30 January 2011

And Then There Were Two

30 January 2011

I take Zumba, and I love it. One day whilst singing and squatting, I asked myself "why do I only dance for this one hour? Why don't I go dancing?" Of course there was no logical answer. There's no reason I can't go dancing every night of the week. I like to dance. It's not that I'm especially good at it, I just like the way music makes me feel. And so an idea was born. I decided to have a girls' night, when we women could get dressed up, put on painful shoes, spend too much money and have a blast. And since it was a Zumba inspired idea, I decided we would go Salsa dancing.

I did my due diligence. I consulted Yelp and found the best Salsa club in the city. I invited every woman I talk to, and I told them to invite whoever they wanted. We were to be a gaggle of women out painting the dance floor. When I first presented the idea, we were a group of 16 or 17. When we arrived at Cafe Cocomo, we were a party of two. No, I never expected everyone would make it. And no, I didn't put forth very much effort in organizing it, other than sending e-mails. But I would be lying if I didn't say I was disappointed. It was like my birthday all over again. It's like the adage says: you can bring the invite to the people, but you can't make them show up. That's real. Go with it. In the end (or I should say "at the beginning"), Trisha and I had quite the adventure. And it started right away.

29 January 2010
As I no longer have a car(link), we decided to meet and take a cab. As we stood at the corner of two busy San Francisco streets, it occurred to me I had never actually hailed a cab before. It's been my experience that men do that. Of course it could be as easy as sticking your arm out, but after 5 minutes and no cab, we switched to Plan B. We went to a hotel. Hotels always have cabs. Actually they always have men who can get taxis. But the result is the same. A town car pulled up as we waited and we dismissed it. We did not need to arrive at a club in a town car. It just seemed unnecessary. But after at least three more minutes of waiting, the hotel guy and the town car driver came to a different conclusion. Trisha & I were whisked away in a fancy car. It might have been a blessing. Or it might have caused extra problems. It's still too difficult to tell.

Our driver did not know where we were going. I gave cross streets. I looked at the map. We drove in circles. If we had been paying a meter, we would have been screwed. Then again, a taxi with a meter would likely have had GPS. Our driver was really nice though. He would not let us out until he found where we were going. We were literally under the highway. Eventually he stopped a jogger who told us we had to go a little further under the highway to get to where we were going. We turned down a few dark streets and voila, Cafe Cocomo. Once we saw it, it was almost surprising we had missed it. Then we remembered it was in fact hiding under an overpass.

The place is huge and there is a lot going on inside. There is all you can eat pizza from 7 - 9. There are $2 cocktails from 7 - 9. And there is Salsa by Jake from 8 - 9. We got drinks, because that was a priority. We got pizza, because it was free with admission. We got a table, because we knew they were going to disappear quickly. We tried to envision what the place was about to become. We had no idea. The band was just starting to set up. The lights were kind of high for a club and people were coming in groups. It seemed a little early for that much action on a Saturday night. I could tell we were on the precipice of something spectacular. First though, an awkward trip to middle school.

Salsa by Jake (I will not just call him" Jake") had them raise the lights even more. We then lined up, women on one side, facing the men on the other. The mood was just this side of uncomfortable. Salsa by Jake taught the men how to lead. He taught the women how to be led. And then he told us to partner up, which pushed the mood deep into the heart of "uncomfortable" territory. I didn't want to "be picked." But I didn't want to not be picked either. I didn't want some lady standing by while her boyfriend was holding me. I didn't want a really good dancer and I didn't want a really bad dancer and I did want to know how to tell them apart.

Suddenly I was paired. His name was John. He had bright blue eyes, a bright blue sweater, and sneakers that almost got him turned away at the door. I don't know how often you have your face eight inches from a stranger's, or how often that stranger is holding you in a commanding embrace, but it is beyond awkward. There was no music either, just bright lights and counting.

"1,2,3...5,6,7..."

The "4" and the "8" aren't actual steps, so you don't count them. John asked me about my day. I had nothing to report. I asked about his. He said it was crazy. I was intrigued. Just as I was starting to ask him about it, the leads (read: men) had to rotate. I was in the arms of another, making more small talk, judging his ability to lead by the strength of his hold. This went on for an hour. We would practice a move, add on that move, and swap partners before we could attempt the added step. It was very... brilliant. It got easier to talk to strangers. It got easier to tell a good leader from a weak one. It was very social and built a camaraderie amongst us. By the time the lights went down and the music started, I both a) felt confident in my steps and b) knew I would never go speed dating. It was all just so bizarre. But stranger things did happen.