Monday, May 19, 2014

One step

Ran into one of my salsa brothers, Paulito, at the club last week.  When I recognized him, I realized I hadn’t seen him in a while, probably since the first of the year.  He looked paler and thinner than I remembered.  He smiled and waved, and came over to chat.  I asked how he was, and where had he been.  With slightly stumbling speech, he told me he had fractured his skull in an accident back in January.  Taken aback, I asked what happened.  Come to find out, he had been drinking after work with some co-workers on a Friday night, as they usually did.  When it came time to go, he walked down a grassy hill, half-gassed, and as he approached the bottom, he slipped on wet grass.  He fell backwards and his head bounced off the concrete sidewalk like a ripe cantaloupe.  He got back to his feet, and walked about a half a mile before collapsing.  He woke up several days later in Intensive Care, with a neck brace, a splitting headache, and no memory of how he got there.  After two weeks laying on his back immobilized in the hospital, they released him.  He said he had lost his sense of smell.  Apparently, the impact to the rear of his head damaged, if not severed, the olfactory nerve.  The doctors were non-committal as to whether it would ever return.  He also had difficulty with word finding,  typical for head injuries.  I hope he'll be ok.  He told me he quit drinking for two months after the accident, but when I saw him later that night, I couldn’t help noticing he was getting his drank on.   Makes you wonder about the value of drinking.  

As Robin Williams famously said, describing his life as an alcoholic, "You would do things where even the Devil would say:  'Dude...' ".

Saturday, May 10, 2014

O.C. / D.C.

                                52 Clubs in 52 Days.

I finally stopped my salsa binge at fifty-two clubs in fifty-two days.  Day fifty three offered up a cold and rainy Saturday night, with only Gloria's Downtown open.  I just did not want to park and walk in the rain. I said  "Waaah, I don't wanna go.  Do I have to?"  The Voices told me, no, 52 was enough, so I stayed home.  The fever broke, and since then I've gone back to my regular routine of dancing four nights a week.

Going out seven nights a week for more than seven weeks in a row turned out to be very difficult at first.  I initially committed to 30 clubs in 30 days, just to put pressure on myself in order to make sure I kept as my word.  At the end of the month, with the pressure off, I just continued on, raising the bar for the next fool.  At one point, I told Mario about my binge. He said he could never do that. He looked puzzled, and then the light came on. 

"Do you have a girlfriend?" he asked. 

 "No" I said. 

"Well, no wonder why, you can have all the fun you want."

Going out night after night provided me with time to observe the goings-on around me.  It also allowed me go to venues I might not have attended otherwise, as most clubs only have salsa on certain nights, and if one doesn't go on those nights, you miss out on their scene.

On Monday nights, Gustavo Simplis presents Tango Night at Opa's, an intimate coffee and wine bar on South Lamar.  Gustavo, passionately devoted to tango, uses free classes around town, called practicas, to drum up business for his school at Esquina Tango in East Austin.  Tango, more than 150 years old, has evolved a lot of tradition around the dance.   A milonga, or tango dance, denotes a social event encompassing codigos, or specific traditions.  These codigos include dancing a tanda with one partner.  A tanda is a group of four tango songs, usually by the same orchestra.  Tandas are separated by a cortina, a 60 second snippet of a song not of the tango genre, during which the dancers should change partners.    Another codigo dictates one should practice only at a practica, never at a milonga. 

At any rate, one Monday night that I have since dubbed "Last Tango in Austin",  I danced with Dora at the milonga.  As we talked, unbeknownst to us, the tanda ended, and a cortina began.  We continued to dance while we chatted.  A man came over to us, apparently with the Tango Police, and told us to stop dancing, and to change partners.  Not wanting to cause a scene, we complied.  Still, we found this disconcerting.  I'm not sure I want that much tradition interfering with my dance.  Tango is an acquired taste, and I don't seem to have the discerning palate necessary to enjoy it fully.  Maybe when I'm older.

Tuesday nights found me at Bachata Night with Favian and Cynthia at the Loft on Congress. They are as passionate about bachata as Gustavo is about tango. They too hold classes in the hours before the social dancing begins.  Aptly named, the Loft describes a converted apartment in a second story walk-up.  Small and crowded also describe it well.  I tell newcomers to be careful, because Bachata is a sensual dance,  and dancing bachata can lead to pregnancy.

Pedro's Place on Guadalupe hosts salsa on Wednesday nights.  An old building, the second story ballroom has a well-used wooden floor.  A funky, long, narrow room, with the band at one end, and the bar at the other, Pedro's Place gets unbearably hot in the summertime.

La Mona Loca plays salsa, merengue, cumbia, and the occasional bachata and cha cha cha.  The band has one speed: Fast.  If you are not ready to pull out all the stops, and dance as fast as you can for as long as you can, don't go.  Come ready to sweat if you do go.  La Mona Loca is not beginner friendly, and Wednesday night at Pedro's Place seems to attract every professional dancer in Austin.  Jose Santoyo teaches a progressive salsa class at Pedro's Place on Wednesday night.  Jose is, in my opinion, the finest male lead in Austin, and he has extensive teaching experience as well.  If you have been dancing for a while, and are ready to lift your dance to your next level, take his class.

Thursday nights belongs to Latin Night at Dallas Nite Club on Burnet Road.  Bill, the owner, reserves a front row, ringside table for me every Latin Night.  Friends quickly fill the open seats, with eight or ten pairs of street shoes under the table by eleven o'clock.  Dallas has a large, polished, wooden dance floor, perfect for dancing salsa.  Combine that with hundreds of accomplished salsa partners, and you have salsa heaven every week in Austin.  If you go early, Robbie Sky teaches an intermediate salsa class.  Be sure and watch for her patented booty roll (it's like a tootsie roll, only sweeter).

Friday nights has two venues from which to choose.  The two Glorias, Downtown and at the Domain, are plush, fancy spots, perfect for the beautiful people to see and be seen.  However, the non-slip, safety concrete dance floors do not lend themselves to dancing.  The Glorias are more for meet and greet and eat than dancing. 

Saturday nights are similar to Friday nights, in that Glorias Downtown has a live band and a difficult floor.  Once a month, you have The Austin Allstars Latin Social at Go Dance South in Westgate Mall.  They have veteran DJ's playing perfect music, perfect dance floors, and feature multiple dance genres to keep you interested.  One room spins salsa and cha cha cha.  A second room spins bachata and kizumba.  When I venture into the bachata/kizumba room, I'm always greeted with the feeling I caught the lot of them masturbating, especially the Ki Zombies.  Kizumba, born in Angola back in the '80s, is the word used in the Kimbundu language for the yoga pose "Two Dogs Fucking".   

Sunday nights find me back at Dallas Nite Club for more salsa.  Fewer people come out on a Sunday night,  leaving more room to dance.  There is no shortage of good dancers, though.  One Sunday night at DNC, I sat at one table, and Unica sat at the next table with three of her admirers. A bachata came on, and I asked her to dance. We had fun, doing our usual thing. With the song over, we returned to our tables, hand in hand. A short while later, two forty-something ladies were leaving when they stopped by Unica’s table to tell her how beautiful she looked during our recent dance. 

She pointed at me, and said “Well, Robert was leading,” but they waved that off and said she looked great. 

After they left, I went over to Unica and said “See, I told you. We keep dancing together like that, and people will think we’re married.” 

She threw her head back and laughed, and said   “If we keep sitting at separate tables, they’ll know we’re married”.

See you on the dance floor.