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Saturday, May 31, 2008

My First YouTubing

Do you remember the day you discovered YouTube? The day you watched your first YouTube video and realized that a whole new world of couch potato-dom stretched out langorously before you? Before all the tango videos and getting smart enough to post your own videos, when you still weren't exactly sure how the whole thing worked?

Now YouTube is so engrained in our day-to-day lives that it's hard to imagine a time when we didn't have it. I would like to say that the first video I ever watched was a tango performance, but I can't.

This is the first video I watched on YouTube, the video that cracked my world wide open. I think I laughed myself into a dead faint.

Disclaimer: DO NOT watch this video if you:

1. Don't want to hear the F-word repeatedly and are easily offended;
2. Don't want to see beloved original Star Trek* series clips used out of context and will be offended;
3. Have no sense of humor and are easily offended.

* I am a die-hard devotee of the only true Star Trek series, and that's the one with Kirk and Spock. Please do NOT try to convince me that Captain Picard and his gang of PC losers actually count.

I realize the above statement and the video might destroy leagues of devoted readers of tangobaby, but I have to take that risk and be honest with you in things that are meaningful and important. I know some of you are going to think that I am seriously deranged. I sincerely apologize for any confusion.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Wake Me Up When It's November

I just ate half a big box of Junior Mints, kind of a Friday treat.

And then I popped over to Damn Good Vintage, a new (to me) favorite blog to see some really fine vintage clothing and read some very wise political posts. That's a mix that works for me.

And then I saw her post.

I think I am going to throw up.

(In case you are not sure what you are looking at, this would be the President of the United States of America giving a shoulder massage to the Chancellor of Germany. You can read the rest of the story at Julie's blog.)


Of course, I should be immune to all of this embarrassing, bizarre behaviour because I check in with Jon Stewart regularly.

But this image is really beyond the pale, don't you think?

Below is a little Daily Show in case that wasn't enough. I'm off to get some Pepto-Bismol.

I'm debating whether or not I should read Scott Mc Clellan's book, but I'm pretty sure it's like the Daily Show but without the laughs.

Someone's Got a Birthday

I just spent a whole bunch of money (that I don't have) on this little curly-haired person. My little niece just turned two. She's coming out to visit the California contingent this weekend for a birthday blowout, in order to claim her haul of gifts and take them back to her desert home in Nevada, where she stores her loot.

I've been trying to avoid retail therapy lately, but when you're buying toys and clothes and other stuff for tiny cute people, it's futile to resist. It's the tiny-ness of the clothes that kills me.


My niece is very interested in Elmo, chocolate cake and books. (She is also a fan of prunes, which she tasted for the first time in the photo here.)

When you call and get this little person on the phone, she yells how-ah-yah!?! (how are you?) with an interesting Brooklyn-ese twang (we don't know where the accent came from). But if you ask her what her favorite food is, she yells "chocolate cake!" quite clearly and with pretty good diction.


I realized that I am very competitive in the gift-buying department. I didn't know this until today, but it's very important for Auntie Tangobaby's delicate pysche to have brought the most kick-ass gifts of all the assorted family and friends at the party.

I am not quite sure how I got this odd competitive streak, but living in San Francisco gives you access to some really great boutiques and shopping. If you saw the little outfits I just bought, your head might explode from overexposure to cuteness. European cuteness. There's this shop, Murik Children's Store, near my office that sells children's clothes from The Netherlands, Belgium and other assorted European countries that make cuter clothes than we do.

Before Little Curly Girl was born, I opened a bank account for her. When I can, I put some money in her little account, so when she is old enough she can take dance classes or music lessons. But I also told her while she was still in utero that she can use that money for Option 3, which is to go to Paris with me, and Auntie Tangobaby will buy her some fancy shoes from the City of Lights.

I think that if I keep planting the seed, with the help of very cute European-style outfits, that when the time is ripe, my brilliant niece will choose Option 3: The Paris Shoe Shopping Trip. Then she and I will run away to Paris together to buy gorgeous footwear, eat magnificent chocolates and flirt. And go to museums.

