I went out dancing Friday night at the “Greatest Bar,” a four-storied bar near the Gardens in Downtown Boston. Actually, I didn’t know quite where it was when I set out, or that it was game night–but as it was, after much fervent praying to the Goddess Asphaltia–I landed a sweet spot a couple blocks away.
I loaded my sneak-a-toke and headed out through the streets. Orange street lights gleamed off store fronts as jocks and jocketts in garish green roamed the night. I went the long way around, ducking into doorways to suck the sweat pungent mota in deep, trying not to cough.
I circled the block, and was almost at my destination: a generic bar festooned with rainbow balloons, when I got sidetracked by a sweet old man reclining on some gray emergency blankets. Before I knew it I was sitting next to him on the cold concrete. He thoughtfully draped a shelter blanket over my lap. Like most “house people” I dressed to go from my car to the club, and not for sitting in a wind-tunnel at night.
Ben the Homeless Guy, as he introduced himself, told me stories and sang me songs as women strode by towards the Club and Frat Boys sauntered by in the other direction. It had been a long time since I was on the receiving end of averted gazes. Ben seemed more in need of human company than money at the moment, but the guilt so many people felt walking by restrained them from even making eye contact. He sang extra loud and sweet as each group or person came by, eliciting some smiles and jokes.
I’ve always liked hanging out with older men, even if they do tell the same stories over and over. During my early time on the streets the old Alchies took me in and looked after me, “schooling me” on the streets.
We talked for about twenty minutes–actually he talked mostly and I soaked up his stories.
Finally I had to go, I came out to dance, after all.
“You know it’s all just a meat market.” He said, as I got up to go.
“I know,” I said, smiling. “But I like shopping.”
* * *
The club was packed with women of all shapes and sizes–all four floors of it. Mixed-in were an odd assortment of frat boys who looked like they had gotten a little more than they bargained for. Black clad male security guards on each floor added a dissonant note. The top floor was where the dance was hottest.
I danced. I danced hard. I danced with the two best dancers in the room–a skinny white stick of a woman who moved with the quirky precision of a mime, and a thick brown-skinned woman who wowed-out on the dance floor. I danced with the second woman a lot. Even got her number.
* * *
Then it was time to go, and I found myself back on the street outside talking with my new friend homeless Ben. He was all excited because he had witnessed a man running from a bar fight. Testosterone charged men seemed to be everywhere–running up and down. I couldn’t help contrasting these dangerous-feeling men with the stream of happy lesbians exiting the Greatest. Sirens wailed in the distance.
I wanted to give him something, but felt that giving him money would cheapen our interaction. Just then I heard to women discussing getting a cab.
“Where do you live?” I asked them.
“Well, how about I give you a ride home, and you give the money you would have spent on a cab to him?”
“Well, I was just saying, I don’t have any money.”
“That’s okay, pay what you can–it’s a sliding scale.”
The other woman put a few bills in his cup. We said goodbye, and it was off into the night.