Whenever I have a particularly social weekend I feel the need to document it here, as if to say ”See? I can have a life! Sometimes! If I can make sure that my jammies and a nice cup of tea are waiting for me at home! And I can have a nap during the day!”
So this past Friday night I had some sort of nebulous plans to go out with the girls I met on the airport bus to see a show. Phone calls and text messages were exchanged but somehow I managed to miscalculate the meeting time by a whole three hours. Leilach and Lindsey were very accomodating of my idiocy though, and after a brief stop at Espressoholic to talk about boys we made it to the bar and met Jules (another girl from the bus) and checked out the dance floor, which was filled, inexplicably, with fake smoke, making everyone cough and wave their hands around. I was encouraged by the fact that they played Kiss by Prince, which is always cheering and puts me in a good mood.
When Ladi 6 took the stage my mood got even better because she was so gorgeous. I loved everything about her: her hair, her awesome tiki necklace, her dangerous dark sticky molasses voice, the way she glanced sidelong at us in the audience and batted her eyes suggestively, the way she freestyle rapped, the way she hugged her friend who got onstage with her, the way she had everyone sing along with her. I don’t know from dub, which is kind of a disadvantage because here in New Zealand we are, apparently, all about the dub, but I didn’t care, because my crush on this astounding singer was developing at such a pleasing velocity and because everyone was having such a good time. I kept yelling to Jules how awesome the whole thing was and she smiled patriotically and yelled back “PRETTY GOOD EH?”
We all screamed and cried for her to play more songs but by 2:30 she was done. The bouncer told us, when we were leaving, that we should go have a feed and then come back and dance some more because they were open until seven. I thought about how he hadn’t even bothered to card me and told him I’d need to have a nap, not a feed, if I were going to be out until seven. I did neither, however, but just got the night bus home and was asleep before I even got into bed.
Saturday night, in a shocking move, I had plans to meet up with Jill and a bunch of people I knew from the Maple Lodge, so I took it pretty easy during the day, sleeping in late and swanning over to Fidel’s for an overpriced but very yummy breakfast after returning my awesome nature documentary DVDs. We had plans to go to a new bar in town called Mighty Mighty and I was finally going to get a chance to wear my new octopus shirt that my mom altered for me when she was here last week. Jill, by the way, is leaving for Australia in about a month, kill me now, and I kind of don’t know what I’m going to do without her. She is not only very good about finding fun places to go out and about meeting me for Malaysian food on Cuba Street but also because she is amazing in every way and has made my time in Wellington so good for so many reasons. I am having a hard time imagining what it’s going to be like here without her, for real.
She gave me a big hug and a kiss when I showed up at the hostel, late again because of the bus, and we all went over to the good old Southern Cross, where good old Harbour City Electric was playing. I implemented my new policy of not even pretending anymore that I am going to drink alcohol and straight up ordering lemon-lime-and-bitters everywhere I go instead of getting an eight-dollar glass of bubble and then drinking a third of it over the course of an hour. It was really warm in the outdoor garden and we shed our sweaters and coats for what felt like the first time in months because it was the first time in months. Wellington basically didn’t get a spring this year and it hasn’t looked good for getting a summer, either, so the novelty of sitting outside in shirt sleeves was a subject of much comment.
Some of the group were staying at the hostel for a couple of nights, some were long-termers, and others were like me, people who are here on working holiday visas but have decided to put down some temporary roots. It was a really fun group of people and I even got to attempt to talk a little shop with a psychiatric nurse from France. (Once I learned the French for “progressive neural lesions” we were in business). I looked around and realized once again—I am constantly realizing this, in all sorts of different contexts—that I live here now, that I have some sort of history here, that I too can have private jokes and tell stories about other times we all went out. This never gets old for me.
Epiphanies aside, eventually it was time to head over to Mighty Mighty, and I was again patting myself on the back for staying out soooooo late, telling myself that this is probably how rockstars feel when they go out. I knew I’d made a good decision about coming to this bar because the first thing I saw when I walked in was a giant stuffed peacock. The second thing I saw was a pinball machine called “Bride Of Pinbot 3000,” and the third thing I saw was a guy riding through the bar area on a tricycle. “Good call,” I whispered to Jill.
There was a dance floor and a DJ and even though I didn’t recognize the music I got out there pretty quick, because it was too loud to talk to anyone and I like to have projects. In this case the project was “Attempt to find some sort of beat to this weird uncool song that the DJ is clearly playing because it makes him look cool, not because anyone can actually dance to it.”
I was doing my best, trying to live up to the glory that is my new octopus shirt when a girl wearing a really cool skirt came up to me and yelled “YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON HERE WHO CAN DANCE TO THE BEAT SO I AM DANCING WITH YOU.” (This, by the way, is totally the way to my heart).
“I DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS MUSIC,” I yelled back. She was very drunk and had a lot of cleavage, and it transpired that it was her birthday.
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY,” I screamed. “I WISH THEY WOULD PLAY KISS BY PRINCE FOR YOU.”
“THAT WOULD BE GOOD,” she said, gyrating wildly and eventually gathering a small crowd around her. “IF THEY HAVE A DANCE COMPETITION HERE I WANT YOU TO BE MY PARTNER, OKAY?” she said, getting down on her knees and bopping her head around. I thought nostalgically about my dear Anna, who I got to know way back in the nineties by the simple method of challenging her to a dance-off at a college party.
