I was in the mood to go out on Saturday night. I’ve been very busy socially lately but it’s hasn’t been the going out kind of social, if that makes sense; like I go to a lot of dinners and shows and house parties and things like that—sometimes even events–and I have people over to my house to drink tea and eat cookies and watch movies and have long silly conversations, but I can’t even remember the last time I was on Cuba Street after midnight, or the last time I had this conversation:
“Okay, are we going? We should go.”
“Yeah, we’re going right now.”
“Okay but where’s R?”
“She’s on her way.”
“Did you text J?”
“He went to Electric Avenue, he’ll meet us later.”
“So are we going?”
“We are but we have to wait for K. And also A.”
“When are they coming?”
“Like in ten minutes, after they go home and get changed.”
“What about J and D? And J and M?”
“J said he doesn’t want to go because he’s tired but I still think he should come and D is at roller derby and I haven’t heard from him for hours. I don’t think J and M are in town even, I think they went home.”
“Okay, but. Are we going? We should just go. Let’s just go. Everyone else will just have to get there on their own.”
“Yeah, let’s go.”
“You guys! You guys! We’re going! Come on! We’re going! Guys! Let’s go! We’re leaving! Come on! Leaving! Now! Guys! We’re going!”
(This being Wellington, of course, the above conversation would be negotiating a ten minute walk up the street).
But I just wanted to go out, Saturday, like I was just really keen to go out–and not only that, I was keen to go out and dance. Inconveniently, I no longer have much interest in wandering around Courtenay Place in a group of madly texting friends (“Where are you? Are you coming? Are we going?”) trickling in and out of clubs filled with grinding teenagers and tiresome music, and that’s pretty much what there is in this town, in terms of dancing that does not occur in my living room with the curtains drawn and my tiny little speakers turned up to a volume much like that of a gently flickering hummingbird hovering delicately over a long-throated flower, which is about as loud as they go. Actually I should say: that’s what there is in this town for 28-to-30 nights per month, because on that 29th-to-31st day? There is Atomic.
Atomic is a dance night that is, quite simply, brilliant, and obviously the result of much demographic study on the part of the always-excellent San Francisco Bath House. They’re very good over there; they know there is an entire seething population of people born in the 70s and 80s (okay but mostly the 70s) who just…who just want to put on whatever and pay their ten dollars and drink their beers and go shake their chunky-glasses-wearing, social-sciences-studying, Princess-Bride-loving, iPhone-worshipping booties to The Cure and The Smiths and New Order because is that so wrong? High school has been over a long time now and shouldn’t we finally get our chance to put down our poetry notebooks and rule the dance floor, just for one night a month? WE DIDN’T GO TO PROM, OKAY.
I was pretty proud of my planning: I knew I’d fall asleep if I even looked at my bed so I went to birthday drinks and then to another ceilidh just to stay awake and get warmed up, and then after a quick outfit change (skinny jeans, sort-of-backless top I could still get a bra under, big hoop earrings, my messiest, craziest, curliest hair, and wedge heels) I busted over to a bar where all the buddies had gathered and where we dithered for a good hour about who was going and where everyone was and what was happening and are we going now? By the time we made the grueling journey from Malthouse to San Fran I was beginning to doubt myself, a little. I mean it’s been ages since I danced in public and I was wondering if I still had it in me, if I still had my moves, which, you may not be surprised to hear, need to be seen to be believed. I was wondering if I’d be able to stay awake. I was wondering if the music would be too loud.
But we went in and got stamped and got drinks and I was sort of peering at all the other scarf-wearing liberals and debating taking my rightful place among them when “This Charming Man” came on and there we all were, hopping around and waving our arms and shaking our booties and obviously it was a big mess and of course we looked ridiculous but damn baby it was fun.
They played The Smiths and The Cure And New Order and Erasure and The Pixies and Blondie and The Clash and Talking Heads and Tainted Love—come on, like they weren’t going to play Tainted Love–and we danced and danced and danced and danced. I got really sweaty and gross and had to wipe my hair out of my face eight thousand times and almost broke an ankle or two with my goddamn wedge heels (I am totally wearing Chucks next time) and considered giving out a very stern Dance Floor Citation to the one couple—and there is one on every dance floor, everywhere across the world, I know this for a true fact—who thought they were being so hilarious by swing dancing during Love Will Tear Us Apart. We all did our amazing moves (I remembered mine!) and our hand gestures and our lip-synching and sometimes we had to close our eyes and tip our heads back and just drink in the healing power of synthesizers and harmonized vocals and feel that all was, ever so briefly, right with the world. I don’t know why they don’t have Atomic every night of the year.