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Earlier | Later

sometimes the universe throws advice at us

"Don't do it, man! It's not worth it!" he called.

What, jump off the bridge? I wondered. I'm not even in sight of it yet. Not that I'd been thinking about jumping off the Fremont Bridge, but it was the first thing that occurred to me in response to his call. The caller was one of several dudes in a car that I'd just passed as it waited near the stoplight on Fremont Place N, waiting to head onto Fremont Ave N for the bridge. It was about two in the morning on Sunday, and I was headed home.

I'd been out at the Ballroom, which despite its name is a bar and nightclub that serves the biggest damn pizzas in Seattle, 28 enormous inches. It was the first time I'd ever actually spent any time there, and only my second time even being inside—the first being a couple years ago shortly before Christmas, when I went to pick up a pizza for dinner and discovered I had to put the box in the trunk because it physically wouldn't fit through the door into the back seat. I'd often been curious to go check it out, but had never tried making plans with any friends to do so. However, earlier that evening I'd gone out to a burlesque show with my friends Celeste and Jason and a couple of their friends, and we'd all agreed to go to the Ballroom afterwards in order to meet up with another of Celeste's friends, visiting from out of town.

I somehow managed to be taken aback by the crowd at the Ballroom that night. Although I consider Fremont to be my neighborhood, being the closest urban-village center to my home, I tend to go to the same places all the time—PCC Natural Market for groceries, Caffe Ladro to work, and the High Dive or Nectar Lounge for concerts. Occasionally I'm out to one of the restaurants, most often Norm's, for dinner. I rarely spend time in any of the Fremont bars, as I rarely have friends suggest it and I rarely ask others to come hang out in my neighborhood—somehow, I have it in my head that people don't like to come "all the way out" to Fremont.

So going into the Ballroom was an eye-opener for me: it was a regular nightclub, full of people who didn't look anything like the kind of people I usually spend time with or the kind of people I usually associated with Fremont. This of course was ridiculous on a few levels. After all, it wasn't that unusual for me to be out in Fremont in the evening and to walk by the Ballroom, especially as Caffe Ladro is right next door, so of course I saw this kind of people all the time. And there was nothing outlandish about the people; they were just the sort of ordinary people who hang out at nightclubs on a Saturday night. And since I've been going out dancing at the Baltic Room once a month for TRUST (or at Chop Suey before that, when TRUST was held there), I too am the sort of person who goes out to nightclubs for fun. And yet, they still looked like a different kind of crowd than what I would see at TRUST, a different kind of crowd than mine. It made me feel weirdly alienated, as though I were suddenly in a completely different part of town than Fremont. Though in fairness, a lot of the people probably were not local to the Fremont neighborhood, not even necessarily to Seattle, possibly being visitors from the Eastside.

Really, they were not the strangers in the bar, I was. Not that I looked particularly out of place, dressed in a decent button-down shirt, blue jeans, and nice shoes—not fancy, but certainly passable for the crowd. But I felt really out of place, in a bemused and slightly amused fashion. A term came to mind that I hadn't thought of probably in years: "meat market". This was the kind of place where regular people would go on a Saturday night to meet other people, for some just to hang out and have fun, for others hopefully to pick someone up and bring them home. I realized that here was a place I could come to find women looking for just that, someone to sleep with, if I wanted to—and in some ways I did want to.

And yet, looking around, I felt at a loss for how I'd even start, if I were to try. What would I say to anyone? I didn't feel like I had anything in common with any of them, except for happening to be in the same nightclub. To some extent that's foolish thinking; for one thing, there was a room for dancing, and even though I didn't care for much of the music the DJ was spinning, I could still dance to it. I know from experience that just dancing is enough to at least get into an occasional conversation, if nothing else. But still, was this the place I wanted to give it a try? Were these the kind of people I wanted to take home with me? Did I even want to be "that guy", coming back here on my own just trying to find a hook-up? Because at my age, "that guy" generally seems to be regarded as a creep, unless he's really suave and cool, neither of which I'd claim to be.

Those ruminations didn't take up all my time while at the Ballroom. I had a fun evening hanging out and talking with my old and new friends, occasionally mocking but also enjoying the music, trying to eat just a single slice of the enormous pizza, and taking in the sights of the other people there. Despite being with people who regularly (swing) dance, none of us actually ventured into the dance hall, but that was okay. And in part because I was there just to hang out with my friends, in part because I was undecided how I felt about it, I made no efforts to try talking to any of the other people there—though, sitting on the outside of the booth, I did get some attention through proximity to the pizza, the size of which astonished quite a few of the people passing by.

So, closing time found me walking home by myself, passing a few of the other bars and nightclubs on my way. And it was just after I'd passed another bar similar to the Ballroom—this one with the unfortunate name "9 Million in Unmarked Bills"—that the dude in the car yelled out to me, "Don't do it, man! It's not worth it!" I'd just been looking back toward 9 Million, taking another glance at the people still milling around there. I kept walking, not bothering to respond to the dude. As I rounded the corner onto Fremont Ave N, the lights changed and the car drove past me. And the dude yelled out the window to me one more time:

"Those girls don't deserve you!"

I yelled back "Thanks!" as the car sped off on its way.

My first thought was a touch bitter: yeah, what about the girls who do deserve me? Where are they? But then I thought wryly, maybe he's right. And I walked on home.

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