The Good Son

My 40-something mother wanted to find a decent Dallas nightclub, so she found a tour guide: me

It's Saturday night, and I'm on a date with my mother. She drags me onto the empty dance floor and imitates the dance sequence from Pulp Fiction. Even without a crowd, I feel embarrassed. My mom is pretty typical: sweet, compassionate and quiet. But when she hits the town, the woman becomes a loon. She was once kicked out of an Ohio nightclub for being "too rowdy." Sometimes she breaks into song for the hell of it. Why did I agree to this again?

It all began when I first landed a job at the Dallas Observer. Mom started calling my work phone to nag me about getting her fix: "Where can singles and couples my age go out to dance and have a good time?"

This went on for a year.

I was giving a standard sign-off when my editor overheard me. "I still don't know, so leave me alone! I love you. Bye." I hung up and sighed. "My mom wants me to take her to a bunch of old-fogey nightclubs and write a story about it. Can you believe that?"

My editor raised one eyebrow. I had an assignment.

Over two Saturday nights, Mom and I would go to seven clubs. She insisted I have her home by 11 p.m. "People my age can't stay out that late," she said. She poured me a glass of orange juice as I threw her a curveball--we would visit clubs in Dallas County only. I wanted to see if Mom could have fun without relying on the standard older-skewing bars in Frisco or Addison.

She gave me a big smile. "When we do all this, are we going to get shot?" Then she placed a coaster under my orange juice so it wouldn't leave a stain.

BrooklynIf Mom hadn't taken her sweet time getting ready, we might've arrived early enough to grab a table at this crowded Oak Cliff jazz bar and restaurant. Luckily, we caught a nice set of bebop jazz while standing at the bar, and Mom told me a few times how swank the place was, though she seemed more interested in window-shopping in the Bishop Arts District than the Martha Burks Band. "I'll have to come back with my fiance," she said as she wiggled around during a saxophone solo.

Club DadaThe fast, bluesy cover band at Dada turned Mom into a grinning fool. During a particularly loud cover of Shania Twain's "I Feel Like a Woman," sung by all-male band The Gobos, Mom broke into laughter, only to lean toward me afterward and ask, "What was that song?" I offered to dance with her but was rebuffed: "If I tried dancing to this, I'd have a heart attack!" Still, the cheesy pop-rock, open seating and casual atmosphere suited Mom perfectly, as did the beer she ordered with a glass of ice (ick!), and when asked if she'd come back, she answered, "Heck, I might take Grandma next time she's in town."

Gilley´s Before we ever left home, Mom expressed an inherent dislike for country bars, but in this place, she couldn't help but cut loose. With a dance floor this huge, even I had to join in. After I swallowed my pride (along with my Bud Light) and led Mom in a clumsy two-step, she patted my shoulder and pointed to the other end of the massive club. "Why don't you invite one of those nice-looking girls to dance?" she asked.

I declined, and Mom gave me one of those looks.

"They don't know what they're missing," she said.

As we walked back, we noticed something odd in the street, which turned out to be an expired shotgun shell. "Looks like I might get shot after all," Mom said, and while she laughed, I started walking faster.

Club BabaluThis ultra-loud nightclub fell victim to our time restraint, as the place was barren when we arrived at 9:30 p.m. Of course, this didn't stop Mom from hitting the tiny dance floor and shaking to the salsa-techno mix, and it didn't stop her from dragging me along.

We might have stayed longer had Mom been able to hear anything, and on our way out, she made sure to complain about the $10 cover charge while standing inches away from the manager.

"Don't charge me that much to get in and then expect me to pay seven bucks for drinks!" Then she poked me in the back. "You better print that!" Monica´s Aca y AllaWe sat for dinner while Latin rockers Sol Negro played bongo-loaded covers of Santana and Stevie Ray Vaughan songs. Mom couldn't have been happier, as this was a Latin club much more her speed. "Reminds me of Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights," she said between bites. "I love that movie."

Mom pointed to the stage during a guitar solo. "That guy...Is he Santana?" she asked. She then tried to drag me onto the small dance floor, but, for once, I had an excuse to decline. I was stuffed.

Still, Mom enjoyed the vibe and said she'd bring her girlfriends back. "This is a place where I wouldn't mind being hit on," she said. "A woman my age coming here and being asked to dance? With all these young women around? That's pretty good."

Sambuca Mom loved the spaciousness of this Uptown jazz restaurant, and we sat close to Shanghai 5 while the group performed near the long, accommodating bar. At this point, Mom and her martini transformed into music critics.

"Sam, this is... retro jazz!"

"What does that mean?" I asked.

She shrugged. "I have no idea."

Didn't matter. Mom held up her hands to snap and dance in place while the rest of the crowd sat for dinner.

"I can't wait to come back," she told me. Twice. Adair´s By the time we reached this small, rowdy country bar in Deep Ellum, the clock struck 11, which meant Mom's energy carriage had turned into a pumpkin. The punk-inspired takes on country classics turned her off, as did the young crowd and smoke, and we left after only one beer, though a few ladies grabbed her on the way out and forced her into a final dance, in which they taught my dear mother how to "raise the roof."

During our long walk to our parking space, Mom reviewed the clubs we visited. "If you hadn't dragged me out, I would've been clueless about these places," Mom said. "And the best part was, I got to spend time with you." At that point, she actually pinched my cheek. Sheez.

Really, the big question--"Where can older people go out and dance?"--didn't matter in the end. No club we visited suited her tastes perfectly, but the experimentation of our two evenings made up for any lulls. So if you're an older reader and feel trapped by Dallas music spots that skew too young, Mom says stop worrying. Try something new. And, if you're lucky, bring a son along.

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