Thursday, December 30, 2010

We're Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo...

David and I visited the Cleveland Zoo.  It's December, so it was cold out, but the zoo prepares for that.  The rain forest area is in one large (and well heated) building, and they have coat racks so you don't have to haul your coat around.  And when you're ready to head into the zoo, they have a shuttle (also heated) that takes you up to the aquarium and cats building (I know! Really weird pairing).  

David took a LOT of pictures.  When we got to the zoo, I discovered that my camera battery was almost dead. So I got some shots (like this one), but David got many more. 
Sometimes, we were not entirely clear about who was on display -
the animals or us:

River otters and children
Orangutans and children
Gharial and woman (tasty snack?)
Something cute and small (and us, not pictured)


And we saw bats, of which David managed to get several very nice photos, despite the room being completely dark.

And a dwarf crocodile. He was only about three feet long, and didn't move, blink, or twitch the entire time we looked at him.  (David wanted to know if he was fake.)

These guys were off display for the winter, as was the entire Australia section of the zoo.  However, when we left the rain forest and headed to the aquarium/ cat building, the shuttle was no where to be found.  It was rather nice outside, despite the cold, so rather than wait, we decided to walk.  On the way, we encountered the kangaroos' winter home. Two were outside when we came upon the building, and while we stood, a couple more went in and out. They looked very cold, though.

 Just as we were getting ready to continue on, along came the shuttle, whose driver very kindly stopped and let us board. 

This is a prehensile-tailed porcupine.  At first we just saw two sleeping, but then a third came up and started running all around the trees. They have an enormous nose.  It's a little hard to see in the picture, but it's that large pink spot at the end of his face.  (It looks really fake.)

And cute turtles.  There was a large section in the rain forest with turtles and frogs for a very long time.  They were all cute, but they just didn't differ that much from each other. 

The ant eater seemed bored.  Unlike the otters and the orangutans, he had no interest in us, and just wanted back through his door.  So he paced back and forth.  It was very sad. 

This is a spiffy pink bird that pretended like I didn't bother it.  We looked at each other, and then I casually strolled up to the railing and we chilled for awhile.  He kept looking at me and shuffling his feet like he wasn't sure if he should come closer or move away. 

And then there were the  I don't actually remember how 
the zoo had this guy labelled, but really, could he be anything other than 
a Rodent of Unusual Size?

And we couldn't quite figure out what kind of animal was in this cage, 
or why it had so little room.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas (or *insert holiday of choice*)! And I hope you have a fabulous New Years Eve! We'll be in Boston for New Year's and for an exchange the weekend after.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Settling In

We're getting well settled in.  David's apartment was decorated very nicely, in a neutral-tone, clean lines, somewhat (but not excessively) modern style.  He's very techie, and consequently he has plenty of  equipment.  This meant that there was room for me to move in with my style, and I feel like we've meshed them pretty well, with bits of color (me) here and there, filling in around the neutral base (David). 

For my sewing, crafting, and other workspace needs, I am allotted a closet for storage and sufficient room for my desk in the den.  The closet is awesome.  It's a little crowded, but in a comfortable sort of way, and I had the brilliant notion to separate my fabric by color in a couple of those hanging shoe racks, which not only fits much better than a giant tub; it also makes the fabric much more accessible.  Plus, the wall is covered in hooks (there are 5 - FIVE! - hooks in the closet), so I have lots of hanging space.  

As for the desk space, I've taken the doors off my desk, which makes it a little more accessible, but it looks not so chic.  To help with that, we purchased a large square basket (the size of the crate which is in the picture) to hold my fabric scraps.  It looks much nicer.  The teddy bear lamp (a relic from my childhood) is something I worried a little about David accepting, especially since it's right near his desk.  But it's situated in such a way that he gets a lot of the light from it, and although he objects (slightly) to the form, he loves the effect.  I've used my desk now a couple of times to work on my computer, and I'm pleased with the set-up thus far.  The real test will come in the next couple of days as I use the space to get some sewing done for Christmas.  

