Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Bellydancer

DISCLAIMER: I swear unto all that is sports related and dignified, that I have never 1) belly danced in public 2) belly danced in public while wearing a belly dancing outfit 3) belly danced in public while wearing the belly dancing outfit while drunk males (and females) shove dollar bills into crevices of my clothing that are otherwise overburdened in supporting various parts of my body.

Suffice to say, last Friday's dinner was, ah, interesting.

It started while I was wrapping presents.


No, I was up to my ears in blue and white ribbon, name tags for gifts, cards for family, and silver and gold wrapping paper. The tape was buried under some pile, and I was reduced to using (clean!) kitchen scissors, as the other two pairs had gone mysteriously missing.

Sitting on the bedroom floor, I was only paying slight attention to my new favorite TV Channel: Universal Sports. Seriously - they have everything "non-traditional", the non-major MAJOR sports. Like downhill skiing, luge, skeleton, cross country skiing! Obviously all winter related. BUT, the cool sports that aren't silly like football or boring like baseball and golf. (sorry to offend).

Nathaniel walked in and mentioned that we had been invited out for dinner, and would I be interested?

I pondered briefly, debating the merits of one or the other. Dinner out, or dinner home? There were merits to both, and generally I'm up for going out. However, I had just gone to the grocery store, and I knew full well that the fridge and pantry were actually stocked with healthy stuff.

Ah. The catch. Perhaps husband was aware that wife had gone to grocery store, and knew (just knew) that dinners would be of the healthier variety through Christmas...

Then again, I was up to my ears in paper and ribbons, and was still looking at completing my functional strength and core workout. It was going to be a late finish for me, regardless. And the idea of prepping a late dinner on top of that, wasn't all that appealing.

I put the ball back in his court.

"Hey - if they're willing to wait until 7 or so. I need to finish this, do functional strength, and then some core work. Otherwise, why don't you just go out?"

Long story short (because we know this will be long), we ended up meeting our friends Keith and Rachael at 7:30.

Our first restaurant attempt was The Pizza Port. Known for its ambiance, good food, friendly atmosphere, and cheap drinks, we figured it would be a great place to meet up. So did half of Carlsbad.

After roaming up and down the wooden benches for 5 minutes, looking for a place big enough to cram in four adults, we figured our efforts would be futile. The restaurant throbbed with life, and there simply wasn't enough room.

Besides, Rachel had just finished a 30-hour work shift (ER intern - like the TV show! Yes, she gets that all the time), and looked oddly out of sorts in the atmosphere. Can anyone look "normal" after working a 30-hour ER shift?

So instead, we settled on the cute, quiet, peaceful, adult (ahem - this comes into play later. Trust me), corner restaurant right off 101 "The Armenian Cafe". The food is great, the staff are really nice, and Nathaniel and I have always had great food whenever we've been there.

Which is two times, to be exact. And this is important to remember. Very important. We had already dined at the establishment two times before. We thought we knew the place pretty well, had an idea of what they served and how it came out.


However, we had always been a little curious about the images of belly dancing girls on the inside cover of the menu. We first noticed it while eating with our Realtor, and then again with my parents. One girl looked like the Armenian version of Princess Lea from "Star Wars", while another looked like Princess Jasmine from "Aladdin". Throw in Jeanie from "I Dream of Jeanie" and you've got the general idea. Each menu had a different belly dancer, dressed in various outfits and holding a different pose.

Keith and Nate cracked a few jokes about their girls, while Rachael and I just rolled our eyes. Well, I rolled my eyes, as she was half-asleep. And then the boys started talking about boy things (helicopter! tanks! motors! weapons and tactics systems on the UH-1Y!) while Rachael and I touched on the subjects of weddings! dresses! cakes! (no - sadly not sheet cake) venue! party! invitations! yadda, yadda, yadda.

I kept flashing back to the scene in "Father of the Bride" when Steve Martin's character replies, "A cake, Fronk, is made of flour and water. My first car didn't cost that much!"

But I kept my mouth shut, and relished in the atmosphere of wedding-planning.

While the waiter took our drink order, I had a chance to look around and study the atmosphere. The first two times Nathaniel and I had been, we sat outside on the deck, under the warmth of heat lamps. This would be our first dining experience inside. There was a couple kitty corner and behind me, who were very focused on their wine, and then a British pair at the table next to us. They seemed to be out of town visitors, as they were discussing weekend sight seeing plans.

And the four of us made for eight on our side of the room. The other side of the restaurant hosted four very drunk friends, and another table of people who seemed rather amused at the four very drunken friends. Based on the assorted glasses and bottle collecting on the table, they had decided to sample every Armenian adult beverage on the menu.

And what do four really drunk friends do at a restaurant?

They get happy. They get loud. They become bold. And they order The Belly Dancer.

Yes, my friends, you read that correctly. They ordered The Belly Dancer.

Honestly, I missed that part of my menu...

I was confused. Seriously. I flipped back from the main entrees to the appetizers. Nope - no Princess Jasmine or Jeanie up for selection.

And then the music started.

Actually, what I first noticed, was the Brits; they had stopped discussing their weekend plans, and instead stared open mouthed and speechless at something (or someone) behind the pillar that was blocking my view.

Then cue funky Armenian-techno belly dancing beat.

Yes, I admit it. I like techno music. Turn it up, and crank it out; it gets me going during a tough trainer set, makes my adrenaline flow before a race. But honestly, does it go with Armenian music? And in a small restaurant that seats only 25 people, four of whom are exceptionally drunk and waving dollar bills? Really?


Wedding plans and helicopter operating systems were drowned out by Armenian Techno music that was making our silverware jump, and causing the salt shaker to slide across the table.

