Two Jacques in the Hand

photo, fete musique, ricard, denfert Free, loud music, standing room only.

And a Big Bertha In the Bush

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 26. June 2006:–  Tonight, so that we won't be confused at Bastille Day, our illustrious leader Jacques Chirac spoke on TV–news, mainly to tell us that we have been confused by the media and everything is going according the plan regardless of what we think or read in the papers. I mean, even before his jolly face appeared on the screen, I was pretty certain that it is not Bastille Day because it is still June.

I wouldn't mention this in the spot for the weather report except that the old boy had quite a few points to make – minimum wage rise, unemployment down, a million jobs created – no mention of the other disappeared 1.2 million jobs – and we should quit picking on the prime minister, suave Dominique de Villepin, so he can continue carrying out the president's plan without all the grief we sling at him. Hey! I like Dominique, even if he called François Hollande a coward last week.

I mean, figure on it, if you were in the Assembly National day after day and your own party was heckling you, you would lash out at the opposition party for asking reasonable questions – such as, "Does the government foresee selling EDF to the Chinese if they offer enough fortune cookies for it?"

So tonight we listened carefully to the president, and watched carefully for signs of impending gagaism, heard him out and then France–2 TV–news dealt us 66 percent less weather. I don't know about you but I was willing to give him the benefit of a doubt, until the météo shortchange. The honeymoon lasted 22 minutes and now it's over.

photo, fete musique, cafe naguere Local café has seats but most stand anyway.

Tomorrow's weather will be pretty good if you are anywhere around Madrid or Valencia. Around here is will not be so fine and in fact it will be rather crummy according to tonight's brilliant forecast on the leftover of the TV–news. There will be clouds, thunder, gunk, junk, to the east, from the Pyrenees to Luxembourg and then there will be another blob of it glommed onto Brittany's pointy nose, and we will be between these two fronts or waves, under passing clouds and stuff. And if you like your damp warm, then rejoice with the 24 degrees forecast.

Summed up it is to be variable if polite and chaotic if not. Briefly, for Wednesday and Thursday, Le Parisien has predicted rottenness like tomorrow for Wednesday with 25 degrees and an outbreak of sunshine for Thursday when the temperature is supposed to reach 26 degrees. This forecast holds for Friday too.

A Tropical, Sticky Heatsink

Yet again the ever popular, direct from the hochburg known as Pommeland, Météo Jim writes, using his rusty word processor:–

The past week in Pommeland brought very warm – the weather channel defines hot as 90 degrees and above – and somewhat steamy days. But, the intense heat wave and drought that began at the beginning of June and is going into its third month that was forecast by Météo Jim for the fourth week of June will not come to pass, at least for the fourth week of June, 2006. Stay tuned for the drought of June, 2007.

Instead, a cold front has run into a warm front to produce an occluded or stalled front. As a result, this will act as a conduit bringing warm air from the Gulf of Mexico to drench Pommeland with showers all week long, even possibly into the coming weekend which is the kick off to la Fête de la vie, de la liberté et du Poursuit du Bonheur.

If the Parisian weather channel has Mademoiselle Nathalie, then the Pommelandian weather channel has a row of synchronized lightning bolts doing their best Rockette or Folies Bergère routine for the week ahead.

Café Life

Jack's Big Week

Most of what goes on in this town we can blame on the mayor but this has been an eventful week, a loud musical week, very loud even, and it's all Jack's fault. Jack Lang, when he was a bonzen in a Socialist government about a thousand years ago, he said, 'we should have music on the first day of summer,' and this we have had for the past quarter century. Then Jack, a frizz–haired guy who gets around, got to Berlin, heard techno, and brought it back to Paris, where the locals turned it into a celebration of Gay Pride accompanied with loud noise instead of Judy Garland songs.

photo, gai parade, baissez chic The 'Gai Parade' with its cute slogans.

On Wednesday we had Jack's better idea, the Fête de la Musique, which is not just Parisian, having spread to many distant parts. On this day and especially in the evening, we might hear not Judy Garland but if in the right place, we might hear a replica of Edith Piaf, or Django, or the Hot Club de Paris.

Meanwhile down at Denfert–Rochereau the booze folks Ricard had erected a big stage surrounded by a wagon–train of crew wagons, goon wagons and who knows why they needed so many wagons? To be fair the whole colossal shebang sounded a lot better than in the past, possibly because they have the musicians audition first instead of just downloading them willy–nilly. Good stuff for free, but you have to bring your own booze.

