This series of photos is unfortunate in so many ways. First there is the fact that my overexposed sister Suzanne and I, along with our bad 80’s perms, essentially block out and overshadow the Eiffel Tower. Then, we are wearing some pretty atrocious coats. Actually, I’m really the one who is wearing a rejected carpet remnant.
What is it with Europe fawning over David Hasselhoff? He was HUGE there in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Seriously. The guy actually sang as the headliner at the Berlin Wall on New Year’s Eve in 1989. Perhaps Germany brought “The Hoff” in to provide some comic relief after all the turmoil, tragedy and strife the wall had brought since 1961.
But no. The Germans were serious. Stationed on a crane overlooking the wall, Hasselhoff performed the song, “Looking for Freedom,” which had dominated the pop charts in Germany earlier that year. The Hoff wore a piano keyboard scarf and a jacket blinking with lights. Yep. He did. The Light Bright jacket actually took attention away from the sledgehammered, chipped, chiseled up and nearly demolished wall.
Frankly, this news event should not have been that surprising to me since the Hasselhoff had captivated Paris two years before in July 1987, and I was a witness to the phenomenon. If an American can create a French Frenzy well, then what’s to stop him from playing in a prelude to the unification of Germany. It’s almost like Hell freezing over, right?
Two years earlier…
After saving money for a year, my friend Debbie and I traveled through Europe on our own. France was definitely a big part of the itinerary. We couldn’t wait to experience Paris, The City of Lights.
Debbie was fluent in French and while I didn’t know the language, I would ask her to tell me how to say various phrases, and I would blunder my way through them. Trying to blend in, despite the language barrier, I wanted to be French while I was in Paris that summer.
Both my friend Debbie and I were gripping Ed’s sweater sleeves. Then one minute later, still holding one of the sleeves, I was six feet from the rest of the sweater that was tied around Ed’s waist. I could barely see him and Lanny with a mass of people stampeding in between us. My feet were not touching the ground, but I was surging forward steadily with the throng. I looked around for Debbie.
In the meantime, shrieks of panic — in freaked out French — pierced the hum of the crowd (somehow even panicked French sounds beautiful).
A few feet over, a girl emerged upwards from the throng almost like she was levitating. Her friends were trying to lift her up for air. The girl was hysterical, shaking her hair and convulsing. Next, someone actually doused her with a bottle of water to calm her down.
Not long ago, I was a substitute teacher for a high school French class. Right away, I confessed to the students that my knowledge of French was very limited. Basically, it consists of pleasantries, “petit déjeuner” (“breakfast”) and “Où est Jim Morrison?” (“Where is Jim Morrison?”)
My admission was met with confused looks, and they asked, “Who is Jim Morrison?”
“Jim Morrison? You know, the lead singer of The Doors…The Lizard King…sound familiar?” Blank looks. Maybe song lyrics would work. “You know, ‘Come on baby, light my fire?’ That’s a song, by the way, I don’t really want to light your fire.” I tried to sing the refrain for them.
More looks that said, “Wow, CRAZY sub. We wish we had Mrs. Johnson right now.”
There’s a reason college students and budget travelers go “backpacking” and not “suitcasing.” Big suitcases without wheels are awkward…very awkward —especially when you are running through the Paris metro trying, ultimately, to get to Gare de Lyon to make it to France’s fastest train, the TGV.
“Well, I know fromage means cheese,” my mom stated as she, my dad, sister and I tried to read a menu at a restaurant in Paris. The menu, understandably, was completely in French. None of us could speak the language, but my mom could recognize some words.
“I’m not sure why it’s listed in the earlier part of the menu. Usually, in France, cheese is served as dessert,” she wondered. Oh, well — whether at the front or the back of the menu, cheese was a great start. How could you go wrong with cheese?
“I’m also not sure what the phrase after fromage means,” my mom added. Our waiter came by and waited patiently as we stumbled through our order. Ultimately, we felt reassured that, at least, cheese would arrive.
By the way, the phrase on the menu after “fromage” was “de tete.” We would find out later the translation was “of head.” We were ordering head cheese. Basically, flesh and other bits from the head of a farm animal set in a jellied mold.