I also come with plants.  I like plants. I feel that they liven up a space considerably, and without a plant, a room looks rather dead.  David's reaction to the first plant was enthusiastic. He had a very large aloe already, and he seemed to think it was neat that I had a plant, too.  But when I brought up all my plants, his reaction went more along the lines of: "If we get any more plants, we'll be living in Fern Gully."  Which I understand to be a good thing, right? I mean, who wouldn't want to live in a tropical rain forest full of tree-hugging fairies?  We got another plant last night, anyway (an ornamental pepper for the kitchen!), so I guess we're done for.  (In addition to the window sill, which hosts four plants, there's one on in our bedroom, one on the bookshelf, and now one in our kitchen.)

I still have one non-book box to unpack, but that's today's project. The five boxes of books have to wait a little longer. Everything else is pretty much settled in. Of course, there may be a period of adjusting as we start living with the new arrangements, but so far it's working out pretty well.

We have Christmas coming up this weekend, so merry Christmas or happy holidays to everyone, and safe travels, if you're going anywhere.  

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I've moved to Cleveland!  Saturday was moving day. I packed up boxes and bags and containers for a week, and Jack, my incredibly awesome brother, helped me cart it all up to David's - now OUR - place.  

David already has quite a bit of furniture, so I only brought my desk (I have to have a place to sew!), my beat-up old red chair (and a place to read!), and a bookcase (and a place for the books!). 

Despite the lack of furniture, I have books, crafting supplies, sewing supplies, a cat, and all of my "normal" stuff (clothes, toiletries, computer, etc.), so there was still quite a bit of hauling to do.  I had taken a little up on previous trips, and I'll wait to take a few things at Christmas and the second week of January - when I come back to pick up Ginger, but the big move has happened.

Now the hard part - finding space for everything.

Monday, December 13, 2010

BamBLOOZled 2010, D.C.

The first weekend of December we trekked on down to D.C. (by way of Columbus AND Cleveland - which, by-the-way, is a really backwards way of getting to D.C.).  And we had a fabulous time!  Actually, I had the best exchange I've had in months.  The secret?  I got enough sleep. 

I had to miss the Friday night dance and leave Saturday night early, but I got enough sleep all three nights. And as a result I enjoyed myself more and I danced better than I have in ages, especially Saturday evening.  Of course, it also didn't hurt that some seriously awesome people attended the event, and I got to dance with many of them.  I was very impressed with the caliber of dancer at BamBLOOZled

Here's a clip of Jeff and Megan from the Jack and Jill competition:

Most of the event was held at the fabulous Glen Echo Park.  They have an incredible ballroom, named the Spanish Ballroom because of it's Spanish villa-themed decor, as well as a back room which was also used for lessons and the Sunday late night.  The other late nights were held at a dance studio a few minutes away in Bethesda - conveniently located right next to an all-night diner aptly named The Tastee Diner.

*At some point I will remember to take my own pictures.  In the meantime, check out this lovely photographer's blog to see who took the stunning photo of the Glen Echo sign

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Emerald City Blues Festival 2010: Seattle

First, a quick shout-out to Elizabeth - she's one of my closest friends, and back in October she had the most beautiful wedding I've ever attended. Now (finally) she's blogging about it, and if you know her (or if you want to see pictures of and read about an incredible wedding) check out her blog: That Cardboard Box.

On to the business at hand, I flew to Seattle on Thursday, November 11, for a five day visit and the Emerald City Blues Festival. The event included three days of workshops and four nights of dancing. A friend, Nick, and I flew out together and met up with David, who was already in town.

It was an excellent weekend, and I had some wonderful dances, but I'm actually going to focus on some of the really fabulous non-dancing aspects of the weekend.  David and I are considering Seattle as a potential home sometime in the next year, so we wanted to get a feel for the city beyond the dance scene.  In a good faith effort to meet and become friends with Seattle, we visited a blues bar, visited a wide variety of independent cafes, spent some time in a lovely bookstore, and saw the aquarium.

The blues bar, Highway 99, feels like a neat little hole-in-the-wall sort of place, but it's apparently quite well known. They host live music five nights a week, and on Thursday night the place was packed.  To get there, you have to go down from the ground level to a basement door (shouldn't all blues bars be underground?) and then pass the inspection of the doorman.  David, Nick, and I, having passed inspection, found a cozy nook with couches far enough from the band to hear the music clearly but still be able to hear one another.  The band was good, and we spent a good two hours in the bar, recovering from the flight and catching up with David.

