Category Archives: dancing

Odds and Ends

First, happy Fourth of July to anyone who feels like celebrating it. Here in Boston, we’ve had absolutely perfect summer weather all weekend, so I feel like I’ve won the weather lottery. Perhaps it’s because we spent most of the spring in cold rain. The rain we needed; the cold, not so much — I really didn’t need to see that my heating bill for May and June looked a lot like March and April. I don’t live in the far north; heating bills in June are simply wrong. But the weather has been so lovely and uplifting lately, I may actually throw myself into the Boston fireworks fray tomorrow. Or I’ll just watch them from my driveway. We’ll see…

Second, I’ve been collecting photos from my commuting travels that have made me giggle. Maybe you will, too.

The Tank

I learned to drive with what we lovingly called The Merc or The Tank, our 1968 Mercury station wagon with fake wood side paneling. It was the perfect car for a new driver because you could back into anything without getting a scratch. Except a fire hydrant, but I swear, dad, that wasn’t me. Someone must have hit me in the parking lot. Rude bastards. The Merc’s other claims to fame were the gas tank falling out while my sister and brother were waiting at a stop light, and the frame rusting clean through during one of my drives. Other than that, it could hold all my friends and was totally awesome. Those are just fond memories though, right? I mean none of those italicized words above even exist anymore. Or do they…?

I saw this in Boston, near North Station a few months ago. As far as I could tell, it had its gas tank intact. The ghost just adds to the “car of teen years past” moment.

ab_merc

Follow the Guy with the Black Briefcases

There must have been a 70’s vibe in the air, because not long after spotting the Merc, I saw this guy on the train. Who has two of the exact same cases, the perfect size to carry money or diamonds? What else could they be? Seriously, these are the “mistaken identity” suitcases of any 70s detective show or heist movie. You know, one has the diamonds that were stolen in a meticulously planned jewelry store heist, or, alternately, the priceless Queen of Sheba Black Diamond stolen from the Museum of Easily Lifted Artifacts. The other suitcase is usually owned by a hapless woman with lots of granny underwear and nighties. Hilarity ensues when the robbers grab her suitcase instead of the diamond-laden one. And she wonders how she’s going to sleep in diamonds. What I couldn’t decide was if this guy was one the of the original thieves who locked the lady in the closet and grabbed both suitcases to open at a secret location. Or was he the surprise third character who is also after the diamonds and locks up the thieves and the woman in the closet together. I decided it wasn’t worth risking getting thrown off the train or stuffed in a closet to get a closer look at him, so we’ll never know.

 

ab_switchedsuitcases

The Dancing Shoes

So this one was on my walk to the train, actually not far from the place where I found Barbie’s walk of shame dress on the sidewalk. It certainly is a lively neighborhood. I walked by these for a couple of days, and they reminded me of the fairy tale, “The Dancing Shoes.” In the story 12 princesses are locked in their room at night with new dancing shoes (they were always locking up the women back then) but in the morning their beautiful shoes are all danced to pieces. Sounds like a good time to me. The king can afford to replace them, but he doesn’t like not knowing what his daughters are up to. So he decrees anyone who can find out what’s going on gets to marry one of the daughters and gets the kingdom when the king dies. However, if you try to find out and fail, your head gets cut off. Pretty high stakes and the princesses gleefully drug all of the arrogant princes who try to find out, and they sleep the whole night away. Royal heads are rolling. A humble, injured soldier meets an old women, who essentially sells out the princesses by telling him not to drink the wine they offer him. And she gives he an invisible cloak so he can follow them! I guess girl power wasn’t a thing yet. I mean c’mon, all they are doing is dancing and wearing out shoes. How terrible, they must be stopped! So of course he follows them, and discovers they have been hanging out with 12 princes from an underground kingdom and dancing the night away. But the jig is up, the oldest has to marry him and her sisters were “condemned to be placed under a spell of enchantment for as many days as they had danced nights with the princes.” You’d like to hope that in 2017, the three princes/princesses/generally fun people who owned these shoes fared better.

ab_dancing princesses

Beauty’s Where You Find It

This is also on my walk to the train. Some of the walk is classic urban grit, like this rusty fence and broken stone wall that’s part of a bridge. The train goes underneath it, and the road is busy, and it’s near the airport, so right at this point I’ve forgotten about dancing princesses and absorbing the trains, planes, and automobile ambiance.

ab_rustywalk

But then when I take a few more steps , I come upon this:

ab_sweetpeas

A riotous symphony of color of totally wild sweet peas. Perfect.

