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Primo de Mayo

photo, relais paris opera

Terrace oasis when it's too warm for shopping.

Clochard of the Quartier Latin

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 2. May 2005:– Yesterday was a very pleasant one for 1. May. There were a lot of high clouds but the sun ignored them and shone fairly brightly on all who happened to be out in the city taking advantage of the various parades trooping around. Best of all, it was about 28 degrees, or about 82 'anglograd.'

Today has strewn about the same amount of brightness over the landscape and it has been nicely warm. This will end at exactly noon tomorrow when a bright morning will give way to somewhat more shrouded skies, sending the temperature down to 21 degrees.

The slide continues, according to tonight's TV–weather news forecast. This morning's prediction in Le Parisien was even worse, with all sorts of confused muck, and near unanimity for the temperature – 17 or 16 degrees. All the same I noted 'semi–sunny' on their map for Wednesday.

By Thursday the paper's weather map is worthless with scribbles all over it. TV's maps were pretty similar, but the weather Joe said something to make me think it might be partly sunny for part of the day. In the temperature department things probably won't get much above 16 degrees. Of course, if everything is off by four hours or 500 kilometres, then we may have 18 degrees, but don't count on it.

Meanwhile on the left side of the Atlantic, Jim Auman provides a timely and concise meteorologicalphoto, pont royal report from a high point in New Jersey concerning all of the continent that can be seen from Far Rockaway, from Tuesday through Thursday, almost like here.

Tendeuses à Gaz

Sitting at the spot on top of the first ridge of the Watchung Mountains where George Washington observed the British navy in New York harbor during the Revolutionary War, the weather of La Grosse Pommeland, including the distant and exotic stretch known as Far Rockaway which is reached by the fabulous and legendary 'A' train is easily observed. Pluviôse returned on Wednesday as well as this weekend. Temperatures on Wednesday were around 55 anglograd – 13 eurograd – and did not rise much more on Thursday and Friday where the sun played hide and seek with the clouds and Ventôse wrestled with Germinal. Because of the rain, it is also le temps des tendeuses à gazon, a concept which is very English, especially for 'les gentlemen anglaises.' Whether it is translatable into French is another question.

Translation note:– Obviously the Internet has scrambled a crucial word between here and New Jersey, and 'tendeuses' might be more correct if rendered as 'tondeuses,' and 'gazon' is of course, grass, which needs cutting on account of the ample rains provided by Pluviôse.

Café Life

May Day

Yesterday, Sunday, 1 May, the weather was very co–operative. It was only half–sunny but the temperature was supposed to be 28 degrees and this is what it felt like. But on the Métro ride to the CGT's parade launch at the Place de la République it didn't seem as if many working folks as usual were aiming for it.

There were four parades give or take one or two. The fascists are always in the streets in the morning on Mayday, but they keep to the Rue de Rivoli and go along to dishonor Jeanne d'Arc's statue before holding their usual harangue at the Opéra. The FN's leader predicted 20,000 faithful, but there were no more than 3500 in front of the Opéra.

The CFTC held their parade in the morning too, starting at Montparnasse, and I think the FO had their parade in thephoto, statue jeanne d'arc morning, starting at Bastille. The CFDT chose to wait until 17:00 before setting out from Place Blanche with République as their destination. Therefore it was easily possible to take part in multiple parades, for the extra energetic. In all there were 130 parades throughout France yesterday.

Statue of Jeanne d'Arc facing the Rue de Rivoli.

Very shortly after launch time at 14:30 the biggest parade was slowly winding down the Boulevard Voltaire. Leading it were a group protesting against the 116th day of captivity in Iraq for Libération journalist Florence Aubenas and her guide, Hussein Hanoun al–Saadi.

The point was followed by the CGT's leaders, including the union's national secretary, Bernard Thibault, plus a representative from Germany's DGB, and other notables, with the usual union gorillas to clear the way who brushed me off a centre–street lamp post.

From my spot on the kilometre pavement between Oberkampf and Boulets it was impossible to tell how many were taking part in the parade. The police presence was slight and no RATP agents were in sight. Estimates in today's papers suggested there were 9–15,000, many less than in past years.