Over the weekend, we visited several cafes - Seattle is littered with them - but the primary one we visited was Oddfellows, because it was downstairs from our workshop location and REALLY awesome.  They had a very strong independent, artsy feel: the servers were pierced and tattooed, the food was out of the ordinary and locally produced, the tables, benches, and decor were mix-matched and worn. I sampled their fare several times, partaking - over the course of three days - of a breakfast panini, coffee, an orange and currant scone, a chicken salad sandwich, and several pots of tea. All of which I would recommend.

*Both photos courtesy of Oddfellows's Facebook page

We also sampled tea, coffee, and delicious ginger molasses cookies in a book store and cafe called The Elliot Bay Book Company.  David needed to do some work and I needed a break from classes, so we played hooky for an hour and visited this book shop.  Caught momentarily without a book (!), I searched the shelves for something of interest and ended up purchasing Fearless Girls, Wise Women, & Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales From Around the World by Kathleen Kagan, an anthology of folk tales featuring active female protagonists:
One of the greatest dilemmas was the definition of a heroine. The following criteria served as a guideline: The main characters are female and they are worthy of emulation.  They do not serve as the foil to the "good" character in the story, and they are not wicked queens, Mother Miserys, or nagging mothers-in-law. A second criteria was that the tale must center in and around the heroine. For example the tale "Gawain and the Lady Ragnell" was not included in this anthology because although the "lesson" of the tale is that a woman should control her own life, the action centers on the man, Gawain. Thirdly, my daughters acted as the touchstone for many of the tales. My older daughter pleaded eloquently for the exclusion of female protagonists who died at the end of the story.  - Introduction

It's a wonderful book, and I enjoy both the tales themselves and the bit of commentary Ragan gives at the end of each one. The project of the anthology began because she had trouble finding children's books featuring female protagonists to read to her two young daughters.  She began changing the gender in stories to mix it up a bit.  And then one night they read If I Ran the Zoo.  "A part of the story described hens roosting in each others' topknots. When it said "Another one roosts in the topknot of his./ And another in his, and another in HIS...," I got angry. Since when is a hen masculine?" So Ragan started counting characters. In Dr. Seuss books, she found that 90 percent of the main characters were male, and of the female 10 percent, most were a negative character. She checked libraries and anthologies, which had even lower rates of heroines, and finally she decided to compile her own.  To create her volume of 103 tales, she sifted through over 30,000 stories, and the result is a magnificent collection.

Also, I had a fun experience when I went to purchase the book. The young man behind the counter (YMBTC) asked if I had a stamp card, and I replied that I didn't:

Me: I'm from Ohio.
YMBTC: Oh! What part of Ohio?
Me: Near Columbus.
YMBTC: Neat. I went to school up north in Wooster.
Me: I went to Wooster!

Turns out we graduated a year apart, both with degrees in the humanities.  I love when that happens; when you meet someone you know or who you ought to know in a situation where you would never expect to run into said person.  And it happens so often. You can ask almost any Wooster graduate, and they'll be able to tell you of a chance Wooster-related meeting.

The final note in this entry is that if you ever find yourself in Seattle, check out their aquarium. It's a really awesome facility. In addition to the typical aquarium stuff, there's a lot of very interesting exhibits and information about Seattle's aquatic life AND they have a giant pacific octopus.

David sent this to me the last time he was in Seattle.  When
we visited, the octopus was sleeping upside down in the
corner - and he was snoring!


Also, just to brag a little, I have to share that I wrote this on David's new iPad.  It's such a cool device!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I want to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving weekend! I am in the process of writing a post for our trip to Seattle which you can expect to come out in the next couple of days. In the meantime, I hope everyone can find something to be thankful for and that everyone has their fill of Turkey Day feasting.

David and I are splitting the holiday, joining his parents yesterday and mine tomorrow. I am pleased to report that our visit with his family (a.k.a. the meeting of the parents) went fabulously.

In the spirit of the holiday, things for which I am thankful include, in no particular order: my family, David, Renata, Elizabeth, the cup of coffee that is getting me through today, my impending move and the ensuing adventures which the move represents, my library, my cat, the incredibly fluffy blanket purchased in Seattle in which I am currently wrapped, and the sunlight streaming in through the window.

