julieliveshere.com

Thanks for visiting. This site will no longer be updated.

Please visit my new site.

You can find new writing, new photos at

http://julieliveshere.com

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Queen of Venice and The Mystery of the Disappearing Boy

Boy am I glad I bought that mask!

I'll tell you more tomorrow. I'm sleepy and I have to try to get these crazy eyelashes off now.

No more Halloween...nitey nite.

xo

***
Update 10/1/07 9:59am PST: The editorial staff of TangoBaby would like to apologize for publishing the Halloween image of a certain male sitting next to the woman in the photo. Even though that certain somebody looked exceptional in his costume.

Due to issues of National Security, we have been requested by the Ministry of Truth to replace the previous photo with the one you see here. This is the correct photo.

The photo editor of TangoBaby has been fired due to this indiscretion. We have hired another photo editor who looks exactly like her but will do a much more professional job.

Thank you.

PS. If you were one of the lucky few to see the original photo, consider the experience to be the equivalent of having seen a Unicorn. Also, please know that you may be placed under house arrest for an indeterminate amount of time.

Thank you.

One More Halloween Topic

I forgot to ask you this. It's very important.

What is your best ultimate yucky Halloween candy? Wax lips? Pixie sticks? Dots? Everlasting Gobstoppers?

I pick Wax Lips. What's your fave?

And did your mom throw some of your candy in the trash or did you get to eat it all?

Get Out the Orville Redenbacher: It's a Halloween Double Feature!

Bwah hah hah! Happy Halloween, guys!



Intermission and candy break

SF Is Full of Partypoopers

This morning I woke up 30 minutes earlier than usual so I would have time to do my makeup for tonight's Macabre Ball at Teatro ZinZombie. I won't have time to go home first so I did my best diva eyes at 7am and will touch up before I leave today. I brought my fab goth black-and-red Can Can skirt from Venice, black fishnets, my red suede faux Christian Laboutins and my gorgeous mask from my shopping spree in Venice and will change in the bathroom at 5:30 into a Venetian princess.

I am wearing my most extravagant Shu Uemura lashes to date:

I got on the train this morning and no one else was dressed for Halloween! Not even a teeny-tiny bit. One woman was wearing an orange scarf but that does not count, in my book.

Not even a drop of glitter to be seen! Come on, folks, this is San Francisco! We're supposed to be the trendsetters for the nation, at least in funky funny wierdness.

A few stops later a young man got on the train, dressed in a policeman's uniform, with boots and a fancy cap. But he was probably about 3 years old, holding his mom's hand. At least someone else had the Halloween spirit on Muni today!

Then I heard this conversation between the two men standing next to me:

Guy 1: Oh, Michael and I were going to go out tonight, but we changed our minds.
Guy 2: Oh, that's right. It's Halloween.
Guy 1: You can borrow my tiara if you want. I won't be using it.

Even guys in the Castro aren't dressing up! What, did George Bush win here, too? Jeez.

***
When I got to the bakery to get my morning's cinammon bun, the guy behind the counter was dressed as a sexy nurse, with a crazy blond wig, nurse's cap, white mini nurse's dress, white thigh-high fishets with red bows at the top, bright red lipstick, and a classic 5-o'clock shadow beard.

I told him he looked awesome and he smiled.

Thank god. I was starting to get worried.

For TJ

Happy NBA Season!

Here is a partial list of things The Boy has introduced me to and taught me to enjoy:

  1. The quick-as-lightning talents of Pistol Pete Maravich and Dr. J.
  2. Chip Foose and the guys of Overhaulin'.
  3. The Who
  4. Pinball
  5. I can't believe I'm admitting this: The Girls Next Door!

Things he's tried to make me like but it's not going to happen:

  1. Baseball
  2. Golf
  3. Metallica

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Terra Firma

We just had a little earthquake a while ago.

I was sitting at my favorite sushi bar, happily popping tiny, salty bubbles of tobiko between my teeth. I was reading my new favorite book, Venice, by Jan Morris, when the earth rolled in slow waves for quite a few seconds.

I happened to be reading the chapter about the geological conditions and other factors that are causing Venice to slowly sink into the waters of the Adriatic, when the ground beneath us started to shudder. Everyone in the restaurant quieted for a moment, but no one stopped eating their sushi (it's that good at Ebisu).

The lanterns above the sushi bar swayed softly for at least a minute before settling back into equilibrium. Their gentle rocking motion reminded me of the floating gondolas of Venice.

PS. Wow, just looked up the little temblor on the USGS website. Apparently it was a 5.6 based near San Jose. Must have felt a wee bit stronger in the sushi bars down there.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Tango Angels of Venice

A lot of the tango blogs I read talk about Tango Angels. We all have one or wish we had one or remember one fondly. I'll admit it's a topic I like dissertations on: certainly I have been wondering where mine have disappeared to recently. But I don't recall anything written lately where anyone has talked about being a Tango Angel. Maybe it's hard to tell when you've done it.

Well, I can say now that I have been a Tango Angel. As much as I'll remember the times that someone's taken me under his wing and shown me the stars while dancing, I also now know that I've done that same thing for someone else. As Nuit has talked about the little box where she puts her happy tango memories, I'll be sure to put this little story in mine...

Just so you know, Venice is not a destination for tango. I think we assumed, being tourists, that if the tango scene in Venice was not large, at least it might attract some other visitors, like ourselves, to the local dances. In San Francisco, it's very common to meet people on holiday or on business who attend the local milongas and have a great time dancing with the locals. I've had some exceptional dances with partners who I'll probably never see again, as they were just passing through town. *snif*

And Tina, our in-house Italy/Tango expert, was a great help in getting us the information we needed about the tango scene in Venice and the surrounding cities. (By the way, you should read her other blog about Italy. It made me want to be an expat before I even got there!)

