Not every day can be a dance number from Glee. Even happy-go-lucky lil' scamps like myself can wake up on the wrong side of the bed. When I arose on a recent day, the first thing I pictured was myself sitting on a fluffy white cloud, hurling thunderbolts down on people. The day progressed from there. I couldn't find parking; the store ran out of Diet Coke; and the Def Leppard ringtone I downloaded turned out to be the shittiest portion of the song, not the intro as I had hoped. Why, why, why?
I had to pull myself together though, because I was taking my developmentally disabled client to the Dance-Along Nutcracker at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Yeah, I couldn't believe it either. I hoped the center wouldn't have some airport screening mechanism that sensed "hatred and bile" and thus banned entrance.
It is hard to stay in a bad mood when I am working with my clients, though, and after the show I was going to take my client to Ducca, a fancy bar attached to the Westin.
Since this is a bar column and not a theater review, I won't spend too much time on the show. Basically there is an orchestra and some kitschy skits, and the audience members are invited to get out of their seats and dance to all the music in The Nutcracker. Little kids dress up like pirates, princesses, and Christmas trees, and generally have a blast. I even found myself enjoying watching toddlers scoot around to "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," only to have my mood step back in and ruin everything. It really wasn't my fault; there seemed to be several full-grown couples at the event, dancing around wildly to the songs and playing dramatic hide-and-seek with each other behind pillars. Smite! Smite! Smite! went my lightning bolts.
The show was finally over, so we moseyed over to the bar. We entered through the side door, which looks a bit like the entrance to an Ivy League dorm, with brickwork, low lighting, and the promise of temporary repose cloaked in faux grandeur.
The inside is your basic upscale hotel lounge, but one room off the main bar drew me in immediately. It is a complete circle, with old-fashioned red velvet-style wallpaper and oval mirrors all around, every two feet or so. The seating is all red leather banquette, and hugs the circle. A gigantic red crystal chandelier hung down in the middle. Big marble triangles fanned out from the floor's center. I felt like I was in the chamber of a giant nickelodeon. If you had too much to drink and the room started spinning, you would be pressed up against the walls with centrifugal force and have no fear of falling.
We sat down and ordered drinks and the cheese plate. I didn't feel like smiting anyone anymore; my grouchiness was in remission. A well-heeled couple and their son were sitting way down on our left, and a woman was all by herself on the right. We were all at least eight feet from one another, but when the couple spoke, it sounded like they were sitting right next to us. At first I thought someone was directly behind us, beyond the wall, and that we were overhearing their conversation. But no, it was just the way the room was set up. If you put people all along a circular wall, anything anyone says will travel down the wallpaper and flood into the next person's ears. This was a dream come true for a snoop like me. Not so great for the couple though — no one else in the circle was talking, so they had no idea how much their voices were carrying. Sure, there wasn't much being said; they had a child there, for starters. But I know now that the man's brother has a drinking problem, and that the woman doesn't want to go back to work if Briana is there, and that one of their credit cards got canceled.
Wow, my mood was really getting better. There is nothing like hearing about other people's problems.
My client started humming the super-Russian-sounding bit from The Nutcracker, you know the one. During the show, we'd stood up and kicked out our feet Nazi-style during the crescendos. Actually, every bit sounds like it could be called "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" to me. I call them all that. Saves time.
I asked for the bill. A football game came on the TV at the main bar, and then a Macy's Christmas commercial, which are always the same, with cavorting couples having a gay old time in bright red sweaters, tossing snowballs and playing hide-and-seek behind pillars. I felt that familiar feeling well up inside me as my upper lip slowly curled into a Billy Idol sneer.
"Hee-YA!" my client said, kicking up her goose-step with a karate sound effect.
"Hi-YA!" I added, snapping out of the anger and marching in step. I started to hum the bit from The Nutcracker; you know, the one. And by the time we got to the revolving door at the Westin, it was time for our crescendo.
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