On the same weekend last month, I went to two dance parties. One was for a salsa dancer who turned 40. The locale, in P.B., was decorated with pictures of him. A DJ played salsa tunes. Later in the evening he played hip-hop, which lured more people to the dance floor.
I went into the kitchen and heard a woman say, “This is weird. They spent so much money on this party, with the deejay, bartender, all this food…and the wine they have is this ‘two-buck Chuck.’” A few minutes later, I saw her pouring it down the drain, saying, “I found this bottle of wine — it’s a lot better.”
As I grabbed a few chips, she said, “You know what? I don’t even know if we’re allowed to open this.”
A blonde gal opened the freezer to get some ice and said, “What asshole put a beer in the freezer? That is so not cool!”
The bean dip was delicious — spicy and with lots of cilantro. I heard Susie introduce herself to someone as “Salsa Susie.” She pointed to someone else and said, “That’s Tango Tony.” She saw me standing nearby and said, “That’s Jitterbug Josh.”
One guy walked in carrying a ham sandwich. Someone asked him where he got it. He said, “At the gas station down the street.” A woman yelled, “That’s disgusting!” He took a bite and with a mouthful said, “That’s the difference between men and women. We’ll eat food at gas stations if we’re hungry.”
When Susie and a few other people brought out the cake, someone said, “That cake is bigger than she is.”
After we sang “Happy Birthday,” Susie passed around pieces of cake to everyone. I asked her about what dance moves she picks up on TV shows or in movies.
“We love watching them, but we always say, ‘That isn’t salsa’ or ‘What kind of move is that? You won’t win the competition doing that.’ You also notice a couple is clumsy if they’ve only been dancing together a short time.”
The second dance party I went to last month was for a guy named Bruce, who was moving to England. Because it was a potluck, I bought a cake at Ralphs and asked a bakery department employee to decorate it with a Union Jack design. The woman behind the counter told me, “You can’t just walk in here and want a cake designed a certain way and expect us to do that in four hours.”
I then went and bought the colors to add the flag myself. I also bought some stickers at Michael’s — double-decker buses, telephone booths, Big Ben.
When I was introduced to Bruce, I asked why he was going to the U.K. I realized why when he spoke — he’s from the U.K. He told me he was going to teach.
Someone else at the party told me he was going to teach dance, but when I tried to clarify that, a few people pointed to an Asian guy named David Nguyen, who was the dance teacher for many people at the party.
I went up to ask him a question, and he pointed out the pen in my ear. He said, “I can show you how to put it behind your ear in a much cooler fashion.” As he showed me, I thought about making a joke about how he could dance “cooler,” but he is an amazing dancer.
I asked David about how he got started dancing. He said he started a swing club when he attended Scripps Ranch High School. It eventually disbanded when swing’s popularity ebbed.
I loved listening to him talk about how he didn’t care for the showy nature of Dancing with the Stars and his love of a ’40s movie titled Top Hat, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
As David explained some of the philosophies of Arthur Murray, I heard a guy yell out to the crowd dancing, “How about some pole-dancing?” Another guy piped in, “I’ll volunteer to be the pole.”
A woman asked why I wasn’t dancing. I glanced down at the plate of food I had, which consisted of a variety of fruits and a few chocolate brownies. She said, “Put that down and come cut a rug.” I said, “Uh…it’s all hardwood floor. And, I’m not going to dance unless I can do the Cabbage Patch and the Running Man. Those are the only dances I remember from high school.”
A couple was leaving at 9:30 p.m. They had to be up by 6:00 a.m. Another woman told me her husband had to leave because he was really sick. I didn’t ask for details.
But another woman did give me details of her sickness. Her name was Anne and she danced beautifully. When she came over and sat on the couch, she had a bit of sweat on her forehead. She confided that she had Lyme disease. I was surprised when she mentioned it was possible to get Lyme disease in San Diego.
I met a guy who worked in movies. When I heard he worked on the set of The Blues Brothers, I asked him about it. He said, “They told me it was only going to be a three-day shoot, but the filming went so long, it put me in a whole new tax bracket. I knew the movie would be big. Belushi was great to talk with. Aykroyd wasn’t as friendly at first. Once I started talking about Canada, he opened up and wasn’t as quiet.”
After I asked if he ever got a thrill from working with certain stars, he said, “Sometimes. My wife was excited when I worked with Harry Connick Jr. on Will & Grace. She bugged him for a picture.”
He told me his son, a former gymnast, is now a stuntman in Hollywood.
“He’s getting a lot of work. Since he’s full-blooded Japanese, that’s a look that is getting a lot of work in that field.”
As I attempted to leave, Leslie, who held the party at her house, tried getting me to dance. I told her I wouldn’t. She settled for a hug goodbye, and I stepped on her foot. I said, “Look at that! I step on feet even doing something as simple as hugging. Imagine what I would’ve done to your toes if we were out there dancing.”