Sunday, March 30, 2008

On Expat Bars, or "One of the Many Signs That I'm Getting Older and More Boring"

I woke up and looked at my watch. 11:45. Not bad for being up 'til 5:00AM.

Only it was actually 12:45, thanks to Daylight Savings Time kicking in overnight. This not only officially made me wake up in the early afternoon again (a psychological phenomenon that makes me feel I've wasted the day), but also stymied my travel plans last night. Although I caught my first leg of the Métro trip home from Odéon before the 2:15AM cut off, by the time I was to transfer at Châtelet, it was technically 3:00AM, and woe be to anyone who thinks that a Métro driver will work one minute beyond their posted time.

So I had a nice walk home, occasionally shoving through a crowd of Paris Saint-Germain supporters out celebrating their team's win in the French Ligue championship cup. (Thank you, Ronan, for the correction!)

Of course, I had a different championship on my mind. I'd spent the evening holed up at The Moosehead, a Canadian bar in the 5th arrondissement that has NASN (North American Sports Network), and hence, the NCAA basketball tournament. Over the course of three miserable hours, I got to watch the pre-game show, the same commercials over and over (just like back home!), and UCLA handily beat Xavier for a berth in the Final Four.

Why miserable?

Because I hate expat bars.

Don't get me wrong. They're great places to get otherwise unattainable food (buffalo wings here, black pudding in the US, etc.), drink giant import beers on tap, and watch sports that are a big deal in their home countries. Were it not for expat bars, I wouldn't have been able to catch a previous NCAA Final Four in London, the last FIFA World Cup in the surprisingly soccer-averse Dominican Republic, or any of the Rugby World Cup back at home in San Francisco.

But come weekends, expat bars serve as unabashed meat markets. Back in the States, a club night known as French Tuesday is a popular haunt for Gaullic expats with international business cred... and the gold-digging women who love them. The craic at a good Irish pub is destroyed on Friday and Saturday nights by guys and gals doing Irish car bombs with their ears perked for any hint of a seductive brogue to take home and notch another flag in the bedpost. Here, you'll have groups of local dudes leering and seeking out the first jolie anglo-saxonne on the verge of a tequila blackout.

Again, I don't really have a problem with this. It's a worldwide tradition, and I myself can't deny the pleasures of a drunken snog with a veritable United Nations of girls met in foreigner-strewn bars in Sydney, Dublin, Barcelona, Prague, Costa Rica – you get the picture. If you're young and single - or just acting like it - there are few better places to hook up with others of the same mindset. Shoot a shot. Down a beer. Rinse and repeat 'til you've got your "I'm actually here on a diplomatic mission..." spiel down.

And as much as I appreciate this interpersonal dynamic, I'm older and married now. Not that I'm opposed to huge draft beers (I got drunk for less than 20€! YES!), hot drunk co-eds dancing on the table when "Billie Jean" comes on, or the ego-boost of hearing "Ooh, that guys' cute. And he's alone." But like millions of men around the world... I just want to watch the game.

And that's precisely what I did. I sampled The Moosehead's various beers, kept my eye on the flatscreen, and read the English-language classifieds in FUSAC magazine during all those insufferable media timeouts, ensuring that no popped collar, Hollister-sporting exchange student would "Hey bro!" me. And with the same workman-like efficiency of Coach Ben Howland's defense, I got up, put on my coat, and walked out as the final buzzer sounded. UCLA 76-57 Xavier.

I came home a little after 3:00 to find that my 30-something neighbors were having a party. Until 5:00, the music was still cranking, guests were still coming in and out, and the scent of booze, cigarettes, and various fried hors d'oeuvres were in the air.

Once college basketball is over, I'm gonna have to see if I can get in on that scene.


  1. PSG won France League Cup, not championship, they're 19th (over 20) in the championship ;o)

  2. Thanks for the tip! Correction forthcoming :)