We were so excited to see that the first local milonga was literally down the street (canal) from us, on Sunday night. Perfect timing as we would have recovered from jet lag by then and would be raring to go. I think all of us had dreams that we would dance for hours and the best part would be that we only had a two-minute walk back to our apartment, so if our feet were killing us--hey, no problem! We're already home!

So close, yet so far. Both literally and figuratively. We actually got lost trying to find the place, which was incredible in that the address was so close to us. But Venice can be labyrinthian and its system of addressing buildings is a total mystery. The fact that people actually get mail delivered to them is somewhat miraculous. We stomped around, looking in vain for the address, saying "It's got to be around here somewhere!" and then finally stopping into a nearby restaurant where the only English-speaking employee gave us partial directions. Had she not been successful, we were on the verge of throwing in the towel and ordering some linguine. We were definitely all dressed up with no place to go.

But it turned out that we had passed the place (through no fault of our own, it was behind us and hidden around a corner) and when we saw the little paper sign that spelled "TANGO" pasted to the wall, our spirits revived. We got excited again. Our first milonga in VENICE!

And then our hopes were dashed. Again.

The "milonga" was in a small room, with maybe about 12-14 people in attendance. We looked worriedly at two of the men who were so inept as to be very likely sources of bodily harm to us. And they were the young ones. All of the other men there were in their late 50s, at least, with partners and attire to match. Picture the following: my little hottie Korean girlfriends, me in my new semi-Goth, semi-French Can Can poufy skirt, and all of us in our favorite Comme Il Fauts. We certainly did stick out like sore thumbs.

The people looked at us like we had come from another planet. Needless to say, out-of-towners do not visit this milonga, and really none of the people there spoke much English, so it was difficult to even explain why we were there. It kind of felt like we were crashing their little local party. I guess we were. I certainly got the impression that some of the women were not really too thrilled that we dropped by.

Ms. Tango Hours and Ms. Nuit weren't even taking off their coats--that's how on the fence they were about staying. But there was one guy dancing who looked okay. I watched him with his partner and it looked like he would work out. Then someone put on Caceres' Tango Negro, which for me is like giving catnip to a kitty, so out came my red shoes. I tried to cabaceo the guy, but he didn't get it. I didn't want to miss the whole damn song, so I figured Screw it, and went over and asked him to dance. He looked surprised, but at least he didn't say no. And we danced for most of the song, and it was fun.

Then they put on a regular tango. The guy, Franco, said to me, in slightly broken English, that he thought I was like a Ferrari, and that I should be gentle with him as he wasn't sure he could handle me. I had to laugh at that. Comparing me to a Ferrari--now that has to be the most Italian compliment of all! We danced for one more song and I realized then that not only did they not cabaceo (maybe there's no need when it's the same five women every week) but they also didn't have tandas and cortinas. You got one dance and then the guy moved on to someone else. Even at a tiny milonga there are more women than men! Gads. I had to hand it to the guys though. They stayed loyal to the local women, who were for the most part, really bad dancers.

Anyway, we stayed for a while, and the girls were good sports and felt a bit abused by one gent who insisted on correcting their form while dancing (their form is fine, trust me) instead of realizing that these cuties were gifts from the Almighty in their little tango world that night.

So we left after about 30 minutes, went back to the restaurant where the English-speaking waitress worked, and ordered some yummy seafood pasta. After the pasta, somehow I convinced the girls to go back to the dance, just for the last hour, and see if it had gotten better. My hope was that maybe someone better had turned up late. You never know, right? We had nothing to lose.

They looked like they were closing up shop. Most of the people had left. Franco was still there, and two of the other guys who weren't too bad, and they were really happy to see us. The one fellow who was putting on his coat to leave took it off again, and escorted us back into the room. And then it was the San Francisco/Venice milonga.

The guys took turns dj'ing and dancing with us. And for more than just one song. For lots of songs. At midnight, when the milonga was supposed to have ended at 11:30, someone played La Cumparsita, so I figured that was it, but then they kept playing more music. They really did not want us to leave. Finally we were the ones who had to put our coats on so the dance would stop.

One of the women there, the best dancer of the ladies, did not speak English but did speak French. She was highly complimentary to all of us and said we were beautiful dancers. She told us about a milonga the next night in San Marco that would be better for us. Better dancers, she explained. As we were leaving, one of the men repeatedly mentioned that there was another milonga coming up on that Wednesday, and to please come back.

***

The next night, we got all dressed up again for the milonga we had heard about from the French-speaking Italian woman. It was really more of a practica than a milonga. Franco was there. This time he was different. And better.

He cabaceoed me from across the room. When I met him in the middle of the floor, he gave me a hug. "Just like in Buenos Aires, right?" he said. I asked him if he had ever been to BsAs, and he said, Oh no. No no no.

We danced a number of tandas that night, and each one was better than the one before it. At the end of the last song, he gave me such a squeeze and kissed my cheek hard, a big smooch. I could feel how happy he was, like giddy happy. He said, "I love you! I would dance with you forever!"

And that's when I knew I had been a Tango Angel.

Ciao, Franco.

Boo!

One of the wonderfully sweet things about The Boy is that he is always coming up with little fun surprise-y things to do. He also does my laundry and makes my bed. Yes, I am totally spoiled. I know it.

When I came back from Venice, he had arranged three little purple orchids on my night table. And had made my bed with freshly laundered sheets.

He also told me that he got us tickets to Teatro ZinZombie, a special Halloween production of Teatro ZinZanni, one of our favorite things to see in SF when we're feeling flush.

Teatro ZinZanni is one part dinner, one part cabaret show and one part Cirque de Soleil. You have a great meal while watching a wildly creative musical circus show with world-class acrobats, jugglers and people who do crazy things on trapezes and ropes right above your head while you're eating dinner. It's really hard to describe how cool it is. All the action takes place in an antique circus tent from the 1800s.

This troupe also features a couple called Vertical Tango, which performs the most amazing tango-inspired acrobatic routine on a vertical pole in the middle of the tent. For all you tango fans, this will be the highlight of your experience at Teatro ZinZanni.

