Did I ever tell you about the time I got a rousing ovation for a dance I did at the lake one summer?
I didn't? Well, read on. You're going to like this.
It was a warm September afternoon, and I was closing down my camp for the season. One of the more undesirable tasks is raking the leaves and gathering the acorns, which fall by the zillions.
Anyone who has a home by a forest of trees knows the feeling. For every acorn that falls, two others take their place until your back gives out.
It was the year singer Neil Young came forth with his new release, "Harvest Moon," a sequel to his "Harvest" album of the early 1970s. If you're a Neil Young fan like I am, you know the score. It's music to dance by.
Anyway, I grew infatuated with the title song — so much that it was dancing in my head whenever I played the CD. Here's how some of it goes:
"Come a little bit closer. Hear what I have to say. Just like children sleepin,' we could dream the night away. But there's a full moon rising. Let's go dancing in the light."
Well, to make a short story even shorter, the afternoon was wearing thin and I had the earphones plugged into that track and out came the song. I went into one of these dreamlike moments and had my rake in hand.
There I was on the edge of the lake, swooning all over the place with my rake, eyes closed, oblivious to the world and its problems.
What a ridiculous sight this was, dancing with a rake for all of five minutes. The music was intoxicating. So was the pose.
When the song ended, so did my reverie. And that's when the applause rang out. A couple of row boats with anglers aboard saw the bizarre sight and approached my lakefront home. They stood and gave me that rousing ovation like I had just scored a 10 on "Dancing with the Stars."
Go ahead and laugh. I knew TV host Tom Bergeron, who grew up in Haverhill, when he was a talented teen for a local TV studio. The guy was good and you just knew he'd go places. But him becoming such a popular television guru never entered my mind when I wrote him up for the local paper as a cub reporter back in the mid- to late 1960s.
Matter of fact, it was one of the very first stories I ever did and we both grew to appreciate that moment in our latter years. Other stories on Bergeron's rise to fame also intervened and today, he's on top of the entertainment world and I'm dancing with rakes.
I should make an approach to "Dancing with the Stars" and ask for an audition — for old time's sake — but at 71, my best dancing years are behind me.
I was never much for tripping the lights fantastic, as they say. In high school, I was the stereotypical wallflower. The guys used to prod me onto the dance floor. When a girl asked me to dance, I'd melt to the floor with embarrassment.
On our wedding day, when it came to the first dance, sad to say it was more like the last dance. I wound up stepping on the bride's new shoes. We weren't Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, that's for sure. With two left feet, it was hard for me finding a girl with two right ones.
One of my friends was so good on the dance floor, he drew your attention. Little did most people know he met his wife as an instructor at Arthur Murray's Studio. She wasn't bad, either.
I was so good — or bad — that I'd rub people the wrong way on a crowded dance floor. The best disguise I could muster is a three-step line dance at some Armenian shindig.
I see the way this generation dances and figure it's something from another planet. OK, we had the waltz and the jitterbug, the stroll and the twist, but when schools cancel their dances because of what they deem as lewd behavior, I have a problem with that.
I do not see anything intimate about being a gateway apart from your dance partner or something out of "Dirty Dancing" which can be revolting to some parents.
The only good thing about these newer dances is that nobody knows when you make a mistake. At my age, it would be like committing suicide, one bone at a time.
Or I could wait until a full moon appears and use Neil Young's song to disguise my inferiority.
• • •
Photographer and writer Tom Vartabedian is retired from the Haverhill Gazette. He contributes this regular column.