“Be mindful of those
pulling you out of the norm,
while blithely dancing up a storm…”
“Trust me, girl, it’s so fluid, you just naturally get swept up in it…”
“Honestly, you can totally turn your mind off—get, watchacallit, lost in the moment!”
“Really—brains are overrated, anyway. I mean, when you really think about it…”
“Omigod, Meg—that’s so brilliant…”
Now then, the dancers had been gaining quite a following. Sleek, slicked back, skin-tight dressed and zooted, a strong feline woman and meek macho gaucho stepped haughty and naughty about the fake parquet flooring, spread across Fillmore like a display roll at Carpets-R-Us. An eight piece Latin group crowded the tiny StreetJazz bandstand, pitched sideways against a mid-block driveway, Honda generators feeding off the open garage power source of a set-back tan Victorian three flat. Fantango had progressed from Jobim Brazilian to Jazz con Salsa, to Dizzy Cubop to some sizzling tango fusion before teasing out a standards set of tango classics by Roberto Flores, Mariano Mores and Alberto Caraccido.
It was ricocheting horn layers and trap-set percussion that eventually impelled a clapping semicircle of the merely intrigued, and those fully inclined to flood the spongy parquet. Admiring them as well were the same two gal pals from a crosswalk down, who had beaten us uphill to this curbside cabaret. Offering forth further barricade commentary, the same leggy brunette, again within earshot, caught my eye, this time flashing me a discreet spin and thrust of her index finger—as if she actually knew me from somewhere.
Among the few reluctant dance hold-outs was a mortgage broker likely down from Marin, in open-collared Pink and Polo, evidently calculating his interest in this streaky blond whirlwind brandishing her daisy print halter, black running tights and gold ballet slippers. Soon, even his well-weathered Sebagos were slide tapping to a smooth segue from a Francisco Canero cover of ‘Amor y Primavera’ to some hotter blooded Tango Nuevo. By now, even several of his snarky ubersexual buds stopped checking their Bulgari and Hublot chronographs, reconfiguring their Blackberrys, long enough to sweep adventuresome weekenders from Vandy and Swarthmore—and rather more reckless UC Santa Barbara babes—right off their black platforms and Primo Chills.
Lengthy, frothy linen and eyelet lace skirts swayed and swirled to Fantango’s angular melodies, the Latino band’s polyrhythmic riffs, as steamy and sultry partner dancers improvised, embraced, dipped, vamped and intertwined in sensuous synchronicity, as though lost in some somatic milonga zeno-zen trance, egged on further by the string glissandos and push-pull bandoneon.
Never one for dancing, I nodded back sheepishly to that brainy, ball-capped woman—real neighborly like—then continued leaning against a parking meter, watching as the mismatched dance duo stepped out onto the faux parquet flooring with demonstrable compound interest. Turning away, I spotted Reese Paulen emerging from the Juicy News and Smoothie store, soon steadying himself against a bus shelter, chatting up a little more ear phone action of his own. By the time Fantango reached its encore crescendo, he was sidling back down my way.
“Hip-hop, it’s not,” I said, Fantango easing off now in freeform interplay between its standing congas and bass. “Looks like you missed the real smokin’ stuff…”
“Heard plenty, actually,” he wedged between my parking meter and a covered trash bin, the tight space that Marinated odd couple had just vacated. “Had to replenish my reading material, make a quick little call. Fascinating exercise, though. Pure social regression, if you will, post-modern urbanites reverting to earlier behavioral rituals in the face of today’s fear and uncertainty.”
“Yeah, seems the mambo and samba are coming back, too…” With that, I caught a downward glance at his new magazines, a mix of the clinical and neuro-cytology, with a little clerical/secular conflict tossed in.
“Funny, in Boulder, they’re neo-squaredancing, albeit to country rock,” he flipped through fresh copies of ‘Parabola’, a ‘Scientific America’ brainwave special, a ‘Forward’ and retrospective issue of ‘Tikkun’, hand to hand.
“Guess this is a bit more fashionably retrosensual than that,” I shouted, steadying myself over Fantango’s closing flourish—not at all feeling embedded in a culture of like-minded people. Actually, their swirling, the spinning soundscape imbalances altogether spun around my semicircular auditory canals like carnival Tilt-A-Whirl cars. But of course this surfacing disconcertion ran much deeper than that.
“I’ve heard Josef Mengele danced a pretty mean tango himself.”
