A Loungy Kind of Love

A date with romance has us turning Far Eastward

Long before 07/07/07 sent legions to Las Vegas in search of an Elvis wedding, the Japanese knew it was the ideal date for getting lucky. For them, the seventh day of the seventh month annually celebrates two lovers who were too busy getting busy to be bothered to do their work. Sounded like my kind of holiday. I settled on Saki Lounge for the scene of my indulgence.

When I arrived, white light illuminated the doors and a fashionably disheveled hottie — his blond hair tousled and his crisp, fitted shirt casually untucked — strutted confidently toward me. And then he disappeared. Another beautiful morsel materialized and vanished. These were, of course, virtual beefcake — models in a fashion show video-projected onto the doors of the Atlantic Avenue destination.

It made sense: The Delray nightclub has been the scene of many fashion shows, with the catwalk extending from the bar inside right out the door. Events like these packed the place. You couldn't see the miniforests of dark-stained bamboo for all the bodies. The ambience of flickering votives was lost in the flash of cameras. The sheerness of the delicate fabric that surrounded the red-cushioned VIP area was less apparent than the dense buzz of excitement.

Tonight, except for the thumping of the booty-shake music, the place offered the Zen that its décor intended. And by that, I mean it was nearly empty. Bartender John explained that the crowds were unpredictable, even at 11 p.m. on an overcast Saturday like this one.

Instead of ordering a house special — a Bloody Geisha or a Dragon's Breath, for instance — I chose a pomegranate martini, which seemed right for the fruit's mythological significance, even if was a completely different myth from a totally different culture. (Think of it as mythological fusion rather than sloppy multiculturalism.) And I asked John to turn down the music so I could share the story that had by chance brought me here with this group, all of whom had graduated from Spanish River High in the past five years.

As I enjoyed my sweet/tart cocktail whose fruit is nostalgic of the sweetness of reunion after bitter separation, I shared the legend that inspired the festival, Tanabata. The lovers, I explained, were separated by the heavens as punishment for their obsessive love. Represented by stars, one on each side of the Milky Way, Altair (the cowherd) and Vega (the weaver) reunite only once a year. Astronomically, the stars intersect at this time, but according to legend, a flock of birds creates a magical bridge across the river of stars so the lovers may conjoin.

"If it rains, the lovers have to wait again until next year," I said with genuine wistfulness because, after more than a year of transatlantic dating, I longed for my own distant love. The night's forecast of rain felt personally symbolic. "Talk about star-crossed lovers!"

My young audience was unmoved.

"Have y'all been lucky in love?" I ventured.

The young woman next to me, Chelsea, blushed. Her friend Lauren filled me in: "She's getting married."

"It was actually luck that we even met," Chelsea recounted. It was an evening a year and a half ago, and plans to go to one club somehow shifted to another. She reluctantly provided her phone number to a brash young man at the new venue. "When he called, I didn't answer — twice. But something told me to answer the phone. We talked for three hours and made plans for lunch. Lunch became dinner. Dinner became coffee. Coffee became dessert..."

I winked. "Dessert?"

"Just dessert," the wholesome cutie assured me. But his just desserts did come later. Once she finished at Florida State U in Tallahassee, she moved back to South Florida, where they got together again. They'd shacked up now for three months, and things were about to be "unofficially official."

"You've been pretty lucky in love," Lauren observed, her friendliness made all the more apparent by the headband that pulled her chestnut hair back from her smiling face.

"It's not luck; it's fate," Chelsea corrected her.

"Luck and love are really two different things," Lauren said. Her own romantic history, she said, included a recent foray into the eHarmony universe, where, despite rumors to the contrary, there is no extra store of luck.

"Now I keep getting these newsletters," Lauren said. "It's a constant reminder there is no match for me."

I consoled her with a brief story of "the eight dumbest days of my life." After friends and family finally convinced me to try Internet dating, I met my "match": a guy whom I'd first met in school — and wisely rejected — a decade earlier, proving that the "old-fashioned" approach was actually ten years more advanced than the online alternative.

Lauren said she didn't need a perfect match to live her life. Despite her youthful loveliness and affable demeanor, she had never had a serious relationship.

"I can be independent," she said, more confident than defensive. "I don't think it's unlucky. I've learned a lot."

Another Spanish River/FSU alum, Kaela, breezed into the bar. I figured the Boca chica with the Paris Hilton-inspired looks — from the cut of her platinum-blond hair to the big buckles on her slouchy purse — should be plunged into the conversation.

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