Monday, August 22, 2005

Why I hate clubs

There's no better way to start this out than to say that I really hate dance clubs.

Yes, I've covered this before. Yes, I've complained about the degeneracy and atavism of dance clubs and the people who frequent them.

But it works like this: Every so often, I feel myself compelled to "go out" and see the town, do what normal, civilian-types do on weekends. While I'm generally happy to hang out in the barracks, act like a nerd during the day watching movies and reading conspiracy theories on the Internet (AP style demands capitalization), and quaff a few brews with whoever's around during the evening, every couple months I have to go and remind myself firsthand why I don't usually "go out."

This weekend was just such a time. On my way home from a football game north of Louisville, I called up some friends back on post to see if anyone was up for meeting in the city. I had wanted to see what the Rudyard Kipling was all about -- it's an off-beat, counter-culture bar that's a haunt for punks, hippies, and anarchists; tattooed folk with whom journalists generally feel a vague -- if sometimes strained -- connection.

That was a bust, and I wound up with my old pal Numb-Nuts up at Louisville's corporate owned and operated night life scene, Fourth Street Live.

There are six main clubs/bars in the Fourth Street Live complex. There's Felt, a slickly-decorated pool hall that looks like something out of a rejuvenated Cigar Aficionado spread, and its compatriot, Lucky Strike, a souped-up and classy bowling-alley/sports bar. These are the places I like, but the people I'm with rarely if ever want to go in.

Then there's Howl at the Moon, a "dueling pianos" bar. It has a pricey cover charge and expensive drinks, and the playlist gives it away as a hangout for the set that can't quite tolerate the "three martini lunch" routine, but wish they could because their teenage children drive them insane.

The heavy-hitters on Fourth Street are Saddle Ridge, Parrot Bay, and The Red Cheetah. All three are perfect places for folks like me to, in the words of Bill Hicks, fill up my camel-hump of hatred.

We walked into the Red Cheetah, since they used to let military in for free, and Numb-Nuts said he knew a bartender there who, he said, once gave him six drinks for four dollars.

The Cheetah had expanded since I'd last been there, and it now comprises the spaces formerly occupied by the comedy club's bar and stage room. A shame, since I would have had a lot more fun listening to loonies on an open mike than I did watching the decline of Western civilization.

Social interaction has certain rules we've all agreed to follow. Some are written, some aren't, but what they have in common is that they're all tossed to the wind inside the walls of a dance club. Women complain about sexual harrassment in the workplace, but when they head out on the town on Friday and Saturday night, they're completely transformed -- much like Doctor Jekyll or Optimus Prime.

I watched the crowd as a song by Li'l John came on. The throbbing beat from the previous song melded into the new track seamlessly...

"To the window, to the wall, till the sweat drips from my balls!"

Women throughout the crowd went wild. They leapt to the tops of tables, bars, and other structures specially-designed to hold gyrating bodies. They shook their barely-concealed breasts at the undulating crowd. They turned around, bent over, and shook their asses, which were generally covered by tight, low-slung jeans held up by belts covered in gaudy faux jewels and chrome.

Above the crowd, they moved as if to say, "Here's what I'll be doing if you're the one I go home with tonight." Elsewhere, couples were dancing -- if that word can be applied to mimed versions of the sex act set to the beat of a song about sweat dripping off balls.

It should come as no surprise that I don't generally dance at dance clubs. I hate dancing because I look like a moron when I do -- just like approximately 90 percent of the rest of the male population, also known as "all straight guys."

That many straight guys do dance explains the sale of alcohol at places like The Red Cheetah. Let the record show that I am not a tee-totaler. Anyone who's known me probably is well aware that during college I worked hard to perfect my Ted Kennedy impersonation, at least as far as boozing goes. But I drank to loosen my lips, not my hips. I hate dancing. So when I went out to a bar, it was to have a good conversation and get hammered while listening to Tom Petty and Led Zeppelin on the old-style jukebox, not to grind my pelvis against complete strangers.

Which, as it turns out, is precisely the method used to say "Hello" when the bass beat is turned up too loud to hear yourself think. That's what I mean about conventional rules of society being thrown out the window in a club (figuratively speaking, of course. Clubs don't actually have windows).

But let's back up for a minute. Singles don't really go on "dates" anymore. They head out in groups with their same-sex friends, and try to meet groups of the opposite sex. There are different approaches for men and women.

Women, it seems, will often go out specifically "to dance," or at least that's what they seem to tell themselves. They'll dance with each other and have a blast, but the underlying reason is to fill the role of "prey."

Which necessitates the role of "predator," which is where we guys come in. The girls begin dancing, flaunting their assets, and it's up to us to demonstrate to them that we're interested. If they reciprocate, we'll be rewarded, and the rewards increase in direct proportion to the price of the bar tabs we've begun working on.

This particular evening, I was the designated driver, so I was sucking down placebo waters as fast as I could, smoking cigarettes while I followed Numb-Nuts around. I was curious to see what his technique was, since, as much as I've derided him here, he seems to regularly bring girls home with him. This has always seemed to me to be something that pretty much disproves Darwinian survival of the fittest, so I wanted to study his habits. And I really did feel a bit like Jane Goodall while I was in The Red Cheetah.

I wandered around for hours, trying to keep an eye on Numb-Nuts, who was swallowing Captain Morgan and Coke at an alarming rate. As the night wore on and club patrons got drunker, the pantomimed sex got more and more realistic, with guys pressing girls' heads down to their crotches, girls bent over with their legs spread and asses pressed against their dance partners' pelvises, others with their tongues shoved down each other's throats...

I don't think I'm prudish. But I resent what happens at dance clubs because it's the text-book definition of atavism. Conversation is impossible due to the ubiquitous timpanum-rupturing bass beats, so you can't "get to know" someone before you drag them home with you in the back of a cab. So everything's reduced to high school genetics, and regardless of what you've got to offer upstairs, it's the exterior that matters when it comes to scoring.

There's no subtlety when it comes to the music anymore. Li'l Kim (why are they all "li'l"? I always think of "Li'l Archie" and "Li'l Abner" when I hear that word) sings about oral sex without so much as a single metaphor or double entendre -- her lyrics are almost clinical.

I guess all this put together is why I wind up sitting on barstools in clubs, sipping water and chain smoking, thinking apocalyptic thoughts about the end of society as we know it -- Romans with their vomitoriums and decadence, France's royalty before the Revolution... all of it winds up looking like a scene out of Mad Max.

And eventually I realize that this is what's done with the much-vaunted "freedom" I'm supposedly busy defending. Don't jump to conclusions and assume I'm anti-American, because I'm not. I can't be -- I wear a flag on my shoulder to work every day. But I'm losing faith in American people, because places like The Red Cheetah are perfect demonstrations of how stupid society in general is and how "freedom" is squandered on it.

I drove a very drunk Numb-Nuts home at 5 a.m. after we got lost in Indiana while I tried to follow his booze-addled directions to the home of one of his booty-calls. My teeth hurt from clenching my jaw so much through the evening, and I went to sleep angry, tired, and depressed.

It's always temporary. I cheer up the next day while I listen to the radio and read things written by people on whom freedom isn't wasted. But you don't meet those people in clubs.


UPDATE: Open Trackbacks at Common Sense Runs Wild. Thanks!
UPDATE: Open Post at the Mudville Gazette. Thanks!
UPDATE: Open Post at bRight & Early. Thanks!
UPDATE: Open Post at Outside the Beltway. Thanks! And yes, I'm unabashedly seeking exposure. What of it?