 

Gratitude

It was a very busy week, so I’ll keep this sort. I’m happy to report the kid is graduated! I’m grateful for my sister and-bro-in-law who were able to come from Connecticut for the ceremony, for my ex for being the kind of ex where we can celebrate these milestones in peace, and for my kid who tossed up his mortarboard in joy and then promptly lost it. He’s careful most of the time, maybe too careful, so if there was a time to unload something, this was it! It also saves him from having to put it in a box and move it around for years before either losing it or find it moldering away in an attic. Well done! I’m also grateful for the live streaming so family and friends in other states could watch.

I’m also grateful for the Boston Gay Pride Parade that happened on Saturday. It certainly was a year to come out and show support. I had to leave early to facilitate graduation celebrations with the kid’s friends, but not before I got to see Senator Elizabeth Warren dance with the trans group. She hugged, she waved, she smiled, and she was hugged and selfied in return. Her and our joy was uplifting, but even more moving was just having her there. Some days it feels like she and a handful of other Congressional members are the only things standing between us and Cheeto flea Armageddon. So, I’m so grateful to live in Massachusetts, and will continue to stand behind Elizabeth and others to keep on dancing and fighting and being grateful.

I Need a Story

Post march last week, I smacked into a wall. The fast and furious issuing of Executive Orders set my head spinning like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. And while that was pretty bad, with enough meditation, denial, and wine, I can manage to block out most of it and hone in on the essential things I am able to take action on. The harder thing was having my infusion of hope from the march get diluted when a gentle, respectful comment from a dear friend reminded me I could be doing more to connect with and support women of color right now. It was that realization that smacked me into the wall — the Cheeto Satan nonsense had moved the wall pretty close to my head, but that I had let down a dear friend finished the job. I tried to write about it for this week’s blog, but that is going to take some time for me to process, so stay tuned.

So I kind of just mentally wandered around this week, staring into the distance. The emails pouring into my inbox to sign this and make these calls and announcing every minute detail of the Cheeto immobilized me, like a rabbit in the face of an oncoming car. Not even my ciggie-smoking, whiskey-shot-downing alter-ego Blanche could rouse me, though goodness knows she tried. By chance I had picked up a copy of Watership Down from the library. My sister and I both read it in high school and loved it. We even have nicknames for each other from the book. We were reminiscing about it at Christmas. If you haven’t read it, it’s a story about a small band of rabbits who leave their safe warren because one of them has a vision that something terrible is about to happen. They escape only to encounter many other difficult and dangerous situations, from crossing a river to encountering unfriendly rabbits, snarling cats, and wire traps. They manage to survive by using all the skills, cleverness, and strengths of the group. Not a bad reminder right about now.

I was curious to see if the book still holds up some 30 years later, and it totally does. In addition to giving me some respite from political and social onslaught, it also reminded me of the power of storytelling. Not just me reading the book, but in the story, there are a number of times when the rabbits, who are naturally nervous creatures, need help winding down from some dangerous situation or gathering their courage to face a difficulty. The leader rabbit calls for a story to settle the troops.

And so, to help ease myself away from the glaring, paralyzing headlights, I’m going to tell a story. It’s a funny story that doesn’t really have a moral, but it did take place in that hallowed time of the early 1980s, when we were slam dancing in clubs, trying to look like Madonna, and fighting for abortion rights thanks to Ronald Reagan. It reminds me that difficult things, good things, and funny things are always happening.

