A Gray Concrete Tomb

photo, park vert galant, ile de la cite The real Paris, ever exceptional.

Under Leaden Skies

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 14. April:–  It may not come as a big surprise that I can't think of anything to write this week. Before you holler "writer's block" or "senior moment," or even "thank goodness" – I can watch my Netflix instead! Just think, do you really want the 634th weekly version of Paris in my life? Or of my life in Paris? I mean, isn't this overdoing it a bit? Hasn't anybody had enough? But first, there's the météo:

Lousy, Local, Weather

It just goes to show that life in Paris does go on. For example, around here, events in the sky have stalled between winter and spring, with a bit of a seesaw back and forth. Is spring so terrible? What can't it just do it? C'mon sky, brighten up. C'mon temperature, get up to normal! Is it too much to ask? I know, I know, we go through this ever year at this time. It just does not want to let go – of winter. Was it so wonderful? Not hardly.

photo, statue of stalin, georgia, with nigel Stalin and Nigel, a first for all.

First off, applying to the future three days – temperatures lower than normal. It's not exactly news. On Tuesday we are supposed to expect skies that are not clear, are cloudy, in fact. A temperature of 11 will be the so–called high. Wednesday may be semi–sunny part–time and semi–cloudy the rest. One degree more if you are counting. The brightest day may be Thursday unless the muck from the southwest gets here first. Dancing in the streets for the high of 13 if it happens, depending on the sky.

Although not the famous mountain coot I mentioned here last week, Météo Jim's forecasts are welcome. He has twigged to the new regime, so here is his brief new version of how it will be overseas:–

Taxes Are Good For You

By the time Metropole readers see this, it will be Tax Day in Pommeland, La Grosse Pomme, as well as other parts attached to said and unsaid areas. Will Uncle Sam reward or punish you? Qui sait? On verra!

The weather has been a bit taxing as well. On Thursday and Saturday the temperature rose to 75 a–grad – 23 e–grad, not to be confused with e–gads! On Saturday evening a cool front arrived to fan the fainted brows of Pommelanders. Sunday saw a high of 50 a–grad along with the winds and clouds of winter.

As for the tax–heavy week to come, the temperature will rise to an estimated high of 70 a–grad on Thursday with increasing intervals of sun. Another cool front is predicted by the weekend with highs in the low 60s.

photo, sign, hand with black nails

A la prochaine, Météo Jim

Café Life

A Gray Concrete Tomb

In the old days I used to close my eyes and stick my finger on a map of the city and then I would open my eyes and look at the map to see if it looked like a good place to go to, to look around a take a few photos, and then write a piece about it. Since I had never seen anything and had never been anywhere this method worked fine for about ten years.

It wouldn't work these days. Close my eyes and poke my finger at a map? Well, okay, why not? It's been a long time since I've looked around La Défense. Boy, that used to be a place! All those glittery towers out there, full of the high–tech future – software, computers, gadgets, silicon hustlers – does anybody remember Web–TV?

photo, uninteresting view of la defense Glorious and swinging, La Défense.

They had cameras and equipment and studios you could use, and they would take what you made and put it on Web–TV, and it was all free. The demo didn't work too well though. I went away thinking that I should just keep on learning to do better what I already did. Next thing I heard it was adios Web–TV. That was about four years before uTube.

I lived out that way so I was going through La Défense all the time. For me it was mainly a place to switch from the train to the métro, or get the tram that went to southwest Paris. Back and forth, and every once in a while I'd pause, and take a look at the CNIT and the Fnac there or stop off to cruise a trade show or expo.

I even get, very occasionally, emails asking me whether La Défense is worth a visit. Let's see, there's the Grande Arche at the head of the Esplanade. There are 30 other tall buildings out there full of offices I suppose. For all I really know they are cardboard replicas full of dog biscuits.

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photo, 2cv in saint germain Oldie in Saint–Germain.

Most of them are less fancy that the Grande Arche. Now there is an otto! It is like a big cube of a building with no inside. Two walls and a roof. You can go to the top if your fear of elevators isn't great. They are sort of in the middle of nowhere – not attached to the building's walls – and you go up to the roof and into it, somehow. I don't remember the details, but on a clear day you can see easily the Arc de Triomphe.