I would love to hear what you are thankful for right now - please make use of the comments section to share!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear (and a Halloween Dance...)

We danced in DC this past weekend.  David and I drove to DC on Friday night and attended Saturday's Halloween swing dance at Glen Echo Park, and the blues dance at Du Shor dance studio.  And it was fun. The attendance was a little lower than expected, and we didn't pull together much in the way of costumes (David had a vague pirate theme and I wore a t-shirt with a skeleton), but it was a good end to an excellent day.

Because although we danced in DC, we went for the Rally.  That's right.  David and I were 2 of the 215,000-odd people that attended the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on October 30, 2010.

While initially we planned to go into the thick of it and attend the Rally from within the crowd on the National Mall, the sheer, overwhelming size of the crowd made it insane to stay there, and we wandered the edge of the crowd until we found ourselves at the back of the stage, between the stage and the Capitol Building.  After wandering a bit more, we discovered the media tent. From the entrance to the tent we watched a live feed of the stage and heard every word and saw everything that happened.

 Most of the show was comedy: a battle between Stewart, promoting sanity, and Colbert, arguing for fear.  There were musical numbers, costume changes, guest appearances, and outrageous props (a giant, papier-mache Stephen Colbert puppet?!)  At the end, though, Stewart spoke for ten minutes very sincerely, and what he had to say was less a political message and more an appeal to reason.  "This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or to look down our noses at the Heartland or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies."

Stewart argued that politically we need give and take, just as in our daily lives where we don't push and shove and cheat to have our way.  No matter what political view the people around us hold, we work with them to accomplish those things in our daily lives that we need to accomplish (such as merging on the highway).  "Because we know, instinctively as a people, that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light, we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness.  And  sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn't the Promised Land - sometimes, it's just New Jersey. But we do it anyway. Together."

He also took time to criticize the mainstream media's habit of blowing everything out of proportion, calling the media "the country's 24-hour, politico-pundit, perpetual-panic conflictinator."  He doesn't blame the media for our country's problems; he says they've skewed our focus because they've become misguided: "The press can hold it's magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen. Or, they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire. And then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected, dangerous, flaming ant epidemic.  If we amplify everything; we hear nothing."

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
Jon Stewart - Moment of Sincerity
Rally to Restore Sainty and/or FearThe Daily ShowThe Colbert Report


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Elizabeth's Wedding and Not Going to Baltimore

So David and I were supposed to have driven down to Baltimore, Maryland, Friday afternoon to attend Hi-De-Hon, a lindy exchange weekend. But as it turned out, I needed a weekend off and David had plenty of work that needed to be done, so we decided not to drive to Baltimore.  Instead we are in Cleveland, taking a weekend of not doing much.  David's working a couple of hours each day, and I'm reading and tooling around online while he works, and we're enjoying not doing much else.

The reason for the weekend off is that the last two weeks were VERY full.  We went to New York for Blues Blaze, which, as I've mentioned before, was a little chaotic, and then I was sick for three days, and then Elizabeth Kerr got married last weekend.

Elizabeth and I have known each other since the fifth grade, and we've been close friends since early high school.  (There was a rough period in college when we both needed some space, but we made it through that.)  When Elizabeth and Paul announced their engagement it didn't come as a surprise to me or to any of their close friends or family.  They have a strong, playful relationship; it is a joy to be with them, and I am so honored to have been involved in their wedding.  Because Elizabeth and I have been sewing together for as long as we have been friends, she asked me to help make her wedding gown.  After a handful of very long evenings and days, we completed the most complicated and beautiful project either of us has ever worked on.  An incredible garment in it's own right, the dress looked even more spectacular on the bride, and (a triumph!) she professes to have been comfortable in it all day.

Elizabeth and Paul at the costume-prop photo booth.

