You have not always been the kind of guy who shows up at Boomerang at 3:00 a.m., but here you are, and you cannot say that the night has yet lost all its promise. You think back to all that had led up to this hour. That pleasant spat of reminiscing with Dennis Britt at Espresso Bongo, talking about the night during the first incarnation of Beirut when some greasy punker had descended on your party, glowing with menace. The thug walked up to Duane/Rod/Billy, an overextended homosexual who was in the middle of a thoroughly unamusing Truman Capote impersonation, then purposefully yanked a pair of cute cardboard 3-D glasses off the pretty boy's face and began eating them. You had left happy, despite Britt's lament about the old days: "It wasn't the same when we moved from the Delano to 21st Street. And do you know why we had to move? Stupid asbestos. Some guy went in there, pulled some off the pipes, and it just kept coming. Unbelievable. What a bitch."
At Boomerang, you had wanted something like a good time and wound up chatting with a clubhead who had, naturally, just come from an even better place. "You haven't been to Fetish? They're really trying to do interesting things over there. The slave auctions were amazing tonight. Fucking brilliant. Forget it. It's too late to go there now; the right time is 2:00 a.m."
In a funk, you had tried to make Jean Michel Basquiat look-alike/wanna-be Jacques Espy speak ("Me? I don't go anywhere") and then had better luck with his companion, the very blond Swede Therese Dahliqvist: "It's good to have all sort of different people in the same place, yes? In Sweden it's more separate." You had dodged a couple of Long Island major-hair girls ("Can we please go to Le Loft? I don't mean to be rude, but it is very weird here") and understood completely when some woman muttered: "What do you expect at this hour? It's like everybody has smoked too much marijuana."
For a time, you had found safe harbor with the very beautiful Erinn Cosby¯, who had an interesting perspective on clubland: "Paul and I went to that Driveshaft thing at the Junkyard last Wednesday, and that rat on the bar was just lying there. It was like dead. And all I could think about was, these friends of mine, they're doctors who do a lot of work with gays, and some guys put these rats up...well, you know...and that's just what this poor thing looked like it'd been through."
You had encountered a few more rats - black, white, straight, gay, fun - who probably should have been put in one place or another, and suddenly Erinn was gone, and the night had turned on that pivot of screw-it-all obliviousness and you'd crossed the line. You found yourself being alternately abused and hustled by three overly personable Jamaicans: Le Coup band member, major-rasta-haired Kevens Celestin, who was playing the club's new Thursday-only reggae night; a band promoter named Carl B. Dread; and a guy who had something to do with jewelry, a half-dozen newsworthy corporations, and the artistic renaissance of Fort Lauderdale: "We're going to make the area around Squeeze like the Village, mon, very progressive. Everything is there, the museum, the club, the jewelry shop...." And then they're all talking at once and there's no stopping them.
"Le Coup is not orthodox rasta; we are progressive reggae. The only noncommercial original reggae band in Miami. No Ocean Drive cover business. It's music from the heart, mon. You must feel the vibrations, you must know that we are all made by the same creator under the sun. All white people think that dreads don't wash their hair. I spend an hour and a half a day washing my hair. Feel it. It's clean. Mon, it took me five years to get it this tall, naturally. Just water and shampoo. Like a tree, the roots must be strong for it to stand tall."
You think you'll die if you stay out one more minute and then you hear a kind of catchy Latin-flavored number on the sound system that drives the rastas into aesthetic meltdown. You start to feel perky again, kind of like a still-unravaged rat on its second wind, and, you know, it's like, well, maybe one more drink...
That crazy energizing Latin beat does seem to show up in the most unlikely places. Slices of real life, like the lavish quince party held amid the squalor of an Alton Road gas station. The private Key Biscayne gathering we sort of slid into, only to find that the daughters of terrorist/clown portrait artist/patriot Orlando Bosch were actually invited, and worse yet, accorded A-list status. Fun in a trashy kind of way ("I am over men. All I do when I go to Bimini is drink"), they didn't seem surprised at all to find themselves at an old-line WASP party, a few miles down the road from the bridge where their dad had once shelled a Polish freighter for la causa.
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Strange circumstances, but no more unusual than finding the Afro-Cuban dancer/choreographer/instructor Elena Garcia at the Mideastern Dance Exchange on Lincoln Road. An odd little place that, in fact, seems to feature every kind of East-West-Whatever ethnic dance form - from belly dance by Dallal to "funky club dancing" to samba/Afro-Brazilian dance - the Dance Exchange is the perfect setting for Garcia's version of the Latin beat.
Garcia, whose career has embraced a stint with the Cuban National Folkloric Company, the founding of the Yaroko Dance Company, and choreography work with Fernando Bujones ("I help him do a cha-cha-cha ballet version of the lambada. Why not? Dance is free, you do whatever you want"), has always studied the African influences on Cuban culture: "Here there is not enough attention to that. In Cuba it's different. The mambo, the rumba, popular dances - all came from Africa, and there is an awareness of the value of African culture. It is a cultural thing."
To watch Garcia at work on that cultural thing - her shoulders snapping back and forth in animal-like rhythms, her hips undulating in slow, steady tribal gyrations - is to be struck by the beauty and power of Afro-Cuban dance. And while putting the class through its paces, she manages to keep up a quiet patter: "We will learn the popular Santeria dances, mostly from three regions in Africa: Yoruba, from Nigeria, Arara and Dahomey from the Congo. Every dance for every saint has different movements. The Palo is the fighting dance, the hands stay straight. Forget that you are a woman; don't move the hips, just twist the shoulders.... This is for Eleggua, always playing, making jokes: you spin back and forth, representing the opposite sides of man, good and bad.... This is the dance for Ogun, the warrior, make your arms like a machete, cutting, cutting."
And as she illustrates the Chango-inspired rumba ("Just legs, no shoulders, move the hips...pa...pa...pa...you have to bounce, not just move back and forth") a bit of dance advice from the saints, perfectly suited to modern life, even club life, dangles in the air: "Take space. Go forward. Move.