Thankfully, the door girl at the Atlantic Avenue Art Deco club didn't quibble about the free pass I'd cut-and-pasted from DJ Shalomar's MySpace page to save the $10 cover charge.
With the DJ's gangsta rap tossing the n word like a racist with Tourette's, I think it's fair to say the music was ghetto, though many of the kids at the bar seemed to be the well-kept progeny of the well-to-do. They weren't even playing at being wankstas.
The club offered luxuries that made the clientele feel like they were kickin' it pimp style. Free "liquor drinks," as one patron called them, were served in real glasses until 11 p.m., and the place was tricked out with Art Deco sconces, classy votives, and framed mirrors. The culture was as diverse as the crowd, mirrored by the three televised projections on the wall behind the bar: a basketball game flanked by two arty films.
As the crowd sipped on gin and juice, I wanted to know what they really had on their minds, because, despite the theme, it didn't seem any of them were thinking about anything academic. How many, I wondered, even realized that Delux was misspelled? Was anyone here actually enrolled at an institution of higher learning?
Twenty-four-year-old Charlie assured me that he didn't need school: "The world is mine. I come from the school of hard knocks. Yeah, who said it? Yeah, Charles Darwin: survival of the fittest." Clearly, he'd done some time with a book in his hand.
Two more non-academic types were chillin' on the bamboo loungers out back. Perhaps it was the Tupac T-shirt and the diamond and gold K that swung from the neck of the tall one that intrigued me. The road-construction crew member wasn't matriculating anywhere, but at 27, he'd already developed a pragmatic nightclub philosophy.
"You only live once; you might as well enjoy it while you're here," Kevin reasoned, raising his glass.
With him was home remodeler David, who at 29 had also sidestepped a formal education but still found a sociological appeal to the college night: "I need a good woman."
"Do these look like good women to you?" I queried, thinking that with all their rumps jumping, they looked rather naughty.
"I don't really know. I haven't tried 'em yet," Kevin snarked.
"They all look goooood," David said, drawing out the adjective like he was savoring it, his silky dreaded head bobbing in a corroborative nod. Realizing he'd almost missed an opportunity, he added, "You look good."
The free well had run dry, so the crowd made its diaspora and claimed turf around the club. Evidently, the infusion of low-budget alcohol was beginning to kick in, because people had begun to get their groove on. Most of the club's space was dedicated to dancing, and the women were making the most of it. As Beyoncé sang "Check on It" a song, like many club, favorites that encourages moves described in the lyrics many of the guys obviously held dreams of "working up on it."
"They all look the same," Kevin observed. I thought it was a criticism until I realized he meant that there was a sort of anonymity in the beat-bouncing mass of beauties on the dance floor.
"I like it like this," David concluded with a gold-toothed smile, proving that clubbing is more accessible than any of the other liberal arts some of us had dedicated years to.
Still in pursuit of college students, I navigated the archipelago of cushioned benches that formed moveable islands where peeps could hang with their posses. Passing through the opened garage doors and on to a tropical patio, I introduced myself to a guy in a Rasta hat at the back bar. It wasn't a complete miss he was an FAMU graduate. Since he majored in accounting and I hadn't met anyone still in college, I thought he could help me account for the name of the event.
"Maybe everyone here went to college," he surmised.
His buddy finally pointed me in the right direction: "Hey, there's a whole team of Lynn baseball players at the other bar."
On my way to scout the ballers, I was waylaid by two gentlemen in business suits doing shots. Victor boasted that he not only had his PhD in psychology but that he also owned a mortgage company down the street.
Grandiose claims at the nightclub: How refreshingly novel. I smiled and nodded skeptically, which incited him to dispel my disbelief with a corroborative witness.
"Hey," he said, smacking his friend, clearly a wingman not quite up on the program. "What did I get my degree in before I went into business?"
"Um, that thing... something with the...," he said pointing toward his head.
"See, I told you," Victor said triumphantly, pushing into my sternum with his finger tips. As he yapped about himself, he kept punctuating his accomplishments with more pokes at my breastplate, a touch neither entirely sexual nor antagonistic. I had let it continue just to try to figure out its motivation. Now, though still perplexed, I'd had enough.
"Could you not put your hands on my chest while you talk?" I asked fairly politely too, all things considered.
"I'm Latin," he said by way of excuse.
Shit. How could I be so culturally insensitive? Clearly, I needed some diversity training. In lieu of such a drastic self-improving measure, I excused myself.
Girls in the standard club uniform (sequin-laden cami-tops and either low-rider pants or miniskirts) were getting their backs into it, just as 50 Cent's "Shake That Ass" instructed. One woman drew a crowd of guys three deep around her, and I was immobilized by the sight. She was dressed plainly, accessorized by only kickin' curves and a willingness to "twerk it" (a term coined by the Ying Yang Twins basically a Southern rap term for shaking ass).
Finally, I found the boys of summer. One an FAU player modestly refused to introduce himself. Instead, he introduced me to a smug former Florida Marlins player who though drafted in the 39th round and now only a utility player for the minor league Vero Dodgers acted as if I'd just been granted an audience with the pope.
Beau McMillan leaned against the bar, seemingly irritated by my mere presence. After getting through the logistics of his career, including his Lynn University alum status, I decided to play hardball myself.
"Is it true that you guys get lots of play?" I asked, pun intended.
"You a baseball fan?" he asked with just a little too much self-assurance. I never liked jocks, and now I remembered why. Just call me a "playa hata."
As DJ Shalomar spun sex-obsessed booty anthems (homophobic Beenie Man's "Dude") and mad tunes about life in the hood (Tupac's "All Eyez on Me"), I hit up hype man DJ Jazz.
Finally, I'd found a scholar. Majoring in international business, the guy's making a living that exceeds the hype: "It's all about how many people we bring to the party. Ten bucks a head, a few hundred people. You do the math."
I didn't need my college degree to solve for x.
Girls popped, locked, and dropped to hip-hop lyrics that filled the gap between sex drive and abstinence-only education. Proving that if parents and teachers don't teach 'em, someone else like sexist rappers will.
While I watched the bitches twerking it, I chatted up Udo, 26, a Lynn business student from Belgium who dreams of owning a company that exports to his original motherland the Congo. He educated me on the comparative differences between this and Miami's scene. As a bouncer at a South Beach club, the football player was an expert: "All these people are local. It's different when it's international; they get really crazy."
Udo spoke truly. When I left just before the 2 a.m. closing, the cops outside were leaning on their squad cars, bored by the to all appearances, anyway law-abiding clubgoers. Po-po or no, I suspected many would be renouncing their crimes when they woke with Tuesday-morning hangovers.