My only hope is that the crowd begins to thin out and the
owner decides it would cost less to close early than it would
to pay the yellow bopsy twins to pick on customers. If they
close early, maybe he'll turn off the game, and I can finally
go home and get some sleep.
More than a game, more than music
My "Dance Dance Revolution" problem didn't actually start
with the game. It started with the music. The game is fun, but
the music is more accessible, more insidious, and in the end,
more damaging to your sense of who you are. But to fully
understand the power of the music and what it can do to
people, you've got to first get a little background on the
"Dance Dance Revolution" is an arcade game from Japan that
features a new way of interacting with the action on the
screen. Instead of using a joystick or buttons to move your
character, you actually dance on a small platform that juts
out from the base of the arcade machine. You move your feet
instep with arrows that move across the screen. If you hit the
spot on the dance floor that corresponds to the correct arrow
moving on the screen, you get points. If not, you get booed
from the crowd noise on the screen, and sometimes from the
crowd that inevitably gathers every time someone starts
playing the game.
The music of the game is pure aural nicotine. It's a second
helping of chocolate mousse and espresso -- decadent, oh so
delicious, and yet oh so evil. It's the cheesiest techno you
can possibly comprehend. In fact, it's worse than that.
Imagine taking one of the cheesiest pop songs ever, say
"Xanadu" by Olivia Newton John, and then making an even
cheesier techno version. That's the music from "Dance Dance
Revolution." For someone like myself whose tastes are easily
and often swayed by the latest pop music stylings, the songs
are catchy to the point of being dangerous.
Much of my formative years were spent in the '80s, and
growing up in a world with radio waves dominated by groups
like Air Supply, A-Ha, and Bon Jovi, I learned to give into
music without giving myself completely over to actually liking
it. I've always got to maintain that thin thread that connects
me to the real. I've got to keep a snorkel.
I didn't do that when I started downloading "Dance Dance
Revolution" songs from the Internet. The first time I heard
the voice of that golden, ever-too-crisp R&B diva sailing
from my computer speakers, I lost my sense of who I was and
what I liked. It felt like I'd been waiting to hear this style
of music all my life. It felt like some internal part of me
giving into it, liking it, loving it, and becoming obsessed by
it was the best thing I could be doing right now.
So I let myself sink into it.
Dancing to the end
I downloaded a few more songs, and a few more, and a few
more. I soon began to develop this vague notion that the songs
from "Dance Dance Revolution" would sound better if they were
alone in my apartment.
I put down my old Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles albums. I
packed up my Ornette Coleman and Emmylou Harris, my Clash and
my Massive Attack, and put them all in my bedroom closet.
Finally, I could listen to "Dance Dance Revolution" MP3s
without being distracted by the gaudy covers of other albums.
I started burning CDs. Not mixes, but I'd burn the same minute
to three minutes song onto a single CD over and over again so
that I could listen to different "Dance Dance Revolution"
songs continuously throughout my day.
It was a quick step from there, to going to the arcades to
play... all day long. Eventually entering tournaments, and
eventually winning one of them. But only one. I think the
judges were a little reticent about giving first place to
someone in his 40s. I was competing against kids a third my
age, and although I could hear some of the parents snicker as
I stepped off the dance stage, I didn't care. I was there to
dance, and there was nothing they could about it. That is,
until they got the restraining order, and the courts wouldn't
let me go closer than 500 feet to an arcade.
But that was months ago, and it has nothing to do with the
rain beginning to soak through my parachute pants or the glint
of recognition I just caught in the security guard's eye when
he looked out the window and saw me, dancing despite myself,
dancing in the rain, dancing away from him as he bolts from
the doorway toward me...