I HAD discovered the dance scene quite accidentally the year before.
I happened to be at Auckland's Real Groovy Records waiting to be served one blank September day, and I happened to glance down at one of the colourful dance party flyers littering the counter. It was the colours that caught my eye. That and the promise of a ‘Snow Party’.
Picking the flyer up, I thought: snow means wet clothes, then: this might be a good place to meet chicks. Which it wasn't. Not if you went to the party in a plaid flannel farmer's shirt - as I did - certain it was the height of manly fashion.
Before then, nothing was extraordinary in my life. Not that there was anything particularly sub-ordinary either, you understand. It was just your average, early-twenties, know-nothing, drink-beer, chase-women, recover-and-repeat, Kiwi-bloke life.
I was average in height and build, average in looks - with a receding hairline and an upturned nose that had earnt me the nickname pugsley. (Whether due to a resemblance to a member of The Adams Family or the dog with the squashed in face I was never entirely sure.)
If you didn’t count the hat-trick in school boy cricket I took when I was seven, I had two claims to fame: being a fifth generation New Zealander and the only son out of five children to parents comfortably married.
My days I spent in subtracting the hours to the weekend, where I would drift along behind my mates through the pubs of Auckland - The Forge, Broncos, Copper Joes, The Loaded Hog - shimmying away to the commercial pop played, and enjoying it far more than I let on, because that was the best place to meet girls . . . and at 3 AM, kebab in hand, heading home, alone.
In summer I played cricket; in winter I watched rugby; and every New Years I went camping in the Coromandel with my friends, there to get prodigiously sunburnt and prodigiously drunk.
Not a bad life, really, just: ordinary. And some part of me was searching, searching for, well, the extraordinary I found at that first abandoned warehouse dance party in the centre of town.
It was all madness and riotous magic from the moment I entered the parking lot. Snow blowers were blowing a blizzard at the door, pyromaniacs were spinning great tongues of fire outside, and white was the attire for everyone - other than me, in my plaid-flannelled goodness.
Nervously I had gone to join the queue. The bass reverberated through the cinder-block walls; the bouncers were friendly. A surprise. They ushered me inside . . . to collide.
A new realm of being.
First that techno tidal wave hitting like a train (and I thought of it all as techno then), then those weird, wild and wonderful ravers in their blissful, boisterous boil (and I thought of them all as ravers then), and finally the recognition they were dancing, actually dancing, cutting loose and letting go, the warmth and the lights and their glow, but with such freedom and ecstasy, such kinetic creativity, it was like experiencing a human murmuration.
(And, incidentally, putting my patented sidle-up-to-a-girl-and-grind-against-her groove, doing the pugsley, to deep, deep shame.)
From that first reveal through ice-crusted doors, I was out of step. Lost. I did not know how to move. I consumed space and collected frowns. I gawped and wanted to take pictures.
I was a sightseer to the Amazonia Planitia of Mars and all the martian woman streaming by were gorgeous - so this is where they all hang out! - and all the martian men laid-back-cool-enough not to be hitting them; where water was preferred and your skills on the dance floor mattered and an effervescent energy reigned and not one fight began, and I careened around dazed for a while.
Finally, overwhelmed, defeated, I retreated to a wall at the back, a tartan flower, there to be pounded ever flatter by the bass.
I marvelled over what secret school had taught them all to dance this way. I developed a man crush (sadly) on the obvious king of the party: a bloke onstage wearing soap-bubble-coloured aviators, wrapped up in smoke and lit up by lasers, peep-peep-peeping away on a glowing whistle.
And slowly, inexorably, like all those in the warehouse before me, I became determined to cross over . . . to the extraordinary.
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