January 2, 2009

Dancing The Blues

Tuesday was the weekly blues concert in the park held in a tourist town near by. It’s a great park for events like this. It’s in between a river and a paved bike path that goes for miles, hooking several small towns together. Maple trees form a canopy over the stage and people bring their lawn chairs and blankets and spread them on the gentle sloping hill facing that simple platform. The sun is low in the sky by concert time and it dapples on the water, reflecting on the undersides of the tree branches. At the top side of the dam, there are usually canoes and kayaks parked along the shore.

I’d forgotten to put my folding camp chair in the car so I spread our emergency blanket at the edge of the bike path where Don could stay on the pavement with his wheelchair. Soon we were surrounded with bikers in spandex. In our view was another kind of biker, all in denim and black leather and sporting tattoos. These guys stood at the edge of the crowd looking bold and mysterious. We love to people watch at these events. Everyone comes to them from nursing babies in their mother’s arms to yuppies with cell phones attached to their heads to families who pass pizza boxes back and forth.

Right next to stage, a gaggle of kids from two to ten usually gathers. The boys jump up and down to the beat of the music like jackrabbits on steroids and the girls pair off in groups of three or four, looking like back-up dancers on MTV with their choreographed moves. A blonde little boy of two or three always stands by the stage with a red plastic guitar helping the band find their mojo.

Tuesday another couple took to the grass dance floor with the kids and they didn’t sit out a single song. The guy looked like a balding Woody Allen and his partner looked like a corpus. You almost needed sunglasses to look at her bare legs sticking out from her wrangler shorts. If they hadn’t been so old---they were in their sixties---you would have called their dancing style sexy, sensual and often down right dirty. But for some reason I just couldn’t take them seriously as their kept their eyes focused on one another, their lips within inches of each other. His hands roamed her butt as she fingered what little hair he at the nap if his neck. Had there been a beer tent at the concert, I’m sure several of us would have been shouting, “Get a room!” How ever I felt about them---and I couldn’t decide between extreme amusement or faint disgust---it was clear they’d gotten their money’s worth out all those Arthur Murray Dance lessons they no doubt had taken. No one dances with that tango gaze for two hours without professional intervention.

Since that night, I’ve been examining my thoughts and why it is that a couple in their sixties dancing with passion and joy could look almost like cartoon figures while had it been someone like John Travolta or Patrick Swayze (in their primes) with a hot girl in his arms, I would have been thoroughly charmed and come home with a romantic glow on my face instead of a silly smile. I wondered if younger women in the crowd had looked on them and sighed, and said to themselves, “When I’m that age I hope my husband still looks at me that way.” I wondered if the kids who shared the dance area with this couple wondered why they were the only adults out of several hundred who hadn’t lost their appreciation of dancing to rhythm and blues. I wondered if that guy was someone I had danced with back in my youth when I was wearing long strings of beads and hip-hugger bell-bottoms to the clubs. I suspect he was.

The blues concerts, I decided, are a metaphor for the cycles of life. From nursing babies to humped-over great-grandmas from a near-by independent living center, all phases in human life were there sharing a common bond for those two hours in the park. I have been most of those ages and I look back with fondness at all of my reincarnations. I’m betting that I’ll like being seventy and eighty as well. One thing is for sure, only the very young and the very old get to the concerts in the park early enough to claim the best views of the stage. The more we change, the more we stay the same.

Jean Riva ©

Painting by: Pierre-Auguste Renior

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