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''It's Got Good Water''

photo, group, rita and diane

Rita and Diane, the 'Group of 2 of the Week.'

''On the Way to Some Other Place''

Paris:– Thursday, 10. March 2005:– We are holding up. We are facing each morning, looking like the morning before, followed by the grey morning before that – that was as grey as the featureless skies of Inner Sinkiang, the lost interior between China and Mongolia. Right here in downtown Europe.

As I say, endless grey, day after day. This winter will go down in memory as the endless blah that was cold. Le Parisien is making heroic efforts to put a fine spin on it, as in, 'cocktail sans goût.' Cocktail of ditchwater is more like it.

There is good news though. The high for tomorrow should be 10 whole degrees, for the first time in a month. This will not be accompanied with much else to cheer. Winds will pelt us in the morning from the Channel to the tune of 70 kph, and in the afternoon they will blow from the southwest at 60 kph. Two flavors of wind in a single day!

There may be some sunny periods that may become visible in the afternoon. Sunny periods may be aroundphoto, strike of the week traffic on Saturday too but there is supposed to be some sort of cloud blanket across France from about Nantes to the northeast. Above it we may have a high of 7 degrees, and the iffy sunny periods.

Frenzied traffic leaving the Quartier Latin.

Above the cloud line of Saturday, it may be more semi–sunny on Sunday. No better than doubtful golfing weather because it isn't expected to be more than 7 degrees again. Longer range, Le Parisien tells us what the optimist, the pessimist and the realist will see in the sky – mostly clouds.

The 'Brewed' Report of the Week

As you may have guessed, the weather missed the rendez–vous for today's 'Strike of the Week.' Other than this miserable constant everything else has been out of kilter. Radio FIP spun a lot of classical music as if there were a serious threat to the state, when the day only called for the 'strike against nearly everything by just about everybody.'

In a situation like this Parisians are hardy and brave and a lot of them stay home, or if they go out, they go to thephoto, beer of the week movies. Every neighborhood has its share of cinemas. They are over–loud dark halls for cooling off pent–up steam. People who did neither spent their time getting to the Place d'Italie so they could display their displeasure with the government.

Near here I could have seen 'Assassination Tango,' 'La Vie Aquatique' or 'En Chantant Derrière les Paravents.' Instead of seeing any of these, I decided to stick to the day's plan of conducting an exciting Café Metropole Club meeting.

A café beer featuring 'good water.'

At first I thought I would walk to the club's café. On the way I took a chance at Raspail, got into the Métro free, and hey–Bob! – a Métro train came along right away. It was nearly empty. A delirious announcement said other lines were nearly empty of trains.

It's lucky I left the Métro at Odéon. A middle–sized traffic jam near the Pont Neuf contained the 'Fiat 500 of the Week' which I doubt I would have captured if I had stayed on until Cité or Châtelet. You see them where they are unless you are someplace else.

I failed to notice the heightened security around the court thing on the Ile de la Cité, except for seeing eight police vans turn into the Quai des Orfévres. On the right bank the Quai du Louvre seemed to have less jammed traffic than usual, but there were many more people walking around – probably coming from or going to movies.

In the club's area of La Corona I managed to take care of details like taking off my coat, and writing the date, and reading in the paper about the goals of today's strikes. Very cocky they are, predicting the size of the message they will be sending.

I have just read that there will be another strike next month if the government fails to notice today's, when Diane Chase arrives from Sacramento in California. Because I have forgotten to remember, Diane reminds me that she joined the club last summer, after trekking around France on a bicycle.

According to this member it has been raining in California so she decided to come here despite the unseasonalphoto, cafe of the week winter weather. She took a tour this morning, is here at the club, and will change hotels tonight – having found that some cheap hotels are, well, cheap. Ah, full of idiotic young people having a loud time.

A café with a side order of so–so water.

As for motive, "If you really want to come, six days are okay," Diane says, adding, "I don't ski." A couple of questions establish that there is lots of skiing near enough to Sacramento, and far enough away from Paris.

Diane spends her working days in Sacramento helping to sell beer. She says she would like to take a bicycle beer–tour of Belgium, to seek the origin of their best 'micro' brands. Apparently these are models for 'garage' breweries in America. "They are taking over western USA," she says.

But Diane has a suitcase on rollers that she has to haul from the 5th arrondissement to the 7th, so this needs discussion. There may be no Métro running, the buses may be full, and the pavement is guaranteed to be lumpy. A taxi could do it but the Boulevard Saint–Germain is typically one–way the wrong way.

