As day turns to night . . .

In the wee hours after dark, downtown Victoria takes on a different beat from its sleepy, daytime pulse.

In the wee hours after dark, downtown Victoria takes on a different beat from its sleepy, daytime pulse. At the witching hour, the air becomes electric as literally hundreds of gaily dressed young women — and their darker companions — line the streets outside a plethora of nightclubs and bars.

For those who rarely venture out by moonlight, most of these clubs appear practically invisible by day. A simple doorway with a subtle sign suddenly blossoms into velvet ropes and muscled bouncers to provide a gateway to pounding beats, neon lights and free-flowing alcohol.

The young women are dressed to attract with skirts short enough to shock and dresses that cling like a second skin. They’ve taken time to style their hair into loops, curls and waves, and carefully applied makeup to make a statement about their personalities — from demure to glamorous to sexy and dangerous. The men have taken less care. The pants are baggy, shirts loose and the hair is more ‘I took a nap’ than ‘I give a damn.’

The regulars seem to know which velvet rope to stand behind in order to quicken entry. Knowing the bouncer obviously helps, and the shorter skirts don’t wait outside for too long either. At one club, I ascend a steep set of stairs, at another I descend, but in both cases the air changes as I arrive at dance level. To sober nostrils, the tang of alcohol mixes with perfume, sweat and pheromones. Half the bodies vibrate on the floor to a beat that shakes the fillings in my molars. The other half hold to the edges and darker corners, mingling, talking, watching. I wonder if the talkers can lip read or if they simply enjoy the intimacy of having to press flesh in order to be heard.

This is the upside; the side that makes me wish I could slide back into my youth, be cocky and confident and eager to conquer the world. But as the hours slide by, so does the glamour. Outside a popular club on Douglas St., a young man stumbles out into the night. He doesn’t notice the bright yellow jackets of VicPD’s Late Night Great Night task force officers who are constantly monitoring for trouble in order to stop any violence before it can spread to those who are simply out for a good time. The young man staggers to one side, vomits on the sidewalk, and keeps walking as though he’s merely burped. Another young man crosses Douglas in the middle of the block with a slice of pizza in his hand; he’s so wasted that he walks directly in front of the task force’s gigantic, reflective transport vehicle, forcing the driver to slam on the brakes to avoid squashing him like a bug. Pizza dude doesn’t even blink.

As for the glamorous women, their attractiveness slips when, at three in the morning, we find several of them in a back alley, skirts hiked up even higher, and squatting against a brick wall. Rivers of urine flow past their high heels to pool in the street. Suddenly, I’m thankful for the wisdom that age brings. M

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