A Real Carnival

photo, group, marion, stephan, tomoko, katie, alan The 'Group of the Week,' Marion, Stephan, Tomoko, Katie and Alan.

Usual Hocus Pocus

Paris:– Thursday, 23. February 2006:– It has been a few days since the last meeting of the Café Metropole Club but not much has happened in the sky. It got cloudy five weeks ago and stayed that way. Sometimes the gray has been enlivened with feeble sunbeams and at other times it has rained, sometimes with bits of ice in it. But mostly it has been like winter, like we have not had for several years, not even last summer.

I don't think February is going to get its cold and glass–clear week this year. Maybe March will get it but it is pretty unlikely. Maybe Easter will get it but I will bet on snow. Meanwhile they've all gone up in the Alps, and the slopes have cooked up and now there's avalanches all over the place. They could have stayed home instead and watched everybody lose in Turin.

photo, teabag of the week The 'Teabag of the Week.'

If folks were going to the Indian Ocean to get away from it all I hope they don't catch the bad bug down there. Staying home isn't a good idea either because the bird flu is getting ever closer. There's no danger here in the city so long as we don't eat any wild feathers. French chickens, ducks, geese and escargots are okay, according to the prime minister, who has to eat one every day and like it.

I can waste this space on general news because the weather, like I said, is pretty simple. Think light rain, minor snow, overcast, humid, crummy, lows of zero degrees and highs of 5 degrees, and one sunbeam every afternoon at 14:54 lasting three minutes, and you've got the whole picture from now until Monday morning. Hells bells, add all of Monday to it too!

A Real Carnival

According to the calendar the time's up. Today is the anniversary of Metropole and I have risen a hour early in order to be able to receive the cards, letters, telegrams, and emails with the good wishes of all from far and near. But after waiting patiently beside the door with the telephone within reach for 20 minutes, I gave up and had a breakfast of chicken necks and a half–dozen raw eggs, with a pound of fried foie gras on the side.

Thus refreshed I checked the email for incoming cheer. That guy in Nigeria who was offering me the $25 million seems to have moved to Abu Dubai. The other email asked if I have a spare telephone to give away. The remaining 65 messages were spam, which is giving that tasty but salty meatlike paté a bad name.

photo, marion nowak thinks Marion thinks...

Hardly disenhearted I gathered up the club's stuff, the camera and a couple of Métro tickets and set off on the familiar journey to the club, past the cemetery swathed in gray mists and into the Métro at Raspail, totally unchanged in five weeks, to exit at Odéon like it was yesterday.

At the north end of the Pont Neuf the city is tearing apart the crosswalks, letting traffic filter through, with a burly flic harassing the drivers and ignoring the pedestrians. If you are on foot don't take it personally.

At the Café Corona they ask me, "Hey! Where were you? Been on holiday? Got bird flu?" Nobody has left any messages, notes, billets doux, telegrams, bottles with treasure maps in them.

However in the café's 'grande salle' there are a couple of club members waiting for me, waiting for me to explain what I did with the cookies they sent for Christmas. "Aha!"I exclaim, "That's what's in that package."

Marion Nowak says, "They are probably inedible by now." I think not. I trust Marion to wrap up cookies as if she intended to send them to China instead of the 14th. I wonder what kind of cookies they are.

While Stephan Nowak is telling me about all the supermarkets in Germany that had to close so that heavy snow wouldn't collapse flat roofs, perhaps injuring all the hungry folks searching for decent chickens, Marion is having a difficult time with a very hot handle on her teapot. In fact, she says she normally doesn't even like tea – and suspects that fine tea is nowhere to be found in Paris.

photo, stephan nowak unposedStephan considers... teeth.

But of course we know this in incorrect. You can get any kind of tea you want at the wedding place, what's its name? Marion remembers it, as she should, because there's one by the bus stop. I remember it so well that I tell Stephan that it smells like India.

Which reminds him of what somebody told him Bombay smells like. Going into this isn't going to help Marion with her tea, so I mention the Chinese coal mine movie I saw the other night. There's about five million Chinese coal miners but the movie was only about two, who bumped off their mates to get the compensation. It was hard to tell who exactly was profiting.

