We never had to say where or when. We just all knew that we’d converge at the huge McDonald’s on the Champs Elysees at 6pm on Friday nights. Usually the whole crew would show, sometimes one or two members would be missing, even more rarely someone would bring along a friend or a date.
We didn’t always eat there. Sometimes we made the trek down the brightly lit avenue, slaloming around gawking tourists, all the way to the bottom of the Champs for thin crust pizza at Pizzeria Uno. But most often the McDonald’s was our hang out of choice. Cheap dinner, plenty of space, and no one to care about a rowdy bunch of college kids.
Our Friday nights were as predictable as our meeting time and place: dinner, a movie, and a trip to Virgin Megastore. Virgin was the only store that had the double attraction of being open after the movie and offering enough variety to entertain our motley crew.
We knew that store inside out, from the movies on the top floor to the bookstore in the basement, including the very special (to me) but tiny shelf of books in English. The music was located in the middle. Two floors of tantalizing jewel cases containing CDs that each cost roughly two to three hours of hard earned babysitting money.
When you think of it in those terms you don’t buy lightly. How many diapers is that song worth? How much spit up this one? My sad CD collection showed how few albums made the cut. I was always too aware of how hard I had worked to earn those francs to blow them on an album that might not have more than a good song or two.
Instead I spent my cash on stacks of 2 song singles. Brilliant CDs containing the hits that most people were after when buying the full album anyway. These were moderately priced and didn’t feel like a crazy indulgence. I bought many.
The last of those Friday night excursions took place 10 years ago. That group of friends has long since disbanded. I keep tabs on some via sporadic emails and FaceBook. One is getting married this summer, another got married last fall. The others have been lost during the move, much like a favorite piece of furniture or trinket that for some inexplicable reason never makes it to your new home and that you remember at odd times.
All that’s left of those many outings is a dusty stack of random CD singles ranging from the Crash Test Dummies to Ricky Martin, from Chumbawamba to Celine Dion, a mortifying amount of Celine Dion, and an even more mortifying amount of Bryan Adams singles. I sit here and flip through the stack and wonder about the girl I used to be and wonder who I would be today if I hadn’t fallen in love with M and moved to the other side of the world. Would I still hang out with the same friends? Would I be married with two little french daughters? Would I really be any different or would I still be perplexed at the odd music choices I was making back in college?