When I was in Venice, I ended up buying a gorgeous Harlequin mask covered in multi-colored velvet, the eyes lined with golden sequins and sporting a sumptuous periwinkle-blue flower made of feathers on the side. I wasn't going to buy the mask, and it was really too expensive, but Nuit already had one picked out for herself and the excitement was too contagious in the little shop. Plus, the mask was so perfect for me that I had to get it. But I still had a little buyer's remorse, until today.
.
Now I have a great place to wear the mask on Halloween! Maybe I'll win the costume contest...hmm...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Museums of Venice

For a tiny conglomeration of islands that measures only two miles in one direction and one mile in the other, Venice has an extraordinary amount of world-class art per square inch. If San Francisco had even one tenth of the art available daily in Venice, I would be over the moon with joy. Not to mention that the buildings that house this treasure trove of art are some of the most beautiful palaces in the city, built during the extravagant heyday of Venice's glory.

I did not go to all of the museums. That would not have been possible in a single week. I decided to choose my haunts carefully, based on my interests and not merely upon the most famous sights. So I skipped the Accademia and some of the more religious-based museums and churches in favor of more modern works and museums that explore the history of the city. I was not disappointed in any of my choices.

My first stop in Venice was the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, in our local sestiere of Dorsorduro, the day after our arrival. This visit was probably the closest thing to a pilgrammage for me, artwise. I had been intrigued by The Red Tower, a painting by Giorgio de Chirico, after having seen the work in an art history class my freshman year in college. For some reason, that painting had stayed with me, even though my only exposure to it had been a 2-inch representation in a thick art book. Now I had my chance to see the real thing, and I made a beeline for the painting when I entered the museum.

It is a unique and singular experience to see up close and in person a work of art that you admire (even if you are not sure exactly why you like it). Only then, does the work truly become art. When you stand in front of the piece, whether it is a painting, sculpture or something else entirely, there is a physical sensation that makes you appreciate and understand what the artist was trying to communicate. In those same circumstances did I understand the greatness of the Mona Lisa, and the genius of Van Gogh.

During my visit to the Guggenheim, I also had a chance to see a charming painting, Empire of Light, by another favorite artist, René Magritte, and be introduced to the works of Max Ernst, Guggenheim's husband and a sensitive artist who was obviously somewhat deranged.

This particular painting, The Attirement of the Bride, was fascinating and nightmarish and very personal, given that the bride is Peggy Guggenheim herself and the circumstances of the imagery are certainly disturbing.







The next museum I enjoyed thoroughly was the Palazzo Fortuny, a large Gothic palazzo in Campo San Beneto, which was transformed by designer Mariano Fortuny into his own atelier of photography, stage-design, textile-design and painting.

The museum itself is very enigmatic. It is more of an atmosphere and a presence than a place to see a certain piece of art. Fortuny is best known for his textiles and silks , but this is by no means a costume museum.

The only fabrics of his design cover the walls on the second floor atelier, giving the large room the feeling of an opium den or a Sultan's lair. The main room is partially filled with strange and macabre artifacts and curiosities, and is best visited when you are in a mood to be slightly disturbed, and wanting to enjoy the feeling of otherworldliness.




The other modern art collection, Ca' Pesaro, is located on the Grand Canal in one of the finest palazzos in Venice, which started construction in 1628 and was completed in 1710. The sestiere of Santa Croce has a very medival feeling to it as you walk the narrow alleyways.

Although the exterior of the building retains its classic Venetian appearance, inside is a treasury of Impressionist and modern artists.

I have finally had the chance to see a Gustave Klimt painting, Salome, in person. It was large, framed in gold leaf, full of lust and glorious to behold. I visited it three times while I was in the museum, wanting to take full advantage of it while I was there.

Nearby to Ca' Pesaro was a smaller--but no less fascinating--museum, Palazzo Mocenigo. From Fodors (because they described it better than I could): So well preserved it looks like a movie set, this palazzo gives a sense of how wealthy families lived in the last years of the republic. Bequeathed to the city in 1945 by the last surviving Mocenigo heir, the home is richly decorated with polished floors, fabric-covered walls, and glass chandeliers from Murano.

The portego (entry hall), typical of Venetian palazzos, occupies about one-third of the total floor space; once used for receptions and balls, it now occasionally hosts classical concerts. Sparsely furnished, it's lined with portraits of the seven Mocenigo family doges and other notables.

Doors on both sides of the portego open onto bedrooms and salons, where visitors were received with a cup of hot chocolate in the early morning hours after nights typically spent at parties or seated at gambling tables. Furniture and paintings are all original and constitute a permanent exhibit. The mannequins' clothing, lace, fabrics, and accessories on display come from the Center for the History of Textiles and Costumes (housed in a wing of the palace) which organizes 15th- to 18th-century thematic exhibits.

Last, but not least, Ca' Rezzonico, is another palazzo situated on the Grand Canal, devoted to 18th century life in Venice. To say that the interiors of this building are breathtaking do not do it justice.

In addition to the myriad painted ceilings, portraits, gold leaf and fantastic furniture, are the most divine Murano chandeliers still in existence. The craftsmanship of everything in the palazzo is stupefying, but the glasswork, to me, were the most dazzling creations of all.

Of course you are not allowed to take pictures in this or any of the museums but I found a company that makes reproductions of the chandeliers at Ca' Rezzonico. This picture should give you an idea of what they looked like, if not the grandeur, scale and color of the originals.

Back in the lady's dressing room at Ca' Rezzonico, I was able to catch a couple of snaps of one of the plainest rooms in the house. The wash of pinks and greens in floral motifs made me imagine the lady's daily routine of getting dressed, assisted by her attendants, before she emerged for the day into the grand halls below her bedroom.

