Sunday, December 16, 2007


Dear frozen friends,

The fire is starting to catch and crackle, the California Cabernet is open and breathing, Neil Young's plaintive falsetto is shimmering, and my synapses are simmering. The fourth and final Nutcracker is behind me and I survived. Chops intact. That wasn't a foregone conclusion. I've never done the ballet, and this was a reduced winds version which has some history of injuring players. Because of this I played it as safe as possible, 8-va-basso-ing and dropping out entirely here and there. It also certainly helped that this was a ballet school production. Not exactly the same pressure as the touring Joffrey version but ya still gotta play the notes.

In between the pages of face smashing syncopation one thing struck me. Ballet dancers have amazing bodies. (I'm talkin' about the ladies now. The guys are all identical. Even their junk. It must be a union thing: “And if the dancer is male he is allowed not more than two socks stuffage...” so on and so forth.) Most women dancers are lithe and willowy but a few are just ripped. Each individual back muscle popping and quads and calves of steel. On one dancer I could see that main artery on the inside of her upper arm between the biceps and the triceps. I think the last time I saw that bit of circulatory anatomy was on Stallone in Rambo II. But she could do a brisé. My goodness gracious!

Most precious Nutcracker moment: During the second show on Saturday immediately after the nutcracker is dropped and broken the stunned silence in the hall is punctured by a little girl's voice in the audience uttering worriedly, “Uh-oh.”

Winter has finally come to Iowa and it looks like it's here to stay. I know this because I tried to remove a solid inch of it from my front walk earlier this week with minor success and major carpal tunnel trauma. The whole task became a sort of zen thing. The focus was not on the ice but on my chipping technique. The preparation ceremony involved in raising, aiming and orienting the implement for a precise downward blow. Then the release and thrust. Allowing yourself to work with gravity for maximum effect. Many small, attainable goals over time leading to success and, ultimately, rapture. If not rapture then at least a front walk clear of litigation inducing ice.

Now let me be. I have five holiday shows in three days starting this afternoon. Fair thee well.


P.S. This is all. There is no more.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Dance, Dance Revulsion

So I was dancing at a club until two in the morning the other weekend, which I don't usually do (read: never have in my life) because it's so stupid. But the girl-whose-laugh-is-as-lovely-as-she-is and her friend wanted to go which immediately makes it not stupid but really super cool. So I was dancing at a club until two in the morning and this is what I learned.

Guys at clubs don't dance. They hold a beer and maybe move a little to the beat. This is true for almost every guy. Oh they may be out on the dance floor alright but they're not doing much. I didn't let that inhibit me, however, and got jiggy as best I could. There is an exception to this when certain songs are played of course but I couldn't tell which songs those are these days.

Which brings me to the next thing I learned: I'm really square. Okay I pretty much knew this already but last Friday night the degree of my square-ness was once again accurately determined. I'm 90 degrees square plus or minus 30 arcminutes. During two hours of virtually non-stop head-bobbing, pelvic-thrusting, fist-pumping, shoulder-shimmying and lip-scrunching (all the moves I know, incidentally) I heard just three songs I recognized, and that includes the post-last-call, club-clearing country tune, “All My Ex's Live in Texas.” The other two included a remixed Madonna tune (or maybe it was Cyndi Lauper but I'm still counting it as recognized) and one that we played in the car on the way to the club to get in the mood. Sure. I had to be reminded that I had heard it before but once it was pointed out to me that it should sound familiar I agreed that, in fact, it did. Some song about “apologies” or whatever.

Remember how I said guys don't dance? Well here is what they do do in clubs.

The stalker. This guy finds one girl and lurks nearby all night occasionally attempting to get her attention but never really making eye contact. Girls seem to be able to spot these guys in a heart beat and constantly keep their backs to them which is an amazing skill and impressive to behold in action. It reminded me of the tidal synchronization of the rotation and orbital periods of some planetary bodies. One side always facing away. (We've already established how square I am, right?)

The gawker. This moron stands completely immobile, often with mouth agape, ogling some girl up and down for an uncomfortably long time from no more than a few feet away. I'm not sure, but I think some gawkees must like this attention, depending on the attractiveness of the gawker I imagine. (Most of whom seem to be from the troglodytic end of the gene pool if you ask me.) I have to admit that if some girl was gawking at me like that I'd probably be feeling pretty alpha good. I'd probably also find out later that my fly was down and that I'd accidentally spilled beer on my crotch. Welcome to my world.

The snake. A borderline pervert, this hump is constantly slithering his way through the most crowded parts of the dance floor with the intention of touching and rubbing as many ladies as possible. Sick as it sounds he usually has his favorites he meanders towards time and again. There is no pretense of close dancing either. The snake just walks on through as if he's simply trying to get from A to B while his reptilian hands do their thing. I did notice that women don't put up with much from snakes. A grope often elicits a disgusted glance which is usually followed by a hands-in-the-air apology from the offender. I have a theory some stalkers morph into snakes above a blood-alcohol level of 0.1.

The standers. These chivalrous dudes are out on the dance floor for their girls. Usually with a beer in one hand slightly moving their heads to the music. Stalkers, gawkers and snakes are less likely to focus on girls who are dancing next to standers. Some standers constantly look around and take in the whole scene while others just watch Sports Center.

One thing I just don't understand is how everyone communicates above the club cacophony. I know they do because I saw it happening all the time. People having actual conversations and seemingly conveying meaningful information by shouting into one another's ears. Maybe it's just an evolutionary inhibition that I've yet to suppress but if I'm going to yell at the top of my lungs I feel it'd better be about something important, such as “FIRE!!!” or “HE'S GOT A GUN!!!” or “I THOUGHT I ORDERED THE CHUTNEY WITHOUT THE WASABI/HABANERO PURÉE!!!” The only conversation I could come up with at the time was “HOW LONG DO WE DO THIS FOR?!!!” and “MY QUADS ARE STARTING TO HURT!!!” and my seemingly constant query: “IS THIS STILL THE SAME SONG?!!!”

This isn't really a matter of age. I felt pretty much the same way when I was in my twenties. It's more a matter of temperament, I suppose. Hopping up and down to music is stupid if you think about it. But it's also fun for some reason. Next time out I think I'll add the alternating-chicken-wing and the saddle-stance to my repertoire. I know what you're thinking but don't worry. I avoid the lower-lip-bite like the plague. I'm not that square.