Shake it like you baked it
I can’t dance worth shit.
Me, on the dance floor, is like some other writer once described — I think they may have been painting a word picture of — David Byrne of Talking Heads: like a spilled container of Tinkertoy parts randomly tumbling out onto the ground. Or maybe I’m more like a box of plastic army men thrown my a tantruming kid, or a walnut being batted about the kitchen floor by two cats. Basically, I’m a fucking disaster.
Ever since I was in junior high, and my spasmodically swinging arm came around and hit poor Lisa Hunefield, may she now rest in peace, in the mouth, I’ve been a monumental embarrassment to myself and anyone near me. So even though I secretly used to groove to Soul Train and other dance shows on Saturday morning, imagining myself in iridescent souladelic threads and loose shoes, hip-popping and grinding on the floor to the thumping hot funk grooves, then dancing all close like melted butter to the sweet soul jams, the real-time animation of my gawky frame was somewhat more problematic.
So, in high school, I became much more adept at rolling numbers and chin-stroking out to Jerry Garcia guitar solos with my pals, or getting drunk off my ass and falling down to the Allman Brothers Band’s feral shuffles, than I was at working up a repertoire of effective dance moves.
Then, in early adulthood, the whole disco thing hit, and I was a long-haired record store clerk for part of that time. The subtext in Stockton where I grew up was that straight white dudes were rockers, and disco and dance music were the bailiwick of gays and a mix of blacks, Hispanics and various Asians — Filipinos, Chinese and Japanese, primarily, because that was before the various Indochinese ethnicities and Punjabi Sikhs had assimilated, although there were a bunch of Persian and Arab college students who were already big into disco. You kinda had to pick sides, or at least if you were a white funkateer or soul aficionado or, god forbid, a disco freak, you would catch major shit from stoner white trash and Okie fucksticks.
But the biggest problem with the disco subculture, for me, was the dress code. I couldn’t goddamn manage to get my guido on to get past the doormen, and if I did, I often got a bit too fucked up to dance. It wasn’t until I got a job tending bar at a Reuben’s Plankhouse and had to wear a monkey-shit brown Angel’s Flight vest and slacks with a white shirt — and with a turd-brown bowtie, too — that I spent real time inside any kind of dance club. By that time I was hanging with my punk-rock pals, getting fucked up to Flipper and Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, and work was pouring drinks to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and I was afraid to start boning my way around the waitress pool because my fellow bartender Mike had this seven-months pregnant dolly who he’d knocked up in a night of post-disco abandon holding court on a barstool every night, making sure he didn’t get any more bang on. Sure scared me enough to chill my tumescent Wilbur Post, and I think I had a girlfriend at the time, too, who was keeping me too satisfied to stray.
Then I went back to work in record stores and soon fell into writing about music and getting too drunk to dance. The alcoholic rock critic was a caricature I embraced with full relish. Others shook it on the floor, and I stayed in the bar with the serious music fans.
So here’s the deal: Today I may be a six-foot-whatever guy who’s in his 50s, but lately I’ve discovered I like to dance, again, the way I liked to before my catastrophic accident in junior high made me forever self-conscious. And now I’m so old and poor and crinkly around the edges that 1) I don’t give a fuck, and 2) I don’t think anybody else cares, either, and if they want to laugh at the old guy shuffling his way through some half-baked Art Carney ramble to Sly & the Family Stone jams, or even electro beats and shit, they can do that. It is not to worry.
And besides, I’m too goddamn old to be picking up on any women, or even embarrass myself by thinking I can do that, and these days I look like such a goddamn hobo anyway that the probability of me getting all babe-magnetic is kinda up there with a San Francisco Giants-Baltimore Orioles World Series. (Of course, that could happen, and, in actuality, perhaps there is more of a chance that I’ll transform into an incandescently suave and intelligent man of irresistible allure and luminous charm than there is of an orange-and-black Series happening. Slightly.)
But large parts of my life are not working right now. And rather than do the same shit every day, expecting different results, I’m trying to do things differently, to be more social and open and fun. And after going to my friend Jeff’s New Year’s party and dancing up a good time, I’ve decided, well, fuck it. So tonight, I went down (literally) to the Press Club and spent some time on the floor sliding around to the shit DJs Larry Rodriguez and Hailey aka MOM were laying down. Yeah, hipsters, that was me in the fishing hat, doing the spilled-Tinkertoy spazz to Rodger Collins’ “Foxy Girls in Oakland” and all the other cool sides that got played. No, I can’t dance for shit, but it really felt good to move my body, and maybe I can start carrying some of that momentum and mojo into my daily life.
Next up is to make my writing fun again, so people like you and you and you will enjoy reading it. My grand master plan is to keep writing about all the stupid mundane shit I’m doing until I get disciplined to do this once again for money, and I get good enough that editors start offering me money to write. A day job wouldn’t be a bad idea, either, if any of you are hiring.
But already I’ve rediscovered my love for flinging a bunch of words onto a page, and that seems to be carrying over into a lust for life that hasn’t been there for a while. I’ve got a whole bunch of ideas — more ideas than I’ve had in a long while. I’m writing songs and playing music (and if you want to hear what that sounds like, then fucking show up at Luna’s this Friday night at 8 p.m.), and I’ve even caught myself wishing I had a space to go all Kevin Seconds and Kepi and start painting like I used to do when I was a teenager and my family all thought I’d grow up to be some kind of visual artist.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve got wood, and it feels good. Do I sound like a mook for saying that? —Jackson Griffith