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Journals of an Insane Genius -- January 1999

It’s late Friday night and I’m sitting in a parking lot waiting for my buddy Melissa and her friends to meet me. We’re going to The FineLine, an after hours dance club in Tucson. I’ve never been there before. Mel told me that it would be ‘different’.

The passenger side door opens and a dangerous looking young lady wearing a leather jacket and dressed all in black starts to climb in. Initially I think that I’m being car jacked before I realize that it’s Mel. This look is quite a contrast from the professional appearance she maintains at the office. After a quick stop at Circle K to stock up on cigarettes, Hansen’s energy drinks, and assorted snacks we hit the road. Despite the fact that she knows I rarely exceed the speed limit unless there is a compelling reason, Mel is pestering me to hurry. Apparently you get a free drink if you arrive before midnight. Right after she tells me this an extremely localized gust of gravity pulls down on my right foot.

“This is it, Drachman Street. Turn here.” Mel instructs.

I follow her directions, and at precisely 11:50 I pull into... a vacant lot. Mel is crushed. The FineLine was her absolute favorite club for years and it has somehow disappeared without a trace. Mel swears she was in the club less than six months ago. We wander across the street to an all night Texaco station. Apparently the graveyard shift offers little in the way of entertainment and the cashier has been waiting all night for some comic relief. In response to our questions he casually informs us that The FineLine is no longer across the street. Mel coolly replies that she had noticed and begins to interrogate him. It turns out that the building was sold and the new owner evicted them and tore everything down.

“I can’t believe The FineLine is gone.” Mel laments.

“Oh, it’s not gone,” the cashier states, “they just moved to another location.”

Mel controls her fist of death and politely asks for the new address. Ten minutes later we arrive. As we head for the entrance Mel asks, “Did I mention you were going to be frisked at the door?” I informed her that she hadn’t, and loudly wondered what kind of place this is.

Dark. Black is the most popular color here, both for the ambience and as a fashion statement. It’s also quite loud, at least near the dance floor. A constant stream of techno-industrial metal with a thumping dance beat washes over a sea of writhing bodies. The dance floor is illuminated by black lights, which cause anything light in color to glow. The walls are painted black, which would normally give the appearance of being inside of a cast iron stove, except for the artwork.

There are paintings everywhere. The best I can describe most of the pieces is by saying that the artist was disturbed, and I don’t mean that the phone kept ringing while they were painting. Within the context of the rest of the club this type of art is quite suitable, and indeed there are some very good paintings. There are also a couple that look like they belong inside a cast iron stove, so I guess they’re right at home as well.

Due to our navigation problems we didn’t get there in time for the free drinks, but as it turns out they lost their liquor license when they moved and are waiting for their new one. Not a problem for me since I was driving and not planning on anything more than the one free drink anyway. Mel just came to dance, and she jumped right in. Not one to be timid, I waded onto the dance floor.

I used to avoid dancing before I came to terms with the fact that I will always dance like what I am, a thirty four year old white boy with no rhythm. But the first thing I noticed when I looked around was that despite my genetic predisposition to sub-optimal dancing, I would not be the worst person out there. Indeed, most of the dancers were following the technique first made popular by the animated “Charlie Brown Christmas” special, find one move and stick to it. That gets old quickly to me, so I have fun duplicating first one person’s move and then another’s. Of course I’m a big klutz and with the crowded dance floor I’m bumping in to people. But I quickly learn that no apology is required, or even desired, unless you actually knock somebody down.

I become aware of a couple of people on the dance floor that are apparently dancing to a completely different song than everybody else. For people that remember phonographs, it’s like they’re dancing at thirty-three and a third while everything else is moving at forty-five. I wander over to where Mel is dancing (nobody at The FineLine dances with a partner) and point this out to her. She gives me a ‘dare ya’ look and suggests I give it a try. So with the music thumping out at a hundred miles an hour I do my best to imitate David Carradine’s Tai Chi workout tape played in slow motion. The most interesting part is that where I felt like I was in everybody’s way before, they are now giving me a huge amount of respect and actually making room for me.

I’m impressed by the diversity of the crowd. Normally I would expect this to create tension, but The FineLine is about dressing up, dancing, and having a good time. Being different is celebrated here. There is a large section of vampires. These people dress completely in black and use all black make up and fingernail polish, doing their best to appear undead. The other thing about this group is the attitude. They don’t associate or even acknowledge the presence of non-vampires. I assume this is what becomes of people that read far too much Anne Rice. The baggy look is still in, and there is a substantial crowd wearing jeans with legs large enough to serve as emergency shelters should the weather in the club change unexpectedly. There are quite a few people trying for the gang-banger look. Some of them aren’t pulling it off very well, I suspect they could use some lessons in attitude from the vampires. The college boys are out. They prefer clothes that shine under the black lights. Quite a few of them remove their shirts before hitting the dance floor. Most of them should probably spend a little more time in the gym, but there are a couple of hard bodies. There is a small contingent of cross dressers present. This surprises me the most because normally people that enjoy this tend to stick to clubs where the majority of people have similar interests. There are also a few loners, people that refuse to be categorized. One is wearing a crown and a flowing purple cape. Another is out on the dance floor in a gas mask. The smallest group is the one I belong to, people that look slightly out of place. Not knowing what to expect I was in jeans and a T-shirt. Next time I’ll know better.

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