Accordions and Photos

photo, two figures, alley, dark, night, cobbles, mystery On the way to couscous and accordion music.

You Expected Postcards?

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 3. December:–  I have a feeling that we are going to get a real winter this year. I feel this so acutely that I'm already colder than the weather. So I went to a place last week and bought some sweaters. Did something happen in the last ten years? When did they change medium size to only fit small folks? It used to be my size. Are they saving on wool? Are lambs an endangered species? Is it the grass they eat? What the dickens!

Unsettled, Gloomy, Bah!

It just goes to show that the more we save on energy use the more it feels like the Middle Ages' cold spell is back. And it lasted a couple of hundred years, didn't it? It was so cold that cows froze standing up and people were so hungry that they became fewer. It was the opposite of global warming. It was called the Big Sneeze. It's what my apartment heating is going through right now.

It's not even cold out, officially. On Saturday night we almost got an Alert Orange for Sunday, right here. It was a big wind from the southwest and it blew up the Channel with gusts up to 130 kph, with lesser gusts of 100 kph batting across the country, right through Paris. It was wild and wooly around here. It sucked my windows closed, and it sucked out the feeble warmth right through the cracks. It was damp and chilly and outside was even worse.

photo, new citroen showroom, champs elysees New Citroën showroom,
on the Champs–Elysées.

For the next three days, according to France–2 TV news and weather, there will be 60, 90 and70 kph breezes blowing up the Channel. The daytime highs are supposed to be 12, 13and 13 degrees.

The skies are supposed to be mostly montone, as in gray, not blue. There will be clouds on top of clouds, and they will be moving from left to right, west to east, all the time, even at night when it will be too dark to see them. That's Tuesday and Wednesday and in case it isn't enough, more is promised for Thursday when some rain may fall. Don't expect wonders for Friday either.

Forecaster Météo Jim in the New World across the Atlantic has sent a new forecast for the week. Other than hurricanes he mentions the first snows, without details about the upstate blizzard around Rochester tonight:–

Coming and Going Uneventfully

November 30 came uneventfully and left the same way. Why was this important? It marked the official end of the hurricane season. Now we can go sledding into the winter season without worrying about our roofs being blown off.

To celebrate the lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center and to provide antifreeze for the snowy season, an explanation of the Québec drink Caribou is required. It is whisky mixed with sweet red wine and is a popular drink during the Winter Carnival in Québec City. It is sold in special festive bottles and a little goes a long way. After that... well, no one seems to remember.

Pommeland's first weekend in December was being covered by up to 4 a–inches of snow. The snow is expected to change to rain, and will wash away by tomorrow morning, estimated, followed by highs in the mid–40s a–grad. Winter will return again with snow flurries during the week and highs in the mid–30s a–grad.

The Christmas lights are up and the nights are getting longer and colder. A walk across the Brooklyn Bridge is in order.

photo, sign, cup and saucer of the week

"A la prochaine, Météo Jim"

Café Life

Accordions and Photos

When I last saw Nigel he was worried about driving his little Honda past the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia and finding his way back to downtown Washington, DC in the dark. The next time, a week later, he was sitting in my living room gnawing on a baguette and waiting for a café after checking in to the neighboring Hotel Savoy. He said it was not the same Savoy as the one in London where he recently shared a repast with the prince of a minor European state.

Nigel comes to Paris twice a year. He usually only stays about a week. Seven days of cavorting with the Daguerréotypistas is about the required dose, before returning to the settled life of a geopolitical junky in DC, and lately, New York. There are three boulangeries within five minutes' walk of the Savoy, and about 75 bars and cafés within the 14th's magic triangle.

photo, new renault sporty car New, nifty, Renault Zoë.

With the aid of his portable phone and Uncle Den–Den he gets hooked up. On Friday we met at the Ton Tons on Losserrand for a reason I never learned, and Line met us there because she can't sit down. She can't stand up long either so it was just the three of us going to hear a magic triangle accordion night at a couscous place. It was dark and raining. The café looked like a beacon for wet sailors when it finally appeared in the gloom.

Dany was the accordionist. She plays here and there, usually in bars and cafés, and the same 55 fans turn up regularly to hear the old–timey hand–cranked music and sing along and do some dancing. As we were there, we decided to have the couscous too. It looked like everybody else – the place was full – had the same idea, and one waitress took care of all of us in good humor with a certain élan.

This was the kind of evening that is not common, not even here. 9€ for the food and 10 for the musicians, and a couple extra euros for drink. If you don't have Nigel's phone or access to Uncle Den–Den, you would have to walk around some corners far from the palaces and big boulevards and look for handmade signs posted on doors or in windows.

Nigel isn't the last person in the world to get a digital camera, but he held out for a long time until they made some that are inexpensive, small, lightweight, and can be run manually, just like the old days thirty years ago.

photo, dany plays accordion, cafe maindron Dany plays everybody's favorites.

