January 17, 2023
The “Nest” is a singles bar for senior citizens here in Indian Wells in Southern California. And there are plenty of us around here, mostly widowed or divorced.
“The hot spot in the hot desert” has a reputation all around SoCal for people of a certain age and disposition, and usually a line around the block in the summer.
I went tonight to hear again the golden oldies performed live, and to see how business was doing during Covid Winter Number Four.
To me, the ‘oldies are Elvis, the Everly’s and Buddy. But to this crowd of young seniors tonight, oldies are Seals and Crofts, Bread, The Police — the new kids on the block.
Then a girl of about 16 comes out of nowhere to hit the dance floor by herself, totally uninhibited. And she floated, shimmered, shimmied, twerked, twirled, enticed and aroused all the old froggers.
It wasn’t her performance at the Nest tonight that slammed me into a reverie. It was when the mirror image of another January night 60 years ago came into focus, when this same scene played out on the dance floor at our high school midwinter mixer.
Both girls had the same broad, toothy, goofy, carefree laugh that signaled to a boy: come and take me and own me, my sweetie. And with a slight shift of the hips: now go away kid or I’ll break you before midnight.
The aging image becomes more real and almost tangible — I remember her aspiring beyond her experience to play Maggie on a hot tin roof, this cowgirl in chaps in the morning, performing Chopin at her convent school recital that afternoon.
She drew me on and then sent me on my way, like the other guys in various shades of cool, but it was enough to know I had registered on her mind, soul, even for a millisecond.
But time can be a bust. Eventually she married prince charming, and they had several beautiful children, and then the debilitating disease came that allowed her to remain alive only to watch the grace, the energy, the toothy, goofy grin retreat into Kodak moments.
I can’t let my thoughts stay there. It raises too many questions way beyond tonight. What’s the point? Why do the fates play us for such fools, first up, then slammed down? Is there intentionality behind the heartlessness of the world? Step outside the warmth of the nest and experience the desolation of the winter desert.
The midnight desert freeze is especially bitter, given that it was 100 degrees hotter every day just months ago.
And the same open spaces that can kill the unprepared in a single summer day, become places of mystery and time-out-of-timeness as when the Wise Men walked with determined purpose to a starlit, reachable horizon.
It is the time and place where the God of Abraham, of Jesus and of Mohammed choose to hold His tete-a-tetes with mortals. We are told He knew all that would come to us in time but left us with sparse instruction on how to cope.
I have to stop thinking; stop thinking; stop thinking. I have to leave the nest.
What is it about a young girl dancing with uninhibited joy and innocence, expressing experiences she hasn’t even had yet, that men and boys, step over the event horizon into swirling, hallucinogenic maelstroms that unpoetic scientists call black holes?
“You dance really great. Thank you,” said the limping old man with the missing tooth, as he passed her on the way to the door. “Stay well.”
But I think my words were lost in the jingle-jangle of the dance floor, though they still echo in the soundless silence of my mind. And they will, I know, for whatever time is left.
© 2023, Thomas Mahon