The annual Employee Banquet approaches, and with it, the prospect of good free food and drink, recognition of deserving coworkers, door-prizes and... dancing. A year ago, the event was moved from off-site to the bookstore, as a necessary economy and the prospects for the evening seemed to dim a little. A stroke of genius -- though to whom it occurred I'm uncertain -- brought a professional DJ into the mix, as it were, and what might have been something less festive than in years past, proved to be the better for being brought home. Booksellers are not necessarily the most rockin' crowd, and early on, the volume of the music was such that, for the most part, there were more looks of injured dignity than smiles and a number of conversations ended in bewildered mime. Little good seemed likely come of this innovation. But after we'd been fed, and properly lubricated, a few of the more senior staff, myself included, called the music up again, and before long, even the bosses were being dragged out onto the floor -- not unlike Bishops at a wedding -- and were induced to frug, bump and step out with the best of 'em. The young folk were no doubt... distressed to see the likes of me gyrating as though we still had hips, and who can blame them? But our friend the DJ, not one to play favorites, did not limit his selection to the songs of yesteryear, and eventually introduced dance music of a vintage still fresh enough to appeal to younger ears and a new generation joined their elders, laughing all the more, no doubt, to see us lose our way with all the lyrics they knew and stumble over beats as native to them as the oldies are to us. The best moments of course were those when the best and the worst, young and old, all together and with our shoes kicked off, forgot such distinctions and all just had a hell of good time.
Now then, in order to recreate something of the same magic mix of multigenerational mojo, we have again been issued, well in advance of the evening, little slips of paper on which we are to write our requests for the DJ. Last year, I was rather off-hand about this, and quickly scribbled the name of the Lady Gaga song that happened to be circling my brain that day, why I do not know. I like the Lady well enough, when she isn't spattered in blood or drooping from a chandelier, but she is hardly among my favorites. Perhaps I felt a shy desire to be uncharacteristically hip. Well, I'm not, you know. I do not go out. I do not dance now but in my nightshirt, with my husband, and generally without witnesses. And as for the music that moves me most, I don't think jazz, even in a slow ballad, would gather many recruits to me on the dance floor these days. Swing perhaps, but then I don't really dance well enough for that, and never did, much as I like the tunes. So this year, I am determined to give the matter more thought. As unlikely as it sounds, I want to introduce something to the festivities less of the moment and very much more in memory of those brief, happy days, now long gone, when last I really danced.
And so, I've spent the evening surfing the Internet in search of songs neither new nor hallowed, but just remembered for the moment when I danced to them last. (Not to say I did it well, even then, but back in the day I did know lots of dancers, some of them professionals, most of them now gone, and it is them I'm thinking of.) I want no sad songs. I want nothing that might make me think of anything but the nights, and the boys, I most want to recall. It is not so much then my youth I would conjure, or even their ghosts, but rather:
Jimmy, all of eighteen, in the Pegasus Lounge, Pittsburgh, dancing with a fan, to Sylvester's "You Make Me Feel Mighty Real."
Kevin, in San Francisco, dancing to "Don't Leave Me This Way," not the original mind, by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, an excellent and early disco tune, or even Thelma Houston, but the 12" vinyl single from The Communards with Jimmy Somerville and featuring Sarah-Jane Morris, 1986.
Pete, in San Diego, dancing, and singing along with no less than three sailors, to what seemed an endless play of Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," everyone but me knowing every word. It didn't matter. It was magical.
And sweet, fragile little Larry, who took me into my first bar, just before Christmas, in Youngstown, Ohio, where we danced -- or rather he posed and I watched -- to the thundering sound of Amiie Stewart's "Knock on Wood."
In each and every instance, I remember nothing but being happy, being dazzled by the buzz, the bright lights, the loud music, and the beautiful boys I was with.
Someone will dance with me, to at least one of these, at the party, I hope. And if no one does, that will be just fine. I think each of those songs deserves a party, and if I have to have my own, right there in the middle of the bookstore's annual banquet... well, I'll take such opportunities as I can get.
I plan to kick off my shoes and have a good time, one way or another, so crank that shit up, and let's dance...