We Began With Jokes

photo, group, bob, barney, rita, dana, connie, bill, jan From left, Bob, Barney, Rita, Dana, Connie, Bill and Jan, are the Group of the Week.

How Many EU Flag Stars?

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Thursday, 18. September:–  There are no bedroom apartments and there are four bedroom apartments for rent but there doesn't seem to be any standard civilian apartments for a guy who wants to live in the 14th arrondissement where he has lived nine years in peace if not prosperity. And that's a kick in the head – compared to six years ago when I was last on this quest when I was broke and had no notion of how I would pay rent if I found a place, this time I can buy and sell them with the snap of my little finger as quick as you can say, frites!

But of course my problems are not your problems. Your problems – the whole United States financial ball of twine coming unraveled – all those masters of the universe on Wall Street being tossed to the hungry wolves, joining the poor folks thrown out of their sub–prime housettes on the prairie – what? – you don't think they are in the same leaky rowboat without oars? Well, perhaps not. The TV–news shows folks walking out of granite and glass skyscrapers carrying brand–new cardboard boxes containing their pitiful belongings – iPods, Blackberries, DVD players, squash rackets, fold–up bicycles, oh, the list goes on and on. What they are not doing is sitting on their old tube–TVs in the front yard, if the sheriff hasn't confiscated it.

photo, white wine of the weekNot Barney's rosé of the week.

Really, my problem isn't like that. All I want is an unfurnished one–bedroom apartment. No secret code, no swimming pool, no air conditioning, no rooftop terrace with fronds, no garage. Since it's Paris I'm prepared to accept no closets, no elevator, no cave. All I need is a floor and walls and a couple of windows and a door with a lock. It that too much to ask? I don't even have a bird in a cage or any cat coughing up hairballs. I don't make much noise, except on movie night on Wednesdays. Yeah, okay, I can quit watching those Scorsese films with all the loud shooting and bad language. Anything you want.

Another thing – if at all possible I would like some heat, preferably some of that central heat. None of that mortgage–indexed juice from EDF or GDF. Please. Because we have been having winds from the north and northeast. The TV–weather people say it is coming from Spain but before it gets here it loops up to Scandinavia where it picks up a load of cold. Brrrrr. Unlikely but slightly true weather details follow the club report.

The We Began With Jokes of the Week Club Report

I will mention my métro ride towards the club meeting today because there is no wind underground and the métro trains have great disk brakes the size of family pizzas and when they come into a station the train guy jumps on the brakes and makes warm. It's a bit smelly but getting two degrees more than surface chill is worth it. I was just getting to enjoy it when a train arrived in less than a minute. Call it a brief thrill.

photo, croque monsieur, food of the week Croque Monsieur, Food of the Week.

Oh, I'm sorry. Do I go on about this every year? Just think, hacking away on this gig 13 years and every September, a good old moan about my cold toes. I don't know about you but when I think of it, it's disgusting! When I started this Europe was six countries and now it's 27 and my feet are still cold. They call it progress and I call it bunk.

And then the métro rolled into Odéon and when I got to the surface the sun was shining. It was shining over my bridge too and it was shining on the quai du Louvre and I was early so I leaned against a railing and tried to figure out if folks walking by were wearing any particular clothes, clothing that I could characterize in some way. Folks don't dress normal any more. See a guy in a suit with a white shirt and you might notice he has no tie but that's nothing compared to his white socks. I shouldn't say anything. Maybe he got laid off at the Bourse today.

Member Dana Shaw came along and settled onto the railing with me. The sun was still shining and the traffic was making a hellish roar but except for that it was peaceful. I forgot what we talked about because I didn't have my secretary head on yet. Before 3 pm I am not in my office.

photo, bob's guide, the face book Bob concocted his own guidebook.

Inside, in the café's grande salle we found some strangers in the club's area but they immediately leaped up and said they were members, some of them. Member Bill Fuller introduced us to Connie who is Mrs. Fuller. The Fullers used to live in Oregon but they now call Vancouver, Washington home. This is not the same as the other Vancouver. This is the Vancouver across the bridge from Portland, the one in Oregon. To fix it in mind, let's say it is the City of the Week.

As we were getting this all straightened out – sadly those other Vancouver folks went home on Tuesday – two more candidates for membership arrived. They were Rita Valley and Bob Keating, who said they were about to celebrate 20 years of not being married together. Everybody else leaped up and cheered, shook hands, slapped backs. Then they said they were from Bridgewater, Connecticut, which I checked later and discovered it also qualified as a City of the Week, so it is.

Member Jan Shaw came in as Dana was finding common towns in Connecticut and Massachusetts where he lived and taught, and where Rita and Bob lived and did art stuff, like sculpture, and Rita, installations. And I forgot to mention above that Bill said he was a retired wine guy, with dozens of trips to European wine spas on his odometer.

