Gawking On the Champs

photo, etoile, arc de triomphe, red bus, tourists Folks having fun without the aid of clowns.

Follies In August

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 11. August:–  It's like a ghost town around here. Shutters are down and doors are locked. The only sound you hear is the butta–butta of luggage wheels being dragged across bricks and cobbles. You see people reading the closed signs in bakery windows. Tabacs are running out of cigarettes and nobody is playing the Loto. If this keeps up the pigeons and the clochards will starve. I saw them again today and they again said they were going to La Rochelle. That's where everybody went I suppose.

It's weird. If you go down to the Fnac on Rennes you can actually walk on the sidewalk. Usually it like swimming upstream in lumpy water. Inside the check–out lines were short like they haven't been since the Great Depression. Of course I am talking about a part of Paris where ordinary folks live. Other parts of town are overflowing with colorful visitors. It's like a ghost town everybody decided to visit – like Disneyland – a place where nobody other than Mickey Mouse lives. At least you can drink here and smoke too, if you don't mind the hard stares from the polka–dot folks up at Etoile. It might be a good time to sit down and read a book.

photo, rue visconti, rue de seine One of our lesser alleys.

Summer's Deception Days

It just goes to show that a bit of nice August is hardly worth waiting for because it doesn't last long. What is this? A third gone and temperatures are already flirting with below normal. This cannot be classed as global warming – this is pure August, Paris–style.

I need to quit right here. I got a bit ahead of myself today. I am in the grip of C. Northcote Parkinson's law that states, "Work expands to fill the time available." Normally the less time there is available, the more gets done – for Metropole at any rate. I seem to have too much time available to let loose and just wing it, letting my subconscious thrash around like the big ball–bearing in a pinball game, randomly bouncing off 50 extra bonus points and skittering across 100 points when lit. Nah! It's August and I'm tilted out.

photo, sign, bakery bread

Tonight's TV–weather was pretty grim, with another dire warning about fierce rain on the slopes of the Alps. Today showed up with 24 mild degrees on the pharmacy sign. It was kinda sunny part time. The news must have run on too long because the weather chickie, Tania, indulged in a speed prediction. Tuesday was forecast to be mostly cloudy with sunny bits and a high of 24 degrees. Racing she said, on Wednesday it may be mostly crummy, with a lower high of 22. Thursday was predicted to have lots of clouds, with a really unusual squeeze by fronts from north and south. Temperatures expected to be 22 again. I might as well go to the library and get more books.

Météo Jim went on holidays to someplace he calls glorious Hoochikoochistan. Therefore there is no Jim's latest from Pommeland. Try going outside and looking up at the sky.

Hoochikoochistan Not In Flushing

The first 10 days of August came to lesser Pommeland along with the seagulls. This will kick off the rest of the final month of summer, and the unveiling of September is another story that will be forecasted with brio when Météo Jim returns.

photo, sign, bakery bread

Until then here in the world central of Metropole we quit anxiously waiting for the first postcard from Upper Lesser Hoochikoochistan, from the first annual meeting of virtual weather reporters. Now I think of it, I could have given Jim a raise if I really wanted a postcard.

Meanwhile Pommeland's weather for the coming week is a repeat of most of August so far. Temperatures in the low 80s a–grad along with thunderdonnergeboomersohrengesplitters on Tuesday afternoon, and humid on Wednesday, and Thursday partly sunny and nice with 84 degrees. Even if Friday is perfect for evening dining in Flushing please don't bother going there and ruining the neighborhood for the rest of us.

A la prochaine, Météo Jim, signed this week by radioric

Café Life

Gawking On the Champs

If I can't think of anything I pick someplace to go and see what I can find. Because five out of six bakeries are closed – the one whose oven blew up, reopened – and there's some free parking slots, it's total dead–centre, August. On Saturday I decided to go to the Champs–Elysées and see what the tourists are doing.

photo, peugeot dream carPeugeot's dreamcar.

For all I knew, they were all in Beijingx or on the Riviera. But already on the métro I sensed that I was wrong. Hanging from the poles, scanning the line–map, t–shirts with messages, fully charged cargo shorts, they were heading to the Etoile to give it a dekko.

So I noticed the women with scarves and heads in bags. It's getting more like the Arabian Nights here. Plus there are the lady tractor drivers from Bulgaria or that place that's having a war this weekend. Does everybody know that the road from the airport to Tbilisi is named George Bush? Small wonder we have so many exotic visitors these days.

Up on the surface there was a huge and colorful mob around the passage entry to the Etoile, beside the red tour buses. People dressed like neon, except the ones hiding under their tents. None of them struck me as unusual, other than you don't see them where I live in the outer 14th arrondissement. I wasn't surprised and nothing they were doing – taking photos of each other – seemed untoward enough to shoot.

