I feel old. In fact, right now I feel approximately 83 years old. But, that could be because I HAVEN’T SLEPT SINCE TUESDAY NIGHT.
For the record, today is Thursday.
Damn kids and their music.
I feel old because I’m in a student town. Every September, great tsunamic waves of fresh-faced, college-aged kids from around the world flood this city’s ancient streets for the defining experience of their educational career: The Year Abroad.
Montpellier’s bars vie for attention and semester-long loyalty. Grocery stores are museums of food, filled with the curious gazing at exotic wonders. Lines in stores get longer as the newly arrived learn how to distinguish euro coins from one another. The streets get louder, late into the night as roving bands of rowdy kids blow off steam from the day’s lessons.
And then there’s the music.
Reggae music is big among the French. I’m not sure why. But it’s not just Bob Marley’s greatest hits; I’m talking growling, snarling Reggaeton with serious beats and menacing hooks. I have a pet theory that the French, in their eternal quest for existential suffering, equate reggae and its offshoots with their carefully cultivated sense of repression borne from a history of riots and revolution. Let them eat cake, indeed. But whatever the reason, it’s all reggae, all the time.
That is, when it’s not rap. And again, none of that bouncy hip hop, no summertime-fun songs; only angry shouting about all manner of depravity need apply. And they listen to it for six, eight, 10 hours a day. How can you have someone shouting at you all day, every day like that?
(Having worked in the South Bronx for several years, I can’t help but laugh when I see middle class French kids doing their very best brooding imitation of black rap star fashion and attitude while sipping from a demitasse at an outdoor cafe. UR DOIN IT WRONG.)
But, back to the students, these cultural ambassadors from foreign lands.
Across the street from us is a student who blasts Spanish rap music while he stands on his balcony fondling his cell phone. He seems like a nice guy, but I don’t love having to keep my balcony doors closed to the Mediterranean breeze simply to hear Cal speak to me in the living room.
The guy upstairs from him patiently waits until he goes off to classes, and then comes the dance music portion of our day. Madonna really is the international gay language.
The girls next door to them play an enjoyable mix of seemingly random music – everything from the Beach Boys to the Chemical Brothers. They also seem to be wide awake on Sunday mornings, for reasons beyond my comprehension.
The guys above us and one apartment over don’t play their music loudly, but they seem to know all those students across the street, so we get to hear the delightful recounting of the previous night’s debauchery yelled across the echoey corridor of our street.
And then there are the Germans downstairs.
I think it’s just one kid – it’s the ground floor studio, and it opens into the back courtyard. I’ve seen student apartments in this town, so it’s no mystery why his place is party central. He’s got it set up with a small wet bar, a table and chairs, and he and his friends hang out and have a good time.
And I think he’s German – they seem to be speaking German, but it flows easier than “normal” German. Perhaps they are from the border areas along France or Italy?
The thing is, I really like those kids downstairs. They laugh a lot, and they seem to enjoy each other’s company. A couple of them have lunch every day in the back courtyard, on real plates with sliverware, something I know their moms would love to hear. They watch The Simpsons in English. They play a really great selection of music that keeps me company as I work back here all day. And they have learned the Montpellier “fight song,” doing their best to out-sing each other:
But I don’t think he realizes that his little piece of paradise is at the base of our building’s bedroom windows. And to make matters worse, there is no way for anyone in the building to knock on his door to let him know it – his front door is behind the locked gate of the inner courtyard.
So, all night last night and well into this morning, our building was treated to chorus after rousing chorus of
followed by gales of giggles. A bunch of 20-year-old guys being silly. Like I said, I really like them.
But your Auntie Miss E. needs some sleep now, kiddies. She gets ornery when she doesn’t get her beauty rest. Go on now, go play in the street.