France Fêtes les Bleus

photo, celebration, champs elysees, saturday Before the crowd got really thick.

Great Auk Mystery

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 3. July:–  Elderly pigeons are walking around grumbling because the air is too hot to fly in. They haven't been protesting like this since the great heatwave in the summer of 2003, when New York had another one of its blackouts, Coney Island was closed, and a few more people than normal succumbed to advanced age here.

The authorities are not going to let it happen again. Each newscast reminds us to drink more and sprinkle any old people we see. This time they are not hiding the fact that it is a bit warm. There's an météo Alert Orange for Paris and the Ile–de–France because overnight low temperatures are staying above 20 degrees. A high of 33 degrees has been forecast for tomorrow, along with some variable clouds between many big yellow sunballs.

photo, sign, lune de miel

But it's not going to last forever. Change is to come on Wednesday when France meets Portugal in Munich for the much anticipated football match that will leave one team in the World Cup with a shot at winning the whole pot, trophy or whatever it is.

So then details. A vertical band of clouds and stuff will pass across France – headed towards Munich – and the high temperature will drop to a comfortable 26 degrees – but probably won't arrive in Munich in time to cool off the match. A humid Munich is a real wringer.

Except for this magazine's club meeting Thursday is not a special day, so the skies will be very variable, the clouds will be variable and if there's any sightline for the sun it will be variable too, with the high temperature forecast as a somewhat cool 24 degrees. So ends part one of our heatwave of 2006.

The Fête du Bonheur

A few minutes ago, direct from the submarine known as Pommeland, Météo Jim writes, using his plastic Bic pen that has become rusty:–

This past week according to the Weather Channel, 'was an historic week.' A week of unrelenting rain left parts of Pommeland, Pennsylvania and New York State drowning under overflowing rivers.

The governor of Western Pommeland declared the place a disaster area due to a week of unrelenting rain that left parts of Pommeland drowning under overflowing rivers. The official rain total for Pommeland for June is 5.95 a–inches, almost exactly 15 e–hundredths–metres, or decilitres.

photo, tincan, ortiz, bonito del norte

To show that it felt the Northeast's pain, parts of Maryland and Washington, D.C. were flooded out as well. Unfortunately, it had no effect on the federal government which churned along as though nothing had happened.

This weekend is a French–type of le weekend because on fait le pont – ie, a four day holiday. The official date for la Fête de la vie, de la liberté et du Poursuit du Bonheur is Tuesday, July 4, but many places are closed on Monday.

Monday will be sunny and slightly cooler. The forecast for Le grand Jour itself shows lightning flashes dancing with Rockette precision for later in the afternoon. If Mama Natur cancels the man–made fireworks displays, then she will provide her own spectacle. For the remainder of the week, some more dancing by the Rockettes and cooler temperatures in the lower 80's. The usual disclaimers are claimed.

Café Life

What's Going On Here?

I am not a big football fan, at least not since I lived in Germany and followed Beckenbauer and crew there. Of course I lived here when France won the big caboodle in 1998 but I wasn't paying attention. They went and did their Allez les Bleus! without me.

Eight additional years of neglect hasn't added to my score. If I thought of football at all, it was to merely note that France has a great affection for older players – such as the great Zizou who came out of retirement to stumble around with some guys that don't shave yet. It looked like it was going to be embarrassing.

photo, portuguese flag, convertible, etoile The colors of the Portuguese.

And it was. They looked like the gang that plays soccer because the big guys are using the boules pitch. But they beat Togo. If it had been the other way around the great Zizou would have to have taken his retirement in Madrid where he is a hero. After wiping out Spain he is still a hero there – he's the great Zizou after all.

One has to wonder. Has all of this been part of a perfectly executed scheme? In France the French team has come from behind – from nowheresville – from old age, despair, sickness – to regain their lofty 1998 perch – heros of the Nation! – and these crafty old dudes are going up against the younger and battling Portuguese on Wednesday.