In addition to helping with the dress, I got to be part of the weekend festivities: the bachelorette, the set up and decorating, the rehearsal, and the day-of preparations.  I read a beautiful piece that Elizabeth selected from The Little Prince in her ceremony, which was short and sweet and made me cry. Elizabeth and Paul decided on ribs and perogies for their wedding dinner, and they and her family prepared all of the food themselves (Paul prepares some seriously incredible ribs.)  Instead of cake, they elected to have pie served, and Elizabeth's aunt made most of the pies. When I asked how the pies were to be served, Elizabeth told me that they wanted pies put on the tables, and if folks wanted a kind of pie that wasn't at their table, she and Paul wanted them to get up and find the kind they liked at someone else's table and to meet the folks at that table (this was announced when the pies were served).  Everyone seemed to really enjoy the wedding - there were a lot of smiles, and it was a very relaxed, casual atmosphere.

I love that Elizabeth and Paul achieved a traditional wedding that was fun, comfortable for everyone involved, and low-stress and low-budget.  They chose to not subscribe to the big, flashy, expensive wedding that the wedding industry markets as "every girl's dream wedding" (which in reality is an unattainable, stress-inducing, way over-priced nightmare - and come on, who wants that?)  So kudos to Elizabeth and Paul on the wedding, and many blessings on their marriage.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


So I was looking over the previous entry, and yikes! it's long.  I'm going to offer both my apologies and the excuse that I was sick when I wrote it, and therefore perhaps not in the best frame of mind for self-critique.  It's a nice overview of the weekend, but in the future I will offer up bits and pieces at a time. 

On Mondays I've been going with a friend, Kaitlyn, to the OSU Swing Club meetings, which involve two lessons and a social dance, all free and open to the public.  They're a lot of fun, although the attendance does tend to peter out quite a bit after the lessons, leaving a much smaller group for the dance. 

It's neat, and a tiny bit horrifying, to watch the brand new dancers.  Neat, because there's so much enthusiasm, and it's really great to watch people laughing at themselves and having fun as they work to learn this new skill.  It's a little bit awful, though, because as one watches, one becomes unavoidably aware that EVERYONE starts out looking awkward, with bad posture and poor lead-follow connection - so at one time, that was me.

The active members of the group do a great job with the club.  In addition to organizing some interesting classes, they are now making an active effort to make newcomers feel included.  In fact, as a regular attendee, I was turned down for a dance by a friend because he felt like he should dance with the new people.  I am particularly appreciative of this because when I first showed up to dance in Columbus, it was the least friendly scene I had approached.  Everywhere else I had danced - Oberlin, Cleveland, Pittsburgh - had been very friendly and not only had folks asked me to dance, but they went out of their way to say hi when they saw me again and made some effort to remember my name.  The entire Columbus scene took months and months to learn my name, and they never asked me to dance.  So if the club is going to make an effort to reach out to newcomers, I am fully behind that, and I don't mind being turned down in support of it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Blues Blaze 2010: NYC - After the fact...

The weekend in New York didn't go precisely as planned.  A few major hitches got in the way of it being a perfect weekend.  Nonetheless, we did have a wonderful time, and we made lots of good memories.

Renata and I both flew to New York, and as it happens, both of our flights were delayed.  We arrived - very conveniently - at the airport within ten minutes of each other, collected Renata's bag, and took a taxi to the evening dance venue.  As we stepped out of our taxi, the portion of our group who drove to New York walked into view.  We flew from Ann Arbor and Columbus, and they drove from Cleveland and Erie to Pittsburgh, through State College, PA, to New York City, and we arrived at the venue in the same twenty seconds. Who could have imagined that such a thing would happen in real life?

The Friday night dances were fun, but we had to leave early because of the early morning level testing on Saturday.  Even with leaving the late night dance early, we still didn't get to sleep until 4:00am and I woke up at 7:30 because I had to shower before we rode the subway to the venue.  I danced fine during the level testing, and was placed in the intermediate level, which was not unexpected, and I enjoyed the workshops.  I do think they could have done the level testing differently.  They made a big deal about it and then they didn't seem to take it very seriously.  If I had known that in advance, I would have gotten several more hours of much-needed sleep.  As it was, I slept that evening and missed a large portion of the evening dance, and all of Kim Massie's (assuredly) amazing performance.  David was kind enough to stay with me so that I wouldn't have to travel through NYC alone at night, and I know that he was even more disappointed than I to have missed that performance.  Fortunately, we'll be seeing her again in November at the Emerald City Blues Festival in Seattle, and we won't miss a second of it. 

