I was sitting there, with a glass of wine, when I recognized the man next to White Zen. At the same moment, the juxtaposition of reckoning beckoned us off our stools and we hugged. Dancing Bear, I’ve missed you, I said, or something like that. Dancing Bear is a New York Santa Fe success. Unlike so many people I’ve met, he lives here, works globally, and he’s in big demand right now.
Dancing Bear smiles even if his mouth isn’t smiling, but you know he is inside. He’s in the tidal wave of dreams coming true, but not without their own claim ticket on your soul. Someone is always disposed if you’re catching big tuna. Now this night, it goes like this.
“Look if I don’t screw up this dance, if I don’t screw it up, it’s going to be something I’m really proud of,” he says. He emphasizes this with one hand, raised eyebrows and a slight bend in his neck.
“And you didn’t,” I said. “How long have you lived here?”
“Do you know how I ended up in Santa Fe? I was living in Los Angeles, driving on that freeway all day, and a friend said, ‘Hey, you otta come to Santa Fe.’ Never even heard of it, so I came, that was 1983 — I think it was 83 — and bought a house, and moved here permanent a few years ago. I could live in New York — in a minute, I love New York, Los Angeles. No, what for, my daughter’s not growing up in the Palisades.”
He looks at Raul. They share another story because they’ve known each other years, and then Dancing Bear slaps the wooden bar with one hand, and his face creases into a private memory. “El Farol!” he shouts. “Those are the memories, everyone was there, and it was the most amazing time.”
“John and I used to go every Tuesday,” he said. Dancing Bear wasn’t listening; he was swept into the memory. His eyes looked right through the mirror behind Raul’s bar. I wished I had seen it then. I didn’t get to El Farol until 1998.
“ Now — O.K. — I mean right now, after all these years,
I have my ex-wife-ex-wives, and their children, husbands, whatever, and they are in my life — O.K. — they are in my life,” he said.
I tried to speak, but his bear mouth wiped me out.
“They are in my life … forever,” he said.
“What does Dancing Dora say about that?” I asked.
“I’ll tell you what she says; they all sit down to her table at Thanksgiving. All of them. And it’s cool. Not all the time — this one with that problem, the kid with that — but in the end it works. It works,” he said.
“It didn’t work with John and me,” I said.
“You got nothing to be ashamed of. A lot of people cannot handle it. My friends think I’m crazy,” he said.
“So do mine,” I said.
We closed the bar and each went off in our different directions of lovingness.