SMOKE: Let's Dance
Originally published: 9 June 2004
Yesterday Tashi wrote a story about her sometime-fantastical dance moves, and it reminded me of a better time - a time when I could thrash about madly for eight hours on end in a frenzy of alternative rock-inspired rage.
These days I prefer the comfort of a table in the back of any given dungeon-like establishment, surrounded by towering edifices of beer and with appropriate back support.
But it's never a good idea to start a story at the end, so let's backtrack a while - to the very first time I ever danced...
I was in Standard 5 - a budding thespian and veteran of two ballets at the State Theatre in Pretoria - and I was doing some play which had Girls in it. Nice ones.
Since I'd been at an all-boys school, and had never had much contact with girls my age, this sudden infusion of femininity into my life was like sweet ambrosia, for I was never the little boy who hit the girls to make them cry. No sir.
I fancied them from the moment I realised - at age three - just how lovely they are, and my opinion will forever remain unchanged on that.
There was a group of three girls, who were a year older than me and in high school, and that one year's difference seemed like five to me. They were wise in the ways of the world, they had bright eyes and infectious laughs, and their young but splendid breasts caught and held my attention, as I swam in subservient wonder.
At the after party of the show I was alone, playing with a yo-yo like anybody's dear old loser, but those three girls knew a thing or two about what they wanted and what they wanted was to dance.
They got hold of me, confiscated my yo-yo (it later disappeared and I was devastated - warm, undulating breasts or not, that yo-yo was a special black one with all sorts of streamlining and string efficiency designs, and I won it by collecting 20 of those rubber things in the tops of Coke bottles - I made many sacrifices and numerous innocent people lost their lives before I finally got it) - and they swept me onto the dance floor for the first time in my life.
The music was Wild Boys by Duran Duran (this was 1985), and when I protested that I couldn't dance they showed me how to step from one foot to the other, first touching my left foot with my right, then transferring my weight to my right foot and touching it with my left. From side to side.
And that's it. Nobody dances like that anymore, but if you were around in the eighties then the chances are that you did.
I decided I liked Wild Boys, I knew after one night of staring glassy-eyed at the urgent, needing breasts in line with my eyes that I would be a slave to breasts forever, and I went home drunk on lust, taking advantage of myself in my inebriated state.
When I woke up in the morning I reached over to put an arm around myself, but discovered I had left, leaving a note on the pillow which read:
"You were fantastic last night darling, but I'm slightly embarrassed that our mutual friendship has taken such a carnal turn. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy it, but I need some space to think about what happened, and to see if hair grows on my palms. Now I know what you meant when you said I was in 'big' trouble, you 'big' stud."
I try talking to myself about my problems sometimes, but I never seem to listen.
From that sweet beginning it all went south - the next time I danced was when I was in Standard 8, and it was at a house party.
I found myself in the arms of a tall, lithe classmate who - without her school uniform - had suddenly turned into a ravishing young woman with all sorts of interesting bits that would otherwise go undiscovered in the course of a normal school day, and it was the first slow dance I ever had.
When the kiss happened it was a first as well - it took me a moment of startled horror until I realised that the thing in my mouth was a tongue, but once I got used to the different flavour of the underside of the tongue I decided I liked it, and from then on only four columns of Panzer tanks would have the faintest hope of dislodging me from it.
The song was Forever Young by Alphaville, the lights were low andas I buried my heart and soul into her mouth my enjoyment was mildly tempered by the embarrassment of being close to her and obviously aroused.
She didn't seem to mind, and indeed pressed a little closer. Chicks, huh? Sheesh.
A few years later I arrived at university in black jeans, a black shirt, a black coat, a black hat and black boots with spurs on the heels. Suffice it to say that my unleashed fury now had an outlet and it wasn't to be found in the service of the sick and needy, nor in upliftment and development programmes for the kiddies.
I ploughed headfirst into the first group of headbangers I saw and got my noggin staved in for my troubles and I didn't come up for air for four to five years.
I - and fellow student friends - would take on The Fringe in force, rip our shirts off and fling them to the furthest recesses of that filthy, dark establishment, and get stuck into the best alternative music the early nineties had to offer.
The Fringe was unique in that nobody gave a flying fuck what you did there - a crazy guy doing crazy things on the dance floor was considered the norm, rather than the bizarre exception. It was all freestyle, of course, and no move was considered too weird or extreme.
Which is just as well, because if I behaved like that in a modern club they really and truly wouldn't understand.
I had a massive back operation in the mid-90s - a discectomy and spinal fusion, in which bone was taken from my hip to fortify my spine along with two steel screws after a disc was removed from my lower back - and it took many months in a back brace before I was able to walk with any amount of confidence.
The brace was a plastic monstrosity which was moulded to the shape of my torso and strapped on with velcro, and to disguise it I wore jerseys over it.
On the first night I ventured out after the operation (many months had passed) we went to the Corner House - a small, low-ceilinged place which was still serving alternative music.
I gingerly swayed in one spot, not moving much, and didn't move from that place. I was very involved in one song when out of the corner of my eye I saw something lunging at me, and before I had time to react a madman had leaped onto my back, his full weight resting on a seriously weakened spine.
He bounced up and down a few times on my back while strangling me, and my screams were lost under the din of Pepper by the Butthole Surfers, pumped to the max through the oversized Bulldog speakers I was next to.
When kind assistants dragged him off I discovered it was none other than Graham Weir - resident Capetonian nutter and author of the best theatre shows to come out of South Africa in the 1990s: Not The Midnight Mass, Psychodelic Cowboy And Sister Nun - which I performed in - Brief Descriptions and Letters From Patient Essop.
And therefore he couldn't be blamed. A madman cannot be blamed for his insanity, and indeed should be revered for his genius.
Put it this way - if you need a loon to leap on your freshly-carved-up back and bounce on it for good measure, then Graham Weir is most assuredly your man. He's a good kid, but has his problems just like the rest of us.
After that I never really danced again, although occasionally I'll make a token attempt in an effort to keep the birdies happy.
But mostly I sit in the corner and watch my hot little wife shake that hot little ass, and in times like that - all is good with the world.
It's all good.
All Smoked Out,