I also got Little Curly Girl a Putmayo children's CD called French Playground so she can practice her songstyling en français in anticipation of her choosing Option 3.

(She's also getting some books, a fluffy floppy soft tiger, and some refrigerator magnets because everyone needs refrigerator magnets that are plush toadstools and squirrels that you can play with in the kitchen while your mom is making you a grilled cheese sandwich.)

The chocolate cake and Elmo accoutrements she'll have to score from someone else. Auntie Tangobaby needs to get a second job now.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Space Cadet

The way to a man's heart is still through his stomach, but it doesn't hurt if you can amaze him with some random trivia, too.


We have a rule in my kitchen. You are welcome to keep me company while I am cooking, but you have to sit in the chair against the wall so that you aren't in my way. I don't like people getting underfoot while I am cooking.

So there is a designated chair in the kitchen for visitors. The Boy is now accustomed to being in his special seat while I make him meals. He keeps me company by reading to me, oftentimes something by Dave Barry, an essay on film by Roger Ebert or Pauline Kael, once in a while something about the history of baseball (for my general edification and improvement of character), but lately he's been reading a Bill Bryson book to me.

This morning, while I was making The Boy fresh berries and cream, he was flipping through his book and quizzed me, "So, what happened on October 4, 1957?"

It took me a split second to reply. "That's when the Russians launched Sputnik."

Although my back was turned to him, I could feel the waves of astonishment emanating from his chair. "How did you know that?!!"

"Because I do." (I think pulling that information out of my head at 7am is actually more impressive than knowing the fact itself.)

Challenged, the almost picked for Jepoardy contestant continued, "Okay, smarty. What was the name of the American satellite program created in response to Sputnik?"



Apparently, this little interaction has been impressive enough to launch me into the stratosphere of girlfriends. I may be at the forefront of the imaginary Girlfriend Race.


How do I know these things? The heyday of the American space program happened years before I was born, or at least in the years before I was sentient. When other freshman girls in my English class were deciding what sorority they might pledge, I was reading a galley copy (still don't remember how I got it) of an autobiography of Chuck Yeager and his stories about flying the X-1 into the history books.

I grew up in the era of the space shuttle, the minivan of outer space. But inside I pined for my missed opportunity to see the first moon landing as it was happening, instead of in movies and television programs. Of course I was interested in the Mariner and Viking probes, but they were unmanned and not in the same realm of unadulterated human courage.

Why do I care? Because to me, the space program of the 50s, 60s and 70s represents what Americans can do when they want to. That we can use math and physics and engineering in ways that make science exciting and hopeful. I realize this is a very simplistic and optimistic view of our space program, and intellectually I know that these achievements are driven by military and strategic interests. But the offshoot of this exploration is that it shows us that there's so much more to our universe than the day-to-day lives we lead.

That we might be infinitesimally tiny but we can still do great things.


Right after I finished The Boy's breakfast, I turned on the radio to hear that the space shuttle has a new mission this Saturday: to fix the toilet on the International Space Station. And while the crew is up there, they are going to leave a Buzz Lightyear doll in the space station, "in order to help educate children across the country."

Gone are the days when having a man walking across the lunar surface in a spacesuit, his only protection against the unforgiving extremes of space, would inspire kids to be interested in science, to inspire them to have goals and dreams. Now we have Disney and Pixar to educate them instead.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Snowglobes and Easter Bunnies

I was having a heart-to-heart talk with a special friend recently. She is going through an interesting time in her life where someone is turning her life upside down and making her re-examine everything about herself and what she is doing and how she is living.

In listening to her story, I sensed a similarity with an experience in my own past and told her, "Oh, that's a snowglobe person." (It's a name I made up years ago.)

Sometimes you will meet a person, someone who comes out of the blue, unexpected, unasked for, perhaps even a total stranger, and that person shakes up everything you know or think you know about yourself so that all of a sudden, life around you is filled with flurries. They can be flurries of uncertainty and fear, but if you can stand still for a moment and realize what is going on, then the flurries can be motes of excitement and change, too.