Over, back on Daguerre, there were some choral singers in the deserted fruit stand. Golly, maybe they were Baptists! I slipped past them before anybody could slip me a tract. The Café d'Enfer was rocking with blues with some good old boys and their three powered guitars, and their unpowered power drummer. There was a guy with a loud, scratchy DJ setup by the second cheese place, but at Enfer you couldn't hear it at all.

Another rock group was set up outside the Café Naguère, plugging out more in the rock line, maybe equal to the Enfer crew but different. My accordion guy was doing his accordion thing out of his shop. [They were in there doing it on Friday night too, with the cheese and wine, and the lady from downstairs in this building.]

And then, up near the top, the Babylonia Café had a rock group too and there was a big crowd filling the whole street. Only grudgingly did people move for the few cars trying to get through. Of course it wasn't be until they cleared these that they could see an even bigger mob outside the Naguère. The Babylonia is the neighborhood source of true news from Baghdad, if you care for this type of news.

I've skipped mentioning all the other places with recorded music. These aren't in the spirit of Jack's idea, which is that musicians should show off their stuff for us humble non–musical folk.They did say, however they know these things, that there are 800,000 musicians in France.

photo, gai parade, dsk, anne sinclairPresidential hopefulls ride techno to the polls.

As a break from all this Jack's great, hulking, colorful, brand–new museum opened on Friday on the Quai Branly and faster than they can turn the old pope into a saint they are already thinking of calling it Jack Chirac's great, hulking, colorful, brand–new museum. Being free, which wasn't mentioned until Friday morning, everybody in town went to see it, and by ten the wait was three hours to get in. I might have made a mistake telling new club members about it on Thursday but nobody's perfect. The museum is full of 'folk art' in case you are interested; nearly all of it looted from places we used to call colonies. At least it's all in a clean, well–lit place now.

Part two of the first Jack's afflictions happened Saturday – was it only Saturday? This thing that should be called the Techno Parade, but is actually called some alphabet soup that includes 'gay.' For the past several years this has started in Montparnasse, possibly because there's enough room to line up without wrecking all of the city's Saturday shopping, and then it goes to Bastille by way of the Quartier Latin.

Let's pretend you are gay. Then you might very well live in the Marais, and if you are thinking of crawling across town all day Saturday while being assaulted by very loud noise, you would rather end up at Bastille near home than far off Montparnasse with its Saturday night gang of bozos from the dim, possibly intolerant provinces.

So early in the afternoon they lined up fifty lightly decorated flatdeck trucks, each carrying an airforce–grade generator and four tons of colossal loudspeakers, loaded on some confetti, balloons, g–strings, cases of condoms, handed out earplugs to all the responsible adults, and set off east on the boulevard, oh so slowly.


Because what we didn't know, standing in front of Le Dôme, is that most of the politicians who had joined this monster did so at its head – past the Vavin corner past us – and there they stopped to talk to the press, radio and members of the TV–news, the rats! This went on for 40 minutes or more, the same boom boom, horrendously loud – you could see windows vibrating, and young men were dancing on the bus shelters, confetti was flying all over the place, the flatdeckers were shooting water pistols – was somebody pissing on me?

photo, gai parade, odd trioOdd folks dressed odd in the right place.

The rotten politicos didn't pass. They snuck up Raspail and slinked east, while all the rest of us were clogged between Vavin and Rennes. My only score, the only presidential candidate I caught was Dominique Strauss–Kahn and his girlfriend Anne Sinclair, former TV news personality. They were on a Socialist float, I mean truck, trying to look like they were enjoying being deafened while waving at folks too young to vote. Who, if they could vote, would probably vote green not rose.

They all lurched past. Gay students, gay professors, gay doctors, gay nurses, gay flight attendants, gay police, gay train workers – hooray for 25 years of the gay TGV! – gay unionists, gay social workers, gay political supporters, gay power workers, gay city workers, gay grannies, sonofagun, even gay hookers, and I guess gay good–time charlies. Where were the firemen and the ambulance drivers? And the sailors?

photo, gai parade, rainbow flag waverLest we forget what this is.

Oh, it was all so wonderful. I had confetti in my pockets. I mean if these – Saturday night's news said 600,000 – could vote, where is Jack Lang who started it all? I mean, Jack, this was your week. Before this happens again the presidential election will be settled. Did you forget? Lost your watch? Gone deaf?

If you feel that you have missed something here you have nothing to worry about. Besides posters all over the place for more gay music – Solidays! 3 Days! – another poster was yelling about Tropical, scheduled for next weekend. There's time to hop a plane. If you think the fare is ridiculously high there's a good reason for it. Free loud music isn't totally free, unless you live here. If you feel otherwise, that's also why the fares are sky high.