“Uh, that, I wouldn’t know…”
The whistling and applause subsiding, we pivoted up toward Jackson Street. Those pseudo, neo, neuvo, wannabe tango dancers, such as they were, dispersed to the surrounding fair stands and shops across Fillmore, to the sheepskin slippers and hyroglyphic sculpted paper displays. Fantango were already breaking down their instruments, Lindy hopping from the low makeshift stage, though mindful not to sully their Tropicana Cubavera linens and beachy Havana Joe’s.
Peering down from the bay windows above us all were various isolated old-timers, pacing their musty efficiency apartments, aghast at the whole sordid spectacle and this vulgar, racy trance music—slamming sashes, yanking blinds, registering dismay, utter disdain for those scandalous dance moves barely removed from the beaner brothels and barrios. Neveryoumind that they had mamboed and sambaed their own way to ecstasy in San Francisco ballrooms long, long decades ago.
Up here at StreetJazz’s higher end, the few remaining white-capped tent stands displayed matted spectral emulations, letterboxed antique seed packets and cleverly framed trompe l’ oeil. Jade jewelry and solid silver wristlets, Colombian mochila bags, kiln-dried teak garden furniture, trapezoidal hanging lawn chairs and sidewalk armomatherapists: Rimming all this were a frosty mix of come-lately storefront tax dodges making their don’t-ask pricey antique and fashion statements. Among them, mainstay tailors/cleaners, hair and nail parlors clung to their regulars and long-term leases, lofty Pacific Heights addresses getting higher by the month to month.
“So why Mengele,” I asked, avoiding eye contact with an all-knowing tarot reader card tabled into a green brickface apartment house doorway. Ancient Nazi history, right? But at least doc wasn’t hitting on all the Two-State Palestinian stuff going on these days.
“Doctor Death came to mind when I picked up this little item on the newsbox over there,” Paulen said, as he motioned toward the crooked string of Chronicle, Bay Guardian, and assorted throwaway weekly dispensers, atop which were scattered color-crazed dance club and rave cards.
“Naw, what the…” I took a blood-red leaflet announcing tomorrow’s Die-In mobilization rally down in Dolores Park against the aforereferenced Palestinian strife going on. Its headline read, ‘No War For Isroil’, followed by some bold, exclamatory copy along the lines of casting off ‘Israel: America’s Albatross’. “Where did this come…”
“I particularly like that part about peak oil and the Zionist Occupational Entity,” the professor sneered, as we angled up Fillmore, between a clot of young women sampling Zencraft body lotions, and the Muni bus shelter within sniffing distance of that flower-scented sidewalk display.
“I can’t believe somebody would be spreading this,” I sputtered, noting another power point to the effect that Israel was avenging the Eurocaust by persecuting the plundered Palestinians in their very own land. “I mean, here…today…”
“As I said, the hatred never ends, my friend—the bigotry never ends…”
Streetward from the bus shelter, StreetJazz trailed off in an effluvium of plumed vests, driftwood end tables and aberrant paintings of Montmarte and Moulin Rouge. Ecospheric montages sprayed with tinted polymers crunched up against Tuscan fine-art glass, which crowded out tooled leather poveles and graybeard hippie fogscapes of the Mendocino coast.
Midway between the rock crystal amulets and kookoo fish magnets, we happened upon a bustling promotional booth for pure Rocky Mountain spring water. Itsthe planet-friendly reps were passing out free biodegradable sample bottles to a steady throng of parched Fillmore inclimbers: agua straight from Colorado—such a sky hydrating deal.
“Anyway,” Paulen sighed, pinning his magazines under his arm so as to twist open his bottle cap. “Do you miss Boulder at all?”
“Miss…I don’t know,” I marveled that the icy container was made of a corn derivative, something termed polylactic acid, so politically biodegradable—all the better for to dodge how refocused I’d become of late on the Flatironed college town. “Haven’t thought about it for so long…” Otherwise, why would I? Those haunting, searing memories—all the abnormal feedback loops, a central monitoring mechanism once gone utterly, hopelessly haywire. ‘Twas a lightening storm in rival regions, of hyperactivity across my neural networks, as best as I could recall…
“Really, I should think…”
“Why, have you missed being here in San Francisco all these years?”
“Ask me when I finish this spring water,” Paulen said dismissively. “Or at least after I give a listen to little Miss Hejira here…”
Care for more?
Chapter Nine. Fair’s end precipitates
some outrageous movements,
and leads to a curious twist of faith…