In one ancient mirror, I was able to catch a glimpse of myself, although dressed in drab grays and black and bundled in sweater, scarf and coat, for a brief moment, I tried to imagine myself as the lady of the house.

To Live in Venice, Part One

As most of you know, I had a unique opportunity to live in a private home instead of a hotel. My home base, La Casa Bella, gave me the chance to truly experience a life lived fully in Venice, not insulated from the city as I would be had I stayed in a hotel.

To me, living in an apartment is the best way to travel and experience a place authentically. Instead of being planted in an area full of tourists and all things catering to them, I could develop roots in a neighborhood that became very familiar and homey in a short amount of time. Also, I am a very independent traveler. My inclination is to travel alone, mostly because I feel compelled to pursue my own agenda and don't want to impose my itinerary on others.

La Casa Bella is situated on a small canal, the Rio Ognissanti (see picture below), in the sestiere (section) of Venice called the Dorsoduro. In doing my homework on the Dorsoduro, I learned that this area initially was not as populated as the other parts of Venice, due to the frequency of pirate attacks! Okay, now how cool is that? (Well, maybe not too cool if you were the one being attacked by pirates...)

Having always had a serious fascination with pirates (and not the lame Johnny Depp variety), that piece of trivia set my imagination afire when I walked along the Zattere, the large open quay that runs along the Giudecca canal, a wide waterway which divides the Dorsoduro from the Giudecca, another island in the lagoon.

The Dorsoduro is remarkably free of tourists considering the enormous volume of people that visit Venice for daytrips. In the waterway along the Zattere, it is common to see these gigantic cruise boats beached like whales as they have dumped off their passengers for a few short hours. Incomprehensively, a large majority of Venice's tourists arrive for a day's visit, only to depart again by nightfall. The conceit that a person could "do" Venice in the span of a few hours is so amazingly short-sighted that I wonder why such a person would even bother at all. I was there for an entire week and still felt as if I had merely scratched the surface. *rant ends here*

I was really glad I stayed in the part of town that I did. Even though the neighborhood was quiet, it was nice to see local people walking to and from work, congregating at small eateries, and generally carrying on about their daily business. But the canal was just a couple minutes' walk to not only the major sights in the Dorsoduro (of which there are many, including the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, the Accademia, the Palazzo Dario (which I saw from my gondola), and Ca' Rezzonico, but to the rest of the city via the wonderful Ponte dell'Accademia bridge.

PS. This has nothing to do with Venice. If you're like me, and you like a good read about pirates and the savage life on the sea, try some of the books I've read within the past year (Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates, Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age, and Scurvy: How a Surgeon, a Mariner, and a Gentlemen Solved the Greatest Medical Mystery of the Age of Sail. Oh, and if you're in San Francisco, you've got to visit 826 Valencia, the only pirate supply store/writing studio I know of. It's not as cool as Venice, but it's pretty super cool.

Okay, enough about the pirates.

To Eat in Venice

I had read in several sources that the food in Venice is not as good as food throughout the rest of Italy.

Now, I've nothing to base that comparison on, as I've never been anywhere else in Italy, but I do have to say that I had one extremely fine meal that will rate in my memory banks right up there with L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris and the French Laundry in Yountville. And it happened by accident, too!

But I'll save that part for last. Most of my meals in Venice were grabbed on the go, as it seemed I was always en route to somewhere else, and stopping too long for food would interfere with my desire to see as much as I could.

But even the small snacks were delightful, if simple. The local coffee shops, a favorite being in Campo Santa Margherita and simply called Caffe, served a variety of delicious sandwiches with savory fillings. The slices of bread, as soft and white as Wonderbread, but with actual taste and texture, were filled with tuna, pork or shrimp and a variety of accompaniments, including Gorgonzola cheese, marinated red peppers, olives, or grated carrots. These simple sandwiches were as delicious as they were economical.

Pictured above is a cicchetti bar. Cicchetti are a variety of appetizer-like dishes, either served as salads or atop slices of toast. Seafood is a common element, including salmon and anchovies. We shared a number of cicchetti in a small bar near the Guggenheim Museum on our first day in Venice, while resting our feet a bit during that first stroll to get acclimated with our surroundings. Other favorite meals grabbed throughout the days were sweet cantaloupe voluptuously draped in thin layers of proscuitto (sweet and salty together is a wonderful thing indeed!), fresh warm bruschette with a topping of soft, sweet cherry tomatoes sauteed in garlic, olive oil and basil, and a tagliatelle with olive oil and mushrooms. All of this food reminded me that freshness and simplicity make the best dishes!

Gelato is ubiquitous in Venice, and all that I sampled was wonderful. We were lucky enough to be staying near Nico, which has a reputation of serving the best gelato in Venice. I had the Gianduitto (hazelnut) and took my cone to go while strolling along the Zattere, watching all kinds of boats roam up and down the waters between me and the Giudecca.

Okay, now for the pièce de résistance. I had been wandering the narrow alleys of Santa Croce and San Polo after having spent the morning in two incredible museums: Ca' Pesaro and the Palazzo Mocenigo (more on those later). I hadn't eaten anything for breakfast that morning (just hungry for beautiful sights and not food, I guess), and was making my way back towards the Rialto Bridge. On a particularly tiny alleyway was a small restaurant window that made me backtrack as I almost passed it by. Nothing in the window would indicate that this was a spectacular restaurant in any way, but after reading the menu in the window, I knew this was the place for me to reward myself after the morning's activities.

It was late, getting on towards 2pm, when I entered the almost empty restaurant, called Vecio Fritolin. The waiter, obviously a professional like the kind you would encounter in Paris, warmly welcomed me to a small table by the window. That's where the fun began.

My eyes glazed over at the menu choices, and my stomach responded with eager anticipation. While I read the menu, a basket of the most delicious, warm bread (three kinds that they make at the restaurant) arrived at my table, along with the spritz, an apertif of sparkling water and Campari served with a slice of lemon, that I ordered. I only remember one of the breads, although all were delicious. But this one was so fragrant with olive oil and studded with sunflower seeds that it left the other breads behind.

