I have some pretty strong theories of people who are up at night or too early, strong like a Manhattan on the rocks with Angostura bitters and a dark cherry. We tend to think of ourselves as worriers, as tossers and turners, but that’s selling it short, that is ignoring the depths of our night clubbing souls.
I know that in a past life in the 1940’s I spent my late nights and early mornings in jazz clubs like the Copacabana or the Stork Club or backroom bars in New York where I drank French 75’s and danced on the tables with men named Chuck and Gene. I’m only 52, but I’d still rather listen to Strangers in the Night sung by Frank Sinatra than just about any contemporary song I could download this instant from iTunes. Give me a red dress and a silver cigarette case. Give me some décolletage, a lanky, dark-haired soldier, and leave us to punish the parquet at El Morocco.
During the two years I lived in Japan, my Scottish boss, Angus, would take me to Shinjuku Ni Chome, a hidden corner of Tokyo peppered with gay clubs and love hotels that catered to the subculture of a city that was mostly overrun by rule-followers. In a dimly lit, second-floor pre-war bar, the mama-sen with her face colorfully made up like a showgirl half her age, greeted “Angus-san” with a wink, and brought him his bottle keep: Scotch Whiskey with a distinguishing metal chain looped over the glass neck.
Over hours, we would get slowly, deeply buzzed on Scotch on the rocks until we were slouched across our high corner table, Japanese voices whirling in the smoke around us, the night passing as nights should, with the intimate companionship of another night owl.
This may not be your past night life, but it was mine, I feel it still when I’m called to hop on the T and head to Wally’s Cafe in Boston’s South End or Ryles Jazz Club just down the road in Cambridge. My pulse changes and my feet start to shuffle when I hear those syncopated rhythms that take me back to another time, another life when morning hours were spent, not tossing and turning and staring at the clock, but in night clubs with friends and strangers and jazz and gin and kinship.
But that’s my story. What past life is keeping you up?