On Saturday the sky was active with various sorts of clouds, all mostly thick and threatening. La Défense is mostly cement, about the same color as the clouds. Except for some of the more extravagant buildings, there's not a lot of glitter out there. I always think of the Lafarge Cement shares I used have. They were good shares.

In Paris there are dull bits here and there but at the human level – within two metres of the ground, or under it – there are a lot of colorful items – poster displays, other signs and colorful awnings – but out at La Défense there are huge concrete spaces, like maybe the deserts in Utah. Grey cement. Lots of it.

From the imposing steps of the Grande Arche there is a big view. The only thing remotely interesting in it are the few folks scattered about, and usually they are pretty small because they are far away. I am not sure how long you can look at this big view and be fascinated by it. There are folks always sitting on this steps but I never bothered asking. "Enjoying the view?"

On top of the steps there's a plateau, that would be wind–swept except for some glass paravents. You can look over the opposite side, towards Maisons Laffitte. You can't see that far and know what you are seeing but there's a cemetery right up close. It's the nicest thing around. Its trees are very neat, and at this time of year, very green. It's not cement.

I came down the stairs, looking for camera angles. Maybe better if the sun was shining? I went over to the swoopy trifecta CNIT building, past a big temporary tent set up to flog modern art, behind another sort of barracks meant to be some sort of pop concert hall. These are commonplace at La Défense, but who would go out there to look at modern art for sale when Paris is full of it? So I didn't look.

Just outside the CNIT there was a sign saying it was open while it was being renovated. I seemed to remember this from my last visit, three or four years ago. Sure enough, inside was two–thirds draped–off. A tabac was open and the Fnac. If either closed they could pulverize the place and truck it away.

photo, two monitors, friday night roller rando At Friday night's roller rando.

Outside – how good it was! – I looked around for – anything! Anything that would boost the place, a show of flair, a dash of color, a touch of – class? There are a few statues strewn about. No two are closer than half a kilometre to each other. To see one up close you might be halfway to Puteaux. The signs, and there are a lot of them, point to tall buildings, and are hard to read. Even the garbage cans – very few – are forgettable. It's easier to put your junk in your pocket.

There's a huge hall above the métro and the RER. In the interests of making folks feel controlled it is very constrained, and the galleries along the sides were close to reminding me of the narrow and dim areas of New York's subway. The air and the headroom in the main hall were only for show.

I went into Virgin Music and browsed, almost alone. Who wanted to be in it when a simple métro ticket could put you in their flagship store on the Champs–Elysées in 15 minutes? That place would be like a mob in a zoo on Saturday afternoon. La Défense was like a gray concrete tomb.

Going back to civilization on the métro it picked up passengers at every stop until there was a big number standing at Etoile, and then it was standing room only until Bastille. I switched long before that and picked up a load of shoppers going home from Saint–Lazare. I finally got a seat four stops short of Gaîté . I wondered what I could write about La Défense. Now I know.

photo, sign, rue maison dieu

The Café Metropole Club

A dozen club meetings with one member is okay with me, but don't let it happen again. All other members and candidates are still welcome, I promise. The next Thursday that everything at the Café Metropole Club will be 98% new, will be on 17. April, in the last month of late winter. All members–in–any form, any standing, of any sort will be welcome, welcome, anyways and always.

Unending repetition here is slated to end but continues. Several erroneous facts and other total rumors about the club are on a page called the About the Club Webpage. Readers who have actually read it, and two or three might have, may become club members even against their wishes.

photo, sign, vespa parking only

The Ex–Question of Schleswig–Holstein

A few folks have might have been thinking that it is only fair and right to recall that it was today in 69 that Vitellius beat up Otho at Bedriacum and grabbed the throne, which he held on to until December, when he was beheaded in Rome. Some years later, in 1860, the Pony Express got underway, carrying mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento. The first westbound trip took 10 days, 7 hours and 45 minutes, which was quicker than the 6 months it took going around Cape Horn. Today can also be remembered for the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912. This might have been caused by a smallish rudder, but a new excuse turns up every week. There were 706 survivors and 1503 perished. Or were they 1534? That's our little world, folks!

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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