Mary Anne Knox and Peter Ostos
Shannon Kelley

I’ve read all this stuff recently about how important it is to bust out of your routine-any routine-if you want to keep your brain in shape. Brush your teeth with the other hand, the “experts” say, and enjoy the healthy firing of synapses along fresh neuropathways for years to come! Much as I dig the concept, I must confess I am a creature of habit. (Not to mention that brushing with my left hand is hard. I know; I’ve tried.) My days unfold in much the same way: I wake up early, turn on water for tea, go back to bed. When the water’s ready, I make my tea, and, well, I take it back to bed. (Hey, I peep for a living-gotta ease myself into something as jarring as waking up.) Eventually, I take the dog for a hike. And so it goes. Sunrise, sunset. There’s comfort in routine; and yet, comfort-synonymous with things like bathrobes, macaroni and cheese, and orthopedic shoes-connotes something close to the exact opposite of exciting, sexy, and fun. So, last Thursday morning, although I had plans to peep something fabulous (or, fabulously predictable?), I had a revelation via a Facebook conversation with a pal. She was going to Salsa Night at Ruby’s. I’d never been, and promptly invited myself along. (This inviting of myself, also a habit.)

Though I’ve been in awe of Ruby’s killer chilaquiles ever since my first taste many years ago-and in fear of their Bloody Marys, ever since said maiden chilaquiles voyage-that pretty much encompassed my experience with the State Street institution. As for salsa, well, I’ve been known to eat it with a spoon, but the dance? Not so much. I believe I was once part of a group dance lesson, in Mexico, at a friend’s wedding, but that came after we’d killed a bottle of surreptitiously scored home-brewed tequila. Memories remain elusive.

Regardless, I was down for mixing it up, and arrived, late-ish, to find the place positively going off. The display was of a caliber that people might pay to watch; the vibe, pure enjoyment. Smiles abounded as legs-and sometimes, the women attached to them-sailed through the air. I dove into a seat, feeling like an interloper who might soon be discovered and kicked out on the grounds of lack of talent. But, no. At Salsa Night at Ruby’s, there’s no room for wallflowers-either that, or the men there are just an extremely charitable crew: They clearly took pity on me, anyway, asking me to dance over and over, and demonstrating the spicy steps with a patience that can only be described as saintly.

Did I step on their toes? Yeah. Did I elbow them in the face? Maybe. Did I look like a moron? Undoubtedly. Did I have an amazing time? Abso-freaking-lutely. Might I become a regular fixture? Maybe.

But not that regular. Gotta keep the brain young.


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