My waiter (pictured above) was the epitome of gracious service. I finally decided on an appetizer of soft-shelled crabs with Venetian polenta and a main course of pumpkin gnocchi with smoked duck. Believe me, this was a very tough decision. While I devoured the bread and savored my spritz, a woman came in to make her dinner reservations. Apparently, my little lunch hideaway was recently reviewed in the New York Times. Bingo!

Which is how I got my perfect pictures of the restaurant! Thanks, New York Times website! That is my nice waiter, above! (For all I know, he could be the owner. I was so engrossed in the place that I didn't make much small talk. Plus my mouth was full of that bread and I was trying to be demure.)

Let's just say that the chef created the culinary equivalent of tango bliss in my mouth. I swooned. What the hell is Venetian polenta and why do you want to dip your entire body in it? (Now I know that all polentas are not created equal and I will have to wander the world looking for this silky warm pudding again.) The crabs were incredibly soft and full of the salty flavor of the sea. The pumpkin/duck gnocchi: ridiculously good.

I did not lick the plates, even though I wanted to--badly. I did tell the waiter to please tell the chef that I wanted to marry him. I was totally serious. Which got a chuckle out of the waiter but did not produce the chef to my table, sadly.

It's probably a good thing I did not order dessert or else I'd still be there.

The Floodgates Open, Slowly

I can already feel the effects of Venice wearing off, sadly. Or perhaps it's that I'm just not silly with sleepiness right at this moment.

But the visuals and descriptions of Venice are starting to flow through my mind now, so I'm going to try to recapture as much as I can before the workaday world starts again tomorrow, and I lose more of that Venice state of mind, bit by bit.

Instead of a blow-by-blow diary of each day's events, I've decided to re-explore my trip categorically, experientially. It's my hope, through this exercise, to capture as much of the detail as I experienced it.

It's also my hope that this writing will inspire memories in you for those of you who have visited and loved this city, and perhaps you'll share your recollections with me, too. It can be a second trip for both of us.

PS. This painting of the Grand Canal and the Salute, by Claude Monet, captures a view that I enjoyed almost daily by strolling over the wooden arch of the Accademia Bridge into San Marco. This painting was created in 1908 and now resides here in a museum in San Francisco. How lucky! I can see Monet and Venice here in my hometown!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Floating on a Gondola

video

I'm just playing around with FinalCut Express for the first time while finishing up with jet lag recovery. *sigh*

Watch this little assortment of clips while I try to think of something to say. My brain and fingers are bottlenecked as I sort out what to write first. I'm still overwhelmed by Venice.

So nothing is getting written at all.

(This footage was taken on my last day in Venice with the last remaining dregs of my camera battery. Just me, my gondolier Giovanni and the silent canals. Sono triste.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Home

You know you're really tired when you can fall asleep on the plane with your head resting on the little pull-out snack tray.

I have so much to tell you guys but I have to go to sleep. So tired. Zzzzzzzz......

xoxo

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What Rock Have I Been Under?

Okay, just one tango post because I can't believe I haven't seen this couple before and now this woman is my new tango goddess/heroine.

Nuit and Ms. Tango Hours are out at a wine bar and I'm here on the bed with a tummyache, looking at youtube videos and feeling poorly. (Gee, could it have been the gnocchi drowning in butter, followed by a hot chocolate topped with whipped cream?!)



Now I am going to try to apologize to my poor tummy and try to imprint this woman's every move into my cells. I am in awe of her magical feet.

Tangobaby Venice Relief Fund

I'm running out of money! I still haven't been on a gondola yet!

Damned Euro! Grrr.

Please make your checks out to me immediately. Or else I will have to live IN a canal, instead of the much-preferred nice warm home ALONG a canal.

xoxo

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I'm Not Coming Home

I think I'll just wait until I get deported.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

Signing off for now... see you in a week.

I'll miss you guys. *snif*

xoxo,

tangobaby

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Follower's Workshops

Carolina is teaching some interesting workshops for followers...I'll miss the first class but hope to be at the rest of them. See you there?

Intensive Training: Follower’s Technique and Embellishments with Carolina Rozensztroch
(Men are welcome to work on follower's role)

Four Mondays Only, 6:15pm to 7:15pm
10/22 Embellishments in Sensual Walks
10/29 Smooth Embellishments in Ochos and Giros
11/5 Sparkly Embellishments in Pivoted Steps and Ocho Cortado
11/12 Breathtaking Boleos, Circular and Linear

@ La Pista, 768 Brannan, SF 94103
$20 drop-ins or $60 all four at door
$50 All pre-register via email before 10/16
info@tangowithcarolina.com
http://www.tangowithcarolina.com/
415.260-0579

Oh, and one more thing. On Mondays, Roberto and Carolina teach a class and then host a milonga at the Slovenian Hall. Come out, come out, come out! Monday's a great day for dancing, right?

Book Club Reminder

Just a gentle reminder that our first-ever session of the Tao of Tango Book Club will commence in November. If you want to join in, we'd love to hear from you. (Actually, we'd love to hear from you anyway.) Details on the book can also be found at Johanna's blog.

See you in the reading room, Tango Bookworms!

Mail Call!

For no good reason, I'm up at 4 a.m. I guess my brain thought this would be a perfect time to worry about what is, or is not, in my suitcase(s).

So, Dear Ones, I will write to you instead.

We leave bright and early on Thursday morning for our Italian adventure. Nuit mentioned this before, but if you would like a postcard, please get us your address (today? my email address is in my profile to the right). I don't know how much email/blogging will be done past today.

I promise all three of us will give the postcard a kiss before we send it. Arrivederci!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Teacher's Helper

Well, that was nice.

This Sunday I went to the outdoor afternoon milonga at Golden Gate Park, the last time for me this year. Since I'll be en vacances very soon, I'll miss the remaining Sundays in October.

