Looking for Mr. Goodtime

Last weekend, dance fever was in the air. I didn´t know it until the thing had run its course, and only then did I suspect that I might have been the Typhoid Mary of this particular jitterbug. It all began when, trying to avoid an outdoor gig for which I was inadequately prepared, I had courted the gods with a rain dance. Voilá. Torrential downpour ensued, saving me from a distasteful obligation. When I told my friend Christine about this, her eyes lit up. There were other, worthier uses for my supernatural power, she said. I could use my talents to help sell her house. Thus, the realty dance was born.

That Friday, after we performed my newly invented dance intended to woo the sales gods in preparation for her weekend open house, we decided to go out on a Night Rider mission.

Our destination: the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, where stars have been known to party among the hoi polloi. We made the long hike across the artificial terrain to Pangaea to check out its summer-solstice shindig. At the witching hour, though, nary a dancer was celebrating the year´s longest day. By the looks of the sparsely populated club, the sun had long since set on that party.

The explanation came to me like a thunderbolt. I slapped my head. Ouch. It´s hurricane season, meaning that locals, not tourists, and certainly not famous ones, are the only ones on the nighttime prowl.

¨Casino bar?¨ I suggested.

Christine and I headed inside with the vague hope that we´d at least meet high rollers with great stories. Beyond the card tables and past the rock ´n´ roll memorabilia, we wended through a maze of musical, illuminated slot machines that stretched in long aisles through the casino´s palatial vastness. The collective effect was a mesmerizing symphony and light show.

When we found the aptly named Lobby Bar, the place felt like a haven where we could spend a peaceful eternity. On the periphery of the electronically pulsing Elysian fields, the bar was a series of ambiently lit white archways. A small bar dispensed drinks at one end; a band played jazz fusion at the other. Things were looking good. Christine, who had worn strappy sandals as sexy as they were excruciating, aimed for a cushy barstool. I, in more sensible shoes, headed toward a young woman who had drawn the attention of a rapt audience.

A group of middle-aged guys was transfixed by the action on the dance floor. Somebody offered us drinks; we accepted. Christine grabbed the vacant stool as I moved toward the show: a scandalous, drunken dance. A slender young thing teased the crowd with her unearthly perfection: a muscular ass, most of which she exposed in micro-mini, yellow track shorts. As she teetered on her high heels, she shimmied and we gaped. Her green tube top clung, as if for its life, to the small cliffs of her breasts. I returned to retrieve my friend so we could enjoy the spectacle together, but since there were no open seats up front, she wasn´t budging.

¨She´s a good dancer,¨ commented the guy who´d introduced himself as David and offered the two of us drinks.

¨Really?¨ I asked. In fact, at that moment, Ms Bootilicious was stumbling through her moves. She fell forward, making a stripper pole of her partner. She leaped, left leg folded and the other extended, clasping her surprised date, managing a bit of a twirl around his hips. I had to get the backstory on this duo.

As if I were destined to go head to head (I didn´t stand a chance butt to butt with she of the steel glutes) once again on the foreign front (I took a lot of heat from angry women with Russian names after last week´s Night Rider, ¨Soviet Block Party¨), the young woman answered my inquiries in accented English. ¨I don´t speak English. I am Russian.¨ When I pressed her dance partner about their relationship, the Russian-American offered only, ¨I´m thinking of sponsoring her.¨

Evidently, this hot piece of property had a sales dance of her own. Was this a buyer´s or seller´s market?

Meanwhile, Christine´s beauty and tolerance had resulted in several offers. She was in the throes of adulation from a middle-aged man with thinning hair, a foot fetish, and a willingness to foot the bill. While she worked on her second complimentary vodka-tonic, he kept trying to cop a below-the-ankle feel.

As she periodically swung her feet out of reach, he tried to cajole her into a different arrangement.

¨Let me take you to dinner,¨ he suggested. ¨C´mon.¨

Christine giggled her refusals, and her coyness egged him on.

