Steppin' Out

Girl leaves the grind behind for a li'l two-stepping where the dry turns wet

The two blond bartenders are stone-cold suburban foxes in tight faux-vintage Target tees. There will be no lonely gentlemen weeping into their whiskeys at this bar. Instead, the 50-something set stare unabashedly over bushy mustaches at the fresh young cuts from south Arlington and Mansfield who demand tequila shots over their shoulders.

Again we find cushy plastic chairs near the dance floor, a tiny corner of parquet that, if it could be embarrassed, would blush to be seen next to Hoots' spread.

Stuffed into a corner, the house band plows through what are almost recognizable as Rolling Stones songs. Platform flip-flops are alive and well at Millie's, their foamy soles supporting old and young women alike, bumping and grinding to "Honky-Tonk Women." Suddenly, my view is impeded by a white-haired man with a crazy eye. He extends his hand to me.

Bella Pilar

I have three major fears: faulty roller coasters, large dogs and crazy eyes. I am terrified of offending people with wayward eyes by looking into the wrong one, and here was a tall stick of a man asking me and, apparently, the chair next to me, to dance. "I don't know how," I protested lamely. Next thing I knew, Mike and I were swaying across the dance floor to a painful rendition of "I've Got a Feeling."

Seven escape attempts and seven songs later--two of which left us as the only couple on the dance floor--I'd learned that Mike wanted to write for The New Yorker. He only partied on weekends, he said, and if I liked this band, I should come out and see them at the El Arroyo restaurant on Cooper Street on Saturday nights. Eventually, I am released.

"Thank you for dancing with me, young lady," Mike says. I smile. Most people I'd told about this assignment warned me to watch my back. Those "redneck" bars and dance halls were rough places, surely. But Mike and Todd and Ralph had been nothing but gentlemen. Millie's and Hoots were far more civilized than any big-city dance club. There, you can only hope not to be unexpectedly violated by a techno-fueled wand'ring member sneaking up from behind with a presumptuous grind.

No wonder so many people are praying for Gary without knowing precisely why. He's probably a nice guy. Chin up, Gary. There might be an uncoordinated city girl waiting for you at Hoots once you get better. Unless, of course, you had a heart attack and died.

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