In the midst of the snowstorm, however, life can feel very cold and lonely. Especially when you see inbetween the snowflakes to the path that might lie ahead. And it's a path you didn't really want to take but you knew it was out there, waiting. You can go back inside and warm yourself by the fire and ignore the path, or you can put on your boots and your coat and start down the trail.

I think these snowglobe people do not even know that they are shaking up someone's life. I've had a couple of these people enter my life, as if it were a play. They might be onstage with me for a short time--in once instance just a week--but in that time, the storyline of my play changed course forever.

And just as suddenly as they appeared in my life, they were gone again. When the flurries settled, everything I thought I had I didn't want and what I saw in front of me was new and different. As hard as it was to change my course, in the end I am grateful to these snowglobe people because without them, I wouldn't have the life I have today and realize the gifts they have given me.

I wonder, how many of us are snowglobe people to others, and we don't even realize it.


There is another type of person I have encountered recently. I am not sure if they are a type of snowglobe person, but they might be related.

I call them Chocolate Easter Bunny people.

From the outside, these people look perfectly yummy and wonderful. They are a delight to look at and seem perfectly formed. They are intoxicating and miraculous.

So you are drawn to them by what you see, enticed to take a nibble of their wonderfulness. But when you do, you find them to be completely hollow inside, like those molded chocolate bunnies that have no center.

And you wonder, how could I have been so stupid? How could I not have known there was no substance, that all I saw was colorful foil and pretty packaging?

There is no way to tell, I think.

I have to figure out how to deal with the illusion and move on. To try not to second-guess someone and be apprehensive that I will be left with a hollow shell, a puff of smoke. To take the disappointment and rejection if it happens and make it work for me instead of being resentful.

To turn a Chocolate Easter Bunny into a Snowglobe.

One of these photos borrowed from here.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Making an Honest Woman

Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then. ~ Katherine Hepburn


At a recent milonga, I danced with someone that I see on rare occasion. Each time we dance, the only topic he consistently makes small talk about is the status of my boyfriend. How is he doing, is he still around, etc. Aside from my grandmother, who is the only other person I could regularly count on to inquire about my marital status (although she stopped that years ago), I am just not used to people wondering about when I'm going to get married.

I am going to chalk this strange fixation on discussing the well-being and intentions of my boyfriend as a slight difficulty in making casual conversation. The moments between songs can seem long and one might feel some pressure to make light banter. And since I am sure I have said plenty of lame things at dances and in life in general, I am not going to sweat it.

This time the guy commented on a ring I was wearing and asked if my boyfriend was going to make an "honest woman" out of me soon. Inside, I had to laugh.

Right now, if there's any one person who can rein me in, who can talk me down off the ledge, who can comfort and help me, it's The Boy, and having a ring wouldn't make a whit of difference.


I used to have a ring.

The truth is that I became an honest woman in the moment that I took that ring off my finger. Having put it on in the first place, although well-intentioned, was when I was dishonest.

I think some people are not cut out to be married. I happen to be one of those people.

Took me years to figure that one out.


I get the feeling from some dance partners that if I am not single, then I should be dancing with a regular partner or not at all. Or that if I was serious about tango, then I should be involved someone who dances. I've had some people tell me as much.

But since I don't equate tango with coupledom and/or conjugal bliss, this advice falls on deaf ears. And since the people who offer it to me unsolicited don't know the first thing about me and who I am off the dance floor, I have to ignore it.

There is so much more to having a true friend, a lover, a trusted companion than being compatible on the dance floor. I realize that more all the time.


The other night, The Boy and I got dressed up and went to see Herb Alpert at the beautiful jazz club, Yoshi's. Located in the Fillmore, the historic former home of jazz in San Francisco, we listened to a world-class trumpeter and his band play a polished and classy two hours of music.

Although known for his trumpet playing, back in the day Alpert sang a hit love song called "This Guy's In Love With You" (penned by Burt Bacharach). Alpert didn't sing this tune at the show, but The Boy belted it out in his smooth baritone on the way home in the car, and even though he didn't know all of the lyrics, it was the best part of the night.

