Performer: Mark Knopfler
Songwriter: Mark Knopfler
Original Release: Sailing to Philadelphia
Definitive Version: None.
This haunting homage to doomed love grabbed me almost on first listen, because I found it at just the right time—right before my breakup with Debbie. Even when times were good, Prairie Wedding hit me hard, because I felt like the doomed narrator: How can I ever measure up to the women to whom I’m attracted?
I guess that’s every guy’s lament at some point, unless he’s a narcissist. When Shannon and I got together in January 2003, I had no preconceptions about how long it would last. If anything, I thought it wouldn’t last long at all, because, as I mentioned a few days ago, she was 21 and I was 38. I might as well have BEEN the hapless narrator of Prairie Wedding reeling in a “golden thing” way out of my league.
Well, what the heck. I decided I to enjoy it while it lasted, but … I got a sense almost right away that Shannon had a little buyer’s remorse. I suppose that can be the ONLY explanation for why I decided that the antidote for that creeping dread was to head to where I could find immediate female comfort, albeit for a price—the ballet.
By this time, I hadn’t been in months—at least not since a misguided visit in Las Vegas in September 2002. As soon as I decided that I was going to quit my job at The Dispatch, I realized that the ballet was an nonsensical expense. Besides, I hadn’t seen my favorite dancer from fall 2001 in more than a year. But now, I needed a little attention, so I made my way back to where it all began—Dockside Dolls.
The place hadn’t changed—the neon, the body spray, the Uptime—and it provided just the tonic for this weary soul. Heck, I didn’t even NEED to spend any money, aside from the door fee and a couple beers and tips. Just being there lifted my spirits. Still, I took my usual three bills, because, well, you never know …
I took an empty booth against the far wall, which gave me a great view of everything—the main stage, the back stages and the bar area, so I wouldn’t miss anything. I noticed in the back a fairly petite, dark-skinned ballerina. After Dakota, anyone who looked remotely like her got my heart racing, but this time the resemblance was too good. I’m seeing things. I looked closer and decided it wasn’t her.
But my attention was squarely on the stage the next Uptime when all the available dancers paraded out on stage and down into the audience to solicit patrons of the two-for-one deal. I noticed the dancer from before, in neon green. Oh … my … God ... That HAD to be her! Dakota was back?!
Good fortune was on my side, because unlike the other dancers, no one went up to her right away, and she didn’t head to anyone right away. Instead, she kind of meandered out to my side of the club. She went to one table who declined her services. (Seriously? Apparently, the Columbus Mensa outing that night was missing a couple members.) Then she looked my way. I smiled.
Dakota took on the look of a deer in the woods: She stared in my direction as if trying to recognize something and took a couple timid steps closer. At this point, she was close enough that she could hear me, and I was beyond doubt. I said, “It IS you, isn’t it?” She took another step and a smile of recognition started to cross her face. Then I said, “Mo Vaughn says, ‘Hi.’”
With that, she called me by name and leaped into the booth, wrapping her arms around my neck and giving me a huge hug. I knew right then that my decision to come back was one of my better ones.
Like the oldest of friends, we caught each other up briefly before the business of pleasure intruded. “Want a dance?” Like Paris Hilton wants attention. (I made the reference fit the times. You like it?)
Dakota then proceeded to give me a series of dances the likes of which she never had before—dances that went to the very limits of what was allowed in the Gold Room … and beyond. She put my hands on her and around her. She even began kissing me at one point, and I wasn’t about to let anything like the awareness that some bouncer might come in at any moment and toss me out of the club minus a few teeth prevent me from kissing her back. Wow, this idea of coming back is getting better and better.
And it got better still. In between songs, Dakota kept saying she wanted to take me out to lunch. I thought it was an odd thing to say, all things considered. But at the end of the run, after Dakota had drained the money out of me once more, she told me to “wait right here” for a second. When she came back, she had a piece of paper that had a phone number and—she said—her real name.
Wait … you were SERIOUS? You really want to go out, away from here? Call me, she said, on Tuesday. That’s when she drove back to where she lived … in Michigan. (Now THAT’s a commute.)
I promised her I most certainly would and walked out with my head in the clouds. I’d heard rumors of dancers being with regular folk outside of their natural habitat—particularly back in Flint—but I never thought in a million years that I might be one of those guys, and with the hottest dancer in the world.
What I did think goes without saying—but I’ll say it anyway: My plans to move to Cleveland were DEFINITELY on hold.