I went to a club recently, not knowing that it was a salsa dancing Mecca, playing only Latino music. I don’t really like the music that much; the songs all sound alike to me after a while, but hey at least it has a great beat and actual lyrics which I can’t understand since they’re in Spanish. Even though I took TWO YEARS of Latin in middle school, it is utterly worthless for Latin music. Some Spanish I know from song lyrics, mostly Santana and Ritchie Valens. For instance, “Oye Como Va,” I think means like “Oy vey.” Or “La bamba,” which means, “You have big cans.” Or “Amore,” which is when somebody hits you in the eye with a pizza, so I think it means assault in Spanish. I can understand the general gist of things, since Spanish is a romance language and I speak the International Language of Love. My native tongue by the way is red.
People come from far and wide to show off their dance moves. It’s nothing you don’t see Ahmad Bradshaw do on a weekly basis, but the difference is he often scores.
Some of the guys looked admittedly light around the loafer area, like they were filled with two-parts hydrogen and one-part helium. One guy spun around and pranced the length of the dance floor then vaporized into thin air. His partner was like, what the hell?
There were some other guys who actually danced slinkily but manly, and not too gayish. I always preferred Gene Kelly to Fred Astaire, who didn’t dance differently enough from Ginger Rogers for my liking.
My friend Wal is from some country with an “-istan” at the end of it, and he was dancing up a storm. He literally was, because all this fog came out of nowhere and I thought it was going to hail. The song ended and he looked winded, so I asked him if wanted me to get him an oxygen mask, and he said, “No thank you.”
I never for a moment considered that I should learn to dance this way. I picture myself spinning the wrong way with her hand firmly in mine, twisting the girl’s arm completely off. I drop it on the floor in horror, blood spewing all over the place, and somebody by mistake kicks it down the stairs where it gets into the revolving door and ends up outside, where a cat drags it to the curb and it falls down a storm drain. Meanwhile the girl is looking at me like I am a complete loser, and all I have is a disarming smile.
Sometimes couples who have been dancing this way for many years spin and turn as if they are on a track, like an expensive clock that plays music when it chimes. One couple dance so close I assumed one of his buttons was caught in her hair. Another guy took his girlfriend by the hair, whipped her in the air and snapped her like a damp gym towel.
One caballero had his partner turning so long he actually spun her into a cocoon. On the plus side she emerged a beautiful woman, but unfortunately during her metamorphosis she got a parking ticket.
Which reminds me they replaced all the parking meters in New York City with these “muni meters” which of course don’t take any money that goes clink. I don’t mind that but what I do mind is that at night I always have on contact lenses and I can’t read the menus. I don’t know how much money to put in because I can’t read my watch with my contacts in. My watch says either 7:03 or 12:35. But did I reset it for daylight savings time? In which case it’s either 8:05 or 20 of 1. I push a couple buttons and hope for the best.
Back inside the club I check out the sad dudes in the VIP area. I swear to god these people always look bereft, cordoned off behind velvet ropes. Four guys and a bottle of champagne chilling, waiting for someone to waste it on. They look like they wish they had thought to bring a deck of cards or something. Out of force of habit I get in line next to the velvet ropes in order to open a low-interest checking account.
I can see dancing supernovas going nuts on the floor. These are the ones that will burn brightly for a very short period of time. They will hit the wall fast, some quite literally. They will approach the hour of midnight like Cinderella, when their faces will start to fall like a Salvador Dali painting.
I order a cuubbrrrra libbrrrre, rolling my “r’s” in a very whitebread manner. A girl comes up to me and asks me if I’d like to dance. Sure. I put my drink down and warn her that I don’t know what I’m doing, which is a warning I use in just about every endeavor. I start dancing from side-to-side like I usually do, but she is dancing front-to-back and she puts a dent in my thigh with her ass. It is quickly ascertained that we are totally incompatible, like an octopus trying to teach a snake to ride a bicycle. An old guy with pomade in his hair gives me a dirty look and whisks her away like a dust devil. At this point I realize I have over-quandoed, somebody has taken my drink, and I just want to hear some Stones.
Incidentally, “Salsa” is a Cuban style of dancing popularized in the 1920s. It is characterized by three steps within a four-beat measure, the fourth beat observed with a kick or tap. That is the beat that is usually directed at my bad knee. One of the steps is usually a “break step,” which changes direction, often towards the bar. In Salsa the upper body remains stationary while the lower half is running around with who-knows-who, usually up to no good. Salsa differs from Meringue in that Salsa has no eggs in it.