I'm sitting here in the man cave attempting to put words into an order that somewhat resembles my mother tongue.
The screen on my laptop is still a little out of focus; perhaps my contacts are dirty or it's just the inevitable afterbirth of being out, well, maybe just a little too late last night.
Almost twenty-four hours after the fact, there's a slight ringing in my right ear and my equilibrium is still a tad off. Maybe it was the half bottle of DayQuil that I chugged last night before heading out. That was a surefire college-tempered remedy used to combat a worsening cold/sinus infection/ebola thingy that's been bothering me since my Typhoid Mary son coughed directly on me the day after Christmas.
So I had a gig last night. After stuffing my pockets with cough drops, I made my way downtown to shoot Cleveland's hardest-working band, Nitebridge, at my favorite hangout. The music was loud. The drinks flowed freely.
The blondes were pantiless.
First of all, it's a difficult task to shoot a band when the entire dance floor is filled with elbow-to-elbow drunken revelers from within spitting distance of the lead singer back to the far wall, where the serious gropers were getting busy. I thought that hard-core groping and tongue-darting was a high school endeavor best left to the hallowed spaces of a school gym during a tenth grade Christmas mixer. I guess not; much of the back wall was filled with middle-aged people in the various stages of heavy petting. It looked like a late night Cinemax movie with much of the good stuff edited out.
I tried to flit through the crowd; I'd get a shot or two off before being elbowed by an overzealous drunk. My new lens almost took a direct hit from a PBR; after that close encounter I decided to stand off to the side and attempt to shoot from the relative safety of a perch inside the server station; my camera and I were wedged between the computer monitor and a bad-dye-job-dishwater blonde making out with some Mr. Clean-looking guy with a big pirate earring in his left ear and a shiny, recently-polished chrome dome.
As I moved away from the couple, trying to protect my camera body from her body, a gorgeous blonde, about five-foot-nine, wearing a little blue dress came into my peripheral vision. A guy sauntered up to her. They started dancing. He looked a little like an Israeli commando: short, sawed-off even, shaved head and a five o'clock shadow. Maybe, I thought, Mossad has a small presence here in Northeast Ohio?
So they started canoodling, getting closer and tighter with every song. If I had to rate this guy's performance I'd give him a solid B+; It was just after midnight and the floor-to-ceiling windows were now getting steamy from all the sweating and gyrating on the makeshift dance floor. As this couple moved in tandem with each other, it was only a matter of time before they'd be grabbing their coats and heading for the Holiday Inn Express right around the corner from the club. They were smiling. She whispered something into his ear. He pulled back, instantly laughing. I wondered what she whispered to him. Was it a simple joke? Her hotel room number? Ten minutes passed. They were getting very personal with each other when I witnessed something so monumentally stupid, so out of character for a man who is about to close the deal, that I could only laugh at this bush league wrinkle.
His hands, over several minutes, had gravitated towards her ass. Instead of resting them on each cheek and slowly caressing her butt, he did something that goes against every commonsensical I'm-about-to-get-laid-so-don't-do-anything-stupid-at-the-last-second errors. I'm at my perch, having been joined by a few others, and had a play-by-play. He put his hands on her ass...they started moving around in little circles in a whole Mr. Miyagi wax-on, wax-off motion. He grabbed her dress by its edges. Then he flipped it up quickly, exposing her itty-bitty-thong-covered-ass to about fifty people.
He then broke out laughing.
The half-drunk smile instantly left her face. She pursed her lips and squinted her eyes. By the look on her face she was embarrassed. I heard her say his name. "Steve, why would you do that?" He looked at her, trying to come up with a rational explanation as to why he would moon her lily-white ass to a whole crowd of unsuspecting people, other than it was funny to him at that exact moment. Steve looked at her in silence. They exchanged quiet words for a few moments and within a minute or two were dancing again. But there was a look of defeat on his face; his smile had now become something else.
Then, to my right there was a small disturbance on the dance floor. A pasty white dude strutted up to the band with a request. He pointed to his woman, a raven-haired beauty, and lulled her onto the hardwoods with a slight gesture of his index finger. She obeyed and they started to tear up the dance floor. I can honestly say that, since the human race took up dance as a form of deeply personal expression a few thousand years ago, there's never been a worse dancer.