The Brits had gone from relaxed and conversational, to sitting with their mouths slightly ajar, speechless. Dude - so was I!

I snuck a glance at the wine couple behind me; sure enough the half drunk wine was reverberating ever-so-slightly on their tabletop, the woman's head cranked around and glaring at the four drunk compadres across the room.

And that's when I heard the Xena cry.

There is honestly no other way of describing it.

High pitched, wide vibrato, and very loud, I could only imagine the woman that came with this cry.

I didn't have to wait long.

Suddenly there she appeared: blue see through dress with lots of sequins and jangly things. Her hips moved and her stomach did the weird roll thing, and her boobs were this close from popping out of her bustier.

I didn't know weather to laugh or to look away in embarassment.

As she moved, from one very drunk patron to another, she rang bells that she was holding in each hand, and continued to cry her Xena shout.


Add the Armenian Techno Music and you've just about got it.

I chanced a glance at Nathaniel, positive that he would be wide-eyed and soaking up every minute of Belly Dancing Bliss. Oddly enough, though, he and Keith seemed very focused on their menus. Lamb or beef? A red flush had crept up their necks to the tips of their ears, and suddenly it hit me: they were afraid of Belly Dancing Girl while their significant others were present.

Belly Dancing Girl was now (if possible) even louder, her bells beating in step to her gyrating hips. Somehow, she had miraculously produced a shawl from somewhere in her outfit, and had "hooked" one of the drunken guys around the back. Then I saw his fist full of dollar bill and I understood instantly. She leaned over and he very drunkenly, but very carefully, placed George Washington right in her mound of cleavage.

I think even poor George was embarrassed.

"Well that's a relief! I remembered to bring all small bills with me!" joked Nathaniel, barely audible over the techno tumps. There was nervous laughter between Nate and Keith, while Rachel looked half asleep and I was just plain curious.

What next?

The Brits hadn't moved, were still staring open mouthed, while the wine couple had just finished their bottle and were moving onto the next. Honestly, I couldn't blame them; given the choice between adult beverage or adult entertainment, give me the beverage any day.

I can entertain myself just fine, thank you very much.

And that's the moment, the exact moment, that the Cafe Owner came over to our side of the room, and in a very thick Armenian Accent (picture The Soup Nazi on "Seinfeld" - in both looks and tone) shouted, "Clap! You MUST Clap! And she come over!"

Fear has a funny way of motivating. On the one hand, we didn't want Belly Dancing Girl to do her thing on our side of the room. And given the body language of the Brits and the Wine Couple, we were all in agreement.

However, Cafe Manager with thick accent appeared much more foreboding. Plus, he was wielding a kitchen knife (perhaps, in a cloud of excitement, he had rushed from the kitchen, forgetting to put down all deadly weapons) and was exceptionally stocky and tall. Not the kind of guy you disobey a direct order from.

So, dutifully, the 8 of us started clapping.

Ah. This should be interesting.

Belly Dancing Girl made her way over, clanking and ringing with every step. Standing squarely between our table and the Brits, she started moving, shaking, and doing her dance. The shawl was in one hand, ready to toss around a willing participant.

I looked directly at Rachael, not wanting to chance a glance at the girl, who less than 3 feet from my person, was rolling her belly in ways that I had only seen on TV. Nate and Keith, seated on the outside of the table, had the best view in the house. Though, Keith was even more absorbed in his menu, and Nathaniel looked as though he was trying to remain perfectly still.

It reminded me of the scene in "Jurrasic Park" where Dr Grant comments about the T-Rex, "His vision is based on movement. If you don't move, he won't see you..." (Suffice to say, Dr. Malcom got that one wrong.)

I suppose Nathaniel thought the same principle could be applied to our Belly Dancer. If he didn't move, she wouldn't see him.

Fat chance.

She continued dancing, now adding waist bends to her repertoire. The Wine couple as working very hard on their second bottle, and the Brits looked as though they had never seen anything such as this EVER. Well that makes six of us, my friends.
And just as she made an extra deep waist bend, a few of the dollar bills came cascading out of her bosom bodice. George was free! Without missing a beat, she continued dancing, shaking and shimmying in groove to the techno music. Sensing that our side of the room was filled with embarrassed and innocent people who just wanted to eat Armenian Food, our Belly Dance backed away and continued her dance for the drunken four.

The Knife-wielding owner returned and shouted over the beat, "Is good, NO!"

Not a question.

He then picked up the few dollars that had escaped, and returned to the other side of the room, enjoying the rest of the show. He and his knife friendly self could stay on that side of the room, if you ask me.

The music continued for another 10 minutes, but safe to say, our little group of eight were out of the woods. The Brits still looked shocked, like they couldn't believe what they had just witnessed, while the Wine Couple were (at this point) too drunk to care.

And the four of us? Well, jokes aside, we did recover and return to the topics at hand: wedding and helicopters. And eventually the Belly Dancer went away, the owner returned to the kitchen, and we were left with the 4 drunk compadres, laughing and joking about what they had just done.

Does this experience in any way make me want to consider Belly Dancing lessons? Not remotely. I think I would have a hard enough time keeping a straight face, let alone mastering the belly roll thing. Besides, I've got enough on my plate as it is. And given the look on Nathaniel's face, he's probably happy that I'm sticking with triathlon.

And next time I find myself in a situation such as this, I'll have to remember that even if I don't move - I can still be seen. Time to think up some other way of not getting noticed. Until then, I'll hide behind my husband, even if it's just the belly dancer I'm hiding from.


Charisa said...

I love the saga of George and where he ended up :)

kerri said...

Hilarious! AND that's all I've got to say about that.

Steve Stenzel said...

HAHAHAHA!! I love the #3 disclaimer! What a story!

Merry Christmas!!