What do the singer, Sade, and motorcross have in common? In a single night I criss-crossed the city of Barcelona on the back of a motorcycle to attend a motorcross event and then to see Sade live in concert at an uptown club named Studio 54 (or something like that).
When I returned to Spain to study abroad in 1986 I was still in contact with my homestay family from 1983. My homestay brother, having finished his compulsory military service, put me in contact with an army buddy whose name I cannot remember. I do remember the many kindnesses I received from him and his family during my six-month stay in Barcelona.
This kind friend of a friend picked me up on his motorcycle every Friday and Saturday night to go out with his girfriend and their friends. The evening would start with a pub crawl and progress to upscale discos and high-end clubs where we danced and sipped cocktails. Not once did I ever pay for a drink (I never paid a cover charge either because I was a young blonde American, still a rarity in 1986 Spain). A smoker back then, I probably supplied the group with Marlboro Red cigarettes. Still, their generosity towards me was unforgettable.
I learned the Catalonian language from this group of friends because they rarely spoke Castilian or English to me. Of course I would reply back in Castilian. But eventually I learned some key phrases in Catalonian which served me well. One occasion comes to mind: returning from the beach (Sitges) on the train I asked an incredibly handsome man my age whose uniform set off his green eyes, “Tens foc?” Like a gentleman, he lit my cigarette.
Recorded, techno-pop music played in the discotheques like it does today. The Sade concert in a crowded club was exceptional. More exceptional still was standing against the stage twelve feet from Elton John during a stadium performance. Spaniards went out to stadium rock concerts but rarely arrived on time. A longtime concert goer in the U.S., I arrived early. This is why I saw Supertramp from the first row too.
Rather than take me home, my motorcycle escort would drop me in the Plaça de Catalunya at seven or eight in the morning. The best falafel I have ever eaten was served from a small stand on the sidewalk. I would eat my falafel then jump on the metro to the Sagrada Familia, the neighborhood where I experienced my homestay from hell.