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Pieces of Eight

photo, rue faubourg saint honore

Street of dreams for Saturday shopping.

Ballots for Idle Voters

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 5. December 2005:– Three days after it warmed up a lot last week, I started to get warm. It means I have been comfortable for a day and a half now, and now the thermometre is tipping south again, headed more or less straight towards five, zero, worse to come, endless night, new ice age, and so on.

You may, if it is summer in Argentina, cry for me. Meanwhile, watching tonight's TV–weather news, I got the feeling that it is more complicated than General Eisenhower's plan of attack on the Normandy beaches. First there will be a wind from the northwest pounding on Channel ports at 50 kph, some sunny periods in Brittany, no sunny periods along the northern border, rain, maybe sleet a tad east, snow above 500 metres but not here because the Tour Eiffel isn't high enough, more sun on the Riviera as usual, and a high temperature of 7 degrees, maybe. Can you imagine I took all this in, in 30 secs?

As usual less time was devoted to Wednesday, which may appropriately be semi–sunny here, horriblephoto, cake of the week out on Brittany's tip, and dreadful in the entire southeast of the country. In this area the high temperature may be 7 degrees again.

Yum yum yummy whatever it is.

Thursday was given an equally flash treatment, a short shrift, with one sunbeam out in Brittany, preceded by a gray wave from top to bottom, set to sweep across the country from west to east, probably not full of rain but you never know. Further east high clouds will veil the weak sun, which I doubt we'll see because we are under the gray part. The high forecast calls for 8 degrees. Where did I get the idea that it's going to be freezing?

This week the highly pedagogic weather scribbler in and around New York City, Météo Jim, writes an essay about last week's weather which gets discarded, being in the past, unlikely to return, and turns to:–

Post–Dindon, Beaujolais Shopping Depression

Monday was Black e–Monday which meant that les mangeurs du dindon et les buveurs du Beaujolais nouveau went back to work and the first thing they did was to turn on the company's computers and do their online shopping. Why else would you go to work? Sunday has seen the first significant snowfall of the advanced midwinter season. Pommeland received 3 a–inches of the stuff. Then it ended, as it always does, with a damp drizzle that put a light coat of ice on everything. Temperatures remained in the low 30's a–grad. More snow expected on Tuesday then clearing with temperatures about 40 a–grad for the rest of the week.

It is now official:– Hurricane Epsilon. Pommeland may just have a blizzicane for Christmas.

*Confession – by 'Ed,' not honest Météo Jim – last week's note that the 2005 hurricane season is so out of control that hurricane central has had to dip into next year's Latin name box was from Jim, but it was 'Ed' who stupidly added epsilon. Hoisted by my own petard.

Café Life

Pieces of Eight

Wednesday:– Just because it's cold outside is no excuse for not covering Paris, but I put off going outphoto, fauchon, madeleine as long as possible. A good thing too because it was damp and humid, with a breeze that sliced, and the sky looked like torn nylons. It was almost dark in the afternoon, with the fallen leaves looking like pieces of eight, now worthless in our plastic age.

Fauchon in the place Madeleine.

Outside the door, the Toyota veteran of the Dakar, for the days of January sun in the Sahara, racing to the beach of Senegal. There was more Africa on the Morris column up at Maine. Another animal movie for the kids on their Christmas holidays. The avenue itself was bitter with the wind blowing up from the Porte d'Orléans. I crossed from the police station to the unemployment office and found a new poster on the busstop. Le Tigre et la Neige is another kids' film, by Roberto Benigni, wearing wings and white shorts.

There was so much Africa out there that I slipped into the boulangerie where other people were taking refuge in the smells of bread, with the cakes filling in with their candy for the eyes. Then down Daguerre where the wind couldn't find itself and there was a crowd in the café, warming itself at the cold bar, not bothering with the oysters out front. In half a hour it had gone from dim to dark but the horse players cared not at all. The Joe was standing outside the Poste, opening the door for tips, and I passed him a euro, thankful that I could walk home as fast as I wanted.

Friday:– Working isn't getting done. It was din–din at Uncle Den–Den's on Tuesday, cocktails in the Bouquet on Wednesday, which led to cassoulet there on Friday night. Nigel went for this even though he'd eaten at Chez Papa last week, and then Matt turned up to drool for a couple of minutes, followed by Dimitri who said he'd won the Loto.

Nigel was making his cassoulet last so Natalie came over, wondering if something was wrong with it. Nigel was trying to savor every bean twice. Dimitri finally fell off the bar and took the next table, hauling out his French dagger, to cut duck that was falling apart. After many more pots of wine we got out of there, more stuffed than geese. Even though it wasn't as cold as it's been we skipped having a last one in the Bistro 48 because it was too early.

photo, champs elysees
The Champs–Elysées on Saturday evening.

