There is a shadow world that exists while you're at work. It is a world of mothers, nannies, layabouts, restaurant workers and ne'er do-wells like me. The king of this world -- in our neighborhood, and nowhere else -- is Dancing Mike.
It used to be that The Vacquero, who sat on a bench in front of the coffee place all day, every day, wearing his cowboy outfit, was the King of the Daytime Weekday World. However, on the strength not only of his unique dancing style (showcased once a year at the Glen Park Festival) and his ubiquitousness, Dancing Mike has zoomed past The Vacquero and is now the unquestioned king of daytime Glen Park.
As I mentioned above, Dancing Mike came to prominence at the Glen Park Festival. Smaller than other neighborhood festivals -- which is appropriate, given that Glen Park is smaller than all of the prominent San Francisco neighborhoods -- the Glen Park Festival is one block long and congregates around a bandstand. During the day of the festival, the bandstand plays host to a number of bands I've never heard of. Most of them are designed to be palatable to hippies and demonstrate our neighborhood's collective appreciation for music from other cultures, thus hammering home the point that we are better than you.
Usually, this means we get a day of a salsa band, a rhythm and blues concoction, those guys who play "El Condor Pasa" on a bunch of wooden pipes, and maybe an African deal with bongo drums and women dancing around. NEVER will you see mainstream rock and roll or country music on the bandstand at the Glen Park Festival. We are better than that.
Which would all be just another yawn-inducing example of hippie culture gone awry in San Francisco, if not for the genius of Dancing Mike.
There is no way to put into words the herky-jerkiness, the otherworldliness, the unexpectedness and unfettered joy of Dancing Mike in action. Standing about 5'8", weighing in at around 125 pounds, the sixty-ish Dancing Mike arrives early, always wearing shorts and an unbuttoned short-sleeved plaid shirt. His silver hair is slicked back into a loose pompadour, his moustache is neatly trimmed. He is smiling. Someone has bought him skateboarding shoes.
And he dances. All day, without pause, alone, in a crowd, smiling out at the festival-goers. Whatever the music, Dancing Mike doesn't care. He dances.
Away from the dancefloor, Dancing Mike is a more serious figure. You can see him at neighborhood association meetings, trading in his shorts for a pair of too-long Levis. Sometimes his Levis are long enough to get caught under his shoes, which eventually results in little tears at the hems. However, don't be fooled into thinking the Dancing Mike is a dirty street person. Dancing Mike is always clean. His skateboarding shoes are always new. And somewhere in Glen Park, Dancing Mike owns his own home.
The Jawa and I are always pleased to run across Dancing Mike. Usually, we see him at the park, striding off purposely toward a goal known only by him. He walks hunched over and hurriedly, his head bobbing to a tune that he shares his no one. He looks bemused, and he is always polite. Dancing Mike.
When we see him, the rule is that the first one to spot him must tap the other one on the shoulder and say, "...Dancing Mike." The correct answer to this is "sweet."
Last weekend we saw Dancing Mike at an open house a few blocks away. This was the oddest Dancing Mike location since we saw him grilling hot dogs at a neighborhood jazz festival in the park. That's where I learned that his name was "Mike." I added that "Dancing" part myself. Boy, does it fit.
How does Dancing Mike fill his days? Unlike me, he always seems to have a purpose, always seems to be heading toward something. He is not idle. Is Dancing Mike secretly a real estate mogul, checking out local open houses in search of his next investment? If Dancing Mike could relate the people, what would he say?
I ask everyone in the neighborhood about him, hoping to get a more complete picture of his life, but at this point, I seem to know as much about him as anyone.
- He likes skateboarding shoes
- He likes to dance
- He cares about the neighborhood
- He likes to volunteer
- He is always on the move
- He owns a house somewhere in the neighborhood
- He prefers Levis over other brands of jeans
- He takes the time to groom himself
But there's more. There's got to be more. Was there ever a Mrs. Dancing Mike? How long ago did he buy his house in the neighborhood?
I guess the central question is this: what happened?
What happened to Dancing Mike? If he's a homeowner, that means that at some point he was lucid enough to hold down a job, making enough money to buy a house. Unless he inherited his house, in which case someone in the neighborhood should remember what he was like as a kid. And if he inherited it, and was always a bit off, why isn't anyone taking care of him? Who's letting him roam the streets all day?
I like that we have a Dancing Mike in our neighborhood. He's easily more interesting that The Pen Guy, from our old neighborhood in Seattle, whose only claim to fame was that he hauled around hundreds of pens each day. He wasn't well-groomed and cheerful like Dancing Mike. In fact, I pity any neighborhood for lacking a Dancing Mike, and I'm just sorry I don't have enough money to buy him a "Glen Park" sweatshirt to wear around, though on second thought, I don't think I've ever seen Dancing Mike wearing any sort of outerwear. He probably runs hot, due to all that nervous (yet cheerful)energy.
Man, I need a job.