There are only two types of Christmas parties ever worth going to.
One is the work related, and the other is the Watering Hole related. Sorry, those neighborhood affairs? Way too much forced ho-ho-edness and way too many comments on the sorry state of your domestic vegetation and lack of holiday lights for me.
Ally and I have been to exactly two parties this year, we went to two last year, and the year before. It’s fast become a holiday tradition.
We went to the work function two weeks ago. Which is to say, we went to Ally’s work function, as the Outfoxed Crew couldn’t raise enough cash right now to fund a bonfire soiree, even without the potables. Ally’s company is part of an industry, a national grouping of irregular and independent entities which . . . oh hell, they sell cars and parts for cars (in her case, just the accessories). I was gonna try to be all mischievous and sly about what she does for a living but just how do you put a dress on a pig and call it runway fashions anyway?
So we went to a 3 star hotel right on the ocean and got set to boogie with the used car salesmen. Dress-up casual, dancing with a band, buffet food and a cash bar. That sort of boogie.
Let me tell you. You’d have to look far and wide to find better entertainment. And I don’t mean the band. Take your average salesman, stick him in a red leather suit and put the sixth mixed drink in his hand and you’ve got hours of slap stick just begging for a video camera. If you factor in his wife (or what I’m assuming was his wife) who went through the closet and decided that this year was the perfect opportunity to wear the chain mail corset and coif her mullet into a rat-tail (I couldn’t possibly make this stuff up), you just double the fun. And they dance, oh lord do they dance.
Fashion wise, I’m not in the same league as these folks. I wear my one good suit, and while it’s a very good suit indeed it’s just not a boogie suit. Think power meetings on the 14th floor, Senate hearings, or defiantly funerals and you have my suit. For some reason they always look upon me as a little stuffy.
Ally’s bosses are a husband and wife team who built this business from the back of a station wagon and are doing quite well with it. Ed is a man so laid back that he dares to wear just a sweater and jeans to this shindig, while Elise favors the once a year evening gown tailored for much dancing and gossip-circle hopping. And I like both of them, they’re pretty genuine folks in an industry that rewards disgustingly shady behavior.
But Elise will not, cannot allow anyone not to dance.
You know the disease. Put a woman in a party dress, give her access to a dance hall and she’ll be on the floor for hours. Short of lassoing her back to the feed table there is little stopping her, and all persons at said table are expected to be out there with her at all times. Hours, I’m talking here.
“Now Outfoxed, don’t even tell me you’re going to sit there all night like you did last year, and only get up to dance with your gorgeous wife once. And all those trips to the bar and up on the balcony for a smoke? Not happening this time, bucko.”
Humph. I’m not a dancer, never really have been. I don’t hate it, exactly. I love music, even dance music, but getting my hips and feet coordinated enough to do justice to the song without endangering anyone within a 20 foot radius has always been problematic.
“Listen Elise. I’ll get up there. But don’t you go getting between me and that cash bar. You don’t want that kind of danger.”
She sneered at me. “Well you better. Don’t make me come and drag you out there. Your wife is here to dance and don’t you forget it.” Meaning, I guess, that she and my wife had been busily hatching plans for my demise for the entire fiscal quarter when they should otherwise have been busy . . . you know, working or something.
One of the better parts of this occasion was the food, and it was even better than last years. Hell, the appetizers could have fed everyone in the hotel for two days. Big sea scallops, mushrooms stuffed with crab meat, spinach rolls, lumpia, tiger shrimp. All brought to you by a waiter who tries not to cough as you sweep armloads of goodies onto a tiny plate. God I love that sorta stuff. And it’s just the prelude! You go up to the buffet and stack roast beef, new potatoes and salmon into crisp piles, sneak a second plate full of beans and bread and some mystery chicken thing and proceed to just chow down. I’m pretty sure I embarrassed my wife. But hey. I work outdoors quite a bit. I have an appetite. Sue me if these snaky car salesmen have ulcers and can’t even finish their mush.
Somewhere on the fat side of 9 pm the band cranked up and I gotta hand it to the car industry. All that slip sliding and two stepping that they do in the showroom while selling vehicles is nothing compared to their prowess on the dance floor. And their spouses/dates must all have the gene too, because the dance floor was packed from song one and stayed that way.