To me, moments like this are worth a million diamond rings and make me the most honest woman in the world.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Morning Commutes Are Not Supposed to Be Like This

Today, the Friday morning before the Memorial Day weekend, I envisioned a commute with almost empty trains, arriving almost every two or three minutes.

Boy, was I wrong.

There is a stable of mythical beasts in San Francisco. I have never seen one of these creatures myself, but I have heard tales of their existence.

They are called shuttles.

When Muni breaks down, you hear a garbled, usually cryptic, message telling you to get off the train and that a shuttle will be coming for you shortly.

Like I said, I have never seen one of these things. Even this morning, when we all got kicked off the train (which was crowded) and were told to wait for the shuttle.

I am starting to feel like Muni is playing with the good people of San Francisco. Next time they mention the word "shuttle" over the almost unintelligible PA system, in my mind I am going to substitute "Santa's Sleigh and Flying Reindeer" or "Beautiful Mystical Unicorn."

Because those things are as likely to pick me up and take me to work as one of their shuttles. Feh, Muni. Get your shit together already!


I have also decided to come up with some alternative methods of getting to work in case the city can't find any unicorns.

Here are the choices I am leaning towards:

A sedan chair, carried by buff guys.

The Jaguar hearse from Harold and Maude.

A pumpkin coach.
A float covered in flowers and princesses (including me).
A rickshaw (I especially like this one).
A tickertape parade.
But most of all, I would love to go to work in this. Although if I had one of these, I wouldn't need to work, would I?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Double Your Pleasure

I have been wearing tango shoes all day, since 8am (oops, I mean Wednesday am--I am writing this after midnight).

I don't know why this never occurred to me, to wear my Comme Il Fauts during the day, to work. But it finally dawned on me that I don't need to save my stash of beauties for the dance floor.

I adore the shoes above and they fit really well. But for some reason this particular pair doesn't have enough support in the heel and I can't dance in them. They have actually been collecting dust, which is totally shameful. So I wore them to work and they made me very happy: to have tango feet at work, on the train, walking down the street. And I got compliments on them, too--a bonus.

And then when it was time to dance tonight, I switched to these puppies. I think these are a little too sassy for the office. I'll have to work up the courage to be seen in these shoes during daytime hours.


The milonga was nice, okay. No fireworks tonight. I saw some friends I have missed a lot. And I left earlier than I thought I would. You know, it happens.

But I was so happy to have that one dance, to "Milonga Triste," which, when I first started dancing tango, I used to listen to on continuous loop. I love this haunting piece.

When this song starts, it just makes me ache to dance to it. And luckily, someone asked me to dance so I didn't have to miss it.

He was very sweet and obviously loved the song as much as I do. He paused and moved to the music. And he smelled nice.

So that was a great way to end the day.


If you want to hear "Milonga Triste," I've found a lovely little video for you. The dancing perfectly matches the feeling of the music, another nice surprise before bedtime tonight:

Good night, everyone.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cups Overflowing

Monday night (goodness, was it only the day before yesterday?!), after lots of waiting and emailing and planning, I had the very great and good fortune to meet one of my favorite blogging sisters, Tara of Paris Parfait. Along with my local sweetie, Ms. Wellspring, the three of us finally fulfilled our in-person dream of being together.

The meeting of minds and hearts over glasses of wine and good food (at Iluna Basque!) was divine. It seemed like we had been getting together like this for years. Perhaps it's a premonition of good times to come?

Anyway, I'm still enjoying the glow from our meeting, and Tara has already written about our evening. Truly, my cup runneth over with affection and friendship for these two special ladies.

In reflecting on this feeling of already knowing, already friends, it reminded me of a a symbol that I have always been drawn to: the Queen of Cups. I have been fascinated in times past by the Tarot, the history of its imagery and the Jungian way these images come together to tell stories that help us plumb our inner mysteries.

The suit of Cups has always been my favorite. Its promise of love and nurturing and abundance is very powerful.

I could not help envisioning the Queen, holding her cup overflowing with happiness, when I think of these lovely ladies. All of us queens together, enjoying the abundance of friendship and good company. And to think that blogging planted the seed!


