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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Vote for Me

My friend from across the pond (I know it's a cliché, but I like saying it), the talented Christie of the droolworthy blog Fig & Cherry, has nominated me for a 2008 Blogger's Choice Award.

Since it is an election year, I hope that you will take a moment to remember it is our solemn duty as a democratic society to vote our conscience (even if you do not live in America), so I hope you will vote for me at least once (unless you live in certain parts of Texas or Florida and then I think you should vote for me as many times as possible).

If you vote for me, as your proud candidate of the (insert your party here), I promise to:

  1. Kiss your baby (if you have one). Or kiss you if you are cute.
  2. Only be involved in maybe one or two sex scandals a year, tops.
  3. Write in complete sentences and never use the word "nucular."
  4. Never start a war or other unauthorized police action in another country.
  5. Write about cool, entertaining stuff that is interesting to me.
  6. Take blurry pictures of myself and post them with either a) suggestive and introspective quotes by Anaïs Nin, or b) neurotic and funny quips by Woody Allen.
  7. Insist that you develop a passionate love for silent films, film noir and Barbara Stanwyck.
  8. Try to make you dance with me or at least write me an email once in a while.
If you feel that I am the candidate of your dreams, then click on the little icon below and follow these easy steps, which are lifted verbatim from Fig & Cherry:

1. Sign up (it’s free and takes 1 minute).
2. Click on the verification link sent to you via email.
3. Sign in and type in the search bar (top right) ‘tangobaby’ (as one word).
4. Select ‘Best Hobby Blog’ from the drop down.
5. Click on ‘Vote’.

My site was nominated for Best Hobby Blog!

If, by some grace of whatever divine authority might be floating about somewhere, I win this award, then I believe that I will receive: a lifetime supply of Peeps, a recreational motor home that I can use to travel across the country and meet my constituents, and a million dollars in quickly deflating US currency.

No, really, I don't think I get any fabulous cash and prizes. (But a lucrative publishing contract so I can write at home in my pajamas would be cool.)

But if I did win, then I could do my Sally Field impersonation for you. And I promise--right here, right now--not to get stuck up and boastful.

If nothing else, you should vote for me because if you knew all of the gyrations that I had to go through to get these two perfect screen captures from Sleeper, you would know that I am very serious about creating a quality blog and you would be very impressed.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Reverie

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”


~~~


“How wrong it is for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself.”


~~~


“We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.”





My New Glass Eye

Whether he is an artist or not, the photographer is a joyous sensualist, for the simple reason that the eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts. -- Walker Evans

I have never owned a proper camera. I've had the occasional disposable camera and have taken photos with various cell phones once in a while. I hate having my picture taken because it always turns out horrible, and I've always felt that having a camera would keep me from paying attention to where I was and what I was doing because I'd be spending all of my time looking for things to take pictures of intead of actually being present where I was instead.

I always chose to enjoy other people's photos and to appreciate the artistry of their eye and observation. And to pride myself on my memory so I wouldn't need a bunch of photos to remember things (the memory part which is now very obviously going by the wayside).

I thought all of these things before I moved to San Francisco. And then all of a sudden I wanted a camera.

Even though day-to-day life in San Francisco can be dirty and grubby (but what city isn't?), this city is a magical place to live. From day one, my eye would catch a something that screamed out to me to take its picture. A doorway or detail in a beautifully painted Victorian home (they're all over the place). A flowering garden. The usual tourist sights. A person who attracted my interest (San Francisco is full of them, too). I kept feeling like I was missing out on capturing something interesting or beautiful, that I was missing a wonderful opportunity to play show-and-tell with myself and others.

It was like my eyes woke up finally, in a different way.

This added perception has been simmering inside me all the while, but when it came time to shell out several hundred dollars for a camera, the money always seemed to find other things to spend itself on.

And then last year I went to Venice. The Boy very kindly let me borrow his steadfast little Olympus, a point-and-shoot that took some decent photos but could not come near to capturing the overwhelmingly beautiful decadent, decaying glory of that city. So I did the best I could and took some snapshots, and when I came home and sorted through them all, felt the frustration of seeing that a lot of the photos I thought I had taken existed only in my mind and that I hadn't actually taken those photos at all.

So my New Year's goal was to get what I called a Big Girl camera. And bless those friends and bloggers who I pumped for information about what to kind of camera to buy. But in the end, the money I kept trying to save for my camera was getting eaten up by bills.

***

The Boy has come to the rescue again. Last week he bought a beautiful camera on a whim while walking down Chestnut Street (apparently guys indulge in/fall victim to Retail Therapy, too). For some reason he did not know about my camera yearnings and has generously given me this perfect Canon PowerShot S5 IS, which is even better than the Nikon I was considering. It's mostly mine to use as I wish, except for baseball days when he will take it to the Giants' stadium and use the super-duper zoom function to take photos of the pitchers on the mound.

Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

So I've been taking my camera with me everywhere. I cradle it to my chest on the train to and from work like it is a baby. I haven't taken as many photos yet as I thought I would because I am learning that serendipity doesn't just arise when you want it to. But those moments and places will come, and when they do, hopefully I will have the lens cap off in time to catch a little magic.

I know I have a lot to learn about this new desire, but I'm looking forward to the process and seeing what happens.

Buying a Nikon doesn't make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner. -- Author Unknown

The first Big Girl photos are here on my flickr account. See what you think.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Remembering Richard Widmark

I wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to and recognize a wonderful actor who just passed away: Richard Widmark. What I notice more and more today with contemporary movies is that there just aren't actors of this his caliber anymore. Which is probably why I don't see many new movies at the cinemaplex these days.

Richard Widmark had a long and varied career, but he first became a star by playing baddies. Except for Jimmy Cagney, I can't think of an actor who made a bad guy more nefarious and strangely charming than Widmark.

I had a really hard time just choosing three movies that I would recommend if you have never seen him before. But I think I would have to start with Pickup on South Street, Kiss of Death, and the amazing Night and the City. Once you see these films, you'll be hooked on Richard Widmark just like I am.

Here's a super terrific scene from Pickup on South Street. It's the first movie I ever saw Widmark in, and it's a fantastic noir that will have you wrapped up in the plot from beginning to end.



Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Flowering of the Hands




"Your hands should move like doves." -- from Carlos Saura's Flamenco

One of the myriad of things I am learning to do in flamenco is move my arms and hands carefully and gracefully. In flamenco, you make these undulating and flowing embellishments with your hands. They are called floreo.

The flowering of the hands.

I like practicing these movements because I happen to like my hands a lot. They have always been one of my favorite parts of me.

When I was little, I used to twirl my hands and wrists and watch them move like they had a life of their own. Like they were sea creatures swimming or ribbons made of silk.

I have been making flamenco hands my whole life and I didn't even know it until now.

Below are two excerpts from the movie Flamenco that beautifully illustrate the concept of the floreo.





Flamenco Hands, originally uploaded by vergentino

Marianne Dashwood for a Day?

"What care I for colds when there is such a man?"-- Marianne Dashwood, Sense & Sensibility

Because I am stalling and NOT doing the things I am supposed to do right now (seems to be a recurrent theme), I just took an important quiz to find out which Jane Austen heroine I am. I would have pegged me more for an Eleanor Dashwood, but funnily enough, today I am Marianne.

I am Marianne Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

I have to admit that I certainly enjoy viewing the world through my Jane Austen eyes.

I know for sure that I have some Marianne in me, but my more logical side is trying to convince me that I am an Elizabeth Bennet or Eleanor. Maybe I have to take the test over again.

Or maybe I am ready to run off with Willoughby when he finally comes to his senses!

The quiz is courtesy of a new favorite blog I'm enchanted with. I'm curious to know how you turn out. Boys need not apply.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Pandora Experiment

"Cagigal is one of those rare alchemists of the imagination... [this is] a show that'll change viewers' estimation of magic forever." -- SFStation

I just went to see a great magic show called The Pandora Experiment on Friday night at the Exit Theatre on Eddy Street. It's much more of a participatory experience than just a magic show, and Christian creates a most charming, fairytale space in which he performs his act. I don't want to go into too much detail because if you're in the SF Bay Area, I really want you to see this show while it's still running.

The truth about really good magicians like Christian is that they don't need the televisions programs, the flashy sets, dry ice, live animals and disappearing city landmarks that most people associate with magic shows. An excellent closeup magician can perform an effect right under your nose and you'll have no other inclination than to be completely amazed. Not even the best televised performance can compete with what is happening, or not really happening, before your own eyes.

Christian is also a gifted mentalist which, if you haven't seen a mentalist or don't know what one is, then you are in for a treat.

Here are some recent glowing reviews of The Pandora Experiment from Christian's blog: here, here , here and here.

Below are two great clips that give you an preview of Christian and how talented he is. I hope you will go and see this show. It's playing at the Exit Theatre through April 12.







Friday, March 21, 2008

I Know You Might Be Wondering What I Do All Day

Sometimes I wonder too.

This is my last Easter-related post and then I swear I will do something important at work.

I don't know about you, but this was one of my favorite television commercials. I thought maybe some of you would like to relive one of the good parts of the 80s with me.



The ending is the best part, of course.

Oh, fabulous! It's almost time to go home!

I Have an Easter Question for You

I did not grow up celebrating Easter. For those of you who did, I bet you do not realize what a total bummer it is to be five or six years old and wake up in the morning and NOT find a behemoth Easter basket full of treats behind the sofa. It is probably one of the most disappointing things that can happen to someone under the age of 10.

