{Written for Alameda Shorts: January 2018: Theme: Hustle}

Disco Friday: Advice from the Funky Lane

January 25 2013

Disco Friday, yo! After a strange list of creepy disco love songs from the 70s, Pandora coughed up a good one: The Hustle! As I was driving and trying not to dance in traffic I realized the best lyrics in that song are found in the long spaces between the lyrics. It’s all this instrumental stuff with no story, no direction, no declaration, no opinion, no words.

Even though The Hustle itself was a line dance with everyone doing the same moves, it felt like freedom and permission to do and think whatever the hell I wanted for several minutes – with theme music. The point was to do something. The Hustle is about movement and fun in a crowd of strangers or a room of one – your choice.

Your Disco Orders are to find your Friday night Hustle and do with it what you will. Just fill it with movement and fun.

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January 18 2018

Man. I loved writing that cheesy blog. I loved waking up to Friday mornings of 70s Disco on Pandora, waiting for inspiration to hit, then jotting down ideas on the way to work.

When you work for other people, it’s a good idea to make Fridays stand out.

For five glorious years, Fridays were deadline days for me at the Tracy Press. Our Town was the name of the Saturday community section, and as its editor, my name and fingerprints were all over every detail, from features to photos to headlines. My job was to assign and wrangle writers, reviewers, photographers, and every other contributor to this 30-page animal. My column was the front-page anchor, my face in the top right above the fold every week.

Shlubbing a deadline was not an option.

So, of course my column was the very last thing I wrote, every damn week. Unless you’re a writer, you will never understand what it is to land a dream assignment and put off working on it until the deadline has come and almost gone. You can’t just let a dream come true; you have to try to fuck it up somehow.

Back in those days, when I created my happiness at work with my section and at home with my children, I used music to help me block out the world and focus. Friday afternoons at my desk meant Mozart in my headphones, sweat on my brow, and a sign in bold red 72-point Comic Sans warning people to bug me if and only if an important body part was on fire. Like the dominant arm. Not the other one.

Looking back, I realize that job would be the last time in a very long time that I could consistently draw happiness from inside my life, from my own creativity and sense of purpose – but that I never quite gave up on having fun at work.

Disco Fridays began when I was in the middle of losing everything I believed about myself, about the world, and about my place in it. I needed to force some kind of regular joy into my routine or give up on the idea of ever being that happy again. That’s when I found the CD of chart-topping disco songs from the 70s inside my daughter’s waste basket.

We had moved to Alaska to work on the marriage, but in running away from the people who undermined our relationship, I also left behind the friends, family, and outside influences who bolstered my sense of self, and who reinforced the foundations of my career, parenting skills, and status as a worthwhile person. I felt very much lost and alone.

No one else was home, so I stuck the CD in the stereo to see if I’d like it. The first few bars of The Hustle climbed up my legs and nudged at my stillness, and I moved freely for the first time in a year.

That’s a lie. Some dormant part of my soul wanted to move freely. But I couldn’t. The music was working hard, cracking through the layers of protection, but not quite there yet. I remember facing the speakers, ashamed that the couch and the ottoman might see me, the tears in my eyes spilling down my face and neck. Inside my head, I begged myself to dance, but the song came and went without my body letting go.

Then Brick House came on and after a minute, it was all over. I closed my eyes so nobody including me could watch, and let my body go.

I moved my own brick house all over the house. Literally. My booty shook it everywhere. I let my shoulders join in, then my arms and my head, and I danced for the first time in forever. I really did. Song after song came on and took over. No one watched. No one sneered. No one tried to make me feel less beautiful or more laughable.

Things were also bad at my new job. I was about to be the first of six people to quit in nine months. We tried to have fun in spite of our shitty manager, but it was tough. Fridays needed a way to stand out, and since every day is casual dress day at a children’s science discovery center, and Mozart wasn’t going to cut it, I brought the magic CD to the workplace, and quiet Disco Fridays were born.

My next job was a corporate gig. Once again, morale was ridiculously low, and as I watched it get lower, I thought, Why not? And so Disco Fridays became part of life on the cubicle farm, and people started giving me CDs with more selections from the era, along with notes begging that if I was going to blast 70s disco every week, to please expand the playlist, please god please expand the playlist.

They moaned and groaned, but when I was moved off the farm and into an office, guess where my coworkers ended up on Friday afternoons? Dragging extra chairs into my office to argue the merits of

Get Down On It versus Get Down Tonight.





Then I worked for a football team and, naturally, I brought Disco Fridays with me. Someone gave me a small disco ball for my office. A few years later, my kids gave me a full-size mirror ball for my 40th birthday. I started posting snippets of lyrics on Facebook on Fridays, then made myself a Disco Friday blog.

And because I know I am no music critic, no disco aficionado, and have no business speaking confidently on the genre, I spun my blog into an interpretation of what I wanted the lyrics to mean – and rounded out each post with something I called Disco Orders.

Like these gems:

Lay down the boogie and play that funky music till you die. Be YOU; break the mold – it’s too tight and unflattering anyway. Those are your disco orders.

Marvin Gaye says Got To Give It Up. Grab your lover and do what he says. Those are your disco orders.

Oh, and this one: Whether you’re an easy lay or take work to bed, make it good. Do a little dance, make a little love, get down the way you get down, and laugh at the haters. Those are your disco orders.

My blog came out of a sense of loneliness, and a need to find my way back. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t have to. Disco Friday: Advice from the Funky Lane was a safe way to share a part of myself again. To encourage people to love themselves and others, and to use my words.

The need for Disco Friday waned about the time I started building To Live And Write In Alameda.

“Shake your booty, you know you want to” has become “Submit to Alameda Shorts. You know you want to.”

“Grab the mic at Local Voices. You know you want to.”

“Take yourself on next month’s writing retreat. You know you want to.”

Finally, in memory of Andy Gibb, I’d like to say: For those of us Stayin’ Alive, you should be dancing. Those are your disco orders.