The Sacramento Lindy Exchange 2002

dancing, grab bag, people and relationships, personal, society, wackiness

This past weekend, I went to something called a Lindy Exchange in Sacramento, California.

What is a Lindy Exchange?

Basically, one town insanely decides to invite the rest of the world to visit its weekly dance venues, adding in some special events to sweeten the deal. Individual dancers in that town offer to host visitors at their homes, and also plan various dance and non-dance events throughout the weekend. Sleep is something people joke about, but don’t partake in too much during these weekends, and when they do, it’s usually of the afternoon nap variety, followed by another 9pm-2am dance, 2am-6am “afterhours party” (which, gee, also usually includes dancing AND watching videos of dance competitions), which is then sometimes followed by an “afterhours party breakfast.” Rinse, repeat, over the course of three days.

Not surprisingly, a great many of the victims, er, participants of these exchanges happen to be young vibrant college kids. However, there are also a good number of us old(er) farts who think that the young whippersnappers are nuts, and greatly enjoy being nuts alongside them.

Why would anyone want to spend dozens of hours doing dance-related things in a weekend? Hell if I know! Despite mysteriously having a joyous time over the weekend, I’m still trying to logically analyze the allure.

Perhaps there’s just something infectious about being surrounded by AND acting upon music music music , along with sweaty bodies and reduced inhibitions… more from exhaustion than drunkeness (though, admittedly, there’s a smattering of that, too). Throw in the fact that there are gobs of attractive, talented, and extroverted late teens and 20somethings (and those who fit right in), and you’ve got one scandalous, exciting, goofy, entertaining, and generally fulfilling weekend.

Sleep-deprived and generally giddy folks manage to come up with some of the most amusing and surprising moves… and their dancing, too, somehow becomes more creative as well. Blacks flirt with whites, 18 year-olds hang with 30 year olds without being looked down upon, girls kiss girls without enduring any more teasing than those girls kissing guys, and so on.

And oh yes, the dancing! Along with the enjoyable social dancing, there are usually some performances by the Rock Stars of Lindy, some of whom you might be lucky enough to dance with yourself later that night. One particularly insane trio performed something that could best be described as gymnastical Jungle Lindy… with one guy dressed (credibly) as Tarzan rhythmically whooping it up with an amazingly talented Jane and crazily limber Monkey. Lifting, flipping, flying, splatting, dragging, flinging… oh, and dancing… wonderous dancing! I hope to soon have a copy of their performance online to show off to you humble readers. And to think that I’ve now danced with two of the three of those performers! Woo hoo!

Heck, why don’t I go all out and detail the exchange bit by bit.

Friday afternoon, the skies opened up, and God Cried. Or he decided to take a hell of a blustery long cold shower. Or both. I debated whether to take Amtrak up to Sacramento or brave the roads… post-work and ski-weekend traffic (to Tahoe) and crazed-drivers-in-rainstorm all rolled into one. Tempting fate, I chose the latter.

At 10:30, or so, I arrived into Elk Grove (the near-Sac location of the first evening dance) and finally arriving at the correct street, I searched for an elegant ballroom, or at least a 2-story edifice that looked like a Place of Dance.

I drove back. And forth. And back again. No dice. Finally, as the storm intensified further, I decided to pull into a the parking lot of a local strip mall and call 411. No listing. Frustrated and dejected, I rolled my head back, and peered out the window, only to notice… oh man… here’s the Elk Grove Ballroom… in a STRIP MALL! The entrance looked no different than the doors usually labeled, “SmallTown Dental Care” or “Betty Sue’s Sewing Shop.” Luckily, the interior was at least a bit more grand. And dry. And warm. Mmmmm 🙂

I walked in, and that’s when it hit me. HIGH SCHOOL! I was back in high school. I’ve walked into this crowd of a couple hundred attractive young people dancing, and I’ve got to get up my guts to somehow break in, ask someone to dance. I did.

My mission was also to find Katy, the Housing Coordinator who was also, perhaps uncoincidentally, the host for one woman and four guys, including me. I had never met Katy before… I had no idea what she looked like, and also no idea how to get to her home. Luckily, I did manage to find her at the ballroom.

But I wasn’t ready to go “home” yet, no sirree! There was still the Afterhours party at Peter’s Palace. Actually, a large wharehouse area converted into a strangely catacomb’ish multi-room multi-floor Bachelor Pad, the legendary home not only of Peter and his Plentiful Parties, but also of the aforementioned Tarzan and one other guy I never remember meeting. Plus a hot tub that has, as legend has it, been ‘blessed’ by large sometimes-naked crowds and little cleaning. Hmm.