This, for a non–fan, would mean little except that there are a lot of supporters of both teams here. The Portuguese, after ousting the British on Saturday, were the first to take over the Champs–Elysées for their fête, and then the French got the one goal lead over Brazil and and and today's Le Parisien front page is blue, the photo is of dancing girls, flags, smiles, banners – Une France Tout En Bleu says the headline.

An over–excited France–3 TV–news said we were 2 million on the Champs–Elysées on Saturday night, while Le Parisien says today that we were merely 500,000. That's not bad for a spontaneous fête. Only 69 were arrested for agression.

France Fêtes les Bleus

When Parisians can't think of anything else they go dancing, like they were doing Friday night beside the Seine. In fact every night the weather permits they go dancing under the stars beside the Seine. All they need are shoes and music and Paris provides the rest.

Saturday afternoon the thermometer was cozy with 31 degrees – about 88 F – so there would have been a lot of die–hard dancers rock and rolling or tangoing as the sun dipped behind Notre Dame but most of the French were glued to their TV sets for the World Cup quarter–final soccer match between France and Brazil.

photo, portuguese, celebration, champs elysees, saturday Some fans, mostly the Portuguese.

For the French this was a time of high anxiety but for the players it was to be a reunion with many Brazilian comrades who play in the European leagues, sort of like an old dudes get together. Instead of the usual curt handshake, Zizou gave Real Madrid teammate Ronaldo a big hug. Forgive me for thinking this excessive even if I do like Ronaldo.

The Brazilians are a powerhouse of course. The French, until they trashed Spain on Tuesday, were like a limp rag doll. Somebody must have put something in their Orangina. Now they appear to be awake, all that tiresome jogging has paid off, even the bicycle tours, and they are acting like tigers.

History plays a part too. France has beat Brazil in the past. Brazil has not had much luck making headway in World Cup matches against the unlikely French, but Brazilians are optimists and the French are old. Sign seen on TV tonight from Frankfurt – "Allez Les Vieux!"

For Saturday's exclusive coverage for Metropole I decided not to try getting into the Stade Charlety. This stadium just beyond the edge of the 14th arrondissement that has a big screen and drew about 15,000 for the Spanish game.


Instead I tuned the TV to TF1 and saw the French skillfully hold the Brazilians in check, or vice versa, for the first half, which they finished with a tied non–score. Then I hopped into the métro at Gaîté and rumbled up to the Champs–Elysées.

Where, I was surprised to find, were thousands of delirious Portuguese waving flags from the curbs and passing cars, many of them fancy convertibles. Portugal beat Britain earlier Saturday, to eliminate them from the tournament. How can, I wondered, so few Portuguese make so much noise? It's their Brazilian cousins who are famous for it.

photo, flare, celebration, champs elysees, saturdayMore hellish than it was.

A small crowd was pressed against the windows of the Drugstore watching the match on distant TVs. Many many riot police were being tolerant about the antics of the Portuguese and the broad avenue was like a dim gymnasium just before the boys decided to dance. Cars full of flags with horns blaring tore around the Etoile and even tour buses joined the parade.

Then there was a shout from the crowd by the Drugstore, a TV cameraman moved closer and a dozen teenagers began acting – acting as if the French had won, mainly by screaming and jumping up and down with their arms in the air. It looked like something rehearsed, or they'd seen it already on TV.

Meanwhile the riot police sealed the Etoile entry to the Champs–Elysées with iron–framed screens and police trucks, and then there were 20,000 young people in the street joining the Portuguese, with yet more flags, red flares, power horns while Métro exits were spewing out whole trainloads of newcomers. Wherever there was a TV camera the young boys would do their leaping act – snake–arms! – sometimes as many as 50 at once.

