New York, New York

photo, fishermen, coney island, brooklyn Find the good life at Coney Island.

Five Weeks In Queens

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 11. September:–  The sun is shining, the sky is cloudless and blue and the wind is a mere wisp, and it's 30 degrees (86F). How am I supposed to remember 35 wonderful days in New York? But first let's have the weather by scooting straight to page 4127.

Fair Sailing

On Thursday, 10. August the skies opened up over New York and dumped a vast amount of water on the city. It was like tropical rain because it was still pretty warm. For most of the rest of the time it was dry with temperatures in the mid–80's, right up until last Tuesday when it was raining steadily when I arrived at JFK for my return flight.

photo, 42nd street, broadwayMid–town Manhattan, centre of the world.

Imagine my pleasure then, as the jetliner I was in cruised into French airspace at 11,000 metres last Wednesday morning just as the sun was rising, over a completely cloudless France. I had a window seat and could clearly see small wisps of fog lying in river valleys. Towns looked like piles of grains and as the plane got lower and the sun higher, folks got into their cars and began driving to work or school. It looked like a particularly fine model train layout.

After a while the plane flew just north of the city and swooped into Roissy. It was the first time I've seen Paris from the air. I was wrecked because it's a short flight and CDG always takes a toll, but when I got to the rue Daguerre I saw the pharmacy sign advertising the temperature as 30 degrees. Now, although it's been cooler, it was 30 again today.

According to tonight's TV–news they expect the high here to be 29 tomorrow afternoon. This is supposed to be with a slightly cloudy sky that may seem like it's mostly sunny.

On Wednesday local weather will be affected by some mish–mash out west. This may result in clouds here but if it isn't too agressive it may be just as sunny as Friday. Take into account that the temperature may be no more than 24. For Thursday expect this bit of murky weather from the west to be more in evidence, probably pushing the day's high down to 22 degrees. It's a thin front so it may not take long for it to past through.

Poetic Météo Jim

This week Météo Jim, obviously refreshed by annual idleness, is looking at the sky again. In his own words –

August was dry. Very little rain had fallen since the beginning of the month. In some years August becomes hazy and humid, falling into a languishing dream so beloved by Baudelaire and dreams on, gliding imperceptibly to summer's end when, unnoticed, it has changed into the haze of early autumn.

But this year, it was a seagull soaring above a deserted beach and then turning out into the ocean towards a dark and stormy horizon which is bringing the autumn rains to the summer lands. The end of August was washed away by the autumn rains and the remnants of tropical depression Ernesto. When the rains had stopped, the summery haze was gone, replaced by the cool, clear light of September to guide les aoûtiens et les rentréeistas back to the world they had left behind.

photo, hoboken cigar company Has Cuban cigars, not French cigarettes.

It is not yet autumn in Pommeland but it will be in less than two weeks. The end of this week saw temperatures in the lower 80's a–grad as summer attempted to make a comeback. It had another 15 minutes of fame as a cool front arrived on Sunday to guide the mellowing September light into autumn and cool the thermometer to the lower 70's during the day.

In the meantime, Florence has upgraded herself by hard work and determination into a full fledged hurricane. The storm will pass either near or over Bermuda and then swing in a northeasterly direction out over the Atlantic but it may be too late for Paris Plage. It will have to stay in Paris for a year and try again next summer.

Café Life

August In New York

According to people who may know, I spent 35 days in New York City, starting at the beginning of August. This began right after Paris was getting over its heatwave so when I stepped out of the air conditioned terminal at JFK into the local 100F temperature I was – smitten by a sog of humidity. So I immediate started running around.

photo, lotto, tabac shop, new york American style 'Loto–Tabac,' sans café.

Unlike Paris there is a lot of air conditioning in New York. You climb up or down to the subway platform in the thick heat and freeze in an air conditioned wagon. Leaving, the temperature jumps 30 degrees on the street, and then falls again going in to the mall where the shivers start. It's a weird kind of hell.

It's very noisy too. The whole thing is in a continual heavy metal mode, demanding that diesel motors put out raw sound, and when you are walking around with your ears tuned to the birdies all you can hear is a waterfall roar of air conditioners. Add to this all the drivers talking on portables and everybody else is tuned into their iPods. Guess how loud emergency sirens need to be. One lousy NYFD ambulance can sound like the Bay of Pigs invasion.

