Nothing for Three or Four

photo, les josettes noires, place saint germain, trombones, tubas Les Josettes Noires in Saint–Germain.

We're Blowing In the Wind

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 22. September:–  It was sunny and the sky was blue today and the leaves are still green. It would have been a perfect day in September except for a brisk wind puffing from the northeast, a wind that seems to have been blowing for weeks. What seems? It has been the same wind non–stop. It has effectively pushed down the temperature two or three degrees. That sounds puny but there's the wind, the wind, day and night. They say that there is a high pressure zone but they show a whirly of clouds over Germany and say the cold is coming from up there. Some people worry about the situation in New York but I'm concerned about my chilly toes.

Meanwhile the French government voted today to keep on stationing troops in Afghanistan. Tonight's TV–news showed the troops arriving there in 2001. They are still there, now part of a NATO force, but the Taliban came back, and some of the French got shot up a few weeks ago. A sound bite from the minister of Defense said the French are fighting terrorism there. I think everybody agreed that the Talibans are mean dudes, and since they are Afghans too, they are probably not going to fade away. You can ask the Russians about that. Afghanistan means the Land of Afghans.

photo, eglise saint germain Saint–Germain des Prés.

I was going to add a note about the French Sénat which had its election today. But after reading about it, it seems just as mysterious as ever. Senators are elected by grands électeurs, composed of elected officials such as mayors, national deputies, regional and local councilors. I don't know how candidates are selected. Friends of friends I suppose. In the vote today the Socialists increased their numbers by 20 and the UMP lost seven seats. The right–wing UDF also lost 13 seats. But it appears that the left–wing still lacks a majority. The seat of the Sénat is in the Palais du Luxembourg and the Republican Guards keep an eye of things, like the ducks, in the Sénat's Jardin du Luxembourg where the seats in the park are free.

It has gotten cooler which I have already mentioned. It being the first day of autumn today I doubt that it will get warmer before we start pretending to have summer again. Here are details:

Blow Your House Down

The high or whatever it is, is leaning on us to the tune of an everlasting wind, of about 40–50 kph, from the north or the northeast. Thus some café terraces out of the wind and facing south are pretty wonderful these days, especially for all those newly unemployed bankers. Club members noted that the dollar has risen a smidgen compared to the euro so things are just about okay. Tuesday looks like it may be mostly sunny, and only two degrees below normal at 17. Wednesday may be about the same but there will be more cloud cover on Thursday. Same temperatures, same winds, all three days. Le Parisien claims Friday will be better.

Météo Jim sends word, if we can understand big Latin words, we are on the fulcrum of the seasons, with one ending and one beginning – assuming that summer even existed, which it probably did – in Pommeland but not here. Sob! The latest fresh details:–

photo, sign, rue du four

Hemispherical Equilibrium Today

Hurricane Ike is now a distant memory. Ike did not inflict disaster of biblical proportions on the cities of Galveston and Houston but its journey northward was a meteorological version of Sherman's March to the Sea. The storm left an Alaskan–sized swath of devastation and flooding. When all the bills are in the cost of damage will be around $30 billion.

At 11:44 AM DST, today, Monday, autumn will arrive in Pommeland. All over the world there will be a fleeting equilibrium of daylight equal to night non–light. But it will end far too soon. In the northern hemisphere the nighttime will increase and the daylight decrease while in the southern hemisphere it's backwards. At the Equator, nothing happens and it's never Groundhog day.

Temperatures in Pommeland will be in the low to mid–70s for the rest of the week. The partly cloudies will prevail until the weekend when they will get together for a party and have a shower. For those who want more sun, just remember that it will be sunny when it is partly unclouded. However, how many parts each cloud will have, remains a mystery.

A la prochaine, Météo Jim

photo, crowd in montparnasse Crowd in Montparnasse.

Café Life

Nothing for Three or Four

The sun was shining real hard on Saturday. It didn't carry much heat because of the northeast wind, a wind that has been whistling around here for weeks, probably because it's September and nobody has turned on the heat yet. Nobody except anybody with access to a thermostat and a lot of credit with Gaz de France. The rest of us have mufflers and the well–off have mittens. So the shining sun was welcome. Hell, it always is.

