lundi 5 mai 2008

The land that 1990 forgot

Last Thursday was a public holiday here in France (so is next Thursday and the Monday after that: it’s not really that we have so many, it’s that they come in bunches) and like many people here, we took Friday off as a “pont” (bridge) and took a quick trip out of town. We certainly needed a little change of scenery. We found a good deal with flights and hotel to Munich, so there we went.

First impressions: I have to say that Munich seems like a great “guys” destination: the sort of place you’d go for a stag weekend. The city is most famous for beer and cars. These last four days I have been eating a LOT of swine, drinking a LOT of beer and hauling a LOT of ass on the autobahn. (Well: as much ass as one can realistically haul in an Opel Corsa). My overgrown boy’s heart feels content. I fear karma for this trip will be that next long weekend we’ll go someplace like Milan where I’ll have to look at shoes and handbags all weekend.

On Friday we had a rental car and drove around the Tyrolean alps and visited Innsbruck as well as the fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein (only saw it from the outside, though, as the lines were worse than Disneyland). The alpine scenery on a cloudless day really was so stunning that it was kitsch. There were even flowery springtime meadows serving as foreground to the snow capped peaks crowned by a deep blue sky. If you saw a picture of what we were seeing hanging on somebody’s living room wall, you’d cringe. I almost felt embarrassed taking pictures. See what I mean?

Throughout our trip, Maki began to notice and point out lots of people with real 1980’s style hairdos. Women with big puffy hairspray ‘dos and men with rawkin blond mullet-type thingies or whatever they’re called. As we drove around on Friday, I realized that it isn’t just the local hairstyles that are stuck in the 80’s, but the local radio stations, too. A scan of the airwaves gave one the choice between Spandau Ballet, the Culture Club, Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, and even Debbie-flipping-Gibson (I don’t think I’ve even heard her name uttered since I was in high school) with the only variety offered by the occasional station playing the real “oldies” from the 1970’s. Can I say, they LOVE Boney M over in Deutschland. Yes, Boney M. Rah-rah Rasputin. I bet the mere mention of their name is as much of a blast from the past for you as it was for me. Oh, and I can inform you that Falco (Rock me Amadeus) is
firmly entrenched in the pantheon of Austria’s national heroes. He’s better known and loved over there than the Terminator Ah-nuld himself.

As if that wasn’t enough, I started to notice a truly 80’s flashback phenomenon everywhere: punks. No, I don’t mean Goths or Emos, I’m talking real-live actual punks, like with brightly colored Mohawks, leather jackets, Doc Martens and pierced noses. Yes, the sort of punks that used to roam the streets of London before 1989 or whenever it was that punks magically morphed into Goths and Emos (and relocated to suburban shopping malls) in the rest of the civilized world. The really interesting thing is that most of these punks were not aging bitter-enders trying to hold on to the remnants of their youthful rebellion. No, these were actually young kids: teenagers. Most of them probably weren’t even alive during punk’s heyday.

We didn’t get the impression that this was some kind of retro revival, either. Maki did a year abroad in Germany when she was a college student and she seems to recall a penchant for 1980’s fashion even back then. No, it’s more like the 80’s just never really ended in Germany and Austria. I can’t really explain this phenomenon. Maybe their civilization peaked sometime around 1987 and they’re trying to hold on to that vibe for as long as they can, kind of like those hippies in Berkeley who never quite came to terms with the passing of the 60’s. The end result of our trip is that I need to detox and diet for the next week or two, and I have a sudden urge to download random crappy music to my IPod (…I know this much is TRUE, oo-oo-oo-ooooooo)

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