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Clubbing Is a Lifeline—and It’s Back

Last Saturday, at the geriatric hour of 9:15 P.M., I met a couple of friends below the scaffolding of a new apartment building going up next door to the bar. The club was already filling up with dancers who, in another era, would rarely have started their nights out before two in the morning. Many of Bushwick’s and Ridgewood’s biggest night clubs were still closed, and the lines outside smaller venues had been long even on weeknights.

The d.j.s that night were two veterans: Jacky Sommer, who also performs with her twin sister as the duo Analog Soul, and Mike Servito, a Detroit native who is a resident at the Bunker, one of New York’s longest-running techno parties. In a normal year, Servito might be playing the Panorama Bar at Berghain, and Movement, the electronic-music festival in Detroit, and touring around Europe and Asia. Instead, he’d been digitally streaming nine- and twelve-hour sets for the Bunker that drew out somatic memories of a lost world in a thin golden chain. Like a vampire staring in through a window, I would watch Servito’s live streams, during which his partner sometimes sustained him with periodic bowls of strawberries, and post GIFs of glittering kittens in the chat room, to show my appreciation. Sommer and Servito are both generalists; they play house music, acid, electro, and also dark techno, and they can take a dance floor from euphoria to derangement. It was my ideal return: intuitive selectors at an intimate dance floor in my favorite bar in New York City.

The bouncers scanned our Excelsior Passes and stamped happy faces on our wrists. Then seven hours passed. What has amazed me in the past few weeks of phased return is that my New York is reconstituting itself almost entirely intact. For me, for a variety of reasons only partly related to the pandemic, it had been an extremely difficult year, and I was not expecting reassurance or familiarity. But people are emerging like cicadas from the same spots where they buried themselves a year before. At Bossa, the bouncers were the same, and the bartenders, and the dancers. I was once again drinking a mezcal cocktail called a Tropical Goth, breathing in the miasmic fog, and greeting my party friends. Everything was the same, on the outside.

We were right to have arrived early. By eleven, the line was two or three hours long. A friend waiting to get in texted me that the line had become its own party. At Mood Ring, which sits across the street and draws a younger crowd, the line had taken over the bar’s pandemic-era outdoor-seating area. My friend went to get beers at a bodega and observed the lines up and down the night-life corridor of Myrtle Avenue. Normally, people see a line and give up, but not that night. The city seemed to have exploded.

At the end of the night, the d.j.s guided us into a wormhole, and we happily circled the drain. It was unreal to be back and to have it be not only as good as I’d remembered but better, heightened by gratitude and relief: we were still here. The dancing would have kept on until the next day but rules were rules; at four, the lights came up through the fog and the contents of all the bars on Myrtle Avenue were ejected back onto the street. It was a good segue—the larger and more intense all-night parties would be returning soon enough. Groups of people clustered outside, bouncers urging them home. An F.D.N.Y. emergency truck labelled “Mobile Respiratory Treatment Unit” screamed down the street, followed by an ambulance. I opened a car app and looked at the prices, then walked with a friend to the M train. He waited with me on the elevated platform, missing his own train to finish telling me a Korean parable about a lotus flower overflowing with rainwater. I tried and failed to understand the moral of the story. It seemed important. It was early Sunday morning, and the subway cars were empty. The sky was growing light as I walked home from my station, and the birds had burst into song.

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