So now I am kind of obsessed with Peeps. But when I ask other people if they will be eating Peeps as part of their Easter basket extravaganza, they look at me as if I just told them I am going to eat a bowl of mud.

So here's what I want to know: What's wrong with Peeps? (Did you know that a box of five little Peeps is considered to be one serving and only 140 calories?)

Is there a secret something about Peeps that I don't know? Don't get me wrong. I am going to eat real Easter candy, too. Oh, I did just discover the deliciousness that is the Reese's Peanut Butter Egg. OMG, omg.

Look how cute these Peeps are. You can even make a rainbow with them. I don't understand what the anti-Peep attitude is all about.

PS. For those of you who would be interested in an alternative explanation of Easter, be sure to watch this. (Disclaimer: But don't watch the clip if you don't like fabulous transvestite comedians who are truly brilliant and make fun of stuff so then this might be considered offensive.)

UPDATE 3/21, 3:27pm: I have just returned from a late lunch to find a lovely Easter basket on my desk. Not only does it contain Peeps, it also has Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs, an Almond Joy Egg, a Cadbury Mini Eggs, two bottles of pretty nail polish, two rolly lipglosses (the 7os kind) a pencil, some body lotion and a pad of heart-shaped paper! Whew! What a haul!

Someone at work is reading my blog.

I think I know who that special someone is. Thank you, Easter Bunny!

Peeps on Parade thanks to PhoenixFeatherPhotos.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

There's Something About Gene

"I laughed. I cried. It was better than Cats." -- from Saturday Night Live.

I don't know even where to start...I'm tempted to say that this might have been the singlemost coolest thing I've done in San Francisco and I don't really think I would be exaggerating.

So picture this: The Castro Theatre, San Francisco's historic movie palace, a packed house filled with 1,400 people. I was sitting four rows from the stage because I had gotten there early enough to score some pretty awesome seats for myself, The Boy and another movie-freakish friend.

The theatre had us entertained with their organist who played the huge Wurlitzer organ. He played "Putting on the Ritz" to get us in the mood for the film we were to see, and everyone laughed to hear the first few notes. Then, he began to play “San Francisco, Open Your Golden Gate” which is the cue to us regulars at the Castro that the main attraction is going to start, and people really started to get excited.

The people of San Francisco Sketchfest, who hosted this event in conjunction with the California Film Institute, gave a very brief introduction to the person we'd all been waiting for. Then the lights dimmed a little, and the first few bars of "Pure Imagination" came through the speakers, and to a person, everyone stood and wholeheartedly applauded the man walking slowly down the aisle toward the stage, Gene Wilder. Willy Wonka to all of us there.

Of course, my eyes filled with tears immediately and I wasn't the only one who was blinking rapidly.

The man is exactly like you would imagine he would be. Smart. Quietly funny. He exudes an aura of calm and humor. He gave us a little background on Young Frankenstein. He told us how he came up with the concept, what happened when he called Mel Brooks (who wasn't interested in the idea) and how the movie actually got started. He merely whetted our appetites for more, and then the movie began.

It's an entirely different experience seeing films in a revival house where you are surrounded by complete and like-minded fans. It's a big reason why I love watching old films at the Castro and my former home-away-from-home, the Stanford Theatre. And why I rarely see new releases anymore. Whether it's noir, silents or special events like this one, being in a crowd of people who truly appreciate every nuance of a classic film they may have seen dozens of times, who know when all of the best lines are coming, or can anticipate every laugh, it creates an atmosphere, a shared experience that you will not find in the latest blockbuster at the cinemaplex at the mall.

I really can't tell you how many times I've seen Young Frankenstein, because I've seen it a lot. I know that movie by heart. Seeing it with such a gigantic crowd who loves the film just as much as I do was really something. But seeing it and knowing the that guy who is up on the screen, who dreamed up the idea and who wrote the screenplay, that he is sitting somewhere in that darkened theater with you, hearing us laugh...sharing that experience, now that was incredible.

We clapped and laughed in unison. We cheered at all the right times.

After the movie, when the lights came up, Gene came back onto the stage, where they had set up two chairs and microphones, and of course we gave him another standing ovation. The mood in the room was so light, so happy. He had to wave his hands to make us sit down. I think we would have stood and applauded for much longer.

The interviewer for the next hour was Paul Gilmartin, who hosts something on TBS called "Dinner and a Movie." Gilmartin was a good interviewer, and except for the crazy man who wandered up to the stage and handed Gene a flyer while quoting something from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory before the intruder was hastily booted from the auditorium (don't forget, we are in San Francisco where crazies abound), we hung on every word that Gene said.

