Friday at the Bar

La Fete des Vendanges, Neuchatel, Switzerland
La Fete des Vendanges, Neuchatel, Switzerland

My last night in Montreal was one of those perfect kind of nights out where, before the hangover kicks in the next morning, you can’t help but laugh and marvel at the way we dance through this universe.

I went out with a bunch of guys and a couple girls I had met at the hostel.  The drinks were cheap, the music was the average top 40 “dance” music, and we got there way too early.  Things didn’t start getting good until at least midnight.  I did a lot of dancing, which, for me, is basically jumping around and making weird hand motions, and I also did a lot of people watching.

There is an ebb and flow to what happens at the bar.  People surge forward to order drinks, and retreat back to suck them down.  The music builds to a crescendo, coaxing dancers to the floor.  Then a shitty song comes on, the floor empties, and more alcohol is needed.

Guys strut around like roosters, chest puffed out, hair gelled in place.  They swagger, they survey, they are territorial.  Honing in on a girl, the guys lean down and purr something about how this girl is the coolest girl at the bar.  When singled out from their gaggle of girlfriends, girls bat lashes and sip drinks.

A couple girls inevitably get too drunk and rub themselves on nearly every guy in the bar, skirts riding up to expose a bit too much leg.  One girl makes out with three different guys, propositions two for sex, one bewildered guy accepts, and they have sex in a bathroom stall.  Other girls in the bathroom point at his shoes, visible underneath the stall door.  An hour later the girl runs out in the cold, in her minidress, and her friend puts her in a cab.

Meanwhile, guys and girls take more shots and try their best not to look too silly on the dance floor.  Some have concentrated looks on their face, others have eyes closed, floating away with the alcohol and the beat.  The alcohol loosens bodies and enables getting low.  Foot traffic goes in and out; people take smoke breaks and catch fresh air to fight off the nausea from the mixing of different alcohols.

There is singing and fist pumping and sweat and laughter and life.  There is an invisible thread that connects everyone at the bar, all part of the same unfolding drama.  There is a feeling under the pulsing lights that anything and everything can happen and that it all will.  From each moment stems infinite possibilities, each as likely as the next.

It’s my last night of a week of travel; there is an excitement of being in a foreign city, with a foreign language, with foreign people who are now friends.  I buy shots, my friends buy shots, we dance, we try to chat over the music.  At closing time, we are herded out like cattle.  We walk home, in the freezing Montreal late night/early morning.  We stop for poutine and pass the square filled with homeless people.  It’s really not night anymore.  We get back and sit in the hostel living room, still in jackets, not ready for the night to be over.

I wake in a few hours, say goodbye to those who are conscious, and check out.  On the walk to the train station, I laugh and smile at the perfect orchestration of everything, still giddy with the chances and choices of this life.  And, most of all, I am grateful that I’ve had this week of exploring new places and things and meeting some new people.

Exploringly yours,

Alaina

Lessons from Missing a Place

Grazer Hauptplatz
Grazer Hauptplatz, Graz, Austria

I’ve been back from Austria for nearly three and a half years now.  I spent two school years teaching English there, exploring, meeting some of the best people I know, and generally being up to no good.  I met people from all over the United States, Great Britain, and Europe.  We were paid way too much money to do not that much work, and in our free time we had fun.  We all ended up there because we had studied German in college, and, I, for one, was not ready to figure out “the rest of my life” quite yet.  It is crazy to think how long ago it was now.

I think of that time, that place, and those people at least once a day.  When I am daydreaming at work, when I am walking to the bus, when I hear a song, or when a random German word pops into my head.  The two apartments I inhabited there, my friends that went through those years with me, the routes I walked, the public transport I used, the birthdays celebrated, the food, the beer, the cigarettes – all the memories are there and tinged with nostalgia.

My personal philosophy is that it is never healthy to live in the past, but this is a bit different than that.  These are memories so strong and vivid that they just seem to come to mind automatically.  And I think that the newness and foreignness of that time had intensified everything; I mean, I can barely remember what I did a month ago, but I feel that I remember all of those two years.

So, as more time falls between myself and Austria, I try to reflect on what I learned there, and how I can apply those lessons to my current life.  Lessons like: always have a sense of adventure, and spontaneity; your bed may be comfortable, but you must earn that rest after a night of fun; there is always some new place to explore, despite the seeming mundaneness of it.

But, since then, I have accomplished so much.  I went back to school, and I am now a registered nurse with a 40 hour per week job that I love.  The hard part is, after experiencing such freedom and newness, to now stay in one place, and do the same job each day.  Part of what I am also trying to teach myself is that exploration does not have to be on a grand scheme, in a foreign locale.  Exploration of yourself, and your mind, can be just as new and exciting as exploring a far off city.

And those are some lessons I’ve learned from missing a place.

Exploringly yours,

Alaina