It was 1985, and by some miracle, my group of college friends in Boston found out there was going to be a 10th anniversary Halloween showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in New York. By miracle I mean this was pre-internet days, and so we probably learned about it in some crazy way like in a flyer, newspaper, or a magazine. Or maybe even a stone tablet. It was on a weeknight, and with the energy only a group of college kids can muster to find inventive ways to entertain themselves, we decided to go. We persuaded the only friend we knew who had a car to drive us. Andrea was from Columbia and asked for our help to buy a car, but all we’d really done was watch her with our mouths open while she paid cash for a brand new car, with nary a haggle. As I recall it was a red sporty thing that clearly needed a trip to NYC. So 6 of us piled into the car: Sonia, the cool black girl from the West Side; Michele, the super girly-girl Spanish chick from Brooklyn; Rosemary, the fashion punk from Buffalo; and Gloria and I who came from CT. Gloria was holding down the preppy fort, while I was a punk wannabe. In fact for this trip I dressed up like Dr. Frank-N-Furter from the show — black lace camisole, leather mini skirt, fishnet stockings, high heels, and lots of black eyeliner and dark lipstick.

We left in the late afternoon and headed south. At one point on the highway, a guy started honking at us and making rude gestures. We rolled our eyes and sucked our teeth at him, until one of us realized he was pointing down as if to have us look at something. When we finally did, we realized that Rosemary’s leather bag was half in the car and half out. A quick open and shut door while speeding along the highway retrieved her bag. It had a big hole worn through on the corner and a fair amount of the contents had spilled out. We resolved to not diss honking guys anymore. The next 4 hours passed mostly in the way you would expect from 6 college women, including that at one point several had to pee. We were trying to make it to the city in time for the show, so we hadn’t really planned on stopping. But Rosemary, Gloria, and Michelle couldn’t hold it anymore. The problem was we were kind of lost. GPS not even being a twinkle in anyone’s eye at that point, we could have used a map. But what losers bring a map on a fun road trip? We were off the highway on a deserted road that felt safe enough to pull off for peeing au natural. The rest of us waited what seemed like a short time when suddenly, Rosemary, Gloria, and Michelle tore open the door, jumped in an yelled, “Go, go, go!”

At this, poor Andrea was confused and started asking questions, and then worse, started trying to obey the red traffic light, even though there was no one on the road. We’d neglected to explain to her that when someone is chasing you, you hit the gas and worry about traffic rules later. When she finally understood what she was supposed to do and we were safely away, we found out that our friends had been rushed by a mean, barking dog, followed by a guy yelling to get out and carrying a gun. If that’s what you get for peeing, I don’t want to know what you’d get if you were actually going to steal something.

But being clueless and 20 years old has its benefits, including staying focused on the very important goal of getting to The  Rocky Horror Picture Show in NYC by midnight. Once we knew he was safely in our rear view mirror, we laughed at the crazy gun man and fretted over the traffic. We were cutting it close. We drove around NYC, got lost, yelled at the natives in the car for getting us lost, until finally, we found a place to park. We ran the multiple blocks to the show — we were only a little late. Panting and sweating, we arrived to discover…the showing was the following night. After a short discussion about blowing off school and staying until the next night, we did the next best 80s thing. Desperately Seeking Susan had recently come out, and we were obsessed with getting into the groove. One of the scenes was shot at a NYC club called Danceteria, so off we went. Because it was Halloween, the streets were filled with people in costume, and I fit right in. We had a blast at Danceteria, despite the fact that my friends wouldn’t let me make out with a guy who was dressed like a priest — I was a rebelling Catholic, what can I say? I finally took a break from dancing to go to the bathroom, and while I was in line, I looked down and noticed one of my boobs had fallen out of my camisole — this was waaaaay before any “wardrobe malfunction.” I’d like to credit New Yorkers with having seen everything and that was why no one batted an eye. That sounds much better than what may have been the real truth — my boobs were really too small to be noticeable in or out of a camisole.

