Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dancing Lily

Last March, Alan and I took advantage of the low travel rates and booked a flight to Las Vegas. We LOVE Vegas. We love how each hotel casino is like it's own free-standing theme park, and the caliber of performers in the shows there would rival anything on the Broadway stage. Very shortly after we unpacked our suitcases, Alan and I gave each other a quick kiss for luck, then went our separate ways. Alan always likes to go to the casino sportsbook, where he expertly picks the winners of baseball and basketball parlays. I make a beeline to join the polyester-wearing, cigarette-smoking, sixty year-old women at the penny slots. I LOVE penny slots!! I play for hours and hours and am rarely out more than $10. I'm frequently up! The ladies and I have a blast, pumping our fists in the air and high-fiving when our spins turn triumphant!!

But no matter what we do for those few hours apart, Alan and I always meet later in the day at our favorite bar at the New York, New York casino. It's called Nine Fine Irishmen and it's a terrific place to throw back a pint of Guinness and listen to authentic Irish music. The decor makes you believe you just stepped into a pub in Dublin. It's small, intimate and homey. The bar's name refers to nine Irish revolutionaries who spoke out against the British Crown oppressing Ireland back in the 1800's. There are ceramic busts of all of them on the wall, and an insert in the menu describing each one's journey. It's quite a story. So as Alan and I clinked our glasses and lifted them in salute to the fallen Nine, I turned to Alan and said, "Remember that dancing lady we saw when we were here last year?" He nodded his head and laughed.

How could he forget? The dancer was a short, middle aged Asian woman dressed to the nines. I'm sorry to say, I never learned her name, so for the purpose of this story I'm going to call her Lily. Lily's clothing was not what you'd normally see in a Vegas casino bar. Her dress would've looked more appropriate at a Sunday church service. She donned a crisp, bright purple skirt and matching blazer, white hose, and cute, flat pumps. On her head she wore a purple, netted, pillbox hat that Jackie O would've coveted. Her outfit alone would've made her stand out in this crowd, but that's not what made everyone stare at her. Lily danced. By herself. Not good, choreographed dancing either, no clogging "Lord of the Dance" stuff. Lily kind of did this glorified "marching." She'd march, twirl, then back up and start over again. And she smiled. Big. Lily was a carefree, non-inebriated, joyful dancer. We couldn't take our eyes off of her. When people stared, she'd take that as an invitation and grab their hand, pull them onto the floor and swing their arm in some weird Irish/Asian square dance. I remember my embarrassment for her quickly evolved into admiration.

So there we were, one year later, listening to that same band and thinking about the bizarre little, church clothes-wearing Lily. Guess what? That's right. In she marched, in a variation of the same themed clothing, twirling away, smiling and nodding at her gawkers. Just then, something odd happened. A middle aged woman (I detected a distinct British accent) approached Lily excitedly. "Remember me? I was here two years ago and you danced with me!!" Lily kindly nodded her head in recognition, even though it was clear she hadn't a clue. The woman continued, "My sister is here, I want you to meet her!" They visited for a few short minutes, then Lily got back to her dancing. That's when it hit me: Lily is the freaking ROCK STAR of Nine Fine Irishmen. Forget the fiddle music and brave martyrs adorning the walls, there was a happy Asian lady on the dance floor that wanted to do-si-do with you!

There's a great saying I saw on a plaque recently. It read, "Dance like no one is watching." Lily would beg to differ. Lily dances like EVERYONE is watching, and she'd love nothing more than for you to join her on the floor.

I've decided I want to be more like Lily. I'm 45 years old, I'm pretty sure the title of One Of The Cool Kids is out of my reach. I can give up the fight, I lost that battle long, long ago! A month after we returned from Vegas, I joined my sister Kathy on a visit to see our sister Laura at her home in Chicago. The city was throwing their big Germanfest that weekend, complete with polka bands, bratwurst, and beer. It was packed. We made our way to the tent where the band was playing. We spotted this old man who must have been in his seventies, making his way through the crowd, asking girls to dance with him. Some obliged for a bit. Most declined, turning away and laughing. I thought of Lily. I took a cleansing breath, handed my beer stein to Kathy, walked up to the man and extended my hand. He was a FANTASTIC polka dancer. He twirled me around and skipped until I was out of breath. I'm sure I looked ridiculous, I'm sure people stared. I assure you, I didn't care one bit. The song ended, I shook his hand and thanked him for a wonderful time. I also told him that if he was ever in Vegas, I knew of a great bar he needed to visit.

So, here's your challenge for today: Next time you're on the sidelines of the dance floor at a family wedding or town festival, be like Lily. Pass your drink to someone, shake off your nerves and dance like EVERYONE is watching. You'll be amazed at how good it feels!

Thanks for reading!!


Kathy B said...

And you were indeed marvelous to watch with that old man at the Germanfest! You made us all smile and love the moments. And, as always, great writing Joan.
Go Browns!

Anonymous said...

Neat! I love the Asian Lady Story! Great Job Honey!

Jennifer Taft said...

The willingness to sing and dance as a joyful act as a part of a community is something Americans seem to have lost in our culture. I am always envious of the way people in other corners of the world can all join spontaneously without one self-conscious sideways glance. Lily has the right idea. Wouldn't it be great if we could all aspire to be more like her and care less about "Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars"? More joy, less competition and performing.

Dana said...

After reading this...I think I'll try writing like there's no one reading......

Unknown said...

That lady is my aunt ;)

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