Before my nap, David, Jeff, Nick and I saw a bit of the city, including a visit to an enormous Toys 'R' Us.  I didn't know toy stores came that big!  The most memorable moment in that store was a round of DDR - Dance Dance Revolution - that Jeff and David played.  I have to admit that I was a tiny bit horrified at how well David performed and highly amused by the amount of fun the two of them had with it.  The store also had some incredible Lego sculptures: the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and other miscellaneous really cool things. And they had a Ferris wheel (which we did not ride on) and a giant barbie house (into which the guys would not go.  I went anyway on my own.)

The Saturday late night was a lot of fun.  (And if I may say so) I had a fabulous outfit, which always improves my night.  I had dances with a fairly wide variety of folks, mostly intermediate to advanced dancers. Some were locals, some had traveled. Many of them I already knew, but some were folks I hadn't met before.  I've been trying to make more of an effort to dance with people I don't know.  For awhile when I started dancing, everyone I danced with was someone I didn't know (because I didn't know anyone), and then I gradually moved to where I was dancing almost exclusively with friends.  Now I've been trying to dance with as many new people as familiar people, because that's how you meet new people. 

We closed out the late night at 5:00am, although I crashed about an hour before that and spent that hour sleeping on the couch under David's jacket.  David came and got me for the last dance, and I put on his jacket and we had a really lovely, quiet dance. I was barefoot (my heels had tired my feet out early), and he kept the dance at a nice easy pace, both to suit the music and to suit my sleepiness.  Although I had some really extraordinary, complex, very connected dances during the evening, that last dance was my favorite.

Sunday morning, David, Renata, and I all elected to sleep in rather than attend the first two classes. I had hoped to make it to the second class, but on getting up, I quickly realized and accepted that there was no way that was going to happen. All three of us woke up and got ready very slowly, and when we finally left, we decided to find a nice, sit-down, I'm-eating-in-New-York-City-and-making-the-most-of-it kind of place.  We stopped in the Village and found a lovely French restaurant called The New French with outdoor seating and ordered coffee and tea while we looked over the menu.  I ordered savory crepes with salmon, cucumbers, and creme fraiche. It came, as well, with a salad of mixed greens and thinly sliced beets.  And it was to die for.  Renata had French toast, and David had crepes as well, with fresh fruit and nutella.  I can't tell you how their food was, because I was in raptures over mine, and no other food could penetrate my consciousness at that time. 

Classes that afternoon were fine but not extraordinary.  Admittedly, we missed a lot of the first afternoon class (the food was good, but the service was unbelievably slow), and we sat through the first half of the second afternoon class before retiring to the cafe to have coffee and conversation. It was decided to have dinner at an Asian restaurant somewhere vaguely south of where we were, and we headed off in that direction after the classes and a vigorous round of goodbyes.  En route, Renata and I started to realize that our flights were in three hours, and as we had yet to get back to Marie Emma's apartment, pack our stuff, and get to LaGuardia, we thought we ought to eat quickly. (What is truly astounding is that we did not, at this point, realize that we ought to skip dinner entirely.) So we snarfed some food (mediocre sushi), paid our bill, and ran out of the restaurant, agreeing with one another that "we really ought to take a cab." 

Only it turns out that all the cabs on duty at 5:45pm on Sunday night are either brand new cabbies or about to go off shift, so it took us over a half hour (that we did not have to spare) to find a cab driver that would take us to Brooklyn.  Having found such a cab driver, we sat in traffic for an additional 15 minutes that we didn't have, and eventually we arrived.  The driver agreed to wait and take us to the airport and we hurried in to throw our belongings into our suitcases however they would fit most quickly and haul them down two flights of stairs to the waiting cab... which had to wait a little longer because Renata's suitcase's zipper broke.  So we tied the scarves that we were both wearing around the suitcase and hauled ass down to the cab.  I had been in contact with David and the group with which he was driving back to Ohio, and when we arrived down at the waiting cab, my flight was scheduled to take off in thirty minutes (Renata still had an hour).  The group that was driving had one spot to spare in their car, and bless them, they agreed to take me.  I shoved a twenty in Renata's hand for cab fare, wished her luck, and started walking to the subway to go and meet my group. 