None of this is any secret. Roadways full of craters; roadways full of U–turners, roadways full of yellow taxis, burbling buses, huge racing trucks delivering fruit from the hurricane zones, the elevated subways – rolling hard stainless and steel wheels running hard on old iron.

A lot has a temporary look. As if it were built cheap to last 25 years and 75 years later it's been classified as a national monument. In Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens there are hundreds of thousands of houses, homes, largely built of wood, many before WWII. They are well kept–up, tidy. In some places sidewalks are in poor repair but in others crews are pouring new cement for them.

photo, mr taco, astoria, queensMr. Taco comes to where you live, in Astoria.

You say so what? Me, it's taken several visits to get my brain to automatically pick up my feet higher, to bound over the craters and heaved up sidewalk slabs. Noise doesn't bother me when I sleep. The subway, warts and all, gets me where I'm going. Even if it's a jiggly ride, its entries and exits are narrow, it is clean and quick and the MTA gives a bonus when you renew a $20 Metrocard. I like New York.

Water Taxi Beach

Friday, 18. August:–this has been a welcome oasis for New Yorkers too lazy to haul themselves all the way out to Coney Island during the recent fine weather. Even though it isn't as blisteringly hot as it was, having a tropical beach 5 minutes away by water taxi from East 34th Street in Manhattan – equally accessible via subway line 7 in Long Island City, with appropriate ratlands – parking lots, gravel piles, wire fences, junk yard dogs, grim warehouses, odd saloons – it is new world reply to the tidy bourgeois charms of Paris Plage.

The sand is just as fine and beach volley ball is conveniently at hand, along with sturdy picnic tables, beertaps, barbecues, beach music and a warm breeze flitting along the East River. Tonight's special bonus – available most nights, always for free – is the sundown view, with the sun spreading its mellow yellow behind Manhattan's towers, with the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building being the outstanding examples. As Jackie Gleason might have said, "How sweet it is!"

Took Me Out to the Ball Game

Queens, Flushing, Shea Stadium, Saturday, 19. August:– We had to leave the spicy restaurant early because Z's sister wanted to get the free replica baseball cards being handed out to the first 20,000 comers. She and Cookie intended to take a limo for the one subway stop ride but took the subway anyway because the jam to park at the stadium was backed up to Flushing.

photo, water taxi beach, sundown over manhattanSunset view from Water Taxi Beach.

The subway wasn't much slower anyway. What a thrill arriving at Willet's Point, Flushing Meadows, to see all the Mets fans wearing Mets shirts, hats, gloves, sneakers, jackets, hankies, beards, carrying barbecues and game–watching tools such as custom hotdog holders and personal portable toilets.

Z's sister had gotten us tickets in one of the higher balconies, but not quite so high as last time in the freeze–and–bleed zone. The only problem was that the headroom was kind of low, cutting off any view of the night sky, the scoreboard and the sight of the presidential box, wherever it was. We couldn't see the jets we could hear taking off from nearby La Guardia either.

Before starting the game – Mets vs Colorado Rockies – they had a special treat which was to remember the fabulous Mets team of 1986, so they put a big plastic hanky over the infield and had the old team guys line up in slow motion, take a bow and hug each other. After several days of this, after a quarter of the waiting fans refilled their drinks, hotdogs, sandwiches, portable toilets, some dudes in short pants uncovered the field, letting the rain do its worst. I was surprised no one was electrocuted.

The game itself was pretty boring for the first five innings. In the second half of the sixth it became kind of exciting when the Rockies made two errors, a fumble, a flat nose–fall, and a booboo – all typical Met's errors I was told. But the Mets were waiting to pounce and pounce they did!

They tricked the Rockies into letting Mets stand on all the bases and then some guy quit ignoring balls and struck at one, giving it a good sock, and Rockies' errors did the rest, allowing Metzies to romp in home like they were the kings of New York. I felt sorry for the Rockies. But being a loser in New York is a higher station than being a winner in Arizona so they should not feel too bad. Maybe they got free replica baseball cards showing famous Metzies too.