Many of the posters stuck up, illegally, along the route urged a 'non' vote for the European Constitution. This was the message of the day even if all unions are not officially against the new Constitution.

As is common there were many working people taking part in the parade, often with signs identifying their employers. Other signs denounced the attacks on the 35–hour work week, the situation in the Middle East, and various other ongoing conflicts. There were posters for a group on an advanced hunger strike, demanding residence papers. These were mentioned on the radio news Sunday morning.

Despite the small turnout the ambiance was festive. There were the usual wildcat snack stands with burning sausages, and the usual audio equipment with the powerful amplifiers. If asked, I would say many of the sloganeering singers were better this year.

The Monday national holiday of Pentecôte on 16. May has been abolished by the Prime Minister. This is supposed to be for solidarity with old folks, but many here think it is a government–inspired rip–off, costing everybody a free day. Many intend to avoid work or strike on this day. Others intend to go to the long–scheduled bullfights in Nîmes which always has its Feria on this long weekend.

Meanwhile, opinion polling goes on feverishly in an attempt to decipher the mood of the country about the vote for or against the adoption of the European Constitution. The latest polls have hinted that the intention to vote 'non' is losing ground and the 'yes' vote is progressing. Both are hovering around 50 percent, with the 'non' losing its slight edge. This vote will take place on Sunday, 29. May.

Fait du Cinéma

While I am thinking of finishing this issue I am putting it off by watching a little television, because this film is showing a clochard in a park picking fleas out of his pet poodle. The dog goes off and then the clochard starts looking for it. Then a blonde shows up and asks a policeman if he's seenphoto, may day her dog, a red–haired Chihuahua. As I'm wondering what's going to happen when the clochard mistakes his big black poodle for a Chihuahua, the scene switches to the interior of a bookshop.

Near the head of the May Day parade in the Boulevard Voltaire.

The owner gives a book to a customer and when he protests, he gives him another. Upstairs the maid is polishing a telescope when the bookshop owner come in. He says, 'don't break it' and aims it out of the window, and sees the clochard stumbling along by the bouquinistes. He sees the clochard on the Pont des Arts, sees him mount the railing, and jump into the river.

The bookstore owner runs downstairs and out the door and across the street to the quay, and down the stone steps to the riverside, shedding clothes all the way, followed by the curious – who are by now lining all quaysides and are packed like an army of sardines across the bridge.

The clochard is in the middle of the stream and is reached by the good samaritan, with some frenzied splashing. As a sightseeing boat draws alongside there is also a rowboat with other rescuers on the scene, and between a thrown lifebuoy from the bigger boat and the men in the rowboat, the two are hauled out of the water and taken to the quay.

There the bookshop owner attempts to revive the clochard with the help of 30 bystanders. This is so confusing that the clochard it carried up the stairs and across to the bookshop, where he is finally brought back to life, spitting water all over while the maid it running around getting towels and one bystander is congratulating the 'hero' and saying he can't wait to get home to tell his wife about the incident.

This is all accompanied by swift dialogue seemingly made up by the actors, played not on a stage but in a real park, real bookshop, by the real bridge over the real river. The camera shoots from the bookshop's upper window, and scans the bouquinistes opposite, with passing cars, trucks and buses blocking the view. It is real and fluid.

photo, fiat 500 of the weekIt is also in black and white and all of the scenes are from 1932. Jean Renoir was the director and the film's title was 'Boudu sauvé des eaux.' It sounds like it was the model for the 'Clochard de Beverly Hills.'

One More Time, Once

Captured, on Wednesday, this gleaming Fiat 500, obviously someone's wheels of fire hardly showing the decades of wear and tear of Ile–de–France life since leaving the factory in sunny Italy.

Headline of the Week

There were some bold headlines of the week in Le Parisien but none was more striking than Thursday's 'SUPERBE.' This was the only word on the front page and the back page, to match the single color photo taking up both pages – of the world's first Airbus A380 in flight. The monster lifted off the ground as lightly as an elephant–sized ballerina and waltzed around the sky for four hours on Wednesday.