Oh, and wouldn't you know, five minutes into my walk, a cab pulls up and the driver asks if he can take me anywhere? A little peeved at circumstance, and too stressed to say no, I hop in the cab, and he gets me to the evening dance venue in fifteen minutes. 

I found my group in the bar that was the evening dance venue, and we stayed for a bit, enjoying a couple of drinks and visiting with each other and the other dancers.  We were particularly tickled to spend a large portion of the evening chatting with Damon Stone, who is an incredible instructor.  Nick spent most of the evening with Damon, discussing Nick's efforts to strengthen his local scene and to improve his own dancing.  We spent a bit of time discussing Damon's swing out (a Lindy move - this is not blues, which is what we were actually in New York for). I got to be the demonstration dummy so that Nick, David, and Jeff could correctly observe what it so spiffy about Damon's swing out.  (I can't actually tell you, because I spent a good portion of that time with my eyes closed so I would react to his movement and not to what I saw.) It's always neat to spend time with "important" people - instructors, performers, "superstars" - and find that they're just people and that they're friendly and interested in sharing what they know and discussing the thing that they and you love.  (Which do you know, going into it, but knowing is not the same as finding out.)

So me missing my flight actually worked out. We all got a lot less sleep. And I had to make a really awful phone call to my boss to tell her that I missed my flight and wouldn't be in a 9:00am the next morning. (Renata, by the way, also missed her flight, but there was a flight going to Detroit at 6:00am on Monday that would allow her to make it to work.  The earliest flight to Columbus left at 9:00am.)  But the upshot of it was that we had a great evening. 

And then we drove. And drove. And drove some more.  And I got a cold.  A really bad cold with sniffles and coughs, and not-quite-being-able-to-breath-correctly-s.  We dropped Annabel off in State College, PA (can you believe that's the name of a town?  I was so confused about that for the longest time.) After we dropped her off, everyone, including (I'm sure) Annabel, felt much more comfortable, because although there were five seats in the car, it was made for four people and I was number five.  So the second half of the drive went a little more comfortably, and we got into Pittsburgh at 4:30am.  We all crashed for a bit, and then got up to head out, make some conference calls, eat some breakfast, and go home.  (Ok, so only David had to make a conference call, and it was only one call, but the rest of it we all did.) 

Oh, and let me tell you about this deli where we had breakfast.  I have no idea what it's called, but if you're in Pittsburgh, go there.  It's a Jewish deli, and they make the most amazing food.  David and I got sandwiches there once before that were completely scrumptious, and breakfast on Monday was just as wonderful.  The potato pancakes and the home fries were really, really yummy, and everything just screamed "comfort food."

And finally, at 4:00pm on Monday, we made it to Granville, where David and I both napped: me because I was dying of a cold, and David because he still had two and half hours of driving to do on really weird and insufficient amounts of sleep. David was incredible, by the way.  He went almost four hours out of his way to get me home, and I really, really appreciate it. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Blues Blaze 2010: New York City

I'm heading off tonight for New York City, to attend an event called Blues Blaze.  It should be an incredible event with wonderful people and really exciting classes. 

Renata and I will be flying in and meeting up at the airport to make our way to the Friday night main dance, while David, Nick, Jeff, and Annabel (whom I don't know yet) will be driving to meet us there. 

Although I'm really excited for the event, I'm a little anxious about Saturday morning.  They have level testing for the intermediate and beginner classes at 9:30 in the morning.  Nine-thirty may not seem that early, but the late night the night before is scheduled to go until 5:00am, and blues is a late-night dance (not a morning, have-a-cup-of-coffee-and-go sort of dance.) I think we'll probably call it an early night on Friday, but I also don't want to leave too early, as there are only two nights of dancing: Friday and Saturday.  Workshops are nice, but I go for the dances. 

So we'll see how it goes.  Most likely everything will be fine and I really have nothing to worry over.  But if you get a chance, think happy thoughts for me. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bohemian, September 2010

There's a dance in Cleveland on the last Saturday of every month at the Bohemian National Hall.  It's really very well attended; it's held in a large ballroom, and the floor is almost always full.  (A lot of regular venues in our otherwise very fine state are not quite so well attended, which is such a shame.)  Last night was no exception: the room was full to the brim with all ages and skill levels and everyone seemed to be having a fabulous time. 

