Friday the 13th was a perfect day for a gathering of a small group of the old gang from L.S. Ayres’ advertising department. The annual reunion was set for Saturday, October 14th, but Miki Catron came into town on Friday afternoon, and Kay Niedenthal joined Paula Nicewanger, Miki and me at Ash and Elm for a starter gathering. In addition to crafting the creative for this publication, Paula moonlights as a member of the Irvington Black Hat Society of Irvington. As ghostologist Al Hunter wrote last week, the Black Hat Society debuted in 2016 at the Historic Irvington Halloween Festival; for the last few months, photographer Michael Sullivan has been gathering witches in places around town to complete a photo shoot for images for a charity calendar. A calendar release party was scheduled at the Irving Theater from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday night, and after sampling some cider and eating some food, Paula, Miki, Kay and I traveled eastward to the theater. The Irving Theater is the first stop on the Ghost Tour’s schedule, so the L.S. Ayres mini-gathering arrived at the same time that hundreds of Ghost Tour guests were pouring into the building. We squeezed past the ghost hunters, and after the tour participants had come, seen, listened and exited, we joined the witches in the Irving.
Guests attending the calendar release party had been encouraged to donate men’s socks, pet food and cleaning supplies to benefit a few of the charities targeted for support from the sale of the “be-witching” calendar. The donation boxes were filling up as Miki, Paula, Kay and I made our way into the cavernous hall, where we were joined by Dana Harrison and Steve Nicewanger. As Colin Frechette, rockin’ his Mac as “DJ C Drive,” took over the theater’s great stage, a storm of witches gathered beneath him; Dana and Steve’s two white beards shone like orbs among the swirls of black-clad figures.
I’ve been challenged by a gout flare-up that has limited my exercise programs — walking and swimming — but my diet and abstention from beer and whiskey have helped me regain my mobility. The last time I saw Miki was in Missouri, where I punished my gout-swollen feet chasing down her grandchildren. DJ C Drive tossed tunes down into the crowd as the Ayres crew ruminated; I heard songs I vaguely knew, and then, songs I knew well. When a line-dance favorite came up in the playlist, I thought of my youngest daughter, and another DJ who would say, “This one’s for Lauryn,” as he cranked up “The Cupid Shuffle.” As the words “Down down, do your dance,” blasted from the speakers, I was suddenly seized by an unknown force. Like the characters in the movie “Beetlejuice;” my limbs began to twitch, and though DJ C Drive was not “spinning” “The Banana Boat Song,” I heard Harry Belafonte’s voice, and felt as if I were Winona Ryder being lifted into the air. “Shake, shake, shake Senora” rattled my consciousness, but I was carried onto the dance floor and into a black swarm of witches writhing and twisted up by line-dance instructions, “To the left! To the left!”
My brittle feet responded to “The Casper Slide,” with its instructions: “Left foot, now stomp; right foot now stomp,” and the free-styling whirl of “Charlie Brown,” and until Michael Sullivan’s brief appearance, I was the only man dancing with the witches. I was one man alone amongst the witches — as noted by the DJ — when chased by the signature line from Shania Twain’s song: “FEELS LIKE A WOMAN!” I left the dance floor, feeling like a witch-dancing man.
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