Something fucking awesome happened in Cincinnati on July's Final Friday. A dude with a card table, some DJ stuff and a microphone (two turntables and a microphone, even) incited a random dance party with over 100 people around 1212 Main Street in Over-the-Rhine.
Music was pumping, and people flocked to it. I have never witnessed such an amassing of complete strangers and intimate friends. Plaid-clad hipsters were cutting loose with older, baggy-shirted locals. Drunk people who had tumbled out of bars were sweating out all the alcohol they had just paid for to Kool and the Gang. Everyone was incredibly, stupidly happy.
There was no reason for it. No social networking was involved. Nobody knew about it through a text or because they were Tweeted at or received a Facebook invite. It wasn’t sponsored by Final Friday, and it wasn’t even planned. DJ Alcatone, the awesome instigator, shrugged his shoulders when I asked him (over the Funk blaring out from two speakers), why he was playing music on a street corner in OTR. He said he just was. And people were just dancing.
There were three guys dancing in the middle of the damn street, stopping cars to gyrate in front of them. One was dancing intensely, and then he paused and directed traffic around other dancers. An SUV pulled up and four dudes sat on the edge of the car windows, took their shirts off, and held their arms in the air.
An entire two-block span of Main Street was filled with sweaty, writhing people. DJ Alcatone started a soul train in the middle of the crowd. There was a break-dancing competition, and seriously, who knew old people could get down like that? One guy did that thing where he contorted his whole body in the air, resting solely on his hand on the ground. (Yoga has not prepared me to attempt this.)
Cell phones crowded in the air, everyone snapping pictures of the “something” that was happening right in front of them. Cops drove by and didn’t stop. The opposite side of the street was crowded with overflow dancers. A girl with an “I’m the bachelorette!” sash across her torso sashayed in front of cars, darting back and forth between the two sides. There was even a man with a broken leg in a wheelchair. Seriously. He was spinning on his wheels, grooving to the music.
It was like someone had pressed pause on every social, racial and economic stricture and preconception, and hit “play” for uninhibited, good-spirited, uplifting interaction. It was so simple, and no one stopped to think about it. No one stopped to consider “what it meant,” or why it was happening, or how it could be better. Honestly, it couldn’t have been better.
The police were called about two hours in, and were actually smiling when they told everyone the party had to end. That was probably the best time to have the party end — before everyone remembered themselves, the faces we all put on for the everyday world, the way we conduct ourselves around people we want to impress. No one was trying to impress anyone. Even the bad dancers (there were a few) were applauded. It was the fact that everyone involved stepped outside of themselves, without any catalyst or promise of reward, and for two hours, we just were.