I'm sad because I really loved dancing in the park. I'll just have to wait in anticipation until next March when it starts up again.

At first, I wasn't going to go at all. That milonga I went to on Tuesday really threw me for a loop, where I pretty much sat around all night. I just figured I'd chill on the dancing until I felt a little less fragile and touchy about it, and wait until after I got back Venice. But I really didn't want to miss my last chance to dance outside in the beautiful old bandshell.

It was cold, overcast: perfect weather for dancing when you know you might get sweaty. The other nice thing about this milonga is that you don't have to dress up. You can wear dance pants and a t-shirt and feel right at home.

In the past, I've had some of my favorite leaders to dance with at this milonga. But this time, not a one was there! In fact, there was almost no one there at all. Roberto and Carolina teach the class, and Roberto is the DJ. Our tiny group just sat around, craning our necks to see if anyone was coming to dance. While we sat, I told Carolina about the milonga last week, and how I didn't dance. I said I figured that never happens to her, since she's a teacher, and she surprised me. She said that happens to her too. Which made me feel better. Not that she doesn't get asked to dance, but that I'm not the only one.

Finally, someone showed up, a beginning leader I've danced with before, and asked if we were having a class. Normally I skip the lesson because I'm dancing with someone, but this time I ended up in the class--as Carolina's "helper" while Roberto played the music. It is strange for me to be at the front of the class like that. Nora used to do that to me to in her beginning classes, and it used to make me really nervous. I never messed up, but I felt like I was being presented as better than I am, and I don't want anyone to think that about me. But Nora said she picked me because she knew I could do what she needed me to, and to take it as a compliment.

But it still makes me feel funny. Carolina was great. She was teaching the leaders how to lead ochos, and from there, how to lead a boleo. She pulled me into a close embrace and led to my left in the cross system. My nose was resting on her cheek, just like it would normally with any leader.

The difference is that this was the first time I was able to dance with a woman, and enjoy it. Her lead was strong and soft at the same time. If she asked me to dance at a milonga, I'd say yes in a heartbeat.

The other little gem of the day was that I danced with a guy I don't get to dance with normally when his partner (girlfriend?) is with him. They only dance together. But she wasn't there this time so he danced with me. He kept saying things like he wasn't good enough to dance with me and he was embarrassed about his mistakes. I told him to stop worrying about the steps in class, and just listen to the music and dance. And when the vals tanda began, he sat down, saying he couldn't do it and he'd have to wait until he got better. But then Desde El Alma came on, and I can't sit that one out. I pretty much dragged him out onto the floor. After a few steps, he took off like a swan. He was great.

At the end of the milonga, I told him not to be a stranger next time. I hope he won't be.

Tina Started It



Tina got me started on my personal 70s dance party tonight. Where are my Jordache jeans?

I'll admit it. I LOVE ABBA.

For Tina



Gloria Gaynor + three fabulous drag queens = Disco Heaven!

My favorite version, from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Drumroll, Please

And the winner of my first official poll, "Who Would You Rather Dance Tango With?" is...




Gorgeous Paul Newman.

But it was a squeaker. 6 votes for Newman, 5 votes for Redford. So, Eva, what does this mean about which side of the brain we use?

I do think they work well as a matched set, though:



Maybe that's called using both sides of the brain!
Okay, back to the salt mines...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Vision of Tango

One of my other passions, which I've had much longer than tango, is cinema. It's something that fills in the cracks of my life and the more I watch and study different types of film, the more I realize there's so much to learn that I don't even know about yet (just like tango).

One thing that I wish there was more of, now that I'm able to dance tango, are quality films that express the beauty and truth of what tango really is.

Especially because it was a film, The Tango Lesson, that opened my eyes to the existence of tango in the first place. But now that I've seen that film again, after now studying and dancing regularly, I can't watch it with the same undiluted admiration because I watch the movie with a critical eye. (Also, I've read La Planchadora's review, which left me in tears from laughing.) Aside from youtube tango videos, which certainly fill a need, films that feature tango leave a lot to be desired. They either have random flashes of brilliant dancing and terrible stories, or mediocre dancing that is highly edited with mediocre stories.

What I like about the short film here is that it evokes a place where tango is a part of life. It's more of an atmosphere than anything else, but it feels truthful to me.


Tango from Jono on Vimeo.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head

So this morning it was raining pretty constantly, and as per usual, I was getting ready to leave the house without an umbrella, and The Boy was running around in his boxer shorts, trying to find an umbrella I could take with me.

But I don't want an umbrella. I like the rain.

The Boy tried to foist the gigantic blue parapluie on me. It's so big it's like walking under a geodesic dome. You could put an entire family under it. I used this monster once on a rainy walk through North Beach and I'm sure I poked someone's eye out with it (not on purpose, of course).

I know this is one of the ways he tries to keep me safe and protect me, which is very sweet and I love that about him. But it's also fun to see him with brow furrowed. He doesn't understand why someone would want to get rained on.

Actually, I'm not too sure myself, except for that this light rain feels nice. And you can't sing this song to yourself if you have an umbrella (and yes, I really did sing it to myself today. You should try it too sometime. It's fun!):

Raindrops keep falling on my head
And just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed,
Nothing seems to fit.
These raindrops keep falling on my head
They keep fallin'

So I just did me some talkin' to the sun
And I said I didn't like the way he got things done,
Sleepin' on the job,
These raindrops keep falling on my head
They keep fallin'

But there's one thing I know,
The blues they send to meet me
Won't defeat me,
Won't be long till happiness steps up to greet me

Raindrops keep falling on my head
But that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turning red,
Crying's not for me,
'Cause I'm never gonna stop the rain by complainin'
Because I'm free,
Nothing's worryin' me.


If it rains harder, next time I'm going to wear a yellow slicker and do Singin' in the Rain instead. I'll just need to find a Gene Kelly to dance with, too.