He talked about working with all of his costars in Young Frankenstein, he talked about relationship with Richard Pryor, his childhood, a little bit about Gilda (he described her as a "firefly") and his home life in Connecticut, his wife of 16 years who he loves very much, his art, his writing and how he became an actor. Then, they allowed questions from the audience, which he graciously and adeptly responded to. He told us his comedy inspirations were Danny Kaye and Sid Caesar, and how he met Mel Brooks, and why he didn't see the remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

We just didn't want him to stop talking. It was like having a beloved relative come to visit. But it's obvious that he's getting older (he's 73) and I'm sure these events are a drain on him. He still had to go upstairs and autograph a ton of books. So people started filing out and getting ready to line up for autographs and The Boy and I decided to head for home. And as we walked to the exit, there was Gene right in front of us, maybe six feet away, hugging someone who I guessed might be a relative. I was so close to him. His blue eyes are just like you would expect them to be. And the "Pure Imagination" song was playing again, and of course I got all teared up as we walked behind him (!) for a few feet, and I tried to watch the back of his head, until he was swallowed up by the crowd and we went outside into the cool, foggy air.

UPDATE 3/21: Here is the write-up in the SF Gate/Chronicle, which is more reporterly and less emotional than my little piece.

Photo from The Oldie, whatever that is.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Not in My Name


This morning, the first people I saw coming up from the train station were the war protesters. How sad to mark five years of desolation, destruction and lies.

I am not as eloquent as others, so I would rather point you to one of my favorite bloggers, Tara from Paris Parfait, for her poem and her post today.


No matter what your politics are or how you vote, I hope that today we can all come together and give very serious thought to this sad day, this five-year anniversary of a war started not in my name and probably not in yours, either.



Top photo of the inventors of this debacle (and that's me putting it very mildly) from the header of The Center for Public Integrity.
San Francisco protest photos from today's SF Chronicle. Read more about the local protests here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pure Imagination

...it's not that I want to be someone different from me, but I suppose it partly is that. I love creating a character in a fantastical situation, like Dr. Frankenstein, like Leo Bloom, a little caterpillar who blossoms into a butterfly. I love that. --Gene Wilder

***

I can't believe I didn't mention this before, but I'm going to see Gene Wilder tomorrow night in person at the Castro Theatre. I've had these tickets for months, waiting waiting waiting. He's going to give an hour-long talk before the showing of Young Frankenstein. I mean, give me a break. Gene Wilder, the comedy genius of my childhood and beyond.

I am fairly beside myself with joy. I'm sure tomorrow I will be completely silly and useless at work. I am not sure how much more perfect a Wednesday night can be.



The Waco Kid: "I must have killed more men than Cecil B. de Mille."



Do not open this door: A favorite scene (YF), which is pure fucking comedy genius.




The only movie I probably saw more than Car Wash as a kid was Silver Streak.



And The One, The Only Willy Wonka! You are not allowed to mention Johnny Depp in my presence in conjunction with this role. Never.

And when he eats the flower at the end of the song, my sister and I used to go freaking nuts.

I love Gene Wilder. Is it Wednesday yet?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Forget the Brownie

Remember that brownie I told you about?

Old news. I've moved on.

It's all about Kara's Cupcakes, baby. In the Marina, on Scott. Bake sale cupcakes were never this good, ever.

From left to right: Sweet Vanilla (yummiest), Chocolate Velvet (popular flavor but not the yummiest IMHO) and Sweet Chocolate (second yummiest).

I know I haven't been to Miette at the Ferry Building, which is shocking since I go to the Ferry Building all the time. So expect a cupcake report from there in the future.

I do this for you, people. In case you ever come to San Francisco, it's really important that I keep up with all of the food options for you.

Thanks to The Boy for treating and making sure I didn't have to eat all three of these by myself. On a sunny day, you can sit outside Kara's with your cupcake(s) and your little pint of milk and feel like a 5-year old who can drive a car. It's fun!

PS. For some reason, a lot of the food porn I look at secretly is really focused on cupcakes. Like this one. And this one. I'm such a victim of the media. heh heh heh.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

"Don't Worry, It Gets Better"

That is what my flamenco teacher said to me at my second class on Saturday. My teacher is very sweet to me, and she smiles at me with a mixture of fondness and what I presume to be extreme pity. She is so graceful and has such presence. I want to be her. Really badly.

I am a person who tends to look at and aspire to the end result, and I don't always think about how I'm going to get there. Having the right shoes and the skirt with the ruffles at the bottom is definitely putting the cart before the horse. Although it would be surprising that I wouldn't be tragically horrible after only two classes, at least it is the shoes and ruffles that tide me over in the moments when I feel like such a supreme klutz.

So now I am realizing that I am just plain hard on myself whatever I am dancing. It doesn't matter if it's tango, flamenco or ballet. I want perfection. But I'm not strong enough yet. I don't have the muscles and the stamina to keep up. (Hey, lady, lighten up. It's not even been a week yet since you started this latest adventure.)

These classes are really tough on this old bod and brain. I feel like I've been beaten with a stick. Pretty much everything on my entire body hurts right now.

But in a way, the sore muscles feel good. It's a reminder that I'm working on something that is important to me. I don't know that to do about the sore brain though. So many expectations.

I guess that I forgot to mention that I'm taking ballet now, too. I'll esplain later.

Just call me Lucy.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Happy Ides of March

Even though there was nothing happy about the Ides of March for Julius Caesar, it is a day that only comes once a year (well, don't they all?).

It's just rare that a day reminds me of freshman high school English class, so I thought I should mention it.

Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry "Caesar!" Speak, Caesar is turn'd to hear.

Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.

Caesar: What man is that?

Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Cinema Paradiso and Tango

The other night, I was at home watching a movie I haven't seen in ages: Cinema Paradiso. This film is a heartfelt tribute to the art of movies, and to the people that love them. If you haven't seen this film before, or you haven't watched it for a long time, you should watch it soon. The story is so simple and sweet, and the emotional score by Ennio Morricone is sweepingly beautiful and haunting. (You might find it derivative of the score from The Untouchables that was released the year before Cinema Paradiso, but who cares...it's lovely to listen to.)

Watch this clip: I promise it will make you happy (it's the best part of the movie).



So with that music fresh in my mind, it was wonderful to find what Psyche at Tango With Wings just posted . A beautiful video of Horacio Godoy and Cecilia García dancing the most gorgeous performance to this same haunting music. I had no idea who Cecilia García was until about 15 minutes ago, and now she enchants me. Watching her dance to this music is wonderful.

Now watch this clip, and next time you're at a milonga, see if you can ask the dj to play this for you...and find someone wonderful to share it with.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Font for a Friend

I am a very lucky blogger because, just like The New York Times, I have stringers who write to suggest story items for tangobaby.

This image and information was provided to me courtesy of the wonderful dutchbaby.

She knows about my predilection for fonts, typography AND tango and thought to share this with me.

So I am sending this with a kiss to my font-designing friend in BA, who I hope will love this very much. Believe it or not, this is actually a Linotype font. It's amazing how far this company has progressed.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dancing Queen

The Boy is always asking me Why do you love to dance? What is it about dancing? What is it about girls and dancing? Why do girls love to dance?

The Boy has a curious nature and those are perfectly legitimate questions, considering how much time and money I put into my dancing endeavors.

When I try to explain myself, though, it just comes out sounding silly. I say things like When you hear music, doesn't it just make you want to get up and move? That's how I feel when I hear certain kinds of music. I can't keep still.

His answer is No. But he loves to listen to music. It's just that the music doesn't make him want to jump out of his chair and move about.

I usually counter with Why do you love baseball so much? I ask this question in return not because I'm trying to be argumentative, but because sometimes it's hard to explain why you love something (or someone, for that matter) and I'm trying to illustrate a point. Because one person's love of something is another person's total mystification or non-love. The only thing I like about going to a baseball game are a certain kind of bratwurst that they sell at the Giants stadium.

Some things can't be explained rationally. They are either experienced or they aren't. They either resonate or they don't.

***

The picture above is me at the ripe old age of two. It must be my second birthday because the floor in the photo is littered with gift wrap and ribbons, and the baby stroller with the doll in it that I am feverishly pushing must be a present. (That is probably one of the few photos of me in actual contact with a doll. Not too much later, I dumped the dolls in favor of my Tasco microscope and fossil collection. I always thought dolls were pretty boring.)

The reason for the photo is not to prove that I once played with a doll, but because it shows me in my leg braces that I wore until I was three. I was born with developmental hip dysplasia, a condition that's not too uncommon, especially in baby girls, and has a genetic component. (My mom and sister both had it too, so obviously more than blue eyes run in my family.)

If detected early, the child's recovery can be total. In my case, the hip dysplasia wasn't diagnosed for a while which, had it been any later, I would have had to had surgery, which is the least desirable treatment. So I ended up in leg braces that I wore day and night until my third birthday.

I don't remember being in the leg braces, and from what my mom tells me, they didn't hurt. They just looked like they were painful and I guess people used to ask my mom if I was a cripple (that was the term used in the pre-PC days of my babyhood), which I'm sure made her feel terrible.

I was thinking about The Boy's question, and my braces, and wondering if the two are connected in some deep, mysterious way, in my way back memories, my inner life. Like I said, I don't remember wearing the braces, but that doesn't mean that they didn't make an impression on my psyche in some way. Maybe I couldn't wait to bust out of those things and get moving like everyone else. Get dancing. Get down!

Whatever the reason is for my dancing, the fact that I can walk and dance and move--that's entirely due to my mom's persistence and insistance that her baby girl get the right treatment that she herself never got. My mom had some half-assed surgery when she was seven, and now has a fused hip and arthritis for which she can't be treated. She bears it well, with the good humor and patience that makes her so special and she doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about the things she can't do.

So I'd like to think that maybe I dance for me because I love it, and also for my mom. Because she made it so that I can.

Thanks, Mommy, for everything, including my dancing legs. I love you.

***

And just because there's nothing wrong with a little gratuitous ABBA whenever possible, please enjoy Dancing Queen, embellished with Japanese subtitles, no less!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

She's Just Not That Into You

Dearest Tango,

I never thought it would come to this, but I need to start seeing other dances.

For over two years, you have been my light in the night. Sometimes you were the only thing I looked forward to and I waited for days to have you. You've given me a way of being, of feeling, that I guess I always had inside me but never knew how to express until I met you. You've made me feel confident, sexy, beautiful and an object of desire--to myself, if no one else.

You've also made me feel lonely, insecure and inadequate. But that's not fair to blame it on you--you didn't do that. I did it to myself.

Even though I love you so, dear Tango, I think I'm getting bored, unsettled, unsatisfied. I can't believe it myself, and I'm not sure what happened. I know experienced dancers say this happens to everyone, this slump I can't seem to break out of.

It's not you, it's me.

I'm not giving you up completely. That could never happen. I'll always want you in my life. I just need to stop putting all my eggs in one basket.

Love always,

tangobaby

***
Tonight I started my first flamenco class. It was very challenging and my feet really hurt right now.

I'm going to have to learn to build stamina (which I don't have), muscles (ones I don't use) and precision (thinking!), while remaining graceful and poised. I'm going to have to do many things at one time: swirling wrists, flowing arms, bent knees, stomping feet and tapping heels.

Tonight I felt like a different kind of dancer. Like a dancer who only needs herself to be complete. I am not used to that. That is going to take a lot more practice than any kind of technique. Dancing on my own, alone. But in the company of women who are strong and powerful.

I think that sounds really awesome.

Wish me luck.


The first and third paintings are by talented contemporary artist Fabian Perez.

The second incredible image is El Jaleo by John Singer Sargeant.


***

Here are a few videos so you can see what the fuss is all about. The second one in particular reminds me of the veil dances in bellydancing.



Muni Lust

Despite the fact that I am all jacked up on Excedrin this morning, I got a brief respite from my morning tiredness/commute/
yucky headache by standing almost face to face with someone who looked like a young Harrison Ford. Holy cow. (Normally, my time spent on public transporation is more like this and this.)

He looked like Harrison Ford circa first Raiders of the Lost Ark and maybe Witness. Floppy hair over the forehead, just perfectly scruffy and unshaven enough but not in a planned, affected way but also not too messy either, square jaw, green/hazel eyes.

Of course I averted my eyes. But my 13-year-old heart went pitter-pat and I forgot about my headache for about five whole minutes.

Yay.

PS. I was going to write a different post but this one got in the way. I'm sure you understand.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Brownie I Had for Breakfast

Cold pizza for breakfast is so passé.

I am eating something for breakfast that is not for the faint of heart.

It is a decadent remnant of the ice cream lollapallooza that Ms. Wellspring and I endulged in the other night on my sofa.

It is called The Adult Brownie. It is about four times as large as a regular brownie. I had half of it warmed up in the microwave, which I then topped with two kinds on Ben 'n' Jerry's. My initial thought for the brownie is that it would be a substrate for the real attraction: the ice cream. But my head almost fell off when I took the first bite. This might be the brownie of my dreams. It was so intense that I couldn't finish even that half.

So I am trying the brownie again this morning. The label on the brownie wrapper says: The Adult Brownie. For mature tastebuds only.

The disclaimer reads: This sinfully delicious dense chocolate brownie is made from scratch in our bakery using a secret recipe that will have you begging for more.

For once, truth in advertising.

A Modern Romance

I woke up with this idea because I'd fallen asleep (finally) thinking about something else I'd written. It's interesting to me how the mind roils over itself even when the rest of you is dead to the world.

This is not a memory. It's not even a story. It's not even true. Maybe it's my first attempt at writing fiction in a long time--just an idea, really.

Like the disclaimer you see before the movie starts, all of the characters and events depicted in this piece are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. If you still want to read between the lines, then you can. Perhaps this is your story.

***
A Modern Romance

She doesn't remember exactly the date or time that they met, considering the fact that they never really met at all. It's one of those things, the way you meet people these days, in the modern way that things happen. Maybe it was the comment he made on a blog, maybe she was websurfing and found a link to something he said on a topic that interested her. She was probably looking at websites instead of doing what she was supposed to be doing.

But then again, she thinks maybe he found her and that's how it started. Yes, that's what happened. He sought her out.

He sent her a kind email and commented on something she wrote to someone else. She was flattered. It was a nice way to come to the computer in the morning, after the coffee ritual, instead of looking at the normal day's work.

His email was bland, anonymous, pleasant. No name. No place. The world, anywhere.

She wrote back an equally bland, pleasant email. A kindness extended to a stranger somewhere on the planet. She used her screen name, not her real one.

That was it. Nothing, really.

But inside the nothing was a tiny seed.

~~~

He must have looked for a million reasons to write back, when there was nothing to say to someone he didn't know. After a while, after a few days of thinking about it, he sent another message. This time, he used a screen name, too. His persona distilled into a secret name he made just for her.

Because he planned to write to her again if she answered this message, and now he needed a name. But you never give your real name, just to be safe. You make up something that sounds like how you would be, if you ever met for real.

She wrote back.

~~~

The moment there is a message in your inbox, something out of the mundane--not a request for a spreadsheet, not a scheduling request--something inside you quickens for a second. It's like receiving a message in a bottle, a message floating seemingly aimlessly, rocked by waves, but a message really with one intense purpose.

The message never says this explicitly, but this is what it means:

Save me.

Are you real?

~~~

She's not alone, she's not lonely. She has a good job, a nice figure, nice friends, a personality that often goes untapped by the normal course of events. He seems to bring out something in her that she knows is always there, but for which there is no natural outlet. It's a quieting feeling. It reminds her of when she took organic chemistry in college, mixing clear liquids in a graduated cylinder, and when those anonymous fluids swirled together, looking like nothing more than water mixing with water, the esters created in the compounds produced a subtle scent, like a fresh peach, like flowers.

Before those liquids mixed together, there was nothing.

~~~

This time when she writes back, she uses the first letter of her name, instead of her screen name.

To him, that single initial is like catching a glimpse of her ankle.

Then he thinks: You are real.

***

To be continued.

Must go back to sleep for a while to see what happens next.


Painting, La Lettre, by Delphin Enjolras (1857-1945). Snatched from Femme Femme Femme.

Here's to the Ones We Didn't Kiss

I hate it when I do this.

It's really late and I get this idea in my head that I can't shake until I write it down, get it out of my system.

Then I can try to fall asleep.

Tonight I watched the DVD Elizabeth with Ms. Wellspring, and part way through the movie, one of the actors in the film reminded me of someone I once knew, someone who I was infatuated with and with whom the feeling was reciprocated. The romance was short-lived, and I really can't remember why it ended before it began anymore.

I had completely forgotten about this person until tonight. It bothered me that I could not even remember his name until a few minutes ago. And then I remembered a little bit more, puzzle pieces starting to reassemble themselves into a picture again.

***

Those people we almost kissed. Or maybe we did once. Maybe we brushed by them in the hall at school or at work. Maybe our fingers almost touched their sleeve. Maybe they looked at us when they thought we wouldn't notice. Or vice versa. Maybe they walked us out to our car, at night. Maybe the sky was dark except for the pool of light of a single streetlamp. Maybe or maybe not.

These people are our blank slates. We wonder, we imagine what they would have been like. What it would have felt like. But we'll never know.

The road not taken.

***

It's funny that I could not remember his name or what happened to him. But then the rest did come back. Years later, I received his resume for a position we were looking to fill at work, and all of a sudden, my heart started pounding in my chest as I read his name, his address, his qualifications. My boss asked me to interview him because she was too busy, and I did.

We exchanged pleasantries, two strangers to perform an interview. He was married (so was I at the time) and his wife had just had a baby. I remarked on his past from his resume, and asked him--as nonchalantly as I could--if I seemed familiar. He said he didn't remember me. My heart fell and I went on with the interview, secretly crushed. He left our office with my promise to get back to him.

The next day I got an email from him. He apologized for pretending not to remember me. He said he could never forget me. He said he did not want to be considered for the job. And he wished me well, always.

So we are someone else's blank slate, too, sometimes. We just may never know whose blank slates we are.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Silk Road Tango

If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.-- Alphonse de Lamartine

I have always had a fascination with Orientalism, the Silk Road, the Spice Route. Places well traveled by explorers, traders, pirates and armies. Lost cities and rediscovered ruins. Places where East and West came together and shared cultures and arts, but where they also clashed and struggled. Although the original Oriental Express stopped service last year, I still travel it in my imagination.

I have already been to one city on the Silk Road: Venice. And one city on the Orient Express: Paris.

I am wondering if my next trip will be to another place I've always dreamed of visiting along that fabled route: Istanbul.

I did not realize until lately that Istanbul has such a vibrant tango community, although my dreams of going to Turkey have been around for much longer than I've been dancing tango. However, I do have to admit that would be icing on the cake.

I just found this beautiful video of two dancers--
Celine Ruiz and Damian Rosenthal, more inspiring dancers that now I must follow and watch for--filmed at a tango festival last year in Istanbul.

Tangoing along the Silk Road
: it sounds too good to be true! (If any of you have danced in Istanbul, please let me know...even if I can't go yet, it will help me build my daydream database.)




Photo courtesy of National Geographic.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Hope for the Future

Tonight I had a really remarkable hour-plus conversation with a relatively new friend of mine, whom I'll call C.

C. and I talked about everything from the current presidential candidates and who we would vote for, to growing crystals in a laboratory setting, to what our favorite number is and why.

C. is seven years old. Seven going on 40.

I know C. because she goes to her mother's nail salon after school. C's mother is Vietnamese, a sweet, quiet woman who gives excellent manicures and massages. For many months, I only knew this woman's name. I had no idea she had a husband or a child. She hardly speaks and when she does, it is a challenge for her and clearly she is not comfortable speaking English. (Sadly, my attempts at speaking Vietnamese only provoke laughter.)

A month or so ago, C. was in the salon when I came in after work. She was doing her homework, being very studious and very shy. After a few visits and some sporadic chatting (The Boy was the first to draw her out of her shell), C. has finally gotten over her initial shyness and today was the day that the dam broke. She started out by helping me and Ms. Wellspring select our nail polish colors, and 1.5 hours later, we had covered a variety of topics that started with what our favorite colors were and ended with a discussion of the difference between horses and ponies.

While C's mother tried to keep her daughter from "bothering" me, I had to explain that this conversation was nothing but pure pleasure for me. What strikes me immediately about this little girl is her incredible intellect. She is very well-spoken and is an excellent conversationalist. Her diction is perfect; her thoughts well-reasoned.

C. and I talked about Abraham Lincoln and his assasination by John Wilkes Booth, Martin Luther King, and all of the museums C. has visited in the past two months. C. told me about how black people used to have separate drinking fountains from white people, and wanted to know if I had heard about that. I told her I did, and then she remarked that white people didn't used to be very nice to black people. I agreed with her and told her that white people didn't used to be nice to a whole lot of people.

C. told me that if she was old enough to vote, she would vote for Barack Obama because he talks about hope and she thinks that is important. To have hope. Her friend would vote for Hilary because she is a woman. I said I just want the person who can do the best job, but what's great about this country is that everyone can have their own opinion about things and it's good to be able to talk about it.

***

My heartstrings tug gently at meeting immigrants like C and her mother. C's mother reminds me, in her quiet, hardworking way, of my paternal grandmother. My father's mother came to the U.S. as a woman barely out of her teens, escaping the bloody revolutions that consumed Russia before the birth of the Soviet Union, before communism crushed the souls of the people who did not or could not leave. My grandmother came to this country traveling in steerage, made the requisite passage through Ellis Island, and then on to New York where she met and married a young tailor who was raised in an orphanage.

My grandmother always spoke with a very strong Russian accent, which embarrassed her, and she never learned to read and write. (I remember trying to teach her to read and we both struggled valiantly. She was my impetus to become an adult literacy tutor years later, and partly why I feel that literacy is crucial to the success of our country.)

But my grandmother raised two sons, one of whom joined the Navy and the other (my dad), who went to a good university and got his degree in history. The contrast between her poor and humble upbringing and our "normal" suburban life was never lost on me. My grandmother's tales of narrowly escaping Cossack raids, eating potatoes in the bowels of the ship that brought her to America, and her remembrance of her first taste of ice cream has always made my heart embrace the spirit of the immigrants that still see this country through wide eyes full of wonder. She used to call America the Land of Milk and Honey, and she meant it every time she said it.

Everything about America was golden to her, and seeing America through her eyes made me so proud. I love the America that embraces all people, welcomes them and gives them opportunities that no other place can. That America may be a myth, but my grandma believed in it and I did too--once.

My grandma has been gone a long time now, and America hasn't felt golden to me for a long time now either, something that makes me terribly sad at times, because I feel so very helpless about the direction our country has been heading. But tonght, little C., with her curiosity, her intellect and her vitality, gives me hope for the future.

I see a little bit of America's tarnish rubbed off and some of the goldenness shine through because of her. It's still there. She gives me more hope than even Barack Obama.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Who Made Me Mom?

This is how I feel today. Cleaning up messes.

Some people (who will never see this post) need to get their shit together.

I am NOT your mom!

If you persist with your alternatively frantic/whining behavior and general lack of appreciation, then I will have no other resort than to send you to your room.

And that may adversely affect my yearly review and possible raise.