So we danced until dawn and found a breakfast place to inhale the time-honored food of people who stay up all night–bacon, eggs, toast, and coffee. Tireless Andrea drove us home and we got back to Boston in time for my 8 am class; the only thing was that in the unforgiving, harsh light of early morning, with bleary eyes and smeared makeup, I looked like a vampire call girl. No way was I going to class like that. So like a good vampire, I hid from the light, splashed water on my face, peeled off my clothes, and passed out in my bed. I’d do the Time Warp again some other day.

And so that’s my story. I’m still a little twitchy like a nervous rabbit, but I also made myself laugh and smile over the flash of boobs past and road trip shenanigans. I can hop cautiously out of my hole, sniff the air, and move forward.

 

 

Top 10 Posts from 2016

Intellectually I know 2016 wasn’t the worst year ever, but it was pretty bad; so let me have my grief before I move on. On my better days and a couple of glasses of wine, I try to see 2016 as a wake-up call. We’ve drifted from some essential human ingredients–some of which we know and others that gobsmacked us seemingly out of nowhere. So it’s time to face that, and I tell myself to suck it up, buttercup. Of course, we still need to laugh and wisecrack on the way to saving the world. Princess Leia and Hans Solo taught us that.

And in that spirit, I present to you the top 10 posts for the year, selected by your interest; you guys have good taste. It’s a balanced mix of serious, funny, and frivolous.

Thank you for allowing me to butt into your life with my random musings. Thank you for telling me you liked a post that I was unsure about or that I enjoyed writing. Most of all, thank you for just being here with me. It means a lot.

10. This one is a good reminder to keep checking my own biases and little (or big) judgy ways. Please forgive my unfettered Anglophile-ness. It’s a Blonde Line Between Love and Hate

9. Ah, Collegepalooza 2016. The applications should be done by now–surely I can trust my teen, right? Right? Well, we’ll always have rubber bands. Snap to It

8. Oh, perimenopause! You blogging gift from the gods. Although I fear that your weird pains will be eclipsed by the PITA prez (pain in the ass). The Mother of All Aches and Pains

7. And when all else fails, look at the cute hamster to make you smile, take a deep breath, and get beck in the ring. Cute Hamsters Is All I Got

6. Some days it’s all I can do to be verbal, so “kind” seems like a stretch. Looking at hamsters is probably a good start. Nice, My Ass

5. Sometimes you stand and fight, and other times, you flee. Alpha Flee

4. Dancing is good. Dancing with a cast can be even better. It’s not a bad reminder that barriers mostly exist in our minds. You Should Be Dancing Part II

3. Here’s the much-needed frivolous post, strategically placed before the impossible politics. For Fart’s Sake

2. Darth Vader is out there. Grab your light saber and your blaster, we’re making a run for the Millennium Falcon. Time to Get Busy

  1. I love that two dancing posts made it in the top 10, but I wish I hadn’t had to  write this one. Dancing Should Not Be an Act of Courage

In 2017, I promise to keep writing, laughing, fighting, and being Sandy.

Merry Kwanzachrismukkahstivus

Marble and I wish you a very Merry Kwanzachrismukkahstivus. I hope you had a good weekend celebrating whatever has meaning for you, be it stories from history, a baby in the straw, oil that doesn’t quit, feats of strength, or just being grateful for not doing anything. 

Mercifully, 2016 is coming to a close–we hope with no more taking of any icons, but don’t hold your breath. I remember a stand-up routine Steve Martin did many years ago, where he proposed this ritual to break up with someone. I’d like to perform it for 2016:

You say: I break with thee, I break with thee, I break with thee. And then you throw dog poop on their shoes. 💩

So there, 2016. We’re done.

Next week I’ll do my top 10 or 11 or 9 posts from the year, as the spirit moves me. Then I’ll be ready for 2017 with new words, a stout heart, a rapier wit (or maybe just the rapier–I believe flexibility is called for), some serious dance moves, and a case of wine.

