Paloma suggested to me the other day that I call The Drunken Frenchman. The Drunken Frenchman, a craggy-faced, disheveled fellow, was someone with whom we both worked at the record store where she and I met many years ago.
The Frenchman was also an integral component of a gang of us from that store who would head directly to our neighborhood bar following our shift. With respect to my knowledge of music, Frenchy might have been the straw that stirred the drink.
Yes, get several rounds into the evening at our local cantina and The Frenchman was likely to – with no relevance to the ongoing conversation – make a declaration such as – “Colonel Sanders! A great American.”
He would also mourn the end of the Cold War, a period when “We knew who the enemy was. We didn’t like them and they didn’t like us.”
But, The Frenchman – who was a good fifteen years older than the rest of us – had accumulated a frightening amount of knowledge of rock music (pre-1980 – that line of demarcation drawn when the saturation of Kansas, Styx, Journey and their ilk on radio drove him to abandon most hope for the music to come).
This knowledge would spill out of him with reckless abandon as the bar would reach closing time, supplemented with his own personal tales. He had drummed for one of those bands that come thisclose to breaking. He and his bandmates had befriended a, then, up-and-coming R.E.M.
At some point in the evening, The Frenchman would usually raise his index finger and remind us that, “I did something once.”
He never did divulge what “something” was. We simply knew that he had done it once.
Personally, I’m grateful on many levels that the secret was never revealed. The possibility of some kind of Crying Game moment aside, the mystery – the tradition – of not knowing was more compelling.
Paloma’s suggestion to contact The Drunken Frenchman held no allure to me. He was a side character – a very unique one, no doubt – and he’s served his purpose in my life.
I have no doubt that sharing a drink with him now would leave me feeling like I had seen some anemic remake of a classic movie.
With Will Farrell cast as the lead.
But, as a toast to The Drunken Frenchman, here are some bands of whom I know he would approve.