/ Neighbors / Highlands Dancing / Schiz Center
Gator played drums in one or another band. Gator was local, grew up in Highlands County. Gator would stand in the rain all day if he thought he could do Ann a favor. Gator, like all of us, was smitten by Ann. But unlike the rest of us, Gator was helplessly smitten by Ann. Gator saw, everybody saw, that Ann loved me. I’m talking friendship, nothing else. I’d hug Ann publicly, she’d hug me; but not privately. Never. Anyway, Gator saw that she loved me (hell, she loved him too), and Gator would sabotage me. I think that’s what his drumming conflicting rythms during the line dances was: he was sabotaging me by sabotaging the line dancing.
More than once Ann lectured Gator to lay off me. She put him on notice: Behave, or be banished. He’d behave: for fifteen minutes, then revert right back.
It was funny: Ann was forever grumbling that she was conquering her fear, she was going to dump Bo and the hell with the consequences, she could live on the street. Likewise, she was always grumbling how Gator wouldn’t let her breathe, she had a thousand tricks to avoid him, she threatened him with banishment again and again: but he was always right back again, panting to be petted, tangling her ankles.
“You’re married!” she would admonish him. “Go home to your wife.”
Well, eventually I guess he would go home. Meantime he got between her feet and panted.
I could have tried panting over her myself, but I never did.
I wish one of my old lady line dancers had said to Bo as he charged through our line, “If you knock me down, and my hip breaks, I’ll sue Senior Dance for every penny I can squeeze.”
Lois was loud, vulgar, said she was Ann’s best friend.
I generally sat at a table midway toward the dance floor or the east side of the hall. Several of my line dancers typically sat with me: Joyce, the Marine linedancer with the linedance teaching husband, Roy, Isabel, Barbara … Lois typically sat at the table next over toward the kitchen. Lois hated me. Lois would go around removing pictures of me from the bulletin boards. Ann would put them up, Lois would take them down.
At that table regularly sat John. John, when he danced with the girls, danced with his cap still on and his toothpick sticking out of his mouth. (I’d been good fishing buddies with his live-in, Mary.) Also at that table, ever ready to sabotage me, was Joe.
Why didn’t everyone naturally respect me and my teaching? Me nor my teaching had been respected since 1968. The 1960s were not the first time that the culture turned snarling against academics, against free thinkers, free speakers; but it was with the ’60s and ’70s that the state won the war against intellect. By 2010 every citizen knew who could be interrupted: who must be interrupted.
During the patriotic ceremonies that Senior Dance rehearsed every Wednesday at noon, national hymns, the pledge to the flag, Joe would plant himself behind my ear and croon:
or leave it.
In the US we’re all kleptocrats. There’s no function not on stolen land. There’s no sorting which ideas have had royalties paid and which are owing. No one is here by right. Why should I be the one who has to move?
No, no, God made it clear to me as a child what the penalty would be for being intelligent, honest. I had every chance to join the majority, to lubricate the kleptocracy. No. I joined Jesus. I stayed joined.
I’ll mention a bunch that I liked, loved, was attracted too … later, mostly women. One 92 year old wanted to go fishing with me. One time we were walking by the library. I said, Lemme take a quick cast. I thought she’d wait on the beach: durned old gal waded right out into Lake Jackson, slogging around in my footprints. She listed this way and that, I had to hold her up, so much for fishing: but do you believe that old gal’s gumption?
Poor thing, her daughter moved her out of her independent apartment at the Palms and into an assisted living apartment at the Palms: but nothing worked after that! her CD player was deprogramed, she couldn’t even change the channel on the TV. Sabotage, incompetence par tout.
I’ve said that it was Gene, the landlord Gil’s girlfriend, who originally offered the linedancing lessons. She was incompetent, she was crazy, Ann asked me to take over, I did, for a year or two. And I witnessed Gil sabotaging Ann’s efforts to run the club, and mine to help with the club: human politics, we hate success, won’t permit it.
One day at another Highlands County dance I heard Gil exclaim to Gene, “Oh, there’s Paul!” As though that were a good thing. Nazis can’t remember who their enemies are for ten consecutive minutes. Anyway, that was 2008. Here it’s 2015, 2/3 through winter. I was at my now regular dance, the American Legion in Lake Placid. Jan wasn’t present, so I was dancing with all my widow friends, and any other woman I saw who looked like she needed a spin on the dance floor. I see a blond, slender enough, not bad, I go up, ask here to dance: she declines, unambiguously. I shrug, and turn away. But her word stops me: “Don’t you recognize me, Paul?” I turn back. Look. Stare. Uhh … “I’m Gene. Gil’s girlfriend.”
Pause, beat … “Ooohh …” What’s going on? She remembers to be rude, uncooperative, then she chases me down to be friendly! Schiz.
I don’t know how Gil’s girl spelled her name: Gene, Jean, Jeanne … She was Scottish, if there’s a clue there. The girl across the street from me when I was a teen was Gene: female, with a G.