It all started because of the crackheads.
No, not really. It all started when I went outside on Saturday to shake out a rug and discovered a random, strange person sitting at our little patio table, smoking a cigarette.
Of course, the first thing I thought of (despite the freezing temps of this winter) was that she was a crackhead. Because we had so many problems with crackheads this past summer, and of course I am primed to see any stranger in the yard as someone dealing or consuming illegal drugs.
However, most crackheads don’t greet me with a jolly “Hallo!” and a big smile.
After I got over my initial shock, she introduced herself as the new, temporary neighbor living in the basement apartment of the house next door. There’s no fence to divide the property between that on which we live and that of the houses to either side, so I didn’t blame her for assuming the houses shared the backyard.
“The landlord doesn’t let me smoke in the basement, so I come out here,” she told me in her beautifully cute London/cockney accent. It was hard to determine her age; she was obviously just awake and still in last night’s makeup, a light-skinned black English girl bundled up in a parka. “I know your neighbors!” she told me. “I used to live in the big building up the block.” We started to talk, and then we talked some more, and I invited her in despite the becoming clean state of our apartment because she wanted to see my ring. “I’m just going through a divorce,” she told me, sadly yet matter-of-factly. Hence the move to the dingy, no-windows next door basement. “It’s only temporary,” she announced. “I have a new place and I’m moving in a week.”
Then she asked me if I’d like to go clogging at a gay bar with her on Tuesday. “Sure!” I told her. I’ve never been to a gay bar in Denver, and I’ve never been clogging, and somehow it’s only a block and a half away and I didn’t even know it existed because I’ve never walked on that street. “I’ll knock on your door Tuesday evening,” she told me.
I found out later she is my age, has lived in the States for the last 7 years married to an American, and spent most of her time in Key West teaching dance classes. Now she’s working two jobs bartending and serving at some local dives, and being the incredibly social person she seems to be, making friends wherever she goes. Last night, she knocked on the door and we went out to take our clogging lesson.
Now, I used to dance ballet. I also did some jazz and a little bit of tap. I’ve never clogged before, and wasn’t even quite sure what it was, but when we walked into that fabulously swishy bar last night and saw a floor full of men in jeans and tank tops clogging away to disco hits of the early 80s, I knew I’d made the right choice. Unfortunately, she’d had the time wrong and we’d missed the lesson (the boys clogging when we got there were advanced and practicing set routines). Six-thirty! we were told. Next Tuesday at six-thirty! So we vowed to return, and at the bar my neighbor saw a friend and immediately started dishing on his life, her life, their mutual romantic woes. He bought us shots and we watched the dancers. She spent a good twenty minutes trying to work another friend up to speak to a cute guy across the room, and we even had to give up our first-bestowed Mardi Gras beads to convince him. Yes, even gay men make you show your boobs for beads.
Later, the line dancing began, and we (re)learned the Boot Scoot. (I learned it 11 years ago at church camp.) “I’ve never line danced before!” she exclaimed. “It’s like I’m actually an American!” My neighbor and I boogied and laughed and had a great time, surrounded by guys who were perfectly friendly yet had no interest in trying to get in our pants. It was the first time I’d ever been in an environment like that – and it was kind of nice, in a strange way, to not feel the social pressure of the attraction/flirtation/hookup/avoidance dance that the boys around us were performing along with their clogging and line dancing.
The other side of the bar had karaoke, so we moved over there to see a guy singing Frank Sinatra. He actually did pretty well. And then the couple got up there and started to sing “Leather and Lace” and I swear to Jeebus, the one guy sounded EXACTLY like Stevie Nicks. At first, I thought it was a recording, until he started really opening up with the vocal stylings. I couldn’t believe it. Who knew Stevie Nicks’ voice lived inside a gay man in Denver?
After the duet, we congratulated the two of them, and it turns out the guy has a normal, regular man voice. Weird.
It was time to stroll the block and a half home, each wearing beads and blinky light things. I invited her in to have some King’s cake with us – and despite its ugly exterior, it turned out to taste pretty good. “Next Tuesday,” we told each other as she walked out the door. And I’m going to try to find my tap shoes, because if I’m going to clog I want to hear the sounds made by my feet, to make sure they align with the rhythm of those fabulous men.