We began with jokes. Bill asked us if we wanted to hear a lame one. Politely we said okay. It was a lawyer joke that I wrote down but omitted the last, crucial, word. Without it, it's not funny. It's not only not the Joke of the Week, it's no joke. Then everybody took turns trying to spell the name of a celebrated glass blower. We were talking about speaking French, according to the official but incomplete notes.

photo, rita's obama button Rita's Obama button.

Panne d'essence was the next punch line. Then Bill told us about renting a canal barge and bringing along 40 mini bottles of Jack Daniels to hand out to lock keepers, and as it happened the first one was about 12 years old. Bill said he got rid of all of them. And then somebody accidently said, dogs.

Rita told us about her dog, a "Blabberdon" I think she said. Connie passed a camera to Bill to show us Emma, a dog he said was a 18 pound Papillion. He said Emma had been to "agility classes." Luckily at this very moment member Barney Kirchhoff showed up and took a seat, and ordered a glass of rosé from the Waiter of the Week. We all wanted to know why Barney wanted a rosé but were afraid to ask. He told us anyway. "Uniformly mediocre," he said.

photo, emma, camera dog, canon camera Say hello to Emma.

Bill mentioned the upcoming vendanges on Montmartre. Maybe he wanted us, the ones living here, to say that wine flowed in the streets. Instead I pointed out how narrow the streets are up there and how Parisians turn out en masse for free shows. I hope I didn't turn him off. Bill also mentioned the big storm we had in December of 1999. Ah, that was about Florida, wasn't it? Bill said, "The world has forgotten what wine is for." I'm not sure Barney agreed with that.

Everybody has noticed – except me – that the dollar has become worth more. This is very important if you are spending dollars in Europe where we have Euros. "It's turned around again!" Barney shouted. Rita and Bob's anniversary is, "When the basil gets nailed by the frost." Not exactly at this club meeting. All the basil around here was thriving.

When we got back inside after the Group Photo of the Week Dana remembered a couple of other changes here since their last visit in 2001. "There's less," he said, "Dogpoop." Bill said, "We walked two days before we saw any!" The final thing he noticed was the EU flags all over everywhere. There's either more of them around or it's because our president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is having his six–months EU presidency. Got the Russians out of Georgia, didn't he?

That's the club. From dog talk to diplomacy in the same paragraph. We paid the Waiter of the Week and went out in the sunshine.

Fit for the Sun King Weather

The weather on tonight's TV–news was strangely upbeat, without any actual warmth. No mucky stuff is sweeping in from the Atlantic. It's the some new wave that will not last forever but we should believe in it while we can. Here are the latest positive tidings:

photo, la corona, the clubhouse, for groups Our clean, well–lit clubhouse.

Friday is scheduled to have a morning and an afternoon and you might not be able to tell the difference. At noon on Friday it's likely that the morning sun will carry over into the afternoon. On Saturday the forecast is the same with mostly sunny all day, which on Sunday will frost a bit without actually becoming cloudy. Warm temperatures will not be a feature of the weekend. Don't expect more than 18, 19 and 18 degrees, about the same as we've been having. Do not pay any attention to folks walking around in flipflops wearing just t–shirts. They are certain people who do that all winter. They are, many of them, harmless.

About the Café Metropole Club

Crumble your fingers, squeeze your knuckle and tickle your rubber duck to click up some cool sessions of club meeting reports stashed somewhere deep in this thing. No audio waves other than hearing actual members' frequencies during club meetings. No video at all. Real lame with words, just verbs, nouns, and off–color adjectives. Real blurry photos. A clue about what we might have been doing today may help and can be found on the About the Café Metropole Club webpage.

graphic, club location map

Larry Walz In the Patazone

As unrehearsed as any day of the week and unusually, like today, a Thursday. Club meetings run from 15:00 to 17:00 on Thursdays. The metric times are equivalent to 3 to 5 pm around other unmetric places, while meetings are held right here. The next meeting will be on Thursday, 25. September in the afternoon. If you feel like saying something, it will be heard by the other members present if there are any and if they are listening, and sometimes they are, but not always.* Your other, absolutely true, stories are totally welcome too even if they are true.

Caution – should you have a personal desire to remain unfindable via the Web, be sure to inform the club's secretary that you prefer to be 404 – not found by Web search engines before becoming found. All you folks staying lost, all is forgiven.

*The above spell–checked report you may have just read was relatively sanitized since the confidential report last week because of today's original firsts, amazing quotes, Stuff of the Week, and other items never repeated before, of this average club gathering but unique as usual.

The café's location is:

Café–Tabac La Corona
2. Rue de l'Amiral de Coligny – or – 30. Quai du Louvre
Paris 1. Métro: Louvre–Rivoli, Pont–Neuf or Châtelet.
Every Thursday, from 15:00 to 17:00.
Next club meeting on Thursday, 25. September.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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