Tin On Wheels, Lights On Clouds

photo, salon automobile, alfa romeo Why do little boys love red Alfa Romeos?

Night Dark for Freebies

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 6. October:–  The wind that wouldn't stop kept on thrashing around here even though the temperature fell and the sky clouded over, and even picked up a dozen knots to set all the trees moaning and rattling their overage leaves. The central heating just couldn't keep up. Inside the apartment the wind chill factor fell off the scale as the humidity reached heights familiar only to November. But overnight it died as warmer air funneled up from Spain and before I knew it Uncle was calling to say that the leaves were piled up on the ground like collections of golden dollar pancakes.

On the apartment hunting and economic fronts the outlook is grim in Europe tonight. Save as houses European financial institutions were wobbling, with some of the stouter units snatching up the wreckages of the frail. One by one European leaders said they – personally, they – were guaranteeing our piggy–bank deposits. Small cheer to all who were fast–talked into those other obscure financial instruments that all banks and insurance companies – even the Poste! – were peddling, until recently. If you want to earn more you have to invest more our leaders said. The joke's on us.

photo, nuit blanche, tour montparnasse, heaven Lights hide Tour Montparnasse.

I wish I could say at least the weather is more cheery. The sun didn't shine but the wind dropped to nearly nothing and I had some of my windows open. If we have a high pressure system I don't know where it is or if it's in the wrong place. What difference will it make? Here are details:

Variable Fall Days

According to the TV–weather for the week last night, next weekend's forecast is 2 for 5, meaning, basically, that it's up for grabs or that it's a crap–shoot. After a scary map was explained tonight it seems as if Tuesday will be very crummy in the morning followed by an afternoon that will be semi–nice, with friendly clouds and bursts of sunshine. Add a temperature expected of 21 and we'll be happy as Larry.

photo, sign, skoda badge

Wednesday and Thursday were predicted to be similar, with semi–cloudy and semi–sunny, with temperatures in the 17 and 16 degree range. That's probably about average for this time of year, and the sunny–cloudy is too. No snow was forecast for anywhere near here.

Météo Jim sent a terse report this week. We are past being paid by the word, with only dismal dreariness to come – so bad that wasting words on it is redundant. No more colorful Frank the Flipping Hurricane! forecasts. The latest details, in a few words:–

Ho–Hum In the Sky

As we head into the first full week of October, the trees and bushes are already beginning to glow with the colors of fall. In addition, the weather has been at or just below normal for this time of year. The wind, racing clouds and trees swaying back and forth add to the feeling of the season.

For the coming week, the weather will be cloudy and a high of 57 a–grad. The cloudies will break up into partly cloudies until Wednesday along with temps that will peak at 70 a–grad. A cool front will arrive and temperatures will once again fall into the lower 60s. The partlies will break up into the mostly cloudies, but how many parts it takes to become a mostly is still unsettled. See Thursday's special supplement for more info.

photo, sign, lancia badge

A la prochaine, Météo Jim

Café Life

Tin On Wheels, Lights On Clouds

Everybody is freaking about the economy and the melting poles and poison food and the disappearing squiggly spider and the wars here, there, and everywhere, and I must not forget the pirates – the real ones, who go out on the high seas and hijack passing zillionaire sailors to hold for ransom just like in the old days of the Barbary Coast. Where are those Marines when Montezuma needs them?

photo, ferrari california, salon automobile Ferrari California, banker's hotrod.

In this town on Saturday our supreme leader was having a meet with the other European economic honchos, to try and come up with a rescue plan that will make him as popular as John McCain. My hearing went off as they were saying what Angela Merkel had decided that they should do. The Germans may not have those hard Deutsche Marks any more but the European Bank sits in their country. Disinflation is not, is never, on their menu.

Meanwhile the folks, worried, are going about their business of enjoying the Circus of the Week, with a bonus this week of having a twofer – the opening of the Automobile Salon Saturday morning and Nuit Blanche Saturday night. What better way to squander Saturday than to ride the métro to Paris Expo to see the world's latest tin on wheels?

We had already seen a lot on the TV–news. For example, Ford was threatening to close one of their plants here – one that makes auto transmissions for big North American Fords – so the first thing new I heard in the big number one hall, near the Fords in fact, was some weird chanting. It sounded like rugby fans. For all I know the game of the century was on that night. The opéra in the Stade de France was last weekend.

photo, renault z electric, salon automobile Renault dream electro trucklette.

Ford has been making some clean–looking cars in Europe for the past several years. When the Ka first came out it reminded me of a '36 Ford coupe, considerably shrunk, and without a V–8 because Europe is smaller than America. Ford still makes the Ka – in Poland I think, at the same factory that makes the new Fiat 500. In fact the Fiat 500 might be a Ka, made with Italian PR. Then the Italians will put some Abarth speed tuning on them and everything will be okay again. Arriba Italia!

The big news this year was not about the electric cars and the normal cars that go 200 kph on a thimble of gas – they are a dime a dozen – but Alfa Romeo. This company has got a copyright on the color red, and the world's exclusive right to make sporty cars for everybody who can't afford a Ferrari. It's a lucky thing they are the same company because the Ferraris look like expensive trick peddlecars and the Alfas look like cars that can get you arrested even when they are parked in the dark.

photo, giant fiat 500, salon automobile The biggest Fiat 500 in the whole world, including China.