Some News That Isn't

On Friday I went to record the abject dismay of French fans when the French team didn't manage to beat Togo in Köln – France had to win by two points in order to continue with the World Cup All week TV–news has been saying that Togo does not have any 1st–class players except for one mercenary playing for Arsenal, but Togo was mad with joy just to be on prime time against the French.

photo, gai parade, all men are dangerousThe sheer joy of confetti... of it all.

Meanwhile in France the French team is seen as total losers – like last time in 2002 – so I picked up the camera and ambled down to the café Rendezvous with the score at France 1, Togo 0 – by the time I arrived it appeared from the TV screen that France had gotten another point somehow – and the bands played on, yellow cards galore, Togo showing great spirit and the French, well, they filled their puny contract didn't they?

The bad news now is that the agony will continue. Hand–wringing, doubt, fear, loathing, impending disgrace – they might go to the very end always with a lead of one tiny point. While all the other teams get tired beating on and trashing each other, France smothers the survivor with boredom.

Let me be among the first 22 million to cheer Togo! You did a great job. It's not your fault you didn't shoot straight or often. Africa is proud of you, and so is everybody in the Goutte d'Or.

Update– Tonight Big Jacques said we should be proud of our team. Really, I would like to be, but they seem like such sad sacks. Everybody else looks like they are having great fun at the World Cup in Germany but all the French team does is jog. Getting ready for the match with Togo? They ride bikes. Getting ready, now, for the match against Spain? They've gone back to jogging. Boules players are more exciting.

The 'Not Fuzz But Hair' Café Metropole Club 'Report'

The most recent Club Meeting of the Week last Thursday occurred with three brandnew members, which was many more than the club's secretary often expects. Update yourself with the stunning report of this entertaining meeting, which, without a truckload of hearty hype, was headlined, 'That's 'Hair' not Fuzz!' and subheaded 'Onion Hot Dog Soup of the Week.'

photo, poster, carnaval tropical, ville de paris

The coming meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be a day of no particular importance, a plain 'Thursday of the Week' again. The coming 'Saint of the Week' will be Saints–Pierre et Paul, who began their sainthoods as simple apostels at the wrong time in Roman history, when the place burned down in 64 – remember Nero? – or in 67. There were a large number of eyewitnesses who wrote everything they remembered in the Bible, and another mentioning seeing Paul's tomb as standing in the Via Ostensis but being unclear about when.

The brandnew phoney legend of the club is on a page inexplicably called the 'About the Club' page. Treat your curiosity to a mental bonbon and cast a view on the club's original and hand–made membership card, before its threatened replacement, hinted at for many months but hardly likely.

photo, sign, rue nicolas charlet

This Was Metropole One Year Ago

This feature is unavailable this week for technical reasons, partly because it is unknown if anybody has ever read it, including 'Ed' who writes it by copying and pasting, sometimes pretty shoddily.

Café Life Lite 1O1

Pataphysical Doughnut

There are a heap of 188 days left of this year, which means there are only two days left until the begin of the Soldes d'Eté on Wednesday. This is exactly the same number of 'days left,' as at this time in 1963 when President Jack Kennedy made a few remarks in Berlin on the occasion of some wall building. He said, "Ich bin ein Berliner." A great number of picky people have chosen to have a problem with this, claiming that a Berliner is a jelly doughnut in Berlin, even if it is called something else, like in Hamburg where it is, in fact, called a Berliner. West Germans, I have been told, were amused.

photo, sign, back rub, foot rub, new york

This is totally unconnected to the fact that this year has used up 177 days, the same number that 1819 had when the bicycle was patented in Germany by Baron Karl Drais. An earlier bicycle, invented by the Comte de Sivrac around 1790, is now thought to be a fiction put out by French bicycle historian Louis Baudry de Saunier, possibly in response to France losing the war in 1870. Bicycles are the only means of locomotion that require little more effort than walking, unlike jogging or SUVs.

False Alarm

This date is recalled, by some, for the first bombardment of Paris by Big Bertha during WWI. 'Bertha' was also said to be Gustav Krupp's daughter. In fact she was Bertha Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, married, happily one supposes, to Gustav. But Big Berta was never used against Paris – instead it was fired at the Liège fortress in 1914 and used at Verdun in 1916. The real 'Big Bertha' was none other than a converted navel cannon called the Paris Gun and it was first fired from Crépy–à–Laon, 120 km from Paris, at 7:18 on Thursday, 21. March 1918. The shells rose to a height of 40 kms before falling on the city, usually 400 metres short and 1350 metres too far to the side, on account of the rotation of the Earth. Only 183 shells found their target while the other 184 rounds missed the city, possibly smashing into Neuilly. As far as bombardment goes, today's date is a loser.

A bientôt à Paris
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