A comfortable place, roomy, high ceiling, international soft pop songs on the radio, including the unfortunate new version of Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart." I've just realized that this is the radio station I've been listening to at home most recently. Right now, John Lennon's "Woman" is playing, and it's a good day. The sun is shining at the moment, and despite the fact that there are a significant number of clouds in the sky, they seem more fat and jolly than anything else, though the wind might blow in something darker at any time. Outside my window has arrived one of those large groups of elementary school children that seem to be constantly traipsing about the streets of Paris for no apparent reason. Where are all these children going? On a field trip? Is their school divided among several locations, forcing them to cross busy intersections with minimal numbers of guardians just to get to their next classroom? At any rate, they're gone now.
The smooth table surface is a nice size and is painted light peach with a wood rim. The metal chairs are painted brick red, the paint worn off in spots, and have very dark purple seat and back cushions. My white espresso cup says "Segafredo Zanetti" on it, and there is an unopened red Segafredo Zanetti sugar tube lying next to it.
The music has gotten louder for some reason, just in time for Patrick Swayze's rendition of "She's Like The Wind."
There is a Jack-Bot pinball game here, its seductive silver she-robot tempting me to play. Farther away is an Acapulco bumper game which also tempts me in my desire to understand why anyone would put money into a machine that looks so absolutely boring. It looks like solitaire bingo. As I'm writing this, someone has decided to play a game and his machine of choice is . . . the Acapulco. I'm still not sure how it works, and I don't have a very good view, but it seems like he's just pulling the spring-loaded handle to start a ball off, and then just watching to see where the ball will end up. I can't think of anything less exciting. I guess the trick is knowing how far back to pull the spring so as to send the ball off at a certain speed, but the whole enterprise has yet to make much sense, unless there's some kind of secret jackpot payoff if the ball destinations end up forming a specific pattern. Someday I'll try it myself, but not today.
A young girl holding a shopping bag over her shoulder and a little cup with a picture of the Virgin Mary in it comes over to me, jiggling the change in her cup at me, but I shake my head. Earlier a man carrying a child went around the place handing out small xeroxed pieces of paper saying he had two kids and no job. He came back a little while later and got his piece of paper back from me, but nothing more. Now an old woman with a cane and a black scarf on her head is walking around with a little cup. Apparently she had some kind of time limit, only accosting a few people before leaving the place. Or maybe she was asked to leave, I'm not sure. I don't think I've ever not helped so many people in such a small period of time while sitting in a café! Though I'm sure sitting at an outside table across from the Gare du Nord would be worse, with all the baby-carrying beggar traffic that they have there.
Celine Dion (or a very good imitation) is finishing up a song in French. And now, a favorite of the French nostalgia stations, the Rolling Stones with "Angie."
Copyright © 2002 David Sadegh.
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