Turns out they didn’t have a dance competition that evening, but later in the bathroom I ran into that very same girl and she asked for my number. She said it was because she was having a party in a couple of weeks and that she wanted “people who can dance” to come. “If I see any I’ll let them know,” I told her, although secretly I think that it was the power of my octopus shirt and not my stylin’ moves that led her to flirt with me. I reported this exchange to Jill, who was standing underneath the fronds of a potted palm.
“Wow, girl,” she said. “Five minutes here and you’ve already pulled.”
“What can I say, the ladies love me,” I said. “And have you seen my shirt?” I asked, pointing helpfully to it.
(“Pulled,” by the way, for any Americans reading this, is some sort of British colloquialism that means “scored,” as in “I went to the bar and totally pulled last night.” I didn’t quite get this when I was first introduced to the term. “Pulled what?” I asked, all confused. “Like you physically pull her out of the bar and into your car, or something?” Yeah, no. The upshot has been that now whenever I see a swinging door that says PUSH on one side and PULL on the the other, I always feel judged. PULL, says the door. I’m working on it, okay? I say back.)
The music wasn’t getting appreciably better…I wish I had recognized it so I could tell you in more detail how much it sucked, but I can’t even describe it. Most of my friends were sitting and talking and drinking beer and I thought, I’m either playing Bride Of Pinbot 3000 or I’m dancing, and there was a big line in front of Bride Of Pinbot 3000 so it was back to the dance floor to try to make sense of it all.
I noticed a couple of hot-like-the-sun young boys—one wearing a tight t-shirt, the other wearing an open necked button-down shirt and multiple pierces–near me who were raising their eyes and shaking their heads every time a new song came on, and I instinctively knew that these were my people. We made eye contact and started smirking every time a new pointless “song” came on, and we’d wait for the first couple of seconds to see if we could figure out how to dance to it.
“DON’T COMMIT YET,” I yelled to the open-necked guy after one particularly stumping choice. “IT COULD GO EITHER WAY.”
“I DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS MUSIC,” he yelled back.
“I KNOW. WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO PLAY KISS BY PRINCE?”
“I WAS JUST WONDERING THAT MYSELF,” said the tight-t-shirt guy.
We soldiered on, though, devoted to this project, and I found myself having a really good time. It’s one of the sad facts of my life that I love to dance but don’t do it enough—I don’t even dance around my living room in my underwear nearly enough, which is just a shame. I was getting a little more into it, fueled by the knowledge that I was near some like-minded boys and also by the sheer gorgeousness of said boys, because if the music is going to suck you may as well have something nice to look at.
“I HAVE TO HAND IT TO YOU GIRL,” said the tight-t-shirt guy. “YOU CAN MOVE.” (Totally, totally the way to my ego-tastic little octopus-shirt-wearing heart).
“OH GIRL,” I said, coquettishly wiping the sweat off my brow, “YOU’RE MAKING ME BLUSH.” My friend Michael saw this exchange, which ended with friendly cheek kisses all around.
“Wow,” he said. “You just got right in there.”
“That’s how I operate,” I confided. “Stealthy.”
“Are you going to, like, follow up on that?” he asked. I raised my eyebrows and pursed my lips and looked back at the boys, who were kind of grinding on each other and stunning the entire bar with their collective hotness.
“Ohhhhhhhhhhh. Right,” he said. “So, no.”
“Heterosexuality?” I said. “Is pretty much wasted on me.”
I was getting pretty tired by that point so I said goodbye to the nice pretty dancing boys and the nice friendly be-cleavaged dancing girl and headed out. The DJ, who clearly had felt the full brunt of the steely-eyed glares I’d been sending in his direction, played ‘I Love Rock And Roll” just as I was walking out, and I dithered at the top of the stairs, wanting to make sure to get my bus but also wanting to dance to a good song. I’m sorry to report that I copped out stupidly, stupidly and didn’t stay. I don’t know what I was thinking, man. (And of course the bus was late and I totally could have stayed.)
I had to walk down Cuba Street and Courtenay Place to get to the big bus stop: past the dreadlocked firespinner guy on the mall by the fountain, past the angry girl with mascara dripping down her very young face, clacking away from her boyfriend who was screaming “COME BACK HERE AND TALK TO ME EH JUST COME BACK AND TALK,” past a bemused-looking Blanket Man. Right on cue, I passed a hen party, all wearing iridescent Playboy Bunny ears. Right on cue, a beer bottle smashed at my feet as “Respect” by Aretha Franklin played out from one of the packed packed bars. A hipster in a Duncan and Prudence Newtown shirt and little round glasses leaned against a post, texting; a dark-haired girl, wearing a tube top, shorts, a big wide belt right up under her breasts, and ankle-wrap wedge sandals, stumbled across the street and the cabs all slowed down to let her pass; a cleaner in a fluorescent vest swept the sidewalks, not looking at anyone.
I would never do this at home, I thought, still flush with dancing and music and fun, never walk through town in the middle of the night, never dare to take public transportation after dark, never think to go out two times in forty-eight hours. I sat quiet as Courtenay Place on a summer’s Saturday night swirled around me, playing my own tiny little part, keeping all my eyes open, living what passes for my rockstar lifestyle.