It Happened to Me

Quotes, Part 1

Here are some of the more interesting quotes I’ve heard in the past fortnight, and the stories behind them.

“You’re the happiest unemployed person I know”

Friday, March 22nd: Walking into salsa night at the Courthouse is like walking into a movie.

The Courthouse — so named because it actually was a courthouse built in the 1800’s — has a gorgeous 19th-century ballroom with high ceilings and a balcony, lit only by chandeliers, a couple of fireplaces and dozens of candles. The floor is packed with well-dressed dancing couples and spectators lounge in large and comfy couches by the fireplaces at either side of the room. The musical selection is mostly salsa, with a little cha-cha and merengue thrown in now and again. Unlike most dance clubs, this is one place where strangers walk up to you and ask you to dance.

We were invited there by our friend Sue, whom we’d met at one of the “Singleton” parties organized by our friend Marichka. (The Singleton gatherings are rather yuppified affairs held at a chi-chi resto-bar called Fat Cat, where twenty-, thirty- and forty-something professionals — mostly journos, from the look of it — gather to meet others of their ilk.) It was a little send-off for Sue; she was due to move to San Diego to start a new job in a week.

Paul and I have been to a couple of salsa nights. Paul has ballroom danced for years; he’s even been in competitions and won. He tends to seek out the women who know how to salsa, take them to the floor and then transform himself from dairy country rube to dancing machine. Paul takes dancing seriously and complains that he keeps forgetting all his steps, but as far as my uneducated eyes can tell, he does just fine.

I, on the other hand, can barely waltz. I tend to ask the wallflowers staring longinly at the dancefloor:

“Would you like to dance?”

“I’d like to, but I really don’t know how.”

“Neither do I,” I’d say and then dancing — or a cartoonish approximation thereof — would ensue. There’s a lot of “so what do we do next?” throughout the dance, I tend to turn my partner more times than the legal limit and I’m sure Arthur Murray spins in his grave every time I take to the floor. The “I don’t know what I’m doing but I don’t care” approach to ballroom dancing is cheesy John Hughes movie behaviour, but so is carrying an accordion everywhere, and that’s done me nothing but good.

After watching me, our friend Valerie told me as we watched Paul the Midwestern Mambo Machine, “You’re the happiest unemployed person I know.”

“My brothers would kick your ass”

Saturday, March 23rd: It was like Coyote Ugly, except with better dialogue and an accordion player.

I thought I was going to have a relatively quiet Saturday night — a little coding work until midnight, and then down to Velvet Underground, the alt-rock dance place down the street. Instead, I got a phone call from my friend Anne, who invited me to join her and her cute friends from her PR class at a resto-bar called Seven Numbers. She also mentioned that there was someone she wanted to introduce me to.

(Having your ex try to set you up with someone is similar to getting a letter of recommendation from an employer who fired you. Both will recommend you to others, the fact that you were let go makes the recommendations seem a little odd, you think that your being let go was a colossally gross error in judgement, the severance pay/nookie is never enough and you gracefully accept the recommendation anyway because it’s the polite thing to do and hey, you never know where it’ll lead.)

I arrived at Seven Numbers and met a table of several women and one guy. I’d met Anne’s equally hyperkinetic friend Tanya before, but the rest of them were new to me. She introduced me to her friends as “the infamous Accordion Guy”. I’ve been getting introduced to people that way, complete with “the infamous” or “the notorious”. Most people would probably be embarrassed, but I feed off that kind of thing. It’s called rock and roll, kids.

The restaurant was more like a movie restaurant than a real-world one: the waiters constantly flirted with the girls (when the girls first entered the restaurant, one of them carried Anne to the table); people were doing body shots — drinking sambuca out of each other’s navels — on the bar, and when the music came on, I played along on the accordion and we all climbed up on the bar to dance.

I phoned Paul, who’d stayed home that night. “It’s like Coyote Ugly here,” I told him, “and you’d never forgive me if I didn’t call you.” He arrived about a half-hour later.

A couple of pretty women bought me a drink and asked all kinds of questions about me and my accordion. Have I mentioned how much I love this instrument? (It was a good thing that one of them mentioned that they’d put their kids and husbands to bed before going out. I really need to remember to check for wedding rings.) An older Italian woman walked up to me and pinched my cheeks, saying “It’s-a so nice that a young guy like-a you still plays the accordion.” Grazie, ma’am.

Drew, a friend of the girls, arrived around last call and invited us back to his apartment for more drinks. Drew lived in Yorkville, a boutique-y part of town filled with pricey restaurants, small art galleries and overpriced designer clothing stores. He had an apartment above Gabbana and beside a dance club that had a gaggle of Mexican guys outside, staring each other down with what Laura, one of the girls, called “the look of death.” (Later that night, a fight would break out, there would be lots of screaming in Spanish, an old man would get knocked onto his ass, followed by screams of “El Viejo!“. We’d watch the conflagration from the balcony above.)

I had a feeling of deja vu as I walked into the apartment. Paul Oakenfold playing on the stereo — the same track that the fratboys in San Francisco played at their apartment, where just like now, we’d left a bar and gone back to some guy’s place for more drinks. To my relief, the guys weren’t obnoxious at all, and I didn’t hear the word “dude” all night.

Tanya told us how she’d been kicked out of a bar the week before. Apparently she’d been talking to some guy who called her a “whore from Halifax”. Tanya decked him and was promptly ejected from the bar.

Drew told us about his trip to Mexico and showed us some badly-painted Mexican wrestler dolls he’d bought at the airport. I’ve seen shoddy Third World workmanship before, but who ever painted these wasn’t even trying. They wouldn’t even pass muster in the Land of Misfit Toys.

Somehow the topic drifted to Judy Blume books, and being the pop culture aficionado I am, I mentioned how her books used to be more relevant to school kids and how she went down the slippery slope and ended up writing incredibly cheesy soft-core porn. Stephanie was quite appalled that a guy would know shit from shinola about Judy Blume.

“My brothers would kick your ass,” she said.

“They’re welcome to try,” I replied, “but I’d make sure they limped back to their trailer.”

She either didn’t get my quip or took it extremely well.

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