Tonight, though, most people were largely ignoring the hot tub (except for a couple of lucky guys enjoying the company of several buxomly-bikini’d babes), instead opting to — eeek! — dance some more and also order drinks for the ridiculously well-stocked bar upstairs. Much later into the night (actually morning), we retired to the Red Room to listen to Peter and his Posse sing about, ahem, Pussy, aided by the sharp vocal skills and fine lyrical memory of his ex-girlfriend. Peter, I posit, will not become President. Then again…

Finding my way to the neighboring city of Davis, I drove to the home of Katy (who had just recently left the party as well) around 6am, still wired from and bewildered by my first-evening exchange-de-virginizing experience. Tiptoeing quietly up to her room and trying unsuccessfully to squeeze into a clearly-junior-sized borrowed sleeping bag, I managed to wake up my poor hostess, who then — much to my amazement, generously invited me to jump into bed with her and her crazy feline. Yes, this is the same cat I described in an earlier journal entry that had a cranium fetish.

Seriously, though, I was and am amazed and grateful at the trust of Lindy women like Katy, inviting guys they don’t know into their home and — at least until I was ousted the following night to trade spots with one of the other guests — in their bed. And in case it’s not already perfectly clear, let me clarify that sleeping was all we did. While it’s been said that “it’s not really a Lindy Exchange unless you exchange more than dancing”… for my part I was content to have beautiful women in my arms vertically during waking hours, and then sandwich myself amongst warm blankets and a pillow horizontally in my limited sleeping hours.

Given the continuing downpour outside, the picnic scheduled for Saturday afternoon was cancelled and replaced by an afternoon dance and a few bouts of laser tag. Though I was tempted to attend one or both events, I opted to lol around in bed for a while, take a leisurely shower, and then chat with my roommates for a bit, resting up for another big night.

Apparently, a great many ants were interested in similar activities, deciding to join me in the bathroom while I showered, likely sharing pleasantries with one another all the while.

“Gee, Herman, isn’t this bowl of cat food delicious? And all this water! It’s much warmer than that wintry ickiness outside!”

“Oh yes, Berman, what a delightful party! Don’t you just love Lindy Exchanges? So who brought the boombox? I’m all ready to enjoy some…. !!!!!!!!!!!RAID?!?!?!?!?!?! OH NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

With a spring in my step and a crunch of dead ants under my feet, I met my roommates downstairs for some tea and shared powerbars, figuring out directions to the evening venue in Sacramento.

Once again, I had the joy of dancing with plentiful talented, friendly, and attractive women, including some who fled their native snowy New York for the blastfully wintry Sacramento. This is where we were treated to the earlier-described Jungle Lindy performance, along with a blues routine by Peter and Kristin that recently won them 1st or 2nd place in a national dance competition. Lastly, we were awed by a hip-hop-lindy performance by the incomparable Owen and Katie, of the fantastic dance troupe Loose Change.

After a live band and yet more social dancing, this Saturday evening party finished up around 4am. It was proposed that I party at Peter’s Palace again, but I was at least partially pooped, preferring not to push myself, so I plodded back to Katy’s place, hoping ants were not having an afterhours party in my sleeping bag.

Fate shined on me, and the Sunday afternoon party was being held at Katy’s Casa! I marveled as this fella Mark made incredibly delicious and complex sushi from scratch, along with heavenly crispy tempura with a batter made from home-brewed beer!

Aside from eating sushi, we did what I began to notice was rather prevalent at Lindy parties: We watched videos of dance competitions. Now I can understand this to some degree; we’ve all got a common Love, and besides, many of our friends and colleagues are actually FEATURED (and sometimes featured winners) in these videos. But at the same time, it seems a bit much. At least on my end, there’s only so much swing music and dancing I can take in a weekend. So for the most part, I turned my back on the tele, and was proud to consistently and reliably offer my services as a sushi taste tester, chatting and munching, munching and chatting, and yeah, flirting at least a little bit. What’s a Lindy Exchange without flirting?!

Then the idea was floated to go do some bowling before the evening dance and afterhours party, and I thought to myself, ah ha! Something non-dance related. This is good, even though I suck at bowling even worse than I suck at dancing.

Luckily, I was in sucky company, so to speak. Excepting the maddeningly-striking Jeremy, whom we all rightly suspected as being an expert the minute we saw his bowling bag, we were pretty much equally “talented” and had no less fun because of it.

