Just Above Sunset
July 30, 2006 - Oasis - the Last Sortie

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Our Man in Paris is Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis. Like most Parisians - he is one now - he is about to leave for the month of August. And it seems his leaving is coming none too soon, as it is becoming very strange there.

PARIS, Saturday, July 29 - It is unbelievable how many Parisians leave town on each 'grand depart' weekend and how many are left behind. Tonight's TV-news was saying that there were traffic jams totaling 650 kilometres today. It's like there are a zillion crazies out there driving through frying France rather than taking the air-conditioned super fast ultra high-speed trains, which, in fact, another zillion are taking.


After having four or six consecutive 'biggest' grands departs since late June, this weekend's is the mother of them all with the Julyistas making their big return, so they are crisscrossing with the departing Augustas. These are the true French vacationers, the ones who used to buzz off for five or six weeks every year in August, more or less causing the country to close down. Those were the days; in the past, alas.


I shouldn't be too quick. Last week I lost three bakeries out of six. One was a favorite, and another favorite will close on Monday for a month. Last year this caused me a lot of cheerless walking an extra 250 metres for strange bread. Although less than it used to be, random closings make August a month of high adventure, a month of search for bread, cigarettes, girlfriends, insurance agents and good pizza.


It is not a total hard-times zone here. Uncle Den-Den, for example, goes to Italian comedies being shown regularly at the cinémathèque in the afternoons, and at nights he's been going to Russian tragedies at the Commie cinéma neat Saint-Sulpice. He said he called Oleg in Kiev and asked him what he should see. And cafés don't close, not all of them, so he is out there on the terraces under the stars with his balloon of chilled red wine wearing a hopeful attitude for company.


Our heatwave took the weekend off. I was dubious with the weather forecast I concocted on Thursday, predicting moderate temperatures of 26 degrees. Around noon today it was perfect, maybe even 26, and it felt great. All the windows open, blue sky outside, and just right inside with or without clothing.


Maybe I was fooling around too long, because by the time I lurched out the door there were some clouds floating around. But it still felt just... temperate, just until I dumped down into the métro. Down there it was a bit steamy and when it climbed out the hole after Pasteur to roll overhead to Passy, it failed to improve.


At Trocadéro, to see the bathers in the forbidden pool, sunshine was on and off but mostly on. Not quite enough to force mass immersion. Disappointing after the water jets at André Citroën on Wednesday when it was 36. That was the 36 that was hotter than the 37 the week before. Before the month is over we've had the hottest July in 50 years, said the TV-news.


On the human rights platform between the halves of the Chaillot Palace hip-hop kids in the shade had a big audience of folks who hadn't bothered to leave town. Or maybe they were folks who had left other towns to be in this one where hip-hop kids put on free shows because most of these hayseeds are too timid to toss loot into the pot.


The other usual thousand people were taking photos of their loved ones. Have you noticed how everybody has a camera now, or a telephone? Too bad film missed the boat. What's Kodak stock selling for these days? But what's even odder - have you noticed that a lot of these people with cameras or photo-phones are perfectly dressed for downtown Kabul or Tehran? Was I asleep for 20 years again?


Does Bush know that folks are finding peace and democracy by moving here instead of waiting for the United States to supply it there? If this keeps up there won't be anybody voting in those places but scraggy goats. They probably won't even notice that the voting machines don't work.


And speaking of high-tech, as far as I can gather the only people upset about the Tour de France dope thing are the racing organization, the sports media and Floyd Landis. Everybody else had a great Tour de France this year and we are all kind of annoyed that this dope business has come up. I mean - look at Floyd! Does he look like a dope fiend? He doesn't even own a TV. And somebody should tell bigmouth Lance Armstrong to shut up.


Meanwhile, back in Boggleville, there were a few paddlers in the forbidden pool, nothing special until this dude came sloshing along wearing jumbo Pampers, carrying some sort of plastic rattle. This got some older teens pretty excited. They all seemed to have 1000 euro cameras - yeah, there were some phones too - and they were walking along the shore, I guess it is, snap snapping away. I thought it might be some sort of hazing which is not quite legal in France if sado-mado is used, but he seemed to be a pure free soul. He did a whole tour of the big pool. Maybe he was collecting for Lebanon.


