This dance was different.
First off went to have dinner with Tyler Burba and his family in Jackson Heights. Local Indian food (the best) and cheeba chews for desert.
We sat on the couch and watched Laugh-In to see if it the humor stood the test of time. (It didn't) Then we watched Hee Haw for the same reason. (It did.) Finally we watched Busby Berkeley videos which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Tyler Burba and I headed out to 81st and Roosevelt Street to have a drink. We went to a place called Los Gatos Verdes Sport Bar. Green cats. Yep, that's us.
We had a beer and tried to talk over the loud salsa and reggaeton music. On the way out I thought I would try to sneak a dance in.
Once I got on the dance floor a woman came up to dance with me. I went into a kind of free-form cumbia dance with her and it was a ton of fun, like a roller-coaster but better.
About three songs in I was ready to take a break and see how Tyler was doing, but I couldn't find a break. The DJ was good, almost too good, and the songs never came close to ending. It took a few songs to figure that out. I tried to just stop the dance in the middle she pulled me back in for another song.
Something about the way she tried to keep the thing going I suddenly remembered having read an article (in The Village Voice maybe?) about pay-to-dance bars in Jackson Heights, Queens. Oh man, was I going to have to pay for this dance? I tried to leave the dance floor as gracefully as possible. The woman followed me and shouted over the music, "Bailando cuesta" (I think?) I said, in English, "There's a cost to dancing? I didn't know that." She gave me one of those shoulder shrugs and smiles like "that's the way it is."
I asked her how much and she said "35 dolares." Oy. I quickly calibrated. That's five bucks a song. I didn't feel obligated since she didn't tell me up front but gave her $5, because I would have happily bought her a beer anyway.
Meanwhile Tyler was dancing by himself and probably having just as good of a time for free.
On the way out I saw the woman I was dancing with. She smiled, almost shy. It was sweet. I was just glad she wasn't unhappy about the transaction. I remember reading that these dancers for hire were not "exotic dancers" but just women who liked to dance salsa. It was a way for the salsa clubs to lure men in to spend money at the bar. Fair enough, now I know. I think I'd rather hit a regular club up next time though.
Which is sort of what we did next. We went to a gay bar called Friends next door. There were very beautiful dancers everywhere. And then there was Tyler and I. It was odd to feel judged by the men there. You would think that men that have fought against prejudice their whole lives wouldn't be. I'm pretty sure I heard actual tittering. But I was having too much fun to care.