Year of the Rat

photo, morning, etoile, arc de triomphe Friday morning at Etoile.

And the Firecracker

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 11. February:–  The sun has been shining for a week now and according to tonight's forecast, it is intending to continue. Yesterday Uncle Den–Den said what a thrill it felt like seeing the sky after weeks in a cave. He should talk! While he was lolling around on the terraces of trattorias in Italy I was staring up at a gray stone ceiling.

Only Here and Now

It just goes to show that the world does not live only by pasta and sunshine. There are other things in life, like the Year of the Rat in Chinatown. The sun was shining and some bright light even fell in the narrow streets, slanting through the blue smoke from the firecrackers and reflecting off the gilding on the Rat of the Year.

It was a welcome change from being in Chinatown in deepest February, when the air is like cruel cheese, and your fingertips ache while you wait for the dancing dragon to arrive. Yesterday the colors were bright red, green, blue, white and the sounds were loud. But mostly it wasn't cold. It must have been about 13 degrees in the sun, and we could handle the ten degrees that wasn't.

photo, peugeot grille, headlights Trick lights on old Peugeot.

Tonight the TV–news had a pretty simple forecast for the next few days, from Tuesday to Thursday. There is a powerful high all over western Europe and offshore islands. This is providing an umbrella of clear skies and bright daytime sunshine. There may be a small bit of low cloud in the mornings, or it might be fog, but whatever you want to call it, it doesn't need to be worried about.

So we will probably have a high of 12 degrees on Tuesday, no more than 9 on Wednesday and the same for Thursday. This is forecast for right now and does not apply in general to every February. This is only for those who are right here right now. It could easily be ten years before it happens again. So if you are interested, get on the plane as soon as you read this.

Usually never a day late, Météo Jim forecasts eternal winter, so he has posted one more prediction that includes that dreaded word, wig. His appreciation of the weather situation, usually, in general, is worth something:–

La Semaine d'Amour

Once again records were shattered as the temperature reached 70 a–grad in parts of Pommeland. But then the temperature began plunging towards more seasonal levels, whatever they are. If we go by conventional wisdom, that would mean a high of 39 a–grad. However, if we factor in the Silly Season – last summer to this coming November, the conventional wisdom for that has gone out the window so let's just toss it.

photo, badge, peugeot

Next Monday, February 18, is President's Day again. This is a three–day holiday for some people and a three–day sales event for everybody else. All winter clothes must be sold so the prices of spring clothing can be raised by 100% and then reduced by 50%. Along with buying next summer's bikini there is usually a blizzard. If no blizzard occurs, then the next one will take place in April – refer to previous paragraph.

As for la semaine d'amour, the week will begin on Sunday with wicked westerly winds wafting Wanda Wiggins' wig aloft which will wend its way to western Europe. If anybody on Paris–Plage finds Wanda Wiggins' wig, please give it back.

As for the days leading up to le jour d'amour, temperatures will be around or slightly above 40 a–grad with snow/rain on Tuesday night into Wednesday and rain/snow on le jour d'amour. In all instances, refer to the second paragraph.

A la prochaine, Météo Jim

Café Life

The Year of the Rat

I may have mentioned Uncle goes to movies at Bercy. It is way off east on the right bank but the métro goes over that way and he said when he's coming back he breaks the return in Chinatown for some good eats. I would agree that was a good plan except that he called it Tolbiac so I kind of wondered if he was going right into it or only nibbling at the edge.

photo, street eats, chinatown Street eats, in Chinatown?

TV–news hinted that it was Chinese New Year last week so when he happened to call, and mention eating at Tolbiac, I suggested that we try to catch the new year parade on Sunday. In the event I overslept – I was sleepy – so when we talked, he said the parade was over already. All the same we decided to go to Chinatown and maybe have a bite or two.

The métro was crowded getting on but not quite as crowded as it would be if everybody was going to Chinatown by way of the place de l'Italie. By the time our train arrived the story was different, and the narrow métro tunnels were plugged. On the surface there was a huge crowd because there was some part of a parade – the end? the middle? – touching the place. It was like one of those mass demos you see in photos from the 30s except that it was in color.

photo, near original 2cv, fake nun The fabled 2CV, with fake nun.

We slogged through the mob into the avenue de Choisy. I didn't know where we were but there was more parade coming up it. I saw the young girls with their white horses. We heard firecrackers. We ploughed against armies. We followed mobs forcing their way south. More paraders came along, with more drums and gongs. After much effort we reached Tolbiac, where some of the usual types had a grill going. Hamburgers, sausages. Chinese fastfood is all over but never on the street.

We got into the avenue d'Ivry and found the parade's end and Uncle showed me the restaurant where he ate. It had a chili on the sign. He said he had been no further, so we crossed to some stairs going up into les Olympiades and took a tour of the maze up on the deck. There are, and once you get into the mall–like part, a lot of restaurants up there, plus a lot of other shops like you see in Flushing these days.

photo, chinatown parade, sunday, year of the rat Right in the parade on Sunday.