PS: A quickie definition of the Queen of Cups: she is often involved in creative or literary pursuits, and enjoys art, good music, literature and things of beauty. She is unstinting in her readiness to nurture others, and is often connected with motherhood, and mothering.

Lovely Victorian tarot image from Victorian Romantic.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mr. Stewart

"If Bess and I had a son, we'd want him to be just like Jimmy Stewart." ~ Harry S. Truman


Today is Jimmy Stewart's birthday. What can I say about this great actor that you can't see for yourself in his movies? But what I know about him as a person, as a decorated war hero--he was not your typical Hollywood actor.

All I can say is I am going to watch a Jimmy Stewart movie tonight and be glad he made so many wonderful films for us to enjoy. And maybe have a little birthday cake in his honor. The hard part will be trying to choose which movie to watch.

From Mr. Smith Goes to Washington:

From It's a Wonderful Life:

A TCM Tribute to James Stewart:

One of my favorite actors, Stephen Fry, discussing Jimmy Stewart:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Finding Dark Passage

Our weather came back to its senses (thank goodness). The heat wave is over.

Our fog is back!

I wore a coat and boots today.

A happy San Franciscan again.


One of the reasons I love living in San Francisco is because of the movies.

Not for the latest movies at the cineplex downtown, but to see movies where I can catch a glimpse of history in my own town.

Back in the day, San Francisco was the location of choice for many wonderful films (and I'm not talking about cheesy business like Mrs. Doubtfire and Basic Instinct).

Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, Hitchock's Vertigo, Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation, the classic San Francisco noir D.O.A., just to name a few...these films and many others are a visual time capsule of San Francisco.

Whenever I see one of these films, as much as I am enjoying the story itself, I am loving every exterior shot, wanting to see how much of these locations are left the way they looked in the film. Sometimes those places are gone and only film preserves their memory, but lucky enough, some locations are still left with some semblance to years past.


I have, in more recent years, become a Bogie appreciator. I will admit that it took me longer to recognize his quiet demeanor and love him for his style than some other actors I adore. But now I love him.

I finally saw the movie Dark Passage last week, being on my to-watch list for a while. Filmed in many locations in San Francisco, including Market Street, Telegraph Hill and Fort Point, I think it's the best pairing of Bogart and real-life love (and wife) Lauren Bacall, even though the movie did not do well at the box office. But it's a true noir, with all the requisite twists and dark characters, except that this movie has a happy ending.

What turned out to be a fun pilgrimmage this weekend was to find the Malloch Apartments on Telegraph Hill, where the lovely Bacall takes in wrongly accused, recent San Quentin escapee Humphrey Bogart.

Located on a crazy steep incline, otherwise known as the Historic Telegraph Hill District, this Art Deco wonder of an apartment building stands on a cliffside overlooking the entire bay.

I pictured Bogie up there, in his hideout from the cops, with Lauren Bacall playing "Someone To Watch Over Me" on the phonograph, while I stood at street level, wishing it was all real.

And it kinda was.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Go Here

This is the place.

For this.

And this.

And this.

But not these.

Because they are mine.


Go on.

Anyone wanna dance?

PS. I realize that I will soon be assassinated by the Comme Il Faut ninjas for photographing these shoes, but I don't care. They're worth dying for (almost).

Friday, May 16, 2008


When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school
It's a wonder
I can think at all
And though my lack of education
Hasn't hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall

They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama dont take my kodachrome away

"Kodachrome," Paul Simon
We have been having some sort of crazy heat wave here. The sweat running down your back, sweat in your eyes burning, top of the head sunburn in 10 minutes kind of weather. For San Francisco, this is really freaky. I moved here to get away from this kind of weather. I like wearing a coat in May.
This song was playing on the radio this morning after I got out of the shower. It really made me happy, where I even forgot about the heat that was already making my hair dry before I could style it. I love this song--it reminds me of being a kid and running through the sprinklers after school and tearing down the street after the ice cream truck to get a Fudgesicle.
Despite the temperature yesterday, I did play a little outside when I could. Somehow life is a little more colorful when the midday sun is blazing. Here's my take on "Kodachrome." (I wonder how many people even remember what that is?!)