Belatedly I learned that I made a couple of technical errors. This weekend, including Saturday, had the annual open doors thing for our patrimony. Had I kept myself informed I could have gone to Sarkozy's place – the Elysée Palace – and stood in line with about 5000 other Parisians out for a freebie, in order to see close–up the state antique the president lives in with his sweetie, Carla. It looked great on the TV–news, all that gilding.

The other major annual event Saturday that completely escaped my knowledge base, the cupboard where I keep vitally important lost items, was this year's Techno Parade. Was I surprised to see it on the TV–news? The whole 20 second video of it? Twenty thousand raving kids, mostly, dancing through Paris all afternoon, and it was only worth 20 seconds. The guy who caused it all, Jack Lang, was even there, eating the 10th birthday cake. Only the 10th anniversary? I think it must be more like 20 years. Maybe I'll look it up.

Listen, frankly, I think I got off pretty well without any techno noise. We had the Olympics and radio FIP had to play Chinese pop music before, during and after it. It went on for months. Plus, our geographical and political situation requires that FIP play a lot of hit parade stuff from North Africa. Have you ever heard hip hop in Arabic? Not an improvement over French or English!

photo, legs in a hurry on rennesLeggy shoppers on Rennes.

On Saturday night I turned on my wide bigscreen TV with the hope of seeing part two of the Cro–Magnon story, partly because I fell asleep during part one last week. But I had forgotten that Arte–TV was having the final night of its European playwright contest to find out who is number one. I have been seeing bits of this over the last two weeks. I saw Ibsen, Sartre and maybe I saw Molière, and Beckett of course, but I missed Brecht. I guess that was movie night here. The night Uncle saw Pulp Fiction for the first time and me for the tenth and last.

When I quit the European playwright contest a hour later Molière was leading with Shakespeare in second place, and then the moderator told the Germans to get off their butts and vote for Shakespeare. He moved ahead of Molière just before I shut it down. I checked the Website and saw that Shakespeare won. It was kind of the European version of American Idol. I had high hopes for Sophocles but I don't know if he even made the top ten.

After all these hits and misses you probably think I had a lost Saturday, that I should have stayed in bed where it was warm. I thought so too but I got the upper hand over inertia and went for a walk down the rue de Rennes, mostly on the sunny side of the street. I thought you might care to see some aspects of Paris that are completely normal, without Techno Parades or visits to see the gilding chez les Sarkozy.

photo, traffic, view of rennes The long view of Rennes.

The rue de Rennes has always been a long, straight street, beginning near the Deux Magots café at Saint–Germain and sweeping uphill to Montparnasse, right up to the C&A there. In the old days there wasn't a lot of activity – just some odd little shops for items like guns, custom shirts and driving schools. These days those are gone because the frock shops have moved in with the phone joints, and the game dens, watches, shoes, bags, frilly underwear, high tone this and that, Fnac and banks of course, a few – very few – cafés, an occasional bakery and one cinema, the red one that shows coco films from the former USSR.

In the past you could walk in the middle of the sidewalk from Placide to Sulpice with your eyes closed, so little was happening. Now it's like a brawl to get past the place that sells kitchen knick–knacks. Pretty young things, talking dirty on their phones, hurtle out of shoe boutiques totally carefree. Young moms are driving those twins pousettes, and some of them even seat triplets. Did I mention we have a baby boom here? They're out shopping for those little booties that cost more than they would gilded.

photo, rue de rennes, boulevard saint germain Crossroads in the Quartier Latin.

It is starting to seem as if Paris is finally safe for the bourgeois because everybody who isn't, is a budding wanna–be. There was a time, not so long ago, that smokers and other antisocials could hang in dim bars and wile away the hours puffing like magic dragons, having a few tiny glasses of wine and discussing the fate of the planet or their favorite European playwrights. Only students do that now.

So I admired folks' recent tans and their hairdos, and quite a number of legs in sheer dark stockings descending from tailored shorts. The closer you get to Saint-Germain the sleeker it gets. So neat, so tidy, so rich, so accessorized with those super supple soft sacks. Even the granite paving stones seemed with it. No cruddy concrete please.

