Le Balto

May 31, 2002

There is a man on the sidewalk with a tall can of Heineken, and he lookes absolutely plastered. He keeps staring at people who walk by like he wants to ask for a cigarette, but he's too wasted to get the words out in time. He shambles over to the trio of guys at the next table and they wave him off. They're inside, but their windows are open and mine are closed; I'm in a little alcove with window doors blocking me on three sides.

The Boulevard de Magenta must be the noisiest street in town. Or maybe it's a Friday thing, or a Big Soccer Match thing. Every few seconds an apparently muffler-less motorcycle or group of motorcycles comes tearing through towards Republique, and it sounds like a chainsaw next to my ear. In between motorcycles are inevitably cars that have nothing better to do than honk repeatedly. Maybe we've won the first match of the World Cup, I don't know. Or maybe the whole world has just turned obnoxious. The man outside managed to get a cigarette, but he seems to be tied to the nearby tree with an invisible bungee cord, unable to leave the area.

There's a TV in here and it's broadcasting some kind of tennis event. It's very strange to listen to a tennis game. All you hear is a slow rhythmic clopping for a while as the ball hits the rackets and then people start clapping. There is a sunken area of the café to my right with four tables, all currently uninhabited except for a few green plastic Heineken ashtrays. I, on the other hand, have a clear glass ashtray, round with a square lip.

Hmmm. There seems to be a parade of people from Senegal going down the street honking horns and carrying lots of flags with green, yellow and red. Senegal was our opponent in the soccer match, so maybe that means we lost. "We" being France. Our friend with the Heineken joined the parade, even doing his part to help hold up one of the flags. I guess his bungee cord finally snapped.

The tables in this part of the café have impressionistic paintings on them. Mine has a nice country scene with a house on the left, I think, and a snow-capped mountain in the background. It's about as impressionist as you can get without being abstract, and the brush strokes are wide: blue, orange, and green. I'm fairly sure about the house and mountain, but everything else is pretty much up for grabs. On the table next to mine is a closeup of blue flowers with a yellow field behind and some farmhouses, a couple of tall trees, a large blue hill, and a bright mostly yellow sky. I'm sitting on a clay-colored couch and across from me are two cane wicker chairs with blue and white seats and backs. On the coffee cup and saucer are painted pink flowers with symmetrical green leaves. The cup held a larger than normal espresso, and the two sugar cubes I plunked into it didn't do much to assuage its heat. It was okay; I wasn't in any real hurry anyway.

It's a nice day and the server is setting up some tables outside. A woman who looks like she could be his mother is cleaning the place with a pushbroom. Outside, more honking and shouts of "Senegal!" I guess they did win.

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Le Balto
Metro: Gare de l'Est

Price of an expresso: 1.60 euros
Sugar: packet of 2 sugar cubes

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Copyright © 2003 David Sadegh.
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