Mission Street

Market Street

Duboce Park

Lower Haight

Lower Haight

Lower Haight

Sunset... in The Sunset.

Stay cool, my friends. Go play in the sprinklers.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tango, For My Non-Tango Dancing Friends

This post is for my friends, new and old, who do not dance tango. (Those of you who do dance tango are welcome to read this anyway.)

When I started this blog (ostensibly so my mother could find out what I was up to in the Big City), I chose the name tangobaby because I had to think of something so I could get my gmail account. And then as I got used to blogging, I wrote a lot about tango because it's a big part of who I am, even when I'm not dancing. That quickly chosen name was well-chosen after all.

I was, and am, in love with the dance called tango. Even though I've obviously branched out to write about other things that excite, delight and interest me, I am still tangobaby at my core.

The name tangobaby: Tango, because to me that is the only real dance for me--despite what else I might say, and Baby, because this dance is so intricate, so involved, so enigmatic and unfathomly beautiful when the moment is right that I will always be a baby in tango. Always learning and growing, but never growing up.

I am happy to admit that tango is something I will never master (although as someone with a dilettante's nature, that is a rare thing: mastery), and because of that I will always keep dancing it, as much as I am able.

A little while ago I was trying to describe what tango really is to my sweet friend Relyn, who was delightfully curious. (What I was trying to explain is that tango is not what the mainstream culture thinks it is: as seen in Dancing With the Stars, over-edited Hollywood films, glitzy Forever Tango shows, ballroom tango (ugh), the rose in the teeth, and that hokey, smarmy pablum that is a total anathema to most tango devotees (and only uttered by those who don't dance): "Tango is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire." Blech.)

This is part of what I wrote to her in an email:

Imagine this: you are surrounded by people from all over the world, nice people, charming people. But you cannot speak their language and they cannot speak yours. And then the music starts, the lights lower, and a man takes your hand and you dance with him. You dance with him as though you have known him for your entire life, and you've only just met him. He smiles and you smile because you communicate perfectly.

That is tango. And that is true.

Tango is that lovely fantasy, a shared moment of pleasure and connection that might only last a few minutes, but is the nicest way I know to transcend, share and communicate with another person.

And then I saw this video that Sallycat posted on her blog. (For those of you who remember Sallycat from the last wonderful post...)

When I watched this, I got the chills. I watched this video in silent amazement and joy. This video, of Sallycat and her teacher Ariel, explains more about what tango really means--to dance it with your heart--than I ever could in a thousand-word essay. When you watch this, you are watching tango.

If you want to read more about Sallycat's video, click here.

Beautiful tango image by Métempsycose.

Monday, May 12, 2008

My Little Love Affair

"It's simply a very romantic place. Just one look at any of those streets, and you couldn't be anywhere else -- it's so beautiful, and there's that location, and the sense of the free spirit. Who couldn't become ravenous in such a place?"~ Julia Child, Chef


Flurry. The past days and nights have been full of activity.

Here I am again at another Monday that is a little shock to the system. I could use another day to collect and renew. *sigh*

I think today I'll just let my pictures do the talking. But perhaps you might play a little game with me and take a guess as to where in the world I was this weekend?

Photo: In the Eye of the Beholder.

Me 'n' The Boy, on the Sausalito-SF Ferry.

Photo: In magical Marrakesh with Maryam (I wish, I wish)?

The Alhambra Movie Palace, on Polk Street.

Photo: In the City of Lights?

At a bistro in Russian Hill.

Photo: In Bangkok? Phuket?

Above a restaurant in Russian Hill.

Photo: At Hearst Castle?

First photo: Outside the Castro Theatre.

Second photo: On Polk Street.

Photo: In the tiny, vintage-filled glorious antique stalls of San Telmo, Buenos Aires?

On Polk Street.

Photo: Finding shipwrecks and pirate treasure?

At the Sausalito Historical Society.

Photo: At the Fountain of Youth?

At the Viña del Mar fountain, Sausalito.

Communal garden, Fort Mason.

I hope your weekend was full of delights and some flights of fancy, too.
All photos happily taken by me, and there's more where that came from here.