The Latest Café Metropole Club 'Report'

Last Thursday's club meeting reported as "A Profound Experience" in the report is faintly apt, because club members and the secretary routinely 'get lost' in Paris, although not always so profoundly. Sometimes it is only slightly lost, and it can lead to minor or major discoveries, off the route, as it were.

The next Thursday meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on a Thursday, about the same as last week. The Saint's 'Day of the Week' will be the saints Sainte–Judith and Saint–Antonin. These 'Saints of the Week' are separated by only two centuries, but they are just as unrelated as last week's. Judith is Prussia's patron saint, from the days when it was a pagan place, and Antonin was a pal of Fra Angelico and when he died in 1459 he was Florence's archbishop.

Other, somewhat true facts about the club are on view on the 'About the Club' page. The ragged design of the somewhat tatty club membership card on this page looks as much like a membership card as any other discarded Métro ticket, but it isn't. Wholly free, the club membership itself is virtually real, as you will find when you join on any Thursday.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago

Issue 9.18 – 26. April – the issue's Café Metropole column was headlined, 'Café Life In 117 Words.' The 'feature of the week,' about the slogan contest, was titled '145 France–Is–Good Slogans – for the Bumper–Sticker Slogan Contest.' There was a new Scène column with the title, 'Par Amour de l'Art, and Thread Trips.' The update for the 29. April meeting of the Café Metropole Club featured the 'Frenziedphoto, sign, rue de la paix Voting Picks Winners!' report. There were four zen–zen 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's weekly cartoon was a warning about 'The Ponts de Mai are Coming.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 8.18/19 – 28. Apr/5. May 2003 – a double issue often starts with Café Life and two years ago it was about 'Ton Amie, Mabutu Mosa.' The issue's Café Metropole column shouted 'Bagdad Café Makes Comeback.' The solo feature sought, sort of, 'Typical' in Paris' 'Business District.' The report for the Café Metropole Club meeting on 1. May was titled as the 'First Country 'City of the Week' report. The update a week later on 8. May was headlined as the 'Somebody's Swedish Grandmother' report. There were six slighly cool–cool 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week hit the breadbasket with, 'World Premiere Sandwich.' Gulp!

A Little Cryptozoology for You

For the ninth time almost in a row, this is not about some old saint, but instead is a true myth. This day in 1933 was the anniversary of the first 'modern' sighting of the Loch Ness Monster, affectionately called 'Nessie' by loyal fans. Despite many sightings by people leaving pubs on the shores of the Loch – a freshwater lake – near the city of Inverness in Scotland, sober scientists continue to have doubts about the existence of the 'monster,' just as they do about 'Bigfoot' and 'Yeti,' who are not related.

The Big Leonardo

Known to us as a 'Renaissancephoto, sign, quai voltaire Man,' Leonardo da Vinci was an architect, musician, anatomist, inventor, engineer, sculptor and painter and spent his free time fooling around with anatomy, astronomy, and civil engineering. Without Leonardo's painting of the 'Mona Lisa' the Louvre would not be so popular today, and some believe his painting of the 'Last Supper' is a historical document. Leonardo died 486 years ago in Amboise, possibly in the arms of François 1er, after which 60 beggars followed his casket to the Chapel of Saint–Hubert.

Remembering May Day

All the same we'll take today's 'Quotes of the Week' from Alan Pavlik's Just Above Sunset out in Hollywood. It was the annual worldwide May Day Fête du Travail yesterday and many people have had interesting things to say about work, from Leon Trotsky to Joe Hill and Ronald Reagan.

Today's Other 'Notable Dates of the Week'

There are only 243 days left of thisphoto, sign, place charles garnier year. This is exactly the same number of 'days left,' as at this time in the year 73 when the fortress of Massada fell into the hands of the Romans. This is completely unconnected to the fact that this year has used up 122 days, the same number that 1997 had when Tony Blair became Britain's youngest Prime Minister in 185 years, at the age of 44. In only a few weeks he will be attempting to set another personal record.
signature, regards, ric

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