Where Was I?

photo, petite buvette, vin chaud, 2.50, odeon Saturday night Happy Hour with warm cocktails.

I Went Out for Cigarettes And

by Ric Erickson

Saturday, January 27:– It's been cold for a few days but not like it was in New York last week. If it gets a couple of degrees below freezing we think it's time to throw all the clochards out of their tents along the Canal Saint–Martin and ship them off to the nearest Hotel Flop. For the occasion – the city is paying – the rates are four–star.

You might have heard that the Abbé Pierre died last week. He had the year's biggest mass on Friday at Notre Dame. All the biggest nobs who haven't done anything much about the lack of housing for the poor for the last 55 years were there, along with bus–loads of folks who work for the Abbé Pierre's enterprises – most of them one-time street people.

photo, fnac digitale, blvd st germain iPod paradise and wide–screen
heaven.

The Abbé Pierre got really annoyed with this situation just after the war. In 1945 a lot of houses were in ruins and people were living in sheds made of driftwood and flattened out tin cans. He started making noise about these bidonvilles and when it got really cold in 1954 some other people who were warm and middle class, began to notice. About a thousand years later this good man died, a hero, had a mass in Notre Dame, and clochards are sleeping in tents tonight along the Canal Saint–Martin. This is definitely the kind of situation in France that the French have a saying for.

About 80 of them were offering lodging of some sort but about 200 of them are still camped out along the canal. Elsewhere in France there was some snow early in the week and some rural homeowners lost their electricity. France's EDF makes a lot of power with nuclear but sometimes when a bit of snow falls in places where it falls just about every winter, the power lines fall down.

And France has some rural places that are off the beaten paths – off the autoroutes – so, if they don't have a factory manufacturing fancy skis for export – well then it might take EDF more than a week to put things right. I suppose EDF took away all their woodstoves and fireplaces when it put in the electricity. What's wrong with those people?

Meanwhile here in the big city we had some overnight lows below freezing. All those people running around in short pants suddenly disappeared. It's a bit like when we have a heatwave and no air conditioning, balanced with not quite enough heating and too many drafty windows when it's the opposite. Luckily most of the time Paris is in the gray and boring middle, not hot, not cold, just blah.

photo, candy stand, odeonMore Happy Hour at Odéon.

But on Saturday, no matter how hot, cold, blah it is, we must go out – out shopping, out hanging out, out flirting, you know, like out. To cheer up I buzzed down the Boulevard Saint–Germain in the Quartier Latin, to visit FNAC Digitale, the capital's hochburg for iPod and DVDs. Yes, yes, I got the itch to get me a big, flat, widescreen TV. I just found out I can get TV with my ADSL hookup – for nothing, rien, zero, gratis.

When I was in New York over the holidays one advertiser on TV drove me nuts with, "Internet, TV and telephone, all for $99? That's what I want!" Holy moly Americans! Wake up! You don't want that stuff for 99 dollars. You want it for 29.99€. If you ever agree to $99 then next year they will be charging you $125 and telling you that you are damn lucky to have free TV in America.


So I was looking at France Telecom's Website the other night night reading about their new triple–play offer. I have the ADSL so I have the modem. All I need is a set–top box – they call it a decoder – and another geeky dohicky that shifts the signal from the modem through the electric wiring to the TV. And then I need that new Apple iTV box even though I don't want to watch my iTunes songs on the TV, not having an iPod nor any iTunes. But I might want to record some 30 year–old movie and burn it on DVDs and make some like cookies and sell 'em and get rich. I'll even leave in the FBI warning.

photo, cinema danton, odeon A dozen film salles within 50 metres.

I saw some Netflix movies when I was in New York. Paying a subscription and I put in a DVD and the first thing I see is that message from the FBI saying that they are going to chase me to the ends of the earth. They should change their name to the Hollywood Enforcers. Of course I could avoid all problems with them if I only duplicate Russian movies. But I don't want Putin's guys after me. They have worse stuff than handcuffs.

So at the FNAC I was looking at the big TVs. Some of them are really big. Like small swimming pools. The problem here is that there is no high–definition TV yet. There is digital TV and some of it is free, but HD it is not. Did anybody read that lament last week by the porn producers that most porn stars aren't ready for HD? They all have blemishes and pimples and pock marks, not to mention fake body parts. All that stuff shows up really good on HD TV.

The big TV stations in New York are doing some HD broadcasting. Even their best people – those anchor folks – look at bit wild on the HD. Simple TV makeup isn't good enough anymore. HD TV means seeing ugly in total detail. You gotta ask yourself if it's worth it, paying for one of those big monster TVs, to see ugly. Sweat, hair, blotches, sneaky eyes. Good thing they didn't digitalize smell yet. Remember the whale that exploded?

photo, cafe odeon Saturday night at Odéon.

So in the FNAC, standing around in the incredible heat thrown off by all the gigantic TVs, I was pondering the 42" models and noticing that the plasmas are getting cheaper than the LCDs and wondering whether the Home Cinema is really necessary for listening to Hot Lips do the weekend news on France–2. But what I am really considering is how I can rearrange my modest living room to get in even more than 42" – floor reinforcements? At the very least I will need to order a dumpster and get rid of some of this junk I have – such as the old TV, old hifi, and several generations of computers, printers, books, diskettes, posters, 35mm cameras, IKEA furniture, lamps, tables, boxes, firehoses, plastic bags and my souvenir life–ring from Hamburg.

In a blind fit of determination I bought a cordless keyboard and got out of there before doing anything silly. The métro was a block away at Odéon and there were several hundred younger citizens milling around, waiting for the cinéma, going to the cafés, hooking up – the night was young – it was only 18:00, it would be long.

photo, metro odeon, saturdaySaturday night rendez–vous.

Any other time of day and in any other place three–quarters of everybody has the white buds in their ears. But there, at hook–up time, ears were naked. Look right there, that little kiosque with the sign offering hot wine for 2.50, with the line of the thirsty. One mom and the rest were kids.

But there is one nasty little question concerning these monster TVs. Is there anything worth watching on them? I'm sure last night's news clips of the mass for Abbé Pierre in Notre Dame would have looked wonderful in HD. But how many Abbé Pierres are there? In France?

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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