Beyond the provisional gate of our I-270 outerbelt, we find Club Dance, nestled like a newborn amidst the runaway, half diseased strip mall sprawl between ghetto Whitehall and redneck Reynoldsburg. But Club Dance is no baby, having thrived here for nearly twenty years now, under a litany of names, and the same could be said for most of the strip clubs and restaurants lining this commerce laden section of Brice Road.
Living where we do, the more prominent downtown skyscrapers visible from our front yard, and the distance out of town north a known, mentally traceable one, it’s easy to lose sight of our fair city’s heft, to downplay reports we keep hearing of its ever increasing size. But to navigate a course out here to the eastern extreme, to log the miles and chart the minutes, and only then reach the trembling lip of this outlying suburban wall, is to have these notions reduced to rubble on impact. Fleshed out months ago by our few trips to the western extreme, my earlier, grandiose pronouncements concerning this city appear horribly misguided. Flashing like cameras somewhere deep within, the lights and landmarks I’ve absorbed during this lone jaunt to Club Dance disabuse me of the thought I’ll conquer Columbus in a lifetime, or for that matter in ten of them stacked end to end. And in terms of these ends, the east to west variety, they stretch so far I can’t wrap my mind around them.
We can’t have it all, so each night we cast our chips onto the most promising square and give the wheel a spin. Weigh our options, the information based upon a continually evolving field, recalculated hourly. Nicole and September call, they tell us to meet them at this bizarre but insanely popular club, and we’ve no reason not to.
Half hip hop hot spot, half urban cowboy watering hole, these polarly exclusive elements juxtapose with minimal friction. Within the former, red brick floors and dim lighting, throbbing strobes and ribcage shattering beats entertain the baggy panted masses, while the latter houses, underneath a bank of bright white lights worthy of our sun, a gleaming wooden floor full of line dancing zealots, surrounded by a near perfect oval of passive onlookers. In each half, the corresponding disc jockey panders the preferred genre and lingo, and the always rotating hordes engender the most stimulating hybrid either of us has ever seen.
Cowgirls with amazing asses saunter past, waggling those prized possessions in pairs of impossibly tight jeans, the retroactive majesty of their tiny red boots, hair sprayed golden locks and exquisitely rendered mascara breathtaking to behold. But just then some wicked young thing in skimpy shorts wedged snug against her crotch displaces that view, chest caroming unrestrained beneath a translucent, ill fitting tank top, skin tropical island tan, as if rendered for holiday feast, and gymnast taut, body language wavering somewhere between carelessly fluid and inner city nasty. We’re expected to patrol these grounds, under these conditions, which counts also four functioning bars, a pizza joint, and a pool hall among its holdings, and somehow locate the two girls who summoned us here.
Eventually, Alan and I find them at a table above the hip hop floor, buried in relative shadow. September a few drinks into a passably cheerful mood, claiming she’s finally over Robert, even though for some odd reason she’s brought his cousin Scott along. I’ve never met this Scott kid before, a lanky youth wearing football jersey and blue jeans, though he immediately inquires whether I care for a game of pool.
Upon securing a table, Alan and Scott are paired off as partners against September and me, with Nicole, fulfilling her apparent niche in life, the smiling, passive observer. My roommate and I, new arrivals, have not yet finished our first beers and are only halfway into this initial nine ball foray when September, standing in the middle of the room, begins bawling out loud. Shielding her face, she then sprints out of the building and into the night.
Despite the extra cargo she’s carrying, Nicole is first to follow, dashing in her best friend’s footsteps. Unsure just how to proceed, we males exchange quizzical glances, sip our beers for a wit gathering moment, then set our sticks down and waltz outside as well. No sooner have our feet hit asphalt does Nicole’s car come streaking up to greet us, as she rolls down her window and instructs Scott to climb in. Then, with only a perfunctory goodbye tossed Alan’s direction, she exits the parking lot, bound for Mansfield, the last we’ll see of them.
“What the fuck?” he mutters, mystified. We debate reentry no more than a moment, before calling it a night ourselves.