Saturday:– Later than I meant to I was off up to Madeleine to see what SUV drivers might be picking up at Fauchon, Hediard and the other so–called food shops around there. I must say I understand the crowds in Monoprix – hungry folks every one – but the gangs of the well–dressed storming the temples of goodies is puzzling. I guess they need something to dream about and have the means to get their hands on it too.

Then down to the Rue Royal a bit before the lights came on, jostling for space on the wide sidewalks in front of the decorated windows full of fine threads and gold–plated bathroom hardware. It was like a Hollywood film and the name 'Holly Golightly' ran through my head between the ears. Audrey Hepburn movies are on TV. Not that I have time to see them but I heard the name in French. Golightly.

At the Faubourg Saint–Honoré the light was just right. A lot of shoppers or gawkers seemed to think so too and flics were acting like referees, keeping Joes from backing into it from Royal. I got away from there before being bumped by bodyguards and hiked down to Concorde where the sky was putting on its late show, dark blue over the Assembly National across the bridge.

I let the Métro haul me up to George Cinq, and it was a crowded as the others I was on. All the lights on the Champs–Elysées were blazing away and both traffic directions were white and red trails of lights, leaving a glow on hundreds of thousands out taking the air, and maybe thinking of buying a little Mercedes roadster or a Madonna CD at Virgin.

Another mob stormed the Métro at Etoile, with some Spaniards looking out the wrong side for the Tour Eiffel, sparkling, as we went over the bridge. For the price of a ticket it's a good ride as far as Pasteur and after that it's okay to guess who will get off at Montparnasse and who will ride on to Denfert. Then there were 75 photos to unwrap, and on Sunday another dinner to have with Nigel at Tata Line's, before he's off to DC.

Foreign Voters

Although it was one of Nicolas Sarkozy's flipshot ideas a month ago, calling on foreigners to vote thisphoto, village royal, madeleine week in Paris probably wasn't what he had in mind, if anything. Actually everybody is being called on to vote in an informal poll, to cast a 'yes' or 'no' for the notion of giving foreigners the right to vote.

The Village Royal passage.

Exceptions are proper and necessary for life in France, so the eight arrondissements controlled by the right, are boycotting the vote. That's okay because all you need is to be a resident, 18 or over, and be able to find the ballot boxes in 12 other arrondissements and 70 assorted towns. If you have to walk a block or two out of your way, blame the UMP.

The right says this poll is nonsense. However there are folks who have been living in Paris for 40 years, paying their taxes here, and they've never had a chance to vote. These are people who may not be citizens but that's no reason to prevent them from being civic.

While on the subject, according to Le Parisien, there are 306,000 foreigners living in Paris. This is 14 percent of the population – one Parisian in seven – and of these foreigners, 70 percent are from countries outside the European Union. They could be Tunisians, Chinese or Americans, and they might even be able to help you out if you need to ask for directions.

Go Idle Elsewhere

There's another poll going on, but luckily the ballot arrived in my mailbox today. The Hôtel de Ville wants to know whether I'm opposed to all these cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, scooters copcars and ambulances, driving around the city and taking up 93 percent of the streets, and belching out massive amounts of poison gas – or whether I'm in favor of gasping to death.

You can tell that democracy is alive and well in Paris when the Hôtel de Ville is willing to spend a lot of taxpayer's money to ask such a no–brainer question. Apparently, according to the poll propaganda, Parisians make 6.6 million trips daily, with cars only being used for less than a quarter – yet they occupy so much space.

The UMP faction at the city hall says it's a fake vote, and that it may penalize the mobility of 'men and merchandize.' They warn the mayor against ignoring the 75 percent of Paris circulation that involves drivers from the surrounding suburbs.

Well, they said it. The whole thrust of the poll is to get Parisians to vote oui so there's some political clout for improving public transport in the Ile–de–France. Yeah, yeah, hardly any of these cars have Paris plates, they're all lizards from the banlieues.

Of the 14 questions, I don't see where I can vote non to gas guzzling SUVs. Rich folks, the ones Dimitriphoto, hediard, madeleine calls 'cake eaters,' don't understand the hostility to their little folies. All the same, with everybody whizzing around by the millions daily, there were only 50 killed and 544 seriously injured in Paris in 2004.

Hediard in the place Madeleine.

Of these, half the victims were motorcycle people, and only 25 percent were pedestrians. Car drivers were in 80 percent of the accidents, but only accounted for 22 percent of the dead and injured. Pedestrians, of course, did not score much against the cars.

Just for balance there is a section asking five questions about residential parking in Paris. But none that proposes parking in front of the door. The good thing is that three of them are underground. Another one suggests converting free slots to paying. I wonder what town they are thinking of.

The Latest Café Metropole Club 'Report'

The 'Club Meeting of the Week' last Thursday was reported as the 'Good Ukrainian Joke' meeting report. Uncle Den–Den told Nigel and me a story about cucumbers that he told us on Tuesday night, but unlike then he said I shouldn't 'print it.' Some little old ladies in Kiev told it to him, making him blush.

