Friday, January 19, 2007

A Red Car and The Green Light

You know, it's a d-a-m-n shame when you have to wrack your brain to figure out what you do for fun. But rather than dwell on the somewhat isolating activity that's occupying much of my time lately (ahem), I'm going to take you back a decade or so, in honor of Blog for Radical Fun Day.*

If you know anything about me by now, you know that I am from the country. And not a gently rolling area outside a major city. Nuh-uh. I mean the kind of country where I know intimately my cousins 23 times removed, picked my share of purple hull peas, and had a graduating class of 32. And being that my hometown is a proud place that tries to live up to all the stereotypes of rural places, we had our very own hole-in-the-wall club. It was called the Green Light.

And while I had been clubbing a couple of times in large cities and in the college towns close to hometown, there was nothing in the world so wonderful, so worthy of all-week anticipation, so much fun as Saturday night at the Green Light. Now, were you to cast your eye upon this marvel during the daytime, you'd raise your eyebrow and re-think your characterization of elle as a sensible woman. For it is nothing much to look at under the glare of the sun, a small wooden building, tilting precariously to one side, that makes Harpo and Sophia's juke joint look palatial.

But oh, at night, and on Saturday nights in particular, we packed that place with an enthusiasm never before seen... except on the previous Saturday nights. We stepped on each others' feet. We bumped each others' hips. We frequently had to escape outside for fresh air. Yet, the Green Light maintained a mysterious aura that made it seem the hottest spot in all the South.

Indeed, so deliciously overwhelming was the experience of the Green Light, that you could not go in unprepared. No! There was a ritual Sis, Cousin T (whom I shall call Trinity), and I observed on Saturday nights. There were preparations during the week sometimes, if the party had a theme--hurried jaunts to Lane Bryant and the hair salon, inspections of the supply of lip glosses and liners--but the Saturday night ritual began around 6. On cue, one of us would turn on the CD player. Blackstreet, Biggie, Tupac, UGK, Xscape, some old Dr. Dre, circulated for the next four hours. We took turns bubble-bathing in our one tub and yelling directions at whoever was ironing clothes that night.

Every once in a while, we'd stop to hype ourselves up by singing along: "Looking for that good stuff, da-da-da-da-daaaaa-da, Tighten up on that back stroke," or "If you take your love away from me, I'll go crazy," or, for a minute, "Every time I see your face it makes me wanna sing and every time I think about your love it drives me, Crazy." You see, Trinity and I didn't drink yet, and so these mini-concerts helped keep us pumped, helped keep the hearts pounding, while we were getting ready.

And then the donning of the carefully selected, group approved outfit. We'd wonder aloud, "Does this look right? Tell the truth. Don't have me lookin a damn fool!" But that was a rhetorical exercise. One glance in the mirror was the ultimate affirmation. I had a level of conceit matched only by... well, Trinity and Sis's conceit. We were pretty in three different ways and couldn't no one tell us shit! Thus we'd exit the house and climb into my car, a 1991 red Mercury Cougar.

I loved that car with a passion that has yet to burn within me for my later automobiles. They simply do not have the heart, the strength, the ability to take a beating that the Cougar had. It was a hand me down from my dad and when it finally gave up the ghost, it had almost 300,000 miles. That car lived through accidents, haphazard driving, and constant overload.

But I digress. We'd drive the 6 miles to the Green Light, wheedle our way in for free or grudgingly hand over the $5. And then, it was on. For most of my life, when it comes to dancing, I have been a wallflower. But not at the Green Light. I danced. I laughed. I flirted. I had much attitude when the occasion called for it, like when best friend Louisiana and I were slow dancing next to each other one night (she with her now-hubby, don't remember my partner) and some girl came up to her and acted like she was going to slap her. In an act of beautiful fluidity and grace, BF LA and I swung on her at the same time. Alas, I did not get to earn any fighting cred right then; BF LA ended the debacle by throwing the offender into a table. And then we kept dancing.

And there was also Big Ferg, the best friend of DJ Quiet Storm, who would get on the microphone and admonish wallflowers, "If you scared, go to church." When a song came on that my girls and I loved, he'd tell Quiet Storm to turn down the music so the whole club could listen to us sing. Horribly. But with so much enthusiasm and none of our usual self-consciousness.

We loved the Green Light for another reason--it gave us the opportunity to rub something in the cops' face. They harass any black club in the area and they hated when the Green Light was open. They'd come make sure every single car was parked in the too-small lot, not too close to the road--in which case they'd gleefully ticket or tow. But for the most part, all they could do was sit and wait, hoping for a brawl, or a gunshot, or a drunk driver. We used to go outside and stick our tongues out and flip them off. They'd act like they didn't see.

But one night, they set up a checkpoint. Big Ferg was on probation and didn't have a driver's license. So, Sis agreed to drive him home in Quiet Storm's car. Turns out, the car's brakes were shot. They ran into a ditch and Big Ferg rolled over onto Sis. Now, Big Ferg was 5'5" and about 450lbs. Sis remembers that he apologized profusely while he was on top of her and all she could say was, "Mmph." That was so funny to us then and now, in light of later events, it is really a sweet memory.

Then after the club, since I was still firmly ensconced in my ability-to-stay-up-all-night years, we'd climb into the Cougar, usually six or seven of us by then, and ride the 22 miles to the nearest "city." We'd converge upon the Huddle House or, much more fun, the Texaco, for a late night breakfast. Yes, I said Texaco. Yes, we have delis in our gas stations--makes up for the lack of fast food franchises. A controlled (after all, we had house training and the parents weren't coming to get us out of jail for bad behavior) afterparty would ensue. And just about dawn, I'd collapse into bed, too tired to take off my makeup or my bra. But I'd have sweet dreams.

So that is what a early-twenty-something country girl did for fun. Any other day, I might have been too embarrassed to tell you.

But, oh, never underestimate the lure of a Red Car and a Green Light.


Anonymous said...

that sounds *so* awesome!

elle said...

had to update it. can't believe i forgot we used to go eat afterwards--packed in that damned car!

Anonymous said...

The Mercury Cougar!! Sounds like fun times in the country!

Evanne Lorraine said...

I'm so delighted you had wholesome entertainment. Snicker.Giggle. This post made me smile the whole way through.

elle said...

evanne! hey!

Sylvia said...

This post makes me want to ride around in cars. ^_^

RageyOne said...

Oh, I love this post Elle! Sounds like a good time and I know all about going to "Huddle House" or somewhere like it after a night of partying. We used to frequent "The Kettle" when I was an undergrad.

Good times. Good times. I tell ya!

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...