This dude pulled out the textbook of cliched dance moves and had, within fifteen minutes, entertained every shitty one of them from the 1920s all the way through 1995 or so. He especially hovered around 1977 and displayed as many disco moves as his memory and hips could muster. I saw the Charleston mashed up with some Tony Manero, peppered with a dash of Fred Astaire and topped off with a smidgen of Martha Graham free-form reminiscent of an epileptic seizure that I had witnessed while walking down my high school hallway in the ninth grade.
He pulled out the pistols, shot them off, blew the smoking barrels and put them back into their imaginary holsters. He licked the tips of his fingers and stroked tight little circles around his nipples. He did Travolta's Saturday Night Fever pose, right hand and index finger triumphantly pointed into the rafters, twice in about five minutes. He ran his fingers through his hair and did the whole She's-a-Maniac routine from Flashdance.
I was mesmerized. I watched for a good twenty minutes as he owned that dance floor. It was the most amazing piece of performance art I'd ever witnessed. He was abysmally horrible on that floor; people were giggling from the sidelines while Dance Fever, with laser-pointed focus, boogied away the night.
Oblivious to anyone or anything around him, he danced on and on.
They danced until the band took a short break. He extended his right arm and offered the brunette his awaiting hand, sweating through the white button-downed shirt and, perhaps, memories of a disco fever that had enveloped him decades earlier. Their exit from the dance floor was very dramatic; it reminded me of Dracula summoning one of his vampire brides to his side.
As the band left the stage, the Mossad agent walked by me and smiled. I asked him how the night was ending. He mentioned that Miss Thong was his older sister's friend. Blondie was 38 years old.
And a virgin.
She, apparently, told his sister that she wanted to do something about that. Perhaps even on New Year's Eve.
He appeared to be in his late twenties, full of vigor, testosterone and a few too many Red Bulls and vodka molotovs. He told me that he was very close in sealing the deal that would have ended the night with her little blue dress on a hotel room floor. He so wanted to deflower a woman that liked little tiny thongs, blue dresses and an unhealthy grip on her overly-ripened hymen.
I laughed a little. I asked him why he flipped up her dress if it was a sure thing? At least he copped to a truth.
"Because I'm fucking stupid," he said. He shook his head twice, lowered it, and sulked with the knowledge that he truly was fucking stupid.
He smiled and shrugged his shoulders; we shook hands and he walked away, his conquest nowhere in sight.
A few minutes later I packed up my gear and waved goodbye to the band. It was close to two-thirty ay-em, they were still playing and I was having difficulty hearing much out of my right ear. A constant ringing had replaced most of its auditory functions a few hours earlier; a thirty-something blonde with a cardboard "Happy New Year" tiara had struck up conversation an hour earlier and, even though I was standing two feet from her, couldn't hear a word she was saying. She may very well have asked me if I wanted to hook up and ring in the new year with a bang, so to speak, and I wouldn't have understood that. Whenever she said something I just nodded in agreement and tossed back an appropriate "uh-huh," or "yeah!"
I shook the club owner's hand and wished him a happy new year; I walked towards the door and saw the blue dress virgin, feverishly talking to a guy in a white shirt and pink tie. Not the most masculine-looking dude, but perhaps he would do what Mossad couldn't. Good luck, I thought as I walked past, you may get a bounty almost four decades in the offing. She slipped him a tongue as the door closed behind me.
I realized how deaf I truly was as I made my way into the Cleveland night. Most sounds were muted as if I was wearing a pair of loose-fitting ear muffs. It was lightly snowing and a few people, sans winter coats, were huddled into small groups. I saw Dance Fever and his woman, standing under a street light, away from the curb and near the entry for the House of Blues. They broke out into dance again. There was no music except, perhaps, for the soundtrack in his mind. As I scurried across Euclid Avenue I took one last glance back at them.
Tripping the light fantastic, they ushered in the new year in their own specific way; oblivious to the rest of the world around them.
And I smiled.