The coming Thursday meeting of the Café Metropole Club is more of a mystery to me than it might be to members who intend a surprise. The 'Saint of the Week' will be the Immaculate Conception. This is not, strictly speaking, a saint du jour. In fact, according to legend, it is a fairly recent notion, dating to the Ineffabilis Deus bull of 1854, which is in turn based on a legend from the middle of the 2nd century, but is not included in any canonic texts.

Somewhat more obscure legends about the club are on the 'About the Club' page, should you be a fan of fiction. If you prefer facts, glance at the photos, which may be photoshopped. The club's original membership card is available for all exclusively and any may use it for their own personal use, absolutely free for the first six. Hors d'âge, the free club membership is certified to be an immaculate truque for that is what it actually is – the nec plus nec of club memberships.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago

Issue 9.49/50 – 29. Nov/6. Dec. 2004 – this double issue began with the Café Metropole column's 'Happy Birthday, Jacques!' A week later Café Life had 'Fumbling Around.' The 'feature of the week' was an email about 'Answers of the Week.' The update for the 2. December meeting of the Café Metropole Club was a ripe treat with the 'The Fab Seven' meeting report. The next meeting on 9. December was out of control with the 'We Get Blitzed' meeting report. One new Scènephoto, xmas, baccarat bear column had 'Psychedelic Is Back!' and 3 others were repeats again. There were six nifty 'Posters of the Fortnight' and Ric's weekly cartoon was spelling mistaked with the caption of "You Promise!"

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 8.50 – 8. Dec 2003 – this week's issue Café Metropole column had the headline, 'Some Bar Hopping.' There were no hot features of the week on account of the geopolitical situation. The update for the 11. December meeting of the Café Metropole Club was the totally silly 'Real Turtle Soup' meeting report. There were, amazingly, a total of 3 Scène columns at all, I think. And there were four basically artistic 'Posters of the Week,' and not least, Ric's weekly cartoon was more kidding than real life with the exciting caption of "Just taste it!"

MacDisney's Mouse

For the 38th time in a row, this is not about some musty old saint, but is instead a true 'Quote of the Week' based on a true one of no importance. Once upon a time Walter Elias Disney,photo, xmas, red rabbit whose birthday is today, might have said, "If you can dream it, always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse." However this is not the same mouse that had a 'Think' sign hanging in his office.

If the Past Is Any Indication

The United States' 'noble experiment' ended today in 1933 when the state of Utah was the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the Constitution which overturned the 18th Amendment, which had outlawed the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. The Mafia took this blow to its foundation in its stride and switched the focus of its activities to racketeering, drugs, and illegal gambling.

Convoluted Pataphysics

Today does not mark the date of Jacques Chirac's birthday because it was last week, I think. Instead today is the anniversary of the RPR, founded by Jacques in 1976. The Rassemblement pour la République gave way to the L'UEM, or L'Union En Mouvement in 2000, which was created to arrange for Jacques' reelection in 2002, which it did quite successfully due to bungling. However the RPR approved the creation of the UMP, or Union pour la Majorité Présidentielle, to get over the hurdle of the second round in 2002. This worked so well that the RPR was dissolved in September in favor of the UMP, which is now actually known as the Union pour un mouvement populaire, with Nicolas Sarkozy as its president, so he can get Jacques' job.

Franc of the Week

The first French money was coined in 1360, minted in order to pay a ransom for King Jean II le Bon. He had been captured by les Anglais four years earlier, at Poitiers. It was an écu weighing 3.87 grams of fine gold and three million of them were struck. It was worth one Tours pound, or 20 sols. It was marked with the term Francorum Rex, and after the ransom was paid French money was always called francs. The next coin weighed 3.06 grams, struck in 1385 for Charles V. More devaluation occurred in 1575 when Henri III had a silver franc coined, weighing 14.18 grams, worth slightly more than a Tours pound, or 20 sols and four deniers. At the same time half francs and quarter francs were minted. King Henri IV forbade coining new franc pieces because folks were filing them down to get the gold or silver.

Faits Divers X

This date in 1893 is certainly worth remembering because it is the anniversary of the world's first electric car, equipped with batteries that gave it an action radius of 24 kilometres, without giving it a name. Onlyphoto, xmas, prunier caviar 96 years later, the TGV Atlantique train 325, an electric one, set a world speed record of 482.4 kph, beating a record set earlier by the DB. Six months later another TGV on the same route set a new mark of 515.3 kph.

Unforgettable Dates of the Week

There are only 26 days left of this year, which means this year has less than 25 of any kind of shopping days left. This is exactly the same number of 'days left,' as at this time in the year 1492 when Christopher Columbus was the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola, or was given credit for the feat. This is completely unconnected to the fact that this year has used up 339 days, the same number that 1839 had when George Armstrong Custer was born, exactly 39.5 years before becoming famous forever as a world class bungler.
signature, regards, ric

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