Club Meh

A rant against the nightclub


By Dan Forward


went to a nightclub a little while ago, which probably explains why your dog recently gave birth to a two-headed snake. Those are the first two signs of the apocalypse. But don’t get too excited, as I went only because I was told by a friend that there was an afterparty for PAX. You know, the Penny Arcade Expo. You don’t know? Fine. It’s a very large videogame convention. The kind at which game developers and designers show off upcoming products. The kind that spans three days. The kind at which the dress code is a hoodie and B.O.

I didn’t go to PAX. Why not? Certainly not because I’m too cool. I was just playing videogames at home that weekend. I have no time for talking to people and walking around. I get tired easily. Somehow I wound up at the afterparty, though.

My then girlfriend started off our night at the club by listing, for 45 uninterrupted minutes, all the things she could think of that I don’t like, which was a great favor to me because it saved me the effort of brooding about them in my head, which is what I usually do once the sun goes down. I’ve re-created some of the highlights of her litany here:

Nightclubs. House music. That uniform douchebags wear to nightclubs, the un-tucked, vertical-striped collared shirt, close-cropped hair, dark jeans, and leather dress shoes. Hot beverages, including soup. When people think Pepsi and Coke are different. The non-phrase “I could care less.” Vegetables. Fruits. Losing in Halo. The radio. When drivers use the brakes too much. When people own iPhones. When people suggest books for me to read. When people say, “Thanks!” for no reason. Trying new things. Dessert. Fun. Clothes-shopping. Contemporary styles in home design. The hosts of What Not to Wear. Outright displays of affection. Alcohol. When people tell me I should get a driver’s license. Riding on the B Line. Belts that don’t stretch. Polo shirts. Critter pants. Facebook apps. Facebook status updates. Facebook. Intempestivity. Diet soda. When people tell me how to exercise. When people say, “Calm down” when I’m already calm. Bouncers. Sports. Making nouns into verbs. Fashion accessories for men. The anatomical terms “nipple,” “cuticle,” and “belly button.” Jonathan Franzen. When people talk during Jeopardy. Tow-truck drivers. Rational egoism. Buying single songs from iTunes. Lists. Nightclubs again.

She only stopped when we’d arrived at the door to the club, which was in Downtown Crossing. There were two lines, one to get into the nightclub, and one to get into the PAX party. Or, to an outside observer, one line for drug dealers and hookers, one line for virgins in need of hookers. Did I mention I hate lines? The idea that I would want to get into someplace with dancing—of all things—so badly that I would wait to do it is, frankly, absurd.

We eventually made our way to the top floor. It was wall-to=wall guys in sweatshirts. The only girls present were two dancers in lingerie on pedestals—an appropriate metaphor, considering the audience—and now my own date, they looked like they should have just finished their porn film shoot. Sometime during the night I realized that I knew one of the dancers from middle school. However, because I can’t ever hear anyone at clubs or bars, I chose not to introduce myself, saving her from the displeasure of yelling in my ear, “Sorry, I’m working right now!” repeatedly until I understood. There was also one guy who hadn’t change out of his costume from the convention—an astronaut Marine from the distant future, as far as I could tell. As I took all this in, the clock ticked slowly to 11:30, when the PAXers’ exclusive hold on the room would end.

The clubgoers, the fashionistas, the Jersey Shore-ers, the hopeful 45-year-olds poured in with a reckless and haughty abandon. They fist-pumped and requested VIP seating areas, and their overpriced cologne mixed with the natural scent of the gamers to create a new smell of pervasive, existential loneliness. These two groups of people, who could on any other night hardly be said to be of the same species, shared an insularity that, in my eyes, bound them that night inextricably. Because I hated them equally.

One thing I don’t dislike: that the T shuts down at 12:30. It’s a ready-made excuse for going home early. Everyone sympathizes with you when you say you can’t afford a cab or even an Uber, especially if you imply that you’ve been going out a lot lately. “Oooh, he must have spent his money on alcoholic drinks,” they think. “He’s one cool dude.” When 12:20 rolled around, I put up my hands up in a “What can you do?” gesture, and started to leave. We left with two other friends amazed by what they had just seen—though, as normal people, they declined to disdain everything around them—got Chinese food, and talked about the new video game Marvel vs. Capcom 3 until about around 2:30.

Ernest Hemingway said, “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.” So are the lives of clubbers and gamers. It’s true that when you go out in a skirt hiked up to your hips or a Calvin Klein shirt with the top seven buttons unfastened, you can huddle together for warmth with others of your kind. It’s very true that you’re not going to beat Arthas Menethil the Lich King unless you bring 24 other very well-equipped mages, paladins, and warlocks. But in the end, it’s you against the universe. If you don’t buy three drinks totaling $70, no one is going do it for you. (Unless, of course, you’re a girl.) And if you don’t get enough fire-resistant armor before a fight with a flame elemental, all the Shaman allies in Azeroth aren’t going to save you.

If I didn’t record what I witnessed that night, I thought at the time, no one would ever know about this once-in-a-lifetime merging of two realities. I took a deep breath, committed myself to sharing this with you—then had to fight my gag reflex.

God, it smelled bad in there.

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