On the way back to Montparnasse Métro trains going the other way were jammed with loud fans and on the street car horns were sounding. A hour later they were still out there letting everyone know they know how to hit their horns. After 04:00 I still heard toots.

photo, arc de triomphe, celebration, champs elysees, saturdayNot long before the other 400,000 arrived.

These were, of course, the drivers who hadn't skipped town during the weekend. On Friday the SNCF said they were hauling a million passengers out of Paris to distribute them around the country to the usual places and Aeroports de Paris said they were putting 800,000 on flights. These might have been numbers for the three–day weekend because on Saturday the news from the summer sales' front was jubilant with department stores reporting record traffic. Friday's Le Parisien said unemployment is really down – vraiment. As in, all the other announced decreases over the last 20 years were always fiction. So it looks like France is on a roll – but first the holidays!

The 'No Darn Rain' Café Metropole Club 'Report'

Last week's Club Meeting of the Week last Thursday occurred with three current members, which was very many more than the club's secretary often expects. Fill yourself in with the incredible report of this cool meeting, which, without a tray of hearty type, was headlined, 'No Darn Rain In New Mexico.' There was no food subheaded because there was no 'Food of the Week.'

photo, sign, soldes

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on a day of rare unimportance, a plain 'Thursday of the Week.' The coming 'Saint of the Week' will be Sainte–Mariette. I know this because it is printed on two calendars I have here. But to some saints and angels online Mariette was unknown. Not an angel then. Wikipedia wants someone to supply an article about her. A flower vendor's Web site confirmed my calendars, plus there is a mention in Metropole, for 28. June 2001.

The unlikely legend of the club is on a page inexplicably called the 'About the Club' page. Treat your doubt to a mental challenge and hurl a glance at the club's beautiful, original and hand–made membership card, before its threatened replacement, hinted at for many months ad nauseam, which is Latin for 'blow your nose.'

photo, sign, rue de l'ouest

This Was Metropole One Year Ago

This feature is again unavailable this week for technical reasons, partly because it is unknown if anybody has ever read it, but mainly because it is hot and these keys are getting sticky.

Café Life Lite 1O1

Pataphysical Dogs

There are a pack of 181 days left of this year, which means there are only about 10 days left until the begin of the Paris–Plage. This is exactly the same number of 'days left' as long ago in Roman times when Romans called these days caniculares dies. They looked at the sky and saw the constellation Canis Major where Sirius is found. Romans thought when Sirius rose/set with the sun that heat from Sirius was increased the heat of the sun, causing Rome to be hot and humid, so they called it 'dog days' for short.

photo, tango by the seine, friday In Paris, tango is never last.

This is totally unconnected to the fact that this year has used up 184 days, the same number that 1940 had when the British damaged and sank units of the French fleet stationed at Mers el–Kebir near Oran. The Brits were in a rotten snit because Vichy signed a capitulation, giving up World War II. The boss of the French fleet refused an offer of a friendly takeover made by Vice–Admiral Somerville on behalf of Winston Churchill, and the rest is dismal history.

Latest Battle News

On this date in 324, according to a transliteration of calendars, Constantine defeated Licinius at the Battle of Adrianople. Licinius fled to Byzantium which was then just a few miles down the road. Then exactly 109 years later Byzantine general Belisarius defeated the Vandals near Carthage at the Battle of Ad Decimum. A long time later, in 987, Hugh Capet was crowned as King of France, and this dynasty continued until 1792. Only 136 years later the world's first TV broadcast was made in London because it wasn't invented in Paris.

False Alarm

This date may be remembered, by some, for several birthdays of note, including those of Franz Kafka and Dave Barry, who are not related. This day in 1844 also marked the last of the Great Auks. The Great Auk is a well–known extinct bird. In the classification lists it as the only species in the genus Pinguinus. Unlike other auks, the Great Auk could not fly – like penguins cannot fly – which enhances their vulnerability to humans. Other auks? Penguins? Other auks can fly but penguins cannot? Why haven't penguins been wiped out? What are we waiting for?

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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