Saturday, September 16, 2006

Mixed Company

About sixteen years ago, in the heyday of Gay, Alice and I thought it would be delightful to spend a few days in Guerneville, on the Russian River in Northern California. Guerneville was the place to be if you were gaying, graying, and dying or dating someone who was.

Alice and I practice what we stereotype. It was (and is) our firm conviction that Gays are the best proprietors of Bed & Breakfasts, so we made reservations at a B&B, with dinner option, just across from downtown Guerneville.

We put in a fun and energetic day hiking in the Armstrong Redwood Grove, and then went to our B&B for a delightful dinner. We were not disappointed in our stereotypes. After dinner we wondered about what we might do for evening entertainment, so we asked our proprietors for suggestions. We hinted that we really liked to dance, and one of our hosts said: “There’s a nice place for dancing just over the bridge and only about a block further, called the Ziggurat. However, before you go, I must tell you that you will be in “mixed company.”

We thanked him for his suggestion, and soon took leave to walk to the Ziggurat. Upon entering we made our host’s statement true, because then the Ziggurat suddenly became "mixed." Paraphrasing Dorothy I said: “Alice, I don’t think we’re in Livermore anymore.”

Just inside, on the right-hand side of the lobby, sat a wooden rowboat upside down on two sawhorses. The bottom of the boat was completely covered with condoms. Alice and I walked past the boat onto the dance floor, and found a table. We then turned our attention to the band. The band was on a raised platform, remarkably higher than the dance floor. The band members playing instruments were only dimly lit, and I couldn’t see them very well. However, the two female singers were covered by a spotlight, and little else. They wore gauzy, diaphanous gowns, and would have driven a crowd of straight guys wild. I wondered if there had been a scheduling mixup, and at some topless bar somewhere a bunch of guys were watching Village People impersonators.

At about this point in my mental meanderings, the girls launched into a sweet rendition of “Johnny Angel.” Alice and I rarely slow dance, but we cuddled together on the dance floor for a “tummy rub” just like we were back in high school. As we danced I took in the scene, and was not surprised to discover that Alice and the singers were the only females in the dance hall. I then became interested in our fellow dancers, and was surprised at what I observed.

The first thing that struck me was how little communication there seemed to be amongst the dancers. One would imperceptibly signal another, and the couple would walk onto the floor together, not touching, and then not have anything to do with each other for the duration of the song. The dancers didn’t look at their partners, or at any other dancers while they did their partnered dance solos. No hand holding, lips brushing cheek, butt patting, or any other of the kinds of contact on the dance floor that used to earn me a stern look from the teachers monitoring our deportment at high school dances.

Passionate, sexy behavior on the dance floor was only engaged in by Alice and me. A high school teacher monitoring behavior in the Ziggurat would have been bored to tears. The “Gay” lifestyle, at least from what we observed on the dance floor that night, seemed “somehow sadly gay.” I didn’t hear the accustomed roar resulting from lively chatter at the tables, a sound which has always characterized my impressions of evenings out dancing. Instead there was quiet, each person studying the others with an air of studied indifference. At the end of about two hours on the dance floor, I became aware that most of the dancers had silently melted away, leaving only a lonely few. Alice and I decided to call it a night.

As we walked from the dance floor and through the lobby towards the exit, we glanced at the upside-down boat. Its bottom was bare.

Apparently Alice and I had missed a lot of communicating that night.

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