handed over to the English, they had some hired clergy stage a trial, in which Joan was condemned for heresy which was a serious crime at the time. Today, by sheer chance, is also the anniversary of the first publication of the Communist Manifesto. Written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, it suggested having a proletarian revolution to overthrow capitalism and, if possible, to put a chicken in every pot.

Today's Other 'Notable Dates of the Week'

There are only 313 days left of this year. This is exactly the same number of 'days left,' as at this time in 1823 when Pierre Laffitte first appeared. This is completely unconnected to the fact that this year has used up 52 days, the same number that 1903 had when Anais Nin, the French girlfriend of Henry Miller, was born, and grew up to become an American author.
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