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Skulls and Bones

photo, palms, luxembourg garden

At the other beach, in the Luxembourg.

Café Babylonia

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 8. August 2005:– Tonight's weather forecast is short and without frills and you are lucky to get anything because I've just returned from Porte Mayo in time to catch it. I wasn't even sure I'd get back in time. I guess the TV–news was slow or my Métro was fast.

Tuesday will be sunny here except if the hazy clouds along the northeast become predominant, which they might not. If not then the sky should be very blue and with a temperature of 25 degrees nobody should have any complaints unless the few clouds around turn out to have reinforcements.

A wind might be blowing away from here. I only mention it because you might feel yourself getting sucked towards the southwest if you happen to be somewhere around Rennes. Whatever it feels like, this wind will be slightly less bothersome on Wednesday, when it should be mainly sunny here all the time with a high of 24 degrees. Proper clouds are expected to be rare.

For those who miss them Thursday will probably suit you because there may be some around. The sunshine will not be as bright as on Wednesday but everything else will be the same, except that there may be no wind blowing or sucking in any direction. Count on a high of 24 degrees again.

This is the kind of fine weather we get in Paris when most people who live here are someplace else. Daysphoto, beach jazz of fierce heat, if we ever have any, become less frequent until what's left is basically pretty good weather for September. The days get shorter along with the mercury in the thermometres and it's almost time to put another log on the fire, if we had any fires.

Free jazz on Paris Plage.

Fearless Météo Jim once again sends an exciting weather note about possible animalistic weather in and around New York City. Although hardly inappropriate, the remainder of Météo Jim's forecast for Pommeland weather this week is partly woofy:–

Dog Day Dogs

The weather in Pommeland has not changed. With the rising of the Dog Star Sirius and his Dog Day friends, the weather is neither fit for man nor beast. Temperatures have been in the mid 90's anglograd along with drought and stifling humidity and ozone. On Friday evening the temperatures and humidity dropped a bit and the weekend, while warm, was not unpleasant. Sirius will return this coming week with his woofy friends to star in a repeat of last week's weather along with the chance of Donnerblitzeneargesplitten Boomers.

Café Life

This is not a complete or even a partial issue because of a rare visit by my son Willy, who stayed exactly one week before climbing aboard his pumpkin for a ride back to Beauvais and a return flight to Dublin tonight.

We hadn't seen each other for just over two years during which time we both got two years older, with Willy coming up to 18 next year and me going over the hill. What does a kid 17.5 years old want to do it Paris? He said, "Let's just hang out." So we did.

Tati XXL

But first he said, "Where are the clothes for big folks?" If you've read this week's club report you'll know that we found extra–wide jeans at Tati in Montparnasse for a song, and a sturdy belt to hold them halfway up for a whistle. During the week there was a story in Le Parisien about Tati opening new stores, so it appears as if the new MGT has turned the brand around and it's on a roll again. Very few other shops here have prices so low. It's a good thing to remember if your suitcase gets sent to Bombay with your entire collection of widepants.

Then, quite by chance, on Saturday just 15 minutes before closing time, we found a discount place in the Boulevard Raspail that seems to have name brands of men's and women's clothing priced to be grabbed, and includes items that could only be loved by fatpants fanciers. We were thrown out of the place before he could con me into forking out a demi–fortune for some Addidas sparkler baskets with rhinestones and chrome trim. Just the things to be wearing while hammering away on the old X–Box.

Really Real, Paris Plage

Seventeen–and–a–half year–olds have seen everything, according to what some of them say, but Willy had not heard of our Paris Plage and when we toured it one evening he declared it to be not too shabby. It's true that the fog machines were turned off and we got there before the twinkle lights came on, but we still managed to pass by two pianos – one, a small grand – on the beach. Well there were thephoto, sign, danger abeilles Brazilians too and lots of drums, and in another spot there were some jazz types and a singer.

Walking along you go from one music to another with the Seine flowing past, with those dinner barges full of diners–by–candlelight gliding in the waters, and folks are camped out in no particular hurry as the sun sets behind the Grand Palais, and thousands of Parisians and visitors are walking along or listening to the music, or sitting on the sand in the dark not waiting for not much to happen in the centre of the city. It's like a 'night out' in a thin village with everybody outside.

