An ubiquitous NE Portland street, 35th, not 35th place which looks exactly the same. Modest strings of Christmas lights adorn each house, installed in accordance with seasonal conformity. A young couple grudgingly enters a house to their mid management boss’s boring slide show while looking wistfully at the Dude Ranch across the street. There, also with a miserable string of lights, but accompanied by the thumping of 20 decibel base, whirling light show effects, and the street penetrating laughter of the joyous inside. The cake walkers.
Cake walkers must dance and leap between squares on the floor, anticipating the halt of music that will determine their culinary destiny. Suddenly, the pulsating rhythm stops, the condensed masses freeze in contorted mid dance, blinking myopically at the descriptive sticker at their feet. Zardot’s Bride; lier; Bush’s bathroom; Derrato; and other unintelligible phrases greet their eye. The illuminated Liz barks to loudly in the microphone… “Who is standing on “The meaning of dialectic materialism is the re-distribution of wealth to the proletariat” ?? . “Hey .. That’s me” Happily rings out Nate. “A winner” she cries “ You are the choosing recipient of the one ton spice cake, the SeeSee Man Mistake cake, or the pedestrian candy bar. Yea!!”
Nate.. scratching as always when in thought, magnanimously chooses the candy bar, allowing the packed assembled the opportunity win the greater masterpieces. With a yell heard across the street in yawning sandstone arch slides, the thump, thump, thump resumes in a frenzied electron cloud of flailing arms legs and leaping torsos. The twisting turning lights mingle in the masses as though all are trapped in a kaleidoscope. Now some wags begin hopping from square to square, the rest joining the vertical dimension, a booming bounce that turns the whole house into a drum. I think, as the resident structural engineer, that the trampoline resonance will soon exceed the breaking strength of the floor and we will all soon be in a pile of 9-11 rubble in Dan’s basement room. I leap my highest to assist this eventuality. The music stops. Falling from the sky, I am on two squares. Does this mean I have two cake chances?
“Who is on “Red and black bullshit”? “It is I. It is I!” cries a gentle voice in the assembled. She chooses the 25 seed all organic zucchini dough-gob Baggett. Enough with the lard-sugar layout. Many are secretly jealous of this choice and sneak off to the kitchen to beg her for a corner of leathery crust. The pummeling music resumes, now to geographically auction off the miscellaneous baking’s, the rutabaga rolls and dropped cupcakes.
The ritual “cake walk” eventually concludes with frosting fingers. Now it’s on to karaoke’. Books of 10 thousand songs has been circulating beneath concentrating brows seeking their tune. A dude all in red, professionally belts out a kick ass hip hop song and the dance floor fills without the carrot of carrot cake. Dan becomes a Bing Crosby. It’s “White Christmas” due to a mix up of disks, but being a sport he says “Fuck it, fuckit, just play it, I’ll sing it”. A noble croon it was, melting our hearts in Christmas commercialism. Kori sings a love song, embarrassing everyone’s mirror neurons. The lovelies Sarah, Jill and Liz, trio twenty chick-songs with two microphones, pulling the unsuspecting into mid-floor dance.
A gust of cold air washes across the floor and a dozen unknown dark people slip along the walls. Like lost shadows they work themselves into the kitchen corners and eddies of activity. Knee length black jackets, hoods and watch caps, Rasputin beards, I fear uninvited bangers have invaded. I steel myself to confrontation intervention. But wrong I am. These are wandering Karaoke junkies, alerted by some iphone pheromone, congeal conspiratorially at this address of the Dude Ranch. Without warning, the microphones are scooped up and the howling of country rock songs are belted into the air, Black jack boots thromping the floor. Long after the cake table has disintegrated into a mass of crumbs and cupcake wrappers, there is a dueling dynamic between the bombastic black robe blasters and the twirling trio of multicolored women. “Like a Virgin” sung in the key of angels, followed by the “Wabash Cannonball” in clod hopper baroque.
Out the back door is a congregation of smokers. The icy winter winds tear at the puffs of smoke and the collars of the trench coats. Cigarette butts pile up in a stair corner, a change from the flicking days of past. Smokers are squeezed into a mere third of the area, the rest an orgy of bicycles all mashed together in a mating melee. I think to see little unicycles and tricycles, the progeny of this proliferation, careening about under the refined Shimano gears, misbehaving as children do.
As the alcohol diminishes, more masses are pressed into the walls in their torpor, bludgeoned by the blasting kamikaze karaoke machine. The young couple emerges from the bosses house across the street, sober, still employed by their obsequiousness’, still wistfully longing to be part of the looser crowd in the whirling lights. They climb into their politically correct Subaru station wagon, heading for another ubiquitous string of lights on a matching street across town. Inside the dude ranch, the trio triumphant, Howling “Girls just Wanna Have Fun” to the collapsed masses.
I sure as hell had fun. Thanks Dude Ranch.