I try to attend the Bohemian dance anytime I am in state, and I've been attending more or less regularly since after my first exchange.  Often I have stayed the night in Oberlin with Renata's parents during those weekends. Other times I have crashed on the couches of friends who live in Cleveland. Since David and I started dating in July, I've been able to stay at his place, which is in Lakewood (Lakewood apparently still counts as Cleveland - Cleveland seems to have somehow incorporated a large number of towns that maintain both their individual names and the collective "Cleveland.")  What makes this weekend new and different is that David is still in Portland, Oregon, for a dance workshop, so I'm here at his place on my own.  Staying here has been fun and a little odd, as was the exchange I had with several friends: "... and where's David?"  "In Portland." "Oh, do you need a place to stay?" "Nope!" 

I had a fabulous time at the dance last night.  The energy in the room seemed unusually high thanks to the band: The Demetrius Steinmetz Band, featuring Eileen Burns as vocalist. The music was as enjoyable to listen to as to dance to, and they played a variety of tempos and a mix of familiar and unfamiliar music.  In addition to excellent music, I had a particularly enjoyable range of dances: slow and quick, with friends and with strangers, and with a full range of skill levels from very skilled to just starting out.

One of the dances that particularly stood out was with a brand new dancer from Erie, PA.  He's a freshman, and  just trying swing out, but he thinks he likes it and wants to pursue it further.  What I found particularly notable was that even though he was new to dance, he A) tried wholeheartedly and B) was friendly and cheerful about the entire experience, even when he made a mistake.

I am constantly amazed by how friendly dancers are.  Perhaps it comes out of switching partners every dance?  You have to be open to meeting new people and willing to want to like them without knowing more about them than that they dance.  Naturally not everyone in the dance scene is so friendly, and plenty of scenes are notable for the cliques that have formed within them. I don't want to make dancing out to sound like a fairytale, but I have nonetheless found in my dancing experience that the majority of people who take up dancing do it because they like people and want to have fun and meet other people who like to have fun.  It's generally a very friendly crowd.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Beginning

My first voluntary exposure to partner dancing came almost two years ago, in December of 2008, but I didn't consider myself a dancer until the following March, when I attended my first dance exchange, Steel City Blues Festival.  That weekend was when I realised completely that I was going to be dancing for as long as I am physically able and "dancer" became part of my identity.

At the time of Steel City 2009, I was a "baby dancer;" completely green, having had three nights of dancing prior to being diagnosed with appendicitis and having my appendix removed February 16, a mere five weeks before the exchange I was already committed to.  Still in pain from the incisions made in my core to remove my diseased organ, I carpooled with two friends to Pittsburgh, PA and participated in two days of workshops and three nights of dancing.  We closed out the late night dances every night, leaving between 4:30 and 5:30 in the morning. 

Appendectomy aside, it was the most physically intense weekend of my life (to that point).  My calves felt like they were made of wood, and each morning when I woke up, I had to remember how to move my body in a walking motion.  It was glorious.  I could not have been happier. 

In the year and half since that exchange, I have done a lot of things.  I've attended several dozen exchange weekends, I've attended countless beginner workshops, and worked one-on-one with a number of instructors and in small groups that offer honest critique.  My dancing has improved enormously, and my physical ability has transformed me to a different person.  Dancing is part of my every day, and I love it. 

(It's important to me that I remember that dancing is not the ONLY thing that is a part of me.  The time I spend with my family, with my friends, attending local events, and reading on my own is just as valuable to me as the time I spend dancing.  I know a lot of dancers who are surprised when they realise that I have non-dancer friends.  Often, when the subject comes up, they get a lost sort of look on their face and say, a little dazedly, "I had non-dancer friends, once, too...."  This is usually followed by a moment as they try to resurrect the part of them that remembers life before dancing.  While I love that dancing is so much at the forefront of my life, I have no intention of giving up nights making dinner with friends, afternoons curled up in my favorite reading chair, or trips downtown for ice cream with my little brother or sister.)

The point of this blog, aside from indulging my narcissistic side, is to allow my friends and family, particularly those who do not dance, to follow where I go, figuratively and physically, as I continue to dance.