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.