Within the past week or so, I went to two places where people were dancing.
At both, I was initially bothered. “I don’t belong here,” was my initial reaction.
One venue was McDermott’s, a nice large bar across the street from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ PNC Park ball yard. The other was our very own Heritage House senior citizen center here in Brookville.
In Pittsburgh, after a Pirates-Yankees ballgame, three of my sons and I had ventured to McDermott’s for post-game libations, e.g., beer, before retiring to our hotel suite.
In Brookville, my wife and I and her sister and spouse went to the Heritage House for music from the 1950s-70s, played by Ray’s Final Cut.
It hit me at both, at first: “I don’t belong here.”
At McDermott’s, the crowd seemed to be twentysomethings – until my nearly-50 son Mike said, “I am no longer age-appropriate here!” To Mike, the young girls looked like they should be classmates of his 15-year-old older son, and not dancing in a bar near midnight.
To me, a quarter-century older than Mike, they looked like infants.
The “dancing” was something of a sinuous slither. No, It wasn’t obscene. But it was something I had never really seen up close, the way today’s young people dance.
At the Heritage House, by contrast, the dancing looked familiar, comfortable.
It was the people who disconcerted me.
Gray was the overwhelmingly predominant color of hair. The dancing was not sinuous or slithering. Rather, it ranged from jitterbug through two-step and waltzes to the “fast dancing” we invented in the 1950s, e.g., stay in roughly the same spot and make parts of us move back and forth.
There was some creaking involved since, at age 74, I was among the younger attendees. But the styles were as familiar as the tunes, “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Tennessee Waltz” (that was more 1940s, sung by Patti Page and covered by Teresa Brewer), and “In The Still of the Night.”
Later in that evening, as the lighting grew dimmer with darkness, the chatter was lively, fun and funny. We talked comfortably with each other.
What was jarring was the sight of so many people my age all at once in 2016, set against tunes from 1956, when we were all slim, lithe and youthful.
We should have been young kids dancing to those tunes, my mind’s eye told me.
Hah. We’re old.
I flashed back one week, to when I had seen young kids dancing at that bar in Pittsburgh.
They should have been dancing to Bob Seeger’s “Old Time Rock ‘N’ Roll,” I thought, not to Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like” or Katy Perry’s “Chained to the Rhythm.”
My eyes saw two groups of people. My ears heard two groups of music. But the people and the music didn’t match.
In between my eyes and my ears, my brain short-circuited.
How could we have gotten so old so quickly?
How could those other people, those kids, have gotten old enough to be in bars and drink beer openly?
I pondered that as I drifted off to sleep. The answer awoke with me.
That is life. Sinuous young people, creaky old people.
Two things unify both groups.
We both love “our” music and look askance at “their” music.
And when it comes to conversation, it does work.
At the Pittsburgh bar, we chitchatted with the bar staff, and with an old friend from Warren.
As we waited to enter, a young fellow with no cash implored us to pay for his and his date’s admission (they only took cash for the cover charge), and promised to buy us a round of drinks with his waving credit card. My son Matt obliged and, sure enough, he showed up with four Bud Lights, plunked them down, and effusively thanked all of us. Chris, Mike and I gladly took some of the credit, and the beer, that by rights belonged solely to Matt. After all, Matt had learned his classiness and courtesy from his older brothers and his Dad, didn’t he?
So we chuckled.
At the oldies dance, I exasperated my long-suffering wife by gyrating wildly on the dance floor, then staggering back to my chair while claiming, “She’s trying to kill me by making me dance!”
That hairy bit of schtick drew chuckles from those I passed, not because I was funny (I was actually semi-obnoxious), but because all of us creaked a bit while dancing.
We got along, at both places.
When the young folks’ odd attire and the old folks’ silver thatches are factored out, we were all, young and old, still people, out for a good time with music, with friends, with like-minded people we don’t know but, in a way, do know – because they will be us and we have been them.
Good times at both places.
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Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: email@example.com