I am asked fairly often what I write about, and I can’t let it go as simply “Fridays.” There is love, death, cabbages, kings, my childhood, say, or some broken appendage, chemical dependency, or misanthropy (not to be confused with misogyny, as it has, by certain semiliterate enemies among seditious minorities, oh, I don’t know, women and what have you), rap artists, rock and rollers, ancient Greeks, french toast, classical composers.… And those last five or so have been just in recent weeks. My point, I suppose, is that I have made it difficult to meet the reasonable expectations of readers by being far too generous in subject matter.
I find myself back again, at this moment, in the category of Chemical Dependency and Broken Appendages, as these are subjects I have found myself embroiled in for some three-plus months now with only newly glimpsed images of light at the end of the tunnel. Writing on pain medication for that period of time has produced certain phenomenon, to wit and QED:
Three days ago, my foot was flayed open yet again to retrieve two bolts or screws that held the tibia to the fibula or some such. My anatomy knowledge is vague that far south. I came out of general anesthetic in far more pain than I had been in since the day of the actual break, walking down a flight of stairs. The recovery room staff gave me large doses of serious painkillers, but over 90 days of opiate-family drugs had rendered me nearly impervious to them. A tolerance had been established, and I barked at nurses and medical techs something awful. So badly, in fact, I was compelled to call Ambulatory Surgery Recovery Center’s nurse’s station the next day to apologize. They were gracious.
Meanwhile, working is more important than ever and more difficult. I can hardly attend the clog-dancing get-togethers I so long to, and the act of writing has become something possible only when pain has diminished; that is to say, when I have a skinful of drugs.
“Yeah, whatever. What about Fridays?” you may well ask. ”What’s the best bet for weekend recreation this final week of April?” Well, first, be damned careful and don’t break your bloody foot. But if you can, dance.
I have never danced enough. Mostly because I wasn’t much good at it, but I still wanted a girlfriend in high school. Enter the guitar and joining or forming bands. If I could, I would dance the freaking rites of spring all over town; and as soon as I am able, I will ditch self-consciousness and boogie-oogie-oogie ’til I just can’t boogie no more, possibly celebrating the summer solstice by that time and the transition of crutches, casts, and ortho-boots from ball and chain to memories.
To whirl, strut, cavort expressively and with abandon, with a partner if possible but, in any event, enthusiastically, without consideration for image and or dignity. To throw my arms to the sides and heavenward, reveling in my sheer ability to do so and with gravity as taken for granted or even as ignored as oxygen, age, and the possibility of injury or blackmail.
The last time I danced was, I believe, at the Viejas Casino while I was writing about the Rascals and interviewing them. The song was “Come on Up,” and, refusing to grind out what Billy Crystal calls “The Whiteman Overbite,” I did a combination of the flamenco and tango with a very sporting girlfriend who had, moments earlier, been making out with the Rascals’ sax player. That musician was a young, light-haired (to his waist) sideman with an Italian name I’ve forgotten. It was 1996 or ’97 maybe. Some 12 years ago. Far too long. Other dancing memories consist of one euphoric night at the Electric Theater on Lawrence Avenue in Chicago in 1968. I was 17 and reeling to Traffic’s “Paper Sun” at very high volume. I danced alone.
Speaking of which, I say nothing here of a handful of occasions in front of the stereo surrendering to Robbie Robertson, Keith Richards, Sam Cooke, or Jackie Wilson. Sun-bright mornings, usually, coffee cup in hand and probably spilling; those few and fine mornings God rations out like a short-pouring Chinese-restaurant bartender when it has occurred to me that I am alive despite some notable efforts to be anything but.
I remember, too, dancing the Podo after a high school basketball game. My band was attempting to cover the Animals’ “Bury My Body.” The Podo was an epileptic seizure of a dance which enjoyed brief popularity (two weeks?) in rural Illinois during the mid ’60s. I threw myself into it and onto the gymnasium floor when the power either failed or the plug was pulled by the principal of Grant High. And I remember too (at random now) dancing in my seat at the Del Mar Fair, holding my three-year-old son in my lap while Stevie Ray Vaughan wailed on “Cold Shot” the summer of 1984.
The few memories I have of moving bodily to music (including a lesson at Arthur Murray’s old studio in Hillcrest in ’99) are vivid and pleasant and far and away separated by too much time. Taking the activity of dancing for granted is some kind of sin. I see that now. Who knew? If nothing else, I should try at least to observe it. I recommend this. Call Eveoke Dance Theatre at 619- 238-1153, for example, and see what they’re up to this weekend. Your time will not be wasted. Or call the Hotel Del, ask about ballroom dancing or — more my speed — find the nearest dance floor with a jukebox this Friday night. Patrick’s II comes to mind, between Fourth and Fifth at 428 F Street. They have great live acts nearly every weekend. O’Connell’s on Morena Boulevard in Bay Park is consistently a good bet. Look for a jukebox without Britney Spears or Madonna hogging the numbers. I say this for musically technical reasons and because I don’t like them. If you see a single James Brown selection on any juke machine anywhere, look no further for at least ten minutes. Disco? Techno-house? Can’t help you there.