In other words, they are kind of old fashioned. All the other sporty cars look like sling–back high–heel shoes, with windows totally unsuited for eating in drive–ins unless you order ultra–grilled grilled cheese sandwiches. In an Alfa you can wind the window down, affix the drive–in speaker, and the chickie on the rollers can hook on the burger tray with ease. Of course this won't work because when she gets close to the red paint – looks like metallic candy–apple – she'll swoon for sure.

I did look at the new Ferrari California roadster. Like the '36 Ford it had a V–8, but cost $199,999.98 plus change. All the other – I mean all – the other folks looked too. They come in from wherever they come and the first thing they want to see is the Ferrari, before they go look at the weird Renaults or stolid Peugeots they might actually buy, unless they're riding around nearly free on the city's bikes. They were mobbing the Ferraris. All I remember about it was that it had to make do without Alfa's red, choosing to be cool instead of hot, hot, hot.

photo, electric smart, salon automobile Look at that electric Smart climb!

Then I checked out the Fiat 500. I have switched my allegiance back to the original 500. The new one is too plump. And the Abarth racing junk does not do anything for it – hey Fiat, take a look at Alfa! However, Fiat does have the biggest Fiat 500 on the planet, without wheels. I mean, they just couldn't come up with 45–inch wheels on time for this show. It was so big I'm surprised they weren't trying to flog timeshares or condos in it.

Then I walked around the Renault, Peugeot and Citröen stands, each the size of a football field, with steps up, balconies, private clubs, hostesses, down slopes – oh wow, some of those hostesses were wearing fancier duds than they are currently showing at the frock shows. When shooting the Abarth the bird was worried she messed up the photo of the car. No honey, you hadda be in it. You more racy than any old Abarth any day!

The hostesses and the Alfas, that was about it. I kept going but the crowds kept coming. It was hard to tell if there was anything worth looking at, at BMW, at Mercedes, at VW. The worst was Audi. From a balcony I couldn't see one new car. All I could see was folks. All the people that can afford Merc sedans are going for Audi's A3. Look kids, now you're gone, we got a pocket luxo wagon! None of that cheap looking Volkswagon GTI junk. And dads were wandering over to Skoda to get an ersatz A4 or a Passat on the cheap.

photo, 2 cv hermes, salon automobileConcept car – the 2 CV Hermés matches your scarf.

I got out of there dreaming about Alfa Romeo, hit the métro and rode over to Denfert and the Monoprix to get a grapefruit. The TV–news showed Sarko ignoring Angela, and there was DSK, our very own French guy at the IMF. He said this nonsense has got to stop or we'll all be in the merde. Tell that to Ford, and the guys from the factory that were hooting around the car show.

Dark Night for Freebies

After the TV–news I went down to Montparnasse, to the terrace beside the tower where some Nuit Blanche lights were set up, pointing at somewhere in the sky, bouncing off low clouds. The lights were in a shoulder–high maze full of people who like mazes with lights pointing at the sky. It was a pretty stunning experience for about a minute and a half. After 90 seconds I went to the other end of the terrace, overlooking the big place where Rennes hits the boulevard. It was Saturday night in Montparnasse, which is like Nuit Blanche 52 times a year. Like an Alfa that you can drive even when it's raining mud.

photo, sign, mini badge

The Astonishing Café Metropole Club

There was one folk, also a member, and a Waiter of the Week at the last meeting, to keep the secretary honest, regardless of temptation. The report was exquisite. Nothing made up, all true. The next Thursday that everything at the Café Metropole Club will be 100% new, will be on 9. October, two days after the Depression of '08. All members in any shape, class, form, 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 Waiter of the Week.

The ancient rumor that repetition here will end someday is stone aged. One real fact and three–thirds of a true rumor 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 can be refunded on principle. What I haven't spent on orange juice for the club's thirsty secretary is hardly bankable.

The Ex–Question of Schleswig–Holstein

photo, sign, fiat mirror

Some keen readers might have been thinking that it is appropriate to recall that it was today in 68 BC that Lucullus averted a rotten omen by beating Tigranes the Great of Armenia at the justly famous but largely forgotten Battle of Artaxata. The Romans, led by Lucius Licinius Lucullus, cleaned Armenian clocks with Iberian spearmen. King Mithridates VI of Pontus was involved, but how is unclear because it was so long ago. Who does not remember the death today in 877 of Charles the Bald, who was perhaps extremely hairy? Moving smartly along, this day in 1582 was skipped in Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain on account of the pesky Gregorian calendar. Skipping also the trials of Cosimo de' Medici let's visit 1790 when Johann Jacob Schweppe, a German watchmaker, began making Schweppes sodawater in London. Originally intended as a tropical medecine, the fizzy mixer has been famous since 1783 for some reason. This was just in time for the opening of the Moulin Rouge in 1889, by Joseph Oller, who must have done something right because it's still open. Today in 1976 also marks the end of the Cultural Revolution in China. Whew! It was time to make some money. While on this theme, let's not mention Elizabeth Taylor's wedding on this date in 1991 and instead savour a Quote of the Week from good old Gore Vidal who had his birthday three days ago. In 2004 he said, "Happily for the busy lunatics who rule over us, we are permanently the United States of Amnesia. We learn nothing because we remember nothing." There were also several celestial events on this day, for instance in 1995 when the star 51 Pegasi was discovered to have a planet orbiting it, proving once again that the earth was never flat. That's our little world, and part of the universe, folks!

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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