Monday, April 17, 2017

Off Season

Because Bollywood before the beach makes sense when you think about it.

Knowing I had a full Saturday itinerary of getting stuff done - taxes, an interview, cleaning house - I hadn't made plans to go out until 10. When a friend inquired about my availability, I told him he was free to join me for the Gypsy Room's inaugural Bollywood evening.

Although he knew nothing of the style of music and while he said he hadn't danced since he stopped drinking, his main sticking point with my plans was the hour. "Go out at 10?" he asked incredulously. "That's what we used to do when I was young." Ouch.

I pointed out that that statement alone was proof positive he was old, that I'd been to these before and they were always great dancing and a stellar time. Trying to be game, he said yes, probably with all kinds of misgivings, but yes. He at least knew of DJ Carlito's legendary Bollywood dance parties, for years at Cous Cous, then at Balliceaux and now underneath Vagabond. He even knew Carl, which may have emboldened him a little.

Because we arrived semi-on time, the crowd was small (us and a few other duos who were not millennials), but the sounds were perfectly on point ("This music's all about the beat," my friend observed, stating the obvious) and within the hour, the room was nearly full.

Full, but not diverse. The Gypsy Room had become ground zero for well-dressed brown millennials, with a couple of middle-aged Indians observing from the safety of couches. Since Friend and I had seats at the bar, we had terrific sight lines for the mating rituals that were unfolding around the room.

He was curious about how someone signaled interest in someone else, since it was clear that assessing and making moves was part of the ritual that preceded the actual dancing. And DJ Carlito was hitting all their hot buttons, playing the kind of Indian pop songs that not only had the crowd singing along but, in some cases, doing coordinated hand gestures and moves.

They all knew things we didn't because we have no family or cultural ties to the music, just an appreciation for how infectiously danceable it is. As a result, we spent far more time talking (I was told I dress "eccentrically," but I took it as a compliment) than dancing while the well-dressed millennials got down tonight and, who knows, perhaps looked for an alternative to an arranged marriage.

It was funny, early on, Carl had mentioned that he was wondering if he'd pull a big crowd since he hadn't done a Bollywood night in so long, so he wasn't sure people would still dig it. And while it was completely different than the more diverse groups I'd seen at the old events, it looked like people still want to dance to that music, especially in such a dimly lit room on a Saturday night.

Nine hours after getting home, I was packing for a short beach trip and on the road before noon. The sole fly in that ointment was that it was Easter Sunday so many of the usual stopping points were closed due to Christianity being pushed on a country that supposedly separates church and state. And don't get me started on waking up to Google wishing me a Happy Easter. So not appropriate, guys.

Since getting here, life has been reduced to the essentials: a couple of walks, enjoying the constancy of waves hitting the beach through open balcony doors in two rooms and a diet likely to induce gout by mid-week (or so my Sister #2 would claim, after eating seafood 12 of 14 days at the beach and immediately getting "the gout," which sounds so Henry the VIII it's hilarious).

Frog Island Seafood delivered fish tacos and shrimp salad, Ocean Boulevard meant fried oysters and a special of sheepshead with local purple-tipped asparagus and N.C. shrimp over heirloom grits and tomatoes and from the Blue Moon Café, a crabcake sandwich a Marylander could get behind, thick and loaded with discernible hunks of backfin and little filler.

Best of all, two of the three meals were eaten outdoors at wooden picnic tables with the wind having its way with us.

It being April and all, servers are longing for the summer season to begin (ka-ching!), but as visitors, we can appreciate the more languid pace and the extra effort staff make for people now that they won't possibly have time to bother with come June and July.

Come to think of it, that's when I'll be back. But for now, it's all about the ice old ocean being off-limits, leaving hours with nothing to do but read (currently: "Born to Run," by Springsteen), dissect passersby on the uncrowded beach from the balcony and goof off with a capital "G."

You see why I had to get the Bollywood out of my system first.

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