Little Wheels

Another free show that lasts seven minutes is being at Montparnasse for the beginning of the Friday Night Roller Rando. At this time of year the bulk of the fans are rolling around somewhere else but there were still enough to get a general idea of how much fun it is to meet in the dark on little wheels, and then follow some fast folks in yellow shirts around the streets of Paris for three hours. The guy skating backwards must have more eyes in his head than you or me. Tweet, tweet, and the roller cops bring up the rear followed by the ambulances.

Café Babylonia

And then the sharp eyes. "What's this Café Babylonia?" Well, kid, you see it's like this, exotica. Sandwiched in between the motorcycle driving school and the fake Indian restaurant – no, not Pakistani! – guaranteed Indian! In the Babylonia there are thesephoto, sign, place saint sulpice bubble pipes and some people are puffing away with them, so the guy brings one fully charged and unwraps a super sanitary mouthpiece and attaches it – this, after asking what the house had for flavors.

Strawberry, peaches, or apricots, no liquorice. Hm? I tried it too, but strawberry–flavored smoke if not my favorite. Maybe blackberry sometime. I passed on the tea and tried the café. Next time I'll try the tea. There's food too, and low prices, and if you see the owner it'll be in your interests to say your are from Dublin. Meanwhile, on the house sound system, Baghdad's top ten. It's an acquired taste.

Skulls and Bones

I live nearly next door to the Catacombes but I've been putting off a visit because of the free view of the cemetery across the street. Willy looked out of the window and there's no cemetery, just trees, so when a local troublemaker started singing the praises of the Catacombes there was nothing for it but to be standing in line there on Saturday, hoping the line's too long, and not enough time before closing.

But the line–stuffer got us shoehorned in with the before–last shift and down we went, down the spiral stairs, down to the very bottom, which turned out to be a simple couple of rooms with a couple of posters advertising the Catacombes. After that it was into the tunnels and stumbling along in the tunnels, left, right, uphill, downhill, tunnelsphoto, catacombes tunnels – oh, for entire days – until finally reaching some place, deep underground – below the Métro! – where a sign said, 'Home of the Dead.'

Authentic skulls in the equally authentic Catacombes.

By this time we were kind of tired. 'Oh yes, here are these bones stacked up, floor to ceiling, leg bones they looked like, with a few skulls for a changeup of design. Did you notice? No jaws. Some skulls have holes in them. Some are pretty small skulls. A sign says something like, 'The Eglise Saint–Louis collection, parked here in 1802.' And beyond it another gallery stuffed to the rafters with bones and a few skulls. Once you've seen your first hundred thousand old bones they all look pretty much the same.

The long visit takes 90 minutes and our visit took 45. This was because we didn't stop to read all of the signs and random poetry, and I know there are certain to be readers that will complain that it all wasn't copied down and displayed here, but I tell you it was dark down there, and a bit cool and damp in places, even if I didn't see any bats.

I know there are people who would like to have a picnic in the Catacombes and there are actually benches down there for sitting on. Well, everyone to their own taste, and it certainly is quiet enough for a siesta. Taking a flashlight could enhance the visit if you are one of those that has to see every tiny detail. Those who think they will simply photograph everything will be warned by the minders to desist from using the flash – without it, it is very dark down there.

At the end there's another spiral stairway and up you go until about half way when you begin to realize that you may have forgotten your pushups for the past couple of years. The rest of the way is a hard trudge and when you get to the top there's a minder who will want to look in your bag to make sure you haven't accidently picked up a bone or two. Then you are let out on to a street you've never seen before in your life. It's still in my quartier though, so turn right and go up to the avenue, and back to civilization.

Café Rendez–Vous

"Moules–frites?" I asked. Willy heard something else but said, "Yeah." Then I said, just to give a choice of two, "Pizza" and he said, "Better!" He mustphoto, canal boat stop have been thinking of the Italian place, where Uncle Den–Den took us, and we went there but it was closed of course, and we then were too far in the wrong direction for moules–frites.

