382. Play That Funky Music, Whiteboy

It all began innocently and by accident, I believe. New Year’s Eve 2014 at a dinner dance in
Gettysburg. Formal attire, my black suit, nice food and plenty of drink. And we danced when we heard a song that was close to a ballroom dance beat. There were none from the live band, so when the d.j. took over on the live band’s break, the dance floor filled up. Nice. My wife was gorgeous, slinking in a black dress with sequins and shimmer. No worries about driving anywhere since we bought the package with a room and breakfast as well. Everything was tight and right as James Brown’s suspenders.

The evening flowed with conversation and drinks and laughs. Our dance group sat with us and filled up another table. Chumminess hung around us like sweet cigar smoke. I used up our allotted drink coupons, which means that a slight buzz was humming behind my smiling face. I felt lighter, freer. I got up to dance to another song, thinking that my lovely wife had followed me out to the center of the dance floor. Wrong, she and a couple of other jokers smirked at me, all alone as “Play That Funky Music, Whiteboy” started. Wow. I was at a dramatic fork in the road: should I admit defeat and slink back to the table of mockers? Or should I gather my inner showmen and dance like I had never, or just rarely, danced before?  I had a lot of room to decide… the latter.

“And I decided quickly, yes I did,

To disco down and check out the show

Yeah, they was dancin’ and singin’ and groovin’

And just when it hit me somebody turned around

and shouted Play that funky music whiteboy

Play that funky music right

Play that funky music whiteboy

Lay down that boogie and play that funky music

till you die”

I will grant you that the lyrics and overall tone of this caricature of a pop song are cretinous, but the big, funky beat is very danceable. And so I let the sonic energy pulse through my marrow until I was under the spell of Wild Cherry’s only hit song.

I felt like Iago when he says, “Some men are born great; others achieve greatness; and still others have greatness thrust upon them.” I got it in a flash. I am a “still others” kind of guy. Everything converged for this one pure moment of dance orgy synergy. I began to heel kick and shimmy. I hit an invisible bass drum with flagrant hip action. I strutted with deep shoulder dips while balancing a transparent hat on my turreting head. It was on, Mamma. The wife and fellow mockers began to laugh and clap and encourage my Dionysian moment. I complied willingly.

The thing with being alone on a dance floor with no rehearsed dance is this: it intimidates lesser men, but invigorates dance genies. I dug down with my felt bottomed dance shoes and wiggled on one foot, then the other. My arms were flailing in a rhythmic seizure that was driven by this ridiculous song that I would never listen to on the radio… but the moment had chosen me; I had not chosen the moment.

A little Michael Jackson stepping out flowed into James Brown shebang, then Jackie Wilson frenzy, some Mick Jagger swagger, alongside  Elvis windmills. I mimed a big rope and pulled myself across the dance floor somehow with sliding feet and yanking arms. At 58 years of age I did not dare to drop into James Brown splits nor attempt any flips or extreme gymnastics moves. I did spin, flagellate, whirl and dervish as that song kept going on and on. Three minutes and twelve seconds does not seem like a big deal, but if you are in Uncle Bill and Aunt Mal seizure mode, trust me, it’s a long time. My heart was racing; breath was ragged; shirt soaked in sweat. The mockers were shocked into belief and wonderment. As I threw myself down onto my chair, high fives, back pats, and verbal praises showered on me. I drank two glasses of water and tried to get my heart to slow down. Whew! that was just one song. The master singer dancers did that for two hours while singing!!

Fortunately or not, no one had filmed the arrhythmic writhing. Still, it became legend in our circle of dance friends. And you know how that goes… “When are you gonna do the funky whiteboy dance again?” Fortunately or not, New Year’s Eve 2015 came around. Same deal, different hotel and band. One of our dance gang managed to get to the new danceable music band and arranged a “Funky Music Whiteboy” rendition. Although  I was sick with a sinus infection, I dug down into the funky whiteboy dance reserves where I had carefully stored dance steps like savings bonds since the age of 10. For three plus minutes I gave the gathered throng all the funky whiteboy I could muster, plus a flying twist, double axle, chasse nudge along. These are technical terms that I will not define here. I sat down and drank a pitcher of ice water, waiting for the coroner to pronounce me dead.  Again, effusive backslapping congratulations were spread on me like mustard on a summer grilled hot dog, which I pretended not to relish. “Just doing my choreographic best, representing for the hood.” Like the year before, strangers gave me that look later on, as if I had been the streaker at a ball game earlier, and they knew it even if I had my clothes on now. Smirks come with the territory of mating behavior displays.Creepy voyeurs!

And then there was last night at the breast cancer auction/dinner/dance. Unlike my two previous performances, I knew this one was coming, expected even. Michelle, the host of the event, had been one of my witnesses just two and half months ago. She told my wife that she was gonna call me out for the funky whiteboy dance.  The pressure was enormous. Keep in mind that I am not a trained dancer but a rogue entertainer. I drank several Yuenglings to fully hydrate and lubricate myself predance. Yet, when they announced that I was gonna do it, I was in the bar around the corner ordering white wine. I came back to the ballroom to empty tables and chairs. Everyone was up dancing the wobble, led by the sweatmaster Kirk. Well, no sooner had I set my glass down than Michelle cued up Play That Funky Music, Whiteboy and the crowd parted for me to gesticulate and watubiate like I do.