Of course, I should have known better than to assume that we could somehow go without Lindy for a full hour or two. Andrew, clearly sympathizing with the personable Tiffany who was, to put it bluntly, sucking bowling-wise even more than the rest of us, decided to utilize her as part of a bowling-Lindy experiment. Everything was fun and fine, until the Andrew and Tiffany combo resulted in a ball being slung-shot into a neighboring gutter at somehow miniscule traveling speeds. Not wanting to wait 37 minutes for the ball to complete its run down the wrong lane, Tiffany deftly danced after it, one leg in each gutter, only to be faced with a polite yet firm and stunned admonishment from one of the bowling hall’s staff. Tiffany, a rather fair-complexioned beauty, turned a shade of red more tomato’y than I’ve seen a human turn before. This did not, however, put a stop to her bowling-dance-mate’s experimentations, which — miraculously — did not involve lanes other than their own after that. Furthermore, Andrew’s Flying Squirrel(tm) maneuver resulted in actually knocking over a couple of pins, though still not enough to beat Jeremy’s score… which was approximately the same as the combined scores of the rest of us. In fairness, though, Jeremy would not win any dance awards from HIS bowling.

Afterwards, we mosied on over to the Davis “Grad” — a local bar that looked like something out of one of those movies. Yeah, that one. With people dancing on the tables, too, except we weren’t pouring water or beer or anything like that on ourselves. Just wet from lots of sweat. Lindy is, after all, a rather athletic dance. We ended up our night — there, at least — with the obligatory group photo (warning: large half-meg file!), followed by a mad dash to our rain-pounded cars.

My ride, Rebecca, had the good sense to have us warm up via the In-n-out Drive thru. For those of you unblessed enough to not know about In-n-Out, it’s a fast-food burger place, but unlike any fast food you’ve ever had. It’s fresh, cheap, and, well, not really all that fast. And their menu is wonderously small yet satisfying: Hamburgers, fries, shakes, and sodas. That’s it. Period. And no fancy avocado-bacon-chili-froo-froo burgers or anything like that. Just got ol’ solid burgers with basic trimmings and fries that are actually made from three ingredients: potatoes (sliced when you order), vegetable oil, and salt. Yum!

Then we were off to the place of Ria, Dan and (the other) Adam for what was to be a strange and revelatory night. After hours of munching, dancing, and watching dance videos, the power flickered off and we were left, pretty much, with just each other and no music.

Well, the no-music part was short-lived, because the Rock Star (violinist, singer, award-winning dancer party palace guy) Peter decided to start us off on an ad-libbed a cappella version of the jazz standard “Fever” which we executed with great flare and goofiness combined. From there, things went downhill — or uphill or sideways, depending upon your point of view, I suppose.

With many girls laying on top of guys (which is less dirty than it sounds, honest) at around 5 or 6 in the morning, we were treated to an oral history of the Sacramento Swing scene, which — according to testimony — was starkly similar to non-dancing “swing” scenes during and around the “’98 Summer of Love.” “Let’s face it,” professed/bragged a former 21-year-old-fresh-out-of-Christian-college virgin, “A lot of us got into this because we could break the ice and get close to girls. When you go to a Bump and Grind [non-Lindy] club, it’s a lot harder to ask for someone’s number. But here, you see the same people every week! Then it’s not a big deal to, hey, let’s go hang out at my place…”

In order to prove his point, this fella took increasingly baudy polls of the present populace, asking questions like, “Who here has kissed more than two people in one Lindy evening?” … “…two people of different genders…?” then approaching worse-dom with questions like, “Who has had sex [with someone in the Sac Lindy scene] in someone else’s bed? No, not your partners!”

This was trailed closely by increasingly naughty tales of debauchery, egalitarian “conquest” (equally practiced by men and assertive women alike), and mistaken identity. The lights soon came back on, people shrieked, and it was a mere few seconds until they were shut off again, plunging us back into candlelight and non-ghost-story oratory.

Reinvigorated by the renewed darkness, one of the guys inexplicably bragged about the sizeable size of his manhood, offering — just in case there were sagging doubts — solid references.

Perhaps playing off the unspoken “would you like your eggs fertilized or unfertilized,” some kindly soul — likely made hungry by the prolonged storytelling — volunteered to make breakfast for everyone. “Give me money,” he suggested, “and I’ll go buy as much stuff as I can and come back here and cook for everyone.”

This being around 7am, my sleep instincts were stronger than my hunger impulses, so I decided not to stick around. From what I understand, though, this guy was indeed good to his word.

I, on the other hand, spent a few blissful hours in dreamland (sans cranium-hugging cat), and the next day (Monday), drove home, appreciating the lack of afternoon traffic and pondering the wonders of my first-ever Lindy Exchange. Like a college party but without the annoying frat-boy atmosphere, like a long late night dance but with performances and more craziness, like a sleepover without parents but with dance videos instead of pornos or horror films, Lindy Exchanges clearly defy succinct explanation and definition. You must simply live them to understand.

In the meantime, I hope this blog entry has managed to inform and entertain without disclosing too much. And no, I will not give out Scottie’s phone number. He currently has a charming girlfriend. Sorry.

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