A tap on the shoulder, a turn to the right, and an unknown woman at the bar, like in the movies.
I was dapper, a charcoal suit and salmon tie, top button loosened in studied after-midnight nonchalance. My Makers and water was no doubt throwing off alpha-male pheromones, a final brush stroke in a self-absorbed portrait.
My wife was at the other end of the bar. Dark hair, blue dress, heels: dazzling. And that shoulder tap halted me as I prepared to bring her a Grey Goose and soda. I turned to see a vision standing next to me. A vision from 1987.
We weren’t at Whisky Blue, or Bouligny Tavern. When you come right down to it, we weren’t even at Snake and Jakes. It was 1am at Southport Hall, and Flashback, an all 80’s band, was tearing it up. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
It was the deep end of date night, a romantic outing on the town. We’d begun with a long-awaited first meal at Restaurant R’evolution, the new swank place at the Royal Sonesta, and followed that with a set from jazz vocalist Jacqui Naylor at Snug Harbor. A perfect sophisticated duet of an evening, and a perfect excuse to dress up a bit. The recent Netflix marathon of Mad Men might have been a contributing factor, but that’s just speculation.
But there was a co-worker, a drummer in a band, playing a late set at Southport, and there was time to stop in and check them out. Dinner and jazz had been fantastic, and the night seemed still alive with possibility. An understatement, as it turned out.
Rule number one, it’s always ok to be overdressed, jumped immediately to the front of the line as we hit the parking lot. My wife looked like she was unwinding from an evening at the Ritz; I looked like I’d just performed a thorny tax-audit. We stood out. It was Hungry Like the Wolf time as we walked through the door and into a bizarro-world where the ‘80’s had never ended. I’m a child of that decade. I wore Members Only and closed every dance with Purple Rain. Believe me when I tell you 1990 arrived like a mercy-killing: this was an era that needed to go.
But not this night. Not here. The band was tight, swinging into Always Something There to Remind Me and then crushing Sledgehammer as the crowd danced like only people in the 80’s did, a weird bouncing hybrid of pogo stick and Tourette’s that I’d thought of as rhythmically extinct, returned from the grave. There were polos with the collars turned up, a guy in full Risky Business attire, and inexplicably another with a Viking hat. There are so many opportunities here for poetic license, but I swear to you that the kick line for the finale of Come on Eileen actually happened.
I needed a drink.
And so it was at the bar I met my mystery woman, a latter day Molly Ringwald with a blousy top and a big belt. And I became reacquainted with the truism that it is always flattering to be liked, even by someone with Flock of Seagulls on their iPod.
She led with ‘Excuse me, are you with that woman in blue over there?’
Classy, I thought. At least she wants to avoid stepping on any toes. I smiled to let her down easy, as I confirmed that, indeed, I was spoken for. At which point things went to a different place.
‘Oh, because she’s really hot,’ my mystery woman replied.
I muttered a socially polite agreement with her evaluation as my is this what I think it is circuits began to kick in. In order that I not be left in doubt, she followed up with some detail on what, in her opinion, I ought do with my wife when we got home, and helpfully added that if I didn’t she would be happy to. Lest I lack any final clarity, she continued by mentioning that her husband had been checking my wife out since we’d walked in, vaguely pointing toward one of the relentless bouncing TJ Max expats on the dance floor.
Unfamiliar with the social protocol of another couple trying to pick up on one’s spouse, the drinks in my hand provided a ready excuse for a nice meeting you followed by a stroll over to the woman of the moment, who after taking a sip of her drink let me know that she’d just been hit on by my mystery girl’s other half.
Over the Outfield’s Your Love I filled her in on my bar encounter and the full extent of her popularity, not failing to note that there was no hitting on of me happening whatsoever. Presumably I was being considered for at least designated driver status, although to be fair we never got that far into the details. In any event, we both agreed we were more than satisfied with both our decade and our current marriage arrangements, and the swingers were gracious and polite, not pushing further once it became apparent my wife wasn’t prepared to go behind the music with them. And so it was just an unusual coda to an unusually good night.
The band wrapped up the set with Don’t You Forget About Me. Trust me, we won’t.