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Any French Bread?

photo, group, rita, maria, alan

'Members of the Week' Rita, Maria and Alan.

A Pampero In Your Hair

Paris:– Thursday, 22. December 2005:– It turned into winter yesterday so unperceptively that I had to go out in one of my Hawaiian shirts and see if my shadow was showing, which would have indicated that it is still autumn. Sure enough there was no shadow, just long icicles hanging off my eyebrows.

I ran back inside and leaned over a steaming teapot and the icicles fell in it like loose torpedoes dropped from a cruising America's Cup cruiser. Today, after the recent period of unwinter arcticness, it is truly winter. Sortez les muffles!

Secondly, there is a holiday season approaching before Monday so it is vitally important to give you a tiptop uptip. If you have read today's Le Parisien do not pay attention to the wiggly lines on the weather maps – they are out of date. Tomorrow will start off with freezing fog in some places but as it gets warmer it will turn into general clouds all over, unless the sun hesitantly peeps out. Enjoy the stunning high temperature of 7 degrees.

On Saturday, Christmas Eve, there is only one line on Le Parisien's map and you can ignore it. Aroundphoto, vin chaud Paris it might be semi–sunny but in the temperature department there will be less of it, with no more than 5 degrees.

Café window sign saying 'Vin Chaud' means soup without garlic.

Sunday, Christmas Day, is also expected in some quarters to be semi–sunny, with bundles of serious clouds up along the northeast frontier, and a line about two–thirds of the way down that I forget what it means. Here the temperature is only expected to be 4 degrees, so have breakfast in bed all day if you want. Unless, of course, you are on the sunny Riviera, where the high will be about 10.

The 'Pampero ' Report of the Week

The second day of winter to doing its best to appear gloomier than the first day of winter which was no slouch in the gloom department. It has been the kind of day that you want to stay home with a big bowl of hot popcorn and a cool video about grass–skirted hula dancing schools in Tahiti. Having neither the popcorn nor the video I put my really–wool sweater, coat, scarf and gloves on and tramped past the gray cemetery walls to the Métro at Raspail and rode down to Odéon with a bunch of other people bundled up like frozen fence posts.

Going through the Quartier Latin I didn't bother with any sight seeing and didn't stop to give anybody directions because nobody asked for them. By the time I reached the Quai du Louvre my mood was lighthearted and jolly, almost causing me to whistle 'Jingle Bells.'

The club's café did not seem particularly carefree when I arrived. A branch of fir was taped to a barrel over the bar with some plastic grapes hanging down, and there werephoto, cafe of the week a couple of hangers extolling winter beer in the café's 'grande salle.' I think the lone, miniature Christmas tree, parked outside near the gutter, belonged to the café but it was banned.

With even less garlic – the 'Café of the Week.'

Some civilians were finishing their lunch in the club's exclusive area so I squinched into a corner. I immediately heard the name 'Metropole' float through the room. The 'Waiter of the Week' was being asked by clients I couldn't see, because of a pillar, about the club. In true 'Waiter of the Week' fashion he had never heard of it.

But in untrue 'Waiter of the Week' fashion, he caught my frantic waving with the corner of an eye, and shunted his clients toward the club's area. The club should have an award for his civility.

This is how I get to meet Maria Elena and Alan Warshower. They do not know the name of the club, I am saying I am the club's secretary, the 'Waiter of the Week' is saying he doesn't know, Maria is telling him in French it is all okay, I'm saying take a chair, sitdown sitdown, and then the other civilians leave so we have lots of room and don't need to be squished.

The Warshowers have come all the way from Buenos Aires to join the club and hang out in Paris for several months. It is about 15:05 and as a great change from recent weeks I am able to say that the club has a new 'City of the Week' again. In fact summer began yesterday in Buenos Aires – BA for short – and Alan says the temperature is 33 degrees.

Maria immediately scoffs at this, saying that it is only 24. Alan, who has looked it up on Yahoo, says that was the temperature in the morning. Then they explain about the wind called pampero that blows from the nearby pampas, either piling across the Andes to the west or boiling up from Patagonia. We get so far into the geography of this wind that its actual effect remains unknown.

"Mangos clean up the blood," Maria says, talking about the second favorite food of Argentines, after beef. Mangos and beef, mangos and beef, and all the soja goes to China.

I learn that Alan was a diplo in Frankfurt for the US State Department, but that he has lived in South America for the past 30 years, except for about ten trips he and Maria have made to Paris. I cannot find out what can be so compelling about Paris' winter weather, compared to, say, Buenos Aires – which means 'air as soft as warm silk' in Spanish.

As the couple do the club's questionnaire Maria says she doesn't like the usual things about Paris that nobody likes, like the traffic. At the moment, right outside on the Quai du Louvre, in the falling blue it is jammed solid with buses, trucks, cars, motorcycles, copcars, taxis, delivery vans, double–decker buses, ambulances and Smarts.

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