From Pizza To Chicken

photo, fireworks at the tour eiffel, 14 july 2007 Fireworks behind the Tour Eiffel.

And Back To Cheeseburgers

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 16. July:–  Today's news isn't really news because Max is visiting from Ireland, just coincidentally at the same time as the Fête Nationale, accompanied by coincidental fine – nay – brilliant weather. Who could have foreseen it? It was cold and raining and dreary and it was in a rut, doing it several times a day, and what do you know? Here's this 15 year–old, growing huge, still growing, taller than his brother, normally living in the eternally green hell of Ireland with soggy Leprechauns. He gets off the jet and we get sunbeams.

Max Likes Pizza

Wednesday:– I took the RER out to Roissy, going to the ancient Terminal 1 where Aer Lingus arrives. I saw that they have made some changes in the last 15 years or so, adding a little train that runs between the terminals – including the new one which is called Terminal 3. The automatic train took me to the terminal and then the arrival area was reached via a elevator. It was pretty simple and the toilets were just as carefully hidden as in the olden days.

The jet finally landed and Max appeared, about two feet taller than the last time. I hadn't noticed that little train dead–ends at Terminal 1 so we waited for a while for a train that takes no passengers. Finally we tried the other train that was running every 4 minutes, and a dude in a suit told me it was illegal to photograph the graphic showing who was entitled to sit down. He also claimed that Terminal 3 had been open for years.

photo, eiffel tower, before the fireworksOn the Champ de Mars.

After the stress of riding the RER – our tickets had not passed through the ticket gizmo – we got out alive at Denfert where Max needed an immediate portion of stodge from the McDo there. Max went to school in France but that was a long time ago – too long to remember that a Big Mac is a Royale with cheese. He had the chicken nuggets instead which are called chicken nuggets and I had orange juice.

A few hours later it was time to eat again so we went to the Italian place on the other side of avenue du Maine, and it was nearly full of happy pizza fans. Anyway, that's what we had. Max complained that they weren't stiff enough to pick up – not like a toasted Frisbee – well, nothing much is perfect in France, is it?

Max Tests McDo's Again

Thursday:– After we got back from the club meeting I treated the group photos until it was news time. While I watched the TV–news for 70 minutes to see the 2–minute weather forecast, Max went off to the McDo to feed himself as he saw fit. When he got back he didn't say anything about it, and I didn't ask. He watched a bit of television while I composed a club report that was as true as most but obviously lacking exciting Stuff of the Week. Max fell asleep quite naturally once he lay down.

I should mention that our lives are not exactly parallel. Max wakes up earlier than me – who doesn't? – but it's cool because he can check out his animations on uTube and work on handpainting his shirt. This he does with a very small paintbrush and some black acrylic. He is going a freehand freeform design, and looks like a jeweler while he's doing it.

Max Has a Real Cheeseburger

Friday:– It's always a great day because I have to sleep in until noon. It's a major sacrifice I make on account of the club report. But there I was, bouncing out of bed at 11:15, because it was so bright and sunny. Waitaminute. Bright and sunny?

photo, concert stage, champ de mars Away, far away, the concert.

Yup. The old TV–weather news came through with a 100% forecast. The sky was full of innocent white fluffy clouds floating lazily around in a sky of guaranteed blue. I threw open the bathroom window wide and took a kilo of bananas, oranges and grapefruit and chopped them up in big bowls and poured some white yogi all over. A central American breakfast of champions.

Then of course, somebody phoned. So we had to wait around while the sunbeams were gaily dancing in the streets then then of course, there was another phone call that blew off the rendez–vous, so all that was left was going out and shopping for more bananas, oranges and grapefruit. But life was sweet.

The plan, for we had a plan, was to hit the Bastille at 21:00. But first we needed food, so we walked a whole two blocks to the Quinze and Max had a cheeseburger. Unlike Nigel, he had his with cheese. With that little chore taken care of, we scooted up to the Champs–Elysées to ride the big number one east to Bastille.

It was crowded but that is how the métro is on the eve of the Fête Nationale when the city puts on a free show, a concert of all the best musical acts Africa can offer in Paris on Friday, 13. July. But the Bastille, as big a place as it is, was not full. There was only about 10,000 folks there.

photo, 14 july, 600,000 folks at the champ de mars A quarter million too many.

Which was a few too many to be able to get a place to stand right in front of the stage. But. But they had two big screens up on either side of the stage so we could see who it was, and it seemed as if most of the crowd knew, but we didn't. "Let's hear it for Bamako!" they shouted and everybody cheered, and for Mali and Sénégal and all those great west African places.

They had costumes and odd instruments like, I think, an oude and a whole shebang of drums, you know the industrial glitter ones and the homemade ones you see in museums, and these were the guys – maybe dolls too! – that knew how to POUND those things. Then, just so you wouldn't think anything was primitive, they had some dudes with brass horns – like, maybe, Cubans, but I'm sure, louder. It was the loudest, stompiest, more rocking thing in town, out east, there in Bastille.

One act after another, more cheers for Africa, and maybe the crowd doubled and the smoke drifted out from the stage while the TV cameras on booms swivelled around like a robot gallows. Standing on the cobbles, hopping in place. Yeah, Africa!