I was maybe a minute into the scene when a tall woman in a silky blouse and tight black pants and black high heels made my one man show a duo. I was confused and a bit scared of her unguarded willingness. She shimmied and mirrored the parts of my routine that are not copyrighted. She was way more into this kinetic chemistry experiment than I was, so I made runs like a bull or bull fighter to avoid appearing like a couple. Undeterred she approached suggestively close. I told her, “I went to Catholic School for five years”, hoping she’d laugh and lose my scent.

Finally it was all over. Frank, our dance instructor, told me later on that dancing makes you a chic magnet. Frankly, that scares me.


259. Sun drunk Scrabble

Sot it’s the day after Christmas and the four of us are lying about the sundrenched family room reading four different books, curled up in chairs or sprawled on the two sofas. I think we must look like cats or lizards lazily basking ourselves on warm rocks. Kind of feels like being at the beach, napping on blankets or laid out in a lounge chair. Ahhh. Nice. No wind or seagulls. Four different mental realities inhabiting the same brilliantly quiet physical space.  Yesterday we drove two hundred plus miles in the new car. Comfortable and quiet, true, but still a lot of miles, to see family and eat heavily. Tomorrow it’s off to NYC to return my first born child to her Brooklyn apartment, then off the Catskills for a visit with my wife’s cousin…  and eat heavily. Today needs to be motionless and restorative. Easy on the calories and beer.  Slow on the chocolates. Perhaps we are experiencing a sugar overload. My diabetic friends, please comment here. I already know that I need more water and time on the treadmill, but just try to get a cranky lizard onto a treadmill.

A game of holiday Scrabble is in order. I have not won in a long time. In order to settle old scores, we keep the old score sheets that prove my middle daughter won last Christmas.[ No chess for me this year as my brothers-in-law were both working over Christmas Day. ( Yes, the hyphens are needed there to demonstrate family by marriage and that they are not attorneys.)] A shame indeed.  Some games with chance involved you just can’t win. On Christmas Eve we played a warm up game of Scrabble and at one time I drew ten vowels in a row. It was absurd, but without consonants all I could play was AU. Then EEEOIAU. It’s all good, though. It’s family and Erin does not do celebratory dances after a high point word like I do. Which may contribute to the sheer joy my family derives from beating me at Scrabble. Triple word score set ups go down like drug deals until the lazy Susan board comes around to Big Daddy. And I feel like the school cop in the boys’ bathroom. Nothing!  “What smoke, Officer Dimwiddie? ” Then there is nothing of any value left to hook into on the suddenly unfertile board. But I am not a bitter man. I know my day of conquest will come. If I exercise and eat lots of fiber, my high potency consonants will arrive in a nice mix along with those pesky vowels.

It sometimes starts with going first, which is rewarded by being a double score. If you have any sort of word in your seven tiles, boom, you come out of the gate strong, and the other players have to hook on to your raging bull letters. It can be very intimidating if you are overly dramatic like I am.

“There you go, R-I-P-P-E-D! I’m ripped. 22 points for the Big Daddy.”

“That’s nice, Dad.”

“Why is that doubled?”

“Because it’s first; otherwise it would be a penalty to go first. We’ve played this game for 40 years and that’s how it starts.”

“You think you’re so smart.”

“Smart is only five letters, girls. I’d rather be capable for a triple word score plus the bonus fifty for using all seven letters in one play. Let’s see….that would be about 200 points. And if it’s the final word play of the game, then I deduct your unplayed tile values from your score and add them to mine. So the possibilities are endless, another seven letter word.”

“I hate you.”

“HATE is such a short and unprofitable word, Honey. Can you play DESPISE?”

“Ahhhhh. Mom, make him stop. Why did you marry him?”

“I can answer dat von, my dearsky. You see it vas long vinter in vestern mother russha. Your mother vas very hungry. I vas last husband on shelf. In those days there vas no choice.”

“Okay, we can do a rematch but no voices, Dad, and no victory dances or I’m done right there.”

“Dang!! You squeeze the fun right out of the guinea pig.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know, but it has a certain physical aggression to it that I like at this moment.”

“You are impossible!”

“No, I challenge… too many letters, Honey. How about unreal for twelve points?”

“How about I quit? Give me 18 across, 10 down. So that’s 28 in your face.”

“I’d prefer you insist. That’s worth 15 times 3 equals 45 up your nostril. ”

“I bet you would. How about something extra? Give me forty points. And it’s a double. So make it 80, Bartender.”

“Ouch, you little word punk and your zingers. Give me 55. I’m out too. Just deduct all those lingering points on your rack and add them to my tab. Thanks for cleaning up.”

“Dad, stop with the disco booty dance. It’s not right. No daughter should ever have to witness that!”

“They say that this man Shaft is a bad mother…  Shut yo’ mouth. Just talkin’ bout Shaft.”

“No, not the Shaft dance. Mom, Call 9-1-1.”

“They smile in yo’ face, all the time they wanna take yo’ place, the backstabbers, Baaaackstabbers.”

“Put the spatula microphone down and take your meds, for the love of God!!”

“Good, just remember that word for next time when you have a plethora of a’s… spatula. That is a keeper.”

“This is why we only play once a year, Dad. Now back to russha with you. Lonely sanity beats well fed insanity any day.”