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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 If you have read today's Le Parisien do not pay attention to the wiggly lines on the weather maps – they are out of date.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.

Alan says, "What parking problem?" They have leased a buy–back car and Alanphoto, cidre of the week claims Paris is riddled with parking garages every 100 metres, and that they are very cheap. All I know is that they are too expensive for the homeless to stay in.

Maria thinks about Paris' dogs and what they do to sidewalks while Alan recites the locations of the best parking garages, like the one on the Champs–Elysées near George Cinq. Maria says, "Wow! The Champs–Elysées parking garage!"

Not always for kids – French apple cider.

Or the one under the church around the corner from the café we're in. He's right, there are a lot of garages. I confess I thought they were full all the time – but now I remember the server–lady Linda Thalman parking under the church around the corner.

But the best news about Buenos Aires, according to Alan, is that "You pay in pesos what you pay here in euros." The only thing it doesn't have is Paris' monuments – that's exactly what they say – it's like Paris without monuments. Yeah, I think, and 33 degrees with a gentle pampero' blowing through my hair.

Then member Rita Martinson walks up to join us. Naturally I have forgotten that her last time at the club Rita said she was going home to West Hollywood, so I think she is coming from Montmartre, but right away she says, no, it is West Hollywood that is missing her now.

While we are doing the air kissing – regulation, three times – Maria and Alan are having a discussion about whether the restaurant La Méditerranée is still moored in the Place d" l'Odéon, and I think it is, because senators have to eat somewhere although I suppose they have a canteen of their own.

Rita is off her rocker too, because when she hears how little pesos are worth, she immediately tells us about cheap apartments in Berlin. Well, they don't have asado in Berlin, dophoto, corona bar, beer, wine, water they? Oh, I am full of envy, for West Hollywood and Buenos Aires and its lovely pampero swinging through the streets, paved with mangos.

The Corona rocks the season!

Which must mean that it is 'Group Photo of the Week' time. Out we go to the café's terrace for six quick shots in the freezing near dark and back inside we have an interesting discussion with the 'Waiter of the Week' – the register ticket has given our drinks fake names like 'soda' for cidre and 'Viandox' for double–express.

As we part another heated discussion erupts over the correct French term for Philadelphia Cream Cheese. If anybody knew what it is Maria could get some for Alan to put on his breakfast bagel – as a former New Yorker – if he could find a place that sells plain bagels instead of weird sandwiches made with bagels. They all shout at me when I suggest any French bread as a substitute.

Strike of the Week

Just in time for frantic shoppers to crash their plastics' barriers the TWU transit workers in New York City agreed to go back to work late today and were reporting for work for the 16:00 shift. "They go back right away," TWU President Roger Toussaint said this afternoon. The 60–hour strike caused a court to fine the union $1 million a day. The short strike cost the New York region and its inhabitants far more than it would have cost to avoid the walk–out, although politicians and MTA management are unlikely to acknowledge it.

The Café Metropole Club's About Page

This carefree club meeting 'report,' including South American breezes and reappeared disappeared people,photo, kiosk, st germain may leave you perplexed. True facts behind the mystery illuminate the 'About the Café Metropole Club' page with its blurred photos, purple prose and fantango of a membership card made of recycled paper suitable for recyclage. You can join the club in any year containing at least one remaining 'Thursday of the Week' left this year.

Kiosko time at Saint–Germain.

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

Club meetings always begin at 15:00 and continue until 17:00. These hours are recognized in some lands as 3 pm to 5 pm. Around somewhere else is seldom where meetings are held. Substitutes are not real. Come to the café La Corona. Bring a friend, family member or relative. The folks in the rear of the big room is ze club, or more exactly, us.

Attend any meeting – by being at one. Pass a hour or two or a whole meeting with other club members pretty much like yourself. Real 'firsts' are welcome. True stories are will get a hearing. Other stories will depend on your skill. Attending more than one club meeting is not discouraged.

Caution – you may have a personal reason for remaining unfindable via the Web. If so, be sure to inform the club's secretary that you prefer to be '404 – not found' bygraphic: club location map Web search engines before becoming 'found' in one of these literate club reports.

The 'ex–rules' that the club once had continue to be former. These rules were mostly nonsense, even if you can find them. Otherwise you may, in theory, learn that this club features talk, cracker barrel philosophy, unlikely stories that are true, and never institutes new rules because everybody blackballed the old ones, which explains their rarity.

Talking to other club members at meetings is okay rather than optional. There are always some empty chairs, so sit – wherever you like. Lounging is okay too. Whatever you say will be truly appreciated by the other members present if there are any listening, and sometimes there are but not always – and if it should by glancing chance be written here.*

*The above paragraphs are relatively unchanged since last week because now that it is winter the count–down has begun to the first instance of onion soup of the week – with garlic!

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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Waldo Bini