New York City was my first stop thanks to my friend Jim Housley. He had moved Back East (as we Westerners say) and offered a place to crash outside of Princeton, New Jersey. Within days we were in The City (yes, it deserves the capitals), checking out the possibilities.
By dusk we were at the top of a flight of stairs in lower Manhattan knocking on a black door. At eye level a square panel slid to the side. After Jim was recognized and I was eyeballed the black door was opened. This was the winter before the Stonewall riot and gay bars in New York were still under siege.
Under siege, perhaps, but that wasn’t stopping anyone. The place was packed, the dance floor was large, the music was loud and the beers and smokes were expensive.
I egged Jim onto the dance floor. He settled into a repetitive, quiet, still, eyes-closed throb of a dance, knees bending and arms keeping rhythm with hands in simple bobs from navel to knees. I concentrated on him, my arms in arcs, dancing in and away, circling, in and away, twirling, ever focused on his quiet throb.
During the dance it became easier to move without having to find space to move. My long arms opened up to loops, arcing up away from him and swooping down toward him, the energy brought to focus on his quiet throbs.
As the music approached its final chord I focused on our surroundings. There was space all around us. No one else was dancing. They were all watching.
Later that summer I was in The City with acquaintances and ended up in another dance dive. I met several guys and we enjoyed hitting the floor. For some reason I went on a finger rapping bender. Every song, when we were holding one another, I was thumping my fingers on their backs, like playing the piano. It seemed so cleaver.
A few days later I was reading one of the underground newspapers that were cropping up at the time. There was a fun article about what to expect from dance partners based on the partner’s name. There was Bill and Joe and Hank and a long list of others, including Dean.
And what to expect when dancing with a Dean? According to one New York City newspaper, Deans drum their fingers on you.
How did The City DO that ? ? ? ? !