I happened to be in
San Francisco visiting family and friends this weekend. Those of you who know
me, know that I’m from SF and I first learned how to salsa in The City.
Every chance I have to return to SF, I make sure I pack in plenty of dancing.
This trip was different, though. I flew into SF overwhelmed with
thoughts of potentially seeing my grandparents for the first time since the
Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. I was also excited to be meeting up with
old college friends who’d returned to SF after years at med school or working
in the East coast or overseas. I knew that on this trip, I would be
seeing some of the special people who made an impact on my life.
So, I had no plans to
go out dancing - at least no DEFINITE plans. On the last day of my visit, I
told my friend Theresa, a salsa convert (yes, I am proud to have introduced my
childhood friend to the world of salsa), to call me after she got back from
her open water swim and 18 mile running event. (I am not kidding. She’s a
bio-tech chica who is training to be an Ironman with the Leukemia society.)
I’d be hanging out with our mutual friend Irwin, whom I’ve known since we were
about 4 years old. He recently returned to SF to start his medical residency.
Later that afternoon…
“Hey Nadine. I’m back
now. What are you and Irwin up to?”
“Hi Theresa! He’s on
the other line. We’re about to head out for dinner. Let’s all three go!”
“Do you still want to dance tonight? If so, then
I’d like to take a power nap. You two have dinner and call me later, ok?”
“Ok. Bye.” Click.
“Hey, Irwin, that was Theresa. She’s too tired to come out for dinner.”
Crushed. “What? Why?”
“Well, you know. She
practically swam across the Bay and ran a marathon this morning.”
“She’s a booger,” said
my bleary-eyed surgery-anesthesiology resident friend who just finished an
18-hour shift of being on-call at the hospital.
“Ok, you tell her
that. Then come by and pick me up.”
“I will. Ok. Bye.”
Two minutes later.
“Yeah? I thought you
were on your way?”
coming. I got her to come. Heh heh.”
After dinner, Irwin
dropped us off at Theresa’s, where we yacked and procrastinated getting ready
for the night. Bushed as both of us were, we couldn’t believe we still wanted
to drive across the Bay Bridge to dance at Allegro’s. But, it was THE
place to be on Sunday nights. We decided to go super-casual. I’m talking
athletic gear and dance sneakers. “They’re not gonna let you in dressed like
that,” Armando said over the cell-phone. “Hmmm…maybe you’re right,” I
responded. “But then again, you just want me to change and drive way over to
your salsa club at the Concord Sheraton.”
Nevertheless, I went
for a more dramatic look. Theresa, who also happens to be a make-up artist,
went all-out on my eyes. Would they let in two ladies in athletic gear
if one had dramatic eyes? We would soon see. In the middle of the make-up
session, Theresa’s friend Frank called and wanted to know if she was going
out. He offered to come by and pick us up. Frank arrived just as Theresa put
the finishing touches on my eyes. Off we went, unbedecked except for a
pair of bedazzling eyes.
At Allegro’s Ballroom, the throngs of people
were spilling out the entrance to escape for a breath of cool air. This is a
beautiful Sunday night salsa spot. You will find a variety of dancers there -
from Newbies to professionals. Nobody is considered underdressed. Nobody is
considered overdressed. The wooden dance floor is spacious, just slightly
smaller than the floor in Century Ballroom. Two adjacent rooms are also
available for practicing. Mirrors along the walls of all rooms let you sneak
peaks of yourself while dancing. The lighting is excellent, and there are no
annoying strobe lights to blind one on the floor. Free water, ice-cold punch,
and snacks also keep up the energy of the dancers. Music selection is composed
of an abundance of salsa, with cha cha and meringues thrown in for a break.
After a series of salsas, I stepped to the
side of the floor for a needed rest. As the sounds of a merengue started up, a
person I hadn’t yet danced with approached me, asking, “Would you like to
dance a merengue?” Those who read my column know that I rarely turn down
a first dance. “Sure,” and I headed back out onto the dance floor.
As we began to dance, he asked, “Is your name
Puzzled as to how this stranger knew my name,
I looked up at his face, arched my eyebrows, and answered affirmatively, “Yes?
… How do you know? Have we met before?” I searched for any sign of
recognition. I like to think that I remember faces of people to whom I’ve been
introduced. Yet at the same time, I tend not to look directly at faces
when I’m dancing with strangers or people I’m not that comfortable with.
A big smile spread over his face. “I’ve got
a story for you.”
He led me deftly into advanced-intermediate
moves and started in on his story. “Do you remember a night some time ago at
Café Cocomo? You had just walked off the dance floor and happened to be
standing by where my friends and I were standing. I complimented you on your
dancing and bashfully told you it was my first night out dancing and if I knew
how to, I’d be asking you for a dance. You told me to come ask you for a dance
when a merengue came on.”
A hazy memory began to form in my mind as we
continued to step-step-step to the merengue pulse.
“Well, a little later on, they played a
merengue, and I asked you to dance. (Uh oh, memory lapse. Maybe I asked him to
dance…) You told me to just march in place and let you do everything. I had so
much fun! When the song was over, I was grinning from ear to ear. I walked off
that dance floor euphoric. My coworkers teased me at work. But it didn’t
matter. That dance motivated me to go out and take salsa lessons. I
promised myself that if I ever saw you again, I would remember your name, and
personally thank you! I can’t believe I finally ran into you again. Thank
Midway through his story, I remembered the
exact night he recounted. It was in April. I had taken out my friend
Vivian to Cocomo’s for the first time. (Theresa happened to be in Japan at the
time.) I was speechless.
Sometimes you don’t realize the impact you can
have on another person. It was a
perfect way to end this weekend trip to SF. Thank you for the dance and the
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