Last year at about this time, I was making my maiden voyage through Europe. Exactly halfway through my two-month-long trip, I was already plenty homesick, lonely and starving for some good ol'-fashioned Americana. My train ride from Barcelona to Nice brimmed with giddy college-age Yankees. Thrilled to finally be able to speak my native tongue, I struck up a conversation with a few of them. They knew of a cheap, quaint hotel near the train station, and cheerfully invited me to tag along. What did I have to lose?
"We heard about this cool place called Chez Wayne that has American food and live bands," one of the bronzed, J. Crew-ed trustafarians chirped. I'd left all my tapes way back in Amsterdam, so I was beyond ready to hear some music. "Okay, sounds great!" I said, without hesitation.
It didn't take long to see that I'd made a grave mistake in joining these kids. Their main passions involved "getting hammered," cooing about the Dave Matthews Band, and using the word "like" at any given chance. Me and Team Gold Card weren't just incompatible, we were barely of the same species.
Chez Wayne didn't offer any hope, either. It was a strange mishmash of sports bar, French bistro, and run-down nightclub. Our waiter informed us that the drink special of the night was two margaritas for the price of one. My friends exchanged high-fives. Margaritas on the French Riviera. Not exactly what I had in mind, but who was I to argue? We kept ordering them, and the waiter--under the pretense of a language barrier--kept bringing twice as many as we'd requested.
Just when I realized I was well on my way to being the drunkest I'd ever been, I also noticed the place had filled up. It also occurred to me that Chez Wayne had morphed into a jammin' club--they'd even begun charging a cover to get in. My hopes lifted. I thought, "Maybe this will turn out to be a good night after all!" I'd heard that Paris was the latest hotbed of hip dance music, so there was even a chance the band would be cool.
No such luck. The group took the stage, led by a woman who bore a frightening resemblance to the lead singer of Roxette. Their opening song was Kenny Loggins' theme from Footloose. My monied friends broke into squeals of glee. "Oh, what the hell," I told myself, "now is not the time to play the music snob."
We elbowed our way to the front of the showroom. I dizzily bobbed my head to a stream of '80s pop standards: Tommy Tutone's "Jenny" blurred into Loverboy's "On the Loose," which led to Katrina and the Waves' only hit, "Walking on Sunshine." The next thing I knew I was standing on the table, leading the audience participation segment of the night. To my horror, not only was I singing along to the poorly executed covers, I was beckoning others to join in. For a moment I wondered what had gotten into me, but I quickly squelched the thought, telling myself, "I don't care if it's uncool to be standing on the table in a French bar, waving my drink around like a conductor's baton and singing my off-key version of 'Rio.'" These weren't even the "cool" '80s songs, like those from Blondie or the Clash. Nope. Just one cheesy smash hit after another. If any of my friends from back home had wandered into the place, I'd never hear the end of it. Given my blind-drunk state, though, I'd probably have argued that they just didn't know a good time when they saw it.
I'd like to say that some of that carefree attitude has carried over into my sober life back here in Seattle. Unfortunately, I'm the same snob I've always been. Only now I've got a special, secret appreciation for the musical canon that came from the greed decade. Between you and me, that's some seriously good shit.