And in case you haven't seen this before, or haven't seen this for a long time, here is the Tango in the Rain scene from The Tango Lesson, courtesy of Milonga Is Like a Box of Chocolates.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Strange and Unnatural Foods

As I write this, Nuit has a funny little thread going on about foods she eats that are not really part of the USDA's food pyramid. (Remember studying the food pyramid in Home Ec class and realizing that you were nowhere close to eating the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day?)

And then some of the usual suspects chimed in. (In all fairness, the post originally did have a slight connection with tango.)

Anyway, I just thought I'd mention it because the post is funny and I'm obviously not working on the things I'm supposed to be working on right now. I've pretty much been thinking about Funyuns (to eat) and hedgehogs (not to eat).

Speaking of strange and unnatural foods (and if you are a vegan, please don't take this personally), but yesterday at work we had/endured a Vegan Chocolate Cake for someone's birthday. There was only me and another guy who did not fall for this trick. We both surreptitiously pawned off our slices on other people after the first taste.

It looked like a chocolate cake, it smelled like a chocolate cake, but it tasted like...okay, I'll be nice here and not say what I was going to say...faux cake. That weird tofu or other secret ingredient they put in the cake reminded me of the scene in Rosemary's Baby when Mia Farrow eats the chocolate mousse ("chocolate mouse") with the drugs in it before her date with Satan.

When it's my birthday (just so you know), I want a real chocolate cake made with real butter, real eggs, real sugar and NO tofu.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I Was Stood Up Because of a Hedgehog

This is a true story.

I couldn't help mentioning it, Red Shoes.

Hell, I'd stand me up for someone this cute. And it's not often that hedgehogs interfere with a person's social life, so that makes it more interesting.

I totally understand. But you owe me a hedgehog visit.

For My Friend(s) in Slough

My next favorite dance to watch, after tango videos on YouTube and my Astaire/Hayworth and Nicholas Brothers' clips...

One More Thing

And then I am going to drop the whole issue completely.


I am not applying for the job as the Dorothy Parker of the Tango scene. The blogosphere has one of those already, and she is perfect. (Although if there was an Algonquin Round Table of Tango, I would certainly wish to be a part of it.)

I have no problem with sitting on the sidelines and watching those dancers who are drool-worthy, especially followers. I enjoy it just as much as dancing. But I only saw one follower last night who had it down. I've been to Nino Bien and I understand floorcraft when it comes to dancing in crowded/limited floorspace, trust me. I admire good technique and I know it when I see it.

So, ladies, please, do me a huge favor, if I am going to be sitting out inning after inning and watching you on the floor instead. Keep your thighs together when you dance. Dancing with your legs looking like you and Trigger just got done with a long day of wrangling cattle is not attractive. Thank you. Oh, and stop sticking out your butt. That's not attractive either.

Okay, now I can eat my blueberry muffin and get on with my day.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Giving It the Old College Try

I tried very hard to take my own advice that I so recently gave to Nuit. I was mostly successful, meaning that I did not come home and decide to retire my stilettos.

But man, that place is tough. I'm just not sure it's worth the effort.

The floor was like ice. I had to change my shoes and still I was constantly petrified of losing my footing. Everyone was slip-sliding away and catching themselves. Even a simple ocho was scary. Forget embellishments.

I had two tandas without any connection to the leaders whatsoever. And then, after quite a hiatus, what I can only figure was a mercy tanda from a very kind teacher. Perhaps it pained him to see me sitting there for so long. I appreciated the gesture, to be sure.

I saw people that would normally dance with me in other venues come over, give me a kiss, say how nice it was to see me, and then...nothing.

Plus, my Tango Cad was there. He came over to say hello, and at that point it was really time to go home.

So, here are the tiny gems I walked away with:

1. I got to see Ms. Tango Hours (who looked beautiful) and we had a few minutes to chat before the line of admiring dancers took her away.
2. I got a great parking space.
3. My hair looked cute.
4. When I'd had all the fun I could take (ha) and got outside, it was raining fairly hard and the air felt exceptionally cool and clean. I didn't put on my coat and I got a bit wet, which felt wonderful.
5. Got in my car and listened to Por Una Cabeza and Desde El Alma, both of which sounded great with the rain coming down.
6. Came home to The Boy, who was all smiles and being a little bit silly.

And lastly:
7. Have given myself permission not to go back there again, and am not going to worry about it, either.

So there.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Back in the Saddle Again!

I went dancing again last Thursday night after two weeks of feeling like crap. And then today I went to the last afternoon outdoor milonga for the season at Union Square.

It is such a nice feeling to be dressed up, feeling the energy flow through me again and the anticipation of getting onto the floor, and moving to the music with my eyes closed. The only good thing about being sick is that first real day when you realize, Wow, I feel really good right now.

I had a sweet connection with someone at La Pista, and I look forward to dancing with him again. His musicality was wonderful and I think we were both pleasantly surprised with each other within a few seconds of starting our first dance. In between songs, he told me I danced like a Porteña. Which to me was a great compliment.

He asked if I had ever been to Buenos Aires, and I answered, Yes, last year, and he said, Oh, that explains it. And then gave me one of those nice little squeezes that says, Yes, I'll keep you.

We danced two tandas together and then I danced once more tanda with him before I went home. During the breaks between songs, we shared our experiences at Los Dinzel, the tango school/studio in Buenos Aires where we both were fortunate enough to practice and dance with the amazing teachers there.

The Dinzels are revered teachers who have taught many other wonderful dance teachers, one of whom is my lovely teacher Roberto Riobo. When I met the Dinzels, I could immediately see their influence on him and where he developed his style of teaching and expression and feeling. The other teachers there were so open, kind, and enthusiastic about our dancing, no matter what level we were at. And my favorite, darling young Gabriel, who spoke no English and had me put an "X" on a tiny map to show him where San Francisco was, I shall never forget. I cannot listen to Caceres' "Tango Negro" without thinking of him and the most perfect milonga I have ever danced in my life.