In fact it was like walking out of a dreary urban part of Paris into a world of thrown–together Chinese shops, huddled along an indoor alley, washed with exotic scents, garish posters offering cheap flights and local entertainment, past shops peddling gold chains, watches and rings, and plastic telephone cards and other electronica. All new to Uncle.

We passed on touring the supermarkets, taking just a look at the courtyard of Tang Frères. There were a million folks around, like it was in China on a sale day. Back on Ivry we went into the restaurant with the chilis outside and squeezed into crowded tables, for some salad and soup. The menu was reduced to only a few choices on account of the holiday. It was okay.

I was laboring under a lack of caffein. Up on Tolbiac, away from the mass firecracker explosions, we found a regular café with regular café. I absentmindedly tore a bit of skin off my right thumb, and it commenced bleeding. Bright, red blood. The café was good though.

photo, chinatown paradeAnother view of Sunday's parade.

I had to buy some bandages in a pharmacy. I showed my thumb to the pharmacian, wrapped in a bloody hanky. She said I should disinfect it. She sold me some bandages, a whole roll, and told me not to leave one on. She didn't cut one off the roll though, didn't disinfect my thumb. What was I expecting? First aid in a pharmacy?

Listen. It was a perfect day. We didn't freeze in Chinatown. The parade wasn't over and we saw lots of it. We saw the Olympiades. We ate in the place with chilis. We walked back to the 14th and I was in time to see both Rétromobile and the new year parade on the TV–news. The Year of the Rat is off to a good start.

The Café Metropole Club

A few club meetings with two members part time is okay with me, such as the one last week. All other members and candidates are still welcome. The next Thursday everything at the Café Metropole Club will be 100% new, on 14. February, in the getting shorter month of Valentine. All members–in–any form, any standing, of any sort will be welcome, anyways and always.

photo, the golden rat of the year The Rat of the Year, pure gold.

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on 14. February, a few words after repeating it twice already. The Saint of the Day is finished, booted to perdu, gone, except this week. The substitution of famous days to forget, gets forgot this week. Thursday is Saint–Valentine's day, named after Saint Valentinus of Terni who was executed sometime around 270. Little is known except for a burial place on the Via Flaminia somewhere north of Rome. Not on early lists of martyrs, but the greeting card folks know better. Some think Geoffrey Chaucer invented the modern Valentine frenzy in the 14th century. Who knows?

Repeats repeat endlessly, related to Paris by a long and all but invisible thread. Several erroneous rumors and one factette about the club and its single myths are on a page called the About the Club Webpage. Readers who actually have read it, and two or three might have, need not do it again. If I am wrong as has happened often, write your own version. The free membership card for real members is still as free as ever. Whatever is asked for it, it's cheap for the price.

Metropole a Real Long Time Ago

Who, exactly, cares about the past? An ordinary decade is ten big years, yet it was only 100 short years ago that the Café column had to wait another 85 years before being invented. First we had to wait for the invention of the Internet and then weeks were wasted while – while – well, it's a long story, isn't it?

photo, sign, rue rude

Café Life Légère 94.1

Wrong Number

This week's slight Quote of the Week has a no connection or relevance to today, and none to next week or last week. Take this one by Bill Watterson who has had a couple of things to say, such as, "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." So I guess that means if we cherish chaos a little anarchy is really nothing at all, other than a typical mess made by a phone company selling anything except communications.

photo, badge, delage

'Patahistory of Steam

There are no more than 323 days left of this year, the same number that 1809 had when Robert Fulton patented the steamboat. When he did he probably knew that the Marquis Claude de Jouffroy had a working paddle steamer in 1783, and was fooling around with torpedos. In 1797 Fulton tried his first steamboat on the Seine but it sank. On 9. August 1803 it went up the Seine. But there was Denis Papin with a steam engine in 1690, and he attached it to a boat in Germany in 1704. And let's not forget John Fitch who operated his steamboat on the Delaware river, carrying up to 30 paying passengers, in 1788. A patent does not always mean first.

photo, badge, maserati

True Wobble–Visions

This is totally unconnected to the fact that this year has used up 42 days, the same number that 1858 had when Bernadette Soubirous said she first saw the Virgin Mary in the Massabielle grotto at Lourdes. On the ninth sighting she followed the apparition's directions to find the source of water at the bottom of the grotto. Between 11. February and 16. July of that year Bernadette saw the virgin 18 times, and she was made a saint for it.

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 1847 that Thomas Alva Edison was born. In 1902 on this date police assaulted folks demonstrating for universal suffrage in Brussels. A few years later in 1916 cops busted Emma Goldman for talking about birth control in public. She was deported to Russia where she complained about violence and repression, and she got deported again. But it wasn't until 1964 that Taiwan severed diplomatic relations with France, and then China's People's Republic lifted their idiotic ban on Aristotle, Shakespeare and Dickens. That's our world, folks!

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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