We’ll find our way together. 

It’s a Blonde Line Between Love and Hate

Sorry I’m so late…I’m on vacation and in low gear, plus, I kind of worked today. Anyway, no excuses, here’s this week’s post…Because I’m a white, raving liberal, I tend to give non-white, non-majority people the benefit of the doubt. But, ugh, majority white people? You’re going down. My perimenopause-induced, random anger likes to flare up at all kinds of white people, but today, I hate fake blondes.

Recently, I got off the train and as I was walking to work, I found myself stuck behind a group of youngish women walking four abreast on the sidewalk. They weren’t lollygagging, but they weren’t going at a get-to-work pace either. More like, “Oh, I’m on vacation, and I don’t give a rip how fast or slow I walk in front of you slobs who are going to work.”

You know the type.

I wanted to tell them, I don’t know how they walk wherever you’re from girlies, but that’s not how we do things here in Boston. Partly it’s because the sidewalks are hardly big enough for two people. But it’s also a personal space thing. We’re Bostonians. On sidewalks, we steer clear of others. We don’t touch or brush and we don’t walk four abreast. It simply isn’t done.

But there was no way for me to get around them, so I decided to quietly judge them instead. Oh my. Where do I begin?

First I noticed they all had similarly long, fake blonde hair with enough roots showing to start a goddamn botanical garden. Their hair reminded me of a declaration my friend Mike and I made the previous Sunday while dancing. There we were, swaying and jumping with the sea of dancing men, when a couple of girly women with long blonde hair stood on the dance floor, not on the edge, but on the dance floor, and one had a drink in her hand. Mike often laments, “Why, why, why do people dance with drinks in their hand?” Because they are amateurs, and Mike and I are there to dance, so don’t blame us if one of our cool little moves knocks your drink out of your hand. It’s a dance floor. If you want to stand around with a drink in your hand, go to where ever it is they do that. In any event, Mike did his cool little spin and sure enough he knocked girlie blonde #1’s drink from her hand. She glared at him, and Mike and I shrugged, kept dancing, and declared blondes should be banned from the club, unless it’s a wig and the blonde is in drag.

So as I was nursing a good dose of blonde hate, I next noticed they were all wearing short shorts — slightly different styles, but all the same length. So that gave me the opening to judge their bare legs of various levels of fitness, ranging from none to almost some, and colors, ranging from very white to translucent white. What a bunch of fake blonde losers. And how dare they come to Boston and obstruct my commute?

Finally, the sidewalk opened up enough for me to pass them. Hallelujah! I was about two steps in front, and could finally hear what they were actually talking about. Just as I was wondering what sort of vacuous conversation they would be having, I nearly tripped when my brain, clouded with nasty thoughts, finally registered what I was hearing.

They had British accents.

And instantly I was flooded with love for all four of those fake blonde ladies, as they hail from the land of drawing room dramas, bad teeth, afternoon tea, and the Queen. I’m a hopeless anglofile. As I pondered the ridiculousness of my reactions, I resolved to meditate more. Or send my myself to my room, or at least try to just think about unicorns and rainbows rather than be a judgmental, hypocritical witch, as fun as that can be.

But that’s what this is, right? Realizing how we can all be walking, talking, very nice judging machines, who are making snap judgments based on nothing more than a bad day of perimenopause hormones or a distaste of fake blondes. Many years ago, I was a grad student in a writing program, and I wanted to try out teaching. They gave us two semesters of freshman comp. God help those poor kids. Let’s hope all the money they were paying was well spent on the other teachers in their later years. The second semester was themed multiculturalism, and even as I write it now, I don’t think people even call it that any more. Christ, I feel old. Anyway, we had a couple of training session so we wouldn’t completely  traumatize those freshman. I remember one of my fellow teachers having this realization while we were trying to figure out interesting ways to teach mostly white kids about multiculturalism. She had caught herself in a moment of frustration waiting in a long line, saying something to herself that was not nice about the ethnicity of the person in front of her who was not moving up as quickly as she would have liked. And then she realized a lot of the shit we say about other people can be boiled down to “Get out of my way.” That always stayed with me, and I remembered it after my little hissy fit with the fake blondes who were in my way, but then ended up being something I love, goddamn it.