Please, please go to the Dinzel studio someday if you treasure your tango. Walking down the narrow sidewalk, flanked by rough stucco walls, entering the courtyard with dancers from all over the world resting wherever they can find a seat and having a sip of water in between lessons, the tiny rooms covered with old posters, newspaper clippings and fading photographs, and the worn and warped floors (still amazingly perfect for any tango shoe), will make you feel that you have entered a sanctuary made just for you.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Tilt

Okay, that was really fun!
Today I went to the Pacific Pinball Exposition with my boyfriend (to be identified now as The Boy).

Picture a convention center/expo hall filled with hundreds of pinball machines, from the antique models circa the early 1930s to the new ones with all the souped-up bells and whistles. That cavernous room sounded like a crazy Vegas casino. For $20, you have unlimited access to all of the pinball games you can stand. The expo is open until midnight, too.

Let's face it, guys, there are a lot of things in this world a person can be addicted to, besides tango. I'm not saying one addiction is better than another, mind you. But I can totally see how you could become addicted to pinball. It's pretty damn fun.

So, come to find out that The Boy is something of a Pinball Wizard. He told me he used to play a lot of pinball at the Select bar during the summers on St. Barts. But that was a long time ago and he is still really good. I guess there are some things you never forget, like how to ride a bike.

He knows that you can do these little tricks with the flippers and actually aim the ball at different gadgets, instead of flailing around and just trying to keep the ball from going right past you. He beat me every time, except for one game.

We were going to stop by this expo for an hour, and then go to see the Blue Angels airshow for Fleet Week. The Blue Angels have been roaring through San Francisco airspace for the past couple of days on practice runs, and if you didn't know any better, you'd think San Francisco was preparing for some sort of air raid. Those planes are LOUD.

Anyway, we ended up drinking sodas and playing pinball for a solid 4+ hours, and by that time we were worn out, only to find that the Blue Angels had flown away. (Just so you know, when you play pinball for over 4 hours, it makes your wrists hurt from grasping the sides of the machines. And your fingers get tired from pressing those flipper buttons.)

So here's to the day. In honor of The Boy, his favorite band, and Roger Daltrey's awesome hair. At least now these lyrics make sense to me:

The Truth Behind The Last Supper



I'm trying to learn about the history of Italian Art to get ready for the trip. We won't see the Sistine Chapel, but it's still worth studying.

This video has helped me a lot. One of the best MP sketches, ever.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Daily Venice!

I know I'm supposed to be working right now, but I couldn't help myself.

Here's a link to daily photos taken in Venice.

Now I'll get back to my piles of paper. (Yeah, right!)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Gavito y Geraldine



Laura, my new birthday-sharing sister in Argentina, sent me this link. She is an admirer of the late Gavito.

Although the energy of the dancing is wonderful and I'll watch their movements over and over again, I love how they are both laughing and looking like they're having such a fantastic time.

Update: Oops, just realized that Tango Junkie linked to this video too, a few weeks ago. But he had a lovely post, Make Her Look Beautiful, to go with it. You know what though...this video is so great that it's worth watching many times.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Heartstrings

Alex posted a really beautiful video with his favorite milonga: Flor de Monserrat. He said that's the song he plays over and over again.


It got me thinking about the song I have on continuous loop, either in the car or in my head. It makes me happy when I'm feeling low, and it makes me happier when I'm already in a good mood. It's a vals, not a milonga.


Desde El Alma. I can never listen to it too many times. It's the one song that will make me put my dancing shoes back on when my feet are killing me and put my car keys back in my bag.

This is a really sweet interpretation. A stage show but the choreography really captures the wistfulness of the music. Tell me what your most oft-repeated piece of music is. Maybe I need to add to my list.

Monday, October 1, 2007

I See Dakar, I See Vienna

I may be giving you too much information about my age here, but for all of you who watched Romper Room when you were a kid, I'm going to bet that your favorite part of the show was when the Magic Mirror came out.

The Magic Mirror was this plastic frame with nothing in it. The teacher held the Magic Mirror, through which she could "see" us out there at in the home TV audience.

"Romper, bomper, stomper boo. Tell me, tell me, tell me, do. Magic mirror, tell me today. Have all my friends had fun at play?" She would call out the names of those lucky kids: "I see Jimmy and Suzie and Kevin and Katie!"


I was of the Miss Mary Ann era. I couldn't wait for her to call out my name. (She never did. Oh, the crushing disappointment, and the eternal hope that next time she would see me.)

Now I have my own Magic Mirror. It's called Site Meter.

Not to freak you out like I'm Big Brother or anything (the government takes care of that for me already), but I love to see your visits to me on Site Meter. There's this super cool little map thing where I can see you all out there in blogland. (Don't worry, I can't really see you. I just see little dots where your ISP is.)

I was going under the assumption for quite a while that I was the only one who read my blog, and I was okay with that. I really love this little blog, and I guess I'd be writing it no matter what.

But now I look at this map and I see people all over the world, just stopping by to say hello and take virtual tea with me. People from Australia, England, Nepal (!), Poland, Ireland, France, our great states of California, Florida, Texas, New York...and of course, Argentina. And those are just the ones I remember right now.

So, mostly, I just want to say Thanks! And Hello! And Bienvenue! And Hola! And
Dia Duit! And Ohayou gozaimasu!... I'm glad you're out there. Makes this world seem a little smaller and a lot more friendly.


The Comfort of Like Minds

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one. -- C.S. Lewis

I read this post, Hotness as Opposed to Heat, by Red Shoes today. I read it about three times in a row.

It felt like she had taken the thoughts in my head, sorted them all out, and wrote them so beautifully and with such clarity.

I'm not trying to steal her thunder, by any means. I guess I'm trying to say that it's so comforting when you find someone who can express what you mean, but a thousand times better than you could yourself.

Thank you, Red Shoes.