The Café Babylonia is right across the street but he didn't want to do it because of already being there, so we did what we always do when it is August and the pizza place is closed. We went to the Rendez–Vous which is fallback heaven for every occasion.

By the dock of the canal, up by La Villette.

Where we were greeted like long lost travellers and slotted in to a booth in the midst of all the other folks from the quartier who knew better than to go to their favorite pizza place. Our waiter was especially attentive even if he needed a shave, and brought us a couple of pepper steaks fairly smartly, and they were cooked just right, and Willy noticed that the grilled tomato tasted like – pizza!

How fine it was! Especially memorable as it was our first proper meal in a week, on account of the cook at my place being a total nitwit. Willy sopped up all the tasty gourmet pepper sauce with the slightly stale free bread on hand and we topped it all off by having the house specialty – two fire extinguisher–sized pots of mousse au chocolat. It was as light and fluffy as crankcase sludge but tasted somewhat better, if you like chocolate that is.

'Dead Man'

My TV–viewing is concentrated on the news and weather but I have a video player and a bunch of really old video movies copied from TV sometime in the past 25 years. Willy was mooching around in this mess and turned up all sorts of treasures so after the feast we decided to let it settle by taking a look at a Jim Jarmusch opus named 'Permanent Vacation.'

Willy read, 'winner of the caméra d'or' at Cannes, but that was another film. That's how they were hustling this film, which turned out to be one Jarmusch must have made with some spare free film quite some time before shooting 'Stranger than Paradise.'

I didn't realize I have so many Jarmusch movies. We had seen him in 'Brooklyn Boogie' making fun of western guys throwing away their guns when they ran out of bullets, so we put on 'Dead Man,' his fairly new western with an all–star cast, two horses and Johnny Depp.

When his gun runs out of bullets he doesn't throw it away. We re–wound it to make sure. It was a fine movie with toothaches, cannibalism, and an Indian quoting William Blake. In the end the hero gets pushed out to sea in an authentic Pacific Northwest burial canoe and the bad guy, the badest guy, gets blown away. Or gets his head blown off. I think the horse was the only survivor. Then Willy watched 'Stranger than Paradise' to complete the set.

Cuba Libre

La Villette is far out at the other end of the city and I haven't made the trip in a long time. I thought it might be interesting to go out there and see how summer is treating the place, especially in the afternoon on a Sunday when there are free concerts with the title, 'Scènesphoto, fiat 500 d'Eté. As luck would have it, after walking for miles from the Métro past various groups of mad drummers, we got to the Kiosque à Musique on its semi–island corner, to find the Cubans tuning up.

Ultra rare, this summertime Fiat 500.

It looked like about 3000 were waiting for them, lolling around on the grass and sitting on anything handy and more coming all the time. The sun was shining and the canal waters were sparkling and the Cubans were loud. They have percussive percussion and they are not shy. According to the program we were hearing Sierra Maestra. I'm sure the sounds carried to the Elysée. It was the kind of day just right for it, with a bunch of people out voting for salsa shockwaves, on their own beach up in the northeast.

From there we walked down the sunlit canal, past all of its gearworks and locks, past all the folks hanging around it and sitting in the cafés beside it, down all the way to Bastille and its cafés in the shadows. I guess that during the week we walked everywhere except the usual places. They never came up so we never got close to them.

The Latest Café Metropole Club 'Report'

The report about last Thursday's club meeting was not wholly about the 'Two Willys 'First.' These were the 'co–Willy of the Week,' consisting of one hungry fly–in bird and one son in over–ample squarepants, plus regular members from Florida and the marché on Monge.

The weekly Thursday meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on a Thursday again, quite a bit like most Thursdays. The Saint's 'Day of the Week' will be Sainte–Claire. This 'Saint of the Week,' during the night of Rameaux in 1212, when she was barely 19 but rich, rallied a little troupe to help outphoto, sign, rue deferou 19 Saint–François, and then went on to found the order of the 'poor ladies,' whose members are also called, 'Clarisses.'

Somewhat less likely but real notions about the club can be found on the 'About the Club' page should you happen to glance that way. The crude sketch of the club membership card on the page looks as like a membership card as a potato bag. Nearly costless, the club membership itself is worth quite a bit without actually being anything you could pawn.

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