This morning I went down to my car to bring up the boxes of belongings I had picked up during my trip. I was looking for that soft throw blanket I had packed away. As I walked through the courtyard in shorts and a t-shirt, the sky was a mighty blue, the leaves were green and fluttering gently in a rather cool breeze, and the air smelled fresh and sweet. I can feel it. Christmas is coming.
I have always been a lover of dance. I was the one who borrowed dvds of ballet performances from the library to watch on the weekends, the first to sign up for dances bretonnes at the lycée and the quickest to pick up the steps, the one who hunted for the Fest Noz fliers, and the one who calls up the others for Sunday night salsa at Havanna. I especially love the kinds of dances that require you to understand something about how they work and how one works with another in order to dance them well (as opposed to individual freestyle jiggling such as can be found in hip-hop).
I took up salsa this past year by chance. I was invited to a salsa club only five minutes away from my flat back in December, and from then on, I used to go fairly regularly and it has become a part of my life.
Which was why I decided to venture out into the big valley of silicon last Thursday evening to try out salsa on my home turf.
At Alberto’s in Mountain View, on Thursday nights, they have a beginner’s class followed by an intermediate class and a dance party, all for the same $10 entrance fee. There was an incredible number of people, and I was surprised by the factor of men outnumbering the women. There was no need for a partner; the women made up an inner circle and the men fought their way in to dance each time the instructor cried ‘switch!’
Still, I couldn’t help but notice a few things:
In France, when my friend and I would go out dancing, we always tried to maintain the ‘three-dance’ policy, which stated that one should not dance more than three times with the same guy. The consequences of breaking this rule usually fall along the lines of the guy trying to buy you a drink and shouting over the din, “whaddya say we get outta here?”
In Germany, you never dance more than three times with a guy in the same set (in a row), but you may dance again with him later in the evening without fear of being hit on. But you should never dance only once with a guy if you enjoy it: leaving the guy (or him leaving you) after one dance means that the dancing was terrible for one or both of you, and you will probably not be asked again. Also, it is best not to ask a guy to dance unless you have seen him dance before. This is because you run the risk of his saying yes only to hit on you, and wind up looking like idiots on the dance floor because he really has no idea what he is doing.
In the East Bay, you may ask a guy (which seems to be the best strategy) if he does not ask you, but you only dance once in a set. You can dance with him again during the evening, but here, the three-dance rule applies. It is also quite nice to dance in California as we have smoke-free bars, which makes it a lot less sleazy and you don’t have to go home with cigarette-scented hair.
In two weeks I will drive down to San Diego for their first annual salsa festival, and I am looking forward to it, armed as I am now with these little hints.
Her: “Hey, let’s play the reference game.”
Him: “Alright. You start.”
Her: “A woman once had a child named Fred.”
Him: “He had a brother too, called Ned.”
Her: “Every night, she’d put them to bed.”
Him: One night, they slipped out instead.”
Her: “She yelled at them, be careful where you tread!”
Him: “They didn’t listen, but got out their sled.”
Her: “They didn’t come back home, to be fed.”
Him: “She feared they were dead.”
Her: “But they feared losing their street cred.”
Him: “They did not, you’re crazy in the head.”
Her: “Am not, that’s what she said!”
Him: “Did not, they went out to wed!”
Her: “They were brothers, and they’re dead!”
Him: “They’re not, you’re just misled!”
Her: “Am not, cause they’re dead!”
Him: “Are too, but I see that’s how you’re bred!”
Her: “I’m telling you, they’re not but dead!”
Her: “sudo kiss me!”
Last Friday night, I met up for coffee with some friends in the area who I hadn’t seen in some years. Meeting up for coffee with friends in the area in California, however, is not the same as meeting up for coffee with friends in Germany or France. In Germany, my friends in the area would step down into the street and turn a corner to sit in Ubu Roi, or hop on the bus if they live out in the boonies, such as near campus. In California, my friends in the area and I each had a thirty-minute drive by car, and we met at the Starbucks in Palo Alto (a few cities up) as a half-way point.
And having coffee with friends in California is not the same as having coffee with friends in Germany or France. We grabbed our various flavors of icey frappaccinos to go. And then we went out to find a donkey.
One makes many friends in one’s lifetime, but none equal the friends you make while growing up. Because you don’t typically make those kinds of friends based on common interests. You make those kinds of friends because they’re there, and because someone has a two-door Honda, and the beach is just down the street, and we might as well all pile in and go there.
Many years later, outsiders can only guess what a med student in Poland, a software engineer at E.A., a civil engineer in Monterey, and a polyglot globetrotter have in common. Nothing, really. Except that when we get together, everything is just so damn funny. And we say goofy things like, “So, ya wanna see the Don-qué?” and I say, “What is that, like a Don Qui-jo-té?” and then we hop into someone’s car and end up somewhere in the middle of Palo Alto, petting a donkey.
Two donkeys in fact. And two goats. There was a third donkey, but apparently some drugged-out kids in the area thought it was funny to share their shit, and the donkey over-dosed. We gave them carrots and watched them roll around in the dirt under the moonlight, as we sipped our frappaccinos. While driving home that night, I smiled as our Carmel-cruising song came up, from Chumbawumba, ‘We’ll be singing… when we’re winning…’