The usual crowd of well–dressed people – people, not folks – were installed on the terraces surrounding the Deux Magots. More leather jackets like silk, scarves, bags, watches like hubcaps, glitter bracelets. You couldn't actually see this because the place is set up with sort of barricades, parasols, frizzy bushes, behind which the custom lurks in near–dark.

photo, cafe deux magotsCafé Deux Magots at Saint–Germain.

The Flore isn't quite the same even if it seems to be the Deux Magots' Siberia. I imagine the hustlers were parked in the Flore while the rich divorcees were at the Deux Magots and the twain was the waiters, but it was always one–way, and the first stop was Lipp across the boulevard, for a little souper to get acquainted.

Meanwhile the sidewalk on the boulevard has always been used by folks to get from one place to another and it's not their fault these establishments are there. These are the shoddily shod, the grubbily garbed, the unshaved and low in tone, ambling on their rounds, slogging through the mobs, hoping the poodles aren't vicious.

Across the way, between the church and the métro entry, just to the west of the snack kiosque, Les Josettes Noires were playing their horns – trombones, trumpets, tubas and French horns, with drums and tambourine – while dressed in electric red white–polka–dotted dresses with red shoes, drawing crowds of the aimless with the cameras and phones, providing fresh melodies for those holding up the church and musical ambiance for the diners at the kiosque.

Usually they're dressed in rags. Street musicians, music students, are not supposed to look as if they've come straight from a rehearsal in Hollywood. Reality gets more like TV every day.

photo, sign, et vous, neon

The Red Shoes Café Metropole Club

There were some folks, all members and a couple of new sign–ins, present at the last meeting and all of us was there. The scribbled notes hardly reflect. No mirror as they say. The next Thursday that everything at the Café Metropole Club will be 100.2% new, will be on 25. September, the day two days into autumn. All members in any form, class, shape, hue, any standing, of any type or creed, will be offered a chair. If you feel like sitting at a table on the terrace, pretending to not be at the meeting, you are more than welcome to find your own chair.

A faint rumor that repetition here will end someday is barely visible. One lousy fact and three–quarter factettes about the club are on a page called the About the Club Webpage. Readers who have personally read it, and one or two have, may already be club members for life without personal risk or exorbitant fees. Refunds cannot be refunded due to lack of funds. I spent the funds not existing on orange juice.

photo, sign, place du quebec

The Ex–Question of Schleswig–Holstein

Many keen readers might have been thinking that it is apt to recall that it was today in 66 that Nero, the Roman emperor, created the Legion I Italica. The Legion's emblem was a boar, Nero went loopy, the Legion got sent off to Moesia and they camped at Novae for... centuries. In later days, like 1586, the 80 Years War had its battle of Zutphen. Who dares to forget Zutphen? We had this already but today is special, the first day of the first year, was today in 1792, the primidi Vendémiaire de l'an I. Then along came 1869 and Richard Wagner became disgusted because Das Rheingold premiered in Munich on the order of crazy King Ludwig II, who paid for it. A couple of years later the National Geographic Magazine published its first issue today in 1888, but has only inspired a ho–hum entry at Wikipedia. Exactly twenty years later Bulgaria became an independent monarchy, maybe during the reign of Ferdinand I of Bulgaria. Dabbling in Balkan Wars continued of course.

photo, sign, le bistro gaulois, neon

Of the 148 births of famous people today from 1515 to 2007, only two are Nobel laureates. These are Charles B. Huggins, born in Canada in 1901. As a physician, physiologist and cancer researcher he shared the 1966 Physiology or Medicine prize with Peyton Rous, for the discovery that hormones could be used to control the spread of some cancers. Chen Ning Yang, born in China in 1922, shared the physics prize in 1957 with Tsung–Dao Lee, for their work on parity nonconservation of weak interaction. Sports, politics and other entertainments made the other 146 birthday folks famous. Finally, it was Philip K Dick who said, "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." That's our little world, folks!

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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