...Continued from page 1

photo, galeries lafayette department store, boul haussmann, traffic New lights are a little more discrete.

The look on their faces, coming out of the underground. Expectation, exhilaration, desire, determination – these were people who braved a year of Paris and its strikes and bikes, bombs and elections, Paris Plage and a walk in the park. They learned how to ride bikes again. Oh thank you, Gods in the Hôtel de Ville. We know who to vote for next spring.

But first, there's this Christmas facing us. All the unions except the CGT backed out of the transport strike next Wednesday. Who knows? – better to see those animated windows on Saturday, in the pouring rain, than take a chance we'll be on foot next weekend. The CGT must be out of its head.

The boulevard Haussmann is five lanes wide, one–way, and the cars and buses burst along it in bunches. Most of the cars were from out of town and that's where they were going after brawling in Printemps and Galeries Lafayette all day. It was raining and they were worn–out and cranky, and Cripes! doesn't Paris have too much traffic around the grands magazins? Like every Saturday all year but tens times worse now. What were they thinking?

It doesn't matter. The street is wide and slick with the neons and stop lights and Christmas lights – low–power this year, we've gone green. The cars stopped down by Lafayette and the crowd trying to see the Printemps' windows burst over the fixed sidewalk barrier and joined another crowd passing, heading east, slogging in the street to Lafayette.

photo, printemps light, salvation army Is there room for everybody?

Small armies waited in the downpour to cross the avenue. The green man showed and off they went, and kept going, joined by more and they kept it up after the light changed and drivers began revving their Twingos. A RATP bus came along with its ding–a–ling chiming, beeping folks in its lane back on to the sidewalk, over that barrier.

It was totally crazy this year. Just like last year. I wonder how many Monday's Le Parisien will say were killed, or drowned. Jerry, I bet some even committed suicide. There was a lot of stress around.

I know I should think it's all normal, like around Macy's in Manhattan every Wednesday of the year. My suggestion is to close the boulevard for three weeks every December but I know that's nonsense. Give people more, and they just want more. Look at the Champs–Elysées! Wide sidewalks so folks just fill them right up and there you are walking in the freaking street again.

And those people. Please! It was raining and it was dark and there they were with their little kids, muscling right up to the windows. I tried getting close to one – I like animated sales pitches with fuzzy animals like anybody else – and I got mauled by errant and soggy umbrellas. Give me warm and dry Christmas shopping in Hollywood any day.

photo, boulevard haussmann Mobs cross – to get to those windows!

But I got out of there alive. I was already soaked so I went over the few blocks to Madeleine to see the rich folks stocking up on bonbons at Fauchon and Hédiard. The rich must be laying low this year because Fauchon looked like it's in mourning. No bright lights at all. So dark it was hard to see the Mercedes 800s double–parked in front.

Not so Hédiard. Two thousand kilos of red neon from to to bottom, setting the whole place on glistening fire. It may be crude but it's effective. And none of that cheapo greenie light either – 10,000 watts of the real thing! Shop there and you know the Champagne profit is going to a good cause.

So far I've done the Champs–Elysées. That was last week and it was not raining. The new lights are sublime. Like purple–blue dripping drops. Very discrete, tasteful, wonderful, too cool and boring. If you start at the Etoile you can see the whole avenue, right down to the big illuminated ferris wheel at Concorde. Take the métro and save yourself a long walk with about 200,000 other sublime light fanciers and pickpockets.

If you survive there are lights and shoppers to see on Rivoli too, and a big knot of shoppers on Rennes. Skip both of them and try out ice skating in front of the mayor's place. It's pretty good there if there's no political or humanitarian demo on. There's even some ice slides you can go down. Instead of flinging yourself off some dangerous Alp. Christmas is risky but there's no rule that says you have to do the stupid stuff.

photo, hediard store in the place madeleine, reflections, color Hédiard on fire.

It doesn't matter if you are a grouch. If you live through it, you can look forward to having a good whine about Paris Plage in the summer. In our comics' world all gray clouds have inky linings.

The Café Metropole Club

Absolutely none of the club's totally new members showed up at the club meeting last Thursday but there were two other real members. It's still nice to be back. The next Thursday when everything at the Café Metropole Club will be all new again will be 13. December. Any kind of members of any standing will be welcome, as long as they come. If you are reading this, this means you.

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on 13. December, merely a week closer to Christmas. The Saint of the Day will be Sainte–Lucie of Syracuse, a former rich and young martyr, who has become the patron saint of the blind. Lucie is a sort of all–purpose saint, beloved by all even in Scandinavia, thanks to persecution by Diocletian in 304, a long time ago.

Déjà vu once upon a time, obliquely related to Paris because it happens here. Compelling true lore about the club and its two hard factoids are on a page called the About the Club Webpage. Rare readers who actually have read some of it, and few have, need no longer be curious about any of the unwritten rest of it. If I am wrong as can happen, check out the club's tatty but free membership card for noseprints and missing semi–fingers.

This Was Metropole Ten Years Ago

photo, sign, passage tenaille

Pay no attention that this week ten years ago was 521 weeks ago. Metropole used to have lots of real swank new stuff in it, such as My Development Is Over, possibly in the Café column, General Winter Pays Paris Brief Visit, possibly in the Au Bistro column, along with some ratty posters and a dumb cartoon titled Little Gifts. That was plenty even though there was hardly more in Issue 2.49 – 8. December 1997 because it is no less than Ten Years Later this week, about.

Café Life Légère 91.9

How We Were Born

photo, sign, rue sophie germain

This totally new Quote of the Week has no connection or relevance to here. For today's gem of philosophy I suggest a quote by David Sedaris, who has had a lot to say, such as, "They were nothing like the French people I had imagined. If anything, they were too kind, too generous and too knowledgeable in the fields of plumbing and electricity." Why then, did Bertrand Russell say, "Men are born ignorant, not stupid?"

A Well–Baked Patachicken

There are no more than 21 days left of this year, the same number that 1041 had when Michael V was elevated to the throne of the Eastern Roman Empire by his step–mom, Empress Zoe of Byzantium. Her father, Romanos III was found dead in his bath and there might have been some funny business, for Zoe married Michael IV, but he died in 1041. Then Michael V exiled his step–mom to a Princess Island, but the crowd called for the return of her and her sister, Theodora. The sisters got rid of Michael V and ruled together until Zoe found another husband, Constantine IX Monomachos, who luckily outlived Zoe by four years. About Zoe, an observer once said that, "Like a well baked chicken, every part of her was firm and in good condition." She was 50 at the time of her 1st marriage.

photo, sign, case of burgundy

Video Wobble–Traffic

This is totally unconnected to the fact that this year has used up 344 days, the same number that 1901 had when the first Nobel Prizes were awarded. Congratulations Al Gore on getting one today! While on the subject we might as well mention that the world's first traffic signals were turned on today in 1868, outside Westminster Palace in London. It is probably no coincidence that London now boasts the world's densest concentration of video spy cameras, installed because of the dubious behavior of its residents.

The Ex–Question of Schleswig–Holstein

A few folks have might have been thinking that it is only right and proper to remember that it was today in 1903 that the actress Una Merkel was born. She looked like a kewpie doll and had some wisecracking parts opposite Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, Loretta Young and Dorothy Lamour, none of whom have birthdays today. Also worth recalling is Pakistan's proposal for establishing nuclear free–zone in South Asia in 1981. Finally today can be remembered for the deaths of Otis Redding, and last but not least, Michael IV the Paphlagonian, Byzantine Emperor, and Zoe's first unlucky husband.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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