I don’t want to go. But I have to. And no, I am not making too big a deal of this.
Once more into the breach, dear friends. I’m going to Keep On Movin’, the Monday night dance party at the 5 Spot.
It’s terrifyingly cool. Just look at these people. Did you ever? GQ calls it “the most stylish party in America.”
I wonder if it would help to invent a character for myself. Tonight, I am the out-of-towner who is waiting for her friends to show up (they never do). I am the enigmatic observer who wields her camera lens against the aggressive pay-no-mind of the tragically hip. We could go deep…I am the one that all the rest of them have come to entertain. And if they fail, I will simply deprive them of my presence.
That would all be fine, if I didn’t really, really want to dance tonight.
It would be so very much easier to stay in, not to risk the moment-to-moment disappointment that comes from watching other people have the good time that you could have so much better.
“Is it possible no one will come up to me? Is it possible that I shall not dance among the foremost? Is it possible I shall not be noticed by all these men, who now don’t even seem to see me, but if they look at me, look with an expression as though they would say: ‘Ah! that’s not she, so it’s no use looking?’ “No, it cannot be!” she thought. “They must know how I long to dance, how well I dance, and how they would enjoy dancing with me.”¹
Oh, you want to know how it went?
Well, it’s a funny thing…
I found a parking space in the side street behind the back patio and proceeded to sit there for several minutes. You know how it sucks to stay up waiting for a late party to start, and then once you arrive you realize it’s unlikely to really be going in earnest for a whole ‘nother hour? Yeah, that. So I’m sitting in my car and spyglassing the folks who are smoking on the back patio in the red glow of neon, and thinking “This is going to suck ass and I’m just going to stay long enough to have a drink anyway and I wonder how convincing it would be if I sat back and sipped whiskey and looked like I’m the judge of what’s cool?”
And then, “Goddamit,” I thought. “All I want is to have fun with people. Like, be nice to them and have a good time with them. Who decided it had to be this complicated, when all any of us really want is to be nice and have a good time with each other?
“Why,” I thought, “can’t I just go in there and love people?” (You know what I mean–“love” in that αγαπη kind of way Christians are always spouting off about.)
Obvious reason why: because I’m too concerned with ensuring my own good times to appreciably concern myself with anyone else.
My Bible was lying on the passenger seat; I picked it up and started reading whatever my daily reading chart dictated for the day. I wasn’t looking for anything particular–I just felt like if I was going to break out of this desperation to be cool, it would have to start with owning the fact that I’m a big hopeless dork with a Bible dependency.
After some lugubrious stuff from Job and the prophet Ezekiel, I followed the chart to the book of 1 John. I’m not going to quote it all here–you can read it for yourself, if you want to know what it said. Suffice it to say that it galvanized my determination to go in there and love people if it killed me.
What, you might ask, would constitute loving them? That’s a fine question. But I wasn’t ready to think that far ahead. Only halfway up the block, I already felt my resolve wearing thin.
That’s where I was interrupted by two guys sitting with a guitar between them on the curb. “Help a starving artist?” one of them asked.
“Help you what?” I asked.
He looked away from me and down the road. “Get a drink?” he suggested.
The other one pointed at me. “Aren’t you that girl who hangs out with Wayne?”
“I don’t think so,” I said. “I don’t know anybody named Wayne.” To the other guy, who had resumed looking at me (whether in regard to the drink or to Wayne, I don’t know), I said “I’m headed to the 5 Spot. I’ll buy you a drink there, if you want one.”
(That part isn’t really pertinent to the story arc–it’s just what happened. Wayne, if you’re reading this, your friends could use a drink.)
It was only about 10.15pm by that time, and already the 5 Spot was a sardine tin. And while most of the people looked as tragically hip as I’d feared, the back of the bar was a circus of serious dancers who wore the effusive faces of my people, who don’t mind being obvious with their gladness.
I put my jacket down on a stool and sat on it. The bald guy sitting next to me goes, “What kind of dancing do you do to this music?”
“Swing dancing?” I shrugged. “I’m the girl–I just do whatever the lead tells me to do.”
And that, my friends, was that. I only stopped dancing long enough to visit the toilet a couple of times. I got invited to three other dance events the upcoming week, besides. And some girl with an amazing ‘fro, dancing in a crowd of friends, shook her head at me and said “You’re crazy” after one dance I had.
(I persist in assuming, given the source, that that meant something good.)
The situation at the 5 Spot stays pretty swing-centric (but very rhythm-and-bluesy swing) until midnight, when people have had enough to drink or whatever, at which point it deconstructs into a college-style dance party themed around Motown hits that everybody sings to. For a while, I lighted on some people to hang with–never introduced myself or anything, we just kind of all danced ensemble–but even after they splintered off, I stuck around and kept on movin’.
Not, at that point, because I had to. I wanted to.
Honestly, I haven’t felt that comfortable at a dance party since the last one Drew and Jenna hosted in their living room.
In conclusion, the most stylish party in America weren’t so very bad.