Elise is the sort who somehow loses her shoes by the third dance and spends the rest of the night grinding hose down to a nub on the oak parquet. She took a break after 20 minutes of twirling Ed around and came a bustling over to the table, drawn to me like a laser. “Look here, you haven’t even left the table yet! Get your sorry ass out there. Your poor wife is just mortified.”
“Settling my dinner, darlin’. ‘Sides, they haven’t played any good songs yet.”
“Oh that’s just horse pellets. This is the best dance band around. Whaddaya mean they haven’t played good songs?”
“Um, songs that don’t require movement?”
Needless to say she wasn’t going to leave me alone, and flounced off in a huff. Her husband Ed, who somehow was spared of musical entanglement for the moment, sat breathing heavily from his exertions, and gave me a mournful sidelong look.
“God, Outfoxed, the woman’s going to kill me out there, I swear it. Why did I ever let her talk me into dance lessons?” he gasped.
“You? You took dance lessons? Ed you’re kidding me.” Ed was the sort of dancer who leans in, grabs a moving object with both hands and tries his best to hang on. If his feet happen to be moving at the time it’s merely coincidental.
“Naw, I’m not. She signed us up, I’m telling ye. Been going for almost a year now. Haven’t learned a damned thing. But there’s no telling’ Elise that. Oh God, here we go again . . .” and gripped the edge of the table as the song ended and another started up, and Elise pointed at him while shooting daggers at me. “I got to go”, he whispered with sadness. “I don’t know how much of this I can take.” And off he went, disappearing into the maw of a hundred bouncing salesmen.
I looked over at Ally who was observing all this with a smile, and pouring a smuggled shot of Parrot Bay from her purse into a glass of coke. “Having fun?”, I probed.
“Oh sure, it’s great. Look at Ed out there!”
Ed was pawing the air like a grizzly on two feet, lumbering after Elise who twisted and shouted and flung hands into the air as the Village People inquired about staying at the Y.
“Don’t fret there, Ally. I’ll get out there eventually.”
Eventually turned out to be the next song, as the band made the chuggishly awkward segue into a DeBarge number. A very slow DeBarge number.
As if a switch was thrown, ever male in the place rose as one and extended a hand to their lady. “Slow Dance! I can do the Slow Dance!” Which is to say, of course, the “I can Stand in one place and Grope to my hearts content and nobody’s going to Think anything of it cause we’re all Doing the Same thing” Dance.
I excel at that sort of dance. You will not find anyone better.
So I was out there, flat footed and moving in a deliberate slow circle (it’s called leading, I think) and Elise and Ed glided/staggered by. Ed looked like he was using this song as a pit stop sort of thing as Elise seemed to bearing most of his 200 pounds or so on her shoulders. But that wasn’t what Elise was concerned with.
“Outfoxed, you don’t dance like that”, she hissed in passing.
“Whaa? What‘s wrong with my dancing?” I’ve got my right hand on Ally’s back and the left in the air holding her hand at the time, you see. Very much the picture of the ballroom gentleman.
“Oh God no“, she said in an exasperated way. “Do you see Ed doing that? Do you see anyone else doing that? Grab her ass and dance with the woman!”
I found out that you do that using only the one hand, and not two. I found that out with sudden and shocking clarity thanks to my partner.
Slow dances never last very long. Must be some sort of industry standard, don’t let ‘em grope for too long out there. Might have indecency problems or something. And they always, always follow it up with a fast number, since once you get the men out on the floor you have to keep them there to make total asses of themselves for the amusement of their partner. Or in this case, the partners boss-lady.
“Oooh, Donna Summer!” squealed Elise. “Here we farooking go!” and Ed had the look of the damned - here we farooking go indeed - as he was bounced hither and yon by the fast moving Elise.
“Hey, I remember this song”, I huffed to Ally. “I remember this song real well. Starts off kinda slow and then gets fast, right?”
“Well . . . yeah. It does. What to you mean real well?”
At this point I think the Heinekens were talking. “Oh, this was Pammy’s song. I told you about Pammy, right?”
