"You are Messing Up My Opéra!"

photo, group, josef, ramona, einar Group of the Week – Josef, Ramona and Einar.

Day One Of No Smoking

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Thursday, 1. February:–  Blah in the sky with gray wool clouds is what we've been having. Bill Gates was in town to promote his Vista to the smart young things at HEC and a hour later he was on his way again, in a bullet–proof–looking black van, possibly on loan from the very same FBI that warns us against copying videos we buy or rent. Have a nice trip, Bill!

As you can probably guess the weather outlook is not too exciting. There is no thrilling Alert Orange. According to tonight's TV–news weather forecast and Saint's Day announcement, we are still under the influence of a high that is pushing clouds down to the ground and hiding other high–flying clouds. Only birds and Air France pilots can see this in all its glory.

photo, english spoken of the week La Corona speaks.

Unlike them what we will see on Friday will be a sky full of fathomless gray, without definition or character. This will intensify in the afternoon and by nightfall we will be glad that it's disappeared. The high temperature predicted will be 12 degrees and it should feel like it because no wind is foreseen.

Saturday is another sort of fish in the sky. Somehow the clouds are to become unglued, allowing sunbeams to peek through, to massage the earth and our dismal souls. A bit of a tradeoff involves a temperature drop to 10 degrees. The exact same situation is foreseen for Sunday, but with a high of only 9 degrees which will be average for any 4. February in 2007. Snow is of course in the cards for all areas above 3000 metres unless they are below the Equator.

The "B i g D e a l !" Report

Travelling to the club today on the métro I spent a lot of time thinking about this singular day in France, or I would have if the trip had taken more than 10 minutes. It is ever the same. I get on the métro at Raspail and then I get off at Odéon and everything in between is a blur.

Above ground the gray felt overhead erased contrast and definition, as if life had been transformed into a black and white comic strip drawn entirely with mood rather than ink. There were a few folks wandering about, especially in the alley Saint–André, where five groups of unrelated ladies were taking photos that they will not admire when they get home. "I don't know what I saw in this place!" they will say.

photo, coke of the week Glass of the Week.

So it was gray gray gray down Dauphine and across the old bridge called new for 400 years and more gray gray in front of Samaritaine where the posters are, and the rest of the Quai du Louvre matched everything that had gone before and everything else yet to come this afternoon.

The only member waiting for me in the café was Patrick, the week's Waiter of the Week. I sat down in the club's area in the rear of the café. Nothing much was happening so I pulled out Le Parisien and squinted at it. This didn't make it any clearer so I read the headlines. "INTERDICTION DE FUMER" it said in red at the top of the front page, followed by "La vraie nature de José Bové."

Member Ramona McDaris arrived then and she invited me to keep reading the paper. I would have said I was only reading the funnies but there are no funnies in Le Parisien. "Paris veut faire disparaître les sacs en plastique" was another front page item so I stuffed it into my bag, not plastic.

Ramona then told me that Goldenburg's in the Marais was closed "by order" because there were too many cats in it, and then she gave me a box containing two heavy pieces of strudel. I was overwhelmed.

Ramona was in good form except for the recent death of Barbaro. She said this had caused the Tears of the Week. She was also concerned with the trees that had been blown down in Stanley Park in Vancouver. I tried to assure her that they had blown down there before and it was terrible, etc. etc., but they grew back like trees do.

But the real problem turned out to be her apartment building where some workmen are taking apart walls and tiles with chisels and hammers. "There were 17 bags of debris!" she said. She also counted, "118 strokes per minute for 6 hours straight!" It occurred to me that they might be Polish laborers – nobody works six straight hours in France.

photo, cafe of the weekStrong Café of the Week.

"I just walked for 7 hours yesterday," she said. According to Ramona this town is a bit dysfunctional at this time of year. She has gone to movies that weren't, shopping areas without shops, and to the back door of the Opéra Comique because the front door is "sorry for the inconvenience." Ramona enjoyed La Pericole however. In one scene a character named Offenbach says, "You are messing up my opéra!"

At this point Einar Moos joined the club, and bought with him a City of the Week, which was Valparaíso, The Jewel of the Pacific, in Chile. Despite having lived on three other continents Einar gave Chile a thumbs–up because he was born there.

We had a café together a couple of year ago. Like many, Einar is depressed because he is in the Internet racket, with Parisiana being his main site. After having one of those 22–hour Internet sessions anybody would be depressed and it has happened to me too. Joining the club won't cure it but it's free.

Ramona asked Einar about the earthquaes in Chile. "I am completely paranoid!" he said. "It's torture! Four hundred earthquakes a year!" Ramona was unable to convince him that earthquakes in California are just as bad because he had lived through them there too.

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