Early last year I wrote a post on two-stepping my way to Kris’ heart — ah, you sentimental rascal — and it has definitely stuck. These days we often find our way — well, make that more like hitting the cruise control — to a large club up in San Dimas and hit the floor with at least a hundred other crazies. Kris is two-stepper from way back, but for me the attraction remains time spent with her and the reality that country dancing’s big attraction is the ease of the steps. As I like to point out, if those right-wing, Saturday-night cowboys can do it, so can we. But I have never, and will never, wear one of those moronic hats, though I have been urged to do so over the years. As I’ve said, Kris’ requirement for potential suitors was competence in the two-step, which, as it turns out, one of the reasons for creation of the couple of the century, but I did come by it honestly.

A decade before our meeting, I jumped in with the cowboy crowd at a tiny saloon in the San Fernando Valley. And wouldn’t you know it, the incentive was provided by a long-ago manicurist. Pushover that I am, I agreed to do it “one of these days,” since I knew where the place was as directed by other friends. But it took that kind of urging because my recollections of the — are you ready for this? — Cowboy Palace was of a ratty corner bar, seemingly frequented by guys in boots and carrying pool cues in and out of the front door.

I did make in that front door eventually, and did make it around the miniature dance floor a couple of times with the manicurist, and then retired to the bar to just watch, thoroughly intimidated. She left and I stayed, doing what I seem to do well, trying to ignore the dirty glasses. Several weeks later I took a couple of basic lessons and returned to the floor big time, and ultimately fell in with a congenial gang there and found a new home-away-from-home.

Can an inveterate liberal rock-and-roller find happiness with apolitical people who lean casually toward Republican sensibilities? Well, for me the answer would have to be yes, especially if I left my politics outside the — ha! — swinging doors. Plus, I’ve long had a fondness for gangs of like-minded contemporaries. There is comfort in moving with people who have a good sense of who they are and where they are. The gang at the Palace are not, of course, cowboys; they just enjoy the music (I never listen to the stuff away from a dance floor), dancing and gossiping about friends and kids and romances, past and current and those of others, and never mean-spirited.

Here in Orange County I miss that, but we’re working on it, and on occasion we’ll brave the freeway traffic and hike up to the Valley so I can get a hit or two. Funny thing  is, when we wedge our way onto the Palace’s dance floor, we are reminded that the whole building would fit on the dance floor alone of the San Dimas hangout.  But the difference in the neighborhood here is that there really isn’t one, again reflected in the size of our current venue.

The bottom-line problem with Los Angeles is the open-space between actual communities, hence the freeways, hence the drive times, hence the isolation. We live in a fairly well-to-do neighborhood, but the nearest decent restaurant requires a drive. And if you want to meet with friends, they have to drive as well. Neighbors talk to each other, but for the most part it’s off to work on Monday morning. Up the freeway, San Dimas is typically a half-hour away; we made the mistake of trying it on a Friday night (only once) and ended up grid-locked in traffic for almost an hour and a half.

Still, the romance flames on, sparked initially by a simple little dance. And I’m here to tell you that if a favorite song — nuts, almost any danceable song — comes on the stereo, we’re off down the hallway and into the kitchen doing quick-quick, slow-slows, punctuated by turns and reverses.

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