La Maison Blanche

May 19, 2002

An itinerant black woman break-danced her way around me as I entered the place. She seems to be the neighborhood entertainer, singing and dancing her way around the outside tables and accosting various people on the sidewalk. She's left and shown up again, and I have a feeling she'll probably show up one more time before I leave.

The awning was stretched out when I came, which blocked much of my view and quite a bit of the light, but since I have been here the staff has retracted it, and now I can see the full façade of the Grae du Nord and much more sky. Right now the sky contains a great many ominous gray clouds, and it is a bit cold (the front of the café is wide open), but there is still blue on the edges and sun shining down in the middle of the street.

Beggar women with babies come by on a regular basis and ask people at the sidewalk tables for money, at least until the waiter verbally shoves them out of the vicinity. There must be dozens of these women around the train station, all with identically-sized infants. I'd like to follow one of them sometime to see where they all come from. This place is saturated with them.

The tables outside are round and green and are flanked by cane wicker chairs with green backs and seats. I'm sitting up a step on the inside at a square asphalt-colored table on a wooden chair with a maroon seat cushion. The coffee came with a packet of two sugar cubes, and the ashtray is plastic, odd-shaped, and says "Kronenbourg/Three centuries in the service of beer" (in French).

Outside there is a giant rotating top-heavy sign that shows the menu in four languages: German, French, Spanish and English.

The radio is playing "Starlight," and I do not know a catchier tune. The format of the station seems to be international Top 40 hits.

The train station has statues of kings and queens standing all over the top of it, and written many times in large stone letters is the word "Nord," in case anyone was confused, I guess. Behind me I hear the waiter say in French, "It's Sunday and we don't have any strawberries. I'm sorry."

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La Maison Blanche

Metro: Gare du Nord

 

Price of an expresso: 2.10 euros

Sugar: packet of 2 sugar cubes

 

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