Before she finds out that the secretary doesn't know the answer member Rita Martinson arrives, as if on return direct from Germany, Amsterdam or Timbuktou. No one is making this up. The club does have members like this. Rita says she didn't care for the mud in Timbuktou, but that was the trip before the one before last.

I guess we are still talking about beer because Rita says, "It's not my beer but it's got good water." This is about a famous Belgian brand, generally considered to be a good substitute for swill. "It's not complex at all," she adds after due consideration.

There is no connection at all, but Rita also remembers some beer she once tried that was brewed in a village near Timbuktou. It took a lot of French pharmaceuticals to get over that one.

This presents a good opportunity to switch to literature, which allows Rita to mention the largest bookstore 'on the Continent' without bothering to name it. She has a book by John Berger, about peasant life in France, titled 'Pig Earth.'

After you factor in the train fare it might still be worthwhile going to Amsterdam for books. Rita found 13 there, for 25€. Considering that 'Pig Earth' is clearly used, and is about peasants, I wonder about the other dozen titles.

As every week at about this time, it is an opportunity for the 'Group Photo of the Week.' This week the secretaryphoto, diane, rita decides to go out on the café's terrace while the members stay inside. This photo is a total failure. Other group photos are less than total failures, although it takes two of them to make one photo.

Alternate 'Group of Two' photo of the week.

By now Rita's beer has evaporated, on account of the water. She is still staying in the same apartment on Montmartre, but her opinion of it has mellowed. "It's not a dump, but it's above the sleaze."

This is all so jolly that the meeting continues on past its deadline which is not a 'rule' anyhow. We have another stab at literature when Diane mentions that her new hotel is, "On the way to some other place mentioned in Heather's Paris guide book."

Strike of the Week Note

By tomorrow morning the transport strikes should be over until the next time. All of the public and private workers managed to number about 150,000 on the march in Paris today, between Place d'Italie and Place de la Nation in eastern Paris.

There were companion demonstrations throughout France and organizers estimated the numbers atphoto, moto, statue, pantheon 500,000 to one million, while the police estimate was 600,000. There was no doubt that the forecasts made by unions were exceeded.

Scooters and horses could have been handy in Paris today.

Today was also chosen by the International Olympic Committee for its inspection of Paris, to enable it to decide if Paris could possibly organize the Olympic summer games scheduled for 2012. Obviously, holding the near–general strike on the same day can be considered a bold ploy to convince the fussy Olympic inspectors that Paris can do it standing on its head. It might not be too early to order your games tickets now.

About the Café Metropole Club's About Page

Today's club meeting 'report,' with modest attendance less than an average mob, lacked anything edible of any kind and little but beer and café to drink. The enthralling 'About the Café Metropole Club' page has several cool photos, but you can skip them all entirely and miss nothing other than lots of words. If you do skip it, the club can be joined any Thursday that is also a saint's day.

Who, How, Why Not, When, What, Where?

Club meetings begin about 15:00 in the afternoon, on Thursday and close down about 17:00 or after on the same afternoon in the western European Time zone – which is really 'CET' for short and not 'ZZsT' although it sometimes is – and known elsewhere as 3 pm to 5 pm. Around somewhere else is not where meetings are held, so don't go there.

Be devilishly clever at a meeting – by being at one – and become comfortable for a hour or two especially if you have had too much Louvre. True 'firsts' are welcome, with 'true' having more added value than 'first' regardless if 'first' is perfectly believable too, and if it is an acceptable form of 'true' but seldom on Thursdays.

Note of caution – you may have any one or more personal reasons for remaining unfindable via the Web. If so, be sure to inform the club's secretary that you prefer to be '404 – not found' by Web search engines before becoming 'found' in one of these club reports.graphic: club location map Throw your name into Google to find out.

Former 'rules' continue to be 'former' week after week after week, month after month, year after everlasting year, blah–blah, blah–blah, blah–blah, blah–blah, blah–blah, etc.

Talking to other club members at meetings is encouraged rather than optional if there aren't any. There are usually free chairs, so sit – wherever you like, or bring your own. Whatever you say will be greatly appreciated by other members present if there are any that are listening, and there usually are some – and if it should chance to be written here.*

*The above paragraphs are relatively unchanged since last week because the club's secretary failed to get a free Métro ride home and should have walked instead.

The café's location is:

Café–Tabac La Corona
2. Rue de l'Amiral de Coligny – or – 30. Quai du Louvre
Paris 1. Métro: Louvre–Rivoli, Pont–Neuf or Châtelet.
Every Thursday from 15:00 to 17:00.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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Waldo Bini