Only in Israel?? I sure as hell hope so!
Last night, I went to GAG (not just a clever name) a rooftop dance club in Lev Talpiot, hence the name Gag which is the Hebrew word for roof although the English word seems much closer to reality. I would never have willingly gone to such a club if not for the loyalty I felt to my good friends Eti and Uriel who had invited me to watch their solo Salsa performance on stage at the Latin dance night.

After parking my car, I went upstairs to stand in what I thought was a line. Little did I know, only the Frayereem stand in this line and it is one of the criteria they use to assess whether or not you are allowed to gain entrance to this fine upstanding establishment. I watched as the bouncers used their supposed rational selection process while I tried to determine a method to their madness and continued to stand there and be ignored. I watched as people bargained off their oldest daughters just to be able to get in.

Once I finally got through that ridiculous barrier….oh wait, I don’t want to forget to mention that in order to enter I had my teeny tiny purse that can’t hold much more than credit cards and a tampon searched by Igor for almost the same amount of time as I had stood in line. I climbed many, many stairs to get to the second discriminative selektzion toll booth. The stairs were so plentiful that there were people who just stopped on the way up and surrendered their will, unable to reach their goal. This was probably the second selektzion criteria that we unknowingly faced to weed out the heavy smokers and senior citizens.

At the next toll booth, I was at the front of the line, being quicker on the stairs than most since I am an avid runner. I spoke clearly and directly to the fine upstanding citizens in charge of my fate and yet I couldn’t help notice that they seemed to be deaf. Could it be??? I started to feel all choked up inside that I damn well, very nearly hugged them. The mere thought that such a wonderful establishment would give employment to our hearing impaired brethren made me want to adopt them. And then miraculously, they noticed me. One of the employees, who previously avoided me like the plague, turned to me and said, “MAH??”

I was stunned.

Such manners and class were hard to be matched so I immediately stammered that I was here as guests of my friends who were performing. Of course, they couldn’t find me on the list, which later I realized was no big surprise considering that they probably didn’t make much of an effort and even if they could read the lists, it was written in such scribbled handwriting that was so indecipherable it might even one day be mistaken for hieroglyphics.

“Devora Mason??? Ahhhh, devora mason….yes, we found your name.” They said in such a way as to insinuate that if I had only been clearer about my name previously then this whole unpleasantness could have been avoided.

With anticipation I continued to climb the last two flights of stairs, in my three inch platforms, blessing my good fortune that I didn’t wear stilettos that night since stepping over people, who had fainted on the way, would have been a definite liability on my journey.

Finally, at the top I walked past the final selektzion process, handing my ticket to the guard, who was no older than eighteen years old, 120 pounds and who I could have wrestled to the ground with my teensy weensy purse, the same purse that had unnecessarily been violated only moments before, if I had wanted to. I guess when a patron finally arrives at that level after climbing over 4 flights of stairs the guard’s size is much less of a factor considering that he has a definite advantage being able to breathe and not gasp for air like the rest of us.

I entered the bar to find myself in a large warehouse looking room, with a high ceiling, black walls, zero to no lighting, minimal ventilation and definitely no air conditioning. Even if there was AC you couldn’t tell since most people were sweating like Roger Ebert on Oscar night. I did a circle around the club looking for a familiar face while making a mental note to myself that I was the only one whose boobs were covered….although I really can’t judge since I have often times found myself in a situation where I was more exposed than I had wanted to be after already leaving the house. I honestly doubt that this was the case here but I will give them the benefit of the doubt.

To quote gojerusalem.com  regarding the GAG bar “…big-name DJ talent, and lots of mostly-exposed, largely-uninhibited flesh of all genders and orientations” I didn’t need to even get inside to realize how true this is.

As I walked through the room avoiding the stares of all the patrons, not really sure if they were staring because I was wearing an emerald green dress (not black) or because I was the only Ashkenazi there, I finally found my friends. What a relief to see familiar faces especially after the trauma of the selektzion that almost made me just give up and go home.

I look around me wondering exactly what the criteria was for their allowing entry to their patrons and just when I felt like maybe I was being too judgmental, my eyes caught sight of a guy who had been restricted entrance to my favorite bar, The Toy Bar, because of his unacceptable behavior and harassment of women. Well, judgement be damned. I am right on the money.

We sat around waiting for the performance to start – me and some of my Salsa cronies whom I dance with twice a week, all of us getting edgy and bored either because we have work tomorrow or just out of mere impatience that the show was over an hour late. The show that was supposed to start at eleven was still nowhere close to start at midnight. It didn’t help things that every five minutes a huge puff of smoke would blow at us from the stage, a special effect that was not special but definitely had an affect on all of us, coughing and gagging from the smoke. I told my friends to pretend that we were in a dream or in one of those Gene Kelly dance numbers where there was mist and where it looked like they were dancing on a cloud (gag!!! no pun intended).

The thing is, that all of us are connected by our Salsa dancing and there is no way we would have missed being there for Eti and Uriel in a million years! So it’s just a matter of sucking it up and being there for them because they as sure fire would do the same for any one of us. And truthfully, I felt very safe with my friend Yossi the Judo master in front of me and Ilan, a trained armed guard next to me.

Finally, the show began and as I looked around I noticed that the ratio to brawn versus brain was definitely 1:20 but people were having fun, as Israelis tend to do regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. I asked for a bottle of water which the bartender gave me for 15 shekels. The stunned look on my face was mistaken by the bartender to be a look of admiration and so she handed me my change and went on her way.

The salsa performance was fantastic and despite the limitations they were presented with by the smallness of the stage and a less than adequate surface for dancing, they danced beautifully and we all had pride watching them.

And then I left.

At the door to leave, I was told that whether I was leaving to get some fresh air or just to check that my car wasn’t stolen, regardless of the reason, I would not be allowed back in.

“Thank the Lord!” I responded to him as I left. I stepped over the chain-smoker who was still passed out on the stairs at stair 95 and wished her the best of luck on my way out.

“Kaparah Alayich!” she answered.

Tomorrow night, it’s back to the Toy Bar.