Monday, September 20, 2004

Tonight, stopping by Doc's Clock in the Mission, I ran into my friends Victor and Lisa. They are remarkable in that they have this infectious passion for life.

I thought I had lost them as friends when they decided to move to Tennessee a couple years ago. But, as it happens, they returned and brought back with them a richer set of stories to tell.

You see, Victor is the "Salsa King" of San Francisco. At least that is what he was named in a SF Chronicle story of many years ago. He was the young prince of dance, a man that knew how to Salsa dance with moves that went beyond formal steps and maneuvers. He brought passion to the dance, a rough edge both gorgeous and seductive.

But, he retired from dance soon after meeting Lisa. She couldnt get over the fact that his dark swarthiness, his firm control, his perfect moves on the dance floor were also a way in which he met and seduced women. After all, this is how he seduced her.

So, Victor became a butcher, cutting meat instead of dancing. A few years ago they realized that even with his job and her hairdresser salary, they had trouble paying the bills in San Francisco. They decided to move to Tennessee, where Lisa's family is from.

A funny thing happened in Tennesse. They went to a local dance club and were told that the "Salsa King of Tennessee" was due to show up that night. Victor laughed as he told me the story tonight. His "adversary" had moves that were so rigid, Ricardo, he tells me, he was like a scarecrow or a wooden actor in a play - he had no passion, no feeling for the dance.

As Victor and Lisa tell it, they outshone them. They outdanced these pretenders from Nashville. Victor launches into a soliloquoy which I wish I could reproduce here. But he uses the phrases "savage","passion","elegant brutality" to describe a dance which he adores. In some ways, Victor is a bigot - he believes that only Latins can ever truly understand "the dance", this odd thing which is both beautiful and savage.

On the bus ride back from Tennessee, one of the passengers drew a knife and held it at the throat of the bus driver. The hero of the day was Victor. He snuck up on the knife-wielder, with his combined grace and strength, and overpowered him. It was in all the local papers.

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