We were still in the slow intro portion of the song, so it was quiet enough for me to hear her, and even to mentally see the pursing of lips even though she was draped on my shoulder at the time. “Who the hell is Pammy?”
“Was. Was Pammy, sweetie. Why, it was at the freshmen mixer dance at dear old Moldy U, school sponsored hoot, when they got the froshes together for a feed and a dance. Back in the days when they brought in kegs and nobody gave two hoots. Lotsa righteous chicks and beer. Oh man those were the . . .”
“Pammy, remember? The Pammy song?”
“Yeah, yeah. Well she was this totally hot chick, went to your high school as I remember. Blonde. Face of a diva. Tall. Shoulders. And a rack you could hang a rifle from. Every guy in the place had lockjaw looking at her but they were all pretty well blasted at the time. But not me. Not so’s you’d know. In fact, I was one of the only guys dancing at all.”
“You? You were dancing at a Freshman Mixer? You?”
“Sure. You know, a girl would wander by and I’d ask and lo and behold we’d dance. Shootin’ fish in a barrel. Once they see you go out there a couple times they were lining up, I tell you. Never felt so popular.” It’s true. Never before or since, as it turned out. Of course, that was 60 pounds and 60,000 beers ago, too.
“Hmmm. Pammy. Pammy from my high school. “You don’t mean Pam Nixon, do you?”
“Yep, that’s the one. Heck, we’d just finished up a number and this Donna Summer thing started up slow, and she just moved in and grabbed me and bounced that rack off’en me like I was the Pillsbury doughboy. Sheesh, I still remember the color of her sweater . . .”
Mercifully, the Heineken voice in my overactive cranium got cut off as the up tempo part of the song hit, and I swung Ally back and gave her a quick disco twirl. Got up on my toes and let me tell you, Travolta would have been proud. Ally (who by the way is an excellent dancer and her talent is wasted on me nine times out of ten) just sort of bopped back and watched me go. I tore up the Pammy song, just knocked the stuffing out of it. Even Elise was cheering me on, as Ed worked his screaming haunches furiously to keep pace.
Since I’d neglected to take off my suit coat, and since it’s wool, I was sweating out beer like a banshee at the end of that one. The song crashed to an ending and I led my surprised spouse back to the table so I could refuel and get out of that jacket.
“Wow. Pammy song, eh? You seemed to do well enough at that one.”
“Now Ally. I’ve told you that story before, you know I have. My one brush with dancing greatness. 25 years ago or more.”
“Heh. I wonder what Pam’s doing now?”, she said with a bit of a look.
“Oh, she’s probably 100 pounds heavier, of course. Always was a big girl. Out of my league even when we were college kids.” And that’s true enough, the next time I’d seen her on campus she was strolling down the plaza with a half dozen drooling upperclassmen by her side, and never even looked my way. But I threw in the weight comment just to distract Ally, who weighs just about the same as the day we married, and it ain’t all that much.
Always have had a thing for ladies with hips. Not to mention legs.
Inevitably, Elise had to escort the gasping Ed back for a rest, and he quaffed a beer, apparently without even swallowing. “God she’s killing me! Killing me!”
Elise stood, barefoot and prancing as they cued up the next number. “How about it Outfoxed? Ready to shake a hoof? Looks like you’re all warmed up now.”
“We’re going for a smoke”, Ally said sweetly and turned to me. “Aren’t we dear?”
“Right. And the bar’s right on the way.”
It didn’t stop Elise. Last I saw she was dragging some hapless and terrified warehouse guy out on the floor while Ed searched vainly for an oxygen machine.
So we stood on the balcony and watched a hundred people shimmying and Ally moved in close and slinked a free arm through mine. “Pammy dance. I don’t think I’ll forget that story next time. Besides, we don’t have to be out on the floor to dance anyways, do we.” And she rotated a hip into mine in time with the beat.
“Nope. Not at all. I think you‘re on to something here.”
As it turns out, she most certainly was.
Here’s the Guestbook, and thanks for reading. Hopefully I won’t have to dance much before next year, but you never know. I’ve got a rep to uphold now.
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