Someone very wise once said these beautiful, insightful words that have resonated deeply with me for many years: "You know those bumper stickers where it says, 'Shit happens, and then you die'? They should have 'em where they say, 'Shit happens, and then you live,' because that's the truth of it."
The philosopher who sleepily stammered through that genius bit of wisdom was Anna Nicole Smith. When I die peacefully in bed, an old lady serving as the meat in a hot, 20-something dude sandwich, I'll fist bump that doped-up angel upon arriving in Heaven for giving me those sagacious words to live by.
The thing about most slumps is that they can be conquered, and the moment mine ended came in true Gozer fashion—shaking dat ass hard on a dance floor. We all have our go-to bad-time fixes, and when I saw that the New York Night Train Soul Clap & Dance Off was coming to town, I knew it was time to knock my bad vibe's dick to the dirt.
The Soul Clap is a traveling soul night helmed by DJ Jonathan Toubin, who hits the 1s and 2s hard, spinning soul and garage jams so good you can't keep your feet or your meat in your seat. If there's one thing I can't resist, it's a saucy slice of pizza. But a night of dancing to killer soul jams is up there with tasty piece of pie.
A major draw of the Soul Clap is the dance contest that goes off at midnight. Willing participants hit the floor, busting out their best Mashed Potato or Watusi for bragging rights and a cool $100.
The last time the Soul Clap rolled into town was 2010. Back then, I teased my hair high, put on a cute, thigh-grazing vintage dress and channeled the spirit of Tina Turner's jaw-dropping booty shake for the win. I worked hard for that $100, and I breathlessly chugged a can of Tecate after taking the crown to replenish whatever alcohol I'd burned in the process. All those times my mom and I would dance to "96 Tears" in my bedroom led to that moment, and I was proud.
Four years later, I was back at the Clap, a little older and with internal organs so pickled in alcohol that college kids could use them as masks for a new form of getting wasted called "gutsfacing." Even with a few extra miles on me, I still have my moves and was ready to bring them hard and dance that dust off my shoulders.
Just like before, I teased my hair high, rimmed my eyelids with my signature black cat-eye liner and put on a little vintage number reminiscent of a Hullabaloo backup dancer. My girlfriends and I warmed up on the dance floor, gin and tonics serving as my power fuel for some truly supreme body poppin'. It was dizzyingly exciting being out there, doing the jerk, feeling fun and even sexy. Yeah, I'm such an abuelita that doing the Twist makes me feel like a babe.
When the clock struck midnight, I went reverse Cinderella, turning from a workaholic goose with a belly full of rolled tacos to the mod '60s swan I am in my fantasies. I was pinned with the number 23 and looked upon the 49 others I'd have to beat to reclaim my title as San Diego's soul-dancing queen, or court jester, depending on whom you ask.
The first round was a dance-off in groups of 10. A table of highly qualified, soul-loving judges was set up on the stage. I sat on a stool, waiting for my group to be called. A pair of strong hands rubbed my shoulders, and an encouraging voice whispered in my ear, "Visualize the trophy. You've got this."
When my group was up, I jumped off the stool and hit the floor ready to werk. "The Clapping Song" by Shirley Ellis came on, and I let loose, whipping my hair and pumping my hips from side to side. I could feel my heart throbbing and my breath catching in my chest. I shook my ass so hard I thought my uterus might fall out in a gory mess. Thank God for control-top underpants.
At the end of my group round, it came down to me and a lanky dude with some sweet Mick Jagger moves. I smiled, but in my mind, I thought, You're going down, turkey. We battled hard, and at a few points, I thought I was going to pass out from exhaustion. The judges scrutinized every move and conferred. No. 23 would move on to the next round. Yes!
Winners from each group round were called to the dance floor in an all-star The Hunger Games: Catching Fire-style melée, only for nerds who have outdated haircuts. The competition was going to be tough, but I was ready.
The music came on, and so did I. I busted out my "sexy go-go chicken" move, which is basically a groovy, hair-tossing impersonation of a chicken. It usually kills, but my competitors were no hacks. They came out of the gate strong, getting down on the ground, swiveling their shoulders and giving every former beatnik a run for her money. Pearls of sweat collected on my hairline, flattening my teased hair, but I kept going. No level of exhaustion will kill my determination to shake my ass.
The music stopped, and the judges convened. I assume it was the hardest decision of their lives. Obama would probably need a pack of Marlboro reds under that level of pressure. Then they made their decision, and, sadly, No. 23 wasn't called.
A gangly dude with herky-jerky moves and a hip-swiveling babe with a sea-foam-green streak in her hair faced off in a sudden-death round, and I watched from the sidelines, slightly disappointed and extremely winded. A few people gave me pats on the back and high fives. In the end, sea-foam babe took the win. I handed my invisible crown to her from afar.
I may not be a champion, but I did get what I really wanted: my groove back.
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