"Suddenly You Are In El Vito"

photo, group, terry, toni, mark, marie Terry, Toni, Mark and Maire as Group of the Week.

Hardly a Laughing Matter

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Thursday, 22. November:–  I turned my back for a minute or two and the country went chicken crazy. What is this? I can't leave France alone and when I get back the whole shebang is on strike? No sooner does President Sarkozy tell President Bush how American he is and the entire gang of the French set out to prove he was speaking for himself. He should've known better.

According to TV–news that I saw in New York and here yesterday the transport unions agreed to work last Friday or sometime for at least 40 years, but the government didn't want to talk to them until yesterday. It appears as if our lords and masters weren't overly concerned with the problems of commuters. I agree. If everybody lived in Paris like government deputies with all the bikes, instead of in near suburbs or distant boondocks, the strikers could whistle past the graveyards.

But take heart. Students, teachers and professors are still striking. Truck drivers have yet to be heard from and no doubt the farmers are bitter about something or other. Brussels said that France can't subsidize the fishermen, so that deal must be up in the air too. What next? It's Thanksgiving in America today, it's Black Friday tomorrow, it was Cyber–something on Monday and there's only a couple dozen shopping days until Christmas and Fnac is already saying big screen LCD TVs are in short supply.

photo, beaujolais nouveauWeek–old Beaujolais
Nouveau of the week.

Which brings me to the weather. There is a ray of sunshine here but first there's Friday which will probably be universally crummy, cloudy, rainy – Orange Alert! on the Riviera – with a north wind of 60 kph around here and a high of no more than 9 degrees.

On top of everything else the France–2 TV–weather lady Valerie appears to be pregnant. This is France so it means we will see her get rounder and rounder with the passing evening forecasts until she goes on paid maternity leave and her cushy job will be reserved for her until 2012 so I guess she will be back as a mom. Meanwhile it is supposed to be pretty sunny here on Saturday with a high of 8 and Sunday should be about the same with a high of 9 degrees, with a chilly breeze from the northwest. By Monday all transport is supposed to be back to normal. I can hear all those exasperated and bitter commuters going through Saint–Lazare cheering up now.

The "Suddenly You Are In El Vito" of the Week Report

I did not put a lot of planning into outwitting the transport strike today on my way to the club meeting. The first nice surprise was not having to pay the fare and the second was the two–minute wait for a train and the free seat I sat on. There were fewer riders than usual but the newspaper kiosk guy at Odéon was on strike getting a café so I had to wait two minutes to buy today's Le Parisien. There might have been more traffic jammed into the narrow Rue Dauphine but what did I care?

photo, cafe of the week The retour of Café of the Week.

Total chaos was the order of the day at the north end of the Pont Neuf and the Quai du Louvre was unspeakable. In contrast I was greeted by a suppressed round of cheers at the bar of the club's café and I moved into the club position with a carefree heart in the hopes of having a quiet afternoon of sitting in sunbeams but a member cleverly arranged to arrive in time to be there before me. No time to read Exaspération maximale dans le métro therefore.

Member Mark Rowlee had just alighted from Air France's daily non–stop from San Francisco and he didn't look half bad. Looks might have been deceiving because he said, "The sun's too bright." It was the same for me on Tuesday.

In short order... short order? – what's that mean? Anyway other members came crowding in. There was Marie Mazurchuk from Vancouver where they taser folks in the airport, Toni Smith from Toronto which is by a big lake but it's not the same as the seaside, and in a slight retard there was Terry Cooper, also from San Francisco, and his pal, Toto, aka Bongo 267. Everybody reminded me of their names so they could be featured in this report which has saved me from Googling them.

photo, gumpy as toto, mascot Gumpy of the Week called Toto.

The members were all eager to hear about why our President Sarkozy went to visit President Bush in Washington, DC. I wondered about that too so I was down there last weekend, checking it out. If you go to the old National Gallery on the Mall there is no charge to gawk at the French Impressionist paintings. There is no line to get in and hardly anybody in those galleries – in contrast, Freedom Fries are on the menu again at the Congressional cantine – so maybe that's why Sarkozy was there – to see the Impressionists without being bumped around by folks from Minnesota in the Louvre.

Adroit readers may remember that Mark is a balloon guy who flies around lighter than air. He told us something about the recent Whamobass event in Coalinga, California because he was there. He also jollied us with tales about bringing a balloon to France without paying for excess baggage, by doing it in several trips. Which reminded us to wonder about the whereabouts of Steve Fossett.

Then, and I am not making this up, everybody had their "Getting Married in Reno" story. For example Marie told us about winning $75 with the nickel slots and buying some extremely pointy–toed cowboy boots, which she later used for dancing to the music of the Elmer Tippe band out in the Fraser Valley. Yeah, way out in Pitt Meadows. The Nevada boots were eventually ruined by the British Columbia rain.

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