So next time I’m behind a guy with an annoying man bun or one of those huge, overly manicured beards (sorry dude, I’m still not kissing you, that’s nasty) and slicked back hair, I’ll just take a deep breath and try to remember they are not really in my way, and if all else fails, I’ll pretend they’re  British.

 

Photo credit:  Get your own bad dye job here.

Dancing Should Not Be an Act of Courage

Hi everyone. I really tried to find something lighthearted and funny to say today, because we need it, but I couldn’t. The Pulse night club shooting is disgusting and horrifying, and another shooting in a long, exhausting list of shootings. I’m bone tired of it. If shooters don’t care about killing kids in schools and people in theaters, why should we be surprised that someone wants to kill gay dancers of color at a club?  And yet most of us are surprised, so that’s something. The minute we become desensitized to these shootings is the moment we are lost. But we are becoming numb and overwhelmed. It feels hopeless sometimes. Have any gun laws changed since Sandy Hook? Has the conversation between responsible gun owners and people who are horrified by guns advanced? It doesn’t feel like it. It just feels like many dispersed organizations are working on different aspects of this madness. Maybe we are moving the needle, but it doesn’t feel like it’s nearly enough. Well, actually it isn’t enough because this shit keeps happening.

Most of my best times dancing have been in gay clubs. The thing is, I like to actually dance, and when I went to straight dance clubs in my 20s, I could dance the way I wanted to until about 1 am. Then the straight boys who had been hugging the walls and were previously too sober to cut loose and dance were very drunk and looking to score before the 2 am deadline. So there was a lot of slobbering and grabbing in that last hour, and most of my dance moves were deployed to avoid them. If they had actually danced with me–really danced with me earlier –they might have had a shot. There is nothing sexier than a man who can dance and be comfortable in his own skin. The straight men of previous generations who could only legitimately be close to a woman by dancing with her got that. Or they were at least forced to learn how to dance if they wanted to meet women. I don’t mourn all the sexism back then, but I do miss a straight man who can dance and enjoy himself .

So where’s a dancing girl to go? The gay clubs of course. There I learned so much about gay culture and history. Back in the day the clubs were often unmarked and you could only get in with a password. They were and are hallowed and safe places for people who are often reviled for just being themselves. I came along after the password era, but some of the clubs I went to were still unmarked.

Then and now, once I enter a gay club, I am among men and women who can dance. Who are enjoying themselves. Who are dancing like there is no tomorrow. My kind of people. I spend many Sunday nights at a gay club, Club Cafe at what they call a tea dance, one that starts in the afternoon, rather than at 10 pm. Here’s the history from the Back2Stonewall website:

“By the late 60s, gay men had established the Fire Island Cherry Grove and also the more subdued and “closeted” Pines (off of Long Island, in New York) as a summer resort of sorts. It was illegal at that time for bars to ‘knowingly sell alcohol to homosexuals’ and besides many of the venues there were not licensed as ‘night clubs’ or to sell alcohol. To avoid attracting attention, afternoon tea dances were promoted. Holding them in the afternoon also allowed those who needed to catch the last ferry back to the mainland to attend.”

And now some gun-owning person stunted with hate has made going dancing a courageous act. And going to school, and going to a movie theater. It’s bullshit, ridiculous, and tragic. I’m sorry, responsible gun owners. You have to step up. You have to help figure out the solution to this. I’d ban every effing gun in the country, but the NRA and many of you find that unacceptable. So what is the answer? You’re the one with the gun, with the passion. Tell me. How do we keep guns in the hands of people like you and out of the hands of stunted people who hate? Tell me. I’m going to go dancing looking over my shoulder, looking for the man who is not dancing, is not comfortable in his skin. So you tell me. What is the answer? Tell me.