¨You gotta eat!¨ he insisted.

His buddy interjected: ¨Take her for the surf and turf... get her a fish sandwich and a cheeseburger.¨

Without missing a beat, Christine´s libidinous suitor persisted (¨I´ll buy you lobster, whatever you want¨) while I watched the night´s best diversion get escorted away, fabulous ass and all, in the arms of her dance partner and potential sponsor. Now the only moves were on Christine as she was double-teamed by the on-the-town pair, David (sporting a diamond-encircled Rolex) and Mr. Happy Feet. With Christine a captive of both her taste for crippling footwear and sense of indebtedness for the drinks, I realized that the evening was a lame washout and that I´d have to venture out a second time.

But it wouldn´t be on Saturday night. A commitment to attend a friend´s birthday party on Clematis Street would deliver me to not one but three bars that I´d recently written about, so the two-birds-with-one-stone option was out. After I filled my night with beers, shots, and some drunken girl-on-girl dancing with a good friend and an anonymous instigator, that night ended at 4 a.m. Sunday, when the colorful strobe and searchlights and swirling mirrored-ball reflections gave way to houselights and a different sort of dim bulb overhead: a realization that once again I´d gotten carried away.

When I awoke noonish on Sunday, after downing some pain relievers and coffee, I made plans for another Night Rider adventure. I extended an unspoken plea to the universe to kindly guide me to a unique good time. The universe spoke, and in a Jamaican accent, it said: T´day is Jah´s day. I and I say you should go t´ Waterway Café, which´s blessed wit reggae.

OK, the bad accent told me it was the hangover rather than the divine that was doing the talking, but it did sound like my best option. Particularly since I was pretty sure -- not 100 percent, but pretty sure -- that the Sunday-night dance party, a venerable tradition at the Waterway, would not involve a stripper pole of any kind.

On the way, I called Christine, whose open house had drawn a healthy number of prospective buyers (thank you, Night Rider); she wasn´t up for another night out. Going it alone, I went to the airy waterfront bar, where I ordered a Broken Bridge -- a fruity rum, gin, and vodka concoction, named for the adjacent, ever-busted PGA infrastructure -- and positioned myself along the planters to nab the first vacant seat at one of the two large, hexagonal bars. It was, as always, SRO.

Lucky me, as soon as I found a seat, the band´s promoter found me. He began a relentless pitch about their talents, followed by equally unyielding dance requests and drink offers. My polite but firm ¨No, thanks¨ went unheard. When I tried an ethical explanation instead, suddenly we were on confrontational rather than common ground.

¨Who´s gonna know?¨ he challenged.

¨Exactly,¨ I said.

Good thing I didn´t take him up on the dance, because, even standing still, he was stepping on my toes. When the bartender arrived with my drink, I extended my credit card, but the promoter sent the barkeep away and pushed my credit card at me. His was a victory-at-all-costs philosophy, evidently.

Now, I wasn´t feeling so irie, which was too bad because I had actually been enjoying the band, Sweet Justice. The room seemed to sway with a feel-good vibe; even the candles´ flames seemed on board as the band sang Bob Marley´s ¨I Gotta Keep on Moving.¨

To make friendly conversation, I explained the drink´s significance to the dude drinking a Miller Lite next to me.

¨Woof!¨ I said, taking a sip of the potent concoction and holding out my drink so my neighbor could take a sip and understand my reaction.

He was a kindly-faced family man who didn´t want to give his name. So we sat there watching the sea of dancers, which when observed as a whole actually simulated the rolling of the ocean.

¨Everyone´s one,¨ Neighbor Man said, summing up the effect of their dance.

A dance can be a powerful persuasive tool. But this was a dance of a different sort: a pitching in rather than a pitch, a celebration rather than a sales attempt. And, like Saturday´s dancing, it moved me.

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Marya Summers