Yeah, so much of that is enough. We left, passing the police in the dark, down to the Pont de Sully and seeing the winkle lights along the inky Seine and went along the left bank to the west, passing great crowds around Notre Dame, lacking good African sounds, perhaps waiting for Sunday. Who knows?

Max Goes Chicken Crazy

Saturday:– When it started it might have been cool but by around noon the thermometre was flirting with 30 degrees under a sky still blue, full of hard sunbeams for the military parade on the Champs–Elysées. We hung in place in the 14th until the rendez–vous from the day before happened and with that out of the way we wandered over to the Luxembourg to get a sense of space and grass and trees, and chess players of course. Plus there was a free exhibition of modern paintings in the Orangerie so we looked at those too. A little culture on 14. July couldn't hurt.

Then it was time to eat again and we went fairly early to the café Rendez‐vous and Max had the chicken – a farm model – with frites and a Coke and I had my usual orange juice and a pepper steak. It was good enough for working guys and we hopped on the métro right there. Good thing too because it was full. By Montparnasse it was more than full, close, warm, jiggling together, as we bounced on the overhead rails to Dulpeix where half got off.

Usually when you are going to the Champ de Mars you will get off the métro at La Motte Picquet or Bir Hakeim, but on Saturday La Motte was closed. So there were trainloads of folks descending at the unknown Dupleix and wandering through the streets without knowing the way, twisting left then right, until finally cruising into whole crowds, stumbling in the dark, flowing around obstacles.

photo, view of paris from montmartre Our Sunday reward is a big view.

It felt as if the Champ de Mars was full before we got to it. There was a wall of people and we tried to ease towards the Tour Eiffel and after some heavy going there started to be spaces. Then we could get closer to the field, to see that it was full too, but with a lot of folks sitting on the grass. Taking up more space than they needed in fact.

It wasn't just the perfect weather for this 14. July, but Sarkozy's fault. Somewhere he got it in his head, instead of pardoning some short–term prisoners like past presidents, he would give the Parisians a free concert instead. Don't ask my why he chose the Champ de Mars and the very same night as the free 14. July Bastille fête and fireworks show at the Tour Eiffel which sits on one end of the very same Champ de Mars.

In good years and bad about 350,000 fireworks fans turn out for the free show. They bring their kids and pets, girlfriends and grandmothers, uncles and cousins, and everybody fits on the field and they go oh and ah and applaud the final sis–boom:–bam.

For this year they constructed a stage, bigger than the one at Bastille the night before, at the eastern, Ecole Militaire end of the Champs de Mars – thus removing that area from use for thousands of spectators. Then they told everybody that there would be a free concert with really Big STARS.

So this attracted an extra 250,000 folks, closed métro station and all. It is true that the free concert started at 19:30, three hours before the fireworks. It is also probably true that some fireworks fans, if they had known that there would be 600,000 attending, might have given it a pass. But as it was, we all fit on the field somehow.

The free concert. Well, the part I heard – and could see, a half kilometre away – was Michael Polnareff who has been making a big come–back lately after being a big pop star and then doing a flit for 20 years or so. It means that his fans are in their 40s or 50s, his songs are simple enough to sign along with, and he wears white shades. Compared to the Africans at Bastille on Friday night, he was very, too white.

All the same people were writhing their arms in the air and of course all the portable phones were out – pirating the sound? It was closed down in time for the fireworks when everybody on the field switched directions, and turned to face the Tour Eiffel.

Not that more space appeared but a lot of people decided it was a sit‐down show. There I was, standing about in the middle near the south edge of the grass, with a good clear view of the tower – the best spot I've ever had.

I became aware of two sensations. The fireworks did not look terrific with a 300 mm lens but I was right on top of them. The first sensation was that the sound – there's always some musical bombast to go with this – the sound was shorting out. Fifty thousand watts of crackle, skip and short. The second sensation was at my shirt–tail – it was being pulled. "Hey! sit down in front! Hat's off!"

This I tried to ignore but it got more urgent. Finally I relented and moved to the side. As I did so everybody stood up where I'd just been standing, and then I was stuck where I was, behind somebody's big head.

The fireworks, that impressed Max a lot, ended after their annual 30 minutes. Nobody sang the Marseillaise. The president was long gone. It was warm and dark, and the show was over for another year. As the last flare dropped into the Seine and the smoke drifted towards Meudon, the whole 600,000 of us left the Champ de Mars.

photo, max eats more, again Max eats more.

And most of us walked home, foregoing the dubious squeeze of riding a crammed métro. The walk home afterwards is part of the Fête de la Bastille.

Max Has Another Cheeseburger

Sunday:– I do the photos in the night right after taking them, so getting up at noon is no hardship at all. The windows were all open to the warm air and the fruit salad with yogi was as big as ever. I decided to show Max Montmartre because there's a lot of sky up there. I didn't exactly forget that there's a lot of folks up there too.

And so there were, perhaps as many as there ever are. But so much better going up those hills when you know it's going to be 32 degrees on top, and if you stop you'll dry out in no time. We saw Sacre Coeur and the artistes in the place du Tertre and went past the Dali place and parked for a while in front of Picasso's old home and studio. Then we took the métro from Abbesses and returned to the Quinze so Max could have another cheeseburger. I had the Mexican dish and forgot to ask for the hot sauce.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini