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Monday, December 31, 2007

Reanimate Me

This is how I feel most of the time over the past few days.

If I don't get over this cold very, very soon, drastic measures will be taken...

Please don't catch this cold. It's like something from a Stephen King novel. It just doesn't go away.

I do like the next photo, though. Even the Bride wore makeup! She is my kind of girl.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Slow Down, Girlfriend

It's felt wierd being out of the tango loop for most of December. It had been my plan to get a lot of practice in before Ney comes back in January and use this month's time to work on what he had been teaching me.

But then cold and flu season intervened and shot that plan all to hell.

Yesterday morning I was so excited to finally get back to dancing again: a private lesson with Shorey before she left for Providence and then my favorite milonga at La Pista, which I have missed for two straight weeks in a row.

By the time of my lesson with Shorey, I was dragging again. It's not being sick, it's just not having any energy--no matter what my good intentions are.

The lesson turned out better than I had expected. Instead of feeling like I am starting all over again, which is how I get sometimes when I haven't danced for a while (whether it's true or not), I was more relaxed and was able to pick up where I left off much easier than I expected.

Shorey was so inspiring and encouraging, and it made me realize how hard I am on myself about my dancing. I've really got to try to cut that out. We practiced small things, little back steps, little ochos, little adjustments in posture. Relaxing into the lead, into the music. She taught me this cool move that she learned from Felipe and by the end of the lesson, we were both getting such a kick out of doing it that I made her promise to lead me sometime at a milonga because I don't know if I'll ever be led to do that step by anyone else but her.

We walked down to the Powell Street station together after our lesson, talking about makeup and travel and holidays, and as I hugged her goodbye, I could not help but feeling so grateful that I had the energy to enjoy that hour, and that Shorey is such a giving teacher. It felt like such a gift.

The train ride was quiet and I got to sit and read my book all the way home. It also started to rain and I felt that tiredness creeping up over me again, so I decided not to push my luck. La Pista isn't going anywhere. I'll be ready for it soon. Hopefully next week.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

For My Friends in Oregon

Dear Ms. Wellspring and Ms. J:

I remember when I first came under the spell of the enigmatic Opal Whiteley, having read her diary in the book by Benjamin Hoff. I have been reading books about Opal ever since. Her story is magically mysterious and fascinating.

Opal lived in Cottage Grove, and she must have been one of Oregon's most famous native daughters during her young adulthood (if she really was not the long lost daughter of the French royal family).

Hope you both are enjoying your family time up north, and just thought you'd enjoy a little bit of Oregonian history, too, if you didn't already know about Miss Whiteley.



Monday, December 24, 2007

Charles Dickens Has My Christmas Bonus

And Mr. Crummles has my heart. *swoon*

This Sunday, I finally went to the Great Dickens Christmas Faire. It's one of those things that I've just never gotten around to, and I'm so glad I finally went.

Just like the Art Deco Society that produces the wonderful Gatsby Summer Afternoon, there are diehard enthusiasts of the age when the sun never set on the British Empire, who have transformed the warehouses of the Cow Palace in Daly City into makeshift streets of old London, complete with Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, magicians, street urchins, pirates, bobbies, the parade of Father Christmas, and the procession of Queen Victoria (this year portrayed by a very slim blond woman. She must have been a very early Victoria indeed.)

Mr. Fezziwig' s Warehouse hosts troupes of talented performers: the Siamsa Scottish Dancers, and the Bangers and Mash String Band. Watching the male dancers perform, I felt a pang of regret that kilts are not commonly worn. I think we ladies are definitely being deprived: men look great in skirts. When the performers were not on stage, the floor was available for a variety of waltzes, line dances and other historical dances that everyone could participate in.

Of course, at the end of the day for me, it will always about what there was to eat and who wore what. I can't help it; food and clothes will always be at the top of my list of interests. (The bangers were excellent and the shepherd's pie was good, too.) I dressed as best I could coming into it, considering that I don't own anything remotely Victorian-looking in my closet. But within an hour at most, I was completely transformed into a proper lady, thanks to my two new discoveries at the fair: the fairylike Petrushka and her handmade hats, and the helpful ladies of Dark Garden.

Those two shops are where a goodly portion of my Christmas bonus went, happily but unexpectedly.

I hadn't planned to buy anything except for food--until I saw the exquisite artisan lovelies of Petrushka's little booth. Petrushka is one of those ageless pixie-type people whose art and passion for lovely adornments are her life. The hat pictured, the "Balmoral," is a woolen beret that ties at the back, letting the ribbons fall down the back of the neck. The front is clustered with velvet ribbons and roses and a hand-etched brass medallion with a Celtic pattern. The giant purple cockade feather is frothy and arches delightfully over the entire hat. (I can't tell you how beautiful this hat really is in person. I also bought an equally stupendous green hat. I really need to get a proper camera...these pics do absolutely no justice at all to my fine hats!)

After leaving Petrushka's and feeling like the rest of my outfit did not pay proper tribute to my hat, I found Dark Garden. Dark Garden specializes in corsetry and Goth clothing, and I knew that they do a lot of custom sewing, but they had a perfectly lovely shop filled with gowns, suits, skirts, petticoats, gloves and pretty accessories. Before I knew it, I had found a wonderful satin suit, a deep plum with a black shimmer in the fabric. The jacket is double-breasted, with a velvet collar. The sleeves are full towards the wrist and the entire jacket is embroidered. The jacket flares from the waist with a peplum, and goes over a slimmer, calf length matching skirt. I was already wearing black boots, so the outfit was pretty perfect. I shoved my old clothes in a bag and went to the coat check to get rid of them for a while. (The picture at left is from a catalog, but that's the jacket in the same color as mine.)

After that, I could do no wrong. Men smiled at me. I curtseyed and they laughed. People came up to me to compliment me. Someone took my picture. Mostly, I think it was the hat.

But whatever it was, I got to have a proper waltz with the very handsome Mr. Crummles. Mind you, I don't know how to waltz. I know how to tango and that's really about it. I can do a rudimentary Charleston, Lindy Hop and some East Coast swing, none of which would be required at a Victorian ball, either.

I had been standing by and watching the couples waltz: ladies in their full-skirted ballgowns and the men in their cutaway coats and breeches. My mom, who was seated next to me, asked me if I had noticed the tall good-looking guy who had been dancing, and I had to admit that there were several so I didn't know who she meant. At that point, a man touched my elbow and asked politely if I would like to dance. I had to be honest with him and tell him I didn't know how to waltz, to avoid disappointing him. My outfit made me look like I fit in, but I didn't want to embarrass either of us. I told him that I can do Argentine tango, and he smiled and said if I can do that, then I can do anything. Yay. *smile*

So off we went onto the dance floor. He offered his arm, and I took it. It felt so very proper. He introduced himself to me as a Mr. Crummles (who happens to be a favorite character from Nicholas Nickleby, so that made me smile) and I was so flustered I didn't have time to invent a persona so I just gave him my real name.

The waltz was smooth and lovely sailing for me. The dance involved some turning about the partner and making a "window" with the arms to look at each other (if any of you know what I am talking about, please enlighten me). Mr. Crummles was very kind to softly speak the steps and I think I did just fine, considering. Of course at the end, I had to blurt out that I thought he was amazing and that was the only time he broke character. I told him I that owe him a tango someday. When I was escorted off the floor, my mom said that was the guy she was talking about. Lucky me. (Again, I think it's all about the hat.)

There is a Dicken's Ball in two weeks from Saturday. I have until then to improve my waltzing in case Mr. Crummles makes an appearance. And I'll be sure to wear my lucky hat again, just in case.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

For Ranman

For my hep cat tanguero buddy...have a swingin' Christmas!

Extra points if you know about the Man with the Bag (who isn't Santa).

Friday, December 21, 2007

Santa Baby

Dear Santa,

I really don't know what to ask you for (yet). It's been such a great and exciting year, all things considered. I think I pretty much have everything a girl could want.

I guess I'll just ask for more of the same: love, friendship, health, dancing, travel and maybe some more shoes from Remix.

If I think of anything else, do I still have a few more days to in get my request, or is there a cutoff date?

Thank you,


PS.: Santa, if I were you, I'd use the chimney in the front room. But you probably knew that already.


Tina and Alex already posted their favorite Christmas movie.

It just isn't Christmas for me unless I've watched my favorite double feature: Jean Shepard's charming A Christmas Story and the classic British film Scrooge (1951). Both films are presented in their entirety (but in sections) on youtube, thanks to some devoted fans. Scrooge can't be embedded but if you click on this link, you'll get to the first part and then you can take it from there.

Of course, I'd recommend you get the DVDs. And a box of kleenex for when you watch Scrooge. It's the best version of all of The Christmas Carol movies. Promise.

Here's a funny little coincidence: The Boy looks a lot like Ralphie, except he isn't blond. But he does have those exact same glasses and a big dimple. And he is always getting into trouble.


If I am not watching these movies, then I might be working on drinking my year's supply of egg nog while listening to Vince Guaraldi's jazzy classic Charlie Brown Christmas or David Sedaris' stupendously hilarious story of Crumpet the Elf in the epic Santaland Diaries.

(Small question: why isn't egg nog available all year round? I don't think that's right.)

Happy Happy Happy Holidays to all of you!


Computers and Armageddon

This has not been a good week for me and the computers, software and printers that I use for legitimate work purposes (i.e., not blogging). I could never be an IT person. I would have killed myself by now.

Of course these technological conflicts always happen at the worst possible time, usually centered around deadlines of some sort.

Which reminds me that it's time to watch one of my favorite Eddie Izzard clips again:

If you are an Eddie Izzard virgin, then I am very happy to have introduced you to him. If you like smart men who wear makeup, your life is now complete.

Eddie is the sexiest man in makeup on the planet. I cannot believe I have not blogged about him already. That's like me not writing about movies or chocolate.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Looking at the Bigger Picture

If you are like me (or not, hopefully): tired in general, not dancing, tired of runny noses and sneezing and holiday shopping madness...

I just wanted to look at a different bigger picture right now, to get out of my little tired world, and here is what I found. The Forehead of the Sky.

I like that.

Be sure to scroll to the right. The view's pretty f**king amazing from up here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Silly Cure Redux (Pour Mon Pauvre Garçon)

My Boy is sick!

Cher pauvre garçon:

Please drink lots of hot liquids, take lots of naps and watch this clip over and over again until you feel better. Harpo will help you until I get home.



Sunday, December 16, 2007


We went to see Kooza, Cirque de Soleil's newest show, last Friday.

Watching this performance was like seeing a dream come to life. The attention to detail--from the gorgeous costumes and makeup--to the live music, sets and lighting (thought of you, Ms. Red Shoes) enhances the already amazing performances and makes this a spectacle you don't want to end.

From CdS's website, here is a brief description of the show:

KOOZA tells the story of The Innocent, a melancholy loner in search of his place in the world.

KOOZA is a return to the origins of Cirque du Soleil: It combines two circus traditions – acrobatic performance and the art of clowning. The show highlights the physical demands of human performance in all its splendor and fragility, presented in a colorful mélange that emphasizes bold slapstick humor.

The Innocent's journey brings him into contact with a panoply of comic characters such as the King, the Trickster, the Pickpocket, and the Obnoxious Tourist and his Bad Dog.

Between strength and fragility, laughter and smiles, turmoil and harmony, KOOZA explores themes of fear, identity, recognition and power. The show is set in an electrifying and exotic visual world full of surprises, thrills, chills, audacity and total involvement.

My favorite part of the show was the performance of the three amazing contortionists, a young trio known as the "Magic Pixies." Which describes them perfectly. These gorgeous creatures wear body suits richly colored in gold and red, and perform their astonishing act on a dais that rotates. They are like living, flowing sculptures. They reminded me of dainty cloisonné scorpions, pretty yet powerful and strong.

The first clip below gives you a partial view of their act with clear footage and sound.

The second clip, which doesn't have the same production values, does showcase their entire routine (it starts at 2:42).

Part of what is so amazing to me are the ages of these fantastic performers: 11, 15 and 16. The youngest, Natasha Patterson, is a local girl from just over the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County.

The equally talented trapeze artist who performs before this trio is seventeen years old and speaks 5 or 6 languages. I think it's wonderful that some people are getting such an amazing jumpstart on life, and seem to be enjoying their talents and gaining a greater sense of the world, much more than most people ever will. In an age where many people yearn to be famous, but not necessarily talented, it's refreshing to see that for some young people, the love and dedication to what they do brings happiness and also recognition.

(Some tango-related topics in this vein include Danzarin's recent post, Johanna's post, and mine, the subjects of which also show that age is no barrier to talent.)

If you have an opportunity to see Kooza (the schedule is posted on the website link above), you should definitely do so. I think you'll be transported, fascinated and have a great time.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


You were right, this was the best scene in the film:

Apparently, they only say f**k 281 times in the movie, and dude just a mere 160 times. Funny, it seemed like more.

I went from the Marx Brothers to Preston Sturges to the Coen Brothers in one night.

And the Gipsy Kings singing Hotel California--brilliant.

Better than vitamin C! I think I'm cured.

The Silly Cure for What Ails You

I've tried massive doses of Airborne and chicken soup to ward off the company flu bug, which has insinuated itself between me and two milongas and a private lesson with Shorey this week. Damn.

So it's germs winning over tangobaby, 3 to zero.

The healthy cure isn't really working so I've switched to something more enjoyable: takeout Chinese food and the Marx Brothers in one of my favorites, Horse Feathers.

I'm still trying to figure out what the hell a College Widow really is, though. All I know is that it seems like a great job: you get to dress up in negligees and hang around the house looking cute, and have men bring you breakfast in bed. Where do I sign up? Thelma Todd had it right (in the movie, unfortunately not in real life).

Guess I should get out of these sweatpants.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Staying Put

Well, now that I'm all fired up about makeup since my last post, think about how many times have you been invited to dance with a leader only to see his shoulder covered with foundation, lipstick or mascara? Yuck. Makes the embrace a little less inviting, doesn't it? And it's certainly not his fault, that's for sure. Poor guy.

Inevitably, smeared faces can be the result of a close embrace dance. I've thought of some products and ideas that will reduce the chances that your dance partner will need to throw his shirt in the trash when he gets home.

In general, here are the basic rules to prevent smudging and smearing on you and your partner:

  • Less is more.
  • Avoid cream and gel-based products, including eyeshadows and blushes. The odds of them creasing and smearing on warm, sweaty skin is pretty much 100%. I'd skip the gooey lipglosses, too, just because those are bound to end up somewhere other than your mouth.
  • The term "waterproof" is extremely subjective. It is a great marketing tool, however. I have yet to find a truly waterproof product (my litmus test is the crying bride). Don't see waterproof written on something and think you're home free.
  • Keep some q-tips in your little makeup kit in case you need to clean up a bit in the corners of your eyes.
  • I'll say it again: Less is more.

  1. If you're going to wear eyeshadow and you have a problem with it all running into the crease, use an primer for your eyelids. The best one I've ever used by far is the Laura Mercier Eye Basics. I like them because: a little goes a long way, they dry extremely matte but make a great base for holding shadow, and they are opaque so if you have dark or discolored eyelids, it will act as a concealer so you can use lighter eyeshadows that don't usually show up on you.
  2. Set any creme you wear (foundation, blush) with a light layer of translucent setting powder. Cremes, by nature, will break down on warm skin, so setting them with powder will make them last longer. And when I say translucent, I mean just that. If you need to blot your nose, using a powder with pigment in it will keep adding more color to your face as the night goes on. You just want to keep down the shine, not change the color of your skin.
  3. Use a foundation primer. You'll probably use less foundation with a primer, it will go on smoother, and hopefully will last longer. Personally, I like the Sue Devitt and NARS primers.
  4. Try not to use too much makeup on the sides of your face and your neck. Usually the area needing coverage is the T-zone. If you can get away with it, maybe all you need is concealer and powder. The Laura Mercier Secret Camoflauge is the bomb. But you might need to have the sales associate help you find your color and show you how to use it the right way. GET THE BRUSH. Once you get the hang of this product, you'll love it.
  5. I happen to LOVE the Vincent Longo Lip/Cheek stains. I don't use them as blush but as a pretty permanent lip color that you can top with a little chapstick or a teeny bit of gloss, they are awesome. I wear them all the time and the color really lasts. They tend to be bright but you can apply them sheerly for a bitten-lip look. Or, a cheap, classic and natural look for many is the famous $0.99 Wet 'n' Wild lip pencil in 666 (you little devil, you) with lip balm on top.
  6. I am a diehard fan of the Laura Mercier cake liner. Of all the eyeliners I've used, this one is the least likely to smudge. But you do need the brush and you do need to practice using it. I would not recommend a kohl pencil or any liner that has a creamy consistency. It just won't hold up.
  7. Get more mileage out of your lashes and use less product by curling your lashes before you pile on the mascara. I still think the Shu Uemura eyelash curler is the best on the market. Please don't skimp on this and get the cheapie drugstore brand. This is one instance where spending a little more makes a difference. Your lashes will thank you.
  8. And you know how I feel about the Shu Uemura fake lashes. I already went nuts about them here. And here.

This is just a short list of products I like, and you might have found some that you think work well for a night of dancing, so please share your knowledge with us. This isn't even close to a list of all the stuff I covet/hoard/lust for every day wear, evenings out, skin care, etc, but that all will have to wait for later.

Let me know if you have any questions! Let me know if you like makeup-ey posts. I would probably write them anyway, but it's nice to know if they're helpful to you. ;-)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Unmasking Beauty

Last week, I had another lesson after work. But this time, I was the teacher. I gave the lesson. A private makeup lesson in the not-so-private, but exquisitely decorated, cosmetics department of Neiman Marcus, one of my former haunts.

I haven't done a makeup lesson in a while, and it was such a fulfilling hour to be doing something I really love where I am not the student (i.e., tango). Sharing your expertise with someone, when you really know what you're talking about and your student is eager to learn, is a fantastic feeling.

I'm sure I must have mentioned this before, but I used to work as a professional makeup artist. I was lucky enough to learn from the best in the biz, the lady on the right, Laura Mercier. And also from some of her extremely talented disciples, who have gone on to have successful careers in their own right. I have a lot of fantastic tricks up my sleeve thanks to my teachers. Over the years, I've touched a lot of faces. It may sound silly, but I know I've also changed a lot of lives, in big and small ways, by being a makeup artist and showing women how to use cosmetics in a subtle, artistic way (and how to pull out all the stops if that's what they want). I've worked with brides, frumpy housewives, newly divorced women, rich ladies recovering from plastic surgery, cancer patients going through chemo, little old ladies, teenage girls, men, models, and actresses.

The other day, I was trying to explain to a male friend of mine about cosmetics, and why women get so excited about them. I was hoping that everything I said did not sound trite or something out of a 1950s treatise on How to Be a Lady. But I was having a hard time explaining why some (most?) women get a little ga-ga for makeup, myself included, when we're supposed to be educated and focused on so many other things than our appearance. I mean, how shallow can you get? I can have a serious discussion with you about string theory or scurvy, but the minute you ask me what my favorite lipgloss is, my eyes will light up in a feverish way.

We live in a time where our culture has done a lot to blur the distinction between male and female, I think in an attempt to let us all advance ourselves without gender being a discriminating factor, as much as humanly possible. Because of that, women today have many advantages now that our mothers and grandmothers did not have in their lifetimes, allowing us to have many more options regarding our careers, family life and other areas too numerous to mention. The flip side, I think, is that we have lost some (or a lot) of our femaleness as a result. Which is denying a large part of what makes us who we are, imho. And that always brings me back to the tango thing, but for right now this is still a makeup story.

I think women have an innate need to see beauty, whether it is something outside them, or something beautiful about themselves. It may just be a function of cultural conditioning, but if it is, then it still must have some basis in our genes or has been imprinted in us for centuries. Cosmetics fulfill a need that is hard to describe but humans have been using them for thousands of years.

Laura taught me to regard the face as a perfect canvas. To see and enhance the fine and beautiful qualities of the face that are there already. It's not about focusing on what's wrong with you, what you don't like about yourself, but about playing up the parts of you that you do like. I've learned to look at faces with an objective eye, in pieces instead of a whole, if I want to. I can quickly discern lovely features that are waiting to be unearthed, like I'm an archaeologist who's just found a shard of pottery that when cleaned and polished, will turn into a museum's treasure. I'll tell a woman: you have a beautiful brow shape, I love your cheekbones, look at how pretty your upper lip is, and she'll look at me with wonder and maybe a little puppy love in her eyes and say, Really? I never saw that before.

You show people themselves in a mirror after you've done their makeup, and sometimes they cry because you've just helped them look the way they always wanted to, so their inside dreams match the outside face that the world sees. It's like showing someone a face they never knew they had but one they always wanted. And it's real.

Hartelijk gefeliciteerd, Dutchbaby!

My dear dutchbaby,
I don't know who this little person is, but I thought she made a cute birthday card for you.
I hope your wooden shoes are filled with all kinds of goodies (maybe Loehmann's gift cards?). I hope your birthday is simply magical and the start of another wonderful year of love, adventures and happy surprises.
Happy happy happy birthday!

Friday, December 7, 2007

My Vintage Life

Last week, in addition to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, I went to the SF Art Deco Show.

The Concourse was filled with vendors from around the country selling incredible vintage furniture, art, accessories and clothing. The recorded music of San Francisco's Royal Society Jazz Orchestra added to the energy of the room.

The Boy remarked that both of us are nostalgic for an era we never lived in, and it's quite true. Everything from the 20s to the 40s: movies, fashion, books, architecture, cars (and for me especially, the makeup and hairstyles)--we can't get enough of it. It seems more natural for me to be attracted to the look of things from those years than the present time. I have always been that way. It's almost like remembering, sometimes wistfully.

And then I made a beeline for the vintage clothing sellers. The selection was so overwhelming that I didn't end up buying anything at all. I felt like I was in a museum, but better, because I could touch the velvets and silks, and try things on. I spent a great amount of time trying on hats. It was heaven.

It's amazing to see how some of these delicate dresses have survived over the years and are still truly beautiful. At 2pm, there was a fashion show, and it was tailor-made for me. The theme was the Evolution of Dance and Fashion. The presentation started with the late 1800s and the waltz. All of the gowns were authentic to each period being described and they were exquisite. The dresses, most of which had such imaginative designs and details and beautiful beading, were so flattering to the women's figures. They enhanced their femininity without being overly revealing.

The fashions became shorter and more free-flowing as the waltz evolved into the foxtrot, Charleston, etc., all the way up to the Mashed Potato, but my interest peaked at the tango, of course. I wished I could have been one of the models (she didn't know how to demonstrate the steps like I could have) but more likely it was that I wanted to wear one of the dresses.

The merging of dance and fashion and films swirled through my head that day, especially since I ended up at the Silent Film Festival that evening.

I wanted to share the following tango movie clip with you: Rudolph Valentino in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921). (You may have already seen it on Tango Love and Other Devil's great post about tango in the movies, but I think it's worth watching again.) I find this clip in particular so compelling. I like the energy and look of this short dance so much more than anything you could see on Dancing with the Stars and its ilk, that other brand of tango made for popular consumption.

As La Tanguera notes wisely, the style of dancing cannot be compared to the mastery of tango dancers then or now. I like watching this clip and viewing it as if I am seeing it for the first time, when the movie was released in 1921. According to wikipedia: The film was a commercial and critical success and made Valentino a star, earning him the nickname "Tango Legs." (And ladies, check out the spurs on his boots. In those days, it was the man who wore the dangerous stilettos, no?)

Talk about a shot heard around the world. Valentino had millions of adoring fans, so I'm trying to imagine the impact that his tango dancing must have had on the world at large. I'm guessing that he must have played an instrumental role in bringing tango into the awareness of the modern masses which, in some way, connects to us today.


Picture this:

The room, walls painted in dark deep red and gold, walls hung with drapes, twinkly lights from the ceiling (great decorating job, Tom!)

DJing by Homer, with a wonderful mix of old favorites and new music that was intriguing and exciting to dance to.

Rain pounding down outside, some windows open so you could hear the droplets hitting the pavement and the cars making those swooshy rain sounds on the street. Hard rain sometimes, like Singing in the Rain kind of downpour. Standing by the open window to get a mist of rainwater on your face to cool off once in a while.

A new dress, kimono-style and silky, in brown, red, pink and cream. With a brown sash. Red shoes. Nude fishnets. Sicily perfume. Sparkly bracelet, curly hair and my favorite: long lashes!

Ms. Tango Hours and time for a little catch up, and some hugs. Ladies I don't know who smiled at me while I was dancing. I could feel their smiles on me.

TWO Tango Angels! Confidently lead volcadas. Subtle caricias.

Driving home in the pouring rain with the window open.

Listening to my favorite car tango:

Feeling so alive!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

For All the Snowed-In, Snowy Tango Angels

I thought this photo was so striking and tango-esque.

It reminded me of you, my favorite tangueras, battling the elements in colder climates, when all you want to do is go out and dance. Here it only rains.

The photographer calls this photo Saving Myself for Spring.

I'll repost with the link later. This artist's retro photos are amazing.

Stay warm and lovely. Will write more soon.



Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Between the Words

There are rare moments where love is captured for eternity. I got to see one of them last Saturday at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

The 8pm presentation of Flesh and the Devil, the starmaking melodrama with Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, was shown to a packed house. The 35mm print, on loan from the Library of Congress, was given to the library's archives after the film was restored in the mid-80s by Warner Brothers. According to the archivist who flew out from Washington DC for the festival and gave the audience an introduction to the film, this print had never been shown before.

Acclaimed musician Dennis James, who is widely known on the silent film circuit for his amazing performances on piano and organ, provided the film's accompaniment on the Castro Theatre's Wurlitzer organ. Having live music playing while you watch a film raises the viewing of that film to an event. It becomes a total experience.

I had tried to do my homework before seeing this film, so I already knew that it was the vehicle that made Greta Garbo a huge star. I also knew that this film began the real-life stormy love affair of the two stars. However, even if you did not know that Garbo and Gilbert were lovers offscreen, you would have figured it out very quickly upon seeing them together.

There was no artifice in their scenes together. The first scene where Gilbert sees Garbo as she gets off the train at the station--that look is one of a man completely besotted by love. It gives you the chills to peek into someone's heart like that.

Here is an illuminating quote about the film, from another blog I enjoy, The Crowd Roars:

John Gilbert's friend at the time, Adela St. Johns, said many years later of the actor's love for Garbo:

"It was an explosion. I've never seen two people so violently, excitedly in love. I mean when she walked through a door if he was in the room he went white and took a great, long breath and then walked toward her as though he were being yanked by a magnet or something." ...Director Clarence Brown said that when he would shoot a love scene with the two he would finish the filming and leave them alone. "It was embarrassing," he said, feeling like an intruder.

I wish more people were exposed to and had the chance to learn to enjoy these movies. The perception that they are irrelevant could not be more untrue. To quote The Boy: Silent movies are anything but silent. The way Garbo hands Gilbert the cigarette that she has been toying with in her lips...um, that cigarette is anything but a cigarette. She knows it, he knows it, and so do you. These movies are full of moments of extreme feeling and emotion because actors need more than dialogue to tell you their story.

What I love about these films are the nuances. The things that exist between the words. If you know what to look for and even if you don't.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Dramedy That Is the Office Holiday Party

I have had the dubious honor of helping to plan and organize our office's Holiday Party. We are on high-drama alert this week. The party is on Saturday night.
Our office--a very very upscale boutique interior design firm in San Francisco--try to use your imagination that the levels of this drama can get to. Hands down, the men here definitely outdrama the women. Even the women with PMS.
Our office is such a great candidate for a reality television program. You would love us. We would get fabulous ratings. And we would look extremely stylish while doing it.

I've never had a drink during the day, but I am considering it. I just took some Excedrin. Can you drink and take Excedrin at the same time?
I cannot wait until this is o-v-e-r.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Breathing Lessons

I have never been very comfortable dancing with other women. It happens through necessity: due to an excess of followers in class, being picked as a helper during a lesson, and on very rare occasions at a milonga.

Upon pairing with another woman: First, there is the sisterly giggling, usually over where the collection of breasts will arrange themselves in an embrace. That relieves some of the tension but still doesn't allow for a completely relaxed embrace. With a woman, the smallness of stature, the curve of the hip, the tiny hand in mine; I don't have the usual anchors I am used to in a leader--the broad back, the height difference, the wide palm. Strength is missing.

So dancing with another woman, I am off. I am tentative. I don't move with the confidence I normally would. I feel more fragile and my partner feels more fragile than me. I am afraid of crushing her. It's hard to seriously dance.

Until my first class with Shorey this week. I was really nervous for some reason, and immediately upon meeting her I realized I didn't have to be. But on our first dance around the floor, I could feel myself stiffening up. So did she.

Breathe, she says after the song is over, you forgot to breathe. You were holding your breath for almost half the song.

So then I tried to pay attention to my breathing. To make sure I was remembering to breathe. At times, it seemed forced and artificial. But with every exhalation I could feel a loosening up: in my hips, in my legs, in my mind. As the hour progressed, those layers of separation I have in my mind when I dance with another woman started to peel away, like the layers of an onion. She was so encouraging, so completely genuine.

I am starting to see tango as a dance between humans, not merely between sexes.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"You Have 1 Friend"

My memory was jogged yesterday when I read a post on Sorin's blog. Apparently he, like many others, has an addiction to Facebook.

Which reminded me that I have a Facebook account too. A little friend in NY invited me to join recently, so I did. And then was completely mystified by the whole thing. I mean, I do get the concept of social networking. (Except for the part where you can throw sheep at people, slap them with trouts, etc. Then I feel like Mr. Spock: That is not logical.)

Mostly, Facebook must be like the electronic equivalent of passing notes to your friends in junior high biology class. The whole business makes me feel like I should get myself a Hello Kitty backpack before participating. Whereas blogging feels like working on the school paper.

The sad thing about my Facebook life is that I don't have one apparently: I can't participate during the day, which happens to be a large part of my day. And that to me would be the purpose of Facebook: to interrupt the workday (not that I have anything against that).

Our firewall at work blocks the site with an imperious warning: "Pornography: Access Denied by Server" so as a result I cannot send growing gifts and take movie polls instead of doing my boss' reimbursables or writing secret blog entries. I would have to do all of my Facebooking at night, which when given the choice between that and other activities, just ain't gonna happen.

So as a result, last night I went back to my Facebook account, where I am solemnly told that I have one friend. Sheesh. That's harsh. Since the best analogy to Facebook I have is high school, out of curiosity I decided to look up my high school alums to see who participates.

I found:

  • The creepy kid who sat behind me in Madame August's Honors French class who always wore fatigues and carried well-thumbed copies of Guns and Ammo magazine in his Pee-Chee folder (anyone else remember Pee-Chee folders?).
  • One half of a popular cheerleading twin sister set, who now has gained at least 50 pounds and wears her hair like Rachel in Friends, but with more obvious highlights.
  • Another guy who's name is familiar but nothing else. Apparently he is married and has a lovely wife and three children.
  • Three other random people of whom I have no recollection of whatsoever.
So it looks like I will continue to have one (Facebook) friend for the foreseeable future. I will not be looking up old co-workers next.

ps... I do recommend that you check out stumbleupon. It allows you to find really cool websites and I don't know if it's considered social networking (I guess it is) but I have met some interesting people there and found some cool stuff.

pss...I have a private lesson (my first) with Shorey Myers today as a late lunch. I like the idea of interrupting my work day with tango. What I wouldn't give for a lunchtime milonga in Union Square...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Time Travel, Part Two

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is having a one-day special showing of some classic films.

I would like to see all three presentations; it's just a matter if I can sit in a seat that long (if I have to pick one, I guess it will be Flesh and the Devil with Garbo and John Gilbert--real-life lovers on the silver screen):

2007 WINTER EVENT DECEMBER 1 at The Castro Theatre

Program 1--11:00am VITAPHONE VAUDEVILLE (1926-30)
Program 2--2:00pm INTOLERANCE (1916)
Program 3--8:00pm FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1926)

This past summer was my first exposure to the SF Silent Film Festival. It was an incredible opportunity to see these movies with live music accompaniment, lectures on film history and restoration (completely fascinating!), and the beautifully restored films on the big screen.

Here's my first post about the festival. I'll be a regular attendee from now on. It's amazing to see how some things are truly timeless and connect with people in many eras.

Monday, November 26, 2007

For the Jacques Cousteau of Sleep

Think about this poem next time before you fall asleep. You will have sweet dreams.


Emily Dickinson (1830–86). Complete Poems. 1924.

Part Four: Time and Eternity


Ample make this bed.
Make this bed with awe;
In it wait till judgment break
Excellent and fair.

Be its mattress straight,
Be its pillow round;
Let no sunrise' yellow noise
Interrupt this ground.

Dance and Danceability

What wild imaginations one forms where dear self is concerned! How sure to be mistaken!

Sometimes I will be sitting at a milonga and can't help but compare what I observe to something exactly out of a Jane Austen novel. It is curiously fascinating to me to watch people through this filter of Recency manners. It is where I would rather watch the interactions silently than dance sometimes.

I don't do it all the time, but there are some milongas that bring out the inner Jane in me. Certain dances have a much more observable differentiation of the levels of people and a certain stratification of the attendees.

I am still trying to figure out which character I am. I must be one of the country cousins. I am certainly not one of the first tier of grand ladies.

Studio Gracia last night was a perfect example. My new Willoughby was there (or I like to think of him that way), throwing me overboard for the Miss Sophia Greys and her ilk.

I am still waiting for my Mr. Darcy, Colonel Brandon or Edward Ferrars, though. I don't think those types go to Studio Gracia.

I seem to find more of the Mr. Collinses at this particular place, which is probably why I don't go very often. And then there are the young officers on leave from their regiments. *sigh*

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Zooing the Baby

Today was a play day.

My niece came with her mommy (my little sister) and her daddy to see Auntie Tangobaby and Uncle Boy in San Francisco after their Thanksgiving holiday in Chico.

We had a day of firsts:

First big real day at a zoo.

First meerkat village. (Johanna, I told them you said hello.)

First giraffe feeding and first baby giraffe sighting.

First lemurs (all colors).

First owl, peregrine falcon and eagle.

Some lions real close up. We waved hello and they looked at us!

We also roared like they do.

We said "hi" and "bye" and waved to everyone, including the flamingoes, the gorillas, the donkeys and even the Little Puffer Train.

But then!

First cotton candy. Even though Uncle Boy was told not to buy it, he did it anyway when no one was looking.

Now we know that cotton candy is actually crack for babies (although we ate it too).

Here is baby getting a hit from her grandma.

It didn't take baby long to figure out where to score the good stuff.

Carole Lombard Never Made You Mashed Potatoes Like Mine

Just say you love me.

You still owe me a quart of egg nog.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Letter to Olivia

Even though I've been at my desk all day today, I can't really say I've been working a whole heck of a lot.

Emails, some random phone calls, a couple of blog posts, catching up on other favorite blogs...and now the next thing on my To Do list: write a letter to Olivia de Havilland.

I guess I should explain first. Long story short, The Boy and I have a new acquaintance in Paris, a Canadian-born chef who we've been in correspondance with regularly, now known as Our Man in Paris. Somehow last week, he and The Boy got on to the subject of Errol Flynn, and Our Man in Paris drops the fact that he knows Olivia de Havilland personally.

In fact, he doesn't just know her. He's friends with her. He goes to her house and cooks for her and hangs out with her.

The Boy called me at work to tell me this, and I pretty much had a little crazy (quiet) fit at my desk. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll probably get the idea that I'm a huge classic movie fan. I can't say I'm a movie buff because I'm not that educated, but I adore old films and always have.

To say that I haven't admired Olivia de Havilland in several films is an understatement. She was a talented actress and was also the first person to take on the formidable Hollywood studio system, resulting in a landmark case ruled in her favor against the Goliaths of Hollywood.

But to say that I haven't daydreamed a million times of being her as Maid Marian in The Adventures of Robin Hood, with her fabulous succulent lips and lush fake lashes and wearing tight bias-cut silk gowns and crowns and wimples and kissing Errol Flynn in glorious Technicolor--do you have any idea how many times I've seen that movie since I was, like, eight or nine years old?! She's kissed Errol Flynn more than any other actress, I'm sure of it.

This afternoon, I went out and bought a really beautiful card. I want to send the card to Our Man in Paris and have him give it to Ms. de Havilland in person. But I'm afraid to put pen to paper, either because I'll crap up the card and waste $5.00, or probably more likely that I'll write something really stupid.

I'm really stuck though. How do you start writing a letter to a two-time Oscar-winning actress that you've admired all your remembered life? I have no idea what to say.

Because this is what I really want to ask her:

"Dear Ms. de Havilland,

You don't know me, but can we just cut to the chase here? You're so beautiful and all, and I loved you in Gone With The Wind, Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and of course The Adventures of Robin Hood, but what was it like to kiss Errol Flynn A LOT? Please tell me NOW!"

Do you think she'll write back?

Next Stop, Venice Station

I take the N-Judah train to work every day. Today the train was almost deserted except for the few poor souls (like me) who actually had to work on the day after Thanksgiving.

There is one stop on the line called Van Ness (for those of you who are interested in San Francisco history, James Van Ness was an early mayor of the city, and there's a fascinating little webpage devoted to the names of some San Francisco streets for my fellow SF history buffs out there.)

One of the train drivers, when this particular stop approaches, pronounces it "Venice Station" instead of "Van Ness."
Yeah, don't I wish!

I sure wish I could get off at "Venice Station," leaving the grubby terminal underground to see this sight when I emerge to the street level. (Well, since they're making me work today, the least I can do is blog a little and daydream, right? You understand.)

(Plus, there's a street singer outside our building who has been singing O Solo Mio and other Italian favorites on the corner of Grant and Maiden Lane since 8:30 this morning (it's now 1:49pm). The fact that we can hear him on the 9th floor of our building is very impressive but I may have to kill him soon.)

A month ago I was in Venice, exploring to my heart's desire. Now all the half-written posts I have been meaning to finish are getting pushed down the line in favor of more current events, which I haven't gotten around to either. So for the time being, I'll put up some more photos and that will help me get to 5:30, when I can pass by Venice Station again and smile.

(Yes, Venice really is this beautiful.)

The Food Baby

The Boy has a friend named Dan who publishes a funny cartoon called Bizarro.

Last week he was telling me about one cartoon in particular that made him crack up. I don't have it here so you'll have to imagine it from the description.

Two women are sitting and talking. One woman has a pregnant belly. The other woman says to her friend: "Congratulations! When is the baby due?"

And the other woman says, patting her tummy, "Oh, I'm not pregnant. I just had lunch. This is my food baby."


Let's just say we had some nice Food Babies at our house yesterday on Thanksgiving. I'm hoping to give mine up for adoption today.

For those of you who don't spend enough time on the internet already, here is another fun place to hang out (if you like to cook): The epicurious video website!

PS. I'm never organized enough to brine my turkey ahead of time, but this is the first year I injected it with butter, broth and spices...and let's just say this turkey was my best so far. Plus, you get to use this gigantic stainless steel syringe and you look like a crazy veterinarian. It's fun!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder

For you, may this Thanksgiving holiday be filled with all of the goodness and abundance that life has to offer.

For those of you who I am fortunate enough to love as family and friends, for those of you who I'll hope to meet someday, somewhere in the future, and for all of my newfound friends from around the globe who meet me in cyberspace, I am thankful that all of you are in my world.

Happy, happy Thanksgiving.



Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Tango Prayer

Oh Goddess Advil,
Mistress of Ibuprofen,
I pray to you.
Deliver me from these throbbing (and possibly broken) feet,
So that I may hobble towards another day
Full of tango--
But not tomorrow.


I just took three Advil. Is that bad?

It was so worth it though: a last private lesson today with Ney before he leaves for Italy, then another great group class, and then the milonga at El V.

I think I've changed my mind about El V. Tonight was full of all good-feeling tandas, a couple that were extraordinary. One new leader (wow) and a goodbye dance with Ney. That was the whipped cream AND the cherry on my tango sundae tonight.

For A.

My wish for you:

Happiness always.

And a lifetime of dancing. Don't stop.

And remember this:

When twilight drops her curtain down and pins it with a star, remember that you have a friend though she may wander far.

You have a friend in me.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Clair de Lune

Tonight I had to stop after work and look at the moon while I was on my way to buy Brussels sprouts to make with our dinner tonight.

It's possible that I might have gazed up for a second on my own, but the old man beckons me to stop for a moment and look at the night sky at the corner of 9th and Irving, where people are waiting to cross the street or are getting off the streetcar to destinations homeward.

I'm glad to see the old gentleman. I haven't seen him on the corner for a while. I ask him where he's been and he matter-of-factly replies, "It's been foggy." Which is true.

I remember the first time I saw this man, maybe sometime back on a cold February night: frail, with white hair combed back into a ponytail, dressed in somewhat shabby clothes that didn't seem quite warm enough, standing next to a Radio Flyer red kid's wagon with something that looked like an assemblage of coffee cans in the wagon. He was asking people to come over to him. The Boy and I were just leaving our favorite neighborhood sushi bar to walk the two blocks back to our house.

When you live in San Francisco, it's pretty much an everyday occurrence to see street people who want your attention (i.e., money), and so as an automatic defense mechanism, you learn not to look at them. Sad but true.

But this guy was snappy. It was obvious he wasn't a derelict, and he was alert and commanding in an interesting way. So we came over to him and his conglomeration of coffee cans in the wagon which, to my surprise, wasn't a hunk of junk at all but a telescope. A Dobsonian telescope. The old man wanted to show us the moon through his telescope. What a delightful surprise.

What was even a more delightful surprise was the crystal clear image of the moon as I looked through the viewfinder. You could see every little crater on the moon's surface, sharply illuminated by the bright contrasty light of the sun's rays traveling through the void of space. It was such a clear image, and large too, that you felt as if you could reach out and touch the moon. I've grown up looking through a telescope and I've never seen anything that crystal clear.

The most delightful surprise of all is that this old man is not just out for a lark on the street corner. He's actually a famous astronomer: his name is John Dobson. The Dobsonian telescope we were looking into--you guessed it--it was named after him. He invented it.

Anyway, long story short, over the past year I've seen Mr. Dobson and his telescope, enticing people walking by, engaging them in conversations about the universe and astronomy. Because of him, I've seen Saturn and its beautiful delicate rings that make you sigh because you can't believe you're standing on a random street corner in San Francisco and looking at something so beautiful. I've seen Jupiter and its great red spot. I've seen Venus and Mars and the moon in its different phases. (One of his disciples was out one Saturday afternoon with a different telescope that has a special filter so we could view the solar flares erupting from the surface of the sun.)

John Dobson is one of the most interesting people you'll ever want to meet. According to his bio, he was born in 1915, which makes him 92 years old this year. He takes his little red wagon with his telescope onto the streetcar to our corner for these impromptu astronomy lessons. He was born in China, educated in California, spent three decades as a monk, and three decades gazing at stars on sidewalks.

He's referred to as the "Pied Piper of Astronomy" and the "Star Monk," and when he's not here in SF, he's traveling around the world with his telescope. He also teaches classes on how you can make your own Dobsonian telescope.

If you can't make it out to the corner of 9th and Irving, here's a link to his website, and more about him here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

You'll Have to Answer to the Coca Cola Company

Because I'm still sleepy from last night's milonga (which I'll be sure to tell you all about later, and the private lesson with Ney and Jennifer on Friday night, and Red Shoes' play), let's just watch a movie in the meantime. Okay?


I can't say that Dr. Strangelove is my favorite movie of all time, but on certain days it surely is.

Is this my favorite scene?

Or this one?

But maybe it's this scene. I'd be a secretary like this!

Damn, this is a great film. Every detail of it is perfect. Stanley Kubrick + Peter Sellers + George C. Scott = Pure Genius.

Now I'm going to have to watch it again! Anyone coming over for Movie Night?

For Tango with Wings

Dear Psyche,

I saw this website and thought of you.



Saturday, November 17, 2007


Why is it when you are running out the door (late) to go to a milonga and you need a Band-Aid to put on your thumb, the only ones you can find in the medicine cabinet are Toy Story Band-Aids?

Well, at least it matches my top.

That's what happens when you let The Boy be in charge of picking out the Band-Aids.

When people ask me if I have any kids, I say Yes, I have a son. When they ask how old he is, I tell them he's 41.

Just Hanging Out

It's a lovely Saturday afternoon, the sky is robin's egg blue, people are out shopping in Union Square, cable cars are running up and down Powell Street, and where am I?

At work! Waiting for my boss to show up. I'm supposed to help him do a very important spreadsheet for our biggest client and he doesn't know how to use Excel. And he's late! Ugh.


Our "30 minutes, just a quick spreadsheet" turned into 4.5 hours. My Saturday afternoon is gone for good.

But the reward for my sacrifice is that I now have 4 hours of comp time next week, which will be put to good use for a last private lesson with Ney before he leaves for Italy!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Hugging Story

Johanna's recent post, Hugging Is Now Illegal, and Alex's Free Hugs inspired some thoughts of my own. I think most of us who read Johanna's post had a sinking feeling of what's going on here?!!

The story described in Johanna's post unfortunately is not the first incident in Illinois. Apparently other states have tried to avoid "harassment" by banning holding hands and hugging in schools ("inappropriate displays of affection"), as further detailed in this article published in Time magazine. One would think that school districts had more important things to worry about.

On the flip side, a study published by the BBC outlined the physiological health benefits of hugging. Of course, for those who are used to and enjoy a regular embrace, and I'm definitely including a tango embrace in this as well, this information shouldn't be much of a surprise. Other studies and books written on the effect of Hug Therapy and how important it is for infants to receive hugs is common knowledge.

So how can governments, both local and national, decide when a hug is not beneficial? Or that the danger of harassment is more serious than the friendship and comraderie displayed in a junior high school setting?

Our priorities seem so sadly misplaced.

Which brings me to the subject in the photo above, and a vibrant memory and experience of hugging.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine invited me to go with her to an ashram in San Ramon to see her guru, Amma. I had no idea who this guru was, or really what I was going to see, but my friend really wanted me to go, so I did. My only instructions were to wear a skirt, and preferably dress in light colors, which I did.

We drove for at least an hour to get to our destination and the traffic to the place surprised me. When we drove onto the property, the beautiful wooden buildings, gardens and the crowds of people surprised me even more. We walked past several immaculate gardens, some full of roses and others full of vegetables, and all were obviously tended with a lot of care and attention.

We were directed to a large barn-like building and we sat amongst a lively but orderly crowd of devotees. Hundreds of people were there--and everyone was so happy. There was a definite buzz in the air. But for what? I seemed to be the only one who didn't really know what to expect.

We were really packed in to the place. Everyone sat cross-legged (or as best they could) on the floor. Overhead fans whirled in the summer heat. After a while some Indian musicians came onto the stage and played some ragas, and everyone in the crowd began to chant in unison. The words were repeated over and over, so even I was able to join in the singing too.

And then, finally, maybe an hour or two later, Amma appeared. The electricity in the air of the big hall was all around us. A middle-aged, motherly figured Indian woman, all dressed in white and surrounded by attendants, made her way down the main aisle to the dais in the front. And the orderly procession for the hundreds of people in the room to receive their hug from the Hugging Saint began.

We all waited patiently for our hug. We waited a long time. Even while I waited, I was wondering why so many people would endure the long hours of sitting and waiting for a few seconds of an embrace? I didn't understand until it was my turn.

Amma is a woman. A human being, whom some believe is a saint. I have no opinion on the matter and am not a devotee or disciple. What I can say is that this soft, warm person wears an easy smile and smells like the most delicate flower, despite sitting for hours in the heat without moving, just hugging every single person that comes before her.

She holds you in a way that can only be described as how your mother held you when you were born and you've forgotten how that feels until now. She rocks you, she sings softly into your ear, and then she releases you. Her assistant gives you a blessed Hershey's kiss as you leave Amma's embrace. You leave the dais woozy and blissful and a little discombobulated. And then you wish you could get back in line again and you'd wait for another hour just for that hug. That night all I dreamed about was Amma, her voice in my ear and I could feel her hugging me all night as I slept. I awoke the next day full of wonder.

The following year, you bet I was back again.

A tango embrace is different but brings a similar feeling of fulfillment. I'm happy for those of us who can receive a hug daily, whether from a loved one, a dance parter, or a saint.

But I worry about the children who can't, or aren't allowed to, embrace. What kind of world are we creating for them?


For those of you who are interested, here is an article about Amma in the Christian Science Monitor.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Young at Heart

Fairy tales can come true,
it can happen to you
If you’re young at heart
For it’s hard, you will find,
to be narrow of mind
If you’re young at heart

You can go to extremes
with impossible schemes
You can laugh when your dreams
fall apart at the seams
And life gets more exciting
with each passing day
And love is either in your heart
or on it’s way

Don’t you know that it’s worth
every treasure on earth
To be young at heart
For as rich as you are
it’s much better by far
To be young at heart

And if you should survive to 105
Look at all you’ll derive
out of being alive
Then here is the best part
You have a head start
If you are among the very
young at heart

Debbi of An Ever Fixed Mark wrote a wonderful post last week about an encounter she had with an elderly gentleman at a milonga. It brought tears to my eyes to eyes to realize again through her writing the extremely emotional and human side of connection through dance, and how this vital this connection is to all of us no matter what our age is. I hope you enjoy reading about her experience.

It also just dawned on me where Debbi's lovely and sublimely named blog title stems from: Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 (perhaps her favorite?)--

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

A grateful thank you to Debbi for sharing her story, and for inspiring me to brush up on my Shakespeare once in a while.

Tango Mom

Last night was the group class again with Ney. Larger crowd, some different faces. Jennifer Bratt was there and it's so great to see the two of them teach and dance together. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to learn from Ney and Jennifer.

After class, Ney encouraged all of us to go with him to El V for the milonga. As you might remember, it's not the place I feel the most comfortable. But Ms. Wellspring and I had mulled over the possibility earlier in the day, and she was really excited to go. This was going to be her first milonga. Talk about jumping into the deep end of the pool...El V is where the big kids play.

There was a nice crowd there and Ms. Wellspring had barely put her new shoes on when she was whisked off onto the dance floor. It was so fun to watch her dance. First milonga, first shoes.

I was sitting with a friend who I haven't seen for a while, and we were catching up on what he's been learning in tango and what I did on my trip to Venice. It was great to see him and chat. I've missed talking to him.

From the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of Ms. Wellspring dancing and looking fabulous and really, really happy. Look at my friend, look at her! I told the guy I was sitting with. She's just started tango...like a month ago!

He didn't believe me. She looked so great. I was so proud of her.

I felt like...her mom. Her Tango mom.

As for me, I had some nice tandas and some nicer conversations. Perhaps I was wrong about El V? We'll see. I should know by now that everything in life has its good and bad days, including milongas and people.

But I'd go again just to see my Tango daughter dance.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Playing Hooky

Today I played hooky from work.

Not all day... just for a couple of hours.

I *cough* had a doctor's appointment. (Ms. Wellspring, you won't tell on me, right?)

Actually, I had a private lesson with Ney Melo.

Last Tuesday, I took a group class with Ms. Wellspring at La Pista. I have to tell you, honestly, this was the best group class I've taken in recent memory. Maybe ever.

The class had a good gender balance, and everyone was about the same level so rotating partners was not one of those dreaded events we've all experienced. But that's not what made the class exceptional. It was all about Ney.

Seriously, he taught something that I've never seen addressed so completely, clearly and with such honesty, fun and creativity: how to embrace your partner. First, he got us all on the right foot, literally, by making us walk. And walk. And then walk with each other. And then walk closer together.

Taking us by baby increments and with really fun and imaginative exercises, Ney taught us how to feel comfortable with close embrace. Really comfortable. But not intimidated. That was the best part.

Now, I know you're thinking why we would need a class on this when we already know it, but the truth is that close embrace is never really explained well. Or at least it has never been in my dance education. I started out with salon style, thought that was tango, and then went to Buenos Aires and felt like I hadn't learned a thing at home.

It was the only class I've ever taken where parts of it felt like a milonga. You learned but the classroom feel was missing. Everyone seemed to be having a great time, and right afterwards I signed up for my private lesson.

I knew from listening to Ney very closely that I'm going to have to unlearn some things I've been doing for a long time. And actually, I'm really okay with that. I feel like my first teachers got me to a great place with my tango, and now I'm ready to move forward.

Ney's teaching, to me, is very natural. His dancing looks very organic and effortless. He's already given me a lot of food for thought, and what he's shown me so far makes a lot of sense. I'm excited to see how his influence will help me develop and grow because I've been looking for my next teacher and now I think I've found him.

If you ever have the opportunity to take a class with Ney, please do. I think you'll get a lot out of it, and really enjoy yourself in the process. He's at http://neymelo.com