A ballroom moment amid the bump and grind

Photo: Jennifer Grafiada

“This is my town, bitch!” I think as I left hand turn into the Mirage property. A large group of tourists halt, startled, scared and likely offended, as I careen through the crosswalk they were attempting to cross.

They have a clear view through my cracked windows of the bat-out-of-hell girl behind the steering wheel, night-driving glasses on, one lens missing (thankfully, the left, my stronger eye), hair and makeup decidedly un-Strip worthy. I get ready in the casino parking lot (a pseudo time-saving device).

Jet @ Mirage

As a longtime local, a night out on the Strip isn’t so novel that I have to go all-out with the outfit. The lights have lost their starry, blinding effect on me. I can drive right past the lineup of casinos with barely a glance. It’s a badge of honor, my ambivalence. But after a long night exploring Jet, I was struck anew at how glamorous our city must be to the tons of tourists that populate Las Vegas every day. The Strip is a cultural amalgam gift wrapped and packaged with a bright shiny bow: people of every race, religion, class and age wander the streets, equally stunned by the giant video screens, the screeching traffic and those nudie cards on every corner.

Just a visit to the women’s bathroom provided a colorful vignette. In the five minutes I was primping in front of the mirror, I heard at least three foreign languages (Russian? German? Mandarin?). A New Jersey accent belonged to two 40-something women, vehemently hair spraying into the mirror.

Inside Jet is the usual insanity of a Vegas nightclub. The space is hothouse warm and pungent. A black man steps into my path and holds his arms out to me in the classic ballroom dance position. We dance Latin ballroom style, and he spins me and dips me like a gentleman, despite being surrounded by bump-and-grinders. Estelle’s “American Boy” is playing, and our movements fit well with the melody and lyrics. When the song ends, he thanks me for the honor of sharing the dance with him. Our spontaneous, random interaction is beautiful.

At 4 a.m. I leave the behind the drunken pole dancing, the strangers making out and the DJs in their pulpit. Tourists are screaming; lights are flashing. Kim Vo is “pimping” a man’s hair after chopping off his ponytail and a dance crew is busting out the classic Thriller dance. Behind them, someone dressed as Darth Vader is grabbing himself and pelvic thrusting as the crowd screams with delight.


Jennifer Grafiada

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