Then Stephan, who is a scientific guy, tells me crazy fast drivers in Germany are falling out of love with their BMWs. It seems as if BMW has tricked out their cars with so many trick features that fierce drivers can't find the gearshift, can't get that vroom–vroom thrill, slide the rear end, wind down the window. The cars read driver's minds and do what the factory says. But drivers, really, just want to drive fast, mindlessly.

photo, tomoko, cutie Tomoko's 'Cutie' is not a mouse.

Then Marion – who knows why people do things – remembers her driving school days. In Germany driving schools use diesel–motored cars because – here's a techno–term – they have a lot of torque. You can drop dead the clutch and the motor won't stall.

Oh, I see this is far too technical. Let's go on to the funny hats and the ties meant to be chopped up with scissors. Here the problem is not the members – Stephan has brought a tie – but, the club's secretary. As in, Marion asks for scissors, and guess who didn't bring any.

As if on cue Tomoko Yokomitsu and her hat arrives. "Do you want to cut up my hat?" she asks, not entirely bewildered, for she remembered to bring one. Plus, Mardi Gras oblige, she has her 'Cutie.' I see this out of the corner of my eye and briefly think it is a mouse. Actually it is her every–day gerbil, pressed into service today, for Carnival.

In Paris it might be overlooked but in Köln today the ladies are out there with their scissors hacking off ties left and right, between bouts of swilling buckets of red wine, and tonight they will go to the balls wearing masks with the intention of acting real sassy.

This must remind Stephan of something he'd rather we forget so he distracts us by noticing that the café's mirrors reverse left and right as well as right and left, sometimes reversing everything, in a binge of third dimensionalism. "No," Stephan says, "It is not hocus pocus!"

This is where Kati and Alan Lewis, from Camel, California, come in. They decline the waiter's offer of Champagne, while wondering what Marion means with her imaginary scissors. The waiter then busies himself with waiter stuff, and then tries to collect money he says we owe him.

photo, cafe thimbles of the weekThimbles of 'Café of the Week.'

Kati and Alan have given up the restaurant they had in California because the town turned into a tourist place and folks only live there when they aren't hungry, and they have moved to the 7th arrondissement. Alan does not exactly say they are getting revenge, but at least I don't think he is washing as many dishes these days.

Alan has also noticed that this winter's weather is not as mild and Riviera–like as former winters, but is perplexed about the choice of this particular winter to be winter. Kati looks as if she thinks the idea of doing the 'Group Photo of the Week' out on the terrace is daft.

But in the end the waiter comes out with us, to make sure there are no absconders, but if he thinks he's getting in the photo – I don't even have to Photoshop him out. After this bracing gulp of air we are back inside, tossing money at the waiter, picking up whole hats, uncut ties, swilling off dregs, closing out the annual Café Metropole Paris Club Mardi Gras Wingding and Birthday, 11 years old today.

The tables are littered with debris and I see a gray hair and try to whisk it away, towards Tomoko, but Stephan says it is a scratch on the woodwork, a defect, nothing's perfect. But hey! It's not a gray hair. It's not one of mine.

The Café Metropole Club's About Page

Since this so–called meeting 'report' probably leaves you perplexed, treat yourself to an explanation by reading the 'About the Café Metropole Club' page, for its worthwhile insights.

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

Club meetings begin at 15:00 every Thursday and continue until 17:00. These times, fixed in history, are also said to be 3 pm to 5 pm. Around somewhere else is not where meetings are. Present yourself at the café La Corona. Come alone or with someone. The folks in the rear of the big room are ze club.

Pass a hour or two or a whole meeting with other club members pretty much like yourself. Real 'firsts' are welcome and true stories will get a sympathetic hearing. Other stories will depend on your skill. Attend as many club meetings as you can stand.

graphic, club location map

Caution – should you may have the personal mission of remaining unfindable via the Web, be sure to inform the club's secretary that you prefer to be '404 – not found' by Web search engines before becoming 'found' consorting in one of these literary club reports.

The 'ex–rules' that the club once had continue to be former. Talking to other club members at meetings is kosher rather than optional. There are always some empty chairs, so sit. 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 pure hazard be written here.*

*The above paragraphs are relatively unchanged since years ago because of a wholly redesigned Web site that isn't quite ready yet, however.

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

Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini