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Dancing with Summer Memories

CLOCK STRIKES UPON THE HOUR

AND THE SUN BEGINS TO FADE

STILL ENOUGH TIME TO FIGURE OUT

HOW TO CHASE MY BLUES AWAY

I’VE DONE ALRIGHT UP ‘TIL NOW

IT’S THE LIGHT OF DAY THAT SHOWS ME HOW

AND WHEN THE NIGHT FALLS

LONELINESS CALLS…

Summer day, morning, mid-to-late 1980’s. School was out. What adventures of a summer day waited for us to conquer them? Slowly coming out of sleep, I felt the first tension of growing up, deciding what to do with the day and stressing out about it. Did I stay in bed, savoring the morning hours of rest that didn’t exist during the school year, or did I get up and make the most of each moment of freedom? Through the sunny haze, I hear the new Whitney Houston song come on the radio, and suddenly I perk up. Giddy at everything – the start of summer, the perfection of a cheesy pop song, the sun streaming into the bedroom – I get out of bed and dance my sleepiness away. The decision is made. I savor the moment and can’t wait to see where the day takes me.

 

OH! I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY

I WANNA FEEL THE HEAT WITH SOMEBODY

YEAH! I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY

WITH SOMEBODY WHO LOVES ME

The big decisions then were where we would ride our bikes, how far we might go, what baseball cards we could find. Soon, I’d make my way downstairs to see whether my brother was already out and about, but for now I listened to Whitney, and that song would form the backdrop to a childhood summer that is all happiness and simple adventures.

When we weren’t burning rubber through the neighborhood, we were playing hide and seek or splashing about in the pool. We slowed down only for dinner and maybe lunch, and a bedtime so early there was still light in the sky. On the cusp of adolescence, I didn’t realize the waning days of carefree innocence. I didn’t know that summer would not always be this way. Part of me suspected, however, that this was good, and since all the adults around us had been telling us for years that childhood was the best and easiest part of life, I believed it and reveled in mine as much as I could.

That wasn’t always much, and I was far too serious far too much of the time, but on sunny summer mornings when Whitney Houston was extolling the virtues of love and dance, I moved to the music and made a memory of the moment that I hold to this day.

I’VE BEEN IN LOVE AND LOST MY SENSES

SPINNING THROUGH THE TOWN

SOONER OR LATER THE FEVER ENDS

AND I WIND UP FEELING DOWN

I NEED A MAN WHO’LL TAKE A CHANCE

ON A LOVE THAT BURNS HOT ENOUGH TO LAST

SO WHEN THE NIGHT FALLS

MY LONELY HEART CALLS

Three decades later, I find myself at the end of summer, on a weekend in which I’ve made a trip to Washington, DC based on a whim (and an incredible deal on Expedia). I tend to avoid DC in August, but my weather app revealed a weekend that looked to be in the low 80’s with reasonable humidity, so I took a chance, booked a room at the Topaz Hotel, and told my friend Chris I’d be down if he was available to hang out. The Delusional Grandeur Tour was back on the road, and there was still some summer to be had.

On the eve of Labor Day, we are finishing up dinner at Hazel. After catching up and contemplating our Big Chill touchpoints, we walked around a bit before stumbling upon a DC gay hotspot, Nellie’s, where music and laughter were blasting out of its multiple floors. After a bit of cajoling, I got Chris to go in, and we made our way upstairs, where a sea of people danced to a throbbing mix of new songs and classic ones, seamlessly melded together by a genius DJ. It was hot, but as we cut through the mass of bodies, we found a nice perch near a wall of open windows that turned the whole floor into a balcony overlooking the street below. With a wrought iron railing, and a view to another second-floor restaurant scene, it was reminiscent of New Orleans. This was a different time though, and Chris and I were older than most of the denizens breaking sweats on the dance floor. I watched with wonder and happy amusement. It was a good crowd, and everyone was smiling and laughing and enjoying themselves. It was, in many respects, the perfect antidote to a summer that began in such alarming fashion. I felt at peace and took in the moment.

SOMEONE WHO, SOMEONE WHO…. SOMEBODY WHO LOVES ME,

SOMEONE WHO, SOMEONE WHO… TO HOLD ME IN HIS ARMS.

I NEED A MAN WHO’LL TAKE A CHANCE,

ON A LOVE THAT BURNS HOT ENOUGH TO LAST.

SO WHEN THE NIGHT FALLS, MY LONELY HEART CALLS…

Chris went to grab us a beer (when in Rome…) and I sat there for a bit, still watching.

If you’ve lived your entire adult life as a gay man, you get used to feeling out of place, so when you walk into a gay bar there’s a huge feeling of relief and calm that most straight people will never experience. I felt that familiar peace, and more: it came galvanized by a sense of community and belonging. I looked around on this late summer night, and all the happy people there reminded me of what glory and honor there was in being where we were right then. Across the room, a slice of America in our Capitol city: gay, straight, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, male, female, transgender, young, mature, tall, short, thin, voluptuous – a veritable patchwork quilt of breathtaking and gorgeous variety.

Then, I recognized the beginning of an old song, tonight born from the last notes of a Beyonce track: I Wanna Dance With Somebody Who Loves Me.

DON’T YOU WANNA DANCE WITH ME BABY?

DON’T YOU WANNA DANCE WITH ME BOY?

DON’T YOU WANNA DANCE WITH ME BABY?

WITH SOMEBODY WHO LOVES ME

People who hadn’t even been born when this song came out raised their hands and joined in the chorus, everyone belting it out in thunderous unison. It was one of those crests of music and movement that makes a night out worthwhile.

I thought back to that summer almost thirty years ago, when I tumbled out of bed and moved to the beat of a brand new morning. So much had happened since then, but instead of feeling tired or weary I felt a renewed energy. Moving slowly away from the edge, I entered the crowd, dancing like I danced on that summer morning so long ago. Surrounded by strangers, I didn’t feel alone, and I let myself go as we all sang along to Whitney. It only lasted a minute or two before Chris returned, but a new memory was made that is going to last a lifetime.

 

DON’T YOU WANNA DANCE?

SAY YOU WANNA DANCE?

DON’T YOU WANNA DANCE?

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