The weather not being overly oppressive, the usual 2000 folks were standing in orderly but long lines to ride up the Tour Eiffel, being watched by members of the pickpockets syndicate, being watched by the secret police disguised as secret police. I always avoid looking at these people, the civilians. I feel embarrassed for them. After all you can tilt your head back and see where they're going; so why bother? Just one of the world's several wonders, although quite a bit more airy than the Pyramids.


From beneath the tower I could see a blue wall at the opposite end of the Champ de Mars, so I decided to skip walking back uphill to the métro, to go to Concorde, and check it out. Along the way, a long way in fact, I saw more of these ladies dressed head-to-foot for the orient, and some of them were sitting around too. Could it be that they are poor and the free Champ de Mars would be what they sit on at home if it had grass on it?


Did I say along the way? About at the right spot there's a café with parasols under some trees, sort of a cabin affair, with no defined area. The road has no curb and there is no sidewalk, but it has tidy dirt underfoot and looks like a cool oasis. It looks like the kind of café a million drivers are driving 650 kilometres to get to today. Don't tell them it's right here and there's a free table.


After another day and a half tramping I got to the blue wall. But half a day earlier I heard it going boom boom boom. Up close it was a false front hiding a rickety grandstand, with rat-like entries up stairs. At the top, three sides were full of - could it be? - yes, beach volley-ball fans! There was a court on what looked like sand - as in beach - some stray grains of Paris-Plage? - and there was some sort of bigwig thing with a chalet roof and a dozen brightly-colored flags, with the Ecole Militaire behind.


This otto had a muscular sound system, and an amplified guy with a loud voice, and there were what looked like two beach hotties. Maybe a sports team from the Israeli Defense Forces. They didn't look flabby. A guy batted the ball at them and they slammed it back, and he missed it and then walked off the court in a sulk. The other guy with the microphone was shouting bah blah blah and all these decent-looking folks in the audience suddenly stuck up these red rubbery things - um, bundles of chemical sausages? Sponsor is the Rancid Pork Corporation?


It looked like the kind of deal where the sponsor owns the TV cameras and everybody else is unpaid extras. Mind you they didn't look exploited, but those sausage things looked right kinky. I didn't bother to sit in case I was handed one. There were easily several thousand in the audience - can Paris not be the world's capital for free shows, gay techno parades, patriotic displays, fake beaches, mass demonstrations, roller randos, marathons, and random movie shoots? Does any work ever get done?


Far be it from me to claim personal industry. The temperature had climbed to 30 degrees and it was sticky. I came out today for one decent photo of, preferably a cool hottie with a cunning body, sloshing gaily around in Trocadéro's pool, and there I was, empty handed. There's no bikini of the week in this. The jets on Wednesday were better, but jeez, that was a cooker.


If you've read this far you know that I should go on holidays, take my vacation. My combustive juice has gone flat, lost its octane. But you know, I know this too. I reckoned, one last sortie, who knows? So I lost, so what? Next stop, next week, Water Taxi Beach in Queens. And don't bother, ha ha, writing to me about power failures. Don't need none at Water Taxi Beach, the cheapest Paris-Plage in the world. It has all-day happy hour, right in the naked city. To hell with bakeries for a month!

The Oasis - "About at the right spot there's a café with parasols under some trees, sort of a cabin affair, with no defined area. The road has no curb and there is no sidewalk, but it has tidy dirt underfoot and looks like a cool oasis."

Paris oasis -

Beach volleyball in Paris?

Beach volleyball in Paris -

The man in Pampers in Paris -

The man in Pampers in Paris -

The man in Pampers in Paris -

Paris bull -

Paris bull -

Text and Photos Copyright © 2006 - Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis

Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik

The inclusion of any text from others is quotation for the purpose of illustration and commentary, as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law.  See the Legal Notice Regarding Fair Use for the relevant citation.
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