Redeye March 18 2004

Train of thought: I'm on a train again, this time to Paris, sitting at the crux of four concurrent conversations. Like platelets, people form clots around the car. They're chattering away, but about what I haven't a clue. Then it comes crashing in like an awkward silence, like a third wheel putting on the breaks. This not knowing, this crowding isolation, it's not restricted to this train, yet it's only truly known to the traveler: It's the conglomerating language barrier.

Before eventually becoming more numbing (and potentially sterilized) than Nonoxynol-9, "rock 'n' roll" was sex slang in the jazz and blues juke joints. And parents didn't speak no jive. They must be happy now, as rock is lily white. It's so pasty the Brits seemingly love it more than we do.

The Brits. They're to blame for the genesis of this clubbing "epidemic," another society-threatening youth movement with a foundation (however now far flung) in American black culture. And they also used some funny words, like calling large gatherings of addled, melanin-impaired dancers "raving." Thankfully, all the most asinine accoutrements are behind us — well, all except the raving, in the traditional sense. Having now grown up (both the clubbers and the scene), one can still rave about feeling exhilarated in bowed basements across London with names such as Plastic People, Cargo and Fabric.

Joie de vive the French might call it, though I speak barely a lick of the language. But reflected in the mirror-gilded walls of the subterranean Rex Club in Paris, if you point to the beers and hold up two fingers and 20 euros, you speak an international language of celebratory indulgence. Try it with dollars at The Mark, the Crescent Room or MJQ, among other places.

You see, what's seemingly lost in translation here with the parents — of city ordinances and such nowadays — is a proper lexicon. It seems like heathen hieroglyphics, this dance culture, what with its nocturnal gods' visages strewn across flyers. Yet to those with a grasp of verbiage, it's much more than pills, thrills and bellyaches. I can tell you it's not something to be fearful of, those strange faces and places.

To those mapping out the future: Don't be afraid to pick up a phrase book, and travel extensively in pursuit of informed decisions.

Keep one RedEye open. And send all comments, questions, observations and invitations to redeye@creativeloafing.com.