The Firehouse/Alley

A couple weekends ago I ended up at the club at the Gansevoort Park hotel. Luckily, this time I did not spend 30 minutes trying to find the exit… Progress? It’s been a while since I’ve been in a club and even longer since I’ve been in a club and was sober enough to know that I was in a club. I’m pretty sure the last time I went to one, I kept yelling, “BUT I DON’T WANT TO TAKE THE SUBWAY,” only to get downstairs and realize that what I thought to be the entrance to the train station was actually a flight of stairs leading to the club entrance. For the most part, I really hate clubs. I go through several stages of panic attack, anger at whomever brought me to the club and then overwhelming Atlanta-withdrawl because rap is not playing before I eventually give in (get drunk) and start dancing like an idiot.

As I was dancing on some sort of stage/partition/elevated dancing area that night, I was brought back to a time when I had high hopes upon entering the club and danced on stage/partition/elevated dancing areas almost every Thursday night. At that time in my life I lived in – yup, you guessed it – Rome, GA.

By the time I started college at Shorter, the idea that I was free to go ‘clubbing’ as often as I wanted was more excitement than my adolescent brain could handle. I’d spent years listening to Britney Spears’ songs about clubs and trying my hardest to copy that weird hip thing she does in the I’m A Slave For You music video. Despite the fact that I was so awkward I could barely function around the opposite sex, let alone talk to someone I found attractive, I was certain that the second I stepped into “the club,” I’d be transformed into a dancing goddess, paired up with an Abercrombie model who’d fall in love with my enticing moves.

I’m sure somewhere in my partially functioning 18-year-old brain, I had an inkling that this wouldn’t really happen. For one thing, I was pretty sure Abercrombie models didn’t hang out in a town best known for being minutes away from the carpet capital of the world. Additionally, I’d been to a couple teen clubs back in Atlanta and the closest thing I’d gotten to my fantasy club experience was getting pinched in the ass by a white guy wearing a du rag.

Along with this already overwhelming proof, I had a sneaking suspicion that I wasn’t the best dancer. Being fat in high school didn’t lend itself to my having a lot of practice dancing – I think I can count on one hand the number of times I danced with a boy. So from about 13 to 18, my main dancing partner was the wall in my bedroom. I spent countless hours listening to 112 and R Kelly while arhythmically grinding against this one wall in my bedroom, determined to win over my imaginary A&F boyfriend the second I was let into a club.

When I say I hated my teen years, I really, really mean it.

So after a couple weeks of hanging out with the sorority girls at Shorter, Rachel and I got invited to College Night at The Firehouse. The Firehouse was pretty much the only club in town and, even then, I use the word ‘club’ lightly. I can’t think of any other club in which I’ve danced on a stage right in front of a morbidly obese trucker while he chowed down on a plate of wings. It was a sports bar with a stage, but we soldiered on and danced all night. After our first week at The Firehouse, it got shut down due to health codes, or underage drinking, maybe a stabbing – who knows. It reopened a couple weeks later as The Alley and it was no different.

Here’s a picture of the time my friends from high school came from their real colleges in New York and DC to go ‘clubbing’ with me at The Alley:

A few things to note:

1. The X marks on our hands. I never once got drunk at The Alley… so I don’t know exactly how I handled the fact that I was steadily developing strong associations between the smell of chicken wings and clubbing.

2. These X marks also served as a means of semi-public shaming at Shorter. They were difficult to remove from one’s hand and the next morning in class everyone with the X marks would be glared at by all the more religious kids. To this day I still wonder if they knew that X marked the fact that we weren’t drinking.

3. My gold dress. This is a perfect example of how I felt about clubs. While everyone else in this photo is wearing jeans, I’ve decided that a cocktail dress should be worn… Just in case. I’d been going to the Alley(Firehouse) most Thursdays for a year and a half when this picture was taken.

4. My high school friends, who’d been to real clubs plenty, still describe this night as one of their favorite Shorter College moments. I think it ranks in third after the time all the white girls did the Soulja Boi dance in the student union and the New Years we ended up at a party filled with lesbians rolling on E.

I haven’t been back to Rome since 2007, so I can’t say for sure what happened to the Alley. I heard it closed down.. Something about fire codes. Either way, it taught me two valuable lessons –

1. No, you will not meet the love of your life at a club.

2. No, you can’t dance like Britney Spears.

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