Frankly, I made some of this up. Z's sister got seats so cheap that the view of the field was only a narrow squinty slit and when the home team did something great like take their places on the field, all the true fans right in front stood up and wiggled their arms like an airplane load of snakes. I tried standing up too but it just made the headroom lower. Did I say this already?

photo, baseball, mets game, she stadium, queens Cool play by Mets at Shea Stadium.

Anyhow the Mets won somehow. Then we had the pleasure of all leaving the stadium at once and trying to cram on the subway line 7 for the ride back to civilization. For some reason there were only a few trains for 55,000 of us but we were winners so what did we care? Being a winner in New York is like having a Tour Eiffel with free hotdogs. As Jackie Gleason used to say, "How sweet it is!"

Update:– The Mets are doing well this year. So well, in fact, that many New Yorkers who scorned them for 20 years are joining the fan club. But the bartender at a joint in Queens complained that the Mets had raised false hopes too often to be credible – just as they were committing gross errors on a wide–screen TV overlooking the bar and losing by some ridiculous score of something like 1–0.

The 'Unbalanced Whites' Café Metropole Club 'Report'

photo, poster, hoboken italian festival

The first Club Meeting of the Week in September last Thursday was chaired by the secretary and attended by three members and Bongo. You can refresh your club lore with the report of this this cheery meeting which was curtly headlined, Unbalanced Whites – Mascots, Cookies, Boggles. On reflection, there were no boggles at the meeting.

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on the second Thursday of September which is the 14th. The 'Saint of the Week,' will be Croix Glorieuse, which might be the same as Triumph of the Holy Cross. This is merely one of 10,000 saints and there are scholars who think some of them may have never existed.

The equally unlikely legend of the club is on a page of utter wonder so aptly called the 'About the Club' page. Exercise your reasoning facilities with some true facts, by glancing at the club's award–winning, shabby and blotchy hand–fashioned membership card before its impending oblivion.

photo, sign, don't litter, fine $450

This Was Metropole One Year Ago

This feature is again unavailable this week for climatic reasons, mostly because 'Ed' is dead lazy but partly because the heat is on and the living is easy.

Café Life Lite 1O1

Lest We Misremember

Today marks the date of Henry Hudson landing on the island of Manhattan in 1609, I think. This happened while he was searching for the Northwest Passage, up north, but there was nothing doing up there so he steered his good ship Halve Maen west.

Henry sailed around New England for several months and was the first European to later write about it, except for Giovanni da Verrazano who did the same thing in 1524, but maybe he forgot to write about it. However it was, the Dutch later claimed Manhattan for Holland and called it New Amsterdam, to distinguish it from the other Amsterdam. Apparently it was old Henry himself who named Staaten Eylandt, which is today connected to The City by a free ferry boat and a bridge named after Giovanni.

Pataphysical Antiquities

There are a mere 111 days left of this year, the same number that 573 had when a local council met at the Saint–Pierre basilica to ponder a question concerning the bishop of Dunois. This building, or where it is, is now the lycée Henri IV, but what they decided is unknown.

This is totally unconnected to the fact that this year has used up 254 days, the same number that 1218 had when the bishop of Saint–Malo, Pierre Giraud, died after holding the office for 34 years. Ever since it has been a tradition in Montparnasse to take a hot cocco at the café Saint–Malo at five in the morning, especially in the winter when it's cold and wet.

photo, sign, spanish roast pig

Fashion News for the Particular

On no particular date the Italians of Genoa invented jeans for the Genoese navy, for the sailors to wear while they were swabbing decks and dancing to the hornpipes. They required a garment they could wear wet or dry, and roll up the pant legs, for the swashbuckling look. Jeans were laundered by towing them wrapped in a net behind the ships and when they hung to dry the sun bleached them, evenly, all over. The French got in the act by calling them bleu de Gênes, mispronouncing the Italian blu di Genova as... jeans. The part about denim and Nîmes seems to be irrelevant.

In a Classe of Their Own

This date should be remembered as the 45th birthday of the World Wildlife Fund. Of course you might wish to recall that today is also the anniversary of the first Beatles recording, Love Me Do, which went on sale on 5. October 1962, getting to 17th place on the UK hitparade. Later, pirate Radio Caroline helped them get to the very top of the tops. Were not those the frisky days?

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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