Over by the Cartier mansion, the ladies especially, were pressing up to the windows to see the real versions of the fake bags they already bought from the street dealers at Barbés. TV–news showed the customs agents seizing the knock–offs by the container–load in Cannes or someplace. Why do women need so many different bags?

photo, sign, bakery bread

Same thing by the windows at Vuitton, except many seemed to be using them as photo decor. Backs to the glossy displays, smiling at Fouquet's, maybe hoping to see Belmondo but more likely not even knowing they were seeing famous folks known only in France.

Since I was there I went in to the Peugeot showroom in the hopes of seeing a timeless example of French flair. That was a Bingo in the form of a dreamcar, in a round form, a balloon, with a wonderful machinist's cabin, without doors and alas, no apparent wheels or doorhandles.

Since the sidewalks are so wide, many of them are covered with café terraces. These are often like gated communities, offshore islands, with the thousands of pedestrians funneling between the cafés and the terraces. Tourists sitting down are even less interesting than tourists taking photos of themselves. Having the thrill of a lifetime for a six buck Coke, or more if they have kids.

photo, restaurant, rue de l'ouest One of our lesser restaurants.

To be fair I should mention that the construction sites on the avenue are far fewer than in the past. In fact you see hardly any construction cranes up on the skyline. They must have finished rebuilding Paris. It's either about time or it's the sub–prime crises.

Since it was Saturday there were the usual exotic cars on parade. There's no free parking, no street parking at all, so you have to spot these on the fly, unless they are double–parked in a traffic lane. But since most cars are black these days there wasn't much to see. Like a dirty Maserati coupé with Swiss tags.

I glanced in the Renault showroom after skipping Toyota entirely. Nothing new on the planet Renault. I don't count the new Twingo because it doesn't look like a Twingo. I didn't look in the jewelry windows, nor the snazzy watch windows. I passed Disney's windows completely. I never go in Fnac or Virgin. If I wasn't looking for Photos of the Week for this piece I wouldn't even be on the avenue.

Final peep at Citroën's townhouse. I think it had the same weird mini cabrio as two years ago. Citroën is weird on purpose and Renault can't help it. Less weird, they had two of their rallye cars downstairs. Stealth bombers dressed in neon. Folks bringing in their kids for a thrill. The building is worth a visit. Light and silly, compared to Renault's heavy–handed darkness.

photo, fiat 500 dream car A real dreamcar.

Looking over the photos later I made the score one for 40. Even that one is a stretch – a car with no wheels. Maybe this was more actual than I thought. It must be awfully cheap on gas. Park it in the living room and watch the widescreen TV. Don't need a license or insurance either. Remember you saw it right here, on the Champs–Elysées, notional centre of the French world and hotspot of world tourism.

Warning:– If your holiday intentions do not include a major overdose of international brand names, on the Champs–Elysées you should keep your eyes aloft on the trees – very green this year – and keep your hand on your portemonnaie. "Just looking" on the Champs is free. It's what most folks are doing.

photo, sign, bakery bread

Café Metropole Club Ping–Pong

Club meetings with inexperienced new members are fine with me. I can leave Le Parisien to any other time and usually do. I would rather hear your stories so there's something to report even if it's not tropical. Regular members and new candidates are forewarned. The next Thursday that everything at the Café Metropole Club will be 103% new, will be on 14. August, a few short weeks before the begin of the fabulous rentrée. All members–in–any form, any standing, of any sort will be welcome even if you feel like sitting at a table beside an open window.

A vile rumor that repetition here will end someday is a snake in the weeds. Two terrific facts and one antique rumor about the club are on a page called the About the Club Webpage. Readers who have actually read it, and one or two may have, may already be club members for life without personal risk or very exorbitant fees.

photo, sign, geste de tri, separate your trash

The Ex–Question of Schleswig–Holstein

Some of you have might have been thinking that it is especially appropriate to remember that it was today in 3114 BC that the Lange Zählung of the Mayan calendar began, as calculated by Sir J. Eric S. Thompson. That's when the date was if you have a Mayan calendar. Quite a long while later, in 1867, the first volume of Das Kapital by Karl Marx was published, in Hamburg. After yet more eons it was on this date in 1929 that George Herman Babe Ruth, Jr. hit his 500th home run, in League Park in Cleveland, Ohio. This date also marks a turning point in the Greco–Persian Wars, which involved a lot of people with Greek or Persian names and places and it all petered out around 450 BC so who cares? Finally it's the birthday today of Steve Woz Wozniak, who is 58. Woz built the Apple I and Apple II computers in a California garage and the company is still going strong despite everything. That's our little world, folks!

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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