Last weekend I had the privilege of attending a Friday night fish fry down at the local Elk’s lodge. My dad, a fine gent, happens to be a member and he invited my aunt, uncle, my fianc頡nd me. Upon learning they had beer battered fish in any quantity a food-prone lad like myself could want, I acquiesced. Let’s just say it was everything I could want…and more.
Jess and I pulled into the parking lot at about 5:45. I knew going in that this particular Elk’s lodge’s patronage was at a median age of 70 or so, but the full realization did not set in until I got out of the car and noted the steady stream of hoary headed senior citizens slowly walking toward the door…the lustful look of regular fish fry partakers sparkling in their eyes. I instantly felt out of place. “Would they welcome me into their grotto of fish consumption? Do I need to belong to AARP? Will a wild-eyed devotee of Tom ?Sexpants? Jones offer to sell me bootleg Viagara?”
I walked Jess to the entrance, pulled open the door, and was stared down by the impressive wall of Exalted Rulers. Each of them seemed to welcome me…offering me their fried fish and baked chicken, reassuring me that my age was not an issue. Their smiles assured me that the Elks were good men, accepting of diversity and loving of all God’s creatures. Then I entered the grand ballroom (read: wood paneled dining room with a linoleum dance floor) and was faced with two monstrous, severed elk heads. Their twisted countenances put me again at unease.
I had a beer and my dad got us tickets for dinner. Uneventfully, the night brought us good food. The tasty fish passed through my esophagus and into my belly with the aid of tartar sauce-based lubricant. Then the real action began as the quiet Elk lodge was transformed into what can only be described as a senior citizen rave.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a pianist (and I use the term loosely) resembling a balding Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters began playing a horrifying rendition of some vaguely familiar country-western song. Instinctively, like salmon traveling upstream to spawn, the Elks and their wives slowly lifted themselves from their seats, migrated to the center of the room, and began dancing.
While some managed to revive their younger selves and really “bust a move,” others could only stand in a dazed state on the floor while their spouses circled and bobbed. One couple, obviously adept at “cutting a rug,” danced circles around the others. The male member of the duo taunted the sexually challenged members of the audience by thrusting his brown polyester-wrapped pelvis to the organ beat (at this point the “pianist” had put on a ridiculous hat and began playing the cha-cha). I tried to scrape my jaw off the tabletop as the couple engaged in some sort of choreographed mating ritual version of the cha-cha where the man turns his back on the woman and the woman, rebuffed, pleads for the attention of her lover. The reluctant man embraces the woman and cha-chas the night away.
At the conclusion of the song, the couple kissed passionately while the pianist again changed his hat (this time into a lovely woman’s sun-bonnet). I did the only thing I knew to do…I gave the couple a big thumbs up, silently prayed I’d be that virile at 75, and resumed sipping a beer and eating my beerfish…all but sabotaging with barley and cholesterol any virility I might retain through the years.
I want be the Exalted Ruler of this surreal land.