While he was waiting for the perfect camera the manufacturers decided to automate a lot of the manual controls. Over time these have been refined to a point where auto–this–and–that works pretty darn good. More people than ever are probably getting more useful photos than ever before.

Most photos are so good they only require minor touch–ups. Software gorillas like Photoshop, Aperture and Lightroom are far more than most people need. But try and find something simpler – and cheaper! – and you will see a lot of apps that do everything and make café too, but have nothing to make a horizon level. Even Photoshop has no dedicated horizon tool.

photo, illuminations, champs elysees, ferris wheel, concorde, traffic, saturday night In its Christmas finery for you, the Champs–Elysées on Saturday.

So folks ask me. Golly! Running Photoshop since the early '90s, so I know how to level off those horizons, but how to explain it? Take the straight–line tool, put it on a horizon or vertical, and look at the info panel to get the degree difference. Then hit command–Z to get rid of the line. Put the degree difference into rotate and it's a snap.

So it's not a snap? Well then, try out a download of Photoshop Elements. The version 6 is new for Windows and there's a version 4 for Macs. The street price for PCs is about $80. I found some gizmo for levelling horizons fairly easily in the Windows version. Levels and curves are in there too.

photo, ferris wheel, concorde, sat night Turning every night at Concorde.

With that out of the way Nigel and I took ourselves over to the Champs–Elysées for sundown on Saturday, to see the lights come on and check out the vibes. There are new lights this year – thanks Hôtel de Ville! – and it was all so wonderful that I didn't feel I was missing Times Square at all. It seemed like there were 300,000 other like–minded souls out there gawking too.

The Café Metropole Club

Only one of the club's totally new members showed up at the club meeting on Thursday but there were three other real members. It's nice to be back. The next Thursday when everything at the Café Metropole Club will be all new again will be 6. December. All sorts of members of any standing will be welcome, as long as they come. This means you. Tell yourself which you are.

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on 6. December, merely a week from last Thursday. The Saint of the Day will be Saint–Nicolas of Christmas fame. Once upon a time the New York Historical Society named Sancte Claus as the patron saint of Nieuw Amsterdam and it may still be valid. In France, Saint–Nicolas has a sidekick named Père Fouettard who carries a bunch of twigs, for beating naughty kids. You have been warned!

photo, new citroen sporty car New, cool, Citroën Air Play.

Déjà vu once more, completely related to Paris because it happens here. Piles of compelling lore about the club and its hard factoidum are on a page called the About the Club Webpage. Rare readers who actually have read some of it, and few have, need not be curious about any of the unwritten rest of it. If I am wrong as can happen, check out the club's corny but free membership card for toeprints and missing semi–commas.

This Was Metropole Ten Years Ago

Pay no attention that this week ten years ago was 520 weeks ago. Metropole used to have lots of real new stuff in it, such as We Think Singing in the Métro is Fun, possibly in the Café column, Barbara – Another Funeral in Paris, possibly in the Au Bistro column, along with some tatty posters and a lame cartoon titled Keep Pouring. That was plenty even though there was more in Issue 2.48 – 25. November 1997 because it is no less than Ten Years Later today, about.

photo, sign, rue saint amand

Café Life Légère 91.7

Any Clear Sign

Today's Quote of the Week has no connection to the the awful weather or the high price of corn kegs. For today's gem of philosophy I suggest a quote by Woody Allen, who said plenty of some stuff, such as, "If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name in a Swiss bank." Did you notice that Woody did not ask to win the New Jersey lottery? Or become an atomic scientist? All he wants is a sign.

photo, sign, porsche design pipe of the week

Patazone Ends

There are no more than 28 days left of this year, the same number that 1989 had when George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev got together on some boat moored off the coast of Malta and decided to end the Cold War because it expired and everybody was tired of it. To fill the gap in our consciousness some snarky aides invented global terrorism and here we are, with the same old WMD we already had.

Strange Wobble–Gasses

This is totally unconnected to the fact that this year has used up 337 days, the same number that 1962 had when London succumbed to a peasoup fog thick with smoke and sulfurous gases which gassed some of the inhabitants before it finally blew away four days later. This was before the Beatles were truly famous. Totally unrelated, two years to the day later, police arrested 800 students for being members of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, who were having a sit–in at an administration building to protest against a management decision forbidding protests at the Berkeley unit of the University of California. Many became famous on account of this saga but who, exactly, cares?

photo, sign, havana club ashtray of the week

The Ex–Question of Schleswig–Holstein

A few folks have might have been thinking that it is only reasonable to remember that it was in 1930 on this date that the film director Jean–Luc Godard was born. Then he saw Orson Wells' film Touch of Evil in 1958 and that was the ultimate impulse for the French New Wave. Godard, before movies, was a movie reviewer, so he might have made up this new wave stuff. His first feature film in 1960 was A Bout de SouffleBreathless – with Jean–Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg. It was shown on Arte Sunday night in the original. Bebel played a stupid punk and Sebeg was